The Beulah was the lead ship on the Steyr mission of February 23, 1944.
The plane was named after "The Beulah Witch", which was a popular cartoon
character on the early 1940s. The Beulah witch was the pilot of the
"Broomstick Airlines" in the cartoon. We imagine that the B-24 "Beulah"
may have had an ugly witch riding a broomstick as her nose art.
Maj. Miller was the CO of the 722nd squadron. He had just been promoted.
He "chewed ass" the night before because on the Regensberg mission
(February 22), a number of B-24s returned early because of "mechanical
difficulties". For the Steyr mission, every B-24 that could fly was to
drop on the target. He apparently was mad as hell.
On this mission of Feb. 23rd, Bill Conklin was flying "Yellow 28" in the
"Tail end Charley" position, a position that he preferred because it gave
him a good view of the rest of the squadron. Miller (with Whitney as
copilot) was flying the lead in the "Beulah". Scanlon (flying "Leaky
was on Miller's right and Samsa (flying "Round Trip Rose") was on his left
wing. Samsa was hit first, and dropped out of formation, peeling off to
the left. His plane burst into flames and exploded. Samsa and another
crew member, Brenerman, were the only survivors. Scanlon was hit next, he
peeled off to the right and crashed.
At this point, Conklin moved up in formation and flew on Miller's left
wing, while Cartwright moved up to Miller's right wing. Conklin could
actually look into the Beulah's cockpit, and saw that Miller was in the
left seat (the pilot's position) while whitney was in the right seat. He
saw that Miller was busy looking at flight data and papers (probably
describing the target area) and that Whitney was actually flying the
That was when the Beulah was hit.
Conklin saw that there was a big hole in the nose and cockpit area. The
Beulah he was hit by 20 mm cannon fire (Me-109s had a cannon mounted to
fire through the spinner - the shells were grenade like, and exploded on
impact. The Me-109 G-14 actually had a 30 mm cannon). We believe he was
hit by Maj. Walter Dahl, the CO of III/JG3, otherwise known as the Udet
squadron. The time listed on Dahl's "kill claim" coincides exactly with
the time Miller was hit.
Miller's plane went into a steep dive completely out of control. Another
pilot, Pat Barbati flying "Tung Hoy" claimed the Beulah was hit by flak,
but there were no flak batteries in the area where the air battle
Cannon shells can easily be mistaken for flak. Barbati's navigator, who
wrote a diary, also claimed that Miller was hit by flak.
Conklin himself took some serious hits. On the bomb run, he looked up and
saw another B-24 with bomb bay doors open and had to break formation to
avoid getting hit with falling bombs. He lost #2 engine, and feathered
prop. Number 1 engine was also losing power. He lost altitude and got
separated from his squadron and announced to the crew to be prepared to
jump. He gradually picked up altitude and eased back into formation and
was able to limp towards the Alps where P-38 escort fighters offered him
protection. He got back to Manduria all shot up.
Although there were ten crew members on the Beulah, only nine bodies were
found. Of the nine, only two could be identified. One crew member was
blown out of the plane when the cannon fire hit. It is believed that
Whitney, who was in the right seat where the Beulah was hit, was blown
German records show that several unidentified bodies were found in the
general area where the air battle occurred and quite a distant from the
Ground witnesses claim that, while in a dive, the Beulah dropped a number
of bombs. Apparently the bombs were armed, because they exploded. The
bombs may have been dropped intentionally, or they may have simply fallen
out of the plane because of the damage. At any rate, someone in the plane
(probably Miller) was able to get some control because (probably due to
less weight because they got rid of most of the bomb load) the plane
leveled off at a very low altitude. They were too low to jump (and
probably many were badly wounded or even dead). Miller apparently tried
to make an emergency landing at the German airdrome at Wels, but was unable
clear a low hill on the approach. He crashed and exploded on impact. The
explosion may have been due to the on board fuel and ammunition. Two
craters still exist at the crash site. The nine bodies still on board
very badly mangled and burned.
Ground eyewitnesses at Kematen, Austria reported seeing two B-24s crash.
One was the Stardust which fell to the ground in a number of pieces. The
pieces just tumbled down and covered a wide area. The second plane was
Beulah, which dropped a number of bombs and appeared to be trying to make
an emergency landing at Wels.
I think we now know pretty much what happened to Maj. Miller and the
Beulah. We talked to Samsa, who was shot down just before Miller (two
survivors - POWs), and to Conklin, who was flying on Miller's left wing.
Conklin claims that the Beulah took a direct hit in the cockpit area and
that a big hole opened up. The plane them went into an steep (almost
vertical) dive out of control.
From our Austria friends, we know that the Beulah dropped its bombs,
leveled off, and attempted to land at Wels. We summarize that someone in
the cockpit regained some control and jettisoned the bombs. There must
have been many dead and injured aboard. Now they were too low to bail
Their only option was to try for an emergency landing at Wels. We think
they were too low and crashed on the hill on approach.
Conklin's account solves one of the mysteries of the Beulah. There were
ten crewmen aboard, but the Germans only found nine bodies (mangled and
unidentifiable)! We now believe that either Miller (pilot) or Whitney
(copilot) was blown out of the plane when it was hit.
So that's the story of the Beulah. Conklin said that when he looked at
them just before they were hit, and saw that miller was reading flight
data, "Miller was a very brave man". I think the whole 450th Bomb Group
was full of brave men.
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