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The Beulah

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 Tub") 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 plane. 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 occurred. 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 the 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 out. German records show that several unidentified bodies were found in the general area where the air battle occurred and quite a distant from the crash site. 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 to 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 were 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 the 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 out. 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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