Streamed live on April 4, 2024

Les Schrenk’s story as a World War II ball turret gunner is one of courage, resilience, and unexpected humanity amidst the chaos of war.

He was assigned as a ball turret gunner to the 327th Bombardment Squadron, 92nd Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, stationed at RAF Podington. As a ball turret gunner, Schrenk inadvertently found himself in his position due to circumstance.

His crew, led by 2nd Lt Lavies, formed a tight-knit unit, flying numerous missions together. Loyalty and a sense of duty bound them, despite the inherent dangers they faced.

The “BIG WEEK” bombing campaign placed Schrenk and his crew in the thick of combat, facing heavy German fighter opposition.

On February 22nd, their tenth and final mission, they targeted the German airfield Aalborg-West in Denmark as a diversion. During the mission, their B-17, “Pot O’ Gold,” was hit, and Schrenk witnessed the loss of fellow aircraft and crew members. Eventually, their plane caught fire, and they were forced to bail out. Schrenk’s exit from the ball turret, normally a daunting task, was complicated by the dire circumstances. His parachute initially failed to deploy properly, but he managed to rectify the issue, landing in enemy territory and being taken prisoner by German troops.

Despite the trauma of combat and capture, Schrenk’s resilience and composure stood out. Schrenk’s post-war reconciliation with his past, including a visit to the crash site of “Pot O’ Gold” and the spot where Lavies perished, reflects his enduring respect and remembrance for his fallen comrades. Near war’s end, Lester was forced on a death march west. In 2012, Les finally met the German pilot – Hans-Hermann Muller – who had spared the American bomber knowing that if it went down over water, the entire crew would drown.

Thank you to Tobacco Free Adagio Health and UPMC for Life for sponsoring this event!