USAAF Nose Art Research Project


California Rocket
B-24J-10-FO 42-51714

459th Bomb Group, 757th Bomb Squadron

California Rocket

This B24 is believed to have been named by pilot Walter Wallner and additionally carried the name "Pop" on the right side but it was the crew of William Beimbrink who were flying it when shot down by flak near Oswiecim, Poland, on 18th December 1944.

"California Rocket" was last seen just after passing through intense flak at the target with its #4 engine smoking. All crew members bailed out successfully but Lt Beimbrink is thought to have been shot either during his descent or later on the ground.

Survivors were gathered by partisans, reputedly led by a man known as "The Jaguar of the Hills" and eventually returned to Allied control. Rumours at the time suggested that the partisans had found the crash site and hidden the wreck of the the B24, cutting down numerous trees around the charred site in order to confuse German searchers. Several charred documents and maps were returned to the survivors who promptly burned them.


© Ray Bowden 20 July 2024