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First Name: Raymond

Last Name: Ertel



Branch: U.S. Army Air Forces (1941 - 1947)

Home of Record: OH
Middle Name: C.

Date of Birth:

Date of Death: 20 July 1944

Rank: Staff Sergeant

Years Served:
Raymond C. Ertel

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Raymond C. Ertel
Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces

In July 1944, Staff Sergeant Raymond C. Ertel was serving as a gunner with the 756th Bomb Squadron, 459th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 304th Bombardment Wing, 15th Air Force, based at Giulia Airfield, Italy. The 459th Bombardment Group flew B-24 Liberator bombers on missions in Italy, France, the Balkans, Austria and Germany.

On 20 July 1944, SSGT Ertel was the ball turret gunner on B-24H Liberator bomber Serial Number 42-52358 named ‘Hell’s Belle’ which was on a bombing mission over Friedrichshafen, Germany. According to MACR 6851, the aircraft was last sighted at 1058 hours after the aircraft was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire while over the bombing target. The aircraft had a crew of 9.

Details Concerning the Crash and Fate of the Crew

The following story of what happened came from a debriefing of Technical Sergeant Donald W. Anderson, the Engineer/Gunner on Hell’s Belle. Hereafter he will be referred to as ‘Anderson’:

At first the only perceptible damage to plane from this ‘ack-ack’ fire, according to Anderson, was extensive damage to the co-pilot’s controls, which were virtually shot away. However, a short time later spraying gasoline was noticed on the flight deck and due to the imminent hazard of fire breaking out, crew bailed out of plane. A total time of approximately 5 minutes had elapsed between bombs-away and the abandoning of the plane. The plane was then at an altitude of approximately 15,000 feet and was flying over Lake Constance when the crew started bailing out.

Anderson states that 6 of his crew members landed either on the German part of Lake Constance itself or on the adjacent shores to Lake Constance in Germany. These men were:

● Pilot: 1LT Howland J. Hamlin
● Co-Pilot: 2LT Richard V. S. Newhouse
● Bombardier: 1LT George T. Hunter, Jr.
● Radio Operator: SSGT Aaron C. Slaughter
● Left Waist Gunner: SSGT Ronald W. Cherrington
● Ball Turret Gunner: SSGT Raymond C. Ertel

Two other of Anderson’s crew members were known by Anderson to have landed in Lake Constance itself. The names of these two men are:

● Right Waist Gunner: SSGT John A. Boardsen
● Tail Turret Gunner: SSGT Tonnes E. Tonnessen

Anderson was the only one of his crew to actually land on Swiss soil on the South side of the Lake. He was immediately picked up by Swiss Frontier Gurards and interned, while the other known survivor of Anderson’s crew, SSGT Tonnes E. Tonnessen, was rescued from drowning in Lake Constance by Swiss fishermen and later interned.

While Anderson has no definite knowledge of the fate of his crew members, other than SSGT John A. Boardsen, whose body was later recovered from Lake Constance by the Swiss and interred in Munsingen, Switzerland, he came upon what he believes to be accurate information concerning the killing of his crew members by German troops on the North side of Lake Constance.

Anderson states that he was allowed to visit with Swiss people around Lake Constance and he was told by several of these people, including Herr Peter Flutch, a Swiss official under whom the Frontier Guard in this section operated and still another, Herr Casper, the Mayor of Berlingen, Switzerland, that the German troops across the Lake had been seen to fire upon Anderson’s crew members and kill them when they parachuted to the ground.

Anderson further states that in the case of the bombardier, 1LT George T. Hunter, Jr., the same Swiss fisherman who rescued SSGT Tonnes E. Tonnessen, also attempted to rescue 1LT Hunter but was driven away from the scene by German patrol boats. According to Anderson, 1LT Hunter was tangled in his parachute gear and perished before the Germans, after driving the Swiss away, attempted to effect his rescue. SSGT Tonnessen witnessed this particular incident after his rescue by the Swiss fishermen.

Anderson states that the above outrage against these airmen by the Germans was given considerable publicity by the Swiss newspapers at the time and that the local populace seemed greatly incensed over this example of German barbarism.

However, despite the attendant publicity in the Swiss press, Anderson states that at no time was he called upon for a statement or a deposition by the U.S. military authorities in Switzerland. At the time of his interrogation by U.S. Army Attaches, he had no knowledge whatever of the fate of his other crew members.

Anderson is firmly convinced of the authenticity of the information provided him concerning the status of his crew members by the above named people. He is convinced that all of these crew members, whose present official WD status is that of MIA, were killed in the above described action.

Seven of the nine members of the crew were either drowned or killed. Only TSGT Anderson and SSGT Tonnessen, Returned to Duty (RTD).

Medals, Awards and Badges

Purple Heart
Air Medal with Award Numeral 4
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army Air Forces Aircrew Badge

B-24H Liberator bomber Serial Number 42-52358 named Hell’s Belle had the following crew on 20 July 1944.

● Pilot: 1LT Howland J. Hamlin [Honoree Record ID 108972] KIA
● Co-Pilot: 2LT Richard V. S. Newhouse [Honoree Record ID 112674] KIA
● Bombardier: 1LT George T. Hunter, Jr. [Honoree Record ID 109605] KIA
● Engineer/Gunner: TSGT Donald W. Anderson [Honoree Record ID 308345] RTD
● Radio Operator: SSGT Aaron C. Slaughter [Honoree Record ID 308346] KIA
● Right Waist Gunner: SSGT John A. Boardsen [Honoree Record ID 308347] KIA
● Left Waist Gunner: SSGT Ronald W. Cherrington [Honoree Record ID 106753] KIA
● Ball Turret Gunner: SSGT Raymond C. Ertel [Honoree Record ID 107899] KIA
● Tail Turret Gunner: SSGT Tonnes E. Tonnessen [Honoree Record ID 308348] RTD


Staff Sergeant Raymond C. Ertel is buried at the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in Saint-Avold, Departement de la Moselle, Lorraine, France, in Plot K, Row 43, Grave 20.

[The information in this biography was derived primarily from various sections of the 459th Bombardment Group website at http://www.459bg.org/ and permission was granted for its use.]

Honoree ID: 107899   Created by: MHOH




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