THE STARS AND STRIPS
Thursday, April 26 1945
By Andy Rooney
Stars and Stripes Staff Writer
With U.S. 1ST ARMY, Apr. 25 — If Blumberg has been worried about Phyllis Marie, he can stop. She’s down at a German airfield at Altenburg just south of Leipzig, sitting there with eight black crosses painted big as hell all over her.
Phyllis Marie is a B17 the Germans converted to their own use after the 8th Air Force had lost her in a raid over Germany. On her nose is painted, in small white letters: Chief Sergeant Blumberg.
Blumberg was obviously a crew chief who cared. Under his name are 35 little yellow bombs painted on the fuselage, indicating the big ship’s raiding record. Above are six little swastikas, emblematic of enemy aircraft shot down, foot-high yellow letters spell out the name Phyllis Marie. Underneath the pilot’s window reads, “Row’s Rowdies.”
The Fortress has apparently been used for odd jobs by the Luftwaffe. They have taken out the ball turret and the bomb sight is gone. Wooden 2x4s are stretched across the bomb bay floor and on the outside the eight iron crosses, Luftwaffe identification mark, have been painted on both sides of the tail fin, one on each side of the fuselage by the waist windows and one on the top and bottom of each wing.
Nazi mechanics replaced the inboard portside propeller with a German blade not quite the same size as a regular Fortress propeller and removed all the guns. Back toward the waist gunner’s position there are still traces of blood stains on the floor.
When did she go down, Blumberg, and who was aboard her?
Memorandum to Andy Rooney: The Blumberg you mentioned is M/Sgt. Harold B. Blumberg, 22, of Savannah, Ga. He’s on furlough at present and we couldn’t get to talk with him.
But we did find out the following about Phyllis Marie. She went down Mar. 8. 1944. On a Berlin raid, she was zeroed in by a flock of enemy aircraft over Brandenburg. Observers saw from two to eight parachutes open before Phyllis Marie hit the earth. She was piloted by Lt. Max J. Quakenbush, of Beloit, Kan.
Phyllis Marie was a 390th bomber assigned to the 568th squadron. Perry Row was the first pilot assigned to the aircraft and named it after his wife. Perry Row completed his missions and subsequently several other crews flew the aircraft. Max Quakenbush on his second mission was assigned to the aircraft when it was shot down.
The story of Phyllis Marie is also part of our museum’s diorama models displaying the 8 March 1944 Berlin Mission. The aircraft is presented in the diorama painted on the back wall being escorted down. Phyllis Marie, serial number 42-30713, was on its 36th mission when it became the third 390th aircraft shot down that day as it neared the target. The story goes that after she fell out of the formation the crew bailed out except the pilot and a wounded waist gunner. The pilot elected to indicate surrender, in order to protect his waist gunner, by lowering his landing gear. Two German fighters then escorted him down where a landing was made in a pasture resulting in essentially a complete bomber made available to the Germans. All the crew became POWs. The aircraft was flown by the Luftwaffe assigned to KG 200.
An unconfirmed story is that the wounded waist gunner in later life became a one arm dentist.
The Andy Rooney article was furnished to the museum by Terry Row, son of Perry Row. Andy Rooney was a young Army Air Corp writer that flew a few missions in the ball turret.