On February 22, 1944 the 303rd BG was dispatched with 36 crews for combat on the target Junkers Aircraft Factory , Aschersleben, Germany. Among the crew was John Paul Deffinger, ball turret gunner, aboard the B-17G (#42-31340) Miss Liberty.
The pilot (Lt. Charles D. Crook) and crew of the B-17G #42-31399 (no name), remember the following of "The Last Flight of a Flying Fortress" while evading captures in the Netherlands. We had come down to 1,300 and flew just above the clouds. We were 20 minutes from the coast and the clouds ceased to exist. We were in the open and a FW-190 spotted us and came from below and the rear with a burst of machine gun fire and shells ripping through the ship. We were defenseless as the Germans came in firing again, knocking out two more engines, as we were trying to ditch in the North Sea. We were going down and we were too low for jumping to safety. Two of the crew jumped (one evaded capture and the other did not) before anyone knew it and the rest of the crew began taking their positions for crash-landing. The first bounce came plenty hard, as we went up in the air and came down again with a loud crash and then were sliding along the ground. Things were flying all around inside the ship: ammunition, radio sets, flares, and boxes of all kinds. A thousand thoughts passed before me. Will the plane catch fire and blow up? We suddenly stopped with a jolt and the front of the plane was in the water of a pond and the tail was bent and pointing in the air. We crawled out of the plane as the German plane was circling the wreckage and suddenly dove in. Shells were hitting everywhere, including an ammunition box and started exploding. One of the men who had parachuted took a boat and crossed a river. The Germans, thinking we had all done the same, searched that side of the river first. Three of the remaining crew evaded capture. T/Sgt. Louis H. Breitenbach and Sgt. James H. Hensley evaded capture for 4 months and were contacted by members of the Dutch Underground and were then moved around to various Dutch familes, until the German soldiers, who were searching houses looking for downed airmen, found them. Sgt. Robert J. Hannan also made contact with the Dutch Underground and became a "Freedom Fighter", helping other downed airmen to evade capture and taking part in train raids and other actions to harass the Germans.