“Com-Batty” (42-52520) Red O
The B-24H 42-52520 “Com-Batty” from the 776th BS piloted by 2nd Lt. Thomas N. Vague was hit in the tail section during air battle over Jindrichuv Hradec on August 24, 1944. The right waist gunner T/Sgt John R. Renz was badly wounded in the leg and fell to the floor. Another shell hit the ball turret, seriously wounded the gunner S/Sgt Stanley Grzesik.
The crew was trying to reach Yugoslavia in order to bail out over Partisan territory. Over Klagenfurt, Austria, at 11,000 feet the Liberator was hit and set afire by flak. The bombardier Merle E. Riley had tried to get to the back of the plane to help. Riley and Sgts. John Renz and Stanley Grzesik were killed in action. Of the seven man who jumped to safety the pilot was the last to leave.
For his unselfish devotion to his crew and his bravery in trying to save wounded crew members, 2nd Lt. Merle E. Riley was awarded the Silver Star medal post-humously after the war. (Source: Jiri Sasek)