The crew of Angel of Mercy shortly after an emergency

landing. From left to right: S/Sgt Donald E. Wilson, 2nd

Lt. William W. Graham, 1st. Lt. William S. McMillan, T/Sgt

Kenneth G. Graham, T/Sgt. Mueller and 1st Lt. Walter D.

McLean. Missing from the picture is wounded rear gunner

S/Sgt. Arthur S. Hatfield.

INFO Eduard - September 2021

Angel of Mercy just before belly landing at Fano Air Base.

Angel of Mercy’s incomplete story

The aircraft serial No. 43-35982 came from the

production block B-25J-10-NA. We don’t have

the information about the exact manufacturing

date neither when it was delivered to 428th BS,

we know however that it flew its first mission on

January 8, 1945. It was the raid on Crespellano assembly area, and the aircraft was flown by Capt.

C. W. Sprague (with 2nd Lt. R. D. Stead as copilot).

In this aircraft Sprague flew in total six missions,

afterwards several pilots alternated at its controls from the beginning of February. As the well-known photographs show, on the port side of

the fuselage of Angel of Mercy, under the cockpit

besides T/Sgt E. O. Robinson‘s name as a Crew

Chief (he survived the war and died on August 9,

1987) there was also 1st Lt. Thaddeus C. Michal’s

name as an Airplane Commander. He was a very

experienced pilot who served with the unit from

August 1944 until the end of March 1945. For his

service he was awarded Air Medal and, in addition to it, nine Oak Leaf Clusters. On March 25 he

was decorated with the DFC for a mission flown

on February 6, 1945, when his ship was heavily

damaged by anti-aircraft fire during the raid on

San Ambrogio marshalling yards. Regardless,

Michal pressed on the attack and his bombardier

dropped the bombs on the target with „devastating effect “. The ship Michal flew on this mission

was not 43-35982, i.e. Angel of Mercy however,

but 43-35957 (this aircraft was lost on March 10,

1945 during the raid on Oro and the crew of 1st Lt.

G. A. Rorer was killed). Next day Michal flew 4335982 for the first time and with several exceptions he flew it into combat from then on, mostly

with 1st Lt. F. S. King as a copilot. Together they

flew eight missions in February.

It’s possible that Angel of Mercy was assigned to

Michal as of February 7. If the unnamed ship became Angel of Mercy while he was flying her, or

if she had been christened so by Sprague or her

Crew Chief cannot be ascertained from the historic documents known to the author. At any rate

Angel of Mercy flew 13 missions in February (out

of the total 32 missions flown by the whole squadron) out of which nine times piloted by Thaddeus

C. Michal. A month later „Angel“ flew additional

17 missions out of which nine times piloted again

by Michal who shared the airplane with McLean. He flew the ship on seven missions and 2nd

Lt. S. A. Willis „borrowed“ her once. Michal said

goodbye to „his“ Mitchell on March 19 flying the

raid against Vo Sinistro (approximately 15 kilometers south of Rovereto). Due to the navigational error the formation bombed the railway in

Chizzolo (approximately 8 kilometers north from

the original target). It was Michal’s seventieth,

and last mission. In the beginning of April, he was

headed back home to USA.

Pilots and their airplanes

The custom to display pilots‘ names on the aircraft

needs to be explained. The name shown did not

mean that the ship was assigned exclusively to

this pilot. In fact, pilots rotated flying the particular

ship and quite often the pilot-in-command and his

copilot were not paired permanently, not to mention the rest of the crew. For example, McMillan

flew with McLean for the first time on April 17 i.e.,

two days before the Rovereto raid which was their

second mission together. After the emergency

landing with Angel of Mercy they flew together in


Photo: Cpl. Robert A. Cooper via

After this excited communication a calm order to

drop the bombs was heard on the air and the leading ship started to turn away from the target.

Flak fire intensified and it seemed impossible for

anyone to fly through its barrage. Lt. W. H. Naff’s

aircraft from 380th BS was hit very hard and lost

one engine. Another aircraft left the formation

to escort him. Naff managed to bring the heavily

damaged ship back behind the Allied lines where the whole crew bailed out. It was not over yet.

Another seriously damaged aircraft was 1st Lt.

William S. McMillan’s ship. His “Angel of Mercy”

was hit by several shrapnel shells which damaged the hydraulic system. The copilot was 1st

Lt. Walter D. McLean, the other crew members on

board were bombardier 2nd Lt. William W. Graham, radio-operator and gunner S/Sgt. Donald

E. Wilson and gunners T/Sgt Kenneth G. Mueller

and S/Sgt Arthur S. Hatfield. Both men at controls

managed to maintain Angel of Mercy on the course so that Graham was able to drop the bombs on

the target. The loss of the hydraulic system also

meant that the landing gear could not be lowered

for the landing.

That was however a secondary problem in the

given moment, first they had to make it with a damaged aircraft over the mountains, and to friendly

territory. They succeeded in doing both and their

comrades at Fano base, where the group had

moved barely two weeks before from Corsica,

would observe an unusual landing. The Mitchell

approaching the runway had only the nose leg extended. The unusual belly landing was successful

though, and except for the rear gunner Hatfield,

who was already wounded over the target, everybody else escaped unscathed.

For his leadership under the heavy fire the formation leader, Col. Peter H. Remington, was

decorated with Silver Star, several other pilots

were awarded as well. McMillan was decorated

with DFC for his conduct and the citation to the

decoration award stated: "[…] Upon the commencement of the bomb run, shell fragments from

intense anti-aircraft fire heavily damaged his airplane. Displaying great courage […] maintained his

crippled aircraft on course, thereby enabling his

bombardier to release his bombs […] Then piloting

the shattered bomber over difficult mountainous

terrain to his base, […] effected a perfect landing

without injury to his crew."

McMillan managed to save his fellow crew members however he could not save the ship. The Flak

damage as well as the “kiss” with the ground upon

landing were extensive and she was written off.

Photo: Cpl. Robert A. Cooper via


Walter D. McLean at the time of his studies.