12th AF                          97th BG                       414th BS


Material submitted by his brother-in-law

Robert (Bob) Lineberger []


Site edited and maintained by Doug Cook

Contacts from 97th BG and 414th Squadron Welcome!

Last Update October 9, 2010


Biographical Information on the Lineberger and Rast Family


Pilot 1st Lt. Robert H. Rast (1943)



97th Bomb Group Memorial at Wright Patterson Museum Dayton, OH

(photo credit Bob Lineberger)



97th Bomb Group Stations During Bob Rast’s Service
Chateaudun-du-Rhumel, Algeria, c. 8 Feb 1943
Pont-du-Fahs, Tunisia, c. 1 Aug 1943

97th BG 414th BS Mission Aug. 1, 1943 Tunisia to Naples


The 414th Bomb Squadron Logo was from the popular song “On a wing and a prayer”.

(Photo from the collection of Lloyd Merrifield)



B-17 Pilot 1st Lt. Robert H. Rast (back right) and crew.

(Photo credit Col. Wm. Ross collection)



B-17F-10-DL     42-2985  ‘Nut Cracker’ and crew.   Then 1st Lt. Bob Rast is back center.



         Waist gunner Harrison Welch’s Jacket patch for B-17 ‘Nut Cracker’ 97th BG 414th BS
The obvious interpretation is that the ‘nuts’ are Axis dictators Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito.

Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini

This cartoon mocks the intentions of the Axis powers during World War II, and shows Adolph Hitler cutting the world into pieces like a cantaloupe to share with Hirohito and Mussolini.


Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini
414th BS Mission Sheet with the Aug. 1, 1943 mission to Naples highlighted
(Photo credit David Shelby)

Tunisia 1943   414th Squadron B-17s rollout on steel mesh runway for a combat mission.

(Photo credit Col. Wm. Ross collection)

97th BG, 414th BS  Bombs dropping on a mission in 1943.  
Note the accurate anti-aircraft flak bursts so near the big “Flying Fortesses”.
1943 Night photo of anti-aircraft fire with tracers making Naples a heavily defended target.  
(Photo from Chas. Cook collection)
Capodichino Airport, Naples today.   
After successfully bombing the 1943 aerodrome, the 414th squadron was attacked from behind by 8 to 10 German 
ME-109 fighter planes. A burst of flak immediately after bombs away blew off the right wing off of the B-17 ‘Nut Cracker’ 
at the #1engine.  Pilot Rast could not see that the wing tip was gone from his left seat. The bombardier bailed out at 
25,000 feet knowing the plane could not fly. He free fell to the altitude of oxygen. Rast could not get the plane righted 
but held it steady while the four men that were alive could get out and it circled the bombardier parachutist as 
they descended. The plane went into a spin and crashed.  It is seen belly-up in the frame below.  Pilot Rast was the last 
to leave the plane. Five crewmen died from the initial explosion or perhaps a second 88 mm shell hit the rear.

A German and Italian soldier came to where Rast landed.  He hurt his knee in the jump.  He went with the Italian guy

knowing Italy would soon surrender.  The whole compound was freed when Italy did surrender but a large German

patrol recaptured them all and put them in the railroad yard in Naples.  RAST said there were 8,000 POWs there in

cattle cars. Somewhere I got the idea that they were bombed because the US did not know they were prisoners in the

cattle cars and 4000 were killed.  (I can't prove that in writing anywhere.)  As German POW’s, they were sent to a

stalag in Germany.

The lead ship was taking pictures every 15 seconds of the bomb run which had just finished.

The wounded ‘Nut Cracker’ happened to get into the bomb run frames below.

These detailed copies were in the collection of 414th Pilot Col. Wm. L. Ross.

The picture also appears on Page 4 of ‘VENIT HORA’ with a poem under it.


"Immortal is the Name."


Lord, hold them in thy mighty hand

Above the ocean and the land

Like wings of Eagles mounting high

Along the pathways of the sky.


Immortal is the name they bear

And high the honor that they share

Until a thousand years have rolled,

Their deeds of valor shall be told.


In dark of night and light of day

God speed and bless them on their way.

And homeward safely guide each one

With glory gained and duty done.



(Photos above from Wm. Ross collection)
B-17F-10-DL       42-2985  “Nut Cracker’  97th BG, 414th BS  (MACR 355; missing air crew report) .
Shot down by anti-aircraft flak Aug 1, 1943 at Naples. Italy.  5 killed; 5 POW (including Rast).  
This report is from the 97th BG book ‘Venit Hora’ (The hour has come).
Target Capodichino Naples A/D was an enemy aerodrome (air base) and is now the Naples Airport. 
The following text repetition is for clarification 
and for internet search engines to pick up the names:
Pilot   1st Lt. Robert H. Rast
Copilot   2nd Lt. Alexander Alvarado
Navigator   1st Lt. Seymore J. Ponmone
Bombardier   2nd Lt. Frank M. Bigelow
Radio Operator   SSgt. William D. Dibble
Engineer/Gunner   TSgt William J. Shea
Right Waist Gunner   SSgt John L. Anderson
Left Waist Gunner    SSgt Robert J. Nichols
Ball Turret Gunner   Sgt. George B. Smith
Tail Gunner   Sgt. James R. Mathews
Pilot Bob Rast relayed to his brother-in-law Bob Lineberger that the crew that were killed were in the back of the plane.  
We are still researching this to be exact about the names.


Roster of 414th BS Officers (Comp= 50 missions completed and rotated back to the States)

Robert Rast was shot down on his 49th mission Aug. 1, 1943 just before Wm. Ross got his ticket home.

(From Wm. Ross collection)



Letter from Bob Lineberger with Col. Robert Rast’s story and some biographical information.




Suite D-2

741 Miller Drive SE

Leesburg, VA 20175


Dear Sir:


On page 82 of WORLD WAR II, April 2006 edition, you have pictured the B-17 named “The Nut Cracker,” Serial Number 42-2985. The name came from the nose art in one of the enclosed pictures of the heads of Hirohito, Mussolini and Hitler in a commonly used nutcracker. The pilot and aircraft commander was my brother-in-law. His name was Robert H. Rast, II. That picture is the lead picture in the “coffee table” book of the 97th Bombardment Group with a prayer under it, “Immortal Is The Name.” This picture has been published many times but no publisher has ever connected his name to the picture. I wish you would give him the well-deserved honor of doing that. Documentation is given in a photo copy of an excerpt from the history of the 97th Bombardment Group book [Venit Hora]. He was born in Columbia, SC. He took the U. S. Army Air Corp entrance exam twice, with his friend, and they both flunked. They hired a tutor to teach them the math they needed. They had only graduated from high school. They took it a third time and passed. He was the assistant manager of the Five Points Theater in Columbia at the time. He and my sister, Sarah, were married after he graduated from flight school and was commissioned. He flew his B-17 to Brazil from Florida, refueled and then on to North Africa.  He was shot down on his 49th mission over Naples, Italy. He was captured by an Italian soldier on foot. He was imprisoned there until the war in Italy ended [ Southern Italy and Rome (including Naples) were liberated on June 4, 1944. Nazi’s surrendered all of Italy at Recoaro Terme on April 22, 1945]. The population of the prison was going on foot to the American lines and a German patrol recaptured all of them [ editor assumes this to be 1944]. The were put in cattle cars in the railroad yard at Naples. There were 8,000 American prisoners in the yard. The yard was bombed by B-17s. Four thousand prisoners were killed in the bombing. This was told me by Rast.


Page 2

They were then shipped to a stalag in Germany. They had to walk 90 miles to another stalag in the dead of winter. On that trip his knee which he injured in the parachute landing gave out and a German guard approached him to shoot him in the head as they were doing to the prisoners who fell by the side instead of letting them freeze to death. His friend, also a prisoner, spoke German fluently and convinced him to permit him to tie two of the sleds together which they were pulling with their Red Cross supplies on them. That done, his friend pulled both sleds with him on one the rest of the distance. Then other prisoners who fell by the side were also treated in the same manner. He remained in prison for the remainder of the war. His first night of freedom was in a German flag factory. He picked up a 4’ x 6’ Luftwaffe Banner, red with a white field (circle) with the Luftwaffe Cross in it and hand carried that to me at my home in Wilson, NC. I was 16 at the time.  He worked with Metropolitan Insurance company a while here in Columbia, SC. He later re-enlisted, was sent to Biloxi for special training, then sent to Greenville, SC, at an AF base, back to Biloxi, the to Cassels, Germany, as commander of a detached radar outpost. He then went into SAC.  Then he flew KC-97s in Texas. Then he flew KC-135s at Westover AFB in Massachusetts. Many pilots were being discharged before they could retire and he obtained a spot in Okinawa as commander of another radar site. There he was in an H-19 helicopter with 4 others in the passenger compartment with the pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit. A rotor blade began to shake, the pilot descended to 400’ over the ocean, then the rotor broke and the helicopter hit the water head first. The open passenger compartment door slammed shut. Rast saw a blur of light in the compartment filled with fuel and water. He made his way have through the escape hatch and inflated his May West and lost consciousness. Okinawa fishermen rescued the pilots and passengers. Rast was the 4th person out. The 5th person did not get out and died. He retired in Tampa, Fl, as Col.. After surviving being shot down on his 49th mission and a helicopter crash prostate cancer killed him.


Page 3

His wife and he died about 3 months apart. He leaves three, children: Patti, Mark and Robert, III. Mark spent 5 years in the Navy and 15 years as an air traffic controller at the air base near Miami, FL. Mark is now a police dispatcher for Tampa. Bob Rast was more than a brother to me, even though he was my brother-in-law. If you can, please give him the honor of being the pilot of the “Nutcracker” when it was shot down in that picture. Two 88 mm anti aircraft shells hit the B-17. One cut off the wing at the RIGHT outboard engine. The other penetrated the rear of the plane and killed 4 of the crew. He could not see that the wing tip was gone from his left seat. The bombardier went out at 25,000 feet knowing the plane could not fly. He free fell to the altitude of oxygen. Rast could not get the plane righted but held it steady while the four men that were alive could get out and it circled the parachutist as they descended.





Robert B. Lineberger



Letter from Robert H. Rast III with Col. Robert Rast’s POW story







       Uncle Bob,

       Pat just sent me the links.  So glad you put Dad's history on
there.  Glad set [Dad’s story] straight.  Have never seen the 2nd picture

[ of the ‘Nut Cracker going down].  Fascination.

       I'm trying to find out more about Dad as a POW.  Knew he was in
the Italian Camp and then moved to Germany.  I remember him telling the
story about being bombed on the tracks.  A British POW smuggled a sword
into a car and they had cut a hole in the bottom of their car.  When the
bombing was imminent the guards took off and the Brits got out and
unlocked other cars.  He remembers running and diving into a crater with
a German soldier.  After the bombing they took off their separate ways.
Said he was headed with some others for Switzerland (for the Cognac) but
were picked up by Germans on one of only a few routes over the


Told of escape attempts in Germany and working on

[escape tunnels named] Tom, Dick and Harry. Told of how they

spread the dirt out from their trousers.  Also told of Brits making a hobby horse

in the walking path with two guys in there who would tunnel all day. 


This had to be Stalag Luft III.


Didn't know about his knee and almost getting shot but this must have
been the 'death march' from Poland to Southern Germany at the end of the

       I always tell everyone that Dad's WWII adventures were the basis
for two movies: 'Von Ryan's Express' and The Great Escape'.

       Bob  (Robert H. Rast III)







VIDEO  B-17 Memphis Belle in Heavy Flak (Hollywood movie)

(B-17 ‘Mother and Country’ downed)


WW II : RARE COLOR FILM : B-17 MEMPHIS BELLE : 25TH MISSION (actual 1943 combat action)