Since creating this profile, I have contacted the P-38 pilot who was leading the P-38's that were escorting the bombers (he also completed the Missing Air Crew Report) and one of the surviving members of the bomber crew.
The leader of the P-38's emailed me this message:
On August 19 1943, I led a flight of P38s in a 96th Squadron formation on a Bomber Escort mission to lower Italy.
As I did not have a regular flight with the same pilots each time, I don’t remember who was in my flight, but I don’t recall having to back off on any maneuvers because one or more couldn’t keep up.
After the target and crossing the coast of Italy, I saw a B25 land in the water and the crew get into a rubber life raft. I drank enough water out of my canteen so it would float and dropped it to them I started circling to keep them in sight while expecting the air rescue plane to show up. Clayton Tillapagh saw us and flew high cover. After some time, Clay and I decided the rescue plane was not coming and we each sent our second element to Palermo to gas up and try to get him to come. Clay and I stayed until we had to leave to get gas and we went to Palermo.
We were able to convince the rescue pilot we could cover him and we went back to where we had left the life raft, but we were not able to find it. We learned much later the crew had been picked up by an Italian Hospital ship very soon after we left them. We went back to Palermo and spent the night before returning to Grombalia. Landing at Palermo in a valley, on a runway that did not have runway lights, on a dark night is something I would rather not do again.
I am assuming Smidt was in my second element and after leaving to get help, I never saw him again nor ever heard why he ended up missing.
In retrospect, it never entered my young mind to ask if everyone knew their way home.
1st Lt Alan R Kennedy
I talked to SSgt Lamar Rodgers, Aerial Gunner, the bomber crew member on the telephone and he told me that a P-38 had circled them for 4 hours before it left. One P-38 flew over them at about 40 feet and dropped a water canteen. He said he remembered that day like it was yesterday. They had spent the night in the dingy and turned on their emergency radio that transmitted an SOS in the morning. The Germans were on them within 30 minutes of turning on the radio. The six crew members spent 21 months in German POW camps and were released at the end of the war. As of 2-13-2011, there are only two surviving members of the bomber crew; Lamar F Rodgers and the pilot Ralph R Goss.