James Stewart and Walter Matthau in 453rd Bombardment Group.

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The title is not a tagline for a Hollywood blockbuster, although it should have been. I am sure it would have made a great movie.

James Stewart and Walter Matthau did serve together in the 453rd Bombardment Group during WWII.

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Prior to becoming a Hollywood icon,Walter Matthau was a radioman-gunner in the U.S. Army Air Forces with the Eighth Air Force in the United Kingdom, crewing a Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber. He was assigned to the same 453rd Bombardment Group as James Stewart. When he was  based in England at RAF Old Buckenham, in Norfolk he partook in several  missions across  Europe during the Battle of the Bulge. He ended the war with the rank of Staff Sergeant. He served with Jimmy Stewart, who was an operations officer giving mission briefings to the group.

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When it comes to Hollywood greats, they don’t get any bigger than James Stewart, the list of iconic movies he made is endless. Prior to the war he already made a number of classic movies”Mr Smith goes to Washington” being one of them.

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Having learned to fly in 1935, he was drafted into the United States Army in 1940 as a private (after twice failing the medical for being underweight). During the course of World War II he was promoted  to the rank of Colonel in March 1945, first as an instructor at home in the United States, and later on combat missions in Europe.

On March 30, 1944, he was sent to RAF Old Buckenham in a function as group operations officer of the 453rd Bombardment Group, a new B-24 unit that had just lost both its commander and operations officer on missions. Leading as an example, he flew as command pilot in the lead B-24 on several missions deep into Nazi-occupied Europe.

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Two heroes, who not only fought for freedom, they also entertained us and still do .

 

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Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines-WWII style.

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One of the aspects of WWII that always fascinated me was the aerial battles and the skills of the pilots of the various air forces.

Not only did they have to be skilled in combat they also had to try to keep flying whilst being attacked,well with the exception of  the Kamikaze pilots I assume.

I panic when the ‘fasten seat belts’ sign suddenly lights up leave alone being shot at or trying to shoot.This blog is a tribute to Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines of the allied Forces.

Soviet Il-2 ground attack aircraft attacking German ground forces during the Battle of Kursk

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American Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber aircraft during the bombing of oil refineries in Ploiești, Romania on 1 August 1943 during Operation Tidal Wave

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Pilots of the No. 303 “Kościuszko” Polish Fighter Squadron during the Battle of Britain

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British Supermarine Spitfire fighter aircraft (bottom) flying past a German Heinkel He-111 bomber aircraft (top) during the Battle of Britain (1940)

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Hawker Hurricanes fly in formation.

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Four 264 Squadron Defiants (PS-V was shot down on 28 August 1940 over Kent

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The legendary Il-2 fighter-bomber, known among enthusiasts as the ‘flying tank’.

The legendary Il-2 fighter-bomber, known among enthusiasts as the 'flying tank'.

An American soldier waves good luck to a U.S. Army Air Force Liberator bomber

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Gun camera film shows tracer ammunition from a Supermarine Spitfire Mark I of 609 Squadron, flown by Flight Lieutenant J H G McArthur, hitting a Heinkel He 111 on its starboard quarter.

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P-61 Black Widow of the 548th Night Fighter Squadron,

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B-17F Memphis Belle over Europe

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Gloster Meteor – British WWII fighter. First operational Allied Jet Fighter.

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I have to acknowledge some of the efforts of the Luftwaffe for some of the technologies they developed were used long after the War ended.

Horten Ho 229 captured by Americans

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The Me 262, the first jet fighter and the most well-known of WWII

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The Messerschmitt Me 264 V1 (first prototype Me 264) aka Amerika Bomber, the clue is in the name.Schwerer Bomber Messerschmitt Me 264 V1

Italian jet fighter Caproni Campini No. 1 took off August 1940, a failed attempt by the Italian airforce.

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Honorable mention.

Although it never saw battle during WWII, the first flight of the Bell X-1 was on 19 January 1946. The development did start during the war, what difference it would have made I don’t know since the development only started in late 1944, at the last stage of the war. However if this aircraft would have been operational in the early stages of WWII it more then likely would have been a game changer, it achieved a speed of nearly 1,000 miles per hour .

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Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines-WWI style

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World War I was the first major conflict involving the large-scale use of aircraft. Tethered observation balloons had already been employed in several wars, and would be used extensively for artillery spotting. Germany employed Zeppelins for reconnaissance over the North Sea and Baltic and also for strategic bombing raids over Britain and the Eastern Front.

Aeroplanes were just coming into military use at the outset of the war. Initially, they were used mostly for reconnaissance. Pilots and engineers learned from experience, leading to the development of many specialized types, including fighters, bombers, and trench strafers.

Below just some examples of those magnificent flying machines.

British fleet in the Firth of Forth. Picture: taken from a rigid balloon showing the English fleet in the Firth of Forth where the German fleet was turned over to the allies.

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Aeroplane leaving a light cruiser.

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An aircraft flies over no-man’s land, a European battlefield torn up by bombs and trench diggers.

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Aircraft fly above New York City.

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A squadron of U.S. Curtis aircraft in flight, circa 1917.

A squadron of U.S. Curtis aircraft in flight, circa 1917.

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Heroic Airmen with a difference and a bit of naked history.

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Before I go in to the blog I have to warn you that this blog contains an image of an adult nature.So if you are offended by it,get over it.

U.S. Army Air Force Staff Sgt. Alan Magee fell out of a burning plane at 22,000 feet without a parachute.

And he lived.

Magee was a ball turret gunner in a B-17 named “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” after the three mascots for Rice Krispies cereal. That plane, along with others from the 360th Squadron, was sent to bomb German torpedo stores in St. Nazaire, France on Jan. 3, 1943.

During the mission, the plane was shot by anti-aircraft guns and became a ball of flames. Magee climbed into the fuselage to get his chute and bail out, but it had been shredded by the flak. As Magee was trying to figure out a new plan, a second flak burst tore through the aircraft and then a fighter blasted it with machine gun fire.

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Magee was knocked unconscious and thrown from the aircraft. When he woke up, he was falling through the air with nothing but a prayer.

Magee told God, “I don’t wish to die because I know nothing of life,” according to reports from the 303rd Bomb Group.

Magee, struggling with a shortage of oxygen and likely in shock from the events of the past few minutes, passed out again and God seemingly answered his prayer. The young noncommissioned officer fell into the town of St. Nazaire and through the glass roof of the train station. He was later found dangling on the steel girders that supported the ceiling.

The glass had slowed his fall and he regained consciousness as German soldiers took him to medical care. Magee’s right leg and ankle were broken, he had 28 wounds from shrapnel and glass, and his right arm was cut nearly the whole way off. He had also suffered numerous internal injuries.

“I owe the German military doctor who treated me a debt of gratitude,” Magee said. “He told me, ‘we are enemies, but I am first a doctor and I will do my best to save your arm.'”magee

On the 23rd of September 1995 Alan E. Magee, accompanied by his wife Helen, returned to St Nazaire to take part in a ceremony sponsored by French citizens, dedicating a memorial to his seven fellow crewmen killed in the crash of Snap! Crackle! Pop! in the forest at La Baule Escoublac on Jan. 3, 1943.

After the war, he earned his pilot’s license and worked in the airline industry in a variety of roles. He retired in 1979 and moved to northern New Mexico. He died in San Angelo, Texas, on December 20, 2003, from stroke and kidney failure, at the age of 84.

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This young crewman of a US Navy “Dumbo” PBY rescue mission has just jumped into the water of Rabaul Harbor to rescue a badly burned Marine pilot who was shot down while bombing the Japanese-held fortress of Rabaul. Since Japanese coastal defense guns were firing at the plane while it was in the water during take-off, this brave young man, after rescuing the pilot, manned his position as machine gunner without taking time to put on his clothes. A hero photographed right after he’d completed his heroic act. Naked.

Photo taken by Horace Bristol (1908-1997). In 1941, Bristol was recruited to the U.S. Naval Aviation Photographic Unit, as one of six photographers under the command of Captain Edward J. Steichen, documenting World War II in places such as South Africa, and Japan. He ended up being on the plane the gunner was serving on, which was used to rescue people from Rabaul Bay (New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea), when this occurred. In an article from a December 2002 issue of B&W magazine he remembers:

Naked gunner, Rescue at Rabaul, 1944

“…we got a call to pick up an airman who was down in the Bay. The Japanese were shooting at him from the island, and when they saw us they started shooting at us. The man who was shot down was temporarily blinded, so one of our crew stripped off his clothes and jumped in to bring him aboard. He couldn’t have swum very well wearing his boots and clothes. As soon as we could, we took off. We weren’t waiting around for anybody to put on formal clothes. We were being shot at and wanted to get the hell out of there. The naked man got back into his position at his gun in the blister of the plane.”

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Seymour Zimmerman-WWII Hero

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Who is Seymour Zimmerman?

To be honest I don’t know. All I know he died for my freedom and his name is on a memorial stone  in the American War Cemetery of Margraten in the Netherlands.8,3001heroes who sacrificed their lives are buried there. Unfortunately Seymour’s body was never found.

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This is all I know of him.

Radio Op. S/Sgt. Seymour Zimmerman MIA/KIA
Hometown: Walden, Massachusetts
Squadron: 576th BS 392th Bomb Group
Service # 11115346
Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart
Pilot 2nd/Lt. Herman H. Miller MIA/KIA

Target: VORDEN AIRFIELD
Missing Air Crew Report Details
USAAF MACR#: 02563 AIRCRAFT:
Date Lost: 18-Nov-43
Serial Number: #42-64435
Aircraft Model B-24

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Aircraft Letter: “B”
Aircraft Name: (No Nickname) 21 st Mission
Location:Suspected of downed in the waters off the enemy coast.
Cause: flak fire hits 10 MIA/KIA

The briefed target for this mission was Hansdorf airfield which aircrews had difficulty locating with Vorden air field being struck as an alternative. Briefing for (36) aircrews was held between 0600-0730, all taking off starting at 0930. The 579th Squadron was assigned lead with Colonel Rendle, 392nd Commander, riding in the lead ship as Command Pilot and Captain Weiland as lead Bombardier. Because of poor weather over the briefed primary route, the Group elected to bomb the Target of Opportunity of Vorden, achieving excellent results. From 12-15 single and twin engine enemy aircraft were encountered as well as light but accurate flak. The bombing results at Vorden created massive destruction to the airfield and supporting facffities. Nine (9) aircraft were battle damaged by flak and one aircrew and aircraft were lost. 2nd Lieutenant H. H. Miller of the 576th and pilot of aircraft #435 with his crew were seen on return with #3 engine afire followed by an explosion directly beneath the aircraft. The explosion was believed to have been a bomb still aboard the aircraft. Just as the aircraft began crossing of the English Channel, it was seen to begin a turn and head for the enemy coast again which was the last the crew and aircraft were heard from all listed as MIA.

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MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: The eye-witness accounts from returning 392nd crewmembers (Lts. Swangren, Metz and Gries) stated that the missing crew plane was last seen with #3 engine on fire after which a large explosion was observed beneath the ship. After this explosion the aircraft was observed to be going down, out of control, and headed back towards the Dutch coast. It was subsequently concluded that this aircrew had gone down in the waters off the enemy coast as no information was ever recovered on this situation, either in enemy or friendly force reporting. The eye-witness accounts felt that the large explosion of this plane was due to bombs of the ship, flak fire hits the cause.

INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: No records exist of any survivor reports from this aircrew.

Dear Sir I salute you, although your body was never found your memory is very much alive.

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Frankly my dear I DO give a damn-Clark Gable in WWII.

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Clark Gable was a Hollywood star and among the most famous figures in the world when two events altered his life. First, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, hurtling the United States into World War II. Then, the following month, Gable’s beloved wife Carole Lombard was killed in the crash of a DC-3 airliner returning from a war bonds tour.

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Devastated, patriotic, and at age 40 a bit old for military service, Gable didn’t feel that the work he and Lombard had been doing to raise money through war bonds was enough of a contribution. He sent a telegram to President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking for a role in the war effort. The president replied, “STAY WHERE YOU ARE.”

In 1942, following Lombard’s death, Gable joined the U.S. Army Air Forces. Lombard had suggested that Gable enlist as part of the war effort, but MGM was reluctant to let him go, and he resisted the suggestion. Gable made a public statement after Lombard’s death that prompted the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces Henry H. “Hap” Arnold to offer Gable a “special assignment” in aerial gunnery.

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The Washington Evening Star reported that Gable took a physical examination at Bolling Field on June 19, preliminary to joining the service.

“Mr. Gable, it was learned from a source outside the war department, conferred with Lieutenant General H. H. Arnold, head of the air forces yesterday.” the Star continued. “It was understood that Mr. Gable, if he is commissioned, will make movies for the air forces. Lieutenant Jimmy Stewart, another actor in uniform, has been doing this.”
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Gable had earlier expressed an interest in officer candidate school, but he enlisted on August 12, 1942, with the intention of becoming an enlisted aerial gunner on a bomber. MGM arranged for his studio friend, the cinematographer Andrew McIntyre, to enlist with him and accompany him through training.

However, shortly after his enlistment, McIntyre and he were sent to Miami Beach, Florida, where they entered USAAF OCS Class 42-E on August 17, 1942. Both completed training on October 28, 1942, commissioned as second lieutenants. His class of about 2,600 fellow students (of which he ranked about 700th in class standing) selected Gable as its graduation speaker, at which General Arnold presented the cadets with their commissions. Arnold then informed Gable of his special assignment: to make a recruiting film in combat with the Eighth Air Force to recruit aerial gunners. Gable and McIntyre were immediately sent to Flexible Gunnery School at Tyndall Field, Florida, followed by a photography course at Fort George Wright, Washington State and promoted to first lieutenants upon its completion.

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Gable reported to Biggs Army Air Base, Texas, on January 27, 1943, to train with and accompany the 351st Bomb Group to England as head of a six-man motion picture unit. In addition to McIntyre, he recruited the screenwriter John Lee Mahin, camera operators Sgts. Mario Toti and Robert Boles, and the sound man Lt. Howard Voss to complete his crew. Gable was promoted to captain while he was with the 351st Bomb Group at Pueblo Army Air Base, Colorado, a rank commensurate with his position as a unit commander. (As first lieutenants, McIntyre and he had equal seniority.)

Gable spent most of 1943 in England at RAF Polebrook with the 351st Bomb Group. Gable flew five combat missions, including one to Germany, as an observer-gunner in B-17 Flying Fortresses between May 4 and September 23, 1943, earning the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts.

(This portrait of a B-17G Flying Fortress of the 351st Bombardment Group was taken by Capt. Clark Gable. Photo courtesy of the Robert F. Dorr Collection)

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During one of the missions, Gable’s aircraft was damaged by flak and attacked by fighters, which knocked out one of the engines and shot up the stabilizer. In the raid on Germany, one crewman was killed and two others were wounded, and flak went through Gable’s boot and narrowly missed his head. When word of this reached MGM, studio executives began to badger the Army Air Forces to reassign its most valuable screen actor to noncombat duty. In November 1943, Gable returned to the United States to edit his film, only to find that the personnel shortage of aerial gunners had already been rectified. He was allowed to complete the film anyway, joining the First Motion Picture Unit in Hollywood.

Clark-Gable

In May 1944, Gable was promoted to major. He hoped for another combat assignment, but when the invasion of Normandy came and went in June without any further orders, Gable was relieved from active duty as a major on June 12, 1944, at his request, since he was over-age for combat. His discharge papers were signed by Captain (later U.S. President) Ronald Reagan. Gable completed editing of the film Combat America in September 1944, giving the narration himself and making use of numerous interviews with enlisted gunners as focus of the film. Because his motion picture production schedule made it impossible for him to fulfill reserve officer duties, he resigned his commission on September 26, 1947, a week after the Air Force became an independent service branch.

Adolf Hitler favored Gable above all other actors. During World War II, Hitler offered a sizable reward to anyone who could capture and bring Gable to him unscathed.

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So despite what he said in “Gone with the wind” he did actually give a damn.

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Operation Outward- Balloons of war

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During the night of 17 September 1940, a gale tore loose several British barrage balloons, sweeping them across the North Sea to Scandinavia. The balloons’ trailing steel cables caught up in power lines, shorting them out. They also brought down the antenna for the Swedish International radio station.

When complaints about the incident reached London, they sparked ideas for a secret weapon. Free-flying meteorological balloons might be released deliberately to “impede and inconvenience” the enemy.

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“We may make a virtue of our misfortune,” noted Churchill, giving approval for what became Operation Outward.

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The crews were mainly women from the WRNS. They wore protective gear due to the hazards of working with incendiary devices. Showing typical wartime humour, the WRNS adapted popular songs of the time, including “I don’t want to set the world on fire”.

Launches finished in 1944 because of increased Allied air activity, but the project was highly successful. One balloon with trailing wire caused a short circuit which ultimately destroyed a power plant at Böhlen near Leipzig. The damage from this single event was estimated to be five times as great as the entire cost of Operation Outward.

Outward caused damage in neutral countries – on the night of 19–20 January 1944, two trains collided at Laholm in Sweden after an Outward balloon knocked out electrical lighting on the railway.

Changing winds could also blow balloons back to the United Kingdom. On one occasion, a balloon knocked out the electricity supply to the town of Ipswich.

The last balloons were launched on 4 September 1944.

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Forgotten History-The Swiss Airforce during WWII.

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Although Switzerland remained neutral throughout World War II, it had to deal with numerous violations of its airspace by combatants from both sides – initially by German aircraft, especially during their invasion of France in 1940. Zealous Swiss pilots attacked and shot down eleven German aircraft, losing two of their own, before a threatening memorandum from the German leadership forced General Guisan to forbid air combat above Swiss territory.

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Later in the war, the Allied bomber offensive sometimes took US or British bombers into Swiss airspace, either damaged craft seeking safe haven or even on occasions bombing Swiss cities by accident.

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Swiss aircraft would attempt to intercept individual aircraft and force them to land, interning the crews. Only one further Swiss pilot was killed during the war, shot down by a US fighter in September 1944. From September red and white neutrality bands were added to the wings of aircraft to stop accidental attacks on Swiss aircraft by Allied aircraft.

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From 1943 Switzerland shot down American and British aircraft, mainly bombers, overflying Switzerland during World War II: six by Swiss air force fighters and nine by flak cannons, and 36 airmen were killed. On 1 October 1943 the first American bomber was shot near Bad Ragaz: Only three men survived.

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The officers were interned in Davos, airmen in Adelboden. The representative of the U.S. military in Bern, U.S. military attaché Barnwell R. Legge, instructed the soldiers not to flee so as to allow the U.S. Legation to coordinate their escape attempts, but the majority of the soldiers thought it was a diplomatic ruse or did not receive the instruction directly.

On 1 October 1944 Switzerland housed 39,670 internees in all: 20,650 from Italy, 10,082 from Poland, 2,643 from the United States, 1,121 from the United Kingdom (including five Australians), 822 from the Soviet Union and 245 from France. In September the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was commissioned by the U.S. supreme command to organize the escapes of 1,000 American internees, but the task was not effectively accomplished before late winter 1944/45.

 

Soldiers who were caught after their escape from the internment camp, were often detained in the Wauwilermoos internment camp near Luzern.

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Official Swiss records identify 6,501 airspace violations during the course of the war, with 198 foreign aircraft landing on Swiss territory and 56 aircraft crashing there.

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James M. Hansen-an American Liberator.

 

2017-01-03-3Returning from a bombing raid of Germany’s Ruhr Valley in 1944, American pilot James M. Hansen’s fighter plane ran into trouble and crashed. James was killed instantly. The Allies, who buried him in the temporary American military cemetery in the village of Molenhoek near the Dutch city of Nijmegen, placed this wooden cross on his grave.

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Then in 1947 a cemetery in the Dutch village of Margraten was designated as the permanent burial ground for fallen American soldiers.

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The rest of the temporary American cemeteries were shut down. And just like thousands of other American soldiers, James M. Hansen’s body was reburied in the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten.

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Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 7 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart

The wooden cross stayed behind in Molenhoek, only to be discovered by chance in 1990. The ground of the Margraten cemetery was donated in perpetuity to the United States by the Dutch government, as an expression of reverence and gratitude.

Thank you Sir for sacrificing your life so I could live mine in freedom. RIP.

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Freckleton air disaster-23 August 1944

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During WWII there were several incidents where civilians were killed by friendly fire by allied forces, like the 5 Oct 1942 air raid on Geleen.

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Or by accident like the Freckleton Air Disaster.

On 23 August 1944, an American United States Army Air Forces Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber crashed into the centre of the village of Freckleton, Lancashire, England. The aircraft crashed into the Holy Trinity Church of England School, demolishing three houses and the Sad Sack Snack Bar. The death toll was 61, including 38 children.

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Two newly refurbished B-24s, prior to delivery to the 2nd Combat Division, departed USAAF Base Air Depot 2 at Warton Aerodrome on a test flight at 10.30 am. Due to an impending violent storm, both were recalled. By the time they had returned to the vicinity of the aerodrome, however, the wind and rain had significantly reduced visibility. Contemporary newspaper reports detailed wind velocities approaching 60 mph (100 km/h), water spouts in the Ribble Estuary and flash flooding in Southport and Blackpool.

At Holy Trinity School, teachers and students observed the darkness descend on the village. The pounding rain was overshadowed by the gusting winds, the roar of thunder, and lightning bolts slicing through the sky. Five years old at the time, Ruby Whittle (nee Currell) remembers, “It went very, very dark. There was thunder and lightning, and all sorts of crashes and bangs overhead. I remember the teacher putting on the classroom lights and she began reading to us.”

On approach from the west, towards runway 08, and in formation with the second aircraft, First Lieutenant John Bloemendal,pilot of the first Consolidated B-24H Liberator USAAF serial number 42-50291 (named Classy Chassis II), reported to the control tower that he was aborting landing at the last moment and would perform a go-around.

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Shortly afterwards, and out of sight of the second aircraft, the aircraft hit the village of Freckleton, just east of the airfield.

Already flying very low to the ground and with wings near vertical, the aircraft’s right wing tip first hit a tree-top, and then was ripped away as it impacted with the corner of a building. The rest of the wing continued, ploughing along the ground and through a hedge. The fuselage of the 25-ton bomber continued, partly demolishing three houses and the Sad Sack Snack Bar, before crossing Lytham Road and bursting into flames. A part of the aircraft hit the infants’ wing of Freckleton Holy Trinity School. Fuel from the ruptured tanks ignited and produced a sea of flames.

In the school, thirty-eight school children and six adults were killed. The clock in one classroom stopped at 10.47 am. In the Sad Sack Snack Bar, which catered specifically for American servicemen from the airbase, fourteen were killed: seven Americans, four Royal Air Force airmen and three civilians. The three crew on the B-24 were also killed.

A total of 23 adults and 38 children died in the disaster.

The devastation in the infants’ wing was complete. Seven of the young victims were either first or second cousins to each other. Ironically, three of the children were evacuees from the London area. They had come to Freckleton as part of Operation Rivulet. The British government had instituted this program to move children to safe havens out of the range of German V-1 rocket attacks. Only two children from Freckleton, Ruby Whittle and George Carey (David Madden was from Brighton, England), escaped the infants’ wing devastation. For years to come, the local school was missing an entire grade level.

Freckleton_air_disaster

The official report stated that the exact cause of the crash was unknown, but concluded that the pilot had not fully realised the danger the storm posed until under way in his final approach, by which time he had insufficient altitude and speed to manoeuvre, given the probable strength of wind and downdraughts that must have prevailed.

Structural failure of the aircraft in the extreme conditions was not ruled out, although the complete destruction of the airframe had precluded any meaningful investigation.

Noting that many of the pilots coming to the UK commonly believed that British storms were little more than showers, the report recommended that all U.S. trained pilots should be emphatically warned of the dangers of British thunderstormsWorld-War-2-Casualties-The-Freckleton-Air-Disaster-1.

A memorial garden and children’s playground were opened in August 1945, in memory of those lost, the money for the playground equipment having been raised by American airmen at the Warton airbase. A fund for a memorial hall was started, and the hall was finally opened in September 1977. In addition to a memorial in the village churchyard, a marker was placed at the site of the accident in 2007

Freckleton_Air_Disaster_Memorial