Monday, April 20, 2009

Not Forgotten

With help from Brian Sullivan, the Mayor of Margate and the Thanet Gazette, I'm trying to arrange a little ceremony next Monday to commemorate the events of 27th April 1944, which I wrote about on the weblog a couple of years ago.

If you follow the link to the earlier story, the full details are there and you'll see that at the time, I researched the names of the young American airman that died so tragically on the beach at Westgate in their efforts to avoid hitting the town in their stricken Liberator bomber.

I will keep you updated of any progress.


Returning debriefings gave an account that this aircraft had been hit by flak with one man bailing out at 1930 hours, and the ship finally crashed landed at sea near Westgate-Kent with (5) of the crew killed and (4) injured in the crash. The date of this final 392nd de-briefing account was 1 June 1944. No other information was given in these general reporting at the time though one member, Sgt. Kent, who had bailed out earlier, was taken as a POW.


After the war, Sgt. Kent, one of the surviving crewmen and the only POW, gave the following account of the crew’s plight in a report given 9 March 1946. "We took off from England about noon after a very quick briefing which only the Pilot and Navigator attended.

I was flying as spare Radio Operator at the time and did not know any of crew members until that day. We bombed an airfield in France and were very near the French coast on our return trip when we were struck by flak.

The plane started in a slow spin (and) the Co-Pilot left his position and started pulling off (his) flak suit and oxygen mask. The Engineer prepared to leave his position in the upper turret. It was my duty to clear the flight desk, open the flight deck doors and the bomb bays, which I did and stood waiting for orders.

The plane was still dropping and the Engineer came out of his position trying to get his feet on the cat-walk where I was standing. In order to make room for him and for the Co-Pilot who had left his position, I was forced to bail out. I delayed opening my parachute for several thousand feet and then looked around expecting to see others about, but saw none nor could I see any plane going down.

While a prisoner, I heard in a round-about-manner that the plane had kept on in a rather long coasting dive until it hit in the Channel a little way from the English shore; and that one man at least (had) survived the crash. I give you the above information with an open mind as it came to me from fellows who had been in the same outfit (392nd) as I, but might have been speaking of an entirely different case...". Sgt. Kent had given this account from his home then of Route #1, Charlotte, Vermont.

The following members of this aircrew are interred in the U.S. National Overseas Military Cemetery at CAMBRIDGE: Ross (Grave E-4-85); Aughinbaugh (Grave C-i -3) and Rich (Grave E-4-5). There is no information listed for Sgts. Munford and Fink. Both Ross and Aughinbaugh are shown to have been awarded the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart.


Tony Beachcomber said...

On that day in 1944 was probably the first time Thanet civilians had witnessed Americans dying in combat in WW2.
The extended runway at Manston at the time was recently opened and was in full operation allowing damaged bombers to land. As the daylight raids over occupied territory increased so did the bomber casualties over Thanet with the 27th April being a significant date.
The liberator memorial group of which I just happen to be a member in the 1990's raised money to erect a statue outside the Spitfire and Hurricane Museum dedicated to allied airmen , which the Queen mum unveiled. The group originally wanted to put a simple plaque at both locations but needed all the money for the bronze statue and the idea was shelved. Seeing as we are all going green any chance the Mayor and Charter trustee could plant a tree of American species in Trinity Square gardens dedicated to Aerican and Aliied airmen.
When the Margate Museum was open Bob used to put on little displays to commemorate events like this and promote the theme but unfortunately one cannot be done for 27th April as a certain group of Councillors have closed it.

DrM. said...

To be honest Tony, I don't know but it's a nice request for me to raise at the next meeting on Monday night!