Mission 761 was the aftermath of that big day before. On december 24, one of the biggest airraids on European soil, took place. Thousands of bombers crossed the borders and went into Germany.
On the 25th a much smaller raid was carried out and a B-24, the “King Size”, was one of the bombers that was also part of that mission.
The King Size took of from Hethell Airport and was assigned to a mission on Wahlen/ Germany: a industrial terrain with a railroad station. The 9 men crew, some of them with many flights behind their name, packed their stuff and took off.
We don’t have many information (yet) about the bombing on this small town itself. We do know the damage was bad.
After the bombs were dropped the 42-50612 returned in the direction of the base in Hethel. Suddenly, the B24 is attacked by 15 German Focke Wulfs 190. The bomber gets into a spin, but pilot Raymond Price gets it under control again. Because of the damage, the plane becomes a straggler and gets behind the fleet.
While flying over the Belgium Ardennes, the plane is attacked a second time by 5 Fw109’s. The plane is hit bad and smoke is coming out one of the engines. Several crewmembers get wounded and Raymond Price gives the order to bail out. Co-pilot Edward O’Rourke decides to ignore that order and gives the finger to his pilot. Navigator John Tiedemann also decides to stay in the plane. He is helping several other crewmembers to bail out.
According to us, it is Leon Liscomb, left waiste gunner, who gets out the plane first. He lands behind enemy lines and becomes a prisoner of war. During an Allied airraid on Bitburg, january 2nd 1945, where he was kept in former Wehrmacht barracks, he gets killed. Leon Liscomb is burried in the neighbour town, Motsch, and is brought back home later.
While Raymond Price is fighting with the plane, Peter Ferdinand (radio operator) is trying to help Walter Eberly (top turrett gunner) out of the plane. Walter is terrified and refuses to jump. A bit later, Peter and Bob Ball (nose turrett gunner) bail out and land safely. They both got back behind allied lines and made it back to the US.
Meanwhile, Raymond might have seen, that the terrain below him is much more open, with many meadows. We think Raymond decides to try to make a crashlanding and he sets in a U-turn.
Soon after the jump of Peter and Bob, we assume that an explosion took place, blowing out Owen Fox. He falls in the thick woods, just outside of La Fosse. A few days later, he is found by a civilian who steals his handgun and left him behind.
Finally, Walter and tailgunner Henry Maxham jump out the plane. Their jump is too late and they fell to death because the plane is flying to low. Just after that, the plane crashes in the meadow, killing Raymond, Edward and John.
Owen Fox was found back five years later, when the owner of the land, Jules Evrard, was turning this piece of wood into a meadow. Owen was burned to the bone, and also his parachute and suite were heavely burned. Owen was picked up by US authorities in 1951 and was brought back to the US.
The hole event was seen by the brothers Victor (6) and Raymond (8) Yansenne. The crash, seeing the dead bodies and the plane made an un-erasable impression on both Victor and Raymond.
In 1975 Victor bought the piece of land where the plane crashed. In 2013 he called in my help. During a five years proces, we tried to identify the plane and its crew. In november 2017 we succeed in it. Together with the help of many people, like Myra Miller, Steven Volckaerts and David Pratt, we found a lot of papers. We also found families of the crew.
On december 29th 2018, a monument was revealed, finalising the dream of Victor Yansenne, the safekeeper of the holy ground where these men parished.
Many thanks to all the men of team Grandmenil who spent so much efforts in finding the 42-50612 “King Size”.
You can read the complete story here: www.b24-kingsize.com