The story of Lt. James Parker

On september 16 1944, the young Lt. James F. Parker disappeared with his P-38, while he was escorting a squadron, heading for a target in Bonn, western Germany. Parker, pilot of the 9th Airforce, 367th Fighter Group, 394th Squadron, left from Clastres airfield in France, ready to fullfill his 18th mission.
macrAccording to the official papers and the Missing Air Crew Report, Parker was accompanying Cpt. McCarthy’s plane together with another P-38, flown by Lt. Charles F. Page. The weather was bad. Lt Page and Lt. Parker were at least one half mile apart, so there seemed no likehood of a mid-air collision. No word was heard from either pilot over the radio. Both were flying a good position when they entered the overcast, but when  the squadron broke through, Lt Parker and Lt. Page were missing. According to the opinion of Cpt. Wayne G. McCarthy, both pilots tried to fly on their instruments, rather than contact on the lead ships and thereby encountered difficults. Neither pilot had much combat instruments time.
According to the MACR, both planes were lost in the area of Coblenz, Germany, on september 16th, 1944, 08.30 hrs, due to a mechanical or pilot failure.

benedikte gijsbregs

Benedikte at the crashsite

The crashsite of Lt. Page was soon discoverd and long remembered. In september 2005 a memorial was inaugurated for him, on initiative of Jacques Choque, who was a witness of the planecrash.
For a long time it was unknown what had happened to James Parker and where his plane had crashed.
Remy de Brisy of the website Ardennes Avions found an important document: a written account by a policeman from Vaux Chavanne.
On Saturday 16th September 1944, an Allied plane fell in flames at Bahou, community Grandmenil, Belgium. Belgian Police went to the scene. With the help of some volunteers, they picked up the remains of the body of the pilot. Dogtags, a watch, a knife and a handkerchief were found among the debris. A funeral service was held in the church of Grandmenil on 18 September. The body was buried in the cemetery of the town. ”
This information was published by Remy de Brisy on march 4th 2014.

In 2015 we were contacted by Benedikte Gijsbregs, a Flemish woman who is highly interested in World War II, and specifically the Battle of the Bulge. She wanted to know if we knew anything about a P-38, which had crashed in september 1944. Our answer was negative…
But, we suggested to make contact with historian Eddy Monfort and Jean Francois Noirhomme, owner of the Bulge Relics museum in Joubieval. Which she did.
The reason of her question was magnificent:
Because of my interest in World War II, I became involved in an adoption program for war graves. In 2011 Jean Parker, James’ sister, wrote me a letter after she had read an article about Memorial activities in Belgium.
She wrote: I had a brother who was a pilot.  He was killed in Germany on the 16th of September, 1944  and he is laid to rest on the cemetery of Henri-Chapelle. Could you please visit the grave of my brother as well and send me some pictures?
I couldn’t refuse that request, so I did.  And we started mailing… exchanged pictures and throughout the years we became friends.”
Benedikte went to the US last year and met Jean. Jean still had vivid memories of her older brother Jimmy and she showed many pictures of him. It was that moment that Benedikte realised the inmense mental and emotional impact of war.
Even after 70 years, I could still feel so much pain and sorrow for his passing. It really touched my heart.”
When Benedikte came home, she was motivated to find out what really had happened to James Parker. The only thing the family was told, that he was shot down while flying over Germany. His personnel belongings were never sent back home.
It was Jean Francois Noirhomme who knew the story and could tell what happened with James Parker.
Benedikte visited the Grandmenil area in January 2016 and met Jean Francois and Eddy. She also had a  meeting with Mr. Jacques Choque, who witnessed the plane crash of Lt. Charles Page.  He was responsible for the memorial plaque of Page in the Lierneux area..
After visiting the crashsite, Benedikte visited the Bulge Relics museum, which has debris of the two planes.
On the website of Ardennes Avions, Remy de Brisy makes a remarkable conclusion: It was very unlikely that the planes both came down of a mechanical or pilot failure. It was more likely the planes were in a midair collision due to bad weather conditions.
When I told Jean about this new information, she was completely thrilled! Knowing that her brother didn’t suffer but that he died instantly by impact in a country where people showed respect to him, that meant the world to her.”

Last Sunday september 25th 2016, thanks to Benedikte Gijsbregs, a monument was inaugurated for Lt. James F. Parker. Although Jean could

James F. Parker

James F. Parker

not be present, she wrote a letter for this memorial service.
After daddy died in 1942, Jimmy wanted to enlist in the air force.  He was young but he didn’t want to be drafted in to the Army.
His dream was to fly! Our mother didn’t approve it at first, but eventually she signed the papers. After he left for training, mother and I waited for the mail man to bring letters. He did write often and he just loved to fly.  He was home on leave for 3 days before he went overseas. Mother and I were very sad when he left.  After he left he would write and tell us he missed us.  He always told me to be good and listen to my mother.  He sent me a soldier doll that I still have and cherish.  He sent my mother a ring with the moon and stars.  He said that when we looked up, the same moon and stars were shining on all of us.  I did not realize that I would never see my brother again because I was too young to understand the meaning of war. I’ll never forget the day they came to tell us he died. We were completely devastated. We mourned for many, many years.
But today I feel blessed to know that some people cared for him in 1944 and that in 2016 another generation is still honoring his short life.  So therefore… Thank you all and may God bless you.

Lt. James F. Parker is burried at the military cemetery of  Henri Chapelle, plot G, Row 15, Grave 24
May he rest in peace.

Many thanks to Benedikte Gijsbregs for providing the information.

Used sources:
– Benedikte Gijsbregs
– Letters, written by Jean Parker, James sister.
–  ArdennesAvions45
– Letter from Jean
– Find a Grave