Guest Post: The March of Time – Part II – Julian Evan-Hart

Dollar Bill

As I was recounting in Part 1 of these two blogs I have been into aviation archeology since I was a rather long haired and spotty youth in the late 1970s. I’m pleased to say I now have no spots, but now have no hair either…

As part of my adventures in aviation archeology I have had encounters with a number of family members of those involved in the aviation incidents I have been researching. For example, recently I was honoured to meet some of the relatives of 2nd Lt Robert Taylor who was the Navigator on board the plane Ding Dong Daddy, which was one of the B17s involved in the collision over Weston Park I mentioned in Part 1. I took Lt Taylor’s relatives back to the very wood that I was adventuring through back in 1979 and where the plane crashed. A few years ago I also stood next to the same bomb crater I had spotted all those years ago with a woman called Mary who had come to visit all the way from America. Mary was the daughter of Staff Sergeant Martin Kilbride, who was one of the waist gunners on board Ding Dong Daddy. She had been born just two months after her father was killed in that very wood on 26th August 1944 and so the experience for her was an emotional one.

And it’s funny how these things have influenced my life, as well as the lives of the relatives. Recently, I was asked to write a covering letter to an American Senator to form part of the package of application for a young lady to get into the American Air force Cadets. The applicant was the Great Grand Daughter of one of Ding Dong Daddy’s waist gunners, which just shows how life through research can change for the researcher too.

I have always tried, in my own small, way to reinforce and maintain the element of ‘Lest We Forget’ as a tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. For my part I have done this by producing books about these events that have been published, as well as writing many magazine articles. Sometimes I have felt like a bit of an intruder into the lives of the families involved, who live so far away across the oceans, when the only connection is the tragic death of a young man six decades before. However, this is I believe how life goes on. When I see the reactions of those involved in response to the small part I, and others like me, play in taking them back to the scenes of such emotional turmoil it truly makes it worthwhile. For example, one family member said “This has been the final closure on those terrible events so long ago, we can never thank you enough,” which was really humbling.

In just a few days it will be 69 years since the aviation events in the woods took place. Many eye-witnesses have since passed on, but they have left behind their written accounts so their memories and reminiscences will never be lost. I walked through the forbidden wood just two days ago and it’s hard to find a scrap of anything now. To be honest it’s not so forbidden now as, sadly, Ron the Head Gamekeeper retired some years back and passed away quite recently. However, even today if you look carefully, and are lucky, you may see a shred of twisted metal or spot a moss covered blue flaky powdery patch of decayed alloy. Trees bearing the scars of the impact are only three in number today. In the field alongside the wood the occasional fragment of Ding Dong Daddy is jostled about by the plough. For some I guess it would be hard to imagine that such scraps were once part of a mighty B17 bomber, but not for me.

For me, this incident has been so influential in my life it seems to now have become an integral part of it. My children refer to that forbidden wood as ‘The Bomber Wood’ and so long as future generations of children and adults are aware of this and such other incidents then the work of researchers and aviation archaeologists will continue to bear fruit and so ensure that the chances of us humans ever forgetting our history are dramatically reduced. So although it’s a few days premature for the exact anniversary I’d like to make this post and salute and pay tribute to everyone involved or connected with this incident. The photos show some of Ding Dong Daddy’s crew beneath her and a dollar bill retained to this very day by a proud relative showing some of Ding Dong Daddy`s crew signatures.

I often think of how time passes but when I think about the dates involved here it really gives life context – it was 34 years since I first went into that wood and that was a full 35 years after the crash took place. It sort of puts life into perspective doesn’t it.

Aircraft involved:

B17G Flying Fortress named “Ding Dong Daddy”

Serial Number 42-97182

Coded BI-P (had flown 52 missions)

Accepted by USAAF 5 Feb 44. Cheyenne Mod Center 8 Feb 44. Seattle 9 Feb 44. Great Falls 10 Feb 44. Billings 13 Feb 44. Kearney 24 Feb 44. 8th AF 16 Mar 44. Devere I

390th Bombardment Group (Heavy) 568 Squadron

Based at :- Framlingham (Parham) in Suffolk

Flying in Lead Squadron as position 6 in Group A of the 13th Combat Wing

Crash Location: In Warrens Green Wood at Weston

Time: 09.05 Hours

Crew Number 19 in 568 Squadron

Pilot. 1st Lt George E Smith (from Phoenix, Arizona) …Killed

Co-Pilot. 2nd Lt Carleton Sacco (from Manasquan, New Jersey)…Killed

Navigator. 2nd Lt Robert G Taylor (Woburn, Massachusetts)…Killed

Bombardier. 2nd Lt Herman R Collins (Home town not established)…Killed

Radio Operator. T/Sgt Victor G Graff (from Elgin, Illinois)…Killed

Eng / Top Turret Gunner. T/Sgt Allen J McCasland Jr (from Holdenville, Arizona)…Killed

Waist Gunner. S/Sgt Martin I Kilbride (Bridgeport, Connecticut)…Killed

Ball Turret Gunner. S/Sgt Michael K Kasarda (from Gary, Indiana)…Killed

Tail Gunner. Corporal Gus G Brubaker (from Ohio City, Ohio)…Killed.

Second Aircraft involved:

B17G Flying Fortress (un-named)

Serial Number 42-102936

Coded CC-P (had flown 16 missions)

Accepted by USAAF 21 Apr 44. Cheyenne Mod Center 22 Apr 44. Kearney 16 May 44. Bangor 25 May 44. Grenier 27 May 44. 8th AF 29 May 44.

390th Bombardment Group (Heavy) 569 Squadron

Based at: – Framlingham (Parham) in Suffolk.

Flying in Low Squadron as position 1 in Group A of 13th Combat Wing.

Crash Location: wreckage spread over 1.5km in Weston Park (Wreckage from Halls Green to fields opposite the old Anchor Pub)

Time: 09.05 Hours

Crew Number 27 in 569 Squadron

Pilot. 2nd Lt Paul H Bellamy (from Greeley, Iowa)…Killed

Co-Pilot. 2nd Lt James J. Graba (from Minnesota)…Killed

Navigator. 2nd Lt Raymond A Klausing (from Chevoit, Ohio)…Survived

Bombardier. 1st Lt Joseph Y Lee (from Los Angeles, California)…Killed

Radio Operator. Sgt Irwin W Casey (from Jennings, Alabama)…Killed

Eng / Top Turret Gunner. S/Sgt Frederick O Walsh (from Mobile, Alabama)…Survived

Waist Gunner. Sgt Lotus R Conser (Home town not established)… Survived

Ball Turret Gunner. Sgt Robert Hunter (from Detroit, Michigan)…Killed

Tail Gunner. Sgt Richard A McAteer (from Camden, Washington)…Survived.

About Julian Evan-Hart
Julian is from Hertfordshire, England and has always been interested in fossils and antiquities. Julian has written a number of books on metal detecting, and is an avid user of Minelab products.

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