39th Bomb Group (VH)


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B-29 # 42-24578
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On 28 November 1944, The 60th Squadron had it's first major accident when it's Crew 1 crashed in a B-29. The mishap occurred about 10 miles north of Smoky Hill Army Air Field some 35 minutes after takeoff. Four members of the crew and one passenger parachuted to safety. The 7 other crew members perished, along with 3 passengers.

Crew Members that Perished
Capt Alan M. Miller Airplane Commander
2nd Lt Lewis S. Philips, Jr. Pilot
Cpl Leslie P. Fries Left Gunner
Cpl John H. Gavin Right Gunner
Cpl Earl J. Gilbert Radar
Cpl John E. Nandino CFC Gunner
Pvt John J. McCauley Radio Operator
Crew Members that parachutted to safety
Capt William Barthel Navigator
1st Lt William Bennet Bombarier
T/Sgt Perry F. Shope Flight Enginner
Cpl Henri G. Garnier Tail Gunner
Others onboard the aircraft for the training mission were:
247th Base Unit Personnel that survived
S/Sgt Victor Vanderpool Instructor Radio Operator
62nd Squardron and 247th Base Unit Personnel that perished

Sgt. John W. Anderson

AFCE (62nd Sqd)  
1st Lt Edward Thomas Charles, Jr. Instructor Bombardier (247th BU)
Cpl Ralph C. De Moss Instructor Gunner (247th BU)
Note: Crew 17 was moved to Flight 1 and Capt. John Miranda (crew 13) replaced Capt. Alan M. Miller as Flight Commander.
*MOS listed SO-13 dated 13 January 1945 - SHAAF Movement to Batista Field Cuba

 Crew 1
Honor Roll 
Capt Alan M. Miller
Airplane Commander
28 November 1944
2nd Lt Lewis S. Philips, Jr.
Pilot
28 November 1944
Cpl Earl J. Gilbert
Radar
28 November 1944
Pvt John J. McCauley
Radio Operator
28 November 1944
Cpl John E. Nandino
CFC Gunner
28 November 1944
Cpl Leslie P. Fries
Left Gunner
28 November 1944
Cpl John H. Gavin
Right Gunner
28 November 1944
Sgt John W. Anderson
AFCE (62nd BS)
28 November 1944
1st Lt Edward T. Charles
Instructor Bombardier 247th BU
28 November 1944
Cpl Ralph C. De Moss
Instructor Gunner 247th BU
28 November 1944
Cpl Henri G. Garnier
Tail Gunner
January 1981
1st Lt William J. Bennett
Bombardier
November 1983
S/Sgt Victor M. Vabderpool
Instructor Radio Op 247th BU
8 May 1997
T/Sgt Perry F. Shope
Flight Engineer
24 March 2005
Capt William F. Barthel
Navigator
15 June 2006

The bodies of those killed were shipped home for burial. That of Cpl. John H. Gavin was escorted by good friend, Russell Forbes, LG, P-3, to his home in Chelsea, MA. Forbes was asked to make this mission by Col Frank Strudivant, Deputy Group Commander. Gavin's body was laid to rest after a military funeral on a cold December day.

Update:

04 August 2006:
Added: Barthel added to Crew Honor Roll - Capt Wm F. Barthel, Navigator was the last surving airman of the 15 crew and & passengers involved in 28 Nov 1944 Accident - Thanks to Marvin Demanzuk, Radar, P-2 for notifying us of Barthel's Final Flight.

28 January 2006:
Added: Shope, Garnier and Vanderpool to Crew Honor Roll; Established contact with Mar-Jean Miller Stevenson, Miller's widow.

1 August 2004:
Positions added for Vanderpoole, Anderson, Charles and DeMoss per accident report recently received. More data will be added as report is reviewed.

2 August 2002:
Missing positions of the crew were added based on Order 27 issued by HQ 60th BS "Duty Assignment" dated 21 October 1944. - thanks to Rowland Ball, Nav. P-3 for providing the orders.

18 July 2002:
William Barthel, Nav of this crew sent 2 newspaper articles from the 1944 which reported on the crash of this crew. 2 additional names were mentioned - 1st Lt Edward Thomas Charles, Jr. and Cpl Ralph C. De Moss to those who perished. No positions were listed in the articles so it is unknown if they were members of the regular 11-man crew or perhaps they are the 2 Base Unit members who were killed.

Ed Reilly, TG, P-7 states:
"I remember that Shrope the flight engineer saved Garnier's life by virtually putting him into a parachute and forcing him to climb down the front compartment exit. I remember that Garnier was so rattled that he only fastened one of 2 straps around his upper thigh and as a result he injured his back in the jump. I remember that Shrope was last man out and his chute opened so close to the ground that he was swung only once before hitting ground. He too was hurt..."

24 March 2002:

Ed Reilly informed us that crewmate Dick Little, P-7's radio operator escorted the body of Crew 1's gunner, Cpl Leslie Paul Fries, back home after the accident, and that Capt. Alan Miller's body was escorted home by Capt. Chester Juvenal, AC, P-7.

Reilly recalls, "I do remember several members of the old Crew 1 because we bunked right next to them. To this day, I can see in my mind the faces of Gavin and McCauley, two Irish kids from St Louis; and Perry Shope that old Montana cowboy, and Henri Garnier who with Shope's help survived. That was my first taste of violent death and I was indelibly impressed."

Ed notes that Capt William Barthel replaced P-7's navigator, Dale Barton, during their Air-Sea Rescue assignment at the war's end.


Anyone with additional information about this crew, please email updates@39th.org

Continued
Source: Ed Reilly;William Barthel; "History of the 39th BG"
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This page was revised on 5 August, 2006
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