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C-47 Skytrain - 42-108842, 303rdTCS, 442nd TCG, US 9th Air Force
Rooksnest, Lambourn Woodlands
25th April 1944
At the beginning of April 1944 a group of navigators from the 436th TCG based at Membury were reassigned to the 442nd TCG at Fulbeck. On 25th April they returned to Membury in order to retrieve records and personal effects. Shortly after takeoff on the return journey the plane crashed killing all 14 onboard.
The aircraft, a C-47 from the 303rd TCS of the 442nd TCG, was piloted by 1st Lt. Howard Winand who had instructions to return to Fulbeck via Greenham Common. At just after 7pm he took-off on runway 350 and immediately banked left climbing to an altitude of between 600 and 700 feet. He was now heading south and as he reached the southern boundary of Membury airfield he made a 180 degree turn to the left and descended to about 100 feet. By now the plane was heading north and making for the 436th Officers Club and squadron accommodation areas. As it reached the squadron sites it made a slow right turn which steadily increased until the aircraft was banking at an angle in excess of 45 degrees. Unfortunately its right wing tip hit some trees causing a loss of control and the subsequent crash that followed. A few minutes after the impact Capt. Edward Mack from the medical corps arrived on the scene in an 82nd TCS ambulance. In his report he stated that the bodies were within a 25 yard radius of the blazing plane and that some were on fire. He found two that were still breathing and a third with some sign of life and whisked them quickly off to hospital in the ambulance. Sadly two died on the way whilst the third lived for about 20 hours before succumbing to his injuries.
The committee set up to investigate the crash concluded in its report that as no mechanical failure of the aircraft occurred the accident was due entirely to pilot error. The details of those who died are as follows. With one exception all were from the 303rd TCS:
Pilot - 1st Lt. Howard G. Winand
Co-pilot - 2nd Lt. Norman S. Woods
Navigator - 2nd Lt. John D. Horgan
Engineer - S/Sgt. Billie E. Green
Radio Operator - Sgt. Jesse R. Black
Capt. Joshua (NMI) Levitsky (Medical Officer)
2nd Lt. Anthony G. Ciavettone (Navigator)
2nd Lt. Robert A. Matthews (Navigator)
2nd Lt. Hugo E. Nehlsen (Navigator)
2nd Lt. Robert F. Allen (Navigator - 306th TCS)
S/Sgt. Edward T. Roche Jr.
S/Sgt. Benjamin J. Bertino
S/Sgt. Henry G. Wulz
S/Sgt. Thomas P. O'Grady
With the exception of Capt. Levitsky, all were interred on Saturday, 29 April 1944 at Brookwood American Cemetery near Bagshot, England. A contingent of 303rd Troop Carrier Squadron members, including Col. Charles M. Smith, 442nd Troop Carrier Group commander and Major Robert G. Whittington, Jr., 303rd TCS commander, attended the funeral service. Levitsky, because of his religious faith, had been buried at the same cemetery two days earlier. The remains of a number of these individuals were later moved to the American Cemetery near Cambridge. On Sunday, 30th April, a memorial service, led by Group Chaplain Robert Tindall, was held at the Group's home base chapel at Fulbeck.
Below left: The 442nd Fighter Wing is the modern day successor to the 442nd Troop Carrier Group and two members of that unit, T/Sgt. Bill Huntington (left) and 1st Lt. Brian Bowman, visited the crash scene on 16th May 2002. Below centre: The official badge of the 442nd Fighter Wing. Below right: The doomed aircraft clipped the trees in the background before hitting the ground approximately where the group are standing.
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Copyright 2004 Roger Day