Atlantic Ocean – April 7, 1944

     Atlantic Ocean – April 7, 1944


B-24 Liberator
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On April 7, 1944, two B-24 Liberator bombers took off from Westover Air Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, on what was to be a high altitude gunnery training flight off Montauk Point, Long Island, N. Y.  One of the B-24s was Ser. No. 42-7525, with eleven men aboard, piloted by 2nd Lt. Kenneth W. Wignes. 

     The bombers were attached to the 804th Bomber Squadron, 471st Bomb Group, stationed at Westover Field. 

    While over the target area, Lt. Wignes radioed the other B-24 that he was having engine problems and was returning to Westover.  When the aircraft didn’t arrive at Westover it was declared missing and presumed to have gone down in the ocean.  It was speculated that the aircraft had suffered an inflight fire or explosion. 

     The crew consisted of:

     Pilot: 2nd Lt. Kenneth E. Wignes, 23, of Iowa.

     Co-Pilot: 2nd Lt. Gene W. Sloan, age 21-22, of Kansas.

     Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Fred G. Rhodes, 24, of Pennsylvania.

     Navigator: 2nd Lt. Rufus R. Nelson, 26, of Iowa. 

     2nd Lt. Martin J. Kew, 22-23, of Indiana. 

     Radio Operator: S/Sgt. Edward J. Clancy, of Wisconsin. 

     Engineer: S/Sgt. Robert G. McLaughlin, 21, of Alabama.

     Sgt. Chester Webb, age 22-23. 

     Gunner: Sgt. George W. Wilson, Sr., age 34. 

     Gunner: Sgt. Joseph L. Hartzell.

     Gunnery Instructor: S/Sgt. Joseph A. Jachim, age 24-45, from Chicago. 


     Greenfield Recorder – Gazette, (Greenfield, Mass.), “Westover Bomber With Crew Of 11 Missing Off L. I.”, April 8, 1944, pg. 1.  

     Book: “Fatal Army Air Forces Aviation Accidents In The United States, 1941-1945”, by Anthony J. Mireles, C. 2006.


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