Granby, MA. – December 20, 1944

Granby, Massachusetts – December 20, 1944 


B-24 Liberator
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the evening of December 20, 1944, a B-24J Liberator, (Ser. No. 42-109868), with nine men aboard, took off from Mitchell Field,  on Long Island, New York, bound for Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, for a cross-country navigational flight.  As they were approaching Westover Field the aircraft encountered poor visibility conditions.  As the plane circled the field at 2,000 feet two of the four engines began to “run away”.  As the pilot tried to reduce the RPMs, cockpit instruments indicated a fire in one of the engines.  Then the remaining two engines began to lose power and the pilot ordered the crew to bail out, and five did so.  The pilot, co-pilot, navigator and a gunner remained with the aircraft.    

     The aircraft came down on a farm in Granby about two miles from Westover Field.  After skidding on snow, crashing through some trees, it went into a farmhouse, but none of the home’s occupants were injured.   The pilot, 2nd Lt. James E. Webster, 25,  and the co-pilot, Flight Officer George H. Slack, 20, received serious injuries, but the navigator and the gunner were killed.  Additionally,  one of the men who bailed out also perished.   

     The dead were identified as:


      Navigator: 2nd Lt. George E. Bennett, 19, of Brockport, New York.  He’s buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Brockport, New York. 


      Bombardier: 2nd. Lt. Julian Berger, 19, of Baltimore, Maryland.  He perished as a result of injuries received when he bailed out of the aircraft.  He’s buried in Oheb Shalom Cemetery in Baltimore. 

     Gunner: Cpl. Stanley Saffer, 19, of New York City. He’s buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery in Maspeth, New York.  To see a photo of him, click here:

     As to the other four members of the crew, all received injuries, two required hospitalization.  

     The rest of the crew were identified as: Cpl. Kenneth A. McPhail, Cpl. Robert H. Risdon, Pfc. Fred Lopez,  and Pfc Walter E. Oparowski


     The Waterbury Democrat, “Two Army Fliers Killed In Crash”, December 21, 1944, page 2.

     The Brockport Republic & Brockport Democrat, Obituary for Lt. George E. Bennett, December 28, 1944, page 4. 

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

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