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Mission 335, 386th Bomb Group
16 February 1945 | Coesfeld, Germany
The 386th Bomb Group, 554th Bomb Squadron of the Ninth Air Force was based at Station A-60, Beaumont-sur-Oise, France in the winter of 1944-45. Beaumont-sur-Oise was located about 30 km north of Paris, France. The 386th moved to this advanced landing field in early October 1944 because of the quickly advancing Allied Forces.
1st Lt. Joseph S. Benjamin was pilot of the B-26B-15 Marauder 41-31771 nicknamed “4F” on 16 February 1945. Mission number 335 was a bombing run on the Unna ordnance depot located east of Dortmund. The identification marking on this aircraft was RU-R. According the Missing Air Crew Report 12435, around 12:30 hours, the plane was hit by flak and caught fire. The pilot gave the order to bail. Kichen, Woody and Staff Sgt. John Zitnyar, Jr. were able to bail out. However, pilot Benjamin, co-pilot 2nd Lt. Henry F. McGrady, bombardier 2nd Lt. Harold S. Tiller, and Major John W. Meldrum who was an observer were all killed when the ship crashed 8 miles southwest of Coesfeld, Germany. It was completely destroyed but local citizens found several personal documents belonging to Harold S. Tiller. Kichen, Woody and Zitnyar were able to meet up but were later captured near Darfeld and sent to Dulag-Luft (Oberursol) on 18 February 1945. The four KIAs were buried in the Darfeld church cemetery on 19 February 1945.
Staff Sgt. Rubin Kichen (12155330) was the tail gunner and flying his 23rd mission. He was born on 1 November 1924 in Bronx, NY, son of David and Rebecca Kichen. He attended college for one year and on 19 October 1942 enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at New York City. He later married Shirley D. Kichen worked in New York as a draftsman and construction project manager. They moved to Arizona in 1974 and Kichen had a 30-year career in local real estate. Kichen died on 21 February 2010 in Scottsdale, AZ and was buried in the National Memorial Cemetery in Phoenix, AZ. His obituary stated in part that his family and friends “will miss his kindness, sharp mind and uncanny humor.”
James Homer Woody, Jr.
Staff Sgt. James Homer Woody, Jr. (38318586) was the engineer/gunner. He was born on 24 January 1921 in Dewey, OK, the son of James Homer and Rosie Bell (Coke) Woody of Jefferson, OK. He graduated from high school and on 6 October 1942 enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Tulsa, OK. His wife was Agnes L. Woody died on 14 May 1953 in Dewey, OK. He was only 28 years old. He was buried in the Dewey Cemetery, Dewey, OK.