10 November, 1944 — Tincourt-Boucly, Dept. of the Somme, France
Sgt. Bartho was the nose gunner of "226." A Top Secret B-24J, SN: 42-51226, belonging to the 36th Bombardment Squadron (RCM - Radar/Radio Counter Measures) flying a Top Secret night mission while attached to the Top Secret 100th Group of the Royal Air Force.
Their B-24J, "226" was shot down by the Friendly Fire of a P-61 night fighter, when it was mistaken as being a German aircraft in a free fire zone.
After being hit by the Friendly Fire, which the crew was later told, was FLAK from German anti-aircraft fire when their aircraft was blown too far east by the (unknown at the time) Jet Stream, "226's" number three engine was damaged and its electrical generator ceased to function. As the lights and electrically driven hydraulic power was lost thoughout the bomber, Sgt. Bartho's nose turret stopped in a position from which he was unable to free himself.
After flying some distance to the west, the Pilot, Lt. Hornsby and Co-Pilot, Lt. Casper, decided they would not go so far west, that they would go over the channel, as the damaged B-24J was losing too much height and they would not make it across the channel. With that decision, they told the flight engineer to tell all the personnel to bail out. After giving the order, the pilot stayed with the aircraft as it lost several thousand feet in altitude and then he bailed out
Unknow to him and most of the rest of the crew, Sgt. Hornsby was trapped in his nose turret. Even, if he aligned his turret with the interior door to get back into the aircraft, someone had to open the interior door for him to exit his turret.
Lt. Gray, the Navigator who was also stationed in the nose, was told to bail out and was only a few feet from an exit. Sgt. Mears, who could have left via the rear fuselage exit, told Sgt. Danahy, that he could not find his friend Bartho and as Danahy left the aircraft, he saw Mears go forward toward the nose. The last anyone saw him alive.
It is obvious, when Sgt. Mears got to the nose, he found Lt. Grey attempting to help Sgt. Bartho get out of the turret. It must be remembered, that Sgt. Mears passed two exits which led to safety to help his friend stuck in the nose turret. A position Sgt. Mears normally occupied. For some unknown reason that night, Sgt. Mears and Sgt. Bartho exchanged positions, as Sgt. Bartho was normally the tail gunner.
Both men, Grey and Mears knew the B-24J was to crash very soon. Yet, both stayed with the aircraft in an attempt to free Sgt. Bartho.
Soon, after the Pilot bailed out, as he was hanging from his parachute, he watched the flames of the fire light what he could see of his aircraft, as it nosed over and dove toward earth. About 100 feet from the ground, the B-24J suffered a massive explosion. It then struck the ground, disintergrated in another explosion, while leaving a crager ten feet deep and several yards long.
Little was left that could be identified of the Top Secret B-24, except for part of the forward nose wheel assembly. Which no American ground troops in the area or the French who visited the site could identify.
One third of the collected remains at the crash site were buried as identified dead at the cemetery where Sgt. Bartho's (identified?) remains are buried. Two Thirds of the collected remains were later illegally reburied in the village cemetery of Cartigny, a few kilometers from the crash site. That grave can be found today, in that cemetery, with a properly identified memorial stone.
The entire story of those who lived and those three men who died in the crash of "226" can be found on the Internet and in a book, titled: "The Best Kept Secret Of World War Two!"