10 MAY 1944 — Corsica, France
Lt Ray Foley Bentley Fletcher, 310th Bomb Group, 380th Bomb Squadron. WWII Combat Pilot of the B-25 Mitchells of the 310th Bomb Group, 380th Bomb Squad /Italy/Corsica. 12th Air Force, 57th Bomb Wing. Ray was the pilot and the Crash occurred because of bad weather and zero visibility near the top of a Corsican Mountain.
321stBG,447thBS, Combat Ship #42-53371 /Available that day for a courier run. This ship also had Capt Geerlings, Edwin Elliott, Richard Loring and Red Cross gal, Carolyn Chapin aboard. All died instantly in the crash, in extremely rugged and in accessible rocky-craigs, near the top of the Corsican Mountain.
Wednesday, 10 May 1944 HQ 57th BW
20 August, 2010;
ESSEX, Vt.—Sixty-six years after his plane crashed in Corsica, a World War II pilot was laid to rest Friday at a family plot in Vermont.
U.S. Army Air Force First Lt. Ray Fletcher, of Westborough, Mass., and four others were on a courier mission when their plane crashed into a mountain on May 10, 1944, five days after Fletcher turned 27.
All five died, but their remains, scattered among rugged terrain, weren't recovered until 2005. DNA then had to be collected from relatives to match to the remains to confirm their identities.
On Friday, Fletcher's flag-draped casket was carried past a line of veterans bearing flags and into the small St. James Episcopal Church in Vermont, where his parents were from, for a funeral.
Fletcher's cousin, 90-year-old Rhetta Fletcher, of Lanesborough, Mass., who picked the hymnals and songs such as "God Bless America" and "Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder" for the funeral called it a wonderful day that gives closure to the family.
"I don't think there's anything to mourn at this late date. It's just closure," she said.
Fletcher's remains were placed below a gravestone inscribed years ago with his name, and bearing the names of his parents and sister, as seven soldiers fired a 21-gun salute, two F-16s roared overhead and a soldier played taps from a far corner.
The B-25 pilot had earned eight Air medals, which at the time meant that he had flown more than 70 combat missions, said Lt. Col. Michael Assid, current commander of the squadron on which Fletcher had served, who traveled from Colorado to attend the funeral.
"He was definitely a combat veteran, and the veterans who are still around today remember him very well," said Assid, who described Fletcher as one of the most experienced pilots in the squadron.
"It wasn't the combat mission that took him. So the fact that he was lost in severe weather over the mountains was a reminder to the guys that military aviation is a dangerous business no matter what the circumstances," Assid said.ts from Missing Air Crew Report # 16458: Plane B-25 type AP was on a routine training flight, en route to Ghisonaccia, Corsica, on 10 May 1944 when it crashed into a mountain near Sartene, Corsica. A/C No. 42-53371 “Death Wind” (MACR-16458 - crashed into mountain) (formerly 447th BS ship) P Geerlings, Lewis J., Capt, HQ 57th BW - KNB CP Fletcher, Ray F., 1Lt, HQ 57th BW - KNB PAX Elliott, Edwin (NMI), S/Sgt, HQ 57th BW - KNB PAX Chapin, Carolyn, American Red Cross - KNB PAX Loring, Richard H., PFC, HQ 57th BW - KNB None None None
Essex Junction, Vermont - August 20, 2010
Every soldier waits for the day he or she can come home. One World War II pilot from Vermont waited 66 years.
"This guy had a right to come home to some sort of a ceremony," veteran John Butts said. "His counterparts did and he just missed out on it. So this is his welcome home."
First Lt. Ray Fletcher's long road home began shortly after his 27th birthday in 1944. His bomber plane encountered heavy storms and went down in the mountains of Corsica in the Mediterranean. At the time, he was declared "Killed in Action" and his body was not recovered. It wasn't until 2005 that his remains were recovered from those mountains. They were recently identified for return to his family.
"I was quite shocked when the Army called me about a year ago," said 90-year-old Rhetta Fletcher, the pilot's cousin. "Some of us thought it was a phony."
On Wednesday Lt. Fletcher's remains were flown to Albany and then transferred to Vermont. The Vermont Army Air National Guard's Honor Guard led the dignified transfer of Lt. Fletcher's remains.
Honor, respect and remembrance hung thickly in the air, as past and present members of the military filed into St. James Episcopal Church in Essex Junction.
Two airmen from Lt. Fletcher's successor unit came from Colorado to remember their fallen brother.
"We immediately went to our wing commander and asked if we could come here and be a part of the ceremony, so of course agreed. So here we are," said LT COL MICHAEL ASSID of the 380th Space Control Squadron.
Lt. Fletcher was given a full formal military burial. His last surviving relative, Rhetta Fletcher, was presented with the casket flag. And the military expressed its gratitude for the airman's service one last time.
Lt. Fletcher was laid to rest next to his parents at the Mountain View Cemetery in Essex Center.
Barbi Ennis Connolly, 321stBG Historian and 57th Bomb Wing Researcher PRINCESSBARBI_B25@msn.com