2nd Lt. Harry B. Wilcox, Jr. was a Bombardier, aboard B-25 Mitchell Medium Bomber Aircraft, with the 12th Army Air Force, 57th Bombardment Wing, 321st Bombardment Group, 446th Bombardment Squadron, in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) during WW2. 2Lt. Wilcox, Jr. was killed in a crash landing, on 14 May 1944, back at the base at Solenzara, Corsica, because the plane had been heavily damaged by flak after a bombing mission. With damaged landing gear and leaking fuel lines, the plane went up in flames,upon impact. The entire crew of 6 was killed.Freedom is not Free.Some Gave ALL. Patti Johnson
George's Great-Nephew is Steven Voorhees and Steven has been an ardent researcher for the 321st in cataloging it's Bombardiers, in finding valuable items, and in reading books that sometimes yeilded small bits of informatation on his Uncle Harry. Co-incidencially, Harry's best friend made it into the 319th Bomb Group, also of the 57th Bomb Wing but his ship crashed on Labrador, the Northern Route and while all survived the crash, they did die sooner than they could be found.... one of the men having left a daily discription of their thoughts and struggles. The link to 319th BG Grover Hodge is below the Map on the Left. ALSO Please see next "Story" about the BOOK "319th in Action" which includes Lt Hodge's Diary.
321stBG,446thBS, "Flamingo" # 42-32429 CRASH 15 May'44
15 May, 1944, War Diary
446th BS War Diary: The squadron loses Lt. George Walsh, Lt. Harry B. Wilcox, Lt. Roy W. Lee, Technical Sergeant James Orechia, Staff Sgt. E.P. Thornton and Staff Sgt. Lawrence Shellhamer in a crash landing at our field. A crash landing was made and the plane burned upon striking the ground with all members of the crew killed.
From John T Fitzgerald, 321st Bomb Group Historical Researcher /57th Bomb Wing;
15 May 44 crash landing: This one is of particular interest to me, (John T Fitzgerald) because my dad /Lt John "Jack" Fitzgerald became George Walsh’s co-pilot on 28 Feb 44, and flew 22 missions with him between 28 Feb and 4 May 44. Dad flew his first combat mission as 1st pilot on 11 May. He also flew in the 15 May mission after which Walsh crash landed. All were killed in the fire, except Walsh, who died in the hospital at 0035 on 16 May (see last McRae account below) the next day. Barnard Seegmiller of the 445th tried to save Walsh (account below). Also below are accounts from James McRae – he was bombardier on a couple of missions with dad and Walsh on the Peg O’ My Heart”. Walsh, McRae and dad were very close friends. “May 44” was written on the back of the attached photo of George Walsh – I see it as possibly the last photo taken of him.
A/C No. 42-32429 “Flamingo” (crash landing) P Walsh, George F., 1Lt CP Lee, Roy N., 2Lt N None B Wilcox, Harry B., Jr., 2Lt E Shellhamer, Lawrence, S/Sgt R Orechia, James R., T/Sgt G Thornton, Edward P., S/Sgt F None
15 May 44: 446th BS War Diary: The squadron loses Lt. George Walsh, Lt. Harry B. Wilcox, Lt. Roy W. Lee, Technical Sergeant James Orechia, Staff Sgt. E.P. Thornton and Staff Sgt. Lawrence Shellhamer in a crash landing at our field. A crash landing was made and the plane burned upon striking the ground with all members of the crew killed. Another of our ships had to be landed in the water and the crew was rescued by Air Sea Rescue patrols. A third ship was forced down at Pianosa Island held by the enemy and the following men are presumed to be Prisoners of War: Lts. Othick, Mayfield, Griffin and EM Youngblood, Cobb and Miller. Sergeant Napoliello, on the sea crash plane, had to make his second parachute jump and both leaps were on the same day of the same month. He made a jump on May 15th of 1943 in Mississippi.
Lee, Roy N., 2Lt, pilot Mayfield, Estel A., 2Lt, pilot
Miller, Edward J., Sgt, gunner Napoliello, Felix, Sgt, gunner
Orechia, James R., T/Sgt, radio-gunner Othick, Ronald R., 1Lt, pilot
Shellhamer, Lawrence, S/Sgt, engineer-gunner Thornton, Edward P., S/Sgt, gunner
Walsh, George F., Lt, pilot Wilcox, Harry B., Jr., 2Lt, bombardier
Youngblood, Woodrow W., S/Sgt, radio-gunner
15 May 44: 446th BS Mission Summary: (Ops Order 331/mission 330) Group Mission # 290:
Squadron Mission 247
TARGET: Orvieto Station RR Bridge DATE: 15 May 1944 Porto Ferraio, Elba (Alt)
Type of Bombs: 1000 lb. Demo. 446th Planes: 8
Lt. Morris and Lt. Moss led the formation. The first flight reported direct his on the center and both approaches of the bridge. At the alternate, the second flight reported direct hits in the commercial harbor area and on two boats. Flak was heavy, intense and accurate. Lt. Othick’s plane was badly hit over the target and was reported to have made a successful crash-landing on the Island of Pianosa. It is assumed that the crew members were taken prisoners by the enemy. Lt. Sampson’s plane also suffered direct hits from flak and the entire crew wounded by fragments. Heading for the open sea, Lt. Sampson gave the order to bail out, he being the last to leave, after which the plane exploded in mid-air. Air-Sea Rescue were able to pick up all the men. Lt. Walsh crash-landed at the home base, upon hitting the runway, the plane exploded and burned, due to the fact that it was saturated with gasoline from leaking fuel lines. Lt. Walsh was thrown clear of the plane, but died in the hospital from burns received. The other crew members could not be rescued, and all perished in the burning bomber. After an emergency landing Lt. Hodges’ emergency brakes failed while taxiing and the plane crashed into a ditch, collapsing the landing gear. Lt. Vivas returned early with an oil leak in the right engine.
15 May 44: 445th BS: War Diary of: Seegmiller, Barnard H., Sgt, armament:
05/15/44: “About 10:00 hours today as a group of us were busy working on my plane we heard a sliding crash and explosion. We knew it was a plane and we started running for the runway, which was obscured, from us by a narrow belt of brush. Along with the first, I emerged from the brush to see the plane just bursting into flames. It had skidded off the runway into a pile of rocks and brush. At first there was no sign of survivors and I began to slacken my pace because the ammunition on the plane had commenced exploding. Then I saw a man fall from the pilot's escape hatch and roll frantically upon the ground very near the flames that were coming from the left engine. He appeared to be only semi-conscious as his efforts to save himself were rather undirected. By that time I was running again and only Art Hanna was ahead of me. I could see the man's clothes were on fire and began encouraging Hanna, who was carrying a coat on his arm, to hurry and attempt to smother the fire with his coat. I had left my shirt at the plane and was quite empty-handed. An ack-ack battery was set up nearer to the crash than we were and one of the boys had arrived on the scene and was trying uselessly to put the fire out with his hands while the poor fellow staggered and rolled, screaming for someone to put the fire out. I called to the ack-ack boy to use his coat, but he was too excited to hear me. All the while I was running as fast as I could and had overtaken Hanna. I could see now that it was the pilot's Mae West that was burning and as soon as I reached the spot I told the other boy to give me his coat, which I practically jerked off him. I used my pocket knife to cut off what was left of the burning Mae West. It was no time until the fire was out but the fellow was severely burned. His hair, eyes and nose were a white crisp. Soon the ambulance arrived and took him away. He was conscious and rational and I thought perhaps he would live, but I have heard several rumors that he died.
By the time we had finished, the plane was almost entirely in flames. However if others had arrived the same time we did I think someone could have been gotten out of the radio compartment. After it was all over it occurred to me that there might have been bombs in the plane. I do not feel that what I did was in any sense heroic or other than anyone else would have done, but I am pleased to think I had presence of mind enough to be of some assistance. There were some who did not go near because of the ammunition that was exploding. I went back this afternoon and saw a great many projectiles and cases that could have given one a nasty wound. The corpses of the other five men were lumped among the still burning ashes, all burned beyond recognition.”
Hanna, Arthur M., Sgt, engineering Seegmiller, Barnard H., Sgt, armament
Walsh, George F., 1Lt, pilot, 446th BS
15 May 44: 446th BS: War Diary of: McRae, James Arrington, 2Lt, bombardier (mission 31)
“Pre-briefed 0700 T.O. 0830 Pilot: Hurley CoPilot: Peterson
Ship # 549 Alt 9,800’ Bombs: 4-1000 # Demos Position: 1-4-1
Target: R.R. Bridge, 9 mi. SE Orvieto (42°38’ N - 12° 15’ E). Over target @ 1037, target observed on regular heading, did a 180 and bombed bridge with good results. No flak or fighters. Bad day, 2nd flight hit our alternate target – Elba. Sampson made a crash landing on Pianosa Isle. – all ok. Othick’s crew bailed out, believe all ok. Hodge’s had no brakes, ran off side of runway, landing gear collapsed – crew ok. G. Walsh came in with landing gear not fully retracted, crashed on runway, all of the crew killed, except George, he got thrown clear of plane but badly burnt, is expected to live. (Wilcox, Shellhamer, Lee, Thornton, Orechia).
Went to show, saw ‘Md. Curie’. Flying time 03:45 hrs.”
Hodges, Richard E., 1Lt, pilot Hurley, John R., 1Lt, pilot
Lee, Roy N., 2Lt, pilot Orechia, James R., T/Sgt, radio-gunner
Peterson, Frederick I., 2Lt, pilot Sampson, Allan T., Capt, pilot
Shellhamer, Lawrence, S/Sgt, engineer-gunner Thornton, Edward P., S/Sgt, gunner
Walsh, George F., 1Lt, pilot Wilcox, Harry B., Jr., 2Lt, bombardier
16 May 44: 446th BS: War Diary of: McRae, James Arrington, 2Lt, bombardier (mission 32)
“George Walsh died at 0035 hrs. this a.m. Scheduled on a mission today.
Pre-briefed 1000 T.O. 1110 Pilot: Hurley CoPilot: Peterson
Ship # 549 Alt 9,800’ Bombs: 4-1000 # Demos Position: 1-2-1
Target: RR Bridge at Foligno (42° 57’ N - 12° 42’ E). Over target 1255, no fighters or flak. Poor weather. Believe target hit, also some landed in the town. Geo. Walsh & crew buried this a.m. Sampson’s crew which bailed out all ok.
Sacked all afternoon. After supper Chudars & I finished a chest of drawers to hold our clothing, up late arranging our stuff. Looks pretty good. Flying time: 03:00 hrs.”
Chudars, James E., 2Lt, pilot Hurley, John R., 2Lt, pilot
Peterson, Frederick I., 2Lt, pilot Walsh, George F., 1Lt, pilot
On a personal note, The Commanding Officer Capt. Paul Cooper (USAF Brig. General, Ret.) tomd me (321st Bomb Group Historian) Barbi Ennis Connolly on the phone that he stayed up with George Walsh, until he passed so that he would not be alone.