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13.11.1943. No. 306th Bomb Group. U.S.A.A.F. B-17 42-31038 2nd Lt. Cosper. Location: Longwick, Nr. Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, England.
Mission: Bremen

Date: 13th November 1943

Unit: 306th Bomb Group 367th Bomb Squadron

Type: B-17G Flying Fortress

Serial: 42-31038

Code: GY-N (Group tail letter Triangle H)

Base: Thurleigh, Bedfordshire

Location: Longwick, Nr. Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, England.

Pilot: 2
nd Lt. Clyde W. Cosper, (Sparky) Age 21. (Killed)

Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Wesley B. Brinkley. (Baled out safe)

Navigator: 2nd Lt. Allen T. Ballard. (Baled out safe)

Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Donald F. Dickson. (Baled out safe)

Radio/Op: Sgt. Kenneth C. Iviemy. (Baled out safe)

Engineer/Top Turret Gunner: T/Sgt. Charles E. Vondrachek. (Baled out safe)

Gunner/Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Stanley G. Downs. (Baled out safe)

Gunner/Right Waist: S/Sgt. Lloyd L. Meyer. (Baled out safe)

Gunner/Left Waist: S/Sgt. Harold K. Twing. (Baled out safe)

Gunner/Tail Turret: S/Sgt. Denver A. McGinnis. (Baled out safe)


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On the morning of November 13th 1943 a mission to Bremen was attempted by the first Bombardment Group which ended in disaster. During assembly heavy turbulence and icing was encountered. As a result four aircraft were lost and thirty crew members lost their lives this day, the mission was abandoned and aircraft recalled before assembly was completed. B-17 42-31038, from the 306th Bomb Group, 367th Bomb Squadron, piloted by 2nd Lt. Clyde Cosper, flew through a thunderhead, then went into a spin and lost several thousand feet of altitude in a few seconds. Lt. Cosper recovered from the spin and was able to level the plane long enough to flick on his intercom switch and order his crew to bale out, which they all did so safely.

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(Left) Portrait photo of 2
nd Lt. Clyde W “Sparky” Cosper. (Right) Clyde during training in the U.S.A. (Cosper family)

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(Left) David King when Chairman of The Booker Aircraft Museum, at the museums B-17 exhibit with parts from 2
nd Lt Cosper’s aircraft including intercom switch still in the on position to transmit.(David King) (Right) 2nd Lt. Cosper’s dog tag and cap badge also recovered by The Booker Aircraft Museum during the crash site investigation 1989/1990.(David King)

The following reads from the 367th Squadron war diary, authored by Lt. Edward T Murtha:

“In a heroic effort to keep the plane, (which was still carrying a full bomb load) from crashing in an English village, Cosper chose a clearing near the town on Princes Risborough and crash landed his almost uncontrollable plane in an open field. The aircraft immediately caught fire and exploded within a few seconds, instantly killing Lt. Cosper. Through his valiant efforts he saved the lives of his crew and without doubt the lives and property of many British civilians” Lt. Clyde W. Cosper was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his Heroism.

During research contact was made with some of the survivors. The following 5 documents are an account of the crash told by the Engineer/Top Turret unner: T/Sgt. Charles E. Vondrachek, along with other details.

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Air Marshal Leigh-Mallory congratulates Engineer/Top Turret Gunner: T/Sgt. Charles E. Vondrachek, after presenting him with the Distinguished Service Medal for extraordinary achievement, devotion to and beyond the call of duty, while serving as a top turret gunner on a B-17 on a mission to St. Nazaire, France.

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B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 306th Bomb Group assembling over England into their seven aircraft defensive box formation. The group on the right already has six in a tight formation with a seventh still to join, and the aircraft the left hand group still forming up with six in view.

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Page from the 306
th BG Mission Report for the mission of 13-11-1943, showing the aircraft positions in the formation.

For this mission the 306th Bomb Group had put up twenty one aircraft plus two spares, due to the bad weather the 306th was recalled. Seventeen of the units assigned aircraft along with the two spares returned safely. Along with 2nd Lt Cosper’s aircraft the unit lost a second B-17 42-3142, flown by Lt. Scudder, the aircraft crashed at Great Hazeley with the loss of all ten crew on board. Two other B-17’s of the 306th, did not hear the recall in time and both were advised to join up with other groups. B-17 42-30939 tagged on with the 95th Bomb Group, and 42-31065 with the 388th Bomb Group.
th Bomb Group Mission Report for the 13th November 1943. Here.

Burial Details:

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Cambridge American Cemetery, photo taken in 1946.

nd Lt. Cosper was first buried at the Cambridge American Cemetery in 1943. Following the end of World War II, approximately 56% of families in the U.S.A. requested the remains of their loved ones to be returned to the United States for reburial in either a National Cemetery or a private cemetery. In 1946, Congress passed legislation authorizing the disinterment of and the shipment of those servicemen's remains back to the United States. The task was assigned to the United States Army Quartermaster General and the staff of the Graves Registration Units did a remarkable job.

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United States Army Transportation Corps Mortuary Cars. A large number of these "Mortuary Cars" are believed to have been converted from six axle "heavy weight" Pullman passenger cars, refurbished with the windows covered for dignity, respect & privacy. These were required to transport the many thousands of servicemen brought back to be laid to rest at home.

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On the 25
th June 1948 Clyde’s mother was informed by telegram that his remains were on route to the United States.

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On the 13
th July a further telegram was received informing her that the remains of the late 2nd Lt. Cosper was being shipped to her, accompanied by military escort on train number thirty two, Texas and Pacific Railroad, due to arrive at Bonham Texas Station four ten p.m. railroad time, on the 16th July 1948.

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US Army 7896 pulls loaded Mortuary Cars south out of Brooklyn Army Terminal East Yard.
Clyde W Cosper was finally laid to rest in July 1948,in Dodd City Cemetery, Fannin County, Texas, USA

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Clyde’s brother, Thomas Moss Cosper with his wife Jimmie at Clyde’s grave in Texas.

Page researched and constructed by David King. Other credits, Booker Aircraft Museum, Melvin R Brownless, and the Clyde Cosper family, The Bucks Herald, Life Magazine, 306th Bomb Group Association, Gordon and Connie Richards, Roger Freeman.

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