The Crew of the Little Lulu

This post was written for the 75th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, “Justice and Independence”.

I was fortunate enough to have three grandfathers, and all three served in World War II. My mother’s father, Lake Ledford, served in the US Navy. My father’s stepfather, Ned Burrell, was in the Army. And my father’s father, Thad J. Watson, Sr., served in the Army Air Corps.

Daddy Thad died on August 24, 1944 when his plane, a B-24 Liberator known as “The Little Lulu”, was shot down while on a bombing run targeting oil refineries in Czechoslovakia. Of the ten crew members aboard the Little Lulu, only one, Sgt. John F. Damore, was able to exit the plane before it crashed. Both of his legs were broken upon landing; the villagers who lived near where the plane crashed turned him over to the Germans, in part so that he could receive medical care. The rest of the men were buried by the villagers, and later reinterred in Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, KY.

A few years ago, one of the villagers, who was a young man at the time of this event, shared his memories of that fateful day. My grandmother told me that she had written to several of those villagers after the War ended, and that they were grateful to “the Americans” who fought for their freedom.

My father’s mother, Stella (whom we called Nanny), corresponded with the surviving family members of the Little Lulu’s crew. When I was a teenager, I helped her put together photo albums for her children which included pictures of the crew members, as well as pictures of their families. Each picture was captioned with additional information, such as rank, age, date of birth, and their address during that time period. For the family members, Nanny usually had at least a name and place of residence. I know at some point she must have had letters, and I wonder what happened to them.

For years, I’ve wanted to follow up on my grandmother’s work and find the descendants of these men. A few weeks ago, I had some spare time, so I searched for enlistment and other records for the other nine members of the Little Lulu’s crew. Some were easily located, others not so much so. In fact, I couldn’t even find enlistment records for all of the men. But what I do have is listed below. If you are related to these men, please contact me or leave a message here.

Lt. John A. James, pilot, Pleasanton, KS, born June 29, 1923; wife may have been Betty Ruth James. Middle initial might have also been “H” or “M”. John may have been the son of Milton P. James and Christina M. Brown.

Lt. Edward J. Maloney, co-pilot, 14 Columbia St., Ansonia, CT, born 1923. Edward may have been the son or grandson of John Maloney, who immigrated from the Irish Free State in 1890.

Lt. Edward G. Durham or Erwin Dunham, bombedier, 45 Grace St., Bloomfield, NJ, born April 19, 1924. There is some confusion as to this crew member’s exact name. Our photo album has it recorded in the first instance, while the villager (above) has the second instance. Since I was a teenager when I typed this up (my grandmother had rheumatoid arthritis and was unable to manipulate the keys of a typewriter), I’m fairly certain the mistake was mine.

Lt. Walter W. Weaver, Jr., Rt. 2, Clarion, PA, born April 1, 1922.

Sgt. John F. Damore (also D’Amore and D’A’more), gunner, German POW, 50 Calumet St., Roxbury, MA. Our photo album includes a picture of a Katherine (Kay) D’Amore; could she have been John’s wife or sister?

Sgt. Edward G. Ivan, gunner, 304 W. 8th Ave., Homestead, PA, born February 27, 1918.

Sgt. Thad J. Watson, Sr., gunner, born April 15, 1924, married to Stella Martin. This is my grandfather.

Sgt. Bruce Gleason, 1107 4th Ave., Warren, PA, born August 22, 1925. Bruce was also known as Felix. My grandmother kept a clipping of his family that appeared in their local newspaper (I assume), naming his mother, Mrs. G. J. Gleason, and siblings Rose, Walter, Theodore, Mary, Nancy, Jane, John, and Frances. You’d think with all this information I’d be able to track his family down, but no, not yet.

Sgt. Ralph Robinson, 78 Thayer St., New York, NY, born December 30, 1924.

Sgt. Eugene A. Jaleniewicz, 90 Mercer St., Jersey City, NJ, born May 22, 1923.

Our photo album also includes pictures and information on one Sgt. Henry Sullivan, Jr., who was killed in action September 13, 1944 on his 20th mission. I’m fairly certain his wife’s name was Hazel, that they had a son named Donnie, and that Hazel and Donnie lived in Alexandria, LA, but I’m not certain why these photos were included with the others.

Please, if you are a descendant of or have any information on these men, write to me. I would be very interested in hearing from you.

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23 Responses to “The Crew of the Little Lulu”

  1. I found your post very informative. While I am not related to anyone you mentioned, I think it is wonderful that you have shared it with us.

  2. Thanks for dropping by! I appreciate your comments.

  3. I was very surprised to find this article. For a long time I am interested in the air battle, which took place on 24 August 1944 in the territory of Jindrichuv Hradec (Czech Republic). The bomber of your grandfather, B-24H 42-52479 “Little Lulu” from the 776th BS and 464th BG, was attacked by German fighters and shot down near the village Vlcice. Your grandfather shot down one Fw 190 from his nose turret. Unfortunately he was unable to bail out. I have at disposal detailed information relating to “Little Lulu” and his crew, including the statement of the only survivor – John F. D’Amore, the photo of the crew, the remains of the bomber found on the crash site, many photos of the crashed bomber and even of the killed flyers…
    We wanted to open the Museum of the Air Battle over Jindrichuv Hradec on 24 August 1944.
    Please contact me via email: janrousek@gmail.com

    Sincerely, Jiri Sasek

  4. Edward Maloney, the co-pilot, was my uncle. Thanks for sharing!

  5. My mother is a first cousin of Edward Maloney. She was suprised to hear that he was listed as a co-pilot since she remebers him as being a tail gunner. The last time they were all together was at my mother’s sister Mildred’s wedding. When Edward was leaving to go back to the base his mother Antionette told the family that she would not ever see him alive again. A mother’s preminission.

    Anyway, Edward’s father’s name was Tom Maloney, I remeber he and his wife from my childhood. My mother said their grandfather’s name was John.

    Any photos to be email shared?
    Anne

    • Nearly all of my information is from my grandmother (wife of Thad J. Watson, Sr.), who is now deceased. She made photo albums for Daddy Thad’s two children (my father and his older brother), and that’s where she had listed Edward as a co-pilot, I believe.

      I believe I have a picture of Edward in that photo album. I don’t have immediate access to a scanner, but I will try in the next few weeks to find a way to get a picture to you.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Dawn

  6. Thank you for the offer of a photo of Edward and crew.

    I did some more research and you are correct about the co-pilot status. Our family now thinks Edward made co-pilot after he saw my mother and aunt at the wedding 14 months before he was shot down.

    I had not thought about this man in years – I jyut happened to be bumping around the internet and found this blog. Once I had the name of the plane I was able to get much more information about the circumstance and I want to thank you for putting some valuable information together.

    Anne Dembski

  7. I’m from the Czech Republic and I really like aircraft and I’m interested in the WWII. By coincidence my son is very talented artist and he is able to draw almost everything. So I decided to tell him to draw some air battle scenes. Actually we are working on a series of drawings of the air battle up to Jindrichuv Hradec – the town in the
    South Bohemia (we live here). During one bombing raid few of B-24 Liberators felt down just near Jindrichuv Hradec. One of these machines was called Little Lulu. Recently there was found a wreck of German FW 190 which was shooted by the Nose gunner of Little Lulu (Sgt Thad J. Watson Sr.,KIA) around J. Hradec. As a tribute to these brave mans which all, except one (radio operator), have died during this skirmish my son have painted this picture.

    You can check it out here

    http://vitoss.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d4qwuwa

    In memory of all members of the 15th Air Force who gave their lives so that we may live.

    Best regards,

    Jiri Soukup
    Jindrichuv Hradec

  8. Missing Aircrew Report (MACR) 7968-464 identifies John H. James’ father as Milton P. James of Pleasanton, KS; Edward J. Maloney’s grandmother as Catherine S. Maloney of Ansonia, CT; Edwin G. Dunham’s father as Harry A. Dunham of Bloomfield, NJ; Walter W. Weaver’s mother as Anna M. Weaver of Clarion, PA; Eugene A. Jeleniewicz’s mother as Edna Jeleniewicz of Jersey City, NJ; John F. D’Amore’s father as Salvator D’Amore of Hollywood, CA; Ralph Robinson’s mother as Mary Robinson of New York, NY; Edward G. Ivan’s mother as Mary Ivan of Homestead, PA; Thad J. Watson’s mother as Etha M. Watson of Norton, NC; and Felix Gleason’s mother as Gertrude J. Gleason of Warren, PA.

  9. Hello

    Jst an samll information about the pilot John James. Mrs Betty Ruth James was his young sister, not his wife. Betty became after WWII Mrs Betty R. Karle, and the wonderfull 464th BG’historian for long, long time.

  10. Felix B. Gleason is my uncle who I never met. When I was growing up I heard various versions of what happened to him from my grandmother (Gertrude Gleason) and my mother (Mary Gleason) but it hasn’t been until recently with all the information about the battle on the internet that we’re learning the details. All of his sisters and his oldest brother (who also served in the Army Air Corps.) are still with us.

  11. Hello, what a surprise is was to find your website while researching my uncle, Walter W. Weaver, Jr., who was a crew member aboard the “Little Lulu” when it was shot down over Czechoslovakia in 1944. My mother’s understanding is that this was only his second flight and that he had volunteered to go on the mission in place of one its regular crew. Had he not done so, he may have survived the war as the rest of the crew on his own plane all returned. I notice that you have noted Lt Dunham as the bombadier, which is interesting as my mother had always indicated that my uncle had been the bombadier on the flight. Uncle Walt wasn’t married at the time of his death so has no direct descendents. But he is remembered fondly by my mother and her siblings and they have shared those memories with his 26 nieces and nephews, who sadly never had the chance to meet him. I’d be very interested to see any of the photos that you have and could possibly share some of my uncle in return. Thanks for sharing your information.

  12. I would like to add that on November 11, 2011 a long standing exhibit dedicated to the battle on August 24, 1944 was opened at Jindrichuv Hradec. Of course, there is also a show case dedicated to the crew of the B-24 “Little Lulu” with some pieces of the plane found at the crash site.
    I would appreciate if the relatives of fallen crew members of the B-24 “Little Lulu” could contact me via e-mail:

    janrousek@gmail.com

    As I mentioned, I have many photos and documents concerning this crew.

    Jiri Sasek, Prague

  13. Dawn, could you please contact me via e-mail? I would like to send you some photos from the exhibit. I have sent you an e-mail at the address you used in 2009, but received no answer, so you probably have a new address.

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