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.