Sixty years after it crashed, the B-26 pieces that
found last November near the town of Negreville, France have been
positively identified as 41-31968 belonging to the 322nd Bomb Group,
450th Bomb Squadron. Radio call sign/code ER possibly J. 41-31968 was on a
mission to bomb the harbor facilities at Le Havre, France on Thursday April
13th, 1944 in preparation for the D-day invasion.
After completing the mission, at approximately 0920 the
B-26 was hit by flak. Peeling off to the left and rapidly losing altitude
41-31968 was finally able to level off around 7,000 feet. This is the last
anyone from the 450th saw of the Marauder as it disappeared into the clouds.
Inside 41-31968, the pilot Lt. Allen McDonald and the co-pilot Lt. Merlin
Johnson were struggling to maintain control of the stricken aircraft. Sgt. Waldo
Shows was by his radio trying to get a fix back to England. Just then the bail
out alarm went off. Seeing that the situation was becoming hopeless, Lt.
McDonald opened up the bomb bay doors and ordered everyone out of the aircraft.
Now six crewmen disappeared into the clouds leaving 41-31968 behind to her fate.
This is the last Sgt. Shows saw of 41-31968, Lt. Allen McDonald, Lt. Merlin
Johnson, the bombardier Sgt. James Galloway, flight engineer Sgt. Frank LaLone
and tail gunner Sgt. Nathan Davis. The Germans were waiting for them as they
reach the ground. And the five of them spent the rest of the war as guests of
the Luftwaffe in a POW camp.
Twenty-four hours earlier Waldo Shows had been on leave in London.
Returning to his squadron late Wednesday night Waldo saw his name posted on the
bulletin board for the morning mission to Le Havre as a replacement
radioman/gunner. This would be his first time flying with Lt. McDonald's crew.
As a rule he flew with Lt. Louis Sebille and his crew. Lt. Sebille later would
go on to win The Medal of honor posthumously flying a F-51 during the Korean
ConflictWell, Waldo was on the ground again, and this definitely wasn't
Piccadilly Circus! But his luck was better than the other five seeing as Emil
Lagillard, a French farmer and a member of the French Underground found him
before the Germans did.
For the next two months Emil and Roget Lye hid out Sgt. Shows in barns and
haylofts until US troops finally liberated the area in June of 1944. From there
Waldo was flown back to England and then on to the Pentagon in Washington D.C.
for a debriefing.