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World War Two had many tragedies, but few illustrate this better than the incident below. The incident involved a Marauder of the 558th Bomb Squadron which proved to be the 387th Bomb Groups first loss in combat. The B26 was 41-31653 KX-M “King Bee”

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Pilot: 1st Lt. Ernest L. Anderson; Co-Pilot: 2nd Lt. Donald Stevenson; Nav. & Bomb: 2nd Lt. Earl T. Miller; Radio Op Gunner: S/Sgt. William B. Powers, Jr.; Engineer Gunner: S/Sgt. Robert L. Abell; Gunner: Sgt. Harry C. Seth

The 387th Bomb Group was stationed at Willinghale, Essex County, England when it commenced bombing operations against enemy facilities in Europe. The initial targets of the Marauders were Luftwaffe airfields in an attempt by 8th.AAF to reduce the effective numbers of fighters available to react to bomber missions. The Group flew its first combat mission on August 15,1943 to St Omer/Fort Rouge airfield in France dropping 231 x 300lb general-purpose bombs. For its pains the group had 18 of its 36 B26’s damaged by enemy flak. It was apparent from this first mission how deadly German flak was to be in the coming months.

The next day the Group put 31 B26’s over Bernay St Martin airfield, France on this occasion suffering only two planes damaged. On the 17th 36 ships were dispatched to bomb Poix/Nord airfield but the mission was aborted due to adverse weather conditions. Two days later the Group again flew to Poix/Nord airfield this time hitting the target with 350 x 300lb general-purpose bombs. This mission only incurred one damaged B26.

The Group then rested until August 25 when a mission was flown to Rouen, France. With two planes damaged over the target. August 31st was to be a day of shock and sorrow for the Group on the mission to Lille/Vendeville airfield. Flak over the target knocked down the Groups first B26.A direct hit cut “King Bee” into two pieces and the unique photographs show the two halves falling over the target. Suddenly the war had become very personal.

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