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Hi, I am seeking information on 1st Lt. Russell J. Calvert. He was the only survivor of a mid-air crash with another B-26B on August 25, 1944. He was a Bombardier with the David H. Thorn crew, 391st Bomb Group, 573rd Squadron. The aircraft was 42-95802. Does anyone know his fate? Did he finish his tour with another crew? Did he remain in the Air Force after the war? Did any of you know him personally? Is he still living? Any information would be much appreciated. Thank you, Paul Marcello

Trevor's Response:

Russell J Calvert 

25th August 1944 the 391st Bomb Group was scheduled to bomb coastal defences at Pont-Scorff near Roscanvel on the Crozon peninsula, France. The target was at extreme range for B26’s and fuel usage would be critical.

At 1340 hours thirty six B26 Marauders took off from their field at Matching Green and set course for their target. The meteorological forcast predicted hazy but cloudless conditions over the target area.

The lightly defended target was hit by 464 x fragmentation bombs between 1553 & 1558 hours, the formation then turning for the outward flight. As the formation approached the English Channel all the ships were experiencing low gas status. 

The lead flight of the second box of 18 Marauders consisted of six airplanes,their positions being as below.

Box Lead

Sellars 811-G

Dexter 747-T   Cassiday 815-R

Thorn 802-P

Rice 797-P   Edwards 102-X 

Approximately 15 minutes after bombing Capt Thorne flying deputy lead, informed his flight that due to gas shortage he was going to leave the formation and set course for Cherbourg with the intent of landing at a forward Allied base to refuel. Capt Thorne then dropped behind the formation and Lt Rice pulled his plane up to regain position on the lead element. Suddenly, Thorn’s plane,which had broken formation appeared under the left wing of Rice’s B26. Lt Rice pulled his plane up instantly, but before he could gain much altitude, there was a sickening crash as the tail of the lead ship sliced along his wing and into the left propeller blade of his left engine. The tail empennage of the lead ship was torn off completely,and the B26 was last seen spinning down into the undercast with only one parachute opening.

Displaying calm and quick thinking Lt Rice immediately feathered the damaged propeller as 797 slipped violently to the left losing altitude rapidly. Gaining control he checked on the rest of the crew who reported in safe except the tail gunner who had bailed out at the instant of the crash.

Deciding to head for an emergency strip in Allied occupied France Lt Rice put his B26 onto a heading given to him by another pilot in his flight. He followed this course down through the undercast and on emerging into the clear at 3000’ he found that he was heading for two small islands. As he approached the islands flak opened up on him and he realised that he was heading for the islands of Jersey and Guernsey. Only a few shots were required to get his range, then the flak increased in accuracy and intensity. The crippled B26 was rocked by near misses with one burst under the plane killing the radio gunner. Lt Rice commenced evasive action, but the damaged ship answered sluggishly receiving another hit which knocked out the right engine. With the left engine already useless the loss of the right engine sent 797 plunging towards the sea. Lt Rice skilfully dived,pulled the nose up just above sea level and slowly let the tail drop into the water first. The resultant crash into the sea was a text book operation and no further injuries were suffered by the crew. The crew were able to exit the B26 and swim to a safe distance before it sank with the exception of the radio gunner who died trapped in the sinking plane. The survivors, Elma Rice, Frank Moscovic, Donald Peters and Robert Hetrick were later picked up by US Navy destroyer USS Borum.

Meanwhile Thorn’s B26 was spinning into the undercast,with its wheels down, onboard was a frenzy of activity. Capt Thorn was halfway out of his seat and the alarm bell was ringing. Lt Calvert was putting on his chute with the copilot on his knees trying to open the wheel well doors, but these were apparently stuck. The radio gunner opened the Bombay doors and then closed them again. At about 500’ Lt Calvert managed to bail out through the pilot’s hatch.802 continued its dive to plunge into the sea between Sark Rock and La Moisie.

Picked up first Lt Calvert helps local fishermen to recover the bodies of Capt Thorn and Lt Arthur Thomas killed in the crash. Two other crew members,possibly S/Sgts Roy Meyer and Carl Norland were pulled out of the rear fuselage,but died later in Paimpol clinic where they had been taken. The bodies of presumably Omar Evans and Edward Annette wre recovered from the sunken fuselage on the 6th September 1944 high tide. The remains of William Parks, who was in the ships nose, drifted to the north east for a month before being washed up at L’Etacq on the Jersey coast on 7th September. He was buried by the Germans and repatriated to the USA at the end of the war.

The sole survivor, Lt Calvert, stayed around for a few days and was placed in Saint Joseph clinic under observation. He reported back to Matching Green, his parents in the meantime having been informed that he was missing in action, where he submitted his report of the accident. He was demobbed in the USA in October 1945, rejoining the Air Force again during the Korean War, leaving in 1952 with the rank of major. He retired to Rapid City South Dakota earning his livelihood as an automobile body worker until he died of an heart attack on April 15,1976. He is buried in the nearby Blackhills national cemetery at Sturgis, South Dakota. His widow, Mrs Violet Calvert, lives in Denver, Colorado.

42-95797 P2-P “T.S.Ticket”

Pilot   2.Lt Elma Z Rice
Cipilot   2.Lt Frank P Moscovic
Bombardier  2.Lt Donald J Peters
Radio gunner  Sgt Melvin C Shuler, Sr.
Engineer gunner Pvt Robert J Hetrick
Gunner   Sgt Thomas W Hume

42-95802 T6-P “Skeeter” 

Pilot   Capt David H Thorne
Copilot  1.Lt Arthur L Thomas
Bombardier  1.Lt William H Parks
Navigator  1.Lt Russell J Calvert
Radio gunner  T/Sgt Edward J Annette
Engineer gunner S/Sgt Omar L Evans
Gunner   S/Sgt Carl E Noreland
Gunner   S/Sgt Roy H Meyer

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