Sunday, June 10, 2007

Gone But Not Forgotten

Sixty-three years ago today, June 10, 1944, a B24J heavy bomber, beloinging to the 714th Bomb Squadron, named the 'Little Sheppard' took off on it's twenty-third mission. It would be it's last mission. According to the casulty report, the Little Sheppard had just dropped it's bombs on a German airfield at Evreux, France when it was struck in the bomb bay by flak. The report further stated that the plane caught fire, exploded and broke in two at the bomb bay. The wreckage was found five miles northeast of the target. Out of a crew of ten, only four survived.

Among the crew was my mother's twenty year old cousin, Howard Lepley. Howard was the radio operator and sat just forward of the bomb bay in a compartment about the size of a phone booth. Howard never made it out of the plane, never made it back to base, or made it home. He never even got the chance to marry, have children, or live a normal life.

It took two years for the Army to locate the wreckage, identify the remains and have them shipped home for burial. Sixty three years later, my mother still gets emotional when she talks about that awful time. According to her a young soldier accompanied Howard's casket home and stayed until he was in the ground.

This is an article from the Cumberland Times-News two weeks after Howard's plane was shot down.

The crew of the Little Sheppard in front of their plane. Howard is in the second row, second from the right. If he'd grown a pencil thin moustache he would've looked like Clark Gable.

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