I’m really hoping people searching the web or from where I post this on Facebook and Twitter can relay it on to others who will continue to relay it until it reaches the children, grandchildren or great grandchildren of the people noted on these crosses and in the text below.
The photo (click on image to enlarge) depicts the graves of six of the seven crewman who had been flying with the 439th Bombardment Squadron out of Seraggia Airdrome, one of 17 Allied airfields on the French island of Corsica .
On October 21, 1944, the crew’s B-26 Martin Marauder was flying second in formation, on the right wing of #4 flight on a bombing run to destroy strategic railroad bridges crossing the Piave River at Susegana, Italy as it flows out of the Alps across northeast Italy and into the Adriatic Sea when it was hit over the target by anti-aircraft fire exploding through the plane just aft of the escape hatch. The airplane burst into flames and crashed on the bank of the river, northwest of the target.
The plane was identified by yellow rings around the nacelles and the Battle Number 56 on the tail , much like the sister plane #64 shown the illustration below from the same squadron, same time period (click to enlarge.) The crew of Ship #731, Serial Number 42-107731 is also noted on the Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 09437, as witnessed by S/Sgt Jonathan E. Clark flying in another plane in the formation. Two parachutes appeared to open.
As the war ended, it was learned that no one survived but a farmer had retrieved the bodies of six of the seven crew members and buried them side by side nearby in his orchard with a cross identifying the date and name of each as shown in the image earlier in this blog (click to enlarge.)
The remains of at least one member of the crew, the tail-gunner, Sgt. Edward E. Bowman, my Dad’s best friend and first cousin (for whom I received my middle name) was brought home after the war for re-burial in the Ora, Idaho, Cemetery on the Yellowstone-Teton area ranch/farm on which I was raised in Idaho. His wife Frankie remained close with my parents and was a frequent visitor to our home over the years (Frankie and Edward are shown in the image below, click to enlarge.)
The names on the crosses in the photo, preceded by the word “Gefallen” or killed, read from left to right:
Sgt John E Shamback (radio-gunner) Donora, PA
Sgt (marked unknown and could be the grave of either the pilot Lt Dean Rice Smith Center KA or co-pilot Lt Robert Veller Toledo OH)
Lt. Miles C. Smith jr. (bombardier) Austin TX
Col Joseph A. Miller jr. (observer) San Antonio TX
Sgt Edward E. Bowman (tail-gunner) Saint Anthony, ID
Sgt Charles J. Giarrizzo (engineer-gunner) Rochester NY
Hopefully someone reading can help me get this blog and the links to the photo to descendants of these men who may not have the fortune of having this information and memento to their heroism.