Saturday, May 23, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

416th Men Still Missing in Action (ABMC Wall of the Missing) 

 Memorial Day is a time to remember those who gave their lives to preserve all the things that we hold dear about life in America.  There are far too many of them to even attempt to know or name them all, but we will concentrate here today on ten young men.  They are the 416th Bomb Group crew members who are lost in time.  Ten members of this Group died in combat and do not yet have a final resting place.  Six of them were lost on one tragic mission.  That might seem like a small number when one contemplates the enormity of World War II, but to each of those ten families it was and remains a cross to bear.  Technically, the search for these men is ongoing, but as a practical matter all have since been declared "non-recoverable" by the U.S. Government.  Fortunately, there are many here and abroad who choose not to accept that finality. 

Raines, Arthur A. Jr.     2Lt    669    10Apr44    Cambridge
Bender, Glenn J.           SSgt   669    10Apr44   Cambridge
Nielsen, Jack O.           SSgt   669    10Apr44   Cambridge
Cramsie, William E.     1Lt     671    10Apr44   Cambridge
Henshaw, Charles R.    SSgt   671    10Apr44   Cambridge
Steward, Jack               SSgt   671    10Apr44   Cambridge
Cruze, Raymond K.     1Lt     668    18Jul44     Cambridge
Murphy, Thomas A.     1Lt     670    1 Jan 45     Ardennes
Kiker, Charles M.         Sgt     669    14Jan45     Lorraine
Griffith, John J. Jr.        Sgt     668    18Mar45    Lorraine

Friday, April 10, 2015

Remembering William Edward Cramsie

There are a number of days on the calendar that have special meaning to each of us.  Some have special meaning to most of us.  One of those days with special meaning to me personally is April 10th.  It was on this day in 1944 that William Edward Cramsie died in a valliant fight to defend freedom.  I didn't even know his name until 2005 when by chance I became the steward of Bill Cramsie's West Point class ring.  That is an interesting story in itself, but not for this post.  What is important on this day is that we remember those brilliant young men who had their whole lives before them and willingly gave them up in defense of Freedom.  There is no way to place a value on that.  Since 2005, I have come to love Bill Cramsie for what he stood for.   It is a great honor for me to mention his name and to talk with those who knew him personally.  Humanity is challenged almost daily, and maybe even moreso now than then, by one scourge or another.  in the face of that, we need to be true to our principles like Bill was.  It isn't always easy but it is necessary.

Bill Cramsie grew up in the foothills of the mountains dividing California from Nevada.  he was a leader from day one.  His dream was to become an aviator and to attend West Point.  He did that.  Everyone that I have met who knew Bill Cramsie, and there have been more than a few, had the same opinion of him.  Bill was a friendly, easy going and conscientious young man.  He made friends without even trying.  He graduated from West Point in the top 10% of his class, but never was pretentious or ostentatious to those he served with, especially not to the enlisted personnel who worked with him.

We might all model our lives after that of Bill Cramsie and think about the effect that we have on the world around us.  If we do nothing but satisfy our own needs, we are the enemy of civilization.  We cannot all be heroes, like Bill, but we can all do our best to make the world a better place to live.

Wall of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery in England

Sunday, May 25, 2014

On Memorial Day we honor
those who died in service
to our country.

Memorial Day 2014

Let us pause for a moment to consider the significance of this day — set aside to honor those who have fallen in combat to preserve the freedoms that we still enjoy.  Nearly 100 members of the 416th Bomb Group lost their lives in combat.  Some were repatriated to the United States for burial, others were interred in American Battlefield Monument Cemeteries throughout Europe and Great Britain.  We could never do justice to all of them in a short message like this, but we will at least pay humble tribute to one, in memory of all.



Francis W. DeMand grew up in Wichita, Kansas, the son of a country doctor who died of pneumonia in 1926 while Francis was just a young boy.  He and his two sisters were raised by their mother, Martha, who ran a rooming house during the depression years.   Francis graduated from high school with war on the horizon and joined the Army with four of his high school buddies.  They all were enlisted at the same time, took flight training together and earned commissions as pilots in the Army Air Corps.  Lieutenants DeMand, Merchant, Morton, McDonald and Ritter all became A-20 Havoc pilots and were part of the initial cadre that joined the 416th Bomb Group at Oklahoma City. 


Lt. Robert Morton died in an aircraft training accident at Vinton, LA in 1943 and Lt. Arthur McDonald was killed when his plane crashed near London, England in April of 1944.  Lt. Ritter was transferred to the South Pacific, but survived the war and returned to Wichita, as did Lt. William Merchant, DeMand's closest friend and fellow pilot in the 671st.  In the photo below, Francis and Lt. Merchant stand before the A-20 "Uncle Bob" flown by DeMand.


Lt. DeMand was leading Box II, Flight 3 on September 29, 1944 in an attack on the railroad marshalling yards at Julich, Germany.  Lt. Dave Andrews was flying on DeMand's left wing, only a few yards away.  Dave recalls the event with absolute clarity in a "Witness to War" video seventy years after the fact.  An artillery barrage destroyed DeMand's plane in a direct hit, killing all but Ssgt Middleton, one of the gunners, who was blown clear of the plane by the explosion.  Originally buried in Germany, the remains of Lt. DeMand and of his Bombardier/Navigator Alwin Burns, were transferred after the war to the ABMC cemetery at Margraten, Netherlands.  The family of nearby resident Ron Wintjens has adopted the Grave of Francis and honors his memory on special occasions like this.  DeMand's gunner, Ssgt Reuben Troyer is buried at the ABMC cemetery in Ardennes. 


Ron Wintjens family (above) pays respects to Francis DeMand Grave at Margraten ABMC Cemetery.  Thanks to the generosity of Rick Greer, a nephew of this hero, the 416th Archive now has a rich collection of photos and documents about his life and service.  We are proud to honor Francis DeMand  this Memorial Day as we remember all those who died in service to their country.