Sunday, April 10, 2016

Bill Cramsie Day

On this day in 1944, Bill Cramsie climbed into the cockpit of an A-20G attack bomber (43-9699) and methodically went through the warm-up checklist.  It was the 4th combat mission for this West Point graduate and already he was flying in the #3 slot of the lead box of 18 planes -- on the left wing of Major Willets, the 671st Squadron Commander.  Those who knew him and survived are in agreement that he was an outstanding pilot with a promising future.  They were airborne by 8:44 AM and at the scheduled target in France an hour later.  Unfortunately, the cloud cover at that point was 10/10 or total.  The V-1 Buzz Bomb launch site they were hopeful of destroying could not be seen.

The German antiaircraft batteries on the ground had no such disadvantage.  Their radar controls told gunners exactly where the 416th planes were and the barrages they sent aloft were deadly.  As the bombers made another pass over the target the flak became very intense and every plane in the 36-ship-formation suffered from flak damage.  Bill Cramsie lost an engine on the first pass and stayed with the group for the second pass where he reportedly was hit again.  As the lead navigator sought a suitable alternate target, the flight passed into a cloudless area to the north that happened to be above another Buzz Bomb site.  The group dropped their bombs on this target of opportunity and headed home.  Bill, unable to stay with the formation as his remaining engine weakened, fell out of formation.  As they headed back across the English Channel, his academy classmate and friend Scotty Street also lost an engine and fell behind along with Bill who was then in sight below him.  As they crossed Bradwell Bay, losing altitude, both Bill and Scotty were seeking an emergency landing strip.  Both called for bearings to the RAF field nearby and received them from Air Search and Rescue.  At that point, Bill dropped below the clouds at about 400 feet altitude and Scotty made a turn to the West to line up with the Bradwell Bay landing strip.

Scotty's crew bailed out over land and he crash-landed without injury, though the plane was beyond repair.  Bill and his crew disappeared.  A Rescue team was never dispatched.  Seventy years later, Chief Inspector Ross Stewart of the British Minstry of Defense Police discovered why.  The coordinates captured from radio direction finding equipment during Bill's call for help were transposed.  Instead of placing his aircraft just offshore near the RAF airbase, they indicated he was some 40 miles east of there over the North Sea.  Of course there was no way for boats to reach that spot in time to do any good and it seems therefore that no effort was made.  Based on eye-witness reports, it is virtually certain that Bill Cramsie, his plane and his crew lie unrecovered in Bradwell Bay -- probably in very shallow water not far off shore.  That realization has spurred considerable interest in generating a serious search for the A-20 and its crew.   Hopefully on Bill Cramsie Day a year from now we will be able to share some more encouraging news about that search for "9699".

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 of the members of this Group who died in combat still 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 and the search for them goes on. 

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

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