Memorial Day, By Kassel Mission pilot Jim Baynham

This morning my mail box has a message from the Collings Foundation in Dallas with their schedule for the year. They have restored several WWII war planes and they fly them across our country to air shows to help us remember that war 75 years ago. That was the one so many of our young men died fighting against an evil leader named Hitler. It is good for all of us to remember what the world could have been had we lost that war.

One of the warbirds still flying is an old B-24 named Witchcraft.  It’s picture in their message brings home hard the image of my crew on the day we were shot down.  Four of my guys were Killed in Action that day. Out on the nose in a gun turret sat Hector Scala, our bombardier. He had dropped our bombs and then fought off a nose attack with his fifty caliber machine guns before he heard the alarm bell sent him to the bomb bay to bail out. Johnny Cowgill was nearby, just behind the nose turret at his navigation desk, plotting our course even as cannon fire hit our ship. He followed Hector out through the bomb bay to what should have been safety. Up on the flight deck, just behind the copilots seat, James Fields, our radioman had stowed his camera after taking bomb strike photos of our bomb strike when smoke filled the flight deck. Our bomb bay, directly under the gas tanks that held 2700 gallons of 100 octane gasoline when we took off was hit and set afire. He led Hector and Johnny out as he jumped. The three young men hit the ground, were captured, turned over to a group of murderers who tortured them before they shot them and threw them in a hole they dug outside a copper mine office. It was a long long time that their families suffered with the Missing In Action notice about their kids and then finally were told they had died. The fourth was Olin Byrd, a Texan who flew the waist gunners position. He bailed with Lemons and Knox through the hatch door in the waist. They made it back, but Byrd died somewhere below. He is buried in Europe at one of our cemeteries. These young guys died fighting for us. So we could be free in this great country. Please remember them this Memorial Day. They were our heroes. Still are. Love, Dad, Grandpa, Uncle, Jim