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  • Writer's pictureDon Milne

The Real Fallen Heroes from Masters of the Air Episode 3



Everyone of the airmen who died while serving in the 100th Bombardment Group has a story. Thanks to the volunteers working with the nonprofit initiative Stories Behind the Stars (see video here), those stories will be readily accessible to anyone for generations to come.


We last shared the stories of the fallen from Masters of the Air, episode 1. You can find those here.


Stories Behind the Stars volunteers have written the stories of the 100th Bombardment Group airmen lost in the costly Regensburg mission of August 17, 1943. This was the subject of episode three of Masters of the Air:


This is the list of some of the men lost in this mission, where 9 of 21 planes from this bomb group did not return.


1LT Curtis R. Biddick. Lt. Biddick's story was featured prominently in episode 3. He was played by Barry Keoghan. He was 28 years old and from Wisconsin. He earned a degree in animal husbandry from UC Berkeley. He was the pilot of the plane known as "Escape Kit". You can read his story here.


Crew of B-17F 42-5860, "Escape Kit"


CPT Robert M. Knox. Cpt. Knox was 27 years old and an only child from Philadelphia, PA. He attended college and worked as a car salesman. He was the pilot of the plane known as "Picklepuss". You can read his story here.


Crew of B-17F 42-30063, “Picklepuss”


SSGT William M Hinton. Sgt. Hinton was 19 years old and from Ohio. His mother died when he was an infant. For his final mission Sgt. Hinton replaced the regular ball turret gunner in the plane known as "Alice from Dallas". You can read his story here. In the miniseries, "Babyface" Hinton is trapped in the ball turret after his plane is damaged and the crew bails out. Actual reports show he may have stayed behind to help the tail gunner.


Crew of B-17F 42-5867, “Alice from Dallas”

  • Pilot, 1Lt Roy F Claytor (Evaded)

  • Copilot, 2Lt Raymond J Nutting Jr (Evaded)

  • Navigator, 2Lt Oscar C Amison Jr (POW)

  • Bombardier, 2Lt Kenneth R Lorch (POW)

  • Top Turret Gunner/Engineer, TSgt John W Burgin (Evaded)

  • Radio Operator, SSgt William M Quinn (Evaded)

  • Ball Turret Gunner, SSgt Willaim M Hinton (KIA)

  • Waist Gunner, SSgt Charles K Bailey (Evaded)

  • Waist Gunner, SSgt Clifford R Starkey (POW)

  • Tail Gunner, SSgt Edmund A Musante (KIA)


SSGT Foster Compton. Sgt Compton was 22 years old and from Kentucky. He worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps. He was the tail gunner in "The WAAC Hunter" and the only airman lost from his plane when it was shot down. You can read his story here.


Crew of 42-3002 "The WAAC Hunter”

  • Pilot, 2Lt Henry P Shotland (POW)

  • Copilot, 2Lt Charles R Thompson (POW)

  • Navigator, 2Lt Thomas J Doran (POW)

  • Bombardier, 2Lt William J Harrison (POW)

  • Top Turret Gunner/Engineer, TSgt Lloyd E Field (POW)

  • Radio Operator, TSgt Edward M Kussman (POW)

  • Ball Turret Gunner, SSgt Lawrence E Capdeville (POW)

  • Waist Gunner, SSgt Roy L Butler (POW)

  • Waist Gunner, SSgt John J Keegan (POW)

  • Tail Gunner, SSgt Foster Compton (KIA)


TSGT Norman M. Smith. Sgt Smith was 30 years old and from Texas. He was a college graduate and worked for a textile mill. He married while in the service. He was the radio operator in the bomber known as "Phartzac". He was hit by flak and did not survive the return flight to Africa. He was the only airman lost from his plane. You can read his story here. His death has featured in episode 3 of Masters of the Air.


TSGT James R. Bair. Sgt. Bair was 25 years old and was from Pennsylvania, though he moved to Illinois and worked in a cafe when he registered for the draft. He became the radio operator on the bomber named "Tweedle-O-Twill". He stayed at his post after being wounded in a German fighter attack. Eventually the plane sustained too much damage and the pilot gave the order to bail. Unfortunately, Sgt. Bair was killed before he could parachute out. You can read his story here. The other nine crewmen landed safely and became prisoners of war.


SSGT Richard E. Bowler. Sgt. Bowler was 23 years old and from Fort Worth, Texas. He was living in Bradford, Pennsylvania and working as a welder before joining the service. Sgt. Bowler was the top turret gunner / engineer on the plane known as "Maybe". He was wounded and, after his plane sustained too much damage to keep flying, he bailed with the rest of the crew. He died while descending or shortly after landing. You can read his story here. Eight of the nine other crewmen survived.


Crew of B-17F 42-30311, "Maybe"

  • Pilot, 2Lt Thomas D Hummel (POW)

  • Copilot, 2Lt Michael C Doroski (POW)

  • Navigator, 2Lt Archie S Depew (POW)

  • Bombardier, 2Lt Norman Brewster (POW)

  • Top Turret Gunner/Engineer, SSgt Richard E Bowler (KIA)

  • Radio Operator, SSgt Donald J Meeker (POW)

  • Ball Turret Gunner, SSgt Francis T Stafford (POW)

  • Waist Gunner, SSgt Nelson O Gunnar (POW)

  • Waist Gunner, SSgt Kenneth T O'Connor (KIA)

  • Tail Gunner, SSgt Gordon A Williams (POW)


Volunteers with Stories Behind the Stars will be writing the stories of the remaining airmen lost on this mission and all the others. You can read more about this project here.


Hundreds of volunteers have written the 40,000 stories completed so far that include all of the Pearl Harbor fallen, all of the D-Day fallen, and all of the WWII fallen buried at Arlington National Cemetery. It only takes 2-3 hours to write a story of the fallen. We provide free training and access to Ancestry.com, Newspapers.com, and Fold3.com.


Perhaps the greatest attraction to volunteers is that all of the stories can be read for free at any gravesite or memorial via smartphone app. Click here to find out more about volunteering.


For those unable to volunteer their time, the project to remember all of the US WWII fallen can be supported by tax deductible donations.









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