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T/Sgt John W Belcher Geb. 10/15/1916 - DOW 04/11/1944

 

click on imageS/Sgt John Belcher werd geboren te Ironton OHIO op oct 15, 1916. John leefde te Ironton met zijn ouders. Zijn vader was Harlan Belcher (°Sep 16,1884 +Febr 1970) en zijn moeder Mattie Roden Belcher.Hij beeindigde zijn studies aan de Ironton High School in het jaar 1936. John had een job bij "the Henrite Products Corporation" in Ironton OH tot aan zijn inlijving bij het Amerikaans leger voor zijn diensttijd tijdens de oorlog. John was een actief lid van de Central Christian Church, deed zijn plicht als president en schatbewaarder van zijn Sunday school Class.
John schreef zich in bij het leger te Huntington West Virginia op 02/11/1942. Hij werd ingedeeld bij de luchtmacht en kreeg een training voor Radio operator/gunner bij een Bomber Crew.
Op 04/04/1944 was hij vervanger voor de vaste radio operator bij de Thieme crew tijdens de fatale missie #40. Na het droppen van de bommen werd de B-24 aangevallen door vijandelijke jagers en terzelfdertijd getroffen door het Flak luchtafweergeschut boven het doel, de rangeer installaties en hetYearbook 1936 station van Boekarest. John werd getroffen en werd zeer zwaar gewond, hij verloor het bewustzijn terwijl het vliegtuig brandend neerstorte. Zijn nieuwe vriend James O'Neal hielp de bewusteloze John om zijn valscherm aan te binden en uit het vliegtuig te helpen. Zij landen aan de andere kant van de Danube rivier op het grondgebied van Bulgarije in de nabijheid van de stad Ruse. De onfortuinlijke John werd gevonden en overgebracht naar het John BelcherMilitair ziekenhuis te Ruse samen met S/Sgt James O'Neal. Hij was zeer zwaar gewond aan het hoofd en de maagstreek en had weinig kans om dit te overleven.7 dagen later op 11/04/1944 om 20h overleed hij aan de gevolgen van zijn verwondingen en werd op 13 April begraven op het Engels kerkhof te Ruse, Bulgarije. Op 22 April, 1944 ontving John's vader Harlan Belcher het gevreesde MIA telegram onwetende dat zijn zoon reeds was gestorven.
Op 26 April, 1946 om 9h werd T/Sgt John Belcher herbegraven op het US Military Cemetery van Slatina in Sofia, Bulgaria op Plot A, Row 5, John and friendsgraf 55 met een houten kruis op het graf.
John's stoffelijk overschot werd later opgegraven en overgebracht naar het ten oosten van Anzio gelegen Amerikaans kerkhof van Nettuno Italië en herbegraven op 11 Nov, 1946 om 16h30 in Plot 2X, Row 89, graf 6967.
T/Sgt John Belcher kreeg postuum de Airmedal "For meritorius achievement in areal flight while participating in sustained operational activitis against the enemy from 22 February 1944 to 2 March 1944." Zie hier het document van deze onderscheiding.
T/Sgt John Belcher werd uiteindelijk op vraag van de familie gerepatrieerd naar de Verenigde Staten. Op 19 Augustus om 11h15 verliet de kist met het stoffelijk overschot van T/Sgt John Belcher het station van Columbus, OH en kwam om 15h17 aan te Ironton, OH.
Op 20/08/1948 werd John met militaire eer begraven op het Woodland Cemetery te Ironton OH.
John Belcher had nog twee broers en zusters die hem overleefden Stanley (°Okt 4,1906 + Mei 1969), Thomas, Frances (°Mei 8,1914 +Jan 1970) en Mary.


In Ironton, OH waar de eerste Memorial Day parade plaats had, staat een monument voor alle gesneuvelden van deze stad waaronder T/Sgt John Belcher.
Memorial Ironton OH Memorial Ironton OHName of T/Sgt John Belcher

Graf T/Sgt John W Belcher, MACR pagina en artikels verschenen op 18&19 Aug 1948 in de Ironton Tribune, regionale krant van Ironton OHIO.
Grave T/Sgt John W BelcherMACR pageMACR pageIronton Tribune 18 Aug 1948Ironton Tribune 19 Aug 1948World War II Memorial

Mijn speciale dank gaat naar Sally Jones en haar moeder voor de foto's van John Belcher.

Hieronder een uittreksel uit het dagboek van 2ndLT Robinson Lorin E. co-pilot in de Widness crew, kreeg deze toegestuurd van zijn zoon Lorin die ik hierbij hartelijk bedank.


Hi Philippe
 

I can confirm that my father served in the 719th Squadron 449th Bomb Group operating from Grottaglie, Italy. I have his diary and can provide you with some relevant information.  Let me say first that he and Adolph Ornstein were particularly good friends. He is referred to as "Dolph" throughout the diary. John Belcher is referred to as "our radio operator" and only mentioned in the context of the April 4, 1944 incident. There is no mention of a "Widness" in his diary. But it was fairly informal. He did reference an "Andy" and a "Bruce"(Navigator F/O Bruce Curry) frequently , but never mentioned their last names. 
 
I will quote directly from the diary below:
 
April 4, 1944
 
2ndLT Robinson Lorin E."The crew as a whole did not fly, but three of our crew members flew on different crews as replacements. One of them came back. Our bombardier, Adolph Ornstein of N.Y.C. and John Belcher of Ohio, our radio operator, went down over enemy territory.  The mission was to Bucharest, Romania. Our group was the only one that got through to the target because of clouds. There were only 28 ships in our formation and no fighter escorts and the formation was attacked by 60 to 65 fighters. However, our boys accounted for 35 to 45 fighters during the one hour and 20 minutes of fighting. We have reason to believe that Ornstein and Johnny bailed out. At least we certainly hope so. We were all pretty blue at first, but it doesn't do to think about it too much."
 
May 29, 1944
 
"...Heard yesterday that Lynch, a co-pilot from Burley, Idaho, who went down over Bucharest April 4 on the same ship as Dolph, our bombardier, is a prisoner of war in Rumania, so there's a good that Dolph got out OK, too."
 
Later in his diary, Dad wrote a number of lengthy observations. Among them was the following more detailed accounting of the April 4 raid:
 
"The other day on a raid to Bucharest, Rumania, our squadron lost five ships out of eight ships that we sent.  Flying as waist gunner of Ship #6 was John W. Belcher, the radio man on our crew. He went down with that ship. Flying on Ship#11 was Adolph Ornstein, our bombardier.  He went down with that ship. Needless to say, losing these men was a shock to us because they are the first men on our crew to go down on a mission. Their ships went down as a result of enemy fighter action. But the important thing to note here is that they went down only after taking a toll of the fighters that were attacking them.
 
"The conditions surrounding this particular mission were unusual and were obviously2ndLT Lori Robinson. conducive to losses. It seems that there were many groups of ships supposed to go on this raid, but all of the groups except ours had to return early because of bad weather and a heavy overcast they were not able to get through. However, our group of 28 B-24s found a hole in the clouds are were able to continue on the mission not knowing that all the rest of the ships had turned back. They did not have fighter protection and immediately after leaving the target were attacked by 60 to 65 enemy yellow-nosed fighters. A bomber crew hates to see a squadron of yellow-nosed enemy fighters on their tail because they are Hermann Goehring's prize ships and the pilots are Germany's best.
 
"Because of the fact there were so few bombers, the fighters were particularly aggressive and concentrated their attack on the low flight which was made up of the ships from our squadron. The boys put up a damn good fight and accounted form 35-45 fighters. Our ball turret gunner was with #10 and returned OK. Ship #10 was accredited with nine fighters, one of which was shot down by our gunner. We have reason to believe that our bombardier and radio man bailed out of their ships OK because the pilot of #10 reported seeing a man bail out of the nose wheel door of #100 and the co-pilot of #10 reported seeing the left waist gunner bail out of #6 which could have been Johnny....
 
"It is hard to describe the reaction of the rest of the men in our squadron when these losses became known. As for myself, I so shocked that I could hardly speak for a few minutes. If it had only been one or two ships, it would have been bad enough, but five ships was...a catastrophe.....Looking at it in terms of men we lost--20 officers and 30 enlisted men."
 
I hope this information will be of some value to you.
 
Dad flew and, obviously, survived 51 missions. He stayed in the Air Force, fought in Korea and retired in the mid-60s after serving as U.S. Air Attache to the Argentine Air Force in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, he died of lung cancer at age 55. Smoking was a nasty habit he picked up in the military.
 

Best regards,

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