histoire d'une forteresse volante abbattue à Saint-Colomban, près de Nantes, le 4 juillet 1943
1943 - 2004
July 3,4,5, 2004
# 42-5053
crash on July 4, 1943
in St-Colomban
Focke Wulf
into grand-lieu lake
10 young
american boys
B17 technical
Ralph D. McKee
(his escape)
Pilot escape
thanks to
american families

10 young american boys


  • Earl Sell, radio operator / gunnerEarl L. Sell, radio operator / gunner, registration number n°13080370, native from 350 beach street, Pottstown, Montgomery, Pennsylvanie. Born January 16, 1921.
    Killed in action on July 4, 1943, at the age of 22. burial place : Highland Memorial Park, Pottstown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvanie, USA.

    Burial place

  • Bernard C. Mcknight, Bernard C. McKnight, right waist gunnerBernard C. McKnight, right waist gunner, registration number n°13039596, native from 7142 Benelett street, Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvanie.Born July 3, 1916.
    Killed on July 4, in action. Burial place : Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington county, Virginie, USA.
    Tim Ryan from Mcknight family contact us in 2011.

    Burial place

    Read newspaper clipping

  • William F. Mooney, tail gunnerWilliam F. Mooney, tail gunner, registration number n°10600115, native from 8149 Eberhart Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. Born september 27, 1918. War prisoner at Stalag 17B.
    In 1949, he works at the Chicago Daily News as political and investigative journalist.
    Died on May 21, 1985 at age 67.

    Read the biography of W. Mooney

  • William O. Hulett, left waist gunnerWilliam O. Hulett, left waist gunner, registration number n°17032523, native from Swifton, Jackson, Arkansas, born november 4, 1920. War prisoner.
    He was carrying out his 25th mission which should have been his last before his deserved return to the USA. He later served as the youngest judge in Jackson County, Arkansas. Died March 17, 1998 at age 77. Burial place : Swifton Cemetery, Swifton, Jackson County, Arkansas, USA.

    Burial place

    Read the biography of W. Hulett

  • Peter Hnatuick, ball turret gunner, registration number n°13052256, native from 270 S Laurel street, Hazleton, Pennsylvanie. Born november 28, 1918. Prisoner of war.
    Died on June 1, 2000 at 81 years old.
    Burial place : Most Precious Blood Cemetery, Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvanie, USA
    Contact established in 2004 with her daughter Debi Hnatuick Kowalczyk, residing in Hazleton, and a nephew, Mike Hnatuick, residing in Nevada. The Hnatuick family, originally from Ukraine would have emigrated to the USA after the start of the Russian revolution in 1917.

    Burial place

  • Charles T. Cockrell, Co-pilot registration number n°T-86, native from 1020 Morningaide Drive, Forth Worth, Tarrant, Texas. Born on april 11, 1920. War prisoner. last known address in 1995 : 210 brook court, Niceville Florida 32578-3911.

    Burial place ? (Born on 11/04/1920 or 04/11/1920 ?)

  • Charles E. Allen, bombardier, registration number n°0-734774, native from Nitta Yuma, Sharkey Mississipi War prisoner

  • Doya C. Garrett, top turret gunner, matricule n°34352224, born in 1913, native from 1140 steet Northwest, Thomaston, Upson Georgia War prisoner.
    Died on April 12, 1962 at age 49. Burial place : Southview Cemetery, Thomaston, Upson County, Georgie, USA.

    Burial place

2 EV

"Rigor Mortis" crew photo
(Source American Air Museum)

(Top row from L to R) Smith ; McIntyre ; Howard Gardener ; Roger Moran ; JK Kunz ;
(Low row from L to R) William Mooney ; Bernard McKnight ; Frank Brinski ; Peter Knatuick ; Anley Farmworth
"Adams" crew photo taken in spring 1943 at CHEVELSTON ENGLAND
(source Ralph McKee)

(Top row from L to R) H S McMurray, Ralph McKee ; Ace Adams ; John Nelson ;
(Low row from L to R) Donsteffee ; Danvers ; Tom McGrath ; Shorty Hulett ; Non identifié
William C. Wetzel crew photo
before July 4, 1943 (Source Ralph McKee)

(Top row from L to R) Fred E. Helmick ; John A. McKeague ; William C. Wetzel ; Lloyd F. Fields
(Low row from L to R) Claude E. Wood ; James V. Labella ; John P. Hallman ; Arturo Varella

We do not have the photo of the crew opposite. Indeed, most of the aviators on the last flight of B17 42-5053 were not used to flying together. Ralph McKee, who replaced pilot Wetzel's navigator at short notice, previously flew with William Hulett of the "Adams" crew, while William Mooney, Bernard Mcknight and Peter Hnatuick flew with the "Rigor Mortis" crew.

Washington, 7 juin 1945
Location : England
Air Force : 8th AF
Groupe : 305 Bomb Gp (H)
Squadron : 366 Bomb Sq
Departure location : Chelveston ; Target : Nantes, France
Mission : Heavy Bomb
Day : 4 juillet 1943
Location : near Nantes, Fr.
Aircraft : B-17F
Serial N° : 42-5053
Engines : R-1820-97
Number of peopole on board : 10
2 killed (KIA)
2 escapees (EV)
6 prisoners (POW)

B 17 42-5053 KY-L
Photo sent by Graham Meiklejohn from New-Zealand, in 2013