Remembering 1LT George W. Owen Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps, and the crew of
Flying Fortress #43-38355 this Memorial Day weekend.
George was born in Chicago on 11 Aug 1922, the fourth child and only son of George Owen Sr. and Grace Belle Wood Owen. George’s maternal grandfather, Alonzo Church Wood, was born in Canada. He enlisted in one of Lincoln’s first calls for volunteers and fought as a Union soldier until he was wounded, discharged, and sent home to Waukegan in 1863.
Alonzo’s grandson was one of the first in line to volunteer for the Army on December 8, 1941. The day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor recruiting offices throughout the country were jammed. Chicago was no exception, but George was accepted that first day. By the time the article at right appeared in the Chicago Tribune on 12 December, George had returned home to 2351 Normandy Avenue and was putting his 19-year-old life in order before leaving for training as a pilot.
George shipped over to England, where he was assigned to the Mighty Eighth Air Force, 493rd Bomb Group, Heavy, 863rd Squadron. The 493rd Bomb Group was the last Eighth Air Force Group to become operational, flying their first combat missions from Debach, Suffolk, on D-Day, 6 June 1944. The Group was nicknamed the Fighting 493rd by Commanding Officer Colonel Elbert Helton, who held the post for over a year. The 493rd flew 161 bombing missions against strategic targets in Germany and tactical ones in northern France, Holland, and along the Rhine.
On 12 Sep 1944, it was time for the 13th mission for George Owen and his crew. Their target was the German Airbase Command at Magdeburg. Aboard Boeing Flying Fortress #43-38355 as it took off from Great Yarmouth were:
- 1LT George William Owen Jr. – pilot
- 2LT Edgar Eugene Blaydes – co-pilot
- 2LT Donald Fahey – navigator
- F/O L.C. Tipton – bombardier
- T/Sgt. Peter M. Trunzo – radio operator/radio operator gunner
- T/Sgt. Roy F. Fiore – top turret gunner
- S/Sgt. Charles C. Gialloreto – ball turret gunner
- S/Sgt. James B. Gray – waist gunner
- S/Sgt. Luther J. Jorg – tail gunner
Over Wackersleben, enemy aircraft shot down the Flying Fortress and its nine young men. The plane crashed at Üplingen, where survivors were captured by German soldiers.
The Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) states Owen, Blaydes, Trunzo, and Gray were killed when the plane went down. The rest of the crew – Fahey, Tipton, Fiore, Gialloreto, and Jorg – were taken prisoner. The POWs all survived the war, as noted in the World War II Prisoners of War, 1941-1946 database at Ancestry. Each were “Returned to Military Control, Liberated or Repatriated.”
George had just turned 22 when he was killed in action. Owen and Blaydes – pilot and co-pilot – were interred together at Sessenheim Communal Cemetery, in Sessenheim, Alsace, France.
On 15 Feb 1950, Blaydes’s and Owen’s bodies were repatriated and reinterred together at Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, USA.
Genealogy makes history personal, and this is an excellent example. Join me today in remembering 1LT George W. Owen Jr., his crew, and their sacrifices.