Since the beginning of time, mankind has fought wars for a multitude of reasons; for land, resources, glory, religion, and/or any combination of reasons. There's one certainty about war - people are going to die. Sometimes their death is quick and painless, and other times its agonizingly slow and painful. The B-24 Liberator had a nasty habit of blowing up in flight. The mass of fuel lines meeting in the bomb bay led to leaks which could easily catch fire. High explosive cannon fire and incendiary rounds from fighters would easily ignite fumes in the bomb bay and the resulting explosion would be devastating. The same applied to anti-aircraft fire (flak) which is more insidious in that you don't know where it's coming from.
For those who were fortunate enough to complete their combat tours and return home to friends, family and loved ones, they were able to lead productive lives and to help reshape the United States in the post-war years. For those who have never served in the military, it's these shared experiences that draw total strangers together closer than their own family members. Even those these events occured over 70 years ago, the bond of love and friendship for their former crew mates has never slackened. As they approach their end of days, they draw comfort in rejoining old friends long gone. We should not mourn their passing, but rather to rejoice in the time we had with them; and cherice the memories they created with us and for us. As they leave us to rejoin their comrades from long ago, let us re-dedicate ourselves to honor their service and sacrifices as we see the manes of those who have folded their wings.
In the 17 months the 445th spent overseas, they lost 109 aircraft and crews due to enemy action. Sometimes the losses were very small, one or two planes lost; other times the unit was ravaged and suffered huge losses - 13 at Gotha or 25 at Kassel. The following pages will list the cost paid by members of the 445th during their time in England. First will be the Roll of Honor - those who paid the ultimate price and were Killed In Action (KIA).
When a plane was shot down, those crewmen who parachuted to safety and were lucky enough to be turned over to the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) were accounted for by the International Red Cross. After the war, they were turned over to Allied control and flown back to the US. Sometimes there were cases where some members were killed when their planes exploded and their remains were never recovered. Even to this day, they are officially carried as Missing In Action (MIA) with a presumption of death.
As with anything else in life, luck plays a big part in determining who lives and who escapes and becomes a Prisoner of War (POW). For those who were captured, the war only took a different course. The Germans used to say to the newly captured personnel "for you the war is over". It wasn't over, it just became more cruel. Short rations, missing the bare necessities of life, the "Kreiges" as they called themselves, were a resourceful lot. One Jewish former POW told me of how, during Christmas of 1944, he traded cigarettes with the German guards for some food items and prepared a special Christmas meal for the other prisoners that shared his room after their Christmas church service.