More on Kirby Cowan and those who died and were wounded on 22 June 1944

Submitted by Charlton Stanley (Otteray Scribe) Guest Blogger

Kirby Cowan memorial plaque
Kirby Cowan memorial plaque
Gennevillers, France

It was 69 years ago today. 7:27PM, Paris, France. The B-17G serial number 42-102552 was shot down by flak over Paris. Some of the crew managed to get out of the destroyed plane, some did not. Kirby Cowan, whom I wrote about here, was the only one of the crew captured by the Gestapo. He was one of the 168 allied airmen who ended up in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp instead of a POW camp.

This story is not really about Kirby Cowan, as much as it is about the 6600 American service members who died per MONTH, during WWII (about 220 a day).  No one who was not alive then has any idea of the magnitude of the losses. 40,000 airmen were killed in combat theaters and another 18,000 wounded. Young men who climbed into thin aluminum coffins and flew into the stratosphere–and into history.

ImageAlso shot down that day at 7:24 PM, three minutes before Horn’s Hornets, was the B-17G #42-975432 flown by Second Lieutenant George Martin. That plane was also special because Staff Sgt. Carl E. Carlson was a member of the crew. SSgt. Carlson was the father of one of our own Turley blog commenters, Darrel Carlson.

This post is done in haste, because I wanted to get it up before 12:24 PM CDT (1:24 EDT), the moment Carlson’s plane crashed, and three minutes before Kirby’s plane crashed.

Equipage du BOEING B17 FLYINGFORTRESS N° 42-97524 du 96th Bomb Group de l'United States Army Air Force, tombé le 22 juin 1944.Please take a brief moment to remember them and all those youngsters who went off to war to defeat an unspeakable evil. Since I posted the story about the lost airmen of Buchenwald, I have learned more about that horror and plan to write about it later.

For those who read French, here is an excellent article in La Parsien, with an interview.

For those who may be puzzled by the references to “DCA.”   “DCA” refers to the German anti-aircraft (Flak) guns, which in French is “défense contre-aérienne.”  The word “Flak” is an acronym for the German “FlugzeugAbwehrKanone.” The infamous 88mm Flak gun was called the FlugzeugAbwehrKanone 88.

24 thoughts on “More on Kirby Cowan and those who died and were wounded on 22 June 1944”

  1. I figured Bill would claim to know “secrets” that no one else on the planet knows. His knowledge of history reminds me of Bill O’Reilly blaming US troops for the massacre at Malmedy—-except it was the US troops who were murdered.

  2. Bill,

    My understanding of history parallels Genes on this one…. I think you might be wrong…. I’m willing to learn a new area… Please indulge the blog with your history….

  3. Really, Bill.

    Then perhaps you’d care to back that up with some cites. If you’re not too busy denying that man went to the Moon or that the Holocaust happened. Please, regale us with your historical scholarly acumen.

    It’ll be a hoot.

    Especially since what I said falls under the rubric of common knowledge among readers of history. Please! Tell us the secret history of WWII that only you have access to!

  4. No Gene. Your revisionist history is wrong – but your fans here will still love you. Even those who also know your history “facts” are wrong.

  5. I tell my kids that our family does not have the juice to make the rules. The best we can do is discover the rules and try to play the game as best we can. Many who (went) to war don’t really make a decision so to do, but get there for whatever reason. However, once there, the rules are easily discoverable because honesty comes forth in such circumstances. For those that stand up when counted, in any situation, I offer by acknowledgement, though you may never receive it, at least in the space we know. Choices of the “leaders” may be discussed, but it is the acts of the common man that make me take notice.

  6. Bill,

    In case you aren’t aware of the history, and you apparently aren’t, Hitler was pissed that the Japanese drew the U.S. into the war when they did. They knew America was a sleeping industrial giant and wanted to wait far later – after they had consolidated power in Europe – to spread the war across the Atlantic. No one baited the Japanese into an attack. It was a misjudgment by Hedeki Tojo – one that carried out by his old nemesis from the Japanese Imperial Navy, Admiral Yamamoto. Yamamato had grave reservations about the wisdom of attacking the U.S. and wondered if his superiors appreciated the gravity of their decision to bomb Pearl Harbor. But Tojo wasn’t “baited”. He was fooled by his own arrogance and the assumption the Japanese Naval superiority was without question and would always be superior. I suspect that sometime around the Marianas Turkey Shoot in June of 1944, Tojo began to realize Yamamoto had been right to be concerned.

  7. Great reminder OS how much was sacrificed during World War II by the men and women in military and their families. Great song by Woody Guthrie!

  8. gene H said:

    “Invasion is not the only way to start a war.”. Correct. Just bait a country into an attack, the result of which is the commencement of that country’s allies to act in concert with it against the baiting country.

  9. Michael,
    Some folks forget the first attack by an Axis power was not Japan on 7 December1941. A lot of people don’t know the first Americans to die in WW2 came on 31 October 1941, more than a month before Pearl Harbor. The destroyer USS Reuben James (DD-245) was torpedoed by U-552 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Erich Topp in the North Atlantic. Only 44 crew members survived.

    Woody Guthrie wrote a folk song about it shortly after the sinking.

  10. Leo Beilin,
    Thanks for the tip. I was aware of the Pritzker library, but had never looked at their web page before today. Thanks again..

  11. I would like to recommend a link to the Pritzker Military Library (pritzkermilitarylibrary.org) which has over a hundred fascinating podcasts of talks by historians,journalists and veterans. Many of them related to WW 2

  12. OS, I truly enjoy your WW2 posts. They are informative for this history buff and former teacher. And they show the very basic point that history is about people. When you teach children w/ stories like this they are immediately engaged in history. Somewhere along the way, administrators, textbook publishers, and teachers lost sight of what history really is, it’s the lives of people like Kirby Cowan, George Martin, Carl E. Carlson, etc. We discussed earlier today how civics is virtually gone from school curriculums. Well, so is history, and we have lost a generation of young people who don’t know how important and interesting these subjects can be. Some might think it a plot.

  13. Germany was an ally of Japan and they, along with Italy, declared war on the U.S. on December 11, 1941, a mere four days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th.

    Invasion is not the only way to start a war.

  14. Germany hadn’t invaded the U.S. and FDR’s blockades forced Japan to
    retaliate — and FDR let it happen because he needed an excuse to
    make sure that only the U.S. would still have a manufacturing industry sector after we destroyed those who would have been competitors
    if theirs hadn’t been bombed back to the Stone Age.

    1. Then we should have waited until Germany’s transatlantic missiles (which they were working on) became operational?

  15. Darrel,
    I am glad you dropped in. I have plans for a much more detailed story about the airmen. In fact, I have way too much material for just one story.

    I was so very glad to be able to post a photo of your dad here.

  16. MSGoodman,
    The 168 Allied Airmen were attempting to evade and escape back to England. They were betrayed to the Nazi’s by an underground infiltrator. The S.S. classified them as Terrorists rather than P.O.W.s and sent them off to death camps with crematoriums.
    A large number of other allied prisoners died horribly in similar situations.

  17. Why were they sent to concentration camps, and not POW camps? Were they separated out for being Jewish?

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