Father Was a Carpetbagger
by Charles A. Burris
by Charles A. Burris: ‘This
Is Like Deja Vu All Over Again’ – Yogi Berra
I want to strongly
urge everyone watch a fascinating 2011 documentary, The
Carpetbagger Project: Secret Heroes,
concerning a virtually unknown aspect of World War II history. It
details the background activities of a vital secret effort of the
Allies in aiding the underground resistance movements throughout
My Dad, Eden
C. Burris, was part of this valiant effort until his B-24D crew
was shot down and crashed on the night of March 3/4, 1944 at 23.10
hours North of the village of Humbercourt (Somme), France at a place
called "Les Emonts."
There is a
monument plaque at Humbercourt commemorating this event erected
on May 8, 2000 (the 55th anniversary of V-E Day) by the French.
The plaque reads: "A La Memorire Des Lieutenants Aviateurs Americans
Lonnie Hammond Jr. Et William D. Rees, Tombes A Humbercourt Le 3
Mars 1944, Au Cours D'Une Mission De Parachutage De Materiel Au
Marquis," honoring the two crew members who died during that mission
parachuting materiel to the Marquis resistance. I have pictures
of this dedication ceremony, the monument, and of the crash site
as it appears today.
program is excellently produced and presents a broad overview of
the Carpetbagger operation. I particularly enjoyed learning about
the specific tasks radio operators such as my father were assigned
on these covert missions.
For more details
on the Carpetbaggers (and what happened to my Dad's crew) please
consult Ben Parnell, Carpetbaggers:
America's Secret War in Europe A Story of the World War II
Carpetbaggers 801st/492d Bombardment Group (H) U. S. Army, Eighth
From page 191
of the above book:
A Carpenter and crew crashed in B-24D 42-63789 on the night of
March 3/4, 1944, at Humbercourt (Somme) after being hit by flak
while flying at a low altitude. Burris (radio) was seriously wounded
in the airplane by a flak burst prior to the crash. Dudley (tail
gunner) bailed out at very low altitude and landed safely. The
shock of the crash was brutal. Carpenter (pilot), Herdman (waist
gunner), and Nesbitt (flying a buddy mission) were not injured.
Eshleman (copilot) was wounded in the neck, Burris lost his left
eye, and Johnson (engineer) suffered a broken ankle during the
crash. Hammond (navigator) was killed in the crash, and Rees (bombardier)
was trapped under heavy metal in the airplane with both legs crushed.
and Eshleman walked to the village at the bottom of the hill to
get help. Dr. Jacquemelle was summoned from a nearby village,
Lucheux, and after some time arrived to render all possible aid
to the injured. However, they could not get Rees out of the wreckage.
Part of the airplane had to be cut away before he was finally
pulled out. Rees and five of the crew were taken to a farm in
the village of Humbercourt for care.
of the fliers were taken by the Germans about noon on March 4.
Hammond was buried on March 5 in the cemetery at Meharicourt.
Rees was transferred to the hospital at Amiens, where both legs
were amputated on March 5. Unfortunately, he was not able to take
the shock and died the same day. Johnson and Burris were also
hospitalized for their injuries. Carpenter, Eshleman, Nesbitt,
and Herdman were taken to POW camps in Germany. Dudly managed
to evade capture for a while with the help of the Bordeau-Loupiac
escape network before being taken by the Germans.
by the Germans my father was imprisoned for 18 months in three POW
camps in East Prussia: Stalag Luft VI, Stalag Luft IV, and Stalag
Luft I, until liberated by Soviet troops of the Red Army on May
I have all
the primary document materials such as military correspondence records,
telegrams, letters, and newspaper accounts of his capture describing
his status first as MIA then as a POW, all the censored communications
and letters he wrote to my mother, his German POW camp personnel
file, as well as detailed maps and descriptions of the various camps
he later obtained. My parents were quite the archivists, which is
especially gratifying for their history teacher son.
My father was
in personal correspondence with author Ben Parnell as well as with
persons in France responsible for the monument plaque who knew precise
first-hand details of what happened that night so many decades ago.
Several of them who aided the crew that night were still living
when it was dedicated.
They had not
forgotten what happened there and why.
In 2004 my
father died and was buried on March 4, exactly sixty years to the
day of the above events.
A. Burris [send him mail]
teaches history in the Murray N. Rothbard Room at Memorial High
School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
© 2012 Charles A. Burris
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