C-47 crash 71st Troop Carrier Squadron - 434th Troop Carrier Group 6 June 1944 - D-day C-47 # 43-15101
In the early hours of June 6, 1944, the first American gliders started to land on the Contentin Peninsula. Two Serials were flown, each with its own name. The first one was Mission Chicago, flown by the 434th Troop Carrier Group, and the second was Mission Detroit, by the 437th Troop Carrier Group. The Chicago mission was the first to enter the Normandy skies. The 434th Troop Carrier Group was flying 52 towplanes that towed the same number of Waco CG-4A gliders. These gliders carried men and equipment of the 81st AA Bn., elements of 327th GIR, Engineers, Medal unit and Staff personnel, all part of the 101st Airborne Division. Flying the lead glider was piloted by Lt.-Col. Mike Murphy and carried Brig.-Gen Pratt, the Assitent Division Commander of the 101st Airborne Division. The story of this glider can be found here. Flying at the end of the Serial, with chalk number 51 (the first to last one in the formation) was C-47 # 43-15101. The crew of the plane was: 2 LT Raymond C. Howard (P) 2 LT Eston C. Kuhn (CP) S/SGT Marvin C. Boetcher (RO) SGT John W. Beckley (CC) They were towing a glider that was piloted by F/O Robert J. Kile and F/O Richard DelaGarza. Statement by F/O Robert J. Kile I was the first pilot of the glider that was being towed by Lt. Raymond Howard of the 71st TCS in the Chicago serial of the Neptune operation. About three minutes after landfall en-route across the peninsula he swerved to the north of the assigned course and came in contact with what appeared to be .50 cal tracer bullets. This was approximately direct over the town of Etienville. The right motor of the tug ship caught fire and I cut loose immediately. While I was circling for a landing I noticed a brilliamt flash of flame coming from the general direction of the plane and it lighted up the entire area. At the same time I could hear Lt. Howard “gunning” his motors in an attempt to right the plane, which was possibly going into a dive. I then picked out a field below and crash landed the glider. I did not hear or see evidence of the plane after I once fastened my gaze on the ground below in search for a landing zone. The approximately altitude at release was between 500 and 600 feet. Some paratroopers I talked with in the general vicinity the next morning (Tuesday 6th June 1944) said that they saw the crashed plane. They also mentioned that they saw one person bail out of the plane. No evidence of an opening parachute was observed by the paratroopers on the ground. The approximately altitude at the time of this observation was no more than 200 feet. F/O Kile, a glider pilot of the 89th TCS/438th TCG, would perish on September 19th, 1944 during the Market Garden operation. John Beckey wrote: We were airborne by 12.45 AM June 6, 1944 and headed for France. It was a bad night for flying as it was rainy and the air was rough. We had just dropped to 450 feet from 2000 feet when we were hit by flak. The alarm bell sounded, but 400 feet a parachute jump was impossible. While the pilots were trying to get the plane on the groun, I took a crash position, right behind the pilot against the bulkhead. Our radio operator was in his seat and had his head down on his desk. Our pilot made a nice landing on the water. We then bounced into a bank and lost a wing, then landed on the water again. The pilots went out through the top hatch, the radio operator and I escaped from the small front door into five feet of water. We got out of our flak suits and made it over to a road where we decided to move north. We managed to make it only ten yards when we walked into a German ambush. My pilot was killed in the ambush. I received three wounds in the right side of my abdomen. The three men were captured and on June 7, they, with other prisoners, were marched a short distance and loaded in trucks. Their truck convoy was attacked by Allied fighter planes. Five trucks were destroyed. Nineteen American soldiers, including the co-pilot of the plane, were killed in this attack. Ssgt. Beckley was wounded in his left leg. The two enlisted en spent the rest of the war in POW camps. Sgt. Buckley was liberated on 26 April 1945.
The four crew members left to right: (believe to be) S/Sgt. Marvin C. Boetcher, 2nd Lt. Raymond C. Howard, 2nd Lt. Eston C. Kuhn and Sgt. John W. Beckley. (K. Mizer)
The wrecked aircraft in the marshes near Chef-du-Pont.