Page_013 Last Flight

Won Long Hop’s last flight

At 9:17 AM on June 14th, 1944 an American B24 Liberator crashed here at Wodecq, on its way back from a mission to the Aisne Department in France.

 It had left from the Debach air base in southeastern England in the night of June 13th with ten crew members on board:   

Pilot, Crew chief

Lieutenant Floyd E. ADDY

Engineer

Staff Sergeant Cecil C. PENDRAY

Navigator

Lieutenant Robert G. DONAHUE

Bombardier

Lieutenant Richard E. WRIGHT

Radio operator

Staff Sergeant Frank R. McPHERSON

Armorer gunner

Sergeant Hugh C. BOMAR

Co-pilot

Lieutenant Douglas W. HOOTH

Nose gunner

Sergeant Irving W. NORRIS

Tail gunner

Robert G. MATHIE

Ball turret gunner

Sergeant William L. CUPP

 

Its objective was to bomb the airfield at Athies near Laon, in order to support the Allied Forces who were being hassled by German planes still flying over the North of France. In case the first target could not be reached, an alternative one had been set: the air base at Beauvais in the Oise Department.

The crew were not assigned a new generation B24 as originally planned. They had to use a craft that was on its last mission and was bound for the scarp heap on its return. The bomber was battered and dented, its armament in poor condition, and it had a dire reputation with the aircrews: it had never completed a mission successfully. This was to prove true once more.

As part of a formation of 36 aircraft, Won Long Hop reached the continent by way of Hoek van Holland, a sea front with no anti-aircraft batteries. Then they headed for Belgium and crossed the territory from north to south, flying toward Mons and the French border.

When the plane reached the area, its bombs probably failed to hit the target but fell in a circle of approximately 5 kilometers, near the village of Besny-et-Loisy. Won Long Hop had been crippled by enemy fire and was lagging behind its formation. The mission commander ordered Lieutenant Addy to fly over Athies again in order to assess the damage they had caused, a task that usually falls to reconnaissance planes. This delayed the bomber even more, causing it to make its way back on its own. It aimed to reach Mons and encountered flak as it passed the rail distribution center of St Ghislain. Miraculously, it escaped and headed northwest. Then, as it flew over the Chièvres airfield, more anti-aircraft batteries defeated it.

The four engines had been hit and stopped running in turn. Lieutenant Addy realized he would never succeed in reaching Britain and told his nine crew members to bail out, which they did over Lessines and Ath. He himself chose to stay on board as long as possible. One member of the crew, Sergeant William Cupp, tells the story in his book “A Wartime Journey: Bailout Over Belgium”. After many adventures and varying fortunes the nine young soldiers were able to return to the United States once the hostilities had ended. They stayed in touch with each other and with Floyd Addy’s family for as long as they could.  Lieutenant Addy flew over the central square of Wodecq and managed to avoid the church and nearby homes. He banked his plane southwards towards La Hamaide. His likely hope was to attempt a perilous landing in an area of meadows and fields with few houses.

But the bomber could no longer be controlled and he soon found this action impossible. He decided to leave the plane, quite an achievement since enemy fire had damaged the flight deck and blocked its exits.

At this low altitude his parachute did not open and Lieutenant Addy fell in the middle of the field back you, to the left of the road to Ostiches and Ath. His plane ended its course behind the house in front of you.

His last message to the crew is testimony to his sense of duty and sacrifice :

"Good luck to you all. I’m going to stay with the plane. There are friendly people down there, and I don’t want a plane of ours to crash on any of them.  As you pass this spot, remember the man who gave up his life to save us and to liberate a continent which he only knew from high up in the sky".

We owe him our freedom.

Lieutenant Floyd E. ADDY was posthumously awarded the British Distinguished Flying Cross and the American Purple Heart. His wife Barbara bore a daughter some weeks after the tragedy; the child did not have the privilege of knowing her father. His body stayed in Europe and was buried in the American war cemetery at Margraten in Dutch Limburg, not far from Visé.

 

Page_013 Last Flight