William Leroy Barton

European Theater

Of Smethport PA

He graduated from Moody Field, GA. Flight Officer T62413. He was with the 8th A.F., 457 Bomb Gp (H), 748th Bomb Sqdn. On July 31, 1944, his B-17-G (S/N: 42-97087) with a 10-man crew was hit by flak over the target, Munich, Germany. The plane began to disintegrate quickly with part of one wing falling off.

Barton’s description of the crash from MACR #7829 follows:

We were hit on the bomb run in the nose. At that time I think F/O Firing (bombardier) was wounded. (Navigator F/O Irving Cohen said later that Firing waved him on when Cohen took ahold of his arm, so Cohen bailed out.) After "bombs away" we started to "peel off" to the left and lose a 1000′. We had the plane at a 45° angle and a burst of flak tore a large hole in the right wing behind No. 3 engine and the flaps and entire outer wing panel ripped off. The pilot, Lt. Byron Schiffman, bailed out. I got my flying boots caught in the rudder pedals but got loose and followed him to the nose escape hatch. (As soon as the ship was hit it fell off in a steep spin to the right. However it went into a flat spin soon afterwards). I started to bail out but saw Firing bent over the chair and bombsight in the nose. I grabbed him by the chute shoulder straps but lost my grip. I tried three or four times to get him out. He made no effort to help himself and fell forward each time. I never saw his face but I assume that he was wounded. The last time I had his shoulders about to the bulkhead but due to the centrifugal force, the plane’s nose at a fairly steep angle and him making no effort to help me I couldn’t lift him out of the nose and I lost my grip again and he fell forward so I bailed out. I am sure that I was the last one to bail out of the ship because I think I got out at approx. 5,o000 feet or less and delayed my fall because I couldn’t get out from under the ship which flattened out in its spin and had both outer wing panels gone and the tail behind the radio room gone, to around 1000 to 800′ approx. The ship barely missed my chute and crashed in an open field and burst into flames. My chute swung about twice and I almost went into the flames which leads me to believe that I was last out of the plane. I saw no other chutes around me but I was dazed and trying to escape so might have missed them. The plane kept exploding at times so I’m sure no one could have survived the crash. We were talking to the crew of the ship ahead of us in prison camp later and they said that the tail of our ship was blown off so I imagine that some of the crew were blown out. This is all I can remember. I can’t be absolutely positive on any details because events happened so fast.

Pilot (Lt. Schiffman) said that while he was floating in the air he saw another chute at quite a distance so he yelled, "hello". The man in the other chute answered back. It might have been the engineer who may have been killed by civilians after reaching the ground.

Barton, the pilot (Lt. Schiffman), and the navigator (Lt. Cohen) became P.O.W.s in Stalag Luft 1 until liberated by the Russians.