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First Name: Willard

Last Name: Graham

Birthplace: USA

Gender: Male

Branch: U.S. Army Air Forces (1941 - 1947)

Home of Record: CT

Date of Birth:

Date of Death: 06 October 1944

Rank: First Lieutenant

Years Served:
Willard Graham

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Willard Graham
First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces

In September 1944, First Lieutenant Willard Graham was serving as a co-pilot with the 758th Bomb Squadron, 459th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 304th Bombardment Wing, 15th Air Force, U.S. Army Air Forces, based at Giulia Airfield, Italy. The 459th Bombardment Group flew B-24 Liberator bombers on missions in Italy, France, the Balkans, Austria and Germany.

On 18 September, 1LT Graham was the co-pilot of B-24J Liberator bomber Serial Number 42-51524 that was on a mission to bomb a railroad bridge at Budapest, Hungary. [Missing Air Crew Record (MACR) 8754.] The aircraft had a crew of 9.

MACR 8754 says the aircraft was last sighted by a witness at 1200 hours. The witness, CAPT Walter L. Carss, Jr., made the following statement: “On 18 September 1944 I was flying as pilot of a B-24 type aircraft, in Number 5 position of “A” Flight. Lieutenant Rhodes was flying in Number 4 position of “A” Flight, to the left and in front of me. We were between the I.P. and target when the aircraft LT Rhodes was piloting received a direct hit of flak between Number 3 and Number 4 engines, tearing a large chunk out of the wing and leaving a huge gaping hole. Immediately afterwards another direct hit of flak exploded in the radio compartment of the aircraft . It swerved sharply to the right and went underneath my aircraft, becoming lost to my sight. I did not see any parachutes emerge from the aircraft and the members of my crew also reported seeing no parachutes. I did not see it crash. This is all of know of this occurrence.” The aircraft crashed into the Danube River.

It was later learned that eight of the nine crew members did parachute from the aircraft. The only man who did not jump was Staff Sergeant Charles H. Huber, the radio operator whose compartment received a direct flak hit according to the witness statement above. He died in the crash. The co-pilot, First Lieutenant Willard Graham, received burns before he was able to jump from the aircraft and, when he hit the ground he broke his leg. He was captured as a prisoner and taken to a hospital. On 6 October 1944, he died in the hospital following amputation of his gangrenous broken leg. Corporal James J. Jacks, engineer/gunner, safely reached the ground but was Killed in Action when he was beaten to death by angry Hungarian civilians before German forces could reach him and take custody. The remaining five crew members were captured and became Prisoners of War (POWs). They were liberated near the end of the war in 1945 and were eventually Returned to Duty (RTD).

Medals, Awards and Badges

Purple Heart,br> Air Medal
Prisoner of War Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army Air Forces Pilot Badge

B-24J Liberator bomber Serial Number 42-51524 had the following crew members on 18 September 1944.

● Pilot: 2LT Claude A. Rhodes [Honoree Record ID 308616] POW
● Co-Pilot: 1LT Willard Graham [Honoree Record ID 108684] POW & Died of Wounds
● Navigator: 2LT Manfred A. Gwinner [Honoree Record ID 308617] POW
● Engineer/Gunner: SSGT William J. Vitale [Honoree Record ID 308618] POW
● Engineer/Gunner: CPL James J. Jacks [Honoree Record ID 308619] KIA
● Radio Operator: SSGT Charles H. Huber [Honoree Record ID 308620] KIA
● Gunner: CPL Malcolm L. Jennings [Honoree Record ID 308621] POW
● Gunner: CPL John C. Scott [Honoree Record ID 308622] POW
● Gunner: SSGT Joseph B. Collins [Honoree Record ID 308623] POW

Death and Burial

First Lieutenant Willard Graham died as a Prisoner of War on 6 October 1944. He died in the hospital following amputation of a gangrenous broken leg that was incurred when he parachuted from his aircraft on 18 September 1944. He had also suffered burns before parachuting. He is buried at the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in Saint-Avold, Departement de la Moselle, Lorraine, France, in Plot G, Row 9, Grave 25.

[The information in this biography was derived primarily from various sections of the 459th Bombardment Group website at http://www.459bg.org/ and permission was granted for its use.]

Honoree ID: 108684   Created by: MHOH




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