The Crash of a U.S.A.A.F Liberator Bomber 1944

This is the story of a plane crash in a part of England that was littered with the wrecks of ships and aircraft during the bloodiest years of WW2. What makes this story any different, any sadder or more poignant than the hundreds or even thousands of other plane crashes in this part of Kent?

Well to me its special and holds a significant place in my heart as its yards from where i grew up as a child in my family home. Its crash site is on the beach where i used to sit and swim and in fact still do. Its where as a boy i used to beachcombe pulling bullets and crash debris from the rocks and the sand and its where my interest in military history really kicked off.


On the 27th April 1944 around dusk, a USAAF (United States Army Air Force)  B24 – Liberator Bomber crashed into the cliffs at Palm Bay, Cliftonville in Kent U.K. The Bomber belonged to 446th Bomber Group which was based at 125 Station, Flixton, Norfolk U.K.

The Bomber was part of the 706th Heavy Bomber Squadron which had just flown a successful Bombing Raid over railway marshalling yards at Blainville in Nazi occupied France prior to the D Day invasions.  Whilst returning from the bombing mission the Liberator (serial No.41-29543) was spotted over the Channel coast with two engines burning. It would appear that the Liberator was trying to land on the then farmers  fields of Palm Bay but gradually lost height and as a result crashed into the chalk cliffs.

Exact details are not known of the circumstances which led to the crash but it would appear that the damage done to the aircraft occurred over France, probably caused by the many German Flak Batteries which lined the coast.

This theory is backed up by the fact that two of the ten man crew bailed out before the crash and were subsequently picked up by an RAF rescue launch unharmed.

The remainder of the crew including the Pilot all died in the following crash.


Denning, Hafner, Lanphere and Larson standing beside their aircraft before a mission.

The crew flew a total of Nine missions before the crash.

Pilot                  1 LT.  Harold. J. Larson                K.I.A

Bombadier          1 LT.  Clifford. L .Denning             K.I.A

Navigator           1 LT.  George.M. Hafner               K.I.A

Co-Pilot              1 LT.  Claude.C. Lanphere            K.I.A

Gunner              SGT.  Louis Bart                          K.I.A

Gunner              SGT.  Willburn .L.Holt                   K.I.A

Gunner              SGT.  Orval .B.Scott                     K.I.A

Gunner              SGT.  Melvin .E.Warren                 K.I.A

Turret Gunner     SGT. Edward Hilgeman                 Survived

Radio Op           SGT. Carl Smith                          Survived

0-751363 -Denning, from  Oklahoma.

0-751592- Lanphere, from  Arkansas,


38213631- Warren, from New Mexico,

were all Posthumously awarded the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart.

All 3 are buried at :

The Cambridge American War Cemetery, Cambridge UK.

There are no records of any burials of the other 5 dead Crew members .It is assumed that they were taken back to the U.S for burial as they do not appear as M.I.A on any records

There is no Memorial at the crash site for the dead.

Goodnight lads. God bless.

written by Phil Hodges.



  1. Robert J. Lanphere : maidstone | 8 years ago

    1lt Claude Lanphere was my brother. I visited his grave site in Cambridge.

    • The Militaria Network Post Author : maidstone | 8 years ago

      Sorry to hear that. If you have any more information about this we would love to hear from you!

    • mr |B.B.Payne : maidstone | 3 years ago

      I went with my pal to the crash site next day and we got a lot of stuff before the guard arrived, loads of .5 ammo, nav lights from the wing tips etc ets,

  2. Jim : maidstone | 6 years ago

    Two relatives of Sgt. Bart stopped by yesterday. His name came up during a conversation. I turned to the internet for something I could share with them, and I found this article for them. They found it remarkable to be able to read the account of what happened. Sgt. Bart’s head stone is near their father’s (WW2 veteran, United States Army) in New York. Sgt. Bart was 21.

  3. vernon Kennard : maidstone | 6 years ago

    My uncles attended the crash site as Air Raid Wardens and I ,aged 8 went next day. The debris still smouldered but on the cliff top was the tail section with the gun turret intact and we were told the gunner survived. Meanwhild thea Walrus amphibian was patrolling offshore fruitlessly it seems. The were hundreds of spent cartridge cases scattered around

  4. vernon kennard : maidstone | 3 years ago

    as explained above we attended the next day with my uncle who was a rescue worker

  5. Rissa Andres : maidstone | 2 years ago

    The pilot, Harold Larson, was my great uncle. He was buried in Pingree, ND, in July 1948

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