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.
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.