Dec. 24, 1944 Aywaille Arrondissement de Liθge Liθge, Belgium
First Lieutenant Gordon R. Tomea Jr, Army serial number O-815597, was born in New Jersey on January 24, 1920. His parents were Gordon R. Tomea Sr (1898 1977) and Anna Tomea (1897 1982). He completed three years of high school, and worked in a semiskilled occupation in trades and services. He was single, without dependents, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort Dix, New Jersey, on March 23, 1942. His home of record was 6-14 Sixth Street, Fair Lawn, Bergen County, New Jersey. After enlistment, he married Helen M. (Backes) Tomea and had a son, Gordon R. Tomea III, who was born in Passaic, New Jersey, on February 14, 1944.
He completed Army Air Forces pilot training, and was assigned as copilot on the heavy bomber crew of Lt Ira L. Ball, in the 836th Bomb Squadron of the 487th Bomb Group. This Group was based at U.S. Army Air Forces Station 137, near the village of Lavenham, Suffolk, England, and was part of the 8th U.S. Army Air Force in Europe. Here is the roster of the Ira L. Ball crew on December 24, 1944:
B-17G 43-37569 836th Bomb Squadron (839th Bomb Squadron aircraft) Ball, Ira L 1/Lt Pilot KIA Tomea Jr, Gordon R 1/Lt Copilot KIA Sperber, Harold P 1/Lt Navigator Safe Broom, John C 1/Lt Bombardier Safe Parks, Warren H T/Sgt Engineer KIA Lull, Robert H T/Sgt Radio Operator KIA Gaudin Jr, Duffy J S/Sgt Ball Turret Gunner KIA Conery, John J S/Sgt Waist gunner KIA Becker, Cuno V 1/Lt Officer Tail Gunner KIA
On December 24, 1944, the 8th Air Force launched mission #760, the largest aerial mission of the war, which involved more than 2000 heavy bombers. The mission was to bomb German airfields and supply lines, to stop the German offensive in the Ardennes known as the Battle of the Bulge. The 487th Bomb Group led the entire 8th Air Force on this mission. Lt Ball's crew flew B-17G 43-37569 in the number five position of the 487th Bomb Group's Low Squadron. The 487th Bomb Group's target was the airfield at Babenhausen, Germany, but the formation was attacked by German fighters before reaching the target. Lt Ball and six of his crew mates were killed in action when their aircraft was shot down by German fighters south of Liege, Belgium. The aircraft broke up, and most of the wreckage fell in the Ambleve River at Gouffre d'Aywaille, at about 50.4763°N, 5.6577°E. (Gouffre d'Aywaille is the gulf of the Ambleve River near Aywaillea wider, deeper section of the river just west of Aywaille.) The tail section fell near the hamlet of Septroux.
Lt Tomea's remains were returned to the United States and reinterred at Calvary Cemetery in Paterson, New Jersey, on November 10, 1947. He is buried next to his parents in Section 25, Lot 8, Grave B.
He is honored with a marker at Fair Lawn Memorial Park in Fair Lawn, Bergen County, New Jersey.
A monument to the Ira L. Ball crew was dedicated at Aywaille, Belgium on December 19, 2015. The monument is the result of efforts by 40-45 Memories Museum of Aywaille and its founder, Mr. Frιdιric Winkin.
Sources: 1. 487th Bomb Group Association 2. Cemetery records of Calvary Cemetery in Paterson, New Jersey 3. de Jong, Ivo. The History of the 487th Bomb Group (H). Paducah KY: Turner Publishing, Oct 2004 4. Enlistment Record of Gordon R. Tomea Jr 5. Obituary of Gordon R. Tomea III (14 Feb 1944 15 Jul 2010), son of Gordon R. Tomea Jr 6. U.S. Army Air Forces Missing Air Crew Report 11559 7. U.S. War Department. World War II Honor List of Dead and Missing Army and Army Air Forces Personnel. Washington, D.C., June 1946 8. Vlan (Belgian newspaper). 19 Nov 2015. (Article about a monument to the Ira L. Ball crew dedicated on 19 Dec 2015; provided by Monsieur Benoξt Noλl of Aywaille, Belgium)
Research by: Paul Webber Secretary, 487th Bomb Group Association Find A Grave member ID 47577572