|Death: ||Jan., 1990|
Waist Gunner S/Sgt.William J. Donley, POW EVD.
Squadron: 565th BS 389th Bomb Group
Pilot 2/Lt Royce E.Smith, POW Klamath Fls, OR
Target Ludwigshafen, Germany
Missing Air Crew Report Details
USAAF MACR#: 1852
Date Lost: 7-Jan-44
Serial Number: 42-7593
Aircraft Model B-24H-1-FO
Aircraft Letter: P
Aircraft Name: BLUNDER BUS
Location: Crashed at Le Plesis, France ( Alternatively - near Orgères-en-Beauce in Eure-et-Loir )
Cause: German fighters 1 KIA, 7 POW, 2 EVD
The 389th BG flies home alone over France. German fighters make repeated attacks and the group loses four aircraft.
Following information supplied by French FAG member David Grassin.
The crash of the Blunder Bus is not at Le Plessis in Loir-et-Cher but near Orgères-en-Beauce in Eure-et-Loir on 7 January 1944.
There were 11 crew members.
Pilot : Royce E. Smith
co-pilot : Robert H. Hirsh
navigator : Duane C. Strayer
bombardier : Revis L. Smith
radio operator : Robert G. Hauger
Top turret gunner : James Dillon Jr. KIA
ball turret gunner : Thomas L. Burton
waist gunner : William J. Donley
waist gunner : Relius E. Nobles
Tail gunner : Edward J. Gilbert
Observer : Francis J. Thackray
James Dillon KIA in the plane.
Thomas Burton bailed out, but was wounded. The Germans captured him in a hospital.
Royce Smith, Robert Hirsh, Duane Strayer, William Donley, Relius Nobles, Edward Gilbert and Francis Thackray bailed out six members of this crew (P, CP, LWG, RWO, and OB) travelled to southern France via the French Resistance . Duane Strayer and his French guide were captured by the Germans at Toulouse. The remaining aircrew of this group set out to cross the Pyrenees mountains with a Spanish guide and two French resistance members who were escaping as well, about 20 miles south-east Bigorre the entire group was engulfed by a snow slide. Royce Smith excavated (unearthed ?) himself and saved several of the group. The Spanish guide, the two French Resistance members along with Francis Thackray were killed. On the third day they stumbled into a village in the mountains and were arrested by the French Police, who were willing to help them but were prevented because of the nearness of German patrols. Later all five were taken to Tarbes and then to Germany
Robert Hauger and Revis Smith bailed out both evaded capture with help of a different group of the French resistance. They traversed the Pyrenees mountains and successfully reached Spain.
David Grassen is a member of a French association that commemorates the Blunder Bus crew and on 7 September 2013 will make a commemoration in France as well as writing a book of the story of the crew.
Note:-Sgt Dillon Jr was buried in St Andre US Military Cemetery, Evreux. His final burial was in West Virginia. The
cannot be located on detailed maps and are possibly misspellings. The body of l/Lt Thackrey was recovered and he was interred in Luynes US Military Cemetery at Aix-en-Provence. He was later returned to Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Brllno, California.
Visit the virtual cemetery of the "BLUNDER BUS"" Crew
Note: Age 66
Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum
St. Louis City
Plot: 004B,, 18
Created by: T.V.F.T.H.
Record added: Mar 26, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 50252120