1Lt Eugene Finch Aldridge

1Lt Eugene Finch Aldridge

Birth
Perrysburg, Wood County, Ohio, USA
Death 12 May 1944 (aged 23)
Kamberg, Kreis Euskirchen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Burial Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Memorial ID 56296252 · View Source
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Father: Percy Leroy ALDRIDGE
Mother: Jemima Ferne OTTO

Eugene Finch Aldridge enlisted in the US Army on 4 Mar 1942 at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. The record of his enlistment indicates that he had one year of high school education and that he was semi-skilled in machine shop and other related occupations. His Eugene Finch Aldridge enlisted in the US Army on 4 Mar 1942 at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. The record of his enlistment indicates that he had one year of high school education and that he was semi-skilled in machine shop and other related occupations. His enlistment rank was Private. He was selected for pilot training in the US Army Air Corp and became a B-17 Bomber co-pilot. He was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant and assigned to the 413th Bomber Squadron, 96th Bomber Division and stationed at Station 138, Snetterton Heath Army Air Base, County Norfolk, England. As part of the 8th Air Force, his unit attacked shipyards, harbors, railroad yards, airdromes, oil refineries, aircraft factories, and other industrial targets in Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. His Group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for withstanding severe assault by enemy fighters to bomb the vital aircraft factories at Regensburg on 17 Aug 1943. They received another DUC for leading the 45th Combat Bomber Wing a great distance through heavy clouds and intense anti-aircraft fire to raid important aircraft component factories in Poland on 9 Apr 1944. He was killed during the 96th Bomb Group mission 126 (a portion of 8th Air Force mission 353). The target was Zwickau, Czechoslavakia. He was listed as missing in action along with eleven others. My father, Donald Aldridge, Eugene's brother, told me this was Gene's 23rd mission and that during World War II, air crewmen could go home after 25 missions and that he had volunteered to ride as tail gunner on this particular mission, as the crew of this plane was missing a tail gunner. However, official Army records show that he was flying as co-pilot and their was a tail gunner on board (see below). Most likely, since Lt Col Marcus Lemley, the mission commander was also on the plane, Lemley may well have been sitting in the co-pilot's seat and Lt. Aldridge took a seat with the tail gunner. Actually, on June 9, 1944, they increased the requirement to 30 missions and 35 for the "newbees." He was awarded the Purple Heart (post humus), Air Metal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Silver Star. He is buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, The Netherlands, Section H, Row 9, Plot 25. The following is from the website "8th Air Force MIA Aircraft. "#42-97654 - B-17G Group Squadron Sq Code A/C Code 96BG413BS [96th Bomb Group, 413 Bomb Squadron] MIA 1944-05-12 - MACR #: 4861 Notes 42-97654 Delivered: Denver 18/1/44; 1SAG Langley 14/2/44; Presque Is 13/3/44; Assigned: 413BS/96BG [MZ-J] Snetterton 14/4/44; MIA Brux 12/5/44 Pilot: Capt Jim Knupp, Radio Operator: Manuel Rueben (2POW); Co-Pilot: Gene Aldridge, Navigator: Chester Schultz, Bombardier: Max Helderman, Engineer / Top Turret Gunner: Dorcy Waters, m/op-Lt Irwin Melgin, Waist Gunner: John Emory, Tail Gunner: Bill Cannon, Lt Col Marcus Lemley {mission pilot} (8KIA); Enemy aircraft KOd #3 and #4, crashed between Kamberg and Taunus, Germany. MACR 4861. Source B-17 Master Log - Dave Osbourne Paraphrased from the Book, The Snetterton Falcons, The 96th Bomb Group in WWII". page 134 begins the description of activities in May 1944. It's titled "Massacre Month" with good justification as a great deal of bombing in preparation for "D" Day on June 6, 1944. The effort was to cripple if not destroy the enemy transportation and supply system. Additionally, there were about 100 enemy airfields within 350 miles of the Normandy beachhead. And, this was the month of the Chattanooga Choo Choo missions (railroad yards, tracks and stations). Also, there were the in-numerable bridges to be severed. The 96th had lost ten aircraft in an attempt to bomb Berlin on May 8th and had lost 26 in April. The mission on May 12th proved to be the veritable straw that almost broke the camel's back. They lost twelve more aircraft including 42-97654, Gene's plane. In all, the 8th Air Force lost 46 bombers on May 12th. Their were 15 Combat Bombardment Wings (including the 45CBW - 96th, 388th and 452nd Bomb Groups) and nearly 900 B-17 and B-24 bombers and fighter aircraft involved in the days attacks. The target, Zwickau, Czechoslovakia was a record distance from Snetterton. Twenty six B-17's were dispatch from the 96th for this target. In the lead was 42-97654, a PFF (Pathfinder Force). Gene's plane was a “Mickey Ship”. Mickey was the code name for a new invention known as radar. The ball turret was replaced by a radar unit and operator and these ships led the formations as “Pathfinders” to be able to bomb through smoke and cloud cover and when positive target identification could not be made. It was a big deal in those days. They were very important ships. Also, they were primary targets for the Luftwaffe as they knew what their purpose was. They had dropped their bombs on Zwickau and were returning home when they were attacked by some 40 to 50 German fighter planes. The time was 12:10 PM. The lead PFF of the 413th, 42-97654, went down in a tight spiral with the right wing cut off at the #4 engine and was on fire. The plane crashed at 12:15 in an open pasture near Kamberg, Germany. Captian Knupp and Radio Operator Rueben survived and were taken prisoners. The remaining eight of the crew were killed. Following is the activity of the 8th Air Force on that fateful day. FRIDAY, 12 MAY 1944 STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force): Mission 353: 886 bombers and 735 fighters are dispatched to hit oil production facilities in Germany and Czechoslovakia; there is strong Luftwaffe fighter reaction and 46 bombers and 7 fighters are lost: 1. 326 B-17s are dispatched to Mersenburg (224 bomb) and Lutzkendorf (87 bomb); 1 hits Hedrongen and 1 bombs Bullstadt; 2 B-17s are lost, 3 damaged beyond repair and 189 damaged; 4 airmen are KIA, 6 WIA and 20 MIA. 2. 295 B-17s are dispatched to Brux, Czechoslovakia (140 bomb) and Zwickau (74 bomb); 11 hit Chemnitz, 14 hit Gera marshalling yard, 15 hit Hof and 4 hit targets of opportunity; 41 B-17s are lost, 1 is damaged beyond repair and 162 damaged; 3 airmen are KIA, 8 WIA and 377 MIA. 3. 265 B-24s are dispatched to Zeitz (116 bomb) and Bohlen (99 bomb); 14 hit Mersenburg, 1 hits Ostend Airfield, Belgium and 12 hit targets of opportunity; 3 B-24s are lost, 5 damaged beyond repair and 61 damaged; 7 airmen are WIA and 33 MIA. Escort is provided by 153 P-38s, 201 P-47s and 381 P-51s; P-38s claim 2-0-0 Luftwaffe aircraft, P-47s claim 26-0-8 and P-51s claim 33-0-3 in the air and 5-0-2 on the ground; 4 P-47s and 3 P-51s are lost and 4 P-47s and 9 P-51s are damaged; 7 pilots are MIA. Mission 354: 5 of 5 B-17s drop 1.74 million leaflets on Denmark; 1 aircraft is damaged; 2 airmen are KIA and 3 WIA.

This biography was furnished by Richard Aldridge


Gravesite Details Entered the service from Ohio.

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: War Graves
  • Added: 6 Aug 2010
  • Find a Grave Memorial 56296252
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for 1Lt Eugene Finch Aldridge (14 May 1920–12 May 1944), Find a Grave Memorial no. 56296252, citing Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands ; Maintained by War Graves (contributor 6) .