Joseph C. Thomas

Date of Birth:  November 23, 1919


Place of Birth:  Madison Township, Riley Co., Kansas


Father and Mother’s Names:  Glenn Andrew Thomas, Sr. and Mary Louisa (Johnson) Thomas


Date Entered Service:  April 10, 1942


Service Branch:  Army Air Corps


Rank/Specialty:  First Lieutenant, Pilot-B-17G Bomber (Heavy) #4297786 "The Hardway."


Service ID:  0-803308


Division/Company/Unit info:  729th Bomber Squadron, 452nd Bomber Group, 8th Air Force.


Riley Connection:  1920 - Lived in Madison Twp., Riley Co., Kansas. 1930-Lived in Riley, Kansas. 1940 - Lived at 910 Nth Manhattan Ave. in Manhattan, Kansas.


Date of Death (and Age):  May 12, 1944 (age 24)


Place of Death:   Plane hit by enemy fire and crashed near Merzhausen, Germany - KIA (Killed in Action).


Grave Location:  Riley Cemetery, Riley, Riley Co., Kansas.


Bio:  Joseph Charles Thomas was born on November 23, 1919 in Madison Twp., Riley Co., Kansas. to Glenn Andrew Thomas, Sr. and Mary Louisa (Johnson) Thomas.  He was raised to adulthood in Riley County.  On April 10, 1942, Joseph entered the Army Air Forces. He became a 1st Lieutenant attached to the 729th Bomber Squadron, 452nd Bomber Group, 8th Air Force.  Joseph was assigned as a Pilot for the B-17G Bomber stationed at the Army Airfield, Deopham Green, Norfolk, England.


Joseph flew 22 total missions in B-17G Bombers.  He was shot down April 20, 1944 in B-17G #4237956.  Plane ditched in Channel.  Returned to base. Shot down 12 May 1944 in B-17 #4297786 "The Hardway." Joseph was shot down by the enemy twice, the second being fatal.  He had flown 4 other bombing missions in May of 1944.  On May 7th and 8th 1944 he bombed targets in Berlin, Germany. On May 9th the targets were in Joulecourt, France.  On May 11th they dropped their bombs in Brussels, Belgium. On the 5th mission, May 12, 1944, Joseph and crew were ordered to fly over and bomb a chemical plant located at Brux, Czechslovakia.  His plane was hit by enemy fire en route.  As the plane spiraled down toward the ground, 6 of the crew were able to bail out, including Joseph.  Upon landing with their parachutes onto the ground, Joseph was killed by German small arms fire.  The 3 remaining crew perished at impact.  The 5 survivors were all taken to German POW camps.


"The Hardway" History:  Delivered Cheyenne 28/2/44; Denver 26/3/44; Kearney 4/4/44; Dow Fd 14/4/44; Assigned 729BS/452BG [M3- ] Deopham Green 22/4/44; Missing in Action Brux 12/5/44 with Joe Thomas, Bombardier: Jim Millsap, Ball turret gunner: Bill Hall,Tail gunner: Bob Meyers (4 Killed in Action); Co-pilot: Adrian Rose, Navigator: Harry Holley{Wounded in Action}, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Bill Strom, Radio Operator: Max Wolfe, Waist gunner: Arnold Fisher, Waist gunner: Jim Owens (6 Prisoner of War); enemy aircraft, crashed Merzhausen, nine miles E of Bad Camberg, Ger. Missing Air Crew Report 4823. "THE HARDWAY II."


The Aircrew:

Arnold Fisher, Staff Sergeant, Waist Gunner - Prisoner of War (POW).

William Hall, Private, Ball Turret Gunner - Killed in Action (KIA).

Harold Holley, Second Lieutenant, Navigator - Prisoner of War (POW).

James Millsa, Second Lieutenant, Bombardier - Killed in Action (KIA).

Robert Myers, Staff Sergeant, Tail Gunner - Killed in Action (KIA).

James Owens, Staff Sergeant, Waist Gunner -  Prisoner of War (POW).

Adrian Rose, Second Lieutenant, Co-Pilot -  Prisoner of War (POW).

Joseph Thomas, Lieutenant, Pilot - Killed in Action (KIA).

Maxwell Wolfe, Staff Sergeant, Radio Operator - Prisoner of War (POW).


Military Site: Deopham Green Army Airfield, Norfolk, England.  Deopham Green was another air base constructed after America's entry into the war to Class A standards for use by the B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber. When the 452nd Bomb Group arrived in January 1943 they found a main runway of 2,000 yards, two auxiliary runways, each 1400-yards in length, two T2-type hangars, 50 hardstandings and temporary buildings to accommodation nearly 3,000 men. The Group stayed for the rest of the war, flying 250 missions at the high cost of 110 lost bombers.



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