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T/Sgt John W Belcher Birth 10/15/1916 - DOW 04/11/1944

 

click on imageS/Sgt John Belcher was born in Ironton OHIO on oct 15, 1916. John lived at Ironton with his parents. His father was Harlan Belcher (°Sep 16,1884 +Febr 1970) and his mother Mattie Roden Belcher. He graduated from Ironton High School in class 1936. John was working at the Henrite Products Corporation in Ironton OH prior before entering at the Army service. John was an active member of the Central Christian Church, having served as president and treasurer of his Sunday school Class.
John enlisted in the Army at Huntington West Virginia on 02/11/1942.
He was assigned to the Airforce and was trained for Radio operator on a Bomber Crew.
He was assigned to the Widness Crew and they flew the B-24H "Our Baby" overseas arriving on 14 February, 1944.
On 04/04/1944 he was a replacement on the Thieme crew as Radio operator and right waist gunner on that fatal mission #40. After release of the bombs the B-24 was attacked by enemy fighters and hit by Flak near the target Bucharest. John was severly wounded and unconscious while the plane was on fire. His new mate James O'Neal has helping him to attach theYearbook 1936 chute and to bail out. They falled on the other side of the Danube near the town of Ruse Bulgaria. Unfortunately he was very wounded at his head and stomach and he was carried to the civilian hospital at Ruse Bulgaria. 7 Days later on the 11th April, 1944 at 08:PM he died of his wounds and was buried on a civil cemetery at Ruse Bulgaria on the April 13th, 1944. On April 22, 1944 Johns' father, Harlan Belcher received the dreaded MIA telegram
not knowing if he was alive or not.
On April 26th, 1946 John was reburied at the American Cemetery of Slatina at Sofia, Bulgaria at 09:AM on Plot A, Row 5, grave 55 with a wooden cross on the top of the grave. Later his remains were moved to the American Cemetery at Nettuno east of Anzio in Italy and reburied on the Nov 11th, 1946 at 04:30PM John Belcheron Plot 2X, Row 89, grave 6967.
T/Sgt John Belcher was repatriated on demand of next of kin to theJohn and friendsUSA and on August 19th,1948 left the railstation at 11:15AM of Columbus, OH and arrived in Ironton, OH railstation at 03:17PM.
On 08/20/1948 John was buried with full Military honors on the Woodland Cemetery Ironton. John Belcher was survived by his father, two brothers and two sisters Stanley (°Okt 4,1906 + May 1969),Thomas (+July 1995), Frances (°May 8,1914 +Jan 1970) and Mary (° April 1, 1920 +April 27, 1997.
T/Sgt John Belcher was awarded recieved posthumous with the Airmedal "For meritorius achievement in areal flight while participating in sustained operational activitis against the enemy from 22 February 1944 to 2 March 1944." See here the document for this Award.

At Ironton, OH home of the first Memorial Day parade, his name is on the Memorial Wall along the Ohio river for all the casualties of War .

Memorial Ironton OH Memorial Ironton OHName of T/Sgt John Belcher

T/Sgt John Belcher's grave, MACR pages and articles on The Ironton Tribune 18&19 Aug 1948.

Grave T/Sgt John W BelcherMACR pageMACR pageIronton Tribune 18 Aug 1948Ironton Tribune 19 Aug 1948World War II Memorial

Special thanks to Sally Jones and her mother for the photos of John Belcher.


Below an excerpt from the diary of 2ndLT Robinson Lorin E. co-pilot in Widness crew, received this by his son Lorin which I heartily thank.

Hi Philippe


I can confirm that my father served in the 719th Squadron 449th Bomb Group operating from Grottaglie, Italy. I have his diary and can provide you with some relevant information.  Let me say first that he and Adolph Ornstein were particularly good friends. He is referred to as "Dolph" throughout the diary. John Belcher is referred to as "our radio operator" and only mentioned in the context of the April 4, 1944 incident. There is no mention of a "Widness" in his diary. But it was fairly informal. He did reference an "Andy" and a "Bruce"(Navigator F/O Bruce Curry) frequently , but never mentioned their last names. 

I will quote directly from the diary below:

April 4, 1944

2ndLT Robinson Lorin E."The crew as a whole did not fly, but three of our crew members flew on different crews as replacements. One of them came back. Our bombardier, Adolph Ornstein of N.Y.C. and John Belcher of Ohio, our radio operator, went down over enemy territory.  The mission was to Bucharest, Romania. Our group was the only one that got through to the target because of clouds. There were only 28 ships in our formation and no fighter escorts and the formation was attacked by 60 to 65 fighters. However, our boys accounted for 35 to 45 fighters during the one hour and 20 minutes of fighting. We have reason to believe that Ornstein and Johnny bailed out. At least we certainly hope so. We were all pretty blue at first, but it doesn't do to think about it too much."

May 29, 1944

"...Heard yesterday that Lynch, a co-pilot from Burley, Idaho, who went down over Bucharest April 4 on the same ship as Dolph, our bombardier, is a prisoner of war in Rumania, so there's a good that Dolph got out OK, too."

Later in his diary, Dad wrote a number of lengthy observations. Among them was the following more detailed accounting of the April 4 raid:

"The other day on a raid to Bucharest, Rumania, our squadron lost five ships out of eight ships that we sent.  Flying as waist gunner of Ship #6 was John W. Belcher, the radio man on our crew. He went down with that ship. Flying on Ship#11 was Adolph Ornstein, our bombardier.  He went down with that ship. Needless to say, losing these men was a shock to us because they are the first men on our crew to go down on a mission. Their ships went down as a result of enemy fighter action. But the important thing to note here is that they went down only after taking a toll of the fighters that were attacking them.

"The conditions surrounding this particular mission were unusual and were obviously2ndLT Lori Robinson. conducive to losses. It seems that there were many groups of ships supposed to go on this raid, but all of the groups except ours had to return early because of bad weather and a heavy overcast they were not able to get through. However, our group of 28 B-24s found a hole in the clouds are were able to continue on the mission not knowing that all the rest of the ships had turned back. They did not have fighter protection and immediately after leaving the target were attacked by 60 to 65 enemy yellow-nosed fighters. A bomber crew hates to see a squadron of yellow-nosed enemy fighters on their tail because they are Hermann Goehring's prize ships and the pilots are Germany's best.

"Because of the fact there were so few bombers, the fighters were particularly aggressive and concentrated their attack on the low flight which was made up of the ships from our squadron. The boys put up a damn good fight and accounted form 35-45 fighters. Our ball turret gunner was with #10 and returned OK. Ship #10 was accredited with nine fighters, one of which was shot down by our gunner. We have reason to believe that our bombardier and radio man bailed out of their ships OK because the pilot of #10 reported seeing a man bail out of the nose wheel door of #100 and the co-pilot of #10 reported seeing the left waist gunner bail out of #6 which could have been Johnny....

"It is hard to describe the reaction of the rest of the men in our squadron when these losses became known. As for myself, I so shocked that I could hardly speak for a few minutes. If it had only been one or two ships, it would have been bad enough, but five ships was...a catastrophe.....Looking at it in terms of men we lost--20 officers and 30 enlisted men."

I hope this information will be of some value to you.

Dad flew and, obviously, survived 51 missions. He stayed in the Air Force, fought in Korea and retired in the mid-60s after serving as U.S. Air Attache to the Argentine Air Force in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, he died of lung cancer at age 55. Smoking was a nasty habit he picked up in the military.


Best regards,




Any information on the story and pictures of this man are welcome.