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Debut for Debach

It was the very first combat mission for the 493rd Bomb Group, based in Debach, England. Thirty-six B-24’s took off for their target on June 6, 1944. But when they reached their objective, a road and railroad crossing at Lisieux, France, it was completely covered by cloud.

The decision was made for the group to return to England without dropping their ordnance. Somewhere over the English Channel, at 10:28 AM, two of the B-24’s collided.  A witness stated “the right wing of A/C (aircraft) 471 struck the tail of A/C 789.  A/C 471 was seen to disintegrate and both A/C 471 and A/C 789 were seen to disappear into the overcast.  One to two chutes were seen out of both A/C 471 and A/C 789.

There is little left to say except to record the names of the crews of the two B-24s. Of the 20 men, only one, Sergeant James D. Tuohy, of Elizabeth, NJ, survived.

These men were:

A/C 471

  • 1st Lieutenant Donald L. Russell (Detroit, MI)
  • 2nd Lieutenant Lester J. Pavel (Solon, IA)
  • 2nd Lieutenant Kenneth E. Lebl (Chicago, IL)
  • 2nd Lieutenant George W. Sharman (Wyomissing, PA)
  • Technical Sergeant Roscoe E. Wilson (Tyler, TX)
  • Technical Sergeant Billy M. Hollingsworth (Mexia, TX)
  • Staff Sergeant Tony Caddell (Dallas, TX)
  • Staff Sergeant William P. Smith (Russellville, AL)
  • Staff Sergeant Charles M. Bujtor (Cleveland, OH)
  • Sergeant Dallas L. Kincaid (Hastings, NB)

A/C 789

  • Captain Jack D. Cooper (Phoenix, AZ)
  • 2nd Lieutenant Frank M. Hanock (Toledo, OH)
  • Flight Officer Joseph L. Montague (Denver, CO)
  • 2nd Lieutenant James C. Dillon (Troy, NY)
  • 2nd Lieutenant Carl A. Nord (Atlantic, IA)
  • Technical Sergeant John E. Erickson (Clatskanie, OR)
  • Staff Sergeant Orley W. Mills (Garden City, MO)
  • Sergeant James D. Tuohy (Elizabeth, NJ)
  • Sergeant Earl D. Koenig (Underwood, ND)
  • Sergeant Cornelius Snoey (Spokane, WA)

Aside from the one survivor, none of these men’s remains were ever recovered.

  1. Ricky G.WellsRicky G.Wells02-16-2015

    Dear Mr. Bill Beigel.My name is Ricky G.Wells . I reside in northeast Mississippi.I’ve been doing some research on an event that occurred on June 6 1944 (D-day).My uncle was William H. Smith (s/no 14182140 s/sgt)and was a nose turret gunner on a/c 471 B-24 liberator.I came across your article named “DEBUT FOR DEBACH” and found it to be extremely interesting.The midair collision between a/c 471 and a/c 789 somewhere over the English Channel I noticed that only one survived,a Sergeant James D. Touhy.During my early childhood my grandmother would talk to me about this tragic event.She had this old cedar chest which she keep all of his personal effects stored for safe keeping.The Army Air Corps forwarded these items several months after the event.As a young teenager I would spend countless hours reading his training manuels .During the conversations my grandmother and I would have about this event we’d often think if it was possible anyone had lived.I would be very thankful if you could direct me to any websites,books or any other material for research.They where and all ways well be “TRUE AMERICAN HEROS” AND “AMERICAS GREATEST GENERATION”. Thanks.RickyG. Wells

    • Darren JelleyDarren Jelley01-28-2016

      we, at the 493rd BG Museum in Debach, England, hold a comprehensive set of documents for all of the men who served with the 493rd.
      regarding James Tuohy, we have been unable to locate any information to prove that he survived.
      If Ricky would like to contact us he can do so, either through our website or direct via myself I can forward hi uncles paperwork

      best regards

      Darren Jelley
      Archivist
      493rd BG Museum
      Debach England.

      • Bill BeigelBill Beigel01-30-2016

        The American Battle Monuments Commission says that Tuohy did not survive the collision; however, the Missing Air Crew Report associated with the loss of his plane says he did. I wonder if anyone has conclusive evidence one way or the other? Best, Bill

        • Darren JelleyDarren Jelley01-31-2016

          Hi Bill

          I have been looking at James Tuohy’s records for a while now. Including numerous searches on Ancestry.com I have not found one piece of evidence to prove he survived, and according to all military records he is listed as MIA/KIA
          there is only that one entry on the MACR showing EUS but normally he would have been interviewed to find out what happened. there is no such interview on record.

          Best Darren

    • Bill BeigelBill Beigel01-30-2016

      Hi Ricky:

      I’d like to hear more about your research on your uncle, William H. Smith. From a research perspective, I might be able to add a lot more to your understanding of him and his service. Best, Bill

  2. Tony BillinghamTony Billingham12-08-2016

    Hi Bill,
    My uncle is Lt James C Dillion of Troy, NY. Thanks a lot for keeping this information. I always wanted to know what happened.
    It is great to see all of the names of those who gave their lives that day. I am proud of all of them.

    • James dillonJames dillon10-23-2017

      Tony,
      This is James Cannon Dillon your cousin.
      Very proud of our uncle as well. I sent this info to my father today. 10/21/2017
      Jim Dillon

      • Tony BillinghamTony Billingham12-12-2017

        Hello Jim Dillon,
        Nice to see your name pop up on this history web site thanks to Bill. I haven’t seen you since you were around 5. Give my best to the family especially Gene. Tell him I always had a spot in my heart for him. I live in Temecula, Ca. If you get out this way drop in.

        Cousin Tony

        PS. We will keep Brud Dillon’s memory alive.

        • Bill BeigelBill Beigel12-12-2017

          Nice to see the family connection at this time of year! Best, Bill

  3. James dillonJames dillon10-23-2017

    Bill
    Thanks for this history . I remember reading the letters to my grandfather about the collision and James Cannon Dillon being missing in action. From time to time I would search for information
    and you provided a new insight. I am the proud holder of his purple heart.
    Sincerely,
    James Cannon Dillon II

    • William BeigelWilliam Beigel11-27-2017

      Hi James: so glad that this information was meaningful to you. Let me know what you have turned up on 2nd LT Dillon. Best, Bill

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