Blackwell, Thomas B. (P2, C1, L8)
Second Lieutenant Thomas Brooks Blackwell, 19, of Bowling Green, Warren County, perished on 16 December 1943, just two days before his twentieth birthday, when the B-17 he was serving as navigator crashed near the Dutch Coast, in Wadden Sea returning to his base at Snetterton Heath RAAF Base, England from a bombing mission to Bremen, Germany. He was serving with the 339th Bomb Squadron, 96th Bomber Group, Heavy and flying his 45th mission.
Blackwell was born at Clay, Webster County, Kentucky, on 18 December 1923. He enlisted in the Band Section, Service Company, 149th Infantry, at Bowling Green, Warren County, Kentucky, on 3 August 1938. His enlistment papers at the time listed his date of birth as 1920. He was honorably discharged as a Private, 26 September 1938, less than two months later. He probably lied about his age to enter the Guard and was discharged when it was discovered. He re-entered Service Company, 149th Infantry on 12 July 1939. Blackwell graduated from high school at Clay, Webster County and was attending Western Kentucky University pursuing a pre-medical degree when he was called to federal active duty with his unit. He was inducted into federal service 17 January 1941, with the 149th Infantry at Bowling Green, Kentucky. During his time on active duty he was transferred to the U. S. Army Air Corps, eventually being assigned to the 339th Bomb Squadron, 96th Bomber Group, Heavy.
In a letter to Blackwell’s parents from the War Department, dated 22 November 1946, the following information concerning their son’s death was provided:
. . . The Missing Air Crew Report identifies your son as a member of a crew of ten aboard a B-17 aircraft which was lost on an operational mission to Bremen, Germany on 16 December 1943. The aircraft was last sighted when it collided with another B-17 aircraft on the same mission near the Dutch Coast, in sub-zero weather. No parachutes were seen leaving either of the planes. Captured German records were searched for information regarding the two aircrafts in question, but contained no report on either of the crews. However, these records show that a number of planes were shot down on 16 December 1943 and that bodies of crew members were washed ashore along the coast of Germany and Holland subsequent to the date the aircrafts were lost but were not identifiable. In view of the above information and the lapse of time without any indication of the survival of Lieutenant Blackwell, it is only logical to conclude that he was killed in action on 16 December 1943 when his aircraft crashed into the Wadden Zee (Sea) off the northwest coast of Holland, too far from the coast to be rescued. . .
His name appears on the Tablets of the Missing, Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands.
Witness accounts say Blackwell’s group of aircraft were attacked by 15 Focke-Wulf Fw 190s, German single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft. Blackwell was aboard B-17G 42-31113 nicknamed “Zilch”. The fighters shot one engine off of his aircraft. The engine fell into the wing of a plane flying in formation below him, Blond Bomber 42-30872. Blond Bomber rose quickly while Zilch lost altitude. The aircraft tangled wings and both aircraft plunged into the sea.
There is a memorial headstone near his parents headstones located in Oak Grove Cemetery, Dixon, Webster County, Kentucky.
The other members of Blackwell’s aircrew who perished in the crash were: CPT Harold R. Mott; 2LT Harry E. Creutzman; 2LT Angus D. Stewart; T/SGT John Mancina; S/SGTPaul J. Santillan; S/SGT Leonard M. Branam; S/SGT Andrew R. Nichols and S/SGTWarren M. Sturdevant.
Lt. Blackwell’s Death Confirmed
Undated Unidentified Newspaper Clipping
The family of Lt. Thomas Blackwell has received from the War Department confirmation of his death on December 16, 1943, over the Wadden Zee off the northwest coast of the Netherlands. The record discloses he was the navigator of a B-17 Flying Fortress of the 96th Bomber Group of the 8th Air Force, returning from his 45th mission over Bremen, Germany. Upon being attacked by an enemy plane, his plane was damaged and after colliding with another damaged plane went down off the coast. He had previously been reported as missing.
Lt. Blackwell entered the service one year before the attack on Pearl Harbor, being a member of the National Guard, and had been overseas six months. He had received the following decorations: Air Medal, four oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star, Squadron Presidential Citation, and had ribbons for Good conduct, European Area, North African Theatre and American Theatre.
Lt. Blackwell was twenty years of age at the time of his death. He was born at Clay, and was a graduate of the Clay High School. At the time the National Guard was mobilized he was engaged in pre-medical work at Western Kentucky State Teachers College at Bowling Green. He was a member of the Dixon Baptist church where his family formerly resided, and where a memorial service was recently held for him.
He is survived by his parents Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Blackwell and two brothers Jerry Mack and Donnie, now of Bowling Green.