FIRST LIEUTENANT CHARLES L. STEVENSON was born in Pennsylvania on May 23, 1920 to Howard and Elinor Stevenson. His father, in 1930 was working as a draftsman in an electric shop. By the time Howard was three the family had moved to New Jersey, and at the time of the 1930 Federal census the family had moved to South Barrett Avenue in Audubon NJ. Besides Charles, there were two older brothers, Edwin R. and Howard Russell, and a younger sister, Eleanor. He graduated from Audubon High School and was attending the Drexel Institute School of Engineering in Philadelphia when he joined the Army Air Force in February of 1942. Shortly before going overseas in 1943 he had married Grace Lohring of Clementon NJ. His last stateside address was 327 Lake Avenue, in Clementon NJ.
Lieutenant Stevenson trained as a navigator and flew with a bomber crew led by its pilot, Lieutenant Charles W. "Smithy" Smith. Other members of the crew were Co-Pilot: 2nd Lt Merle P. Brown, Bombardier 2nd Lieutenant Herman F. Allen, Engineer Sgt Carl A. "Tiny" Heuser, Radio operator Sergeant Victor R. Marcotte, Waist gunners Sergeant Donald S. Courson and Joseph S. Paul, Tail gunner Sergeant R.B. Trumble, and Ball Turret gunner Sergeant Thomas E. Stillson.
Assigned to the 306th Bomber Group, he was based in Thurleigh, England. Flying a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, he was killed in action while serving with the 306th Bomber Group on January 11, 1944. On this date, without fighter escort and in the face of powerful opposition, the 306th completed an assault against fighter aircraft factories at Halberstatdt in central Germany. The American bombers met fierce opposition in the form of anti-aircraft fire and and estimated 500 enemy fighters. 60 aircraft were lost on this raid. The 306th Bomb Group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for this mission.
Charles L. “Steve” Stevenson was the navigator and flew side by side with bombardier Herman Allen in “the nose” of the B-17, and they became close friends.
On January 11, 1944, Herman Allen did not fly with his crew, as he was out with a broken ear drum. The Charles Smith crew was assigned to a B-17 known as “Weary Bones”, with Lieutenant Burton C. Gustafson replacing Lieutenant Allen in the nose .
During these attacks, the nose of Weary Bones was struck by shell fire. The bombardier called on the intercom: “The navigator has been hit!” He was the only crew member close enough to give aid to his wounded comrade but Charles Stevenson died instantly. Lieutenant Smith wrote in the year 2000 that “the horror of those few seconds during the afternoon of January 11, 1944 still remains to haunt the surviving crew members of Weary Bones."
Herman Allen was deeply affected by this. If not for his ear drum he would have been sitting next to Stevenson. He wrote soon afterward:
WE WILL REMEMBER
… And we shall say to him, when we meet once again “over there” … “There were no tears, we bowed our heads, each with a silent prayer, each with a personal thought … through each flight you were with us, in spirit, in guidance, as it always was …
We will remember with each bomb dropped, each mile flown, each letter written … yes, Steve, we will remember”.
In memory of Charles Stevenson, Navigator, killed in action January 11, 1944, Halberstadt Mission.
On March 6, 1944, with new navigator Lieutenant Stanley Buck, the Charles Smith crew was assigned to take the B-17 Liberty Lady on a raid against Berlin. Two engines were damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Lieutenant Smith managed to fly his damaged aircraft as far as the island of Gotland, in neutral Sweden, where he and the rest of his crew were interned until the end of the war.
Lieutenant Burton C. Gustafson, the bombardier that replaced Herman Allen that day, was shot down on May 24, 1944 on a mission to Berlin and was taken prisoner. He was held until the end of the war at Stalag 7A, Moosburg, Bavaria.
Lieutenant Charles Stevenson's death was reported in the February 12, 1944 edition of the Camden Courier-Post. He was brought home after the war ended. He was survived by his wife, Grace L. Stevenson, his parents, of 255 South Barrett Avenue, Audubon, his sister, and his brothers, who also were serving in the Army Air Force. He was buried at Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly NJ on July 16, 1948.
Five members of Audubon High School's 1937 graduating class were also lost while serving in America's military during World War II. Besides Charles Stevenson, the dead include Charles Adamson, George Riggin, Edwin Klenk, and Peter Albano.
Sincere Thanks to Pat DiGeorge, the child of Herman F. Allen for help in creating this page.
Pat is has
started a website and is writing a book about her parents wartime
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