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World War II Honor Roll

Sidney A. Benson

Second Lieutenant,
U.S. Army Air Forces

O-818558

862nd Bomber Squadron, 
493rd Bomber Group, Heavy

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: June 29, 1944
Buried at: 
Awards: Purple Heart

 

 

The photo above is the LITTLE WARRIOR (42-94812), caught by photographer Cliff Stocking at the moment its fuel tanks ignited. This photo has been published in many books and magazines.


SECOND LIEUTENANT SIDNEY A. BENSON was the son of Harry O. and Mary B. Benson. Sidney Benson grew up in Marblehead MA, where his parents lived at 34 Marion Road in 1930. He was a graduate of Marblehead High School. He was attending college at Duke University in North Carolina when he entered the United States Army in 1943.  Qualifying for duty in the Army Air Force, he was trained as a pilot, and was reported as being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on December 13, 1943 at Seymour IN. 

On April 25, 1944 he wrote a letter to a group back home in Marblehead, which was printed in the MARBLEHEAD MESSENGER, an eight page weekly paper..

Tuesday, April 25th

Marblehead Live Wire Committee

Dear Sirs:

 I want to thank you for the Messenger as it is greatly appreciated.  There isn’t much of this country I haven’t seen during the last year and a half, but the further I go and the more I see, the surer I am there is no place like Marblehead.  I’m piloting a “Liberator” and will be out of the “States” by the time you receive this note.

 Thanking you again, and hoping I can get the “Messenger” “Over there.”

 Sincerely,

 Lt. Sidney A. Benson

This is a letter from Benson to a group in town called the Live Wire Committee that was published in the Messenger.  The Committee’s purpose was to support Marblehead residents in the service.  They did this by giving each service man and woman from town an annual subscription to the Messenger and a five-dollar check at Christmas.  In turn, those in the service would write a thank you note via the paper.  It was a column titled “Letters from the Boys” and typically took up half of page three of the paper.  As you can see, Benson, himself says he is flying a B-24.- Sean Casey, December 2002

Lt. Benson and his crew went overseas shortly thereafter and were assigned to the 862nd Bomber Squadron, 493rd Bomber Group, Heavy. They were stationed at Station 152, Debach, Suffolk County, England. 

The 493rd was the last bomber group deployed to England. The first mission was flown on D-Day, June 6, 1944 to Liseaux, France. The 493rd Bomber group was equipped with B-24H Liberator heavy bombers. One of the B-24s was the LITTLE WARRIOR, serial number 42-94812. Built by Ford, this aircraft was brought to the United Kingdom by the 850th Bomber Squadron, 490th Bomb Group, before being transferred to the 493rd Bomb Group and renamed LITTLE WARRIOR.

On the 17th mission, an attack on the aero engine plant at Fallersleben, Germany, on Thursday, June 29th, 1944, Sidney Benson was serving as the co-pilot aboard LITTLE WARRIOR. The Missing Air Crew Report (MACR 6721) reads as follows:

"Aircraft No. 812 flying in the Number 3 position in A group received a direct flak hit near No. 3 Engine at 0939 hours in the target area just after bombs away. it was enveloped in flames from the nose to the rear of the bomb bays. It fell out of formation and disintegrated at about 10, 000 feet."

Eight of the crew were found dead on the ground by German authorities that morning, a ninth body was found later. The co-pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Sidney A. Benson of Marblehead MA was captured. Lt. Benson was murdered by being beaten to death by German Air Raid Wardens shortly after he  surrendered that morning. He died late that night after having been thrown first into a garage across from the hospital then into the TB ward. It was only in his last few minutes of life that he received any type of medical care. His killers were later located, tried, and imprisoned. The tenth crewmember's body was discovered in a field, badly burned on July 11, 1944, and buried with the rest of the crew of LITTLE WARRIOR.

Sidney Benson was reported missing in the Marblehead Messenger on July 13, 1944, and reported as killed in action in the same paper on October 5th. He was survived by his parents, and a sister, Harriet. His body was brought home to the United States after the war, and he was buried in Massachusetts.


493rd BOMB GROUP COMBAT MISSIONS
Flying B-24s, "Liberators"

Mission
Number

Target

Date
JUNE 1944

Flying Time

Target Type

1

Lisieux, France

06 (D-Day!)

6:35

 

2*

Tours, France

07

3:45

Airfield

3

Nantes, France

08

2:40

 

4

Flers, France

11

5:55

 

5*

Beauvais-Tille, France

12

6:05

Airfield

6

Laon-Athes, France

14

6:30

 

7*

Toussus-le-Noble, France

15

6:35

Airfield

8

Laval, France

17

7:10

 

9*

Misburg, Germany

20

7:15

Oil refinery

10

La Haye, France

20

5:10

 

11

Etampes-Mondesir, France

22

7:25

 

12

Coulommiers, France

23

6:35

 

13

Orleans-Bracy, France

24

6:00

 

14

St. Avold, France

25

7:05

 

15

Romilly-Sur-Seine, France

25

7:15

 

16

Melun, France

28

5:10

 

17

Fallersleben, Germany

29

7:20

  Aircraft Factory


The Crew of the LITTLE WARRIOR B-24 42-94812

Crew Position Name Rank Serial Number 
Pilot Hansen, John H.  2nd Lieutenant O-693976
Co-Pilot Benson, Sidney A.  2nd Lieutenant O-818558
Navigator Levy, Jerome 2nd Lieutenant O-703639
Bombardier Stich, Malcolm H. 2nd Lieutenant O-697746
Radio Operator* Gomillion, Billy B. Staff Sergeant 38424702
Engineer Polzin, Vernon J. Technical Sergeant 38367667
Ball Turret Gunner Aidala, Cyrus R. Staff Sergeant 32707915
Top Turret Gunner Boykowski, Walter A. Staff Sergeant 13171280
Nose Turret Gunner Haskell, Sylvanus G. Staff Sergeant 39297646
Flex Gunner Sanders, John E. Staff Sergeant 18191467

  *  -  Staff Sergeant Jose C. Romas 39277505 was the regular Radio Operator on this crew, 
he was sick so Gomillion flew in his place on this mission

The bodies of Lieutenants Hansen, Levy, Stich, and Sergeants Boykowski, Haskell, and Sanders were recovered by German authorities at the time of the crash. Lieutenant Benson survived the crash, but was badly beaten by German Air Raid Wardens, and died in hospital the following day. Those responsible for his injuries on the ground were found, tried for murder, convicted, and imprisoned after the war ended. A report dated July 1, 1944 stated that one crew member was killed, but his remains were unidentifiable, and one was taken prisoner. At that time one crew member apparently was unaccounted for, his body was located shortly thereafter. 


The Crew of LITTLE WARRIOR
Back Row


Jerome Levy
Sidney Benson
John Hansen
Malcolm Stich

*********

Front Row:

Cyrus Aidala
John Sanders
Walter Boykowski
Jose Romas
Sylvanus Haskell

Photo credit: Thelma Haskell via Brian Lindner.

The LITTLE WARRIOR - June 29, 1944

At 09:39 on 29 June 1944 at 20,000’ over Wolfsburg, Germany.  The plane nicknamed Little Warrior had been struck by a single flak round a split second before the photo was taken.

This is the most widely published view of Little Warrior.  Stocking snapped this photo then watched in terror as the blazing bomber veered towards his own plane.  LT Hansen, whose face appears through the front cockpit window as a light area in the photo managed to avoid a collision before losing control.  In the original, black & white, glossy, photo, the copilot, LT Benson, can be seen looking out his side window and directly into the lens of the camera.

The flak round penetrated the fuel tanks and caused the rear of the plane to be flooded with high octane fumes which ignited almost instantly.  Note the glow of the fire already beginning to show through the open bomb bay doors.  The plane plummeted out of control until it broke up at 10,000.’  Only LT Benson was able to get out and he was murdered by German Air Raid Wardens.

Photo credit: National Archives.

A Monument To The Crew Of LITTLE WARRIOR

Top Turret Gunner Sergeant Water A. Boykowski of Pittock (Stowe Township) PA, near Pittsburgh, was an only child. His parents donated the money to erect this monument in tribute of the entire crew of LITTLE WARRIOR, which stands outside an elementary school in McKee's Rocks PA today.

Photo by Kenton E. McElhattan



NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS ABOUT SIDNEY BENSON

From: Source Unknown: 12-16-43 (in a clipping file about World War II at the town library. Was either from the Salem News of the Lynn Evening Item)

 2ND LT. BENSON RECEIVES WINGS

 Seymour Indiana, December 13: Sidney A. Benson of 19 Elmwood Road was commissioned a second lieutenant and received his silver pilots wings at graduation ceremonies held recently at Freeman Army Field, Seymour.  He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry O. Benson.

From: Marblehead Messenger 7-13-44

 LIEUT. BENSON MISSING OVER GERMANY

 Lieut. Sidney Benson is reported as missing over Germany since late June.  The co-pilot of a Flying Fortress named “Shady Lady,” Lieut. Benson had been flying continuously since D-Day.  His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harry O. Benson of 19 Elmwood road, were notified by the government last Monday.

The Messenger was a weekly 8-page paper.  It often contains inaccuracies – either made by the paper or in information passed on to the paper.  Thus the mention that Benson was flying a B-17 and that it was named the Shady Lady. - Sean Casey, December 2002

From: Marblehead Messenger 10-5-44

SIDNEY BENSON KILLED IN ACTION

 Lt. Harry Benson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Benson of 19 Elmwood Road has been killed in action.  He was co-pilot of the Flying Fortress “Shady Lady” and had entered the service in 1943 after leaving Duke University and was a graduate of Marblehead High.  He went overseas in May 1944.

 This ran on page two of the paper, which means the information came in late (after that had laid out page 1).  Benson’s first name is incorrect, but this is probably not a typo.  It was a common custom in town to call a young man by his father’s first name.  My guess is the rest of the information they got from people other than the parents – old newspaper articles (thus the “Shady Lady” again) or what was generally known about him.- Sean Casey, December 2002


A Note of thanks to 
Brian Lindner, Bill Toombs, and Sean Casey
for providing much information on the LITTLE WARRIOR

and to Kristi Warab for graveyard photos


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