After much fruitless research to find surviving relatives to attend the unveiling of the B-17 memorial in Redlingfield in 2010, people linked with nine of the ten brave young US airmen who lost their lives in the crash have since been in touch with the village’s parish council and the 95th Bomb Group in the UK and US.
The most recent to get in touch was a lady whose mother was a friend 2nd Lt. Joseph Spicer the bombardier on B-17G 42-31123 which crashed at Green Farm. She is in touch with Philip Samponaro through the 95th Facebook page.
We have also been in touch with relatives of eight of the airmen from the 334th Bombardment Squadron B-17. The most recent relative to get in touch was Karen Walsh, whose uncle was Sgt Julius William “Buddy” Torok, and Patrick Flynn, a relative of S/Sgt Gordon V Sorensen, and the crewman's niece Jennifer Sorensen Flynn. Karen has kindly sent us a picture of Sgt Torok taken in 1932 (left) and her parents' wedding photograph. Karen's mother and father are on the right side of the photograph, and Julius (her mother's brother) and Peggy (her mother's sister) are on the left. Julius was her father's best man, and Peggy was maid of honour (picture below).
Karen wrote: “Although I never knew my Uncle Buddy (I was born after World War II), my mother spoke of him often and told me what had happened to him. Still, the details were quite sketchy until I came across your website! It truly has a wealth of information about the crew and their ill-fated airplane, as well as the local people who were affected. It has been most interesting (and sad) to read all of it. Thank you so much!”
When Tracey Mogan Googled the name Richard Diete – her grandmother’s brother – she was “shocked and honoured” to find the memorial had been set up for the ten airmen who died when their the Flying Fortress which crashed in the village on November 19th 1943. She wrote: “My great grandmother (Richard's mom) would be so honoured and proud”.
Robert Czarnecki, whose wife is S/Sgt Kenneth Cosby’s niece, passed pictures and information on to author Rob Morris, whose website had featured the Redlingfield crash. He then passed them on to James.
The village and other websites have now put us in touch with relatives of – Sgt Julius William “Buddy” Torok, waist gunner; S/Sgt Gordon V Sorensen, radio operator; 2nd Lt Kenneth B Rongstad, pilot; 2nd Lt Warren Franklin Mansfield Strawn, co-pilot; 2nd Lt Richard E Diete, navigator; S/Sgt Gail A Richmond Junior, top-turret gunner/flight engineer; Sgt Charles E Phinney, ball turret gunner; and S/Sgt Kenneth Cosby, tail gunner.
Linda Rongstad Shepherd, niece of the pilot, 2nd Lt Kenneth Rongstad, and the brother of Staff Sgt Gail A Richmond Junior, the top-turret gunner/flight engineer, Robert 'Bob' Richmond and his wife Connie also tracked us down online. They join Ralph Schimmel, a nephew of Sgt Charles E Phinney, from Schenectady in New York who found out about the memorial, landing on our website, while researching his uncle. His younger brother, a commercial airline pilot and former military pilot, visited the accident site several years ago while in the UK.
Marcia A Moyer, the niece of 2nd Lt Warren Mansfield Strawn, also landed on the Redlingfield village website. Thanks to Marcia we now have a wealth of material about her uncle and pictures of the crew.
Co Pilot Lt. Warren Mansfield Strawn’s niece Marcia Moyer, nephew Danny and partner Ninette have now visited the memorial as have Crystal Gray, who's uncle was 2nd Lt. Richard E. Diete, and her partner John Spitzer.
The only member of the crew who remains a complete mystery is left waist gunner Sgt Louis M Mirabel.