Memorial Day: Remembering My Grandfather, a WWII Bomber Pilot

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I am remembering my grandfather today who was a WWII Bomber Pilot. A member of the 449th Bomb Group, he was shot down and taken as a POW. My grandfather flew a bomber that they named "Reluctant Liz" after my grandmother, Elizabeth (Betty) Bontly. On April 4, 1944 known as 4/4/44, seven of the original planes from Bruning in the 449th were shot down in that single day. This event was immortalized in the paintings by artist Jim Dietz entitled "Maximum Effort". The painting commissioned by Col Hollie Wilkes hangs in the Pentagon. I have included an image of that painting in this note. The 449th received a DUC for a mission on 4 April 1944 when the group, flying without escort, raided marshalling yards in Bucharest; although heavily outnumbered by German fighters, the group succeeded not only in bombing the target but also in destroying many of the enemy interceptors The most successful operations of the allied strategical air warfare was against the German fuel supply which proved to be the fatal blow for the luftwaffe. The 449th Heavy Bomber group flew raids over Romania and is credited with the destruction of the oil refinery at Ploesti.

30 members of the 449th were killed over Austria in the worse of midair collisions. In all of the 449th Group, 388 men were killed in action, 363 were taken Prisoner of War and 101 planes (B-24's) were lost.

My grandfather survived and lived to tell the tale. We have quite a bit of information, as he was more willing to talk about it later in his life. I have always been incredibly inspired by my grandfather's efforts in this war and will continue to pass his story down to Baby Chase once he's old enough to understand, though I pray that when he's old enough "war" will be a concept we only read about in history books.

Please take some time today to remember those who have served in our military and died for our freedom. My grandfather was a brave but humble man. He probably would have laughed at me for posting this online but I know he wouldn't be mad. :)

This is the official website for the 449th Bomb Group:

Additional Historical Information:

28 B-24s of the 449 BG[3] from Grottaglie, after taking the usual route past Turnu Severin, across the Southern Carpathians, and up to Târgovişte and Snagov, bombed for two hours at mid day. The principal target was the Bucharest marshalling yard, Gara de Nord (tracks were destroyed). Warm weather and strong wind deflected bombs which landed on Calea Griviţei and Giuleşti and western/north-western Bucharest was severely hit, destroying hundreds of buildings and killing/injuring over 5,000. Bombs fell on Calea Victoriei, on the Splendid and Athénée Palace Hotels; on the German Military Mission; near Cathedral of St. Joseph (destroying its stained-glass windows); and on Cotroceni, uprooting poplars in the Botanical Garden of Bucharest[4]. One bomb shelter was also destroyed.

Seven B-24s were lost from enemy aircraft (flak was slight and inaccurate over the target), and 13 B-24s were damaged and returned.[5] 717 BS losses included Reluctant Liz, Miasis Dragon, and from the 719th BS, Consolidated Mess, Dixie Belle, Paper Doll, Born to Lose, and B-24 #41-28655. Destroyed/probable/damaged Luftwaffe aircraft were 32/6/5 ME-109, 6/5/1 FW-190, 1/0/0 HE-113, 1/0/0 Me-210, and 0/2/0 JU-88.

Maximum Effort, Paper Doll and Reluctant Liz Painting449th Bomb Group ShieldWilliam Bontly, Pilot of Reluctant Liz

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