The Crew of the 'Fast Company'

THE PRICE CREW – 98th Bomb Group

Type B-24 „Liberator“ 42-41255 Origin MACR 1139
Unit 98th Bomb Group, 415th Squadron

P       Price, Gerald M         Killed           Winona, WA
CP    Isaacs, Thomas          Killed            Anderson, IN
N     Dekle, Marcus R.        Stalag Luft 1 Cordele, GA
B      Longshore, Wilber E.  Killed           Malone, NY
E/G  Kaplowitz, Charles      Killed           Brooklyn, NY
R/G  Shimkus, Lawrence J. Killed            Lucerne, PA
G     Perkett, William J.       Killed            Keeseville, NY
G     Conway, Matthew       Killed            Jersey City, NJ
G     Drew, Foy B.              Killed            Dallas, TX
G     Peters, Henry S.          Killed            Cleveland, OH
P=Pilot, CP=Co-Pilot, N=Navigator, B=Bombardier, G=Gunner, R=Radio Operator,

Marcus R. Dekle, navigator on aircraft 42-41255 “Fast Company” had 24 sorties under his belt when he went on the
mission to Wiener Neustadt. This was his first mission with this crew which had been in the 415th Squadron only about four
weeks, but long enough to have flown the October 24, 1943 mission to Wiener Neustadt. Since Dekle flew this mission as a
replacement, he was not acquainted with any of the enlisted men prior to this mission and only got to know Lt. Isaacs, Lt. Price and
Lt. Longshore as they were closest to his position on the aircraft. Dekle had just about finished watching the Tennant
aircraft going down when he found himself having to save his own life.

Dekle: “I heard pilot Gerald Price tell the co-pilot Thomas Isaacs to take over. Something hit our airplane in the rear. A large hole was knocked in the plexi-glass nose at the same time and we immediately went down into a dive. We were at 18,000 feet and the air speed indicated 280 miles per hour. Having on my chute, I pulled the emergency release handle and bailed out. Wilber Longshore, bombardier, was preparing to leave the ship. He was in good condition. However, the nose wheel door closed on me as I bailed out. I do not know whether or not he was able to reopen the nose wheel door.”

The crew positions of Dekle and Longshore on a B-24D were located in a very tight space. OnB-24D aircraft, crew order during a bailout procedure called for the navigator (in this case Dekle) to bail out first so that there was enough room for the bombardier (in this case Longshore) to be able to get to the forward escape hatch and get out. With that in mind, Dekle had his chute on and was ready to go. But as he left the plane, the nose wheel door began to close for unknown reasons. Longshore apparently was unable to reopen the nose wheel door nor make it to any other escape hatch since no one else was seen to leave the ship. Burton Brown, bombardier on aircraft 42-41010 “C” saw how plane 42-41255 slid underneath and then came up by the nose of his own aircraft, almost hitting it. Brown saw how 42-41255 had a large hole in the tail section and seemed to be out of control. Harold Turner, pilot on the same aircraft as Brown, noticed that 42-41255 had a large hole in the left vertical stabilizer and part of the left rudder fin was gone. Aboard plane 42-41255, the rest of the crew, pilot Gerald R. Price, co-Pilot Thomas Isaacs, engineer Charles Kaplowitz, radio operator Lawrence J. Shimkus, and the gunners William J. Perkett, Matthew A. Conway, Foy B. Drew and Henry S. Peters, as far as they were still alive at this point, had assembled at the bomb bay door or were on their way to the bomb bay to bail out. From his position on aircraft 42-41010, gunner Cecil Cannon continued watching aircraft 42-41255 and noticed an explosion occurring in the area of the bomb bay, as if the plane was struck from the side by one of those rocket projectiles German Me-109s fighters were known to be equipped with. Cannon then had to shift his focus away from 42-41255 as his own aircraft was attacked. The explosion Cannon witnessed most likely killed or knocked the rest of the crew unconscious since Dekle remained the only survivor and no one else was seen bailing out. Dekle was captured in the same area as crew members of the Tennant aircraft and most likely was the airman Alfred Fleck and his sister had seen chuting down near their home in the hills overlooking Bocksdorf. Dekle also ended up at the police station in Fuerstenfeld where he met Jack Tennant of aircraft 42-73084. Somehow they managed to talk and Dekle later recalled Tennant telling him that navigator James Fleming aboard Tennant’s aircraft for sure was killed. Dekle knew Fleming from navigator training at the Army Air Forces Navigation School at Monroe, Louisiana.

Aircraft 42-41255 ultimately crashed near Deutsch-Kaltenbrunn. Austrian book author Banny remarked: “Nine dead crew members were recovered from the wreck of the aircraft in Deutsch-Kaltenbrunn.” The search for the fallen aviators was a tedious and long one. Following the cessation of hostilities in Europe and the liberation of all prisoners of war held by the Germans, Marcus Dekle submitted a War Department Casualty and Missing Persons Questionnaire in which he conveyed his version of events. The Army feared all other crew members to be dead. This was supported by the fact that eye-witnesses in other aircraft did not see anyone else bailing out and none of the other crew members turned up at any POW camp nor were any of them other than Dekle seen or heard of after the crash. In September
1945, the U.S. Army had completed reviewing the case evidence and declared all missing crew members dead even though their remains had not yet been found. In June 1947, the widow of Wilber Longshore wrote a letter to U.S. authorities asking whether or not the grave of her husband had been found. She followed up with another letter on April 8, 1948 in which she explained that according to information she had received from the U.S. military, the aircraft supposedly had crashed near Fuerstenfeld in Austria. She then asked: “Wasn’t anything reported about finding the wreckage of his plane? Surely, some of the Austrians would have had the decency to bury what was left of our loved ones. Lt. Longshore loved his country and gave his life to keep it free. I know it would be his wish and mine also to have his remains
returned to this country if anything was recovered.” Prior to Dekle submitting his report, there were rumors that suggested two other crew members survived the crash and were captured, but no evidence was found to that end. In one case, the family of Lawrence Shimkus had received reports their son was alive and thus must have been captured. His mother wrote on January 29, 1944: “…one of my neighbor’s boys wrote to his mother that he was talking to one of the boys that saw it happenand my boy is safe.” The Army responded that in the absence of any names, serial number, and location of the persons who supposedly witnessed her son’s disappearance, it was felt her letter
did not warrant an investigation and requested the mother of Lawrence Shimkus to furnish such information. In September 1944, she replied saying: “My neighbor’s boy has been home on leave and after questioning him, I found out he knows nothing about my son. He only wrote to his mother that my son was safe because he felt sorry for me and thought my boy might be alive.” In the other case, the family of William Perkett stated that a family in Willsboro, NY had heard the name of their son being read over a German short wave radio broadcast. 319 The War Department could not confirm this report. The Army maintained Perkett was feared dead as his name never appeared on any
German POW lists, no one had seen or heard of him after the crash, nor was any POW mail ever received from him.The fallen aviators were located on the cemetery at Deutsch-Kaltenbrunn and recovered by a search team of the American War Graves Registration Command. It is not clearly established when exactly the recovery took place. Contrary to other recoveries, none of the Deutsch-Kaltenbrunn files contained a site recovery report or ground witness reports. It is confirmed though that by September 13, 1949 the fallen airmen had been brought to the American Cemetery at Neuville-en- Condroz in Belgium and identification of the remains had been
completed. The next of kin were informed in November 1949. A few items found with the fallen airmen let the Army conclude that
the remains found were indeed the ones of the missing aviators aboard aircraft 42-41255. On one of the remains, a ring with “Luzerne High 1940” and the initials “LJS” engraved on the inside of the ring was found. It was concluded this item belonged to Lawrence Shimkus who was a 1940 graduate of Luzerne High in Luzerne, PA and whose name had the initials LJS. On another airman, a silver chain with Air Corps insignia and the name Charles Kaplowitz engraved was found, another aviator who had been aboard 42-41255. In other cases, dental records and laundry marks or insignia found on clothing buried with the remains had to be used to determine the identity of some of the airmen. Ultimately, after the case went before a review board, the U.S. Army concluded that the nine remains found were those of the nine
missing aviators, but was unable to individually identify and segregate all remains found. On May 8, 1950, the fallen aviators were laid to rest in a group burial at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery at St. Louis, Missouri. The son of Wilber Longshore, meanwhile 5 years old, and the son of Thomas Isaacs, meanwhile 7 years old, were among those attending the burial service.

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