Americans and Belgians get to thank their WWII heroes
April 16, 2014
The 424th Air Base Squadron from Chièvres Air Base joined the city of Silly, the local community and family members of the downed B-17 in honoring the Royal Flush crew members, April 13, in Fouleng, Belgium.
On this day, 70 years ago, the crew members of the Royal Flush were heading back to their base in England after a successful bombing mission over Schweinfurt, Germany.
"I remember the navigator saying it's ten more minutes to the channel," recalls Troy Hollar, the sole living survivor of the Royal Flush crew who came from the United States to attend the ceremony. "Getting to the channel was getting real close to being home," Hollar added.
It was not going to be a smooth flight back to their base as getting over Chièvres Air Base Belgium, which was occupied by the Germans during WWII, the airplane got hit by anti aircraft defense.
Hollar who was the top turret gunner on the plane, was able to bail out on time. This was not the case for six members of the crew who were killed in the crash: 1st Lt. Robert Lavin, the pilot, 2nd Lt . Louis Bendon, the co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Calvin Anthes, bombardier, Staff Sgt. Lloyd Brady, ball turret gunner, Staff Sgt. Raymond Marz, waist gunner and Staff Sgt. James Malone, tail gunner.
Family members of Lavin, Anthes, Brady and Marz also made the trip to be present at the 70th anniversary.
Four of the crew were able to make it out and parachuted down to earth. Staff Sgt. Charlie Johnson was too injured and was taken prisoner by the Germans. The other three, navigator 2nd Lt. Harold Ashman, whose son and step daughter were also in attendance, radio operator Tech. Sgt. Edward Price and waist gunner Tech. Sgt. Troy Hollar were whisked into hiding.
"A new mission had begun for all involved," Lt. Col. Christopher Kuester, Commander, 424th Air Base Squadron, Chièvres Air Base, said during the ceremony. "For the citizens of Fouleng it was their way of ensuring the men who were fighting for their freedom would continued to live. For the three airmen, it was to stay alive and try to return to the fight."
"This is not the end of the story though," Kuester continued. "The people of Fouleng have not forgotten and these family members of the airmen have not forgotten…We all stand here today to show that even though we come from different countries, we come to honor the sacrifices by all those involved," he added.
As Mayor Christian Leclercq mentioned in his speech : "The reason why we are here in Fouleng is that we all have a duty to remember. For you, Americans, it is to show your affection towards the service members who defended the country. For us, Belgians, it is to thank the American support against the invasion of the Nazis, during Worl War Two"
After the remarks, wreaths were laid at the plaque on the wall of the farm next to the field where the plane crashed and at the memorial near the the farm.
"This memorial is the marker of so much more than a crash. It is a spot that notes where heroes fell and other heroes were born," Kuester concluded.
Editor's note: This story is part of the Trenches to Foxholes information and education campaign of the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux and American Forces Network Benelux. Trenches to Foxholes will cover the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI and the Liberation of Benelux in WWII with print, television radio, podcast and blogs.