Service marks 80th anniversary of B24 Liberator Bomber “Knucklehead” crash landing in sea at Westgate

B24 Liberator Bomber "Knucklehead" memorial service Photo Denise Bottali

The 80th Anniversary of the US Air Force B24 Liberator Bomber “Knucklehead” crash landing into the sea at Westgate has been marked by a service today (April 27).

Taking place at the B24 Liberator Bomber Remembrance Plaque on Sea Road, the service was led by Reverend Susan Wing and attended by local councillors, staff and members of the community.

On April 27, 1944, the plane, piloted by 2nd Lt. Jacob Weinheimer, was hit by German anti-aircraft fire over Dunkerque after a mission at Chalon-Sur-Marne.

Several crew members were injured by the burst of flak that hit the port wing and the aircraft lost altitude in a slow spin. Radio Operator T/Sgt Parke V. Kent bailed out to safety and became a POW, being the only member of crew with an undamaged parachute.

The pilot regained control of the aircraft and likely set course for RAF Manston as an emergency airfield. Badly damaged, they made a crash landing at 6.20pm in shallow water between West Bay and St Mildred’s Bay, Westgate, to avoid crashing into the town.

The aircraft was completely destroyed by the impact on the chalky shallows. Five of the crew members were killed and four injured.

The crew members were:

2nd Lt. Jacob Weinheimer wounded
2nd Lt. George Marshall (Co-Pilot) wounded
2nd Lt. Marvin Gurwit (Navigator) wounded
2nd Lt. John Ross (Bombardier) KIA
T/Sgt Parke Kent (Radio Operator) POW
S/Sgt Clayton Aughinbaugh (Engineer) KIA
Sgt Bernard Fink (Ball Turret Gunner) KIA
Sgt Nicholas Rich (Waist Gunner) KIA
Sgt Ben Munford (Waist Gunner) KIA
Sgt Robert Duffy (Tail Gunner) wounded

Source of information: www.findagrave.com, History of Manston Airfield Facebook page

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