Saturday, March 21, 2015

S/Sgt Jerald Harlan Lieberman 1922-1943

Jerry Lieberman  1922-1943

      Jerry Lieberman was born, along with his twin sister Phyllis, on Dec 15, 1922 in Philadelphia, PA.  The family, his parents, Nat and Ida Lieberman, and older sister Elynore, moved to Trenton NJ in about 1938 where he lived until he was about 18 years old.   He dropped out of high school after only one year, and worked in his father's store as a commercial driver.  He was very active in the Jewish fraternity Aleph Zadik Aleph.  On Sept 10, 1942 after an argument with his father, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps1 where he was trained as a tail gunner on the B-17 bomber.  He was promoted to Staff Sergeant and assigned to the Dodson Provisional Group at Kearney Army Air Base, Nebraska.
     On July 3, 1943, he and the rest of the 10 man crew took off from Kearney to ferry aircraft Army 42-3379, B-17F, to Eglin Field, Florida.  The plane crashed about 200 miles away near White City, Kansas and all aboard were killed.
     A closed casket containing Jerry's remains was sent to the family in Trenton, and he was buried at Greenwood Cemetery.  Because of the war, the family was given only the barest details of the crash, and they always wondered what happened.  His mother wondered for years if he had really been killed since they had not seen the body.
     I recently came across a website called Accident-Report.com.  They research recently released accident reports from the AAC, USAAF, USAF, and USMC filed between 1918 and 1955.  I contacted them and they provided 42 pages of documentation on the crash that killed my uncle.
    The report revealed that the aircraft took off from Kearney AAB at 2:10 PM under cloudy skies.  Weather reports in the area over the next two hours showed overcast to light rain with visibility unrestricted.  The ceiling varied from 10,000 to 3,000 feet with some light rain reported.  At 3:40, as reported by several civilian witnesses on the ground near White City KS, the plane was sighted nose down and spiraling to the ground.  The plane was engulfed in flames after it crashed and there were no signs of life.  The Chief of Police of White City was one of the witnesses, and he secured the area almost at once after the crash.  He and other witnesses described seeing some debris falling with the plane and landing nearby.  That debris, which was recovered immediately, was determined to be "one-third of the left stabilizer and elevator and the entire right elevator outboard of metal trim tab," {parts of the tail assembly} which were "torn off while airplane was in flight."2   The report was inconclusive as to the cause of the accident although the aircraft had been inspected days before and no evidence of sabotage was noted.  The tentative conclusion on the July 9 report was that "Accident was induced primarily by material failure, either due to weakened parts of defective material."3   Two witnesses who reported after the date of this description noted seeing a funnel cloud stretching from the ground to the clouds just prior to the crash.  This report was forwarded to the Army Air Base Topeka KS with the notation that it was "further evidence which might serve to clarify the cause of the crash." 4
     I never knew Jerry, but he was a presence in our family throughout my childhood.  I, my brother, Phyllis's son, and several cousins born just after the war were named for him.  I am glad to have found the details of the crash that took him away so young.

1.  National Archives and Records Administration, U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records 1938-1946 (Provo, UT, USA Ancestry.com) record for Jerald Harlan Lieberman
2.  U.S. Government Printing Office, War Department, A.A.F. Form 14. "Report of Aircraft Accident" Aircraft B-17F, no.42-3379, dated July 9 1943
3.  Ibid.
4.  Letter, July 22, 1943, Sixth Heavy Bombardment Processing Headquarters, Army Air Base, Herrington, KS.  to Commanding General, Twenty First Bombardment Wing, Army Air Base, Topeka, Kansas. subj: Supporting Papers for Form #14
     
   

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful that you were able to get information about the plane crash. The description of the crash from the witnesses makes the event more real. Have you checked to see if any local newspapers included stories on the accident?

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    1. I have several articles that were published in Trenton about the crash, and one of the family attending a War Bonds /Productivity event at a local plant. I haven't seen any from papers in Kansas although I did look on Genealogybank.com.

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