Elmira Horsa Glider

Discussion in 'Troop Carrier & Glider' started by ddayHorsa, Jan 4, 2014.

  1. ddayHorsa

    ddayHorsa Active Member
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    Dec 20, 2013
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    Thanks John. I don't have any of the GSGS maps, but do appreciate your help. See next response to my inquiry.

    Charles
     
  2. ddayHorsa

    ddayHorsa Active Member
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    Dec 20, 2013
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    Thanks Jpz4;

    The echodelta site is the one that I had been using some time ago. I tried a couple of numerical coordinates and was able to locate positions using the website.

    Charles
     
  3. John Szweda

    John Szweda Administrator
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    Oct 25, 2012
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    Charles,

    Let me know if you would like some digitized maps to help in your reading and research and I will send them to your personal email...

    John
     
  4. ddayHorsa

    ddayHorsa Active Member
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    Dec 20, 2013
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    Thanks, John. At this time I would like a map that encompasses the St. Mere Eglise - Beuzeville au Plain area if that is possible.

    Charles
     
  5. patelie

    patelie Active Member
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    Charles, your email at frontier.com is always the good one?
     
  6. John Szweda

    John Szweda Administrator
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    Oct 25, 2012
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    Charles,
    I sent 7 maps to your rexx ….. @ yahoo email

    email me back that you got them
    John
     
  7. ddayHorsa

    ddayHorsa Active Member
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    Dec 20, 2013
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    Hi John,

    I received an email from an interested person named William Bonnanmy, Jr. His father was an 82nd airborne paratrooper, with the 319th artillery. He has a good deal of information on that entity. He has asked me to see if he could contact you. He has been looking at the Forum. His cell phone is 630-215-8024. Please call him if you get a chance.

    Thanks,

    Charles
     
  8. John Szweda

    John Szweda Administrator
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    Oct 25, 2012
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    Thanks Charles,

    I did send him an email a few hours ago. Trying that approach instead of a cold call that could be an inconvenient time.
    If I don't hear back in a few days then I will try calling. I will keep everyone posted.

    John
     
  9. ddayHorsa

    ddayHorsa Active Member
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    Dec 20, 2013
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    I'm pretty sure you will hear from him,John. I think he was on a Police Dept., or on some sort of investigative job. Seems to like to pursue matters.

    Charles
     
  10. Jonesy

    Jonesy Active Member
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    Nov 23, 2014
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    Wiltshire, UK
    It would be interesting to hear if he has any additional info on 319th GFAB and their time at Membury.
     
  11. John Szweda

    John Szweda Administrator
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    Oct 25, 2012
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    Hi All,

    I spoke with Bill Bonnamy Jr, who has allowed me to share the story of his father, William Bonnamy who was with the 319th GFAB Battery ‘A’ and mission Elmira, serial 32.

    You asked for my dad’s account of the evening of June 6, 1944. Last year I wrote the following, as accurate as I could recall;

    "Well, dad’s recollection of Normandy was pretty interesting. He said they were being towed across the English channel and approached the peninsula of Normandy. Up ahead the Germans were shooting at him, there was a lot of fire in the air, a lot of flak and he recalled the pilot saying, “We need to drop down low. We need to go low.” And, all of a sudden, they were cut lose but only half the distance needed to the landing zone. Lower to the ground in a glider is safer when you’re being shot at. At 140 mph you quickly pass over head and harder to hit. The enemy doesn’t have time to get you in their sights, you also land quicker but it cuts down on your distance. Sure enough it did that evening because they came down a ways away from their intended landing zone. I remember dad saying, “We got close, the pilot and the co-pilot were talking and we just followed the glider in front of us, I think they were just looking to see who else was on the ground.” If it looks safe, that’s where we are going to go. He followed this other glider and then the pilot yelled something to the effect, “There’s a road. I’m going for the road Everybody, hang on.” Then, dead silence, I recall dad telling me about what it was like sitting there in the dark, dead silence, waiting to hit. And then, boom, they hit! He said one of the wings tore off and felt the glider sliding and the gun flipped over, before you knew it, they had crashed into what he thought was a hill. He said the sensation was they kind slammed into the side of a hill after sliding for a ways, “we kind of hit this hill and some trees felt like we went up but slid back, the pod of Howitzer had opened up.” There is a pod like rail at the end used to anchor the gun to the ground. I guess it was in a locked, closed position and struck the soldiers in the legs injuring them. The gun was damaged beyond repair.

    First thing dad said, he was looking for his glasses because he could not see without them, for some reason he thought it kind of funny. He said, “You know son I had three pair, I was wearing glasses. I also had one in my helmet and another inside my jacket and here I am in Normandy, on the ground, it’s night time, I’m being shot at and I can’t see”.

    I thought, wow, what a mess. Somehow or another though, he found one pair of glasses and was able to continue. I felt bad though, because he said the pilot was killed. He was crushed in front of the glider and they could not get the gun out. “We just hunkered down in a ditch nearby because it was still dark. It was close to midnight and moving around would get you killed.” But they needed to get far enough away from the glider, it would attract the enemy. I recall him saying, “You could tell the difference between the enemy fire and their fire. The enemy’s tracer rounds were red and ours green, so if you followed the red, you could tell where they were at and there was a lot of shooting going on.” I’m thinking here these guys are, it’s the middle of the night and they just crashed, the pilot’s dead and they are in a ditch not sure what to do. So halfway through the evening they are still in the ditch. No one had come by and they hear this commotion behind them. Something is coming their way and they are thinking maybe its “enemy” and they are not sure what to do. Whatever it is, it’s getting closer. It’s in the woods and the noise is getting closer and all of a sudden BOOM! A whole bunch of horses come running out of the woods and literally jumps over the ditch that they are hiding in. He said, “They almost shot them”, but they were just horses.

    So, finally it started to get light and they moved out eventually to the town square of Sainte-Mere-Eglise. Other soldiers were starting to assemble as well. This town square had a rather infamous church, Notre Dame de la Paix. Dad said everybody was trying to get a sense of things when a jeep pulls up. Low and behold, General Gavin was in the jeep with his sergeant and an MP who was security. He jumps out of the jeep and starts talking to the men then he hears General Gavin screaming. He was yelling at one of the officers, apparently, some of the dead paratroopers who had jumped earlier that evening were still hanging in the trees around the church. General Gavin was screaming at the sergeant saying, “Cut those men down, cut those men down, get them out of the trees now.” I thought to myself, wow, I could not imagine seeing that. Later, I would visit that church and the trees were gone, but I got the sense of what happened there. I’d asked dad over the years about that evening and he did not seem to want to talk much more about it after that long conversation we had. But I wanted to know where he came down, where he landed, where it was at and he never would say anything. Then, one day, just out of the blue, he looked at me and he said, “Foookerville” and I thought to myself Fuker what? He said “Fookerville”. Eventually I figured out he was talking about a small town north of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, Foucarville. Well, that’s where their glider crashed, F-o-u-c-a-r-v-i-l-l-e. It’s 1.25 mile north of Sainte-Mere-Eglise.

    Later I found the location of where his glider crashed and the identity of the pilot, Lt. Ben Winks. He is buried at the American Cemetery in Normandy. Dad mentioned his name, the only name from that evening. Hard to say who else was in dad’s glider, he often spoke of Les Niemi from the UP of Michigan and this soldier he described as an odd ball, Njalmara Olkonen, aka “okie” and Sgt. Jesse Johnson. Dad’s personal photos depicted other soldiers, Vic Buinowski, Fred Fitzke, Al Hein, John Girardin and Billy Cadle.”

    Bill Bonnamy believes that the glider pilot of his father's Horsa glider was Lt Ben Winks, and has a theory based on the story that his father glider is the wreck in the orchard north of the D17 and D115 intersection seen in this screen shot below...

    2020-09-25_14-32-46.jpg

    I am not as confident, because of the extensive damage to the horsa in this photo.

    John
     
  12. John Szweda

    John Szweda Administrator
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    Oct 25, 2012
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    Bill Bonnamy Jr has also traveled to Normandy back in 2014 and shared some of that experience...

    So, the other part of the story I wanted to tell you about concerns my friends in Foucarville, France. My first visit was in 2014, they are very involved in what went on there in 1944. To make a long story short we stayed in touch over the years and they knew what my dad told me. I eventually was introduced to their neighbor who passed away at 101 last year. He was in Foucarville on June 6, 1944 and told us that no gliders actually crashed or landed in Foucarville, but rather landed very close on the edge of the town. One of those gliders was Hoatson (which has been well documented here), the other was on D115 just north of D17.(Pictured above) I believe that could be my dad’s glider crash.

    A few other factors. Dad’s comments on the evening of 6/6, after leaving the glider they hunkered down in a ditch along the road. He said there was enemy fire coming from an adjacent field, that matches the account. When it got light they moved out, quite probably walked that short distance to intersection of D17 and D115. The local who just passed told us on 6/6 there was a town sign there for Foucarville, that could explain why dad thought he was in Foucarville. On the northwest corner of that intersection was a home occupied by a German officer. The old timer told us the Germans had an officer residing in each of the small towns during the occupation. Now, Dad told my mom, not me, on the early morning of 6/7 he had a confrontation with a German officer. His comment was, “it was him or me.” Mom said he took a pistol off the dead German, a Walther PPK 32 ca. We had that gun until it was stolen from our home in 1970. Dad was a seasoned vet at that point, having fought in the hills above Maiori, Italy in Sept. 1943 and also at the Volturno river in October. Prior to that he was with the unit in north Africa. He knew what to do that morning. Dad fought with the 319 for the duration, Holland, Bulge, Ardennes and they liberated the Wobbelin camp in Ludwigslust, Germany, May, 1945. As a high point soldier, he came home the following September.


    Regards,
    Bill B.

    Well, we do have many more than 2 gliders in the area of Hoatson, so I am not sure the local elderly man's information can help too much with the landing location of his father, William Bonnamy's Horsa glider. My instincts tell me that the glider pilot saying "I'm going for the road" may have meant that while under fire, he was going to try to bring the glider to a stop near a road, so as not to be left in the middle of a field while under fire. I don't see a glider pilot trained to land in open fields wanting to land on a road and shear off his wings and risk crew and passengers.

    Does anyone have any thoughts?

    John

     
  13. ddayHorsa

    ddayHorsa Active Member
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    Dec 20, 2013
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    Hi John, Bill:

    I have studied the crashed Horsa shown in the above image, for quite a while. At this time I'm not sure if we are seeing the section of a wing or the fuselage. Did we ever come to a decision on that matter? It seems that the invasion stripe size is "stepping downward" , getting shorter, as if indicative of the forward section of a wing rather than stripes on a fuselage. Did we come to a different conclusion earlier?

    Bill, a year or so ago I spoke with Joseph S. Covais about his book. At some point he indicated that he would try to send some sort of roster of 319th GFAB personnel on the Horsas, in the Elmira Mission. I think he had some problems sending this info, and in the end was unable to do so. Do you happen to have such information?

    Charles
     
  14. John Szweda

    John Szweda Administrator
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    Oct 25, 2012
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    Hi Charles,
    I do have some information on the 319th roster so check your rexx email...

    I also made a mark up of an aerial of what I believe we see in the photo.
    There are definite indications of a landing horsa moving in that direction and I believe the broken horsa fuselage rests under the wing.
    2020-10-24_14-23-39.jpg
     
  15. ddayHorsa

    ddayHorsa Active Member
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    Dec 20, 2013
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    Thank you John.

    The aerial mark up of the horsa is very well done. I think the identification of the two locations of invasion stripes is right on.

    As for the rosters, it will take me a while to go through them. I do appreciate your forwarding them to me. A lot to go through.

    Charles
     

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