AP: NH WWII pilot who sought his lost wings dies

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by syscom3, Nov 12, 2009.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    By NORMA LOVE
    The Associated Press
    Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009


    CONCORD – Bernerd Harding, a World War II pilot from New Hampshire who went on a quest earlier this year to find his buried pilot's wings in Germany 65 years after his B-24 bomber was shot down, died Tuesday at age 90.

    Harding's wife, Ruth Harding, confirmed he died at his home in Milford. He had prostate cancer.

    Harding never found his wings during his September trip to Germany, but was given a bracelet belonging to another American airman shot down to return to his family.

    Later that month, Harding was a passenger in the Witchcraft - the last B-24 still flying. He sat in the cockpit behind the pilots in a 30-minute flight from Laconia to Manchester.

    Harding knew then his cancer was progressing and that would be his last landing.

    Harding had said that his last WWII mission - the 14th of his military career - was incomplete without one more landing. September's was "close enough," he said.

    "It was fun. It was worth it. It's history," he said after the flight.

    Harding was a 25-year-old first lieutenant on a mission to bomb Bernburgh, Germany, when his B-24 was shot down on the way back to his base in England. Fighters crippled his plane, forcing him and his crew to bail out with their parachutes.

    Harding waited for the others to jump, then turned and saluted a German fighter pilot for not blowing up the plane with the men inside.

    Harding's B-24, nicknamed Georgette, was shot down a month after the D-Day invasion of Normandy, on July 7, 1944. One member of Harding's crew was killed. The others - including Harding - were taken prisoner.

    Harding had parachuted into a freshly cut wheat field, barely missing a barbed wire fence. Three farmers, two with pitchforks and one with a gun, captured him and herded him into a cellar in Klein Quenstedt, a village southwest of Berlin. Fearing reprisals from villagers for being a bomber pilot, Harding buried his pilot's wings in the cellar floor.

    Harding returned to Klein Quenstedt two months ago to search for the wings with villagers' help. He didn't find them but a resident gave him a silver bracelet recovered from the body of a Jack H. Glenn on the same day Harding's plane was shot down. The bracelet was later returned to Glenn's family in Anchorage, Alaska.

    After Harding's flight aboard the Witchcraft, the bomber's owner, the Collings Foundation, presented him with a new set of pilot's wings.

    Harding grew up on Long Island, N.Y., and was stationed in Manchester, N.H., during the war before shipping overseas. He returned to New Hampshire after the war and did construction work.
     
  2. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Sorry to see him go, but it's good that he was able to go up aboard Witchcraft for one last ride.
     

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  3. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    God rest his soul
    I really wish he'd been able to find his wings, that would have been a real moment
     
  4. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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  5. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

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    Glad that he was able to fly one last mission.

    RIP :salute:

    TO
     
  6. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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  7. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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  8. Messy1

    Messy1 Well-Known Member

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    Too bad he was not able to find his wings. I'm sure he had a good life all the same! RIP!
     
  9. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Nice he got one last flight.

    :salute:
     
  10. wheelsup_cavu

    wheelsup_cavu Well-Known Member

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    Shame about the wings.
    [​IMG]


    Wheels
     
  11. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    He lost one set of wings and gained another.
     
  12. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Well said! :thumbleft:
     
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    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Maestro Active Member

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