Saturday, August 23, 2014

Death of George Radcliffe Hutchison in World War II

Memorial Day enticed me to spend time looking for information about a distantHutchison_George_Radcliffe cousin who I assumed had died as a result of action in World War II.   Facts proved his death, but it wasn't due to battle but was due to the war.

George Radcliffe "Hutch" Hutchison was born on 2 Jul 1917 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania to Gerald Milwood and Helen Ewing Radcliffe Hutchison.   His father was an interior decorator who opened his own store that was popular in the area around Pittsburgh.  

When old enough both George and his younger brother, Robert went to work in the store.    George was a salesman and Robert took care of ordering, stocking and shipping.  The family business had grown into a success when on a Sunday morning in early December 1941, America was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor and at other locations in the Pacific arena.

On 27 Mar 1942, George enlisted in the Army Air Corps in Pittsburgh.   By the end of the war, he was a 1st Lieutenant in the Corps flying a B-29B-60-BA Superfortress. 

You can imagine the celebration that occurred with his air crew when VJ Day was announced on 2 Sep 1945.   The war was finally over on all fronts.   None of them realized it was the last day of their lives.

 

b-29b-superfortress

 

They were ordered to fly a mercy mission taking supplies to Osaka for U.S. POW's.  The huge B-29 took off only to experience mechanical trouble a few hours after takeoff.  They radioed that they were returning to the Northwest Air Field on Guam and everything looked fine until the landing.  The big craft swerved at just as it was touching down causing a wing to clip a tree which resulted in a huge explosion.   Breaking in two, the three gunners in the back of the plane escaped the fire although one of them subsequently passed away.  The pilots and remained of the crew all perished in the flames.

Their bodies were interred on Guam until March 1949 when they were moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

George never returned home to his wife and family.   Nor did the other eight men who died in the crash.  The war was over but it was still claiming victims, a theme that unfortunately continued for many years after the active cessation of battle.

The other crew members who lost their lives on that September day were:

  • 1st Lt. Lester R Nahouse
  • Capt. Lewis D Town
  • Capt. James O. Clark
  • Sgt Thomas C. Passarello Flight Engineer
  • 2nd Lt. William E Bradley
  • 2nd Lt. Carl W. Strait
  • 2nd Lt. Robert H. Yost
  • Sgt. Leonard V Steveson
  • Sgt. Melvin E Berkey

 

Map picture

 

Sources:

  • U.S. World War II Enlistment Records
  • U.S. Veteran's Gravesites
  • Find-a-grave
  • U.S. Census Records
  • U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records
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