Adult children of surviving WWII B24 crewmember travel to plane crash site to assist in recovery
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, March 19, 2018— On Christmas Day 1944, seven crewmembers perished after their B24 was shot down over Belgium attempting to return to their base in Hethel, England, from a bombing mission to Germany. Two crewmembers survived.
Seventy-three years have passed, and on March 23-24, 2018, Peter Ferdinand, Jr. and his sister Debbie Ferdinand Kelley will travel from the United States to Belgium to participate in the recovery of their father’s plane, King Size, 42-50612.
Peter Ferdinand, Sr. T/Sgt, was one of the two fortunate survivors of that fateful crash. Ferdinand parachuted to safety in the middle of fierce fighting during the Battle of the Bulge. He was eventually rescued by Americans and survived the experience. Ferdinand returned home to Drums, Pennsylvania, married, and had a good life raising four children.
Plane Crash Found :
In 2014, an aging landowner asked his community for help to metal-detect and locate pieces of a plane he remembered seeing crash as a young boy. It had happened on his family’s farm around Christmas time in 1944. For four years a group of Dutch and Belgian men led by Bob Konings of Grandmenil, Belgium, metal-detected on the land. They eventually located the debris field and recovered numerous small pieces which they were able to identify only as a B24. The farmer wanted to erect a memorial on his property to the crew of the plane that he had seen crash. The name of the plane and identity of the crew continued to elude the team of detectors.
Plane and Crew Identified:
In November 2017, Konings requested the help of Myra Miller, PhD, a WWII researcher living in St. Louis, Missouri, in identifying the plane and crew. With the help of Steven Volkaerts, a Flemish WWII expert, Konings identified the 42-50612 as a possible match. David Pratt, an Englishman and WWII 8th AirForce expert, found the MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) with the list of names. After narrowing the list of possible planes to three (which included the 42-50612), Miller ordered the IDPF (Individual Deceased Persons File) and OMPF (Official Military Personnel File) related to these crashes. After reviewing almost thirty files, she was able to confirm the downed plane as the King Size, B24, 42-50612 and name the nine crewmembers. Within hours, Konings and Miller located Peter Ferdinand’s son on Facebook and made the initial contact.
Henri-Chappelle Cemetery Ceremony:
On March 23, 2018, Miller will excort Ferdinand’s adult children, including his son-in-law, to Belgium. They will arrive at 1:30 pm at Henri-Chapelle American Military Ceremony near Liege, Belgium to participate in a “sanding-of-the-marker” ceremony honoring the pilot and tail gunner who died in the plane crash. MEDIA: Media are welcome to attend the ceremony at Henri-Chappelle and interview Konings, Miller, and the Ferdinands.
Plane Crash Recovery:
Twenty members of the plane crash recovery team, along with the Ferdinands, will excavate the final pieces of the B24 out of ground on Saturday and Sunday, March 24-25. During the process, a film crew will document the entire story and recovery. The team anticipates major pieces of the plane to be uncovered which will be cataloged and donated to a museum. MEDIA: The location will not be made public and only members of the media who contact Bob Konings directly will be invited to the area.
Friday, March 23 – 1:30 pm, Henri-Chapelle American Military Cemetery, “Sanding-of-the-Marker Ceremony” at the graves of 1st Lt, Raymond E. Price, pilot, and S/Sgt, Henry G. Maxham, tail gunner who died on December 25, 1944. Adult children of Peter Ferdinand will participate in the ceremony. MEDIA are very welcome.
Saturday, March 24 – Plane Crash Site, Belgium; recovery team will excavate land (approved and permitted by landowner). MEDIA: You may contact Bob Konings for specific directions to site and approval to film and interview landowner, Ferdinands, and digging team.
Sunday, March 25 – Ceremony at Site 3:00 pm, Plane Crash Site, Belgium; continued excavation with ceremony honoring the crew of King Size. MEDIA: You may contact Bob Konings for specific directions to site and approval to film and interview landowner, Ferdinands, and digging team.