Last Known Activity
Sidney A. Benson was born in Massachusetts, the son of Harry O. and Mary B. Benson. He grew up in Marblehead, graduating from Marblehead High School, He attended Duke University before dropping out in 1943 to enlist in the military.
He was trained as a pilot, and graduated from training on December 13, 1943, at Freeman Army Air Force Base in Seymour, Tennessee. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, and received combat crew training on the B-24 aircraft.
Benson was assigned to the 862nd Bomb Squadron of the 493rd Bomb Group, and deployed with them to England in May, 1944. His first mission was on June 6, 1944 - D-Day.
On June 29, 1944, as part of the Hansen crew, he was selected to fly co-pilot on a mission to bomb the aircraft engine facilities at Fallersleben, Germany. During the bomb run, a direct hit was sustained by the aircraft from a flak gun. The hit was at the #3 engine, but the fuel tanks ignited and exploded.
In a photograph taken by an observer on an adjacent aircraft, a sheet of flame enveloping the aircraft and exiting from the bomb bays may be seen. The aircraft pitched up, began a slow bank, and disintegrated at 10,000 feet. Lt. Benson was the only crew member able to bail out.
When he landed on the ground, he surrendered to a German gun crew. They turned him over to Helmuth Lippman, a local Hitler Youth leader. As Lippman marched Benson away, he shot him three times in the back with a small caliber handgun. Then, he turned Benson over to a group of German Air Raid Wardens who proceeded to beat him to death, using iron pipes and their steel helmets.
All the bodies were gathered and buried in the local cemetery. In 1946, the Graves Registration unearthed the graves, but noted that one "body was different from the rest." They began an investigation, interviewing local witnesses and discovered the truth. Lippman was tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang. (Commuted to 25 years.) The air raid wardens were convicted and served sentences of several years each.
Lt. Benson was buried in an overseas American cemetery, but later returned to the U.S. where he lies today in Waterside Cemetery in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
Lt Sidney A. Benson was co-pilot on the B-24J # 42-94812 "Little Warrior" of the 862nd Bomb Squadron.
The Missing Air Crew Report number 6721 applies. The crew consisted of:
2 Lt John H. Hansen p
2 Lt Sidney A. Benson c-p
2 Lt Jerome (NMI) Levy nav
2 Lt Malcolm H. Stich bomb
SSgt Billy B. Gomilliom r/o
TSgt Vernon J. Polzin eng/tt gun
SSgt Cyrus R. Aidala btg
SSgt Walter A. Boykowski tail gun
SSgt Sylvanus G. Haskell nose gun
SSgt John E. Sanders w gun
NOTE: SSgt Gomillion was substitute for SSgt Jose C. Romas, the regular crew radio operator.
NOTE: Tribute added from family member.
Service photo source: