Last Known Activity
William Davis Abernathy was born on March 15, 1922 in Palo Pinto, Texas. His parents were William G. and Maria Gaines Abernathy. No NARA enlistment records or other records have been found, nor has any items concerning his early childhood.
The first appearance of him in military records is as a member of a replacement bomber crew in the 728th Bomb Squadron of the 452nd Bomb Group. Using the traditional custom of awarding an Air Medal for each five combat missions successfully flown, the crew must have made at least 10 missions.
Loading lists and mission logs list this crew as having participated in the March 4, 1944 bombing of Berlin. However, they used an aircraft not usually assigned to them. This was B-17F # 42-31330, nicknamed "Dog Breath," assigned to the 728th Bomb Squadron.
On April 9, 1944 the crew flew as part of a mission against Warenmunde, Germany. On the return trip after bombing the target, the formation was engaged by approximately 12 FW-190 fighters. A firing pass by the fighters set both inner engines on fire of the B-17 in which Abernathy was acting as navigator. The aircraft dropped out of formation, but was pursued by the fighters.
The tail gunner emerged from his position, and saw one of the waist gunners lying dead on the catwalk. He immediately bailed out. The ball turret gunner, the radio man, and another gunner helped each other secure their equipment, and they also bailed out. The aircraft dove and crashed just off shore from the village of Meltofte ( one account states Nakskov) on the island of Lolland, Denmark.
Four of the crew survived and were taken prisoner by the Germans. Several of the other crewmen washed ashore or were found on the beach and buried in Svino Cemetery. After the war, several were moved to the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium while others were sent to the U.S.
Lt Abernathy has no known grave, and is memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in Cambridge American Cemetery in Cambridge, England. There is also a memorial stone in the Palo Pinto Cemetery in Palo Pinto, Texas.
USAAC-USAAF Aicraft Inventory Records
452nd Bomb Group mission logs
452nd Bomb Group loading lists
The aircraft in which Lt Abernathy was acting as navigator was B-17G # 42-39936, nicknamed "Cawn't Miss," assigned to the 728th Bomb Squadron. This aircraft is referred to as "Barfly" in all 728th Bomb Squadron references.
Missing Air Crew Report 3662 was issued, and identifies the crew as:
1 Lt Carroll G. Boyd p
2 Lt Elmer P. Julius c-p
2 Lt William D. Abernathy nav
2 Lt William H. Craighead bomb
SSgt Charles F. Hopper eng/tt gun
SSgt Timothy J. Nunan r/o
SSgt Bernard H. Brand btg
SSgt Raymond E. Raley lwg
SSgt James E. Parker rwg
SSgt Oather G. Meese tail gun
Sgts Hopper, Nunan, Brand, and Meese survived and were captured. All other crew members were killed.
The crew picture is of this crew, however, individual identifications are not
Service photo source:
After landing on a gravel road, they were surrounded by local farmers and militia. Eventually, some Spanish Air Force officers showed up to fend off the militia. My Father’s orders were to burn the plane, so the Germans wouldn’t try to use against us or get access to the Norden view finder. The Spanish officers, with the help of some local civilians brought the crew into Zaragoza, Spain. After a short stay, they all returned safely back to the states. I hope with some research we can figure out the correct a/c # that Lt. Abernathy was on that day. Let me know if I can be of any help.
NOTE: Information received on Oct 13, 2015 from family member of pilot indicates the aircraft made it to Spain, all the crew were captured and returned safely. A check with the American Battlfield Monuments Commission verifies that William Abernathy is listed on the Walls of the Missing in Camberidge American Cemetery as being MIA on April 9, 1944 and declared dead.