Last Known Activity
William T. Karp was born in Los Angeles, California on January 4, 1925. His parents were Thomas R. and Elsie Lucy Kilgrove Karp. The US Census 1930 has the family in Alhambra, while the US Census 1940 shows them residing in San Gabriel.
Karp was inducted into the military service, probably in 1943 (no enlistment records found to date.) Regardless of the type of training he received, he was assigned to a B-17 combat crew in training and was utilized as a togglier. This was an enlisted person who took the place of a commissioned bombardier, and dropped bombs (toggled) at the direction of the lead aircraft on a bombing mission.
Karp was assigned to the Barrat crew in November, 1944, and deployed to England. He flew 20 credited missions, all with this crew, beginning on December 9, 1944.
The target designated for February 9, 1945 was the synthetic oil plant at Lutzkendorf, Germany. As the aircraft turned onto the route to the IP at the target, it was hit by another aircraft in formation. The B-17 was cut into two pieces, at the waist position toward the tail, As the two pieces of aircraft spiraled toward the ground, the tail gunner extricated himself from the wreckage of the tail assembly. He made a successful parachute drop, but was captured by German civilians, and turned over to the authorities. He remained a POW until May, 1945.
As the front piece of the aircraft dropped toward the village of Eisenberg, somehow the pilot and co-pilot regained control, and leveled off. Making for an empty field outside of town, they successfully salvoed the bomb load, preventing destruction of the town. The aircraft then hit the ground and exploded, killing the remaining crew.
German records state eight bodies (2 unidentifiable) were recovered from the wreckage. Later annotations show these two were Barrat and Reiss. All the dead were buried in a local cemetery.
After the war, the bodies were recovered by Allied forces. A group of 6 were returned to the U.S. to be buried in a common grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
The Interment and Control Card states "WWII dead returned from Europe. To be buried in common grave," then lists 5 names. The common grave is located at Section 82, Site 93D.
In 1991, rings belonging to the pilot and navigator were found at the crash site. In 1995, the townspeople of Eisengerg erected a monument honoring this gallant crew who saved their town.
US Census 1930
US Census 1940
California Birth Index Records
Sgt William T. Karp was an assigned togglier, acting as bombardier, on B-17G #43-39149, no name, assigned to the 427th Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 12229 was issued to detail this loss. Mission loading lists show the crew consisted of:
2 Lt Robert J. Barrat p
2 Lt Dean Harvey c-p
F/O Shirl P. Best nav
Sgt William T. Karp tog
Sgt Raymond F. Reiss eng/tt gun
Sgt Matthew Lazarowicz r/o
Sgt Louis N. Linhart btg
Sgt Herbert D. Link wg
Sgt George H. Emerson tail gun
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
Emerson was the only survivor.
In the crew photo, Karp is in the back row, at right.
Service photo source: