Backus, Alpheus, SSgt

 Service Photo   Service Details
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Last Rank
Staff Sergeant
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
AAF MOS 611-Aerial Gunner
Last AFSC Group
Air Crew (Enlisted)
Primary Unit
1942-1942, AAF MOS 611, 32nd Bombardment Squadron, Heavy
Service Years
1941 - 1942
USAAFEnlisted Collar Insignia
Staff Sergeant

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by CMSgt Don Skinner-Deceased to remember Backus, Alpheus, SSgt.

If you knew or served with this Airman and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
Casualty Info
Home Town
Not Specified
Last Address
32nd Bomb Squadron

Casualty Date
Nov 28, 1942
Hostile, Died while Missing
Air Loss, Crash - Sea
Mediterranean Sea
World War II
Location of Interment
North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial - Carthage, Tunisia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Walls of the Missing

 Official Badges 

 Unofficial Badges 

 Military Associations and Other Affiliations
World War II Fallen
  1942, World War II Fallen

 Photo Album   (More...

 Ribbon Bar

Aerial Gunner Badge

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
United States Army Air Forces (USAAF)301st Bombardment Group, Heavy  32nd Bombardment Squadron, Heavy
  1941-1942, United States Army Air Forces (USAAF)
  1942-1942, AAF MOS 611, 301st Bombardment Group, Heavy
  1942-1942, AAF MOS 611, 32nd Bombardment Squadron, Heavy
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1942-1942 World War II/European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Egypt-Libya Campaign (1942-43)
 My Aircraft/Missiles
B-17 Flying Fortress  
  1942-1942, B-17 Flying Fortress
 Additional Information

Last Known Activity
Alpheus Peck Backus was born in Virginia on November 6, 1919. His parents were James R. and Bessie Backus. The US Census 1930 shows the family living in Port Chester, New York.

Backus enlisted in Hartford, Connecticut on October 31, 1941 as a private in the Army Air Forces. He had completed 3 years of high school, and he was employed as a retail manager.

He received training as an aerial gunner, and then was deployed to England. Shortly thereafter, some of the crews were transferred to Algeria. He was assigned to the Bruce crew, and flew 6 missions.

On November 28, 1942, the target was in the Bizerte, Tunisia area. While going to the target, the formation was attacked by enemy fighters. Bruce's plane was shot down by Feldwebel Anton Hafner of 4/JG51. It crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. There were no survivors nor any remains recovered.

SSgt Backus is memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the North Africa American Cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia.

US Census 1930
NARA Enlistment Records



SSgt Alpheus Backus was the assigned waist gunner (some accounts state ball turret gunner) on B-17F #41-24363, named "Bad Penny," assigned to the 32nd Bomb Squadron.

Missing Air Crew Report 16197 covers this event. Mission loading lists show the crew as:

Cpt John B. Bruce  p
2 Lt Robert Earl  c-p
2 Lt Charles Tannehill  nav
2 Lt Charles Knop  bomb
SSgt Henry P. Hughes, Jr.  eng/tt gun
Sgt  Leonard McGriffin  r/o
SSgt Alpheus Backus  wg
Sgt  Samuel Scott  wg
SSgt Merle Gilger  tail gun

Ranks and grades as of mission date.

SSgt Gilger's name is given as "Merle." All other sources state "Merril."

The only known photo of this crew was taken when King George VI met with them in 1942 in England.

The name "Bad Penny" comes from the axiom "A bad penny always comes back."

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