Gilger, Merril, SSgt

 Service Photo   Service Details
View Time Line
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
Not Specified
This Military Service Page was created/owned by CMSgt Don Skinner-Deceased to remember Gilger, Merril, 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
Merril Gilger was born, according to sources, in California in 1900. His mother's name was Myrtle. Very little information has been located on his early life or enlistment in the military.

The first appearance in a military record shows him as an aerial gunner, assigned to the B-17 combat crew of Captain John B. Bruce. Gilger flew 6 missions with this crew.

On November 28, 1942, while en route to Tunisia to bomb targets in the Bizerte area, the aircraft was shot down and the entire crew killed. The aircraft crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, and no bodies were recovered.

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

There is a newspaper article that states Gilger was recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross, and that at age 40, he was the oldest combat member in the armed forces. No separate confirmation has been made for these claims.
US Census 1940
Neosha (MO) Daily News newspaper, November 17, 1942, page 3


SSgt Merril Gilger was the assigned tail gunner on B-17F #41-24363, named "Bad Penny," assigned to the 32nd Bomb Squadron.

Missing Air Crew Report 16197 was issued for this loss. Mission loading lists state the crew was composed of:

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 McGriff  r/o
SSgt Alpheus Backus  wg
Sgt Samuel Scott  wg
SSgt Merle Gilger  tail gun

Ranks and grades as of mission date.

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

The only photo of the crew is when King George VI met the crew in England. No individuals are identified on the crew.

The aircraft's name comes from the adage "A bad penny always comes back."

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