Last Known Activity
Virgil E. Hope was born in Maysville, Oklahoma on November 9, 1918, a son of Lawrence L. and Alabama Basic Anderson Hope. Although the US Census 1920 lists the family in Elmore, the US Census 1930 and US Census 1940 shows them residing in Maysville. Oklahoma.
Hope enlisted in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on October 28, 1941 as a private in the Army Air Forces. His enlistment documents state he had completed 3 yeas of college (unnamed, but later determined to be Oklahoma State University), and his civilian occupation lay in the actor/actress category. The document also states he was an enlisted man, within three months of discharge at that time.
Records indicate he married Willie Juanita Chandler, and had 2 children.
He was selected for flight duty, and given training as a bombardier. Upon completion of the training, he was commissioned, awarded wings, and assigned to a B-17 crew in training. Later, he deployed to England and flew several missions, mainly against targets in France.
In October, 1942, the 301st Bomb Group transferred a number of aircraft and crews to North Africa to assist the bombing campaign there. Moving as territory was recaptured, he moved to several bases while flying against North African and Italian targets.
On April 18, 1943, the crew was assigned as part of a formation to attack the marshalling railway yards at Palermo, Sicily. Approximately 20 miles from target, the formation was attacked by German fighters, and 2 ME-110s shot down Hope's aircraft. The #2 engine caught fire, and the bomber plunged into the sea, killing all personnel on board.
No recovery of remains was made, and all crew are remembered on the Walls of the Missing in the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial in Carthage, Tunisia. There is also a memory stone for him in the Maysville Cemetery in Maysville, Oklahoma.
Lubbock (TX) newspaper, April 9, 1943
US Census 1920
US Census 1930
US Census 1940
NARA Enlistment Records
Lt Virgil E. Hope was the assigned bombardier on B-17F # 41-24371, named "Devils from Hell," assigned to the 353rd Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 16508 was issued, but contains only aircraft identification, crew listing, and that with #2 engine on fire, it crashed into the sea. Mission loading lists show personnel on board as:
1 Lt Bobby M. Godwin p
1 Lt John W. Houck c-p
2 Lt John H. Person nav
1 Lt Virgil E. Hope bomb
Sgt Robert B. Imler eng/tt gun
Sgt Robert S. Littrel r/o
Sgt Arthur L. Nilges btg
Sgt Frank Spatafore wg
Sgt William M. Hawkins tail gun
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
Some accounts show Lt Hope as co-pilot, but 301st Bomb Group records indicate bombardier in all sources.
NOTE: On October 5, 2015, the wreckage of the aircraft was discovered by an Italian dive team, approximately 4 miles off Palermo, Sicily, in 75 feet of water. No recovery of anything from the wreckage, including human remains, will be attempted as it is now classified as a "war grave."