Last Known Activity
Frank Spatafore was born on June 16, 1921 in West Virginia. Nothing else has been located concerning his parentage or early childhood.
He enlisted in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 5, 1941 as a private in the Army Air Forces. His NARA enlistment file states he had completed 4 years of high school, was employed as a cook, and was single.
He received training as an aerial gunner, then was assigned to a B-17 combat crew in training for more familiarization with aerial gunnery techniques. He deployed to England, was assigned to the crew led by Lt Godwin, and flew on several missions, mainly over France.
In October, 1942, the crew was among those selected for transfer to North Africa to take part in the bombing campaign the Allies opened there. He flew with the crew on missions over North Africa. On April 18, 1943, this crew was scheduled to participate in a raid on the railway yards in Palermo, Sicily.
The formation was approximately 20 miles from the target when it was attacked by enemy fighters. Two ME-110s singled out this aircraft as a target, and raked it with cannon shells. The #2 engine began burning, and the aircraft crashed into the sea, killing all the crew.
No remains were ever recovered, and Sgt Spatafore is 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 National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Crest, Pennsylvania. It stands at Section MI, Site 3.
NARA Enlistment Records
Sgt Frank Spatafore was the assigned waist gunner 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 ID, crew lists, and the notation that the aircraft crashed into the sea with engine on fire. Mission loading lists show the crew as:
1 Lt Bobby M. Godwin p
1 Lt John W. Houck c-p
2Lt 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.
NOTE: On October 5, 2015, the wreckage was found by a dive team in 75 feet of water, about 4 miles from Palermo. Nothing will be attempted to be salvaged, as the wreckage has been designated a "war grave."