Last Known Activity
Thomas H. Harkey was born in North Carolina in 1921. His parents were John D. and Hope E. Harkey. The US Census 1930 shows the family in Chambersburg, North Carolina.
Harkey enlisted at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on July 8, 1942. He had completed 4 years of high school, and was employed in the textile manufacturing business.
Trained as an aerial gunner, he was assigned to North Africa in 1943. It is believed he was not an original member of the Williams' crew. According to records, he flew at least 20 missions.
On January 11, 1944, he and the Williams' crew were part of a bombing raid on the Piraeus Harbor, Greece, facilities. On the way to the target, the formation encountered and entered a large cloud bank. Inside the clouds, the winds were excessive, and icing conditions existed. Two of the leading element decided to abort, but turned across the second formation's path.
Another account states he actually collided with another aircraft, causing an explosion, and the crash.
Accounts vary, and one states the two B-17s almost collided, and Williams, in his haste to avoid another collision, banked his aircraft steeply, lost control, and entered a steep dive. The aircraft crashed near Poretso, Greece, killing all but three of the crew.
The dead were recovered by monks from a monastery and buried locally. The grave was not located until 1946. At that time, the bodies were retrieved and four of the crew, including Harkey, are buried in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. The common grave is in Section 82, Site 28.
US Census 1930
NARA Enlistment Records
SSgt Thomas H. Harkey was acting as the ball turret gunner on B-17F # 42-30357, not named. Records state the aircraft was assigned to the 353rd Bomb Squadron, but is not on the squadron's list of aircraft.
Missing Air Crew Report 1831 was issued, but gives very few details. Mission loading lists show the crew as:
1 Lt Richard D. Williams p
2 Lt Thomas A. Shields c-p
2 Lt Neil F. Daley nav
2 Lt Jerome Elkin bomb
SSgt Roland A. Ruisseau eng/tt gun
TSgt Foster D. Rappleye r/o
SSgt Thomas H. Harkey btg
SSgt John W, Day wg
SSgt James H. Young tail gun
Sgt Monte Ogens photo
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
Elkin, Rappleye, and Ogens were the only survivors. They were captured and remained POWs until war's end.