Last Known Activity
Howard R. Butcher was born on November 16, 1916 in Harrison County, Kentucky. He was the son of Emory W. and Nancy Eliza Russell Butcher. The US Census 1920 has the family living in Berry, Kentucky, while the US Censuses 1930 and 1940 shows them in Harrison County.
Butcher enlisted in Lexington, Kentucky on April 21, 1942 as a private in the Army Air Forces. His NARA enlistment documents show he had completed 4 years of high school, and was employed as a retail manager.
He was selected for flight duty, and trained as a pilot. After graduating, he was commissioned, awarded wings, and sent to transition on multi-engine aircraft. At sometime during or shortly afterward, he married Jewel Pauline Latham, who he designated as next-of-kin.
He was assigned to a bomber unit operating from an advanced base in Italy in 1944. He flew at least 5 combat missions, according to the records there.
On March 26, 1944, he was assigned as co-pilot to fly a bombing mission over Streyr, Austria. The pilot's statement (attached to MACR) gives details of the loss of this aircraft and part of its crew.
The aircraft was hit by flak nearing the target area. According to the pilot, 3 of the engines were hit and began burning. The left wing had holes in it, and the tail section was hit. Smoke filled the radio room. The bombardier managed to salvo the bomb load. The pilot believed he could control the aircraft so headed out to sea and was attempting to return to base.
Two engines quit, and the aircraft dropped in altitude and air speed. The pilot decided to ditch in the Adriatic Sea. After hitting the water, he managed to get the forward life raft lose, but the aft life raft could not be gotten free by the gunners. The aircraft broke in two and sank.
The pilot, navigator, and ball turret gunner managed to get on the life raft and survive a frigid, stormy night. In the morning, a flight of P-38s spotted them, and called Air Rescue Service. Spitfires escorted a flying boat to the area, where the three men were picked up. The aircraft could not take-off, so it taxied to the nearest port. The three airmen were returned to their base.
The remaining crew were presumably drowned. No bodies were recovered, and Lt Butcher is remembered on the Walls of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery at Toscana, Italy. There is also a memory stone for him in the Riverside Cemetery in Falmouth, Kentucky.
US Census 1920
US Census 1930
US Census 1940
NARA Enlistment Records
Lt Howard R. Butcher was the co-pilot on B-17G #42-31426, not named, assigned to the 352nd Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 3644 was issued for the loss, but the pilot's statement gives more details. Mission loading lists show the crew as:
2 Lt Guido D. Gianacovo p
2 Lt Howard R. Butcher c-p
2 Lt Wayne V. Halliday nav
2 Lt Harris R. Meadows bomb
TSgt Harry O. Tippens eng/tt gun
TSgt Otto T. Maulding, Jr r/o
SSgt Edward A. Casaceli btg
SSgt Robert J. Biederman wg
TSgt Obie D. Mitchell tail gunner
Ranks and grades as of mission date.