Last Known Activity
William A. Avery, Jr. was born on June 21, 1924 in Michigan. He was the son of William H.H. and Verva Lucille Shafer Avery. (His father's name is given in census data as "William Henry Harrison Avery," leading to speculation as to why 100th Bomb Group records record the airman as "William A. Avery, Jr.")
The US Census 1930 lists the family in St Joseph, Michigan, while the US Census 1940 has them in Fair Plain.
Avery enlisted in Kalamazoo, Michigan on November 5, 1942 as a private in the US Army Air Forces. His enlistment data confirms nativity and birth year, and adds he had completed 4 years of high school. He was employed as a carpenter.
He was selected for flight duty, and trained as an aerial gunner. He was assigned to a crew in training, and later deployed to England in late August, 1943. He flew 7 combat missions.
On October 8, 1943, the crew flew on a mission against the war facilities at Bremen, Germany. Flak was heavy over the target, and attacks by enemy aircraft were constant. A FW-190, piloted by Oberletunant Erich Hondt, made several firing passes, but coud not bring the B-17 down. In a turn, the FW-190 rammed the B-17 and exploded, throwing Hondt free. The B-17 exploded, and wreckage fell into Holland.
Germans recovered nine bodies from the crash site. Four were buried that day in Bellingwolde, while five others were buried in Leer, Germany on October 18, 1943. The last remaining body was discovered a week later in a canal.
After the war, the dead were retrieved, and moved to other cemeteries. Today, SSgt Avery lies in the Maple Hill Cemetery in Hartford, Michigan.
US Census 1930
US Census 1940
NARA Enlistment Records
SSgt William A. Avery, Jr. was acting as the right waist gunner on B-17F # 42-3886, named "Marie Helena," assigned to the 351st Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 949 was issued for this loss. Crew records and personnel records show the crew as:
2 Lt Raymond J. Gormley p
2 Lt Edward J. Fox c-p
2 Lt Peter T. Motta nav
2 Lt William J. Heath bomb
TSgt Jay B. McPhee eng/tt gun
TSgt Dale A. Von Seggern r/o
SSgt Donald R. Hilton btg
SSgt Charles Presley Lwg
SSgt Willim A. Avery, Jr. Rwg
SSgt Clay E. Rife tail gun
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
Gormley, Fox, Von Seggern, and McPhee were buried the next day in Bellingwolde. Motta, Heath, Hilton, Avery, and Rife were buried on October 18, 1943 in Leer. Presley's body was found in a canal a week later.
In the crew photo, Avery is in front, sitting, 2nd from left.