Last Known Activity
Eldon C. "Curly" Steerman was born in Kansas in 1914. His parents were Loray "Lora" and Clara May Farr Steerman. He is listed in the US Census 1930 as being in Benton, Kansas as a lodger. The US Census 1940 has him as a boarder in Salina.
Sources (Family trees) indicate that from April 1940 to July 1942, he was a driver of midget autos, racing in tracks around Kansas. In August, 1942, he was drafted and inducted into the military.
Previous to this, he had married Vorietta Correne Marcy in 1934. They had one child, Eva Fawn, which was born on October 29, 1935. The child died the same day. The couple was divorced in 1938, but Eldon evidently married again as he lists "Edith Steerman, wife" as next of kin on military papers.
He was trained as an aerial gunner, and assigned to North Africa to a B-17 combat unit. He arrived there on November 13, 1943. According to records, he flew on at least 20 credited missions.
On January 11, 1944, operating from an advanced base in Cerignola, Italy, the crew was assigned to bomb the harbor installations at Piraeus, Greece. Near the target area, weather conditions deteriorated, and a large cloud bank had to be flown through. Within the cloud, winds were excessive, and icing conditions were encountered.
Two of the lead aircraft decided to abort, but in turning, they flew across the formation of the second element. At least 2 (some sources say 4) B-17s collided. One sheared off the tail of Goen's aircraft, and the tail section fell 19,000 feet, with the gunner trapped inside. A clump of small trees evidently broke the fall, and the gunner was unscathed. He was immediately captured by the enemy. The remaining crew were killed in the crash of the forward part of the aircraft.
After the war, the dead were recovered and buried in various cemeteries. SSgt Steerman today lies in a common grave with some of his crew mates and others killed on that mission. The common grave is in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Missouri, and is at Section 79, Sites 434-436.
National Cemetery Interment Control Records
Family trees (ancestry.com)
SSgt Eldon C. "Curly" Steerman was acting as waist gunner on B-17F #42-3098, named "Skippy," assigned to the 353rd Bomb Squadron. The aircraft went overseas to England then North Africa and again to Foggia, Italy with the 49th Bomb Squadron, 2nd Bomb Group. It was transfered to the 353rd Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group in Cerignola, Italy on 14 Nov, 1943. Capt. Kenneth W. Spinning, the owner of this B17s mascot "Skippy" the dog and original crew commanding officer was KIA while flying #42-29646 "Peg 'O My Heart" on 10 Nov., 1943. MACR 1144.
Missing Air Crew Report 1832 covers this loss. No mission loading list is available, but the crew roster can be obtained from the MACR. According to that document, the crew consisted of:
Cpt Robert W. Goen, Jr p
1 Lt Henry J. Sudol c-p
1 Lt Bruce E. Hicks nav
1 Lt Robert B. Fassett bomb
SSgt John A. Kemmler eng/tt gun
TSgt Lucio A. Pittoni r/o
SSgt Leonard E. Matkey btg
SSgt Eldon C. Steerman wg
SSgt James A. Raley tail gun
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
SSgt Raley was the only survivor.