April 15, Liberator

Thornton Carlough, B-24 Liberator copilot, seen in this photo from November 1944, when he arrived back in the United States after completing his tour of duty.

On April 15th, he was on aircraft, tailnumber 42-78186, en route to attack targets in Bucharest. Despite flying a new airplane, their engines failed before reaching the target, and the plane started to lose altitude. The ten crew members jumped out of the plane in the vicinity of Varvarin, Serbia. 

All the crew, except the pilot who was captured, were quickly gathered by Chetniks, who took them to safety. After contacting officers of the British mission, they were sent to Pranjani, from where they were evacuated to Italy on May 29th. Members of this crew were among the last to be evacuated as they worked to assist the landing rescue aircraft by operating lights and helping planes to taxi, in essence helping operate the rescue aerodrome Crew members:

Thornton Carlough Samuel Ferris Robert English Thomas McElroy Ennis Burns Donald DeLuca William Keys John Lane Anthony Russo

Another crewmember, Lt Robert English, told his experience to his son in 1980, who wrote it and published it in Serb World. Few pages of the article are attached.

Interestingly, evacuated Airmen continued to fly. It was not recommended that airmen who Evaded capture return to duty, for they might give away their helpers. However, since Yugoslav guerrillas were very efficient in returning downed airmen, this rule was changed for Yugoslavia.

On July 11th, their plane was damaged while on a mission to Blechhammer and had to make a forced landing on the emergency airfield on Vis island. Lt English had the opportunity to once again speak on Serbian to his helpers, this time with Tito's partisans.




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