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Owen Roane: The King and I

by Owen D. Roane

This is a short excerpt from The Cowboy’s book “A year in the Life of a Cowboy” as well as notes from the many interviews I had with Owen D. Roane” This depicts the loss of Richard King’s crew at what the 100th refers to as “Over Paris” What happened is still debated by those on the mission and historians studying it. Cowboy having been the co-pilot on the King Crew in the states before being given a crew of his own called this one of the saddest day in his life. This some fifty-five years later in a conversation with this writer. This is what he observed or as he always said, “What I think I saw.” ..pw

August (1943) finally ended with a flight Mulan les Meureaux to bomb an aircraft repair depot. The flight was canceled as we neared the outskirts of Paris. Clouds again covered the target area and since it was occupied territory there would be no random dropping of bombs. We returned home with our deadly cargo. This same load was carried back to France on September 2nd with the same results. The target his time was called Kerlin-Bastard. There was much speculation on how it got its name. Finally this bomb load we had been hauling around was released on the 3rd or September. We were leading the 2nd element of the high squadron so we had a good view of the rest of the Group.

Various stories have evolved concerning what actually occurred on this mission. Our primary target was the Renault Works in Paris, but again the weather was not cooperative. We headed for the secondary target, Beaumont Le Roger Airfield some sixty miles west of the primary. During the bomb run we were attacked by fighters all the while being hammered by flak. The 2nd Element of the lead squadron consisted of Victor Fienup as leader with Richard (King) and Charles Floyd as his wingmen. I saw King’s ship hit by flak and start burning furiously amidships and fire was also enveloping his right wing. As this was my crew and my pilot back in training, I knew the crew well and prayed they all would survive. As the plane continued to burn, however, it veered into the tail of Floyd’ plane causing Floyd to pitch up into the plane flown by Fienup. A large explosion occurred and then I saw the planes of King and Floyd break up immediately. Fienup’s plane went down just moments later.

Peter Theodore, our Gunnery Officer went down with the Floyd Crew. Though not required to fly combat missions he thought he should have experience in the subject he was teaching. Although he had flow several missions this time he was KIA along with seven others in the Floyd Crew…

With those two crews down, our crew would be alone in the hut. Captain Veal (Squadron Commander) sent us to London on a two day pass while the personal effects of the two crews were removed…

At our reunion on Dayton, Ohio in 1985, I saw a man that I thought was dead. Edward Hovde, the bombardier on King’s Crew was standing in the lobby of the hotel. When we could talk I asked him what had happened as we had seen their ship explode. He said he was not really sure but regained consciousness while lying on part of their aircrafts wing. He was able to pull his ripcord in time to cushion his fall. He told me that he must have had his left hand on his left knee when the explosion occurred as they were both severed and bleeding profusely. He was immediately picked up-by the Germans and taken to the hospital where he spent about three months in recovery before being repatriated to the States.

Ed (Hovde) told me that Anderson (navigator on the King Crew) had bailed out and was taken prisoner. Andy (Anderson) came to the 100th reunion in Long Beach, CA and three of us spent quite some time reliving the incident. They told me that Herber Hoggie and Jim Sides made it out of the plane some way and were taken prisoner. They told me that Barney Sutton was not with them over Paris but had returned to the States for pilot training.

I was aware of this already as Barney came by to visit me at the ranch in Valley View, TX, but our renewed friendship sadly was not to be lasting as Barney died a few short months after our visit.