It was a short war for Lt. Hall Gray Carney. His unit arrived at Attlebridge Airfield northwest of Norwich in Norfolk, England in March, 1944 and flew its first mission on March 22nd, an assault on Berlin which was the longest initial assault by any unit in the European Theater.
|First Lieutenant Hall Gray Carney, B-24H Bombardier|
Five days later on the 27th day of March, Bombardier Carney was again in the nose of a B-24H on his second mission of World War II. The pilot of crew N-405 was Prosper F. Pinto with B-24H aircraft 42-52562. The other pilot was Robert J. Mogford with crew N-514 and aircraft 41-29364 – Stardust. I have not found the “name” of the first aircraft and numerous “Stardust’s” flew in the war.
These two aircraft were about tenth in the take-off sequence. When they reached the assembly point about ten miles off the end of the runway, in the midst of the jostling to get in formation, the two aircraft collided with the loss of all 20 airmen.
I’ve not determined which of the two aircraft Lt. Carney was in, nor have I documented with certainty that he died in this crash. He did die on that day and the unit did experience the loss of those two aircraft and 20 men on that day. Updates to follow as we learn more.
Please check the comment below for updated and further information. Thanks to the contributor.
Lt. Carney’s crew had trained for months and months in Mississippi, Texas, Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico. They were members of the 784th Bombardment Squadron, the Red Squadron of the 466th Bombardment Group (Heavy) in the 8th Air Force. The group took the nickname of the “Flying Deck” with the 784th being the Clubs. They began their move to Attlebridge in February with the 62 aircraft flying the southern route with the loss of one crew en route. The ground echelon was transported to England on the Queen Mary.
There is another potentially important detail about the crew of “Stardust” on the 27th. The regular pilot and one of his crew were sick that day and Mogford’s crew was assigned to Stardust for the mission. We can surmise that the crews had trained together for all of these months, likely mostly in their assigned aircraft. They had certainly developed a level of cohesion working together that gave them confidence in flying the aircraft and operating the numerous systems onboard. They certainly had learned a lot more five days earlier in that first long combat mission. On take-off for their second mission these men could have been at the peak of the ratio between confidence and actual skill. They were trained, “experienced” and confident they could face any flying challenge. They were not. They were trained. They were not experienced; they had only seen dozens of flying challenges that first mission compared to hundreds a crew would face over time.
Whether the confidence and skill levels of these new crews played a factor in the mid-air collision, we certainly cannot say. But understanding something about how these 20 men came to be at that point over the English countryside that morning helps us to visualize Lt. Carney’s last moments.
Lt. Carney was the bombardier sitting in the nose of the plane surrounded by windows and a clear view of the airspace before and around him. That vantage point had to provide a spectacular view, the best of any crew member’s. But everyone knew that if the plane ever encountered a problem, the bombardier would be the first one there.
The loss of these two crews only compounded the tragedy of the month. The 466th had lost two aircraft and crews in that first Berlin assault, again to a mid-air collision. Those four losses plus the earlier loss in transit cost the unit five planes and 57 men.
The 466th Bombardment Group had four squadrons, the 784th – Lt. Carney’s, the 785th, 786th and the 787th. Squadron aircraft carried a distinctive two character identifier – the 784th aircraft were marked with “2U.” The Group Commander was Col. Arthur Pierce.
First Lieutenant Hall Gray Carney carried the name of two of Sutton’s founding families. He was born in August, 1919 to Samuel C. and Margaret Carney. This Sam Carney had grown up in Sutton but lived in Evanston, Illinois for a time where he had met his wife. Sam Carney was back in Sutton in 1930 and a bank president
That Sam Carney was the son of Samuel and Eugenia Carney. The older Samuel Carney was an early arrival in Sutton and took over a hardware business from Isaac N. Clark. Eugenia was the daughter of Hosea and Ann Gray. Hosea and Eugenia’s older brother John M. Gray were the very early arrivals in Sutton. John M. Gray and his wife Emma were Hall Gray Carney’s uncle and aunt. The Sutton Historical Society can claim the connection in that John and Emma built both houses of today’s museum.
The Sutton Historical Society asks the town and residents of Sutton, past and present, to join us in recognizing the life and the death of First Lieutenant Hall Gray Carney, a brave son of our town.
We also invite comments, corrections or additions to the story of Lt. Carney. Together we can ensure that present and future Suttonites will know and remember this fallen hero and others as we add to this collection.
- Written with respect and admiration on Veterans Day, 2011 by Lt. Col. Jerrell R. (Jerry)Johnson, USAF, ret.