Moment of Impact
A Consolidated B-24 Liberator of the 854th Squadron from the Eighth Air Force’s 491st Bombardment Group crashes into a field near the town of Udenhout in the Netherlands on Sep. 18, 1944. The pilot was Captain James K. Hunter, a Minnesotan who was flying his 21st mission. He and all but one crewmember died in the crash.
The B-24, with tail number 44-40210, had completed a low-level supply drop to members of the 101st Airborne during Operation Market Garden when it was hit by flak.
“With only seconds in which to work, Captain Hunter, considered one of the best pilots in the group, picked his spot and started to bring the B-24 in on its belly,” said a report. “At less than 50 feet, however, the right inboard engine burst into flames. The right wing dropped and was too low when the plane hit. The instant was captured by a camera in another aircraft.”
Waist gunner S/Sgt. Frank DiPalma was the only survivor, but he had been badly burned in the crash. Dutch citizens found him wandering along a road and hid him in the basement of a nearby asylum run by Franciscans. The Franciscans kept DiPalma secreted away from occupying German troops until the area was liberated by the Allies in October, and DiPalma was sent to hospitals in Belgium and Britain to be treated for his burns.
DiPalma had been born in Italy but settled in Rochester, New York, with his family when they immigrated to the United States. Eventually he was able to return to Rochester, dying there in 1989.
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