Town of Opijnen Honors crew of Man-O-War

On may 4th 2004 the Dutch town of Opijnen honored the crew of B17 Man-O-War of the 91st Bomb Group, by naming 10 streets in a new development project after the ten members of the crew. Special guest was Mr. John Bruce, co-pilot of the ill fated crew that was shot down on their first mission on July 30, 1943.

On July 30, 1943 the Man-O-War, piloted by Lt. Keene McCammon and Lt. John Bruce, was part of the 91st Bomb Group, flying out of Bassingbourn, to bomb the Messerschidt works in Kassel, Germany. On the way back two of their engines were shot out and they had to leave formation. German fighters singled out the straggler and over the town of Opijnen the crew was ordered to bail out. Shortly after the plane blew up and only the pilot and co-pilot survived.

Mr. John Bruce laying a wreath at the graves of his crew

The eight crewmembers were buried in the local cemetery and by special request and permission by the US government, families of the crew and the town itself, the crew remained buried here after the war. Except tow others, they are the only graves not to be interred at Margraten American Military Cemetery. The townspeople, and especially Mr. de Kock, an eyewitness of the crash, have taken great care to maintain the graves. Unfortunately Mr de Kock passed away in 2003. The care of the graves was taken over by his granddaughter Anouschka.

Both Mr. Bruce and Mr. McCammon attended the memorial services in 1983. Mr. McCammon passed away in 2003. This year, Mr. Bruce was the guest of the community of Opijnen and the American Women’s Club of Amsterdam, who have been instrumental in keeping the memory of these eight men alive. Together with Mr. De Vries they have been responsible for the memorial services that are held every year on may 4th.

Mr. John Bruce and Mr. van Arkel, an eyewitness of the crash, with two cartridges that
Mr. van Arkel took from the crash site and defused himself.

After an reception at the town hall, the invited guests were taken on a bus tour to all the places which had significance to the crash, 61 years ago. At 20.00 a large crowd had gathered at the graves of the crew. As May 4th is Holland’s National Day of Remembrance, two minutes of silence were observed. At a special meeting at the site of the new housing project, Mr. Bruce joined mayor Jansen in the unveiling of the street names. Besides the invited guests, also in attendance were many people from the town as well as many of the future residents. Mayor Jansen, in his impressive speech, reminded all those here today that Opijnen still recognizes the sacrifices made by these young men and that the bond between the town and these men are cemented by this gesture. It is his hope that this community will live in the freedom, peace and harmony that these men died protecting and securing for us.

Mr. John Bruce and Mayor Jansen under the Street signs

See also:

S/Sgt George R. Krueger
2Lt Daniel Victor Ohman
S/Sgt Douglas V. Blackwood
T/Sgt Americo Cianfichi
S/Sgt Hermon D. Poling
1Lt Robert Urqhart Duggan
S/Sgt Harold R. Sparks

S/Sgt Mike Anthony Perrotta