Purple Heart

Staff Sergeant
Richard J. Mc Coy

July 17, 1920 - February 20, 1944

Jersey City, New Jersey - Oberrosphe, Germany


Richard J. Mc Coy was born in 1920 and from Jersey City, New Jersey.

He enlisted in the USAAF on 2 November 1942.

After basic training he became the Flight Engineer of the crew of 2nd Lt. Frederick H. Rawson, 506th Bomb Squadron, 44th Bomb Group (H)

The rest of the crew consisted of:

Pilot 2nd Lt. Frederick H. Rawson from Erie, Pennsylvania,
Co-pilot 2nd Lt.  James R. Lewis from San Angelo, Texas,
Navigator 2nd Lt.  William P. Johnston from Kansas City, Missouri,

506th Bomb Squadron

44th Bomb Group

Bombardier 2nd Lt.  William G. Richardson from Portland, Maine,
Engineer S/Sgt. Richard J. Mc Coy from Jersey City, New Jersey
Radio Operator S/Sgt. Gerald E. Reader from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin
Ball Turret Gunner Sgt. Julian E Winfree Jr from Greensboro, North Carolina
RW Gunner Sgt.  John B. Hoffman from Longview, Texas
LW Gunner Sgt. Robert E. Schultz from Staunton, Virginia
Tail Turret Sgt. Russell A. Wapensky from Laneford, Pennsylvania.

On 20 February 1944 the 44th flew a mission to Ochersleben and Helmstedt, Germany. The weather was severely cold over all of Europe with snow covering the ground both at the
target and on the base. Two targets of opportunity were hit because the primary at Halberstadt, which was scheduled for bombing by PFF equipment, malfunctioned. Slight but fairly accurate flak was encountered over the two targets, coupled with attacks by enemy aircraft, led the 44th to loose two planes.

The MACR states that, “At 1350 hours, A/C #373 was seen hit by flak, #4 engine was smoking. A/C fell back and became a straggler. Between 1405 and 1410 hours, the ship was attacked at least four times by one Me 109. No chutes observed.”

S/Sgt. Gerald E. Reader, radio operator, was able to add his recollections, “We were on our first mission and were put in formation as Tail-end Charlies [in the first section]. Our target was
Helmstedt. We got our bombs away and were leaving the target area when flak got one right engine. The rest of our formation was leaving when the Me 109s showed up. I shot flares to alert
our fighter cover, but they were all busy. One Me 109 hit us in the tail and set that section on fire. Our tail gunner, Russ Wapensky, was burned. His chute, which was just outside of his turret, was damaged and partially burned. “Co-pilot Lt. Lewis got up from his seat and motioned for us to get out. Engineer Dick McCoy then bailed out from the front. I don’t know what happened to him. Our waist gunners, Winfree and Schultz bailed out from the rear, followed by Sgt. Hoffman, ball turret gunner. Wapensky then came forward looking for a spare chute to replace his damaged one. Lt. Lewis got Wapensky on his back and jumped out, both hanging on to each other. But when the chute opened, Wapensky was torn loose and fell to his death. I, then, went out from the front, too. Both our navigator and bombardier were in the nose so I don’t know what happened to them or what took place there.

“Lt. Rawson, Lt. Lewis, Lt. Richardson, Sgt. Hoffman and myself are all that came down alive as far as I know. I don’t know if Winfree got out of the plane or not.

“We landed near Odessa, were taken to Bad Hamberg, then on to Frankfurt for interrogation, etc. However, our crew was not together as Hoffman went to the hospital and I didn’t see the others
again. I ended up a POW at Heidakrug, East Prussia.” The bombardier, Lt. William Richardson adds even more, “I was not their regular bombardier – he was unable to fly this day and I was
substituted from my regular crew. Our briefed target was Helmstedt, but the primary target for most of the 8th AF was Leipzig. Helmstedt, as I recall, was a diversionary target. We were
supposed to fly over the target at 13,000 feet, and thereafter climb to 18,000 on the return journey.

“All went well until we reached our destination. There we encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire and at least one of our engines was knocked out. Any other damage caused by the flak I was not
aware of. Our bombs were dropped. After passing over the target, the formation started their ascent to the new altitude. In our crippled condition, we were unable to keep up, and gradually fell behind, until we were all alone.

“Shortly after that, several enemy fighters moved in and shot the hell out of us. A FW 190 flew up, right in front of my turret, so close I could look right into the pilot’s face – moments you don’t forget! Had my guns been operating, I could have given him a bad time, but they were out – as was most everything else in our aircraft.

“I didn’t hear any bail out order, but was sure it was getting near that time. My intercom was out. I couldn’t open the door to the turret but the navigator (Lt. Johnston) opened it for me. Had he not done that, I would have been casualty #6. At this point, the B-24 was in a pretty violent attitude and heading down. Lt. Johnston went out through the nose wheel door and I followed. At that time I didn’t know the fate of the rest of the crew or if anyone was still on board.

“It was sort of open country and farmland where we came down. I landed in high brush and had hardly extricated myself when arms-bearing “natives” appeared and escorted me to a group several hundred yards away – Lts. Rawson and Lewis, a badly wounded ball turret gunner [Winfree], and one other crewman. The navigator Johnston was there, but dead as his chute was unopened!

“I have enclosed a copy of a letter prepared by Lt. Rawson recommending Lt. Lewis for a Silver Star. Outcome unknown.” In part it states, “The rudder controls were shot out, the elevators jammed, the whole tail section set afire, and the tail gunner severely injured and his flying suit set afire. On the second pass, the left (waist) gunner was killed and the right gunner and ball turret gunners were severely injured. The order to bail out was then given and the right waist gunner, ball turret gunner, navigator and bombardier parachuted out.

“As Lt. Lewis prepared to leave the aircraft, he noticed that the quick release mechanism of the pilot’s flak suit was jammed. He paused to tear off the flak suit of the pilot who was fighting to
maintain control of the aircraft; he retrieved the pilot’s parachute from behind the armor plate and buckled it on him. As Lt. Lewis entered the bomb bay, he saw the wounded tail gunner on
the catwalk. His suit was still on fire and his parachute had been riddled by 20-mm shells.

Pausing again, Lt. Lewis dragged the injured tail gunner [Wapensky] onto his back and dived out the bomb bay. When the parachute opened, the tail gunner’s hold was loosened and he fell to the
earth and was killed.”"

S/Sgt. McCoy managed to jump from the bomb bay but his parachute failed to open. He was found by a German wood-cutter in the forest near Oberrosphe, Germany.

S/Sgt Mc Coy is buried at the Margraten Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot L Row 14 Grave 16. He was 23 years old.

Margraten, The Netherlands

See Also:
2Lt William Johnston
Sgt Julian Winfree
Sgt Robert Schultz
Sgt Russell Wapensky

Acknowledgements and
Mr. Ed Maier, webmaster of the Purple Hearts of WWII website. "The purpose of this page is to honor and remember those who gave their lives for the freedom that we all enjoy today.  While it would be wonderful if all of these medals stayed within their families, many of these families have died off or distant relatives have forgotten the name and memory of these deceased heroes.  It is my intention to preserve the memory of these servicemen with dignity and honor while these decorations are under my care for future generations."
44th Bomb Group Roll of Honor, Will Lundy, 2004
The Mighty Eight War Diary, Roger A. Freeman, Arms and Armour, London, 1990

Directions to Margraten American Military Cemetery

Posted 24 August 2005

If you have any suggestions, comments or additional information, please contact me.

This website is dedicated to the men and women who died and/or are buried in The Netherlands during World War II.


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