Purple Heart
Air Medal

Technical Sergeant
Benjamin M. Purdy

April 19, 1921 - July 26, 1943

West Brattleboro, Vermont - MIA

(picture courtesy of Lori Tardif)

Benjamin M. Purdy was born on April 19, 1921 in West Brattleboro, Vermont.

Ben attended schools in Winchendon, Massachusetts and graduated from high school in Hinsdale, New Hampshire in 1939.  Shortly after graduation he came to Westfield, Massachusetts where he worked for Holland Furnace installing furnaces. He then was employed by Westfield Box until his induction into the military on June 15, 1942. He started at Fort Devens in Ayer Mass., then to Miami Beach, Florida.

548th Bomb Squadron

385th Bomb Group

From Florida, Ben was transferred to Shepperd Field, Wichita Falls, Texas to study "flying mechanics", then to Boeing Aircraft in Seattle Washington to graduate in "expert mechanics on assembly." Next came Las Vegas Nevada where he earned his Sergeant stripes after completing aerial gunnery school in December 1942. From Las Vegas, he went to Salt Lake City, Utah in January 1943 and then to Ephrata Washington in February. He arrived at Geiger Field, Spokane, Washington where the 385th Bomb Group had recently been activated and was assigned to crew # 5 of the 548th Bomb Squadron as 1st engineer on the original crew of Lt. Paul Somers.  In March, the 548th went to Lewiston, Montana for in-flight training.  Planes then flew to Kearny, Nebraska to begin flying to arrive to Great Ashfield, Suffolk England in mid-June.

The 385th Bomb Group was transferred from the United States to England in June, 1943. It began its operations the next month, July, with missions to Amsterdam, Bergen and Wernemunde, which all were flown without loss.

On July 26, 1943, the fourth mission of the group, Ben was loaned to F/O Glenn Duncan for a mission to the Continental Tire Factory in Hanover, Germany. The rest of the crew consisted of:

P- F/O Glenn F. Duncan

CP-2nd Lt. William L. Lehr

N-2nd Lt. Wiliam H. Henderson

B-2nd Lt. Roy J. Martines

TTG-T/Sgt. Benjamin M. Purdy

RO-T/Sgt. James E. Soward

BTG-S/Sgt. John R. Towle

TG- S/Sgt.  James E. Brophy

LWG-S/Sgt. Charles E. Propst

RWG-S/Sgt.Frank R. Ramsey

On mission number 4, the Bomb Group was sent to Wesermunde, for which the BG provided 21 planes, among which the Duncan crew, flying in B-17 42-30281. On this mission the BG encountered its first fighter opposition by the German Luftwaffe and three of its planes were lost. The crew of F/O Duncan was one of them. They had to ditch their plane into the North Sea but all ten crew were lost.

It is not exactly known what the circumstances were under which the Duncan crew was lost.

The war dept telegram stated T/Sgt Purdy was MIA over Bremerhaven, Germany. A letter from the group chaplain dated August 23, 1943, states "under control flying low over water shooting flares." A report from the Graves Registration in 1948 states "last seen over the North Sea about 40 miles North of East Frisian Islands".  A letter from Washington, dated February 24, 1949 says "exploded and crashed in the North Sea".  A picture smuggled out through Spain appeared in a Texas paper sometime between September 1943 and August 1944.  Some men are identified by their families as Duncan's crew.  This picture was given to T/Sgt Purdy's family in 1949 by the bombardier's wife who said the niece of the co-pilot Lt. William Lehr, who worked for the New York Times and got the original picture from Spain and had it enlarged.

The family of T/Sgt Purdy received this picture of a crew taken PoW, which had apparently appeared in a newspaper in the days following the loss of the Duncan crew. It is thought that members of the Duncan crew are identified on this picture, although it cannot be said with any certainty. Anyone who recognizes any person in this picture, or who can answer the following questions: Who took this picture? When was it taken? Where was it taken? and what happened next? is asked to contact the webmaster.

As of yet unidentified crew. The names on the picture are, from left to right: T/Sgt. James E. Soward, S/Sgt. Charles E. Propst, F/O Glenn F. Duncan, S/Sgt. James E. Brophy, 2nd Lt. William L. Lehr, unknown, T/Sgt Benjamin Purdy, Roy Martinez. Anyone who recognizes anyone on this picture is asked to contact the webmaster. A larger picture is available (Picture courtesy of Mrs. Lori Tardif)

T/Sgt Purdy is mentioned on the Wall of the Missing at Margraten American Military Cemetery.

His family dedicated a stone in his memory at the Massachusetts Veterans memorial Cemetery in April 2005.


Margraten, The Netherlands

See Also:
F/O Glenn F. Duncan
2L. William L. Lehr
2Lt Wiliam H. Henderson
2Lt Roy J. Martines
T/Sgt James E. Soward
S/Sgt John R. Towle
S/Sgt  James E. Brophy
S/Sgt Frank R. Ramsey

Sources and Acknowledgments:
Mrs. Lori Tardif
Mrs. Yvonne Barnett
Mr. Bill Varnedoe, President 385th Bomb Group Association
Roger A. Freeman, The Mighty Eight War Diary, Arms and Armour, London, 1990

Directions to Margraten American Military Cemetery

Posted 8 July 2005
Updated 8 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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