Five Members of World War II Bomber Crew Being Buried Together

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) has announced that Tech/Sgt. John F. Brady, Tech/Sgt. Allen A. Chandler, 1st Lt. John H. Liekhus, Staff/Sgt. Robert O. Shoemaker and from McKinney, Texas, Staff/Sgt. Bobby J. Younger, have all been accounted for and will be laid to rest in a joint burial with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, June 27, 2018. All were crew members of a B-17 Flying Fortress that was shot down over Germany, November 2, 1944.

Department of Defense historians and analysts, aided by German researchers and local government officials, located the crash site and conducted recovery operations in 2015, finding osseous remains, material evidence and aircraft wreckage. Three of the crew, Brady, Shoemaker and Younger, were able to be individually identified through mitochondrial DNA analysis, forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence. The remains that could not be individually identified represented the entire crew.

In June of 1944, Bobby Joe Younger, at the age of 18, would graduate from McKinney High School, enroll at Texas A&M, then enlist in the US Army Air Corps, rise to the rank of Staff/Sergeant and be killed in action November 2, all in a span of less than five months.

Staff/Sgt. Bobby Younger, now 19, had one of the most dangerous occupations in World War II, a belly ball turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress. Sitting in a glass bubble on the underside of the huge aircraft, he was protected only by a glass shield, with no way of escaping or hiding from a fighter attack. The belly ball was so compact it would not accommodate anyone over 5’4”, had no room for a parachute, and the gunner, armed with twin 50-caliber machine guns, would have to sit for hours in a cramped position with his knees almost touching his chest. Enemy fighters would attack from below aiming for the fuel tanks, leaving the belly turret gunner completely exposed to enemy cannons, machine guns and flak from artillery on the ground.

On Bobby’s 13th mission with the 91st Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, a bomb run over Merseburg, Germany, his plane, with a crew of nine, was critically damaged when hit by flak and dropped out of formation. As it lost altitude, German fighters attacked and witnesses reported seeing the B-17 burst into flames and plummet toward the ground, crashing just southwest of the town of Barby. Three of the nine crewmembers survived and were captured. The American Graves Registration Command in 1951 concluded the five unaccounted for perished in the crash and their remains were unknown.

After being listed on the “Tablets of the Missing”, Henri-Chapelle, American Cemetery, Belgium, for over 70 years, Bobby Joe Younger and four brothers in arms, will finally come home to a resting place in the country they fought and died for.

The name of Bobby J. Younger is listed on the Wall of Honor at the Collin County Veterans Memorial Park in McKinney; his portrait hangs in the Hall of Heroes at the Russell A. Steindam Courts Building, and his boyhood home, which features his bedroom just as he left it in 1944, is in one of the historic buildings located at Chestnut Square Historic Village in McKinney.

Collin County Freedom Fighters

Bobby J. Younger, with B-17 and Ball Belly Turret depicted.
(portrait by Colin Kimball)