Bill is the son of 2nd Lt Everett D. Bever, Bombardier on DiDomenico's Crew in
Southwest Pacific during 1944, training of bomber combat crews in
the USAAF 380th Bomb Group, 5th Army Air Forces was scheduled between
their operational missions to keep crews prepared for what they
might encounter over the vast miles to and from bombing targets.
Gunnery training (mock interceptions)
of crews was setup with Australian and United States military
personnel to academically prepare both countries' airmen with added
experience to accompany them as they continued to rout the Japanese
from New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies.
On September 18th, 1944, Crew #4,
Pilot, 1st Lt John S. DiDomenico, Co-pilot, 2nd Lt Paul W. Norris,
Navigator, 1st Lt John H. Reid, Bombardier, 2nd Lt Everett D. Bever,
Radio Operator, TSgt John H. Miller, Engineer, TSgt Robert G.
Gjerstad, Gunner, SSgt James L Edwards, Gunner, SSgt Ellie V.
Hester, Gunner, SSgt Albert S. McKinney and Gunner, SSgt Thomas E.
Murray of the 528th Bomb Squadron stationed at Darwin, Australia,
went up to Melville Island on a gunnery training mission. The
bomber's gunnery crew was to encounter several Australian Spitfire
fighter planes to increase their accuracy potential of finding enemy
fighter planes and engaging them.
The first few Spitfires were
tracked by the gunners and mock interceptions went according to
their training procedures. The last Spitfire to engage them most
likely misjudged its closing speed and position of its location with
1st Lt DiDomenico's crew #4 B-24 Liberator. The left door gunner,
SSgt Ellie V. Hester, saw the Aussie Spitfire closing in and knew it
was going to hit them, but could not warn the pilot in time as the
Spitfire flew into the B-24's number one engine. The impact sheared
the number one engine propeller off of the bomber and left wing of
the Spitfire. The Spitfire's Flight Officer, A.K. Kelly of the RAAF 452nd
squadron, cartwheeled into the Gulf of Van Diemen, never having a
chance to bail out.
Photos from Glenn R. Horton,
Jr., BEST IN THE SOUTHWEST
Upon impact, the right wing of
crew #4, flying at approx' 7000 feet, went perpendicular to the ground.
The pilot and co-pilot frantically worked the rudders to level the
bomber back to an upright position. The bomber's intercom was
chaotic as the pilot ordered everyone to bail out. Radio Operator
TSgt John H. Miller was sitting at his radio work station, working a
crossword puzzle when the Aussie Spitfire hit their #1 engine,
slamming his head into the radar screen. Up above, the upper turret
gunner, Robert G. Gjerstad, fell from his upper position, hitting
the radio operator with his body.
The entire crew decided to stay
with the plane as it finally leveled out at 3,000 feet. The pilot
told the radio operator to get on the radio to let Darwin know what
their location was and what had happened. When land was seen, the
bomber flying with three engines was in close proximity to Darwin.
The pilot once again told the crew they could bail out over land as
he was not sure how well the bomber would land after what it had
just been through. The crew decided as a group not to bail out,
having the utmost respect for their pilot's flying ability. Crew #4
had a safe landing. Pilot DiDomenico added this safe landing to his
total of eight emergency landings on three engines.
Gunner Hester witnessed the accident from his side
window gun position and spent 2 weeks in hospital from the shock of
what he had just seen.
Greeting the crew upon landing was
the 528th squadron flight surgeon, Captain Butts, who passed out a
bottle of whiskey with sleeping tablets to the relieved crew. Crew
#4 deserved a break from one of their greatest scares and narrowest
escape from death.