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James Frederick Burch

Military

Born and raised in Kaufman County, Texas, Jim Burch studied for 2 years at the Terrell High School and began working as a salesman in a retail grocery in Terrell, Texas. Enlisting in April 1942, he followed Pilot training courses and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant when he got his wings. Sent overseas, he was assigned to the 385 Bomber Group / 549 Bomber Squadron in England, as Co-Pilot in the Lt William Whitlow crew. A week after his first mission, he was on board B-17 # 42-3539 which was shot down by a German fighter on the 10 October 1943 mission to Münster, Germany. Bailing out over Nijverdal, Holland, he landed near Holten, spraining his ankle. Jim was helped by Dutch citizens and underground members who brought him to Belgium. Guided to Brussels, he was taken in charge by the Belgian Comet evasion network and with the help of many Belgian and French citizens and members of the Résistance, he reached the Franco-Spanish border. One of a group of 10 men who left in the evening of 22 December 1943 from Ciboure, France, towards the Spanish border, he was walking with difficulty along the narrow paths. After resting at a farm in Urrugne near the border, the group resumed its march in the evening of 23 December. Negociating the difficult, hilly terrain across the rugged Pyrénées mountains, Jim, almost exhausted, marched on, not wanting to see the passage compromised by forcing his fellow evaders to wait for him. Jim could not swim, but like the others, past midnight, he started to cross the swollen Bidassoa River, forming a natural border between France and Spain. Almost drowning at his first attempt, he was brought back to the French side by a member of the group and was helped again in a second attempt. Tragically, like Belgian Comète member Count Antoine d’Ursel, he lost his footing in the raging waters and both were drowned, the other evaders unable to save them. Their bodies were found on 26 December at Biriatou, downriver on the French side by members of the German Feldgendarmerie Brigade of Behobia, Spain. The Germans took all documents and personal effects they found on them and exposed their bodies on the church steps at Biriatou where, to the anger of the Germans, the villagers covered them with flowers. Despite the death certificate established by a French doctor and the official request to the German authorities to proceed to a burial, the bodies of the two men were never found. According to local rumor, the Germans eliminated the men by burning their bodies. A death certificate for Jim Burch was established in Cambridge dated 22 December 1943, which is the official date of Jim’s death, although the real date is 24 December. Jim’s name is still in the DPAA (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) list of the Missing In Action. It is carved on the Tablets of the Missing at the Cambridge American Cemetery in Coton, England, as well as on the Wall of the Missing at the Oakland Memorial Park Cemetery in Terrell, Kaufman County, Texas. Jim was married to Olga E. Burch, who never got over the tragic death of her husband. They had no children. See the details of Jim Burch’s evasion and fate at http://www.evasioncomete.org/fburchjf.html

Service

People

  • John Ashcraft

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Radio Operator, Radio Operator Gunner | 385th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #423539. Evaded.

  • Thomas Ennis

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Ball Turret Gunner | 385th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #423539. Killed in Action (KIA).

  • William Fazenbaker

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Navigator | 385th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #423539. Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • Robert Richards

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 385th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #423539. Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • Clarence Schaumburg

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Left Waist Gunner, Waist Gunner | 385th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #423539. Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • Willis Shaneyfelt

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Top Turret Gunner | 385th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #423539. Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • Lloyd Stanford

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Bombardier | 385th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #423539. Evaded.

  • Howard Walker

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Right Waist Gunner, Waist Gunner | 385th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #423539. Killed in Action (KIA).

  • William Whitlow

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Pilot | 385th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #423539. Evaded.

Units served with

  • 385th Bomb Group

    385th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 385th Bomb Group, who took the nickname "Van's Valiants" after their first Commanding Officer Col. Elliot Vandevanter, flew B-17s from Great Ashfield, Suffolk. The Group led the famous attack on the Focke-Wolfe aircraft factory at Marienburg on 9...

  • 549th Bomb Squadron
  • 550th Bomb Squadron

Aircraft

  • 42-3539

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Denver 26 July 1943; Dyersburg 9 August 1943; Assigned 550BS/385BG [XA-P] Great Ashfield 3 September 1943. Missing in Action Münster, Germany 10 October 1943. Shot down by enemy aircraft. Was seen at 22,000 feet with No. 2 engine on fire,...

Missions

  • VIII Bomber Command 106

    2 October 1943
    This mission is composed of three elements, two or which are directed at the industrial areas of Emden, Germany and the other at the German airfield at Woensdrecht, Holland. The first element is a formation of 163 B-17s from 1st Bomb Division which...

  • VIII Bomber Command 108

    4 October 1943
    This mission is composed of five elements. The first element is a combined force of 104 B-17s from: 306BG (16); 92BG (17); 395BG (17); 303BG (19); 379BG (18) and 384BG (17) despatched to bomb the industrial areas of Frankfurt, Germany. 77 aircraft are...

  • VIII Bomber Command 111

    8 October 1943
    The shipyards and industrial areas of Bremen, Germany are the primary targets for this mission, but cloud cover causes some formations to bomb targets of opportunity. The attacking elements have been summarized below: ...

  • VIII Bomber Command 113

    9 October 1943
    This mission is composed of 6 elements. The first element is a combined force of 115 B-17s from: 303BG (20); 379BG (20); 384BG (21); 351BG (21); 91BG 16; and 381BG (16) dispatched to bomb the industrial areas of Anklam, Germany. 106 aircraft are...

  • VIII Bomber Command 114

    10 October 1943
    This mission was intended to be a massive attack of 307 B-17s on the railroad facilities and waterway (canals) at Munster, Germany. This attack was to be supported by a diversion 39 B-24s. The formation was attacked by hundreds of German fighters which...

Associated Place

  • Great Ashfield

    Military site : airfield
    The airfield was built in 1942 by John Laing & Son Ltd. 108,000 tons of concrete was used in its construction, creating a Class 'A' airfield suitable for heavy bombers. The 385th Bomb Group took up residence in the summer of 1943, and remained at the...

Events

Event Location Date
Born Terrell, Texas, USA 16 August 1917

the son of Edmond Preston Burch and Nora V. Burch

Enlisted 7 April 1942

as a Private in the Air Corps

Bailed out on B-17 #42-3539 over Nijverdal, Holland 10 October 1943

over Nijverdal, Holland

near Holten, Holland 10 October 1943

landed in parachute

Evaded capture 10 October 1943 – 23 December 1943

Helped by Dutch, Belgian and French citizens and underground members, he reached the Franco-Spanish border.

Died downhill from the Chemin de Licarlan, Biriatou, France 24 December 1943

He drowned in the night in attempting to cross the swollen Bidassoa River trying to reach Spain. His body, together with that of Belgian Antoine d'Ursel, was found 2 days later downriver on the French side by the Germans. They have no known grave.

Lived in Terrell, Kaufman County, Texas, United States

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
10 April 2016 11:18:34 ED-BB Changes to biography and events
Sources

Added details of death location

Date Contributor Update
09 March 2016 12:56:07 general ira snapsorter Changes to firstname and nickname
Sources

Merged with duplicate entry to include details from:
- the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia;
- MACR 826

Date Contributor Update
06 March 2016 12:25:52 ED-BB Changes to middlename, service number, biography, awards, events, person associations, unit associations, place associations, mission associations and media associations
Sources

NARA WWII Enlistment records
MACR 826
US 1940 Census
Personal research on the plane and the crew
DPAA MIA list
http://www.385thbga.com/database/

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:15:16 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

MACR 826 / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database

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