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John Clark Riley

Military

Lt. John Riley lost his life, as one of the first casualties of "Operation Tidal Wave" on August 1st, 1943, one of the biggest, most important, and most daring air raids of WWII, coming in at tree top level to destroy the Germans' Romanian oil refineries at Ploesti. Lt. Riley and six of his " Traveling Circus" crewmembers had joined his copilot, Lt. Robert Nespor, from the 376th Bomb Group in the B-24D, "KICKAPOO", to replace Capt. John Young's 98th Bombing Group's "Pyramider" crew that was reassigned to fly the mission with Col. John Kane in his plane, "Hail Columbia".
Lt. Riley and Lt. Nespor were briefed to fly the extreme right position on the first wave of bombers attacking their target, White IV. But, "KICKAPOO"'s number 4 engine failed on take off. After turning out to sea and jettisoning all his bombs, Nespor and Riley were guided back for an emergency landing at the Benghazi airfield. However, conflicting aircraft on the runway, forced Nespor to circle and again approach the field from the West. On his emergency approach to the runway, Nespor's left wing tip hit a concrete pole. The plane cartwheeled and exploded in flames on impact with the ground, killing both pilots, Lt. Nespor, Lt. John Riley, and all but two of the rest of the replacement crew.
Lt. Russell, one of the two surviving crewmen, briefed the accident Board of Inquiry that Nespor lost two engines on starboard side and then one on the port side just as they were coming in. Russel spent 1½ years in the hospital and went through many operations recovering from the burns he had suffered. Sgt. Garner, the other survivor of the crash, who died in November, 2005 went through numerous plastic surgeries as well.

Lt. Nespor was an original 98th BG pilot, who had been grounded, and in the hospital many months with dysentery, so he could not finish his tour with the rest of the original crews. Lt. Polivka also revealed to the Board the fact that Nespor and Riley could have easily ditched in the Mediterranean but wanted to save the plane, as this was Lt. Nespor's mission.

Service

People

  • Robert Nespor

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 93rd Bomb Group
    Lt. Robert J. Nespor - A B24D bomber pilot in the 330th Bomb Squadron, the 93rd Bombing Group, and the 376th Bombing Group, and the 9th Air Force. For Operation Tidal Wave, Aug 1, 1943, Lt. Nespor was assigned to fly Lt. John S. Young's regular...

  • Robert Sternfels

    Military | Major | B-24 Command Bomber Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Robert Sternfels was a B-24D command bomber pilot in WWII who flew the famous B-24D bomber, 'The Sandman' on the mission Operation Tidal Wave to bomb the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, August 1, 1943. After enlisting as an Air Force pilot in...

  • John Young

    Military | Major | B-24 Command Bomber Pilot | 376th Bomb Group
    Lieutenant John S. Young from Dallas Texas was a WWII B-24D Liberator bomber pilot with the 9th Air Force, the "Force For Freedom", the 98th Bomb Group the, "Pyramiders", and the 344th Bombing Squadron, based at Cairo, Egypt, Tobruk, and Benghazi,...

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Aircraft

  • 41-11768 Kickapoo

    B-24 Liberator
    B-24 liberator #41-11768, 'Kickapoo', of the 344th Bombing Squadron, 98th Bomb Group, 9th Air Force. This was Lt. John S. Young's second regular aircraft after he lost his first B-24 in theater, which was shot down earlier in 1943 in an air fight near...

Missions

  • Operation Tidal Wave

    1 August 1943
    Operation TIDAL WAVE. B24D Liberators attack the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. The bombers flew low to avoid radar detection and dropped time delayed bombs. Out of the 177 B24Ds that took part in the raid 167 managed to attack their targets. 57...

Associated Place

Events

Event Location Date
Killed in action Benghazi, Libya 1 August 1943

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
13 March 2019 11:14:50 Kickapoo Changes to biography
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Black Sunday _ Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
01 September 2018 11:46:37 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
01 September 2018 11:42:26 Kickapoo Changes to biography
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Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
01 September 2018 11:38:38 Kickapoo Changes to biography
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Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
01 September 2018 11:32:56 Kickapoo Changes to biography
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Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
02 August 2018 09:01:51 general ira snapsorter Changes to events
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Added to AAM roll of Honour board.

Date Contributor Update
27 July 2018 16:39:49 Kickapoo Changes to biography and awards
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Find A Grave

Date Contributor Update
27 July 2018 16:36:01 Kickapoo Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nationality, service number, highest rank, role, biography, place associations, aircraft associations and mission associations
Sources

Find A Grave

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