Eugene Robert Garner

Military

Object Number - UPL 50597 - B-24D - Lt. Russell W. Polivka, photo left, navigator, and SSgt. Eugene R. Garner, gunner, on the right. Both escaped the fatal crash of the...

Crew member Staff Sgt. Eugene Robert Garner flew on Operation Tidal Wave. He was assigned as part of a replacement crew from the 8th Air Force, for John Young's B-24D, Kickapoo, from the 344th Bomb Squadron, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 9th Air Force. Flown by replacement pilot, Lt. Robert Nespor, also from the 344th Bomb Squadron and the 98th Bomb Group, Lt. Nespor crashed shortly after takeoff for the Ploesti mission. Sgt. Garner was one of two survivors of the crash. On takeoff for the mission, Nespor's number 4 engine failed completely, just after getting airborne and caught fire while Lt. Nespor and John Riley attempted to land back at the Lete airfield. On Nespor's second approach to Lete Field, on short final, his left wing hit a concrete pole, cartwheeling the aircraft into the desert, and it exploded in flames. Only two crew members survived their burns caused by the crash, Lt. Russell Polivka, and SSgt. Eugene R. Garner. After long recoveries, they both returned to duty. RTD.

Assigned : 93rd Bomb Group in the U.K. TDY to the 98th Bomb Group in North Africa.

SSgt. Garner's Awards : Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters - American Campaign Medal - Distinguished Flying Cross - Purple Heart - World War II Victory Medal - European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 1 silver star

Pilot 1st Lt. Robert J. Nespor - KIA

Target: Ploesti - White IV - Astra Romano Refinery
Missing Air Crew Report Details
USAAF MACR#:
Date Lost: 1 Aug 43
Serial Number: 41-11768
Aircraft Model B-24D
Aircraft Letter: D
Aircraft Name: Kickapoo
Location: Crew of 10 - 8 KIA - 2 WIA - RTD
Cause: Kickapoo aborted the mission due to engine failures. Crashed.

Sgt. Garner had been assigned to fly on Operation Tidal Wave as a replacement gunner on the B-24D, Kickapoo. Tidal Wave was one of the most dangerous and costly raids of WWll, using, for the last time, the tactic of a large air force flying into their targets at tree top level, in order to try to surprise the enemy and destroy their targets, the Romanian oil refineries, before they could be engaged by enemy ground defenses. 1 Aug 1943.

The aircraft, Kickapoo, was flown by replacement pilot, 1st Lt. Robert Nespor and a crew of 10 on loan from the 98th, 93rd, and 376th Bomb Groups, briefed to fly in the extreme right hand position on the first wave, Flight 1, attacking Target White IV. But before even getting airborne, Kickapoo's number 4 engine failed on take off. Lt. Nespor successfully made his climb out, jettisoned his bombs at sea, and was being guided back to Lete for an emergency landing. But conflicting aircraft on the runway and crossing his approach, Nespor was forced to abort his first landing attempt and approached the field a second time from the west. On his second approach with his entire right wing in flames now, and losing power from his remaining engines, on short final approach, Lt. Nespor lost power on two more engines, sank, and hit the runway hard, bounced, and drifted off the centerline, hitting a concrete pole with his left wing cartwheeling the airplane into the ground, where it exploded in flames on impact, killing all but two of the crew members, Lt. Russel Polivka and Sgt. Eugene Garner, both of whom were badly burned, but survived, recovered from their injuries, and eventually returned to duty. RTD. 1944

Lt. Russell Polivka, Kickapoo's replacement navigator, also a survivor, though badly burned, briefed the accident board of inquiry that Nespor lost two engines on his starboard side and, then, one on the port side, just as they were coming in before the airplane hit the concrete pole and the ground. Lt. Polivka spent one and a half years in the hospital and went through many skin graft surgeries recovering from the burns he had suffered. Engineer/Gunner Sgt. Garner also went through numerous plastic surgeries. He returned to service and survived a total of 29 combat missions and three airplane crashes, one in Sweden in the B-24J, Mistah Chick, 2 Jun 1944, and the crash of Kickapoo. 1 Aug 1943

Staff Sergeant Eugene Garner served his country valiantly during WWll. He survived the war, three airplane crashes, and a short internment in Sweden. He died near his home in Dallas Texas, October 25, 2005.

Note : 2nd Lt. Robert Nespor was an original 98th Bomb Group copilot who had been grounded, for some time, with dysentery. So he had been out of service, sick, and could not finish his tour with the rest of the 98th's original crews. Lt. Polivka, Nespor's navigator, revealed the fact that his two pilots, Lt. Nespor and Lt. John Riley, could have easily chosen to ditch their crippled plane in the shallow water off Benghazi's beach in the Mediterranean Sea, or he could have ordered a bailout, but Nespor wanted to save his valuable airplane, if he could, as this was to be his last mission. He, apparently, made the decision to try to save his failing plane even before he had been cleared by the tower to return for an abort landing. Lt. Nespor was 27 years old when he and all but two of his young crewmen gave their lives for freedom, their loved ones, and their country. 1 August, 1943

Crew of, Kickapoo, on Operation Tidal Wave :

1st Lt. Robert J. Nespor - Pilot - KIA

2nd Lt. Thurman L. Ward - Bombardier - KIA

2nd Lt. John C. Riley - Co Pilot - KIA

TSgt. Vaun D. Wenrich - Engineer - Top Turret Gunner - KIA

SSgt. Eugene R. Garner - Gunner - WIA - RTS

TSgt. Armand R. Massart - Radio Operator - KIA

SSgt.Edwin J. Sliwa - Gunner - KIA

SSgt. George Warren Lawlor - Gunner - KIA

SSgt. John D'Amour - Gunner - KIA

Lt. Russel Polivka - Navigator - WIA - RTS

Due to the aborted mission after takeoff and subsequent crash, Lt. Nespor's crew did not receive mission credit and their names do not appear in the official AAF History Roster of Personnel for DFCs.

Connections

See how this entry relates to other items in the archive by exploring the connections below.

Units served with

  • Unit Hierarchy: Squadron
  • Air Force: Ninth Air Force Twelfth Air Force Fifteenth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment
The insignia of the 389th Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment
The insignia of the 93rd Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment

People

  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 389th Bomb Group 567th Bomb Squadron
  • Highest Rank: Colonel
  • Role/Job: Pilot
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 93rd Bomb Group 330th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 33278362
  • Highest Rank: Technical Sergeant
  • Role/Job: Radio Operator
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 98th Bomb Group 344th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 18051855 / O-435980
  • Highest Rank: First Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Pilot
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 93rd Bomb Group 330th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 16006213 / O-?
  • Highest Rank: Second Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Navigator
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 93rd Bomb Group 330th Bomb Squadron 98th Bomb Group 344th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: O-519127
  • Highest Rank: Second Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Co-Pilot

Aircraft

  • Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator
  • Nicknames: - Kickapoo
  • Unit: 98th Bomb Group 344th Bomb Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator
  • Nicknames: - Mistah Chick
  • Unit: 389th Bomb Group 567th Bomb Squadron

Missions

  • Date: 1 August 1943
  • Official Description: 177 B-24’s, of IX Bomber Command (including Heavy Bombers on loan from Eighth AF) are dispatched to bomb oil refineries at Ploesti and nearby Campina. The operation (TIDALWAVE) is costly, 54 planes and 532 airmen being lost, but damage to the targets...

Places

  • Site type: Airfield
  • Known as: Soluch Airfield

Events

Event Location Date Description

Died

Colleyville, TX 2005-10-25

Born

Musgrove County, OK 1923-04-11 Son of Elias and Martha Ada [Davis] Garner.

Other

Crash landed

Benghazi, Libya 1943-08-01 Replacement crew member on B-24D Liberator, 41-11768, Kickapoo, of 344th BS, 98th BG, 9th AF. Crashed on takeoff for the Ploesti mission and was severely burned. 1 Aug 43. Aircraft lost an engine after getting airborne and caught on fire and crashed and burned approaching Lete Field to land. Crashed into a concrete pole and burst into flames. WIA. 1 Aug 43.

Based

Assigned

Lete Assigned to 344th BS, 98th BG, 8th AF, Hethel, U.K. Temp assigned to 9th AF 98th BG as a replacement on the B-24D, Kickapoo, 9th AF, 98th Bomb Group at Lete for the Ploesti mission. 1943

Other

Hospitalised

1943-08-01 Hospitalized with burns from airplane crash accident. Recovered and returned to duty. RTD. 1944

Buried

Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery Dallas, Dallas County TX 2005-10-28 Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery Dallas, Dallas County Texas, USA.

Enlisted

Kansa City, IL, Kansa City, Illinois

Based

1944-06-20 Re-assigned to 567BS, 389BG, 8AF USAAF.

Other

Force landed

Sweden 1944-06-20 Shot down by flak and landed in Sweden in the B-24, Mistah Chick, 42-100146. Interned in Sweden. INT. 20 Jun 44

Other

Interned (INT)

1944-06-20 Interned for 4 months prior to return to unit.

Revisions

Date18 Jan 2022 10:53:45
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Details added. - Kickapoo

Date18 Jan 2022 07:07:45
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Spelling, details added. - Kickapoo

Date18 Jan 2022 06:53:36
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

SSgt. Eugene Robert Garner - Find-A-Grave Memorials

Date13 Jan 2022 10:40:03
ContributorAl_Skiff
Date10 Jan 2022 02:00:14
Contributordecwriter
Sources

NARA files verified a DFC (not for the low-level Ploesti raid on 1 Aug 1943) and AM with three Oak Leaf Clusters. Of note, Eugene Robert Garner is listed in newspapers.com in a Paris News, Texas newspaper on 1 Feb 1944 as having recovered a month after the 1 Aug 1943 crash. In the picture above in this entry, Lt Polivka is recovering from the burns he sustained in the crash.

Even more puzzling is there's a second entry for a Eugene R. Garner on this website that lists a crash and internment in Sweden under MACR 5924 and the crew lists shows the ASN is 18124310, so it's possible it is the same flier.

Date8 Jan 2022 20:49:23
Contributorjmoore43
Sources

Added some punctuation in the "Summary biography" to aid readability.

Date26 Jul 2021 07:26:43
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Dallas Morning News - Obituary - Eugene Robert Garner

Date26 Jul 2021 07:19:02
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Addition to text for accuracy and clarity - Kickapoo

Date26 Jul 2021 07:14:37
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Dallas Morning News - Obituary - Eugene Robert Garner

Date26 Jul 2021 07:01:51
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Wording and spacing changes for accuracy and clarity - Kickapoo

Date26 Jul 2021 06:49:18
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

FindAGrave Memorial - SSgt. Eugene Robert Garner

Date26 Jul 2021 05:41:52
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

FindAGrave Memorial - Lt. Eugene R. Garner

Date26 Jul 2021 00:31:39
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Personal Archives - Kickapoo

Date26 Jul 2021 00:01:04
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Best Web - B-24 - KICKAPOO

Date23 Apr 2020 04:21:22
Contributorjmoore43
Sources

Added a "#" to the A/C serial number in the "Summary biography" to aid clarity & consistency.

Date8 Mar 2017 15:01:14
Sources

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

Date18 Apr 2015 16:33:04
ContributorAl_Skiff
Sources

Eugene Robert Garner: Gallery (2 items)