Philip M Costain


West Point graduate, Class of 1942. Shot down by fighters and crashed near Brotterode on a mission to Gotha, GR on 24 Feb 1944 in B-24H #41-29149 '4Q2'. Killed in Action (KIA).

Phillip Marshall Costain was born in Moorhead, Minnesota, 27 November 1918, the youngest of Arthur Howard and Anne Hart Costain's five children. During a time of severe economic depression Phil, or Cos as he was known to his friends, along with three brothers and sister Mary, managed to receive college educations. Additionally, the four Costain brothers served as commissioned officers during World War II with James '34 and Cos '42 sacrificing their lives for our country.

After graduating from Moorhead High School, Cos attended Moorhead State Teachers College for two years. Having a keen and inquiring mind, however, he aspired to attend an institution offering the best educational opportunities. There is no question that Cos chose West Point not only for quality education but also because he believed deeply in his country's traditions, along with honor and duty, attributes the Academy stands for. An enlisted man in the 206th Infantry, Minnesota National Guard, Cos competed successfully to earn one of only 25 nation-wide appointments and entered the Academy nine years after brother Jim.

As a cadet, Cos earned an enviable reputation for his instantaneous ability to make friends and for his participation in numerous extracurricular activities including escorting his lovely fiancee, Edith Smith, of nearby Newburgh almost on a daily basis. Classmate Yates Hill described Cos' many attributes as follow:

'Those of us who knew Cos feel that he is still with us in memories. Ever cheerful, yet sensitive and alert to dangers; always kind and gentle, yet firm in his independence; daring and adventuresome, but cool and calculating; ready to share your burden, but never quite willing to unload his; he was devoted to his friends and kind to others. If he had any enemies, which I doubt - we who knew him can be forever grateful of the image he projects down through the years.'

On graduation day, 29 May 1942, Cos married Edith Theodora Smith at the West Point Chapel. Within a matter of days he began a training cycle that in about a year and one-half led from Helena, Arkansas through Greenville, Lawrenceville, Nashville, Boise, Casper, Mitchell, and Sioux City to a staging area in Lincoln, Nebraska.

As a highly qualified bomber pilot, Cos departed for England a week before Thanksgiving 1943. Assigned to the 700th Bomb Squadron of the 445th Bombardment Group, he was killed in action 24 February 1944 when two B-24 bombers collided in midair over Gotha, Germany, about 150 miles south of Berlin.

Technical Sergeant Enlow, the top turret gunner and sole survivor of Cos' bomber crew, described the action. He said that 26 bombers of the group took off that day from an air base near Norwich, England. Only 13 bombers returned. German fighters started hitting the bombers in France, and fierce fighting dragged on across France and into Germany. The first pass of the fighters knocked out Cos' bomber intercom system and cut off internal communications. The fighters also tore big holes in the waist of the bomber, and most of the men there were probably killed before the forthcoming collision.

The bombing mission, however, was completed, and the bomb bay remained open which probably allowed Enlow to escape. The chance collision occurred when German fighters shot down a bomber flying overhead which, in falling, sheared off part of the tail section of Cos' bomber.

The day after the crash, citizens of Gotha took Enlow to the crash site where they had buried Cos and his crew members all facing the United States. Enlow spent the next 14 months in a prison camp valiantly writing to dependents trying to tell them that they died for their country, but censors blacked out the message.

Cos received a citation for 'courage, coolness, and skill in action,' and he was awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.

The respect and admiration generated by Cos perhaps may be best exemplified by an enlisted airman from Cos' crew who, because of illness, did not fly the day of the fateful mission. Cos' wife Edith describes his feelings: 'He loved and admired Cos very much. I've heard from him regularly for 40 years. He's sent all of his children to see me in California although I've never laid eyes on him since Mitchell, South Dakota. I know there are people who loved and admired Cos, and I share and treasure their memories.

'Cos' wife Edith expressed the feelings of all his friends: '. . . What I'll never stop feeling angry, bitter, and above all sad about is that Cos couldn't have lived. He was such a good man. He was such an optimist. His presence would have made the world a better place. . . '

Classmate Yates Hill, speaking for all of us, expressed the same thoughts in these words: 'In spite of his youth, his savoir-faire, his pride in Minnesota and Swedish background, his young and talented wife, we may rightfully feel that 'life is unfair' for not leaving us with him for life. '



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Units served with

A pathfinder B-24 Liberator (serial number 42-51681) of the 453rd Bomb Group flies in formation with a fellow Liberator of the 453rd and and a pathfinder Liberator of the 445th Bomb Group. Image via Alan Rowsell.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment


  • Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator
  • Nicknames: 4-q-2
  • Unit: 445th Bomb Group 700th Bomb Squadron


Signal Squares on the airfield at Tibenham, B-24 Liberators of the 398th Bomb Group are visible in the background. Handwritten caption on reverse: 'Tibenham Signal Squares.'
  • Site type: Airfield
  • Known as: Tivetshall


Event Location Date Description


Moorhead, Minnesota 27 November 1918


24 February 1944


Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky


ChangesAAM ingest

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / MACR 2557, West Point doc, History of the 445th Bomb Group by Rudolph Birsic