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Eugene Robert Garner


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
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.



  • Ralph Leslie

    Military | Colonel | B-24 Command Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
    Ralph Leslie's B-24 bomber, Mistah Chick, 42-100146, was damaged by flak on a combat mission over Europe and landed in Sweden, where his plane and crew were interned by the Swedes. 6 20 44. INT

  • Armand Massart

    Military | Technical Sergeant | B-24 Radio Operator | 93rd Bomb Group
    Tech Sergeant Armand Massart was a radio operator (RO) assigned (TDY) to the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bomb Squadron for Operation Tidal Wave to Ploesti, Romania. He was one of the replacement crewmembers assigned to the B-24 41...

  • Robert Nespor

    Military | First Lieutenant | B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    1st Lt. Robert James Nespor, Jr. was a B-24D bomber command pilot in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bombardment Group, "The Pyramiders", and the 330th Bombing Squadron, based at Benghazi, Libya, in North Africa. He was assigned to fly on the huge mission,...

  • Russell Polivka

    Military | Second Lieutenant | B-24 Navigator | 93rd Bomb Group
    Lt. Russell W. Polivka was a navigator, and part of the replacement crew assigned to the B-24D Liberator, 41-11768, Kickapoo, in the 344th Bomb Squadron, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 9th Air Force, for Operation Tidal Wave over Ploesti, Romania. Flown...

  • John Riley

    Military | Second Lieutenant | B-24 Co-Pilot | 93rd Bomb Group
    2nd Lt. John Clark Riley was a B-24D pilot in the 9th Air Force, the 93rd Bomb Group, and the 330th Bomb Squadron at Benghazi, Libya, in the Mediterranean theatre (MTO) during WWII. Lt. Riley and his command Pilot Robert Nespor from the 98th Bomb...

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Units served with

  • 389th Bomb Group

    389th Bomb Group

    The 389th Bomb Group, known in more familiar terms as "the Sky Scorpions", flew strategic bombing missions in B-24 Liberators from Hethel, England. They also sent detachments to join bases in North Africa at Benghazi No. 10, Libya, between 3 July 1943...

  • 93rd Bomb Group

    93rd Bomb Group

    The 93rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated 1 Mar 42 at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. On 15 May 42. the Group moved to Ft. Myers, Florida, to continue advanced flight training and also to fly antisubmarine patrols over the Gulf of Mexico. They...

  • 98th Bomb Group

    98th Bomb Group

    The 98th trained for bombardment missions with B-24 Liberators during the first half of 1942. ...

  • 330th Bomb Squadron
  • 567th Bomb Squadron

    567th Bomb Squadron

    567th Bombardment Squadron, 24 December 1942 - 13 September 1945 ...

  • 344th Bomb Squadron

    344th Bomb Squadron

    The 344th Bombing Squadron was first activated at MacDill Field, Florida as one of the original three squadrons assigned to the 98th Bombardment Group. The 344th soon moved to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, where it began to train as a Consolidated B-24...


  • 42-100146 - Mistah Chick

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24J, named, Mistah Chick, 42-100146, piloted by Ralph I. Leslie, was flak damaged on a mission over Europe and crash landed in Sweden. Transferred from the 564th Bomb Squadron (YO E) to the 567th Bomb Squadron (HP U) in March 1944. ...

  • 41-11768 - Kickapoo

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator, 41-11768, named, Kickapoo, was Lt. John S. Young's regularly assigned B-24D, after his 98th Bombardment Group moved out of Egypt, to the air bases at Benghazi, Libya. John Young was from Dallas, Texas, like so many of the men...


  • Operation Tidal Wave

    1 August 1943
    Operation TIDAL WAVE. B-24D 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 B-24s that took part in the raid 167 managed to attack their targets. 57...

Associated Place

  • Hardwick

    Military site : airfield
    Planned as an RAF bomber airfield, Hardwick was used first by the 310th Bomb Group, equipped with B-25 Mitchells. B-24 Liberators of the 93rd Bomb Group moved in briefly in March 1943, then returned in June 1943 remaining until the end of the war and...

  • Hethel

    Military site : airfield
    Construction of Hethel airfield began in 1941, and was finished in late 1942. The number of hardstandings was increased from the planned 36 to 50 in 1942, in order to accommodate a full heavy bomb group. The 320th Bomb Group occupied the base for ten...

  • Benina

    Military site : airfield

  • Lete

    Military site : airfield


Event Location Date
Born Musgrove County, OK 11 April 1923

Son of Elias and Martha Ada [Davis] Garner.

Enlisted Kansa City, IL, 1941

Kansa City, Illinois

Based Lete 1942 – 1944

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

Crash landed Benghazi, Libya 1 August 1943

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.

Hospitalised 1 August 1943 – 1944

Hospitalized with burns from airplane crash accident. Recovered and returned to duty. RTD. 1944

Based 1944 – 20 June 1944

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

Force landed Sweden 20 June 1944

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

Interned (INT) 20 June 1944 – October 1944

Interned for 4 months prior to return to unit.

Died Colleyville, TX 25 October 2005
Buried Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery Dallas, Dallas County TX 28 October 2005

Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery
Dallas, Dallas County
Texas, USA.


Date Contributor Update
18 January 2022 10:53:45 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Details added. - Kickapoo

Date Contributor Update
18 January 2022 07:07:45 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Spelling, details added. - Kickapoo

Date Contributor Update
18 January 2022 06:53:36 Kickapoo Changes to nickname, role, biography, events, unit associations and place associations

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

Date Contributor Update
13 January 2022 10:40:03 Al_Skiff Changes to events, person associations, unit associations, place associations and aircraft associations

Combined with duplicate entry as per MACR 5924

Date Contributor Update
10 January 2022 02:00:14 decwriter Changes to biography and awards

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 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.

Date Contributor Update
09 January 2022 19:37:45 Al_Skiff Changes to service number, biography and events

Date Contributor Update
08 January 2022 20:49:23 jmoore43 Changes to biography

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

Date Contributor Update
26 July 2021 10:21:41 Al_Skiff Changes to events, place associations and media associations

Date Contributor Update
26 July 2021 07:26:43 Kickapoo Changes to awards

Dallas Morning News - Obituary - Eugene Robert Garner

Date Contributor Update
26 July 2021 07:19:02 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Addition to text for accuracy and clarity - Kickapoo

Date Contributor Update
26 July 2021 07:14:37 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Dallas Morning News - Obituary - Eugene Robert Garner

Date Contributor Update
26 July 2021 07:01:51 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Wording and spacing changes for accuracy and clarity - Kickapoo

Date Contributor Update
26 July 2021 06:49:18 Kickapoo Changes to biography

FindAGrave Memorial - SSgt. Eugene Robert Garner

Date Contributor Update
26 July 2021 05:41:52 Kickapoo Changes to biography

FindAGrave Memorial - Lt. Eugene R. Garner

Date Contributor Update
26 July 2021 00:31:39 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Personal Archives - Kickapoo

Date Contributor Update
26 July 2021 00:01:04 Kickapoo Changes to biography

Best Web - B-24 - KICKAPOO

Date Contributor Update
04 January 2021 10:28:14 Al_Skiff Changes to middlename, biography, awards, events, person associations and unit associations

Date Contributor Update
23 April 2020 04:21:22 jmoore43 Changes to biography

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

Date Contributor Update
08 March 2017 15:01:14 general ira snapsorter Changes to biography and unit associations

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

Date Contributor Update
18 April 2015 16:33:04 Al_Skiff Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nationality, highest rank, role, biography, events, unit associations, aircraft associations and mission associations
Sources / USAAF Photo.