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Albert Leonard Spann




  • James Matchette

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 340th Bomb Group

  • James Westra

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Bombardier/Navigator | 340th Bomb Group

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Units served with

  • 340th Bomb Group

    340th Bomb Group

    Activated on 20 August 1942. The 340th Bombardment Group trained with B-25's for duty overseas. They arrived in the Mediterranean theater in March 1943. Assigned first to the Ninth Air Force and later (in August 1943) to the Twelfth. Served in combat...

  • 489th Bomb Squadron


Associated Place


Event Location Date
Born Sylvester, TX 13 March 1917
Lived in Sylvester, TX 16 October 1940
Earned his pilot wings La Junta, Colorado April 1944

La Junta Army Airfield

Died near Vipiteno, Italy 25 February 1945

The 340th Bomb Group, 489th Bomb Squadron of the Twelfth Air Force was stationed at Corsica, Italy. On 25 February 1945, 1st Lt. James F. Matchette and his crew of the B-25J-1-NC Mitchell medium bomber, nicknamed “Prop Wash,” serial number 43-27517, took off under clear skies for a bombing mission to the railroad bridge at Vipiteno, Italy. After following a route up the west side of the Brenner Pass, the crew encountered heavy flak over the target area.

At approximately 13:00 hours and just before bombs away, the aircraft took a direct hit in the nose of the plane. Fire was seen coming from the top turret. The pilot gave the order to bail out. The bombardier, 1st Lt. James P. Westra continued in his position and got rid of all bombs which hit their target with devastating results. He continued to stay with the plane and lost his life. A later reported stated that his devotion to duty was greater than his thought of personal safety. 1st Lt. Matchette gave the following account in Missing Air Crew Report 12573:

Because of the severity of the fire which existed in the front portion of the ship, the bombardier, co-pilot and engineer were unable to make their way out. My own escape was through the small sliding window located directly to my left, in the pilot’s seat. This was permitted because of the fact that my left engine has been feathered. When I last saw the above mentioned men, the engineer was prostrate over the hatch, blocking our normal means of exit. The co-pilot was still in his seat, even after several frantic warnings by me to get out. It is my opinion that the bombardier, along with the other two was unable to make his way out through the severe fire that existed.

The Germans who captured me told me that they had found three of my comarades in the wrecked airplane. This is the only information that I have as to what happened to these three members.

Three airmen were killed when the B-25 crashed into the side of a mountian near Vipiteno, Italy. Matchette and two others were captured.

Buried Kerrville, TX 1949

Garden of Memories Cemetery
Kerrville, Kerr County, Texas, USA


Date Contributor Update
12 December 2021 02:13:35 466thHistorian Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nationality, service number, highest rank, role, events, person associations, unit associations, place associations and aircraft associations