FANCHER, ROBERT JAMES, Second Lieutenant, # 0-556597, USAAF

 

Robert J. Fancher was born in 1920 in Wisconsin to Frank Fancher (1879-1970) (NY) and Mary T. (Schmelzer) Fancher (1882-    ) (married 1901, LaCrosse, Wisconsin). Siblings included Josephine Suzanna “Anna” (Fancher) Reget (1902-1989), Lloyd Fancher (1904-1982), Francis William “Frank” “Rip” Fancher (1906-2002), Matthew Fancher (1907-1963), Joseph Matthew Fancher (1910-2005), Charles R. Fancher (1911-1930), Marie Irene Fancher (1914-1993), Catherine C. Fancher (1916-    ), and Helen M. (Fancher) Bettin (1922-2013). He graduated from Aquanis High School, LaCrosse, Wisconsin. He was married in 1942 to Imogene Fancher. In 1941 the family lived at 1407 Loomis, LaCrosse, Wisconsin. He hoped to and became an aviator.

 

He enlisted in the USAAF in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on 10 September 1942. He was trained as a flight engineer for the B-29 Superfortress, and his responsibility was supervising the maintenance of the mechanical and electrical parts of the B-29. During flight, he had an array of sensors, dials, and switches to monitor to best maintain flight. He earned his commission and wings. He was sent overseas to India. On 27 November 1944, a B-29, # 42-24452, “Devil May Care,” assigned to 20th Air Force, 40th Bomb Group, 57th Bomb Squadron, and fourteen othe B-29s departed the airfield at Chakulia, India, on a bombing mission over Bangkok, Thailand (aka Siam). Last radio contact was at about 0649Z 130 miles south of Chittagong, India. The B-29s were deployed from Chakulia Army Air Force Base to attack the Bangsue Marshalling Yards of Bangkok, Thailand. Weak enemy fighter opposition was encountered. One enemy Zeke attacked the formation from straight ahead, damaging four B-29s. Thirteen planes returned safely to Chakulia and one, aircraft #452, proceeded to Chittagong (Bangladesh) after losing #4 engine. Leaving the primary target, the pilot of aircraft #452, Lt Carl E. Blackwell, radioed the formation commander that he had wounded personnel aboard due to the fighter attack and that he could not close his bomb bay doors. Enroute back to Chakulia, he asked permission to proceed to Chittagong. The formation commander asked if there were any major mechanical difficulties or shortage of gasoline and was assured there were none, that #452 had plenty of gas and that no escort was needed. Permission was given and #452 left the formation. It was lost and never located. He is remembered on the memorial wall of the missing in the Manila American Cemetery & Memorial, Philippines. He was awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.

GABRIEL, WILLIAM JOHN, Staff Sergeant, # 35037518, USAAF

 

William J. Gabriel was born on 21 November 1917 in Chicago, Illinois, to William A. Gabriel (1892-1956) and Wanda (Tatzke) Gabriel (1887-1963). A sister was Catherine (Kathryn) Helen Gabriel (1921-2006).

 

He enlisted in the USAAF in Chicago, Illinois, on 9 September 1941. He was trained in the maintenance and operation of the radio equipment on the B-29 Superfotress. He earned his crewman wings. He was sent overseas to India. On 27 November 1944, a B-29, # 42-24452, “Devil May Care,” assigned to 20th Air Force, 40th Bomb Group, 57th Bomb Squadron, and fourteen othe B-29s departed the airfield at Chakulia, India, on a bombing mission over Bangkok, Thailand (aka Siam).