FLETCHER, HAROLD ESMOND, First Lieutenant, # 0-804317, USAAF

 

Harold E. Fletcher was born on 1 May 1917 in Beardstown, Cass Co., Illinois to Zoe Esmond Fletcher (1883-1942) and Marie Elizabeth (Engelman) Fletcher (1887-1956). Siblings included Harry Ira Fletcher (1905-1983), Rachel E. Fletcher (1912-    ), Carl Raymond Fletcher (1919-2001) and Katherine Marie (Fletcher) Spillers (1921-    ). Living with them in 1920 was a paternal uncle, Edgar Lee Fletcher (1880-    ).

 

He enlisted in the USAAF in Chicago, Illinois, on 11 February 1942. After enlisting in the USAAF, he received flight instruction through advanced schools and earned his commission and pilot wings. He was sent overseas to India. He was assigned and trained to fly the B-29 Superfortress. On 14 December 1944, a B-29 40BW, # 42-24574, assigned to 20th Air Force, 40th Bomb Group, 45th Bomb Squadron, departed the airfield at Chakulia, India, on a bombing mission at 20,000’, over Rangoon railway yards, Burma, and Bangkok, Siam (Thailand). It crashed about 70 to 80 miles west of Rangoon. Its last known location was near 16º 46’ North & 94º 46’ East. According to 1stLt Etherington, the crew was able to bail out, were captured by enemy Burmese and turned over to the Japanese enemy, who imprisoned them in the Rangoon Cantonment (old British Prison). The pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, engineer, and radio operator bailed out through the nosewheel well. The waist gunners, senior gunner, tail gunner, and radar operator bailed out through the rear door. The co-pilot sprained an ankle upon landing. The rest were uninjured by the jump. Therington, Benedict, Fletcher, Majors, Oglesby, Pisterzi, Basche, and Cochran were marched through the jungle by the enemy for 65 miles when the Japanese abandoned them in a Burmese village about 10 miles NW of Pegu, Burma. By 29 April 1945, they were liberated by the British Army. Shanks, Lentz and Sommers were imprisoned in the Rangoon Cantonment. Upon liberation, they were taken to the 142nd General Hospital, Calcutta, India. He was released on 4 January 1946 to return home. He was separated from active duty on 11 April 1946. He died on 26 June 2002 and is buried in the Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside, California (Sec. 55, Grave 25).

 

His brother, Harry I. Fletcher, born 4 August 1905, served in the U.S.  Army from 6 October 1942 to 19 August 1945. He died on 20 September 1983 and is buried in the Beardstown City Cemetery, Beardstown, Illinois.

 

His brother, Carl R. Fletcher, born 29 September 1919, served in the U.S. Navy from 12 March 1940 to 24 March 1960 and 20 June 1960 to 19 November 1960 during WW II and Korea. He was a submariner. He died 7 November 2001 and is buried in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Lemay, Missouri (Sec. 1a, Grave 78).