SAWYER, FRANCIS EUGENE, Staff Sergeant, # 16046505, USAAF
Francis E. Sawyer was born 3 December 1918 in Badin, Stanley County, North Carolina, to Thomas Henry Sawyer (1901-1961) and Katherine Elizabeth (Tucker) Sawyer (1901-1970). He married Nildred Elizabeth Molstad (1914-1997) (1946 marriage) and they lived at 222 So. 8th, La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1943. On his next-of-kin card, completed in 1942, he gave an address of 527 ½ Division St, La Crosse, Wisconsin. They had two children. He graduated from La Crosse Central High School in 1937.
He enlisted in the USAAF on 23 October 1941 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On 14 October 1943, at 1245 hours, the B-24D, # 41-24220, upon which he was assistant engineer and a gunner, assigned to the 7th Bomb Group, 493rd Bomb Squadron, departed Pandaveswar, India, on a bombing mission to Rangoon, Burma. Weather was reported as scattered cumulus clouds at 12,000 feet, 40% coverage, slight haze, good weather. It was shot down by enemy aircraft and was said to have gone down “blazing.” The enemy attacked and the bomb bay was hit and a fire erupted. The aircraft separated in the middle and disintegrated. Five crew perished and five survived in the POW prison at the Rangoon Cantonment (former British prison), Burma. Crew remains were recovered and were buried 9 September 1949 in a single-casket service with his four other crew members who were killed in action (Witte, Chiarello, Marshall and Peters) at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Lemay, Missouri. He died 26 May 2008 and is buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery, La Crosse, Wisconsin. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart, and the POW medal. He retired from the military in 1978, Master Sergeant.