LENTZ, WALTER RAY, Staff Sergeant, # 34433023, USAAF
Walter R. Lentz was born on 30 September 1917 in Alexander Co., North Carolina, to Jacob Dalton Lentz and Elizabeth (Deal) Lentz. He married Vena Mae Smith (1927-2006) on 1 February 1947 in Carroll, Virginia.
He registered for the WW II draft on 16 October 1940, resided Rte 1, Stony Point, Irdell Co., NC, and described himself as 5’10 ½”, 160 lbs, with black hair and brown eyes. He enlisted in the USAAF in Camp Croft, South Carolina, on 29 September 1942. He was trained as a gunner on the B-29 Superfortress and was sent overseas to India. 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). He was the right waist gunner. 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 Rangoon. He was liberated on about 11 May 1945 and separated on 25 June 1945. He died on 18 February 2001 and is buried in the Blue Ridge Cemetery, Lenoir, North Carolina.