The final tribute

Local vet last Nebraska WWII training crash victim to be honored


JANET BARTHELS (above) of Milligan, Neb., places a wreath at the grave of Lt. David McCarthy in Plymouth's Woodlawn Cemetery Sunday as Betty Duzek, John and Chris Capelle and Merle Duzek look on. McCarthy was one of 26 airmen who died in three plane crashes at Bruning Air Field in Milligan in 1943 and 1944. The airmen are memorialized in highway markers placed by a committee that included Barthels and the Duzeks, and McCarthy was the last one the Milligan was able to locate. Members of Ladewig-Zinkgraf American Legion Post 243 (photos below) conducted a memorial ceremony for McCarthy Sunday. 
Review story, photos byEmmitt B. Feldner JANET BARTHELS (above) of Milligan, Neb., places a wreath at the grave of Lt. David McCarthy in Plymouth's Woodlawn Cemetery Sunday as Betty Duzek, John and Chris Capelle and Merle Duzek look on. McCarthy was one of 26 airmen who died in three plane crashes at Bruning Air Field in Milligan in 1943 and 1944. The airmen are memorialized in highway markers placed by a committee that included Barthels and the Duzeks, and McCarthy was the last one the Milligan was able to locate. Members of Ladewig-Zinkgraf American Legion Post 243 (photos below) conducted a memorial ceremony for McCarthy Sunday. Review story, photos byEmmitt B. Feldner PLYMOUTH – A memorial to World War II airmen who lost their lives in training accidents in Nebraska found its completion Sunday in a solemn ceremony in Woodlawn Cemetery.

The Ladewig-Zinkgraf American Legion Post 243 hosted the ceremony for Lt. David McCarthy, one of six airmen killed in a crash Friday, Sept. 8, 1944, between a P-47 and B-17 over Milligan, Neb.

Milligan was host to two Army Air Corps training bases – Bruning Field and Fairmont Field, according to Janet Bartels, chair of the Milligan Memorial Committee.

Three separate crashes in less than 12 months between October 1943 and September 1944 claimed the lives of 26 airmen.

“The younger generation didn’t know about the crashes or the air bases and people were forgetting,” Bartels, who spearheaded the memorial effort, explained.

That led to the dedication of three highway historical markers in Milligan to commemorate the crashes, the victims and six survivors.

“Once we had the markers figured out, the next step was to contact the relatives of the airmen involved in order to get pictures of the airmen,” Bartels said.

At the time of the dedication in August 2010, committee members had found relatives of 30 of the 32 airmen involved in the crashes. The only two they hadn’t yet found were McCarthy, who was pilot of the P-47 from Bruning, and Lt. William Washburn, who was on the B-17.

According to Bartels, the B-17 bomber was flying out of an Air Corps base in Sioux City, Iowa. The bomber was simulating a run over enemy territory, with the P-47 playing the role of an attack plane so the bomber crew could learn how to fend off an attack.

No one knows how, Bartels said, but the P-47 and B-17 clipped wings, with both exploding and plummeting to the ground. The fuselage of McCarthy’s P-47 landed on the Duzek family farm.

Four years after the memorial committee began their work, McCarthy was the only airman they still hadn’t found, Bartels said.

All the information they could find said McCarthy was from Chicago, where he graduated from Sullivan High School and was a major in the ROTC.

But, as Bartels noted, there are pages of McCarthy’s in the Chicago phone book and their research was at a dead end.

At that point, they obtained a copy of the lieutenant’s death certificate and the mystery was solved, as it stated he was buried in Plymouth.

McCarthy’s mother was the former Emelia Capelle of Plymouth, sister of Capelle Appliance founder Arno Capelle, and McCarthy was buried here, although there was no mention of his Plymouth roots in any of the news stories from 1944.

That brought about Sunday’s ceremony, attended by Bartels and Merle and Betty Duzek of Milligan, along with McCarthy’s relatives John and Chris Capelle.

“I don’t like to give up, even though it took four years to find the last airmen,” Bartels concluded.



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