THIS STORY APPEARED IN THE HAVRE DAILY NEWS ON MARCH 30, 2004.
The life of 21-year-old Havre native William Brown came to an end more than 60 years ago when the military bomber he was in crashed into a hillside in Wales during the height of World War II, but his story is far from over.
Thanks to the efforts of a Welsh aviation enthusiast, the sacrifice of Staff Sgt. Brown and the three members of his crew will not be forgotten. This summer, the four men will be honored with a permanent memorial marking the very ground where their ill-fated aircraft made its final descent.
Wales resident Steve Jones grew up not far from Carn Llidi Mountain, where Brown's B-26 Marauder crashed on June 4, 1943. The plane was one of two in a formation of eight that succumbed to foggy weather while flying to England from the United States to join the war effort.
Jones has devoted countless hours to researching the flight and the young men who died that day, even going so far as to contact some of the relatives of the dead airmen.
"My interest started in the events of 4th June 1943, after some research into another B-26 from the same formation which crashed not far from my home. Again the crew were all killed," Jones wrote in an e-mail. "In 1999, a walker found the propeller blade from Sgt. Brown's aircraft on the mountainside. It lay on a farm yard for a few years before I got to know of its existence."
The propeller was refurbished free of charge by a company in Wales, and Jones plans to incorporate the blade in a memorial that will be placed at the crash site. A plaque engraved with the names of the aviators and the story of how their lives came to an end on a hillside far from home will accompany the propeller, Jones said.
"I intend to mount it on some local stone near the crash site. It will also have an interpretation plaque, giving the names of the crew, and how the aircraft came to be over Wales," Jones wrote in his e-mail to the Havre Daily News. "Hopefully, the memorial should be in place in the next few months."
Brown was a gunner and flight engineer on the B-26 Marauder. The other members of his crew were the pilot, Lt. Robert Lawrence of Newark Valley, N.Y., Lt. Hulbert Robertson of Comanche, Texas, and flight officer James Jackson of Carrollton, Ga., Jones said.
In researching the members of the crew, Jones discovered that Brown, whom he describes as "a young man who gave up his tomorrows for our todays," was born in Canada and moved to Montana as a child. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on Dec. 8, 1941, the day the United States entered World War II following a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor the previous day.
"In June 1943 he was posted overseas to the UK," Jones wrote. "Sadly, he never reached England, (because) his aircraft crashed into a hillside near my home while on the final leg of a transatlantic flight from the US to England."
According to an article published recently in the Western Telegraph in Pembrokeshire in Wales, the plane was part of a formation on its final leg of a lengthy journey from the United States, flying from North Africa to a Royal Air Force base in Cornwall, England.
The death of Brown was described in the June 15, 1943, edition of the Havre Daily News. The article said Brown's parents had learned he had "lost his life in an accident in the European Area," and "details of his death have not yet been received."
According to the article, Brown was born to William and Mary Brown on Nov. 11, 1921, in Canada and moved to Montana, where he attended schools in Havre and Box Elder. Brown was among the first group of men from Havre to enlist in the military after Pear Harbor, and was trained at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., the article said.
There, he "received a diploma in gunnery and was given the rank of staff sergeant," according to the article.
Jones wrote that during his research he has learned that Brown was buried at Fort Snelling Cemetery in St. Paul, Minn., and had a number of brothers and sisters, including Helen Field, Dorothy Yates, Donald Brown and Mary
Jones' attempts to contact surviving family members of Sgt. Brown have been unsuccessful, but he has developed a friendship with at least one relative of another crew member.
Several years ago, Jones arranged for Gwen Scoggins, the daughter of Lt. Robertson, to visit the United Kingdom. According to the article published in Wales, Scoggins was only 2 years old when her father was killed. After corresponding with Jones, she visited her father's grave in Cambridge and the mountainside where his plane went down.
"We found some fragments of the plane when we were up on Carn Llidi," she told the newspaper in Wales, "and we actually came across the aircraft's maker's plate lying in the grass."