Italian Village Honors WWII US Bomber Pilots

Residents of an Italian village situated near the crash site of a WWII US bomber honor the two pilots of the ill-fated war plane nearly 70 years on.

Almost 7 decades ago, the WWII US Bomber B-25 Mitchell dubbed Maybe retained damages while in a bomb run near Trento at the height of the Second World War. The two American pilots at the war plane’s helm kept it steady until after the five other crew members were able to bail out. However, they did so at the expense of their own lives.

The crippled WWII US bomber slammed on to a northern Italian mountain killing the two pilots — Pilot Earl Remmel and co-pilot Leslie Speer.

According to Silas Barrett, one of the five crew members who parachuted to safety that fateful day of February 6, 1945, Speer and Remmel were heroes, a fact that didn’t need to be questioned. Barrett was the 19 years old at that time and had been the gunner of the WWII US Bomber.

After they landed, all five of the war plane’s crew were captured by the Italian police and were, afterwards, handed to the Germans.

However, the Italian village honoring the two pilots of the WWII US bomber do so for another reason. Because the war plane was severely hit by anti-aircraft guns before it could even complete its bombing run above a rail yard, the two pilots decided not to let go of their bombs into the nearby village [the village set to honor them] but keep it steady at a certain height so the other crew members could escape.

As what Barbara Nash, Remmel’s daughter, pointed out, the village people considered her dad a hero because his decision not to jettison the explosives the plane was carrying had saved the town. Barbara was only one-and-a-half year old when her dad died.

Barbara, along with her husband and three daughters, made the trip to Ronzo de Chienis Sunday, September 21, for the commemoration of her father. They also visited his grave at the American military cemetery in Florence.

Barbara felt overwhelmed by the tribute the Italian village afforded her father. She commented that to witness it was a great honor.

Two daughters of Isidore Ifshin, the other surviving member of the five-men crew who landed to safety on that fateful day, were also in attendance. Ifshin, who is already 90 years old, couldn’t attend the ceremony due to health problems.

Aboard the WWII US bomber that day, it was Ifshin’s, who was the plane’s engineer and top turret gunner, 60th mission. It was also his final one. As he stated, for 60 times he was able to get away but in the end, the enemies still got him. Life in war was always like that. Sooner or later, something has got to give. That is just the way it is,” as his statement went.

The ceremony included the unveiling of a memorial plaque which bears the names of the two pilots near the crash site of the WWII US bomber. Local officials gave their round of speeches after which an exhibit on the Maybe as well as the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division opened.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE