Quick Search
427th Sterling Crew
Jay R. Sterling, Pilot
 Home About Us Contact Us Donate Newsletters 8th AFHS Links FAQ Facebook Search
 Personnel Aircraft Nose Art B-17 Thunderbird Ground Support Uniforms Journals More Info
 Mission Reports Combat Crews Individual Photos Photos POW KIA MACR Overseas Graves TAPS

1Lt Jay R. Sterling (P)(KIA)

2Lt John L. Neill (CP)(POW)

2Lt Harry E. Roach, Jr. (N)(EVD)

2Lt David H. Parker (B)(POW)

T/Sgt P. "Ev" Griffin (E)(POW)

T/Sgt Harley W. Fields (R)(KIA)

S/Sgt Arthur R. McCormack (BT)(KIA)

S/Sgt Daniel J. Cashman (LWG)(KIA)

S/Sgt William R. Whalon (RWG)(KIA)

S/Sgt Jesse C. Cleavelin (TG)(KIA)

(crew assigned 427BS: 13 Apr 1943)

S/Sgt Arthur R. McCormack, S/Sgt Daniel J. Cashman, T/Sgt Powell "Ev" Griffin, T/Sgt Harley W. Fields

Original 1Lt Jay R. Sterling Crewmen - 427th BS (Crew assigned 427BS: 13 April 1943)
  • 1Lt Jay R. Sterling (P)(WIA)(KIA) [Sioux City, IA]
    Body returned to the USA for final burial
  • 2Lt John L. Neill (CP)(WIA)(POW) [Rochester, MN] (Hollywood, CA)
  • 2Lt Harry E. Roach, Jr. (N)(WIA)(EVD) [Philadelphia, PA]
  • 2Lt David H. Parker (B)(POW) [Benson, NC]

  • T/Sgt Powell E. Griffin (E)(WIA)(POW) [Troy (Selma), AL]
  • T/Sgt Harley W. Fields (R)(KIA) [Grand Rapids, MI]
    Body returned to the USA for final burial
  • S/Sgt Arthur R .McCormack (BT)(KIA) [Portage Lake, ME]
    Buried in the Brittany American Cemetery, St James, France (Plot I-13-6)
  • S/Sgt Daniel J. Cashman (LWG)(KIA) [Boston, MA]
    Body returned to the USA for final burial
  • S/Sgt William R. Whalon (RWG)(KIA) [Meridan, CT]
    Body returned to the USA for final burial
  • S/Sgt Jesse C. "Cody" Cleavelin (TG)(KIA) [Walters (Lawton), OK]
    Buried in the Brittany American Cemetery, St James France (Plot P-4-15)
[Hometowns] - As reported to 303rd BG(H) by the crewmen
(Hometowns) - As recalled by survivors
Burial Note: The six KIA crewmen were originally buried in the Pont du Cens, France Cemetery)

Combat Missions flown by the 1Lt Jay R. Sterling Crewmen
Mission Date Target B-17F Aircraft (NOTE)
30 16 Apr 1943 Lorient, France 41-24610 Joe Bzfsplk II (427BS) GN-T (1)
31 17 Apr 1943 Bremen, Germany 41-24587 Bad Check (359BS) GN-P (2)
32 01 May 1943 St. Nazaire, France 42-5780 Black Swan (359BS) GN-N (1)
(1) Mission flown by all ten of the 1Lt Sterling crewmen
(2) Substitute Ball Turret Gunner used - S/Sgt Jack Belk, Waist Gunner on the Capt Billie B. Southworth, Jr. crew, substituted for S/Sgt Arthur R. McCormack. The other nine crewmen flew on mission 31

Crew Notes:

  • 1Lt Jay R. Sterling (P)(KIA) - Killed by anti-aircraft fire. Body pushed out the bomb bay by 2Lt Neill in the hope that if he was still alive he would revive at a lower altitude.
  • 2Lt John L. Neill (CP)(WIA)(POW)- Parachute failed to properly deploy, but suddenly mushroomed open as 2Lt Neill was struggling during his descent, making a successful parachute jump possible. The sudden sharp jerk when the parachute opened caused an injury to his neck.. Had received shrapnel wounds in his right leg and sustained a broken left ankle. Was captured in the afternoon, eighteen hours after his bail-out, and became a POW in Stalag Luft III.
  • 2Lt Harry E. Roach, Jr. (N)(WIA(EVD)(KIS) - Successful parachute jump from the forward escape hatch. Received shrapnel wounds between his eyes and had a back injury. Evaded capture with help from the French Resistance Forces. Returned to England via Spain on 29 June 1943. (E&E Report #44). Spent several months in England briefing combat crews on Escape and Evasion. Returned to the USA and completed Pilot training. Remained in the USAF after WWII. Was on cross-country flight in 1954 and was killed when his T-33 Jet Trainer crashed approaching the airport at Sioux City, Iowa -- the hometown of Jay Sterling.
  • 2Lt David H. Parker (B)(POW) - Was blown out through the nose plexiglass canopy when the B-17 exploded. Made a successful parachute jump. Was captured after being aided by a French family and became a POW in Stalag Luft III at Sagan.
  • T/Sgt Powell E. "Ev" Griffin (E)(WIA)(POW) - Bailed out from the forward escape hatch and made a successful parachute jump. Badly wounded in four places, burned on face and hands by flaming aviation fuel. Bullet wounds in both legs and has a fractured tibia. Placed in a German Army clinic after his capture. Became a POW in Stalag XVIII at Krems, Austria.
  • T/Sgt Harley W. Fields (R)(KIA) - Jumped from the bomb bay. A falling wing from "Black Swan" when it exploded, snared his parachute and collapsed it. He was killed hitting the ground when his parachute failed to reopen.
  • S/Sgt Arthur R. McCormack (BTG)(KIA), S/Sgt Daniel J. Cashman (LWG)(KIA), Failed to exit "Black Swan" and were killed.
  • S/Sgt William R. Whalon (RWG)(KIA). Was not an original member of the 1Lt Sterling crew arrived in England in the summer of 1942 and became a gunner with the 97th, 301st, 306th or 93rd BG(H) (Original Group assignment unknown). Was wounded in the leg on 9 October 1943 (VIII Bomber Command mission #14 to Lorient, France). Was transferred to the 427th BS/303rd BG(H) after his injuries had healed. Flew on 303rd BG(H) mission #29 to Antwerp Belgium as Tail Gunner with the 427th BS 1Lt Chester D. Jaques crew before becoming a member of the 1Lt Jay R. Sterling Crew in B-17F 42-29520 (No name) (427BS) GN-O. Failed to exit "Black Swan" on mission #29 and was killed.
  • Sgt Jesse C. Cleavelin (TG)(KIA) - Enlisted in 1939 in the Balloon Corps and later transferred to the Air Corps and later became a member of the 1Lt Sterling crew in the USA. Failed to exit "Black Swan" on mission #29 and was killed.
Last Mission of 1Lt Sterling Crew:
Mission 32 on 01 May 1943 to St. Nazaire, France in B-17F 42-5780 Black Swan (427BS) GN-N Exploded near the target area after sustaining a direct hit from an aerial bomb.

Black Swan Crash Site

Photo of Black Swan, Sterling, 303rd and 427BS insignia in St Pere-en-Retz, France City Hall

Monument to the 1Lt Sterling Crew:
On 17 October 1984 a beautiful stone monument was dedicated near the small French village of St. Pere-en-Retz where "Black Swan: had crashed. The names of the six crewmen who died and the four that survived are incised in the stone.

Story of the Sterling Crew's last flight:
Flak City - The Life and Death of a Bomber Crew by Harry E. Roach, III, son of Harry E. Roach, Jr., Navigator on the 1Lt Sterling Crew. Privately printed after extensive research by Harry E. Roach III. Copyright 1985, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003. Thirty-seven page detailed story, with B&W photographs, of the 1Lt Sterling crew and the evasion of 2Lt Harry E. Roach, Jr. Includes details of the assistance from French Resistance Forces that made 2Lt Roach's evasion possible.

[photos courtesy of Harry Roach III]
[Researched by Harry D. Gobrecht, 303rdBGA Historian Emeritus]