August 1944 to November 1951

Letter from Telva Burkhead

Dear Mrs. Buxton,

I don't know if I owe you a letter, or if you owe me one, but have had you on my mind the last few days so strongly. Just had to write you.

I know you might not appreciate this letter as it won't contain the good news you have been expecting so long.

Please don't feel I am rude for telling you there is no hopes for Jack - I wrote Mrs. Babini and told her everything. I felt that she would want to know the truth and have almost regretted writing the letter ever since, as she hasn't answered. I am wondering if I did the right thing - I postponed writing to you but after thinking it over, decided to.

As you know, I went to see Leo Stevens. He told we girls everything - the good along with the bad. I wanted to know everything.

He said the boys few over - they left Lincoln, Nebraska and went to Presque Isle, Maine (stayed over nite), from here to Newfoundland (stayed over nite), from here to Iceland (over nite) and from iceland to Wales (over nite), then to England then to Ireland, then back to Norwich, England where they received their permanent A.P.O. (558)

It was their 2nd mission. Their first mission was on the 14th of August. It was an easy mission over Southern France. They had no opposition. Dean Hinckley didn't fly with them that day. Leo said a Major and Jack were at the controls.

Their second mission was the fatal one. As you know, it was over Magdeburg, Germany (most fortified city in Germany). They dropped their bombs and was 15 miles on their way home when hit by anti-aircraft fire. They were flying at 23,000 feet. When hit, the bomb bay doors were knocked off. Not a very bad hit - what I mean is - not too bad. Leo said the concussion was so great it knocked his oxygen mask loose from his face.

He talked like he was the only one that was hit by flak. As you know, his kneecap was shot off. Buxton gave him orders to jump (Jack was the last one of the crew he talked to.) Leo said everything happened in a second's notice. He said Dean and Jack were getting ready to follow him - Leo jumped - from there we have to guess the rest. I don't know what happened unless Jack and Dean thought maybe they could ride her down and the rest of the crew "stuck" with them. John Lowell was operating waist gun, Babini was operating waist gun and Robinson was operating upper turret gun. These were the only changes made.

After Leo jumped he watched our plane. He said it descended to ground like a falling leaf from a tree. Said it hit the ground, burst into flames and then exploded. We asked him was he sure it was our plane and he said positive - no one of the crew survived but him. He said the German's were waiting for him. He said the Germans couldn't get near the plane for the intense heat of the fire and the rounds of machine bullets began to explode.

I asked him about the formation and he said it was a V-Shape formation of about 600 bombers and that their bomber was semi-lead.

I also asked him why Babini and Buxton were just reported missing and he said, "They probably were like me, not wearing their dog tags."

You see, this hasn't been an easy letter to write. I wish there was something I could say. I have prayed constantly that Louis and Jack could have been with the underground. I made myself believe that - so you see this has been a shock to me too. God help us thru this saddest hour of our lives.

Kathleen Hinckley came home from Minn. with me. She stayed two weeks. Am so glad she came as being together helped us so much.

Write me when you feel up to it.

Telva Burkhead

p.s. If you get May's issue of 1944 Reader's Digest and read article, "War Below Zero," you will read an article pertaining to our crew.