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1st Lt. Michael Sopronyi

1stLt. Michael Sopronyi 1918-2005 Mary Sue IIII received an e-mail from Michael Sopronyi, Jr. regarding his father’s service with the 344th BG 494BS;
“I am seeking information regarding a crash the Hell’s Kitchen sustained upon returning to base in England sometime just prior to D-Day. My father, 1st Lt. Michael Sopronyi, was the Navigator. The plane was hit by flak as it returned from a mission to bomb a marshaling yard in France and an engine was knocked out. They made it as far as the the beginning of the runway at Stansted (I believe) where it lost the second engine and crashed. My father was burned but managed to get the tail gunner who had been wounded in the foot out before himself. As a result of the burns, my father was not able to participate in the initial bombing runs on D-Day as he was hospitalized. I have been trying for years to get more information about the entire incident with little success. My father, like so many vets of WWII, spoke very little of his experience so I’m sure there’s more to it than I know. I do know from this website that Hell’s Kitchen was later lost in Holland. Any additional information about the crash and mission I have described involving my father is very much appreciated. Thank you.”

Michael also sent me an article which, in part, describes the crash.

Hell's Kitchen Crash Article-1 Hell's Kitchen Crash Article-2

 

I have a spread sheet with the history of many of the 344th planes. I have copied the info on Hells Kitchen 42-107679 K9-M 494th BS below. The history does not mention the crash at Stansted. Could he have been on a different plane that day?

Hell’s Kitchen Crash Article

http://www.americanairmuseum.com/aircraft/2651

Delivered from the Martin Omaha plant. Next listed at Atlanta AP, Georgia (ATC) from 7/2/44. Then went to the 3rd AF staging area at Hunter Field, Savannah, Georgia (from 12/2/44), and then to Homestead Army Air Field, Florida (from 23/2/44), from where the aircraft was flown overseas to the UK via the Southern Ferry Route (Listed as Caribbean Wing), departing the USA on 24/2/44. The record card then lists, SOXO A (Europe) on 24/2/44, and, SOXO R (Europe) on 7/3/44. Served with the 344th BG / 494th BS. Shot down by flak near the target on the 23/9/44 mission to the Venlo Marshaling yards. The aircraft flown by 1st Lt. Carson Wilkes Carrington took a direct hit which blew off the left wing. The aircraft flipped over on its back and spun down, crashing at Rumeln-Kaldenhausen near Duisburg, next to the Aubruchs canal. There were no survivors. The final entry on the aircraft record card lists, GLUE 9AF CON FLAK on 26/9/44.

1stLt. Michael Sopronyi Pre-Flight Check WWII

1st Lt. Michael Sopronyi Pre-Flight Check WWII

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.Another e-mail to me from Michael;

Carl,
Thank you very much for replying. I actually know very little about his crew mates names, hometowns,  etc. I am attaching some photos of my father who was with the 344th BG, 494th BS. I do know this much about him. He was 1st Lt. Michael Sopronyi, 0 700 781, Bombardier/Navigator. He started out in the African theater before going to the European theater. I am also enclosing an article I came across which describes the crash in more detail but does not identify the base which I believe was Stansted, but I could be wrong. It does state, as my father also stated, that the plane was named ‘Hell’s Kitchen’. The article identifies the pilot as being 1st Lt. George E. Jones of Sodus, NY.
I can also tell you, I read the War Department telegram that was sent to my father’s parents (my grandparents) telling them that he’d been in a crash but did not know his condition but would notify them as soon as they had more information. As you can imagine, I am mystified that your organization has no record, in fact no organization I have contacted has a record of this incident even though it has been documented and verbally passed from one generation to another.

I did receive an email some time ago in which mentioned Radio Operator and Tail Gunner T/Sgt Ray “SHULTZ” mentioned my dad as follows:

“I was a radio operator and tail gunner.  I flew 65 missons, including three on D-Day, with the 494th Sqd.  My Pilot was “Red” Wilson from South Carolina, Co-Pilot Dick Seavy from New York, Navigator Mike Sopronyi from Ohio, Engineer Al Hart from New York, Armorer Walter Wassman from North Chicago, and myself.
We flew our B-26 from Lake Charles, LA, to Ireland with stops in Brazil, Ascension Island, and Africa.  Went to school in Ireland to learn French and had pictures taken in French civilian clothing for identification, in case we were shot down and were captured.  We then flew on to Bishops Stortford and started flying combat missions in April 1944.
Mike Sopronyi was our Navigator / Bombardier.  He was so good as a navigator that after about 35 missions, he was taken from our crew and was made Lead Navigator of the squadron.  He then flew with the Colonel’s crew.  I don’t remember what mission, but they crashed in England on return, but Mike was badly burned.  I was with him in the hospital with a burned and scarred face and body.”

The Commanding Officer of the 344th at the time was Colonel Reginald Vance.

So, you can see why I am so interested in learning as much as I can about this given the somewhat mysterious information (or lack thereof) surrounding it.

Thank you for your assistance.

Mike Sopronyi

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Solly Mill K9-R

1-Commendation 28 May 1944 compsopronyl-news2