Like so many families of soldiers from World War II, George Pinner doesn’t exactly know what happened to his uncle in 1943.
“He was a bombardier,” Pinner said of his father’s brother, the man for whom he was named. “His plane disappeared during a mission.”
First Lieutenant George A. Pinner, a native of Covington, enlisted in the Air Force on Dec. 10, 1941, at age 26, at Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia. His enlistment period was for the duration of the war, but he’d never live to see its end.
Pinner was a member of the 93rd Bombardment Group, 409th Bombardment Squadron, based at Hardwick Airdrome, Norfolk, England.
He was part of the Night Raider flight crew, a crew responsible for raids over Germany.
One such raid, a raid in which Pinner and the rest of the 10-member crew narrowly escaped death, was detailed in an issue of Liberty magazine in June 1943.
Pinner didn’t live to see that, either. Or so it is believed.
The story in Liberty details the dramatic events of a raid conducted during the spring of 1943.
During the flight, two crew members lost consciousness, one trying to save the first. The plane became handicapped after losing an engine, supercharger and the radio.
And then, 20 German fighter planes arrived and the Night Raider was engaged in an attack for 40 minutes, the magazine reported.
The tail-turret guns had frozen, hydraulic fluid was spewing, the radio operator lost an arm and a parachute was on fire.
The crew lived to tell that tale, but they didn’t live much longer.
According to missing air crew reports declassified in 1973, the crew went missing over the English Channel during another raid on April 16, 1943.
The narrative states after bombing in Brost, France, the plane’s left rudder was shot off and the No. 2 engine was in flames. The aircraft was disabled and forced out of formation. It was reportedly escorted out to a point that was 20 miles north of Brittany, France and 20 miles northwest of the September Islands while losing altitude, and the crew was initially thought to have survived after ditching the Night Raider.
But Pinner – along with Capt. Beattie H. Fleenor, 1st Lt. James R. Hardin, 1st Lt. James J. Leary, Tech Sgt. Arch N. Crump, Staff Sgt. Richard L. Guess, Staff Sgt. Stephen L. Hegedus, Staff Sgt. T.J. Kilmer, Staff Sgt. Ronald L. Nelson and Staff Sgt. James V. Roberts – was never heard from again.
An eyewitness stated he saw the crew rowing rubber boats and assumed they’d made it to the coast of Brittany, but that report was never corroborated.
They were never reported to be prisoners of war, internees or escapees, the report states, nor have their names ever been found in indexed translations of captured German documents.
Additionally, the military could not positively identify any unknown deceased serviceman found on French shore as a member of the crew.
“The only logical conclusion which can be drawn concerning their fate is that the entire crew drowned when their plane crashed in the English Channel,” the investigator determined.
They were officially presumed dead on April 17, 1944, one year after their disappearance.
“We just don’t really know what happened to him,” said the lost airman’s namesake.
Prior to joining the service, 1st Lt. Pinner was the foreman of an amusement service, his enlistment records indicate. He had completed two years of college and had not yet married.
This article was published in The Leader on May 23, 2013. Copyright © 2013 The Leader/Echo Day. Not to be republished without written consent.