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Lesh Wilbur Laverne

Wilbur Laverne Lesh
Staff Sergeant
Serial Number:
850th Bomber Squadron, 490th Bomber Group, Heavy
Date of Death:
Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupré, Belgium
Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart

Wilbur Laverne Lesh was born on March 22, 1923 in Wisconsin. He was the son of Floyd Turner Lesh and Flora Azella Snethen Lesh. He resided in Jackson County, Missouri prior to the war. He enlisted in the Army on September 24, 1943 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was noted, at the time of his enlistment, as being employed in the Agricultural occupation and also as Single, with dependents.

Wilbur served as a Staff Sergeant and Carpet Spot-Jammer on B-17 #43-38701, 850th Bomber Squadron, 490th Bomber Group, U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. B-17G 43-38701 took off from Eye in Suffolk on the morning of the 19th April 1945 on a mission to bomb the marshalling yards at Aussig in Czechoslovakia. After successfully releasing their bombs they were attacked and shot down by German aircraft just south of Dresden, Germany. Their plane was hit at the starboard wing and set the fuel tanks and two engines ablaze. 2nd Lt. Trojanowski, Sgt. Dole and S/Sgt. Lesh were the only members of the ten-man crew that managed to bail out of the burning aircraft. The other crew members perished when the aircraft exploded in mid-air and the wreckage fell to earth in fields between the villages of Hradišťko, Sestrouň and Zberaz, some 45 km south of Prague.

S/Sgt. Lesh was captured by Wermacht officers and executed, together with seven other airmen from his crew and B-17G 43-38078's remaining crew, in Benešov, Czech Republic and was buried in a mass grave. On January 15, 1947, the bodies of the eight murder victims were exhumed by US troops and was transfered to the Ardennes American Cemetery at Neuville en Condros, Belgium. He also has a cenotaph located in Oak Ridge Memory Gardens, Independence, Jackson County, Missouri. S/Sgt. Lesh's name is commemorated on a monument located at Konopiste, Czech Republic and ranked as a Sergeant.

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