John E. Till was born in Hayneville, Alabama. He served in the 848th Bomber Squadron, 490th Bomber Group, Heavy, as a Sergeant and Radar Operator on the B-17 #43-38103, Bates Crew, during World War II.
It was around 01:30 PM on the 5th of April 1945 when a number of low flying aircraft appeared above the Grevelingen in the vicinity of Ouddorp, The Netherlands. It was a small group of American B-17 bombers that were forced to fly under the low-hanging clouds. There was no time for them to realize that they were not flying above liberated Dutch grounds, for immediately, they came under heavy fire.
The B-17 #43-38103 was hit so severely that three engines stopped running, and a fire broke out in the cockpit. Pilot Bates recognized the seriousness of the situation, and over the intercom, ordered the crew to bail out. Bates himself moved towards the bomb bay in order to jump, when at that moment the aircraft exploded and the pilot was blown out of the plane. His parachute opened only partly at a height of just 100 meters. Heavily wounded, he landed on the mudflats of the Grevelingen, where he noticed that his co-pilot Ellis Smith and his navigator, John Ewald, have already been taken prisoner by the Germans. It was not until Saturday the 7th of April that the inhabitants of Ouddorp got permission to recover the other airmen. What they found at the wreckage was beyond words. Five crew members were eventually buried in three coffins at the public cemetery of Ouddorp. On the 20th of April and the 7th of May, the bodies of James Ireland and Alfred Aulicino were found near the Kilhaven. After the war, the victims were reburied at the American cemetery in Neuville-en-Condroz in Belgium. The families of Hamilton, Conroy, Aulicino, Plotner, Ireland, and Anderson chose to bury their loved ones in the USA. John Till is still resting in peace next to his fallen comrades in Belgium. Smith, Ewald, and seriously wounded pilot Bates were reunited with their loved ones after the war.
B-17 #43-38103 crew:
Pilot 1/Lt. C.W. Bates / prisoner of war
Co-Pilot 2/Lt. E.E. Smith Jr. / prisoner of war
Navigator 2/Lt. J.L. Ewald / prisoner of war
Radar Operator Sgt. J.E. Till / KIA
Togglier S/Sgt. A.J. Aulicino / KIA
Engineer Sgt. J.K. Hamilton / KIA
Radio Operator S/Sgt. R.S. Conroy / KIA
Ball Turret Gunner Sgt. C.A. Anderson / KIA
Waist Gunner S/Sgt. C.M. Plotner / KIA
Source of information: B-17G 43-38103 Information Panel in Ouddorp, The Netherlands, www.abmc.gov, www.findagrave.com, www.americanairmuseum.com