555th Bomber Squadron, 386th Bomber Group, Medium
Homer McClure was born on March 25, 1917, and grew up in the small town of Carnegie, Oklahoma. As a member of the Boy Scouts, he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. McClure played football in high school and continued his football career in college, playing fullback at Oklahoma Baptist University three of the four years he attended college.
McClure graduated from OBU in 1940 with an education degree in general science and coaching and earned his teacher certification later that year.
After graduation, McClure married his college sweetheart, Bonnie Holbert, and entered the Army Air Force in December 1942, earning his wings at Ellington Field outside of Houston, Texas. McClure was transferred to England in September 1943 just two months before the birth of his twin son and daughter. He would die two months later, never having the opportunity to hold them.
McClure served as both pilot and copilot for the B-26 Marauders based in Essex, England. The B-26 Marauder was used to conduct bombing raids over Nazi occupied France, Belgium, and Holland.
When first made, Marauders had short wings which resulted in several training accidents earning the model the title of “widow maker” and the “flying coffin.” However, after several adjustments to the design, the B-26 planes had the lowest loss rate of any plane in the European Theatre. Marauders were extremely valuable aircraft for attacking enemy airfields.
McClure and his comrades of the 386th Bomber Group were known as The Crusaders. Based out of Great Dunmow, Essex, the 555th Bomber Squadron were a vital component to the air war prior to the launch of Operation Overlord, the codename for the Normandy landings. The Crusaders led bombing missions across Nazi occupied Europe and attacked V-1 and V-2 rocket sites in France and Belgium.
January 26, 1944
Taking off in deplorable weather the morning of January 26, 1944, bombers from the 552nd and 555th divisions, including the 386th Squadron, left Great Dunmow and set a course for a V-1 launch site in France called LS A-28. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Lockhart piloted the lead plane.
A total of 144 aircraft were in formation and flying en route to France when the weather took a turn for the worse. Ice began to form on the planes and visibility was near zero. The mission was aborted and all planes were ordered back to base. One pilot reported that as the planes turned back toward England the B-26 known as Hell’s Belle, piloted by McClure, had taken on too much ice and crashed into the ground, exploding. There were no survivors.
The Vicar of the town of Crowborough, Sussex, where the plane crashed, wrote to Colonel Joe Kelly expressing sympathy from the community for the lost crew and noted the town’s “profound admiration for the pilot who so skillfully avoided hitting any of the dwellings in the vicinity.”
McClure’s body was buried in a temporary grave shortly after the plane crash. His wife, Bonnie McClure, was notified of his death. Following the end of the war, Mrs. McClure chose to have her husband buried in the Cambridge American Cemetery. A memorial including his flight crew stands in Crowborough, Sussex. Lieutenant McClure is also commemorated on the 386th Bomber Group memorial at Easton Lodge in Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom.
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Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial. Accessed February 14, 2015. https://www.abmc.gov/sites/default/files/publications/15-FCB-076_Cambridge-Booklet-R4_sm.pdf.
“Homer R. McClure.” American Battle Monuments Commission. Accessed February 14, 2015. http://abmc.gov/search-abmc-burials-and-memorializations/detail/WWII_59864#.VOuU2lXF_V8.
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“Lieut. Homer R. McClure Reported Killed In Action.” The Carnegie Herald, February 2, 1944. Oklahoma History Center Archives.
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