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Marshall County to honor dead from 1945 B-29 crash

BENTON — Maxine Bohannon remembers distinctly the bloody and dazed soldier, parachute in his arms, standing in the doorway of her rural Western Kentucky home.

That was 63 years ago, hours after a B-29 Superfortress on a cross-country training flight crashed in a thunderstorm 3 miles from her home near Benton. The injured soldier was Cpl. Irving A. Elias of Brooklyn, N.Y., the lone survivor of the Army Air Corps bomber's 10-man crew.

"The first thing he asked was what state he was in," Bohannon said.

The July 1, 1945, crash has long lived in stories and memories in rural Marshall County. Now, the soldiers who were killed in that crash are being honored. The Marshall County Fiscal Court bought a monument honoring the crew and unveiled it near the crash site.

"What a better time than now," asked Marshall County Planner Josh Tubbs, who helped organize the event with Gary Teckenbrock of Benton. "As Gary said when we started this project, these men ... died serving our country."

The four-engine heavy bomber crashed about 1 a.m. The plane took off from Kirtland Airfield in Albuquerque, N.M., and refueled in Nashville before flying into Western Kentucky. Bohannon recalls debris being scattered over 2 miles along Ky. 80.

Bohannon said she didn't hear the crash over the thunder that night. She and her husband, Ernest, were awakened by a knock at the door.

Elias told the couple that he wasn't clear about what happened. He was walking through the bomber when it seemed to come apart and threw him clear. Suddenly Elias was falling more than 8,000 feet. He managed to activate his parachute, land safely and then walk to the Bohannons' house at daybreak.

The Bohannons took Elias to the Mayfield hospital for treatment of minor injuries. By the time they returned, souvenir hunters were combing the crash site for pieces of the wreckage before Army officials blocked off the area.

The bodies of the other soldiers — 1st Lt. Joseph F. Arone, Cpl. Roy G. Berryhill, 2nd Lt. Ward W. Copenhaver, Flight Officer Eugene M. Graham, Sgt. Romold A. Krzyzan, Sgt. Delmar H. Lumberg, Sgt. Arnold A. Rushton, Flight Officer James R. Schetzsle and 2nd Lt. Richard O. Snow — were taken to then Camp Campbell, now Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee line.

Bohannon said her husband later received a thank-you letter from Elias. It marked the last time they heard from him.