In the picture below all but the man on the far right were named.
In speaking with Deaner this evening (Thursday, 18 Feb 09) he was able to name the crew member as Davison. He could not remember Davison’s first name. If he was in the 640th with Deaner, it may have been S/Sgt. John T. Davison, whose name appears in the 409 history book on page 121 right across from S/Sgt. Lester A. Deaner’s name.
Checking the 409th Association roster produced John Davison’s name, address, and phone number. A quick call to Davison confirmed that he had flown one mission with Crabtree. He did not remember Deaner, though he did remember the mission. “It was the third one,” he said, “and the first successful flown by the 409th.” Like Deaner, he described the mission as pretty uneventful. “Some flak,” Davison said, “but otherwise pretty quiet.”
Davison who is now eighty-five possesses a lucid mind and speaks with alacrity. He flew sixty-five missions before returning to his home in the United States.
“As we entered Europe I shot down a few German planes when I wasn’t taking pictures of our bomb runs,” said Davison. “I remember we started with 30 or 40 gunners and by the time we moved into France it seems like we were down to fifteen or so.” Davison said it was pretty rough going as the 409th began attacking German military positions in Europe.
Davison said that he lived through three crashes, the most dangerous one being his last mission when his over-loaded plane could not get up enough speed to leave the runway. He said they ran off the end and slid down an embankment with a full load of bombs. “Thankfully,” said Davison “the plane didn’t blow. I don’t know why it didn’t. I guess it just wasn’t our time to cash it in.”
So, here are the full names of the men in the picture below and their ranks at the time the picture was taken:
(Left to right) Lt. Co. Martin P. Crabtree, 1st Lt. John T. Ertler, S/Sgt. Lester A. Deaner, and S/Sgt. John T. Davison.
Crabtree was the pilot and group leader. Ertler navigated the group to the mission target. Deaner and Davison were engineer/gunners. Deaner manned the “belly” or “tunnel” gun position and Davison manned the turret gun. Both guns fired 50 cal. amunition.
“Those guns were deadly,” said Davison. “Once you zeroed in, those guns would shred a German plane to pieces.”