Brookline War Memorial
Alexander G. Mayberry

2nd Lt. Alexander G. Mayberry
United States Army Air Corps (1942-1943)

United States Army Air Services (1917-1947)

Alexander G. Mayberry was born on February 3, 1918, the son of Alexander T. and Anna M. Mayberry of 1301 Breining Street. He had two sisters, Maude and Florence. The Mayberrys were members of St. Mark's Church. A graduate of Brookline Elementary School, Alex was a Boy Scout and, although he did not reach the rank of Eagle Scout, he was a member of the Order of the Arrow.

Alexander G. Mayberry
Alexander Mayberry in 1930 at age 12.

Times were tough during the Depression years, and after three years of study at South Hills High School, Alex left during his senior year to take a clerking job at Isaly's on Brookline Boulevard to help make ends meet. He later earned his diploma from Schenley High School.

Alex always dreamed of being a flyer, and when the United States entered World War II he decided to enlist in the U.S. Army. Only college graduates could qualify for pilot training so, before joining, Alex was tutored in math by his friend Malcolm Trimble, a student at Carnegie Tech. Once he passed his college equivalency exam in mid-1942, Alex enlisted and entered the Aviation Air Corps.

Alexander G. Mayberry

After his initial boot camp and flight training at Selman Field in Louisiana, 2nd Lt. Mayberry was assigned to a ten-member B-17 Flying Fortress crew as navigator and dispatched for additional training with the 20th Bombardment Squadron, 2nd Bombardment Group, based in Great Falls, Montana. Alexander turned out to be so good at math that while training he became an instructor for young cadets.

The original crew of "Big Jeff" included Pilot 2nd Lt. Bob Kingsbury, Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Herbert Schachtschneider, Navigator 2nd Lt. Alexander Mayberry, Bombardier 2nd Lt. W. V. Godek, Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Sebastian Hernandez, Radio Operator Earl Bjorkland, Assistant Radio/Ball Turret Gunner Bill Groot, Armoroer/Waist Gunner Bob Woods and Assistant Engineer/Waist Gunner John Gibboney, and Tail Gunner Art Panini.

B-17 #42-30467 Big Jeff

On June 16, 1943, the men received their new B-17 Flying Fortress, #42-30467, and called it "Big Jeff." The aircraft was named after "Little Jeff," the pet dog of Pilot Lt. Kingsbury. "Little Jeff" became the official crew mascot.

As navigator, Lt. Mayberry's responsiblity was to keep the plane on course to its designated location, or on an actual bombing mission, to the Initial Point and then back to base. The navigater had a small compartment located behind the nose of the aircraft. Lt. Mayberry had to stand during much of the mission at a small chart desk.

Navigator's Tools    Navigator's Tools

Overhead was a small plexiglass bubble that the he used to sight his instruments. He used an “Octant” to shoot the sun or the stars during missions. He was also trained to use the E6B computer with the Octant. Actually, the E6B "computer" was a hand held device with calibrations that helped the navigator compute factors such as drift and altitude.

The 2nd Bomb Group began the war flying anti-submarine missions, and in October 1942 was redesignated as a heavy bombardment group and earmarked for overseas combat. The Group left their satellite bases on March 14, 1943 and arrived at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. From there they took off overseas. The first stop on their journey to the war zone was Morrison Field in West Palm Beach. After that it was a layover in Natal, Brazil before heading over the Atlantic Ocean for Marrakesh, Morocco.

                 

They arrived in Navarin, Algeria on April 22. Five days later the group was in Chateau D'un. The 20th Bombardment Squadron, 2nd Bombardment Group flew its first mission as part of the U.S. 12th Air Force on April 28, striking a location on the island of Sardinia.

For the next two weeks, missions were flown against the Axis forces in Tunisia. After the surrender of German Panzer Army Africa on May 13, the Group supported the reduction of Pantelleria and preparations for the Invasion of Sicily from May through July. During this time, in mid-June, their base of operations moved from Chateau D'Un to Ain M'Lila, Algeria.

Lt. Mayberry and the crew of "Big Jeff" arrived at their base in Algeria on July 15. Shortly after arriving, on July 31, the Group moved once again moved to a larger airfield, this time at Massicault, Tunisia.

The crew of 'Big Jeff'
The crew of the B-17 Flying Fortress "Big Jeff." Lt. Alexander Mayberry is front row second from left.
Lt. Bob Kingsbury is front row far right, with his dog "Little Jeff." Photo taken July 18, 1943.

A V-Mail letter home to his sister Maude describes Alex's first few weeks in Africa:

"I've moved again. Note my change in address. I'm still in North Africa though. I'm living in a tent and sleeping on the ground. Our food is very good but is served in mess kits. The sun is hotter than blazes. I'll be looking like an Arab 'cause I'm wearing shorts and no shirt most of the time. I wash and shave from water in my steel helmet."

"As soon as I make fifty successful missions, they are going to send me back to the States. That ought to take about nine months to a year. I don't mind it here at all. I guess it's because of the novelty. When that wears off it's going to be sorta rough."

It is from the base at Massicault that, on August 19, 1943, Lt. Alexander G. Mayberry and the crew of the Flying Fortress "Big Jeff" took off on their third combat mission. It was Mission #57 for the 2nd Bombardment Group. The target was Transformer Station and Marshalling Yards in the town of Foggia, Italy, a major Axis transportation hub. By this time, the green crew had logged a little over forty-five hours flight time on their B-17.

B17 Flying Fortress being loaded    B17 Flying Fortress at takeoff
A B-17 Flying Fortress being loaded with bombs and another preparing for takeoff.

On this mission, Co-pilot Lt. Scachtschneider was assigned to fly as co-pilot with another aircraft in the Squadron. Because of this, 1st Lt. Richard E. Rozzelle, a veteran pilot who had just finished his mission quota and was due to rotate back to the States, volunteered to sit in as "Big Jeff" pilot, with Lt. Kingsbury acting as the plane's co-pilot. Other crew changes were 2nd Lt. Carmel Parsons as bombardier and Sgt. John Adams as Assistant Engineer/Waist Gunner.

On this day, enemy fighters swarmed about the bombers like bees both to and from the target area. Over the city the flak was intense. At an altitude of 21,000 feet, the "Big Jeff," part of the first wave of bombers and positioned near the rear of the formation, managed to reach the target area intact and completed its bombing run. Below, the exploding target area in Foggia was rapidly becoming a scene of utter desolation.

German ME-109s attack a squadron of B17s

On the return trip, the Messerschmitt fighters attacked once more. This time they hit the "Big Jeff" hard. Co-pilot Bob Kingsbury recalled the lumbering 30-ton aircraft being riddled by machine gun fire from several of the ME-109s. One wing was nearly blown off and the plane's #2 and #3 engines were on fire.

One by one the friendly guns in the rear of the plane stopped firing. Kingsbury knew that his five gunners were badly injured or dead. Crippled and falling from the sky, the "Big Jeff" was surrounded by enemy attackers. Pilot Dick Rozzelle gave the order to bail out. The five remaining crew members, including Lt. Alexander Mayberry, bailed out at 19,000 feet over the Tyrrhenian Sea, south of Salerno and ten miles west of Licosa Point.

German ME-109s attack a squadron of B17s

According to the mission co-pilot, "I knew the bombardier (Parson) couldn't swim. Our navigator (Mayberry) was a good swimmer but hadn't been feeling well. Our engineer (Hernandez) was a big strong guy, but he didn't know celestial navigation and wouldn't know which way to swim at night," Kingsbury recalled. "The pilot (Rozzelle) apparently floated his parachute toward the sea instead of directing it toward land."

Kingsbury called out to his crew members once he hit the water, but got no response. He began to move in the direction of land. It took him thirty-two hours to swim twenty-one miles through shark-infested waters to the Italian shore. There, he was captured and held for twenty-one months as a Prisoner of War. He never saw his crew members again. After the war ended, Kingsbury learned that he was the sole survivor of the B-17 "Big Jeff."

In a touch of bitter irony, 2nd Lt. Herbert Schachtschneider's plane, "Precious," piloted by 2nd Lt. Herbert D. Thomas, and flying in formation on "Big Jeff's" left wing, was also shot down on that mission. Lt. Schachtschneider was one of only two survivors. Like Lt. Kingsbury, he was captured by the Germans and held as prisoner for the rest of the war.

In the end, the air raid over Foggia was a huge success for the 12th Air Force. Damage estimates put the number of casualties at over 20,000 and the city was reduced to rubble. The elimination of the transportation hub aided in the opening phases of the Allied Invasion of Italy. On the other hand, the 20th Bomb Squadron lost four aircraft and their crews. Six other aircraft from other participating groups were also lost, including another sixty airmen. Mission #57 was the third worst for the 20th Bomb Squadron in terms of losses.

The 2nd Bombardment Group, along with the 20th Bombardment Squadron, continued to wage war against the Axis forces. The Group was transfered to the 15th Air Force in December 1943 and, in another touch of irony, was based at Foggia, the town that it had attacked only months before. By war's end, the Group had flown a total of 412 missions, the last over Salzburg, Austria on May 1, 1945.

Alexander G. Mayberry

Back home in the community of Brookline, news of Lt. Alexander G. Mayberry's loss was reported in the Pittsburgh Press on October 9, 1943, when he was listed as Missing in Action. Ten months later, on August 27, the newspaper ran a short obituary when his status was changed to Presumed Dead (Killed in Action), and a Gold Star was hung in the window of his family home at 1301 Breining Street.

Lt. Alexander G. Mayberry's name is honored on the Tablets of the Missing at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, Città Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, Lazio, Italy. The photo below shows his name along with another East Brookline airman who was lost during the war, Sergeant John Mazza of 2408 Alwyn Street.

Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial    Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial

* Thanks to Maude McDowell, sister of Alexander Mayberry, for sharing information and photos for this story. *

* Written by Clint Burton: April 11, 2018 *




The Brookline War Memorial

The Brookline Veteran's Memorial.

Listed below are many of the sons of Brookline who gave their
lives to preserve freedom and contain aggression during
World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
General George S. Patton
 

United States Army (1775-present)  United States Army Air Services (1917-1947)  United States Navy (1775-present)  United States Marine Corps (1775-present)
United States Coast Guards (1790-present)  United States Air Force (1947-present)  United States Merchant Marine (1775-present)

World War I (1917-1919)

Percy Digby

Digby, David P.
Mayville Avenue
Army

Details

Raymond P. Cronin

Cronin, Raymond P.
Berkshire Avenue
USMC

Details

Charles Luppe

Luppe, Charles
Ferncliffe Avenue
Army

Details

WW1 Memorial - Washington D.C.
The World War I Memorial - Washington D.C.

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World War II (1941-1945)


Alm William H.
Pioneer Avenue
Army

Details


Arensberg, Roy T.
Fernhill Avenue
Army

Details


Brickley, Edward G.
Woodward Avenue
Army

Details


Bruni, Lawrence A.
Berkshire Avenue
Army

Details


Capogreca, James J.
Merrick Avenue
Navy

Details


Copeland, Clarence R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy

Details


Cullison, Thomas J.
Birtley Avenue
Army

Details


Dempsey, Howard F.
Berkshire Avenue
Army

Details


Dempsey, Walter F.
Milan Avenue
Navy

Details


Diegelman, Edward R. Jr
Norwich Avenue
Army

Details


Dornetto, Frank P.
Jacob Street
Navy

Details


Fagan, Gerald B.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


Falk, Harold E.
Pioneer Avenue
Army

Details


Fehring, Robert M.
Fernhill Avenue
Army

Details


Hynes, Richard E.
Waddington Avenue
Army

Details


Jackson, Robert E.
Brookline
Army

 


Kestler, Paul C.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy

Details


Ketters, Robert C.
Berkshire Avenue
Army

Details


Mahoney, Michael J.
Oakridge Street
Army

Details


Majestic, Arthur B.
Starkamp Avenue
Army

Details


Mayberry, Alexander G.
Breining Street
Army

Details


Mazza, John
Alwyn Street
Army

Details


McCann, Robert F.
Edgebrook Avenue
Navy

Details


McFarland, Hugh R.
McNeilly Road
Army

Details


Miller, William J.
Norwich Avenue
Army

Details


Napier, Edward J.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details


Nicholson, John D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


O'Day, John R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy

Details


Orient, Andrew D.
Fordham Avenue
Army

Details


Pisiecki, Raymond A.
Wolford Avenue
Army

Details


Reeves, Alfred M.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details


Reitmeyer, John P.
Bellaire Avenue
Navy

Details


Rhing, Vern M.
Norwich Avenue
Army

Details


Shannon, Harry C.
Midland Street
Army

Details


Shannon, Jack E.
Midland Street
USMC

Details


Simpson, James D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


Spack, Harry
Linial Avenue
Army

Details


Vierling, Howard F.
Fordham Avenue
Army

Details


Wagner, Ralph G.
Shawhan Avenue
Army

Details


Wentz, Walter L. Jr
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


Zeiler, Harold V.
West Liberty Avenue
Army

Details

WW2 Memorial - Washington D.C.
The World War II Memorial - Washington D.C.

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Korean War (1950-1953)

Patrick Gallagher

Gallagher, Patrick J.
Bodkin Street
Army

Details

James Gormley

Gormley, James W.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details

Gerald Hilliard

Hilliard, Gerald G.
Edgebrook Avenue
Army

Details

James McKenna

McKenna, James E.
Bellaire Place
Army

Details

Korean War Memorial - Washington D.C.
Korean War Memorial - Washington D.C.

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Vietnam War (1965-1973)

James Robert Bodish

Bodish, James R.
Plainview Avenue
Army

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

James Gilbert Collins

Collins, James G.
Dunster Street
Army

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

James Charles Wonn

Wonn, James C.
Mayville Avenue
Navy

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

Vietnam War Memorial - Washington D.C.
Vietnam War Memorial - Washington D.C.




The Brookline Monument - The Cannon

Brookline Veteran's Park - April 26, 2014.

<Brookline War Memorial> <> <Brookline History>