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, the son of Alexander T. and Anna M. Mayberry, lived at 1301 Breining Street. He had two sisters, Maude and Florence. A graduate of Brookline Elementary School, Alex was a Boy Scout with the troop at St. Marks Church, and although he did not reach the rank of Eagle Scout, he was a member of the Order of the Arrow.

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, 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 instructed young cadets.

Here the men received their new B-17 Flying Fortress, #42-30467, and called it "Big Jeff." The crew of "Big Jeff" included Pilot 1st Lt. Dick Rozzelle, Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Bob Kingsbury, Navigator 2nd Lt. Alexander Mayberry, Bombardier 2nd Lt. Carmel Parson, Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Seb Hernandez, Radio Operator Earl Bjorkland, Ball Turret Gunner Bill Groot, Waist Gunners Bob Woods and John Adams, and Tail Gunner Art Panini.

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.

...    ...

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 left their satellite bases on March 13-14, 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.

On July 31, the Group once again moved to a larger airfield, this time at Massicault, Tunisia. It is from this base that the B-17 Flying Fortress "Big Jeff," carrying Lt. Mayberry and his crew of ten, took off on August 11, 1943 to bomb the vital road network, grainaries and Apulian Aqueduct in the town of Foggia, Italy.

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 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" managed to reach the target area intact and completed its bombing run. Below, the exploding city of Foggia was rapidly becoming a scene of utter desolation.

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 two of the plane's four 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 Adriatic Sea.

German ME-109s attack a squadron of B17s

"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 said. "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 an unkind twist of fate, pilot Dick Rozzelle had recently finished the final mission in his tour of duty and was scheduled to go home. He volunteered to fly alongside Lt. Bob Kingsbury as this would be his former co-pilot's first mission as the lead commander. As it turned out, it was the last mission for both men.

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."

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.

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 a touch of irony, was based at Foggia, the town that it had obliterated 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.

...

Back home in the community of Brookline, news of Lt. Alexander G. Mayberry's loss was printed 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

* 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 (1907-1947)  United States Navy (1775-present)  United States Marine Corps (1775-present)  United States Coast Guards (1790-present)  United States Air Force (1947-present)

World War I (1917-1919)

Percy Digby

Digby, Percy
Mayville Avenue
Army

Raymond P. Cronin

Cronin, Raymond P.
Berkshire Avenue
USMC

Charles Luppe

Luppe, Charles
Ferncliffe Avenue
Army

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


Arensberg, Roy T.
Fernhill Avenue
Army


Brickley, Edward G.
Woodward Avenue
Army


Bruni, Lawrence A.
Berkshire Avenue
Army


Capogreca, James J.
Bellaire Avenue
Navy


Copeland, Clarence R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy


Cullison, Thomas J.
Birtley Avenue
Army


Dempsey, Howard F.
Berkshire Avenue
Army


Dempsey, Walter F.
Milan Avenue
Navy


Diegelman, Edward R. Jr
Norwich Avenue
Army


Dornetto, Frank P.
Jacob Street
Navy


Fagan, Gerald B.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


Falk, Harold E.
Pioneer Avenue
Army


Fehring, Robert M.
Fernhill Avenue
Army


Hynes, Richard E.
Waddington Avenue
Army


Jackson, Robert E.
Brookline
Army


Kestler, Paul C.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy


Ketters, Robert
Berkshire Avenue
Army


Mahoney, Michael J.
Oakridge Street
Army


Majestic, Arthur B.
Starkamp Avenue
Army


Mayberry, Alexander G.
Breining Street
Army


Mazza, John
Alwyn Street
Army


McCann, Robert F.
Edgebrook Avenue
Navy


McFarland, Hugh R.
McNeilly Road
Army


Miller, William J.
Norwich Avenue
Army


Napier, Edward J.
Brookline Boulevard
Army


Nicholson, John D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


O'Day, John R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy


Orient, Andrew D.
Fordham Avenue
Army


Pisiecki, Raymond A.
Wolford Avenue
Army


Reeves, Alfred M.
Brookline Boulevard
Army


Reitmeyer, John P.
Bellaire Avenue
Navy


Rhing, Vern M.
Norwich Avenue
Army


Shannon, Harry C.
Midland Street
Army


Shannon, Jack E.
Midland Street
USMC


Simpson, James D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


Spack, Harry
Linial Avenue
Army


Vierling, Howard F.
Fordham Avenue
Army


Wagner, Ralph G.
Shawhan Avenue
Army


Wentz, Walter L. Jr
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


Zeiler, Harold V.
West Liberty Avenue
Army


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
 

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>