The day B-24 Liberator “White Y” didn’t come home

Tens crews launched their B-24 Liberators into the dark, cold morning air on March 14, 1945 from Pantanella field in Italy. Copilot Lt. William Bradley flew next to Lt. Martz, who commanded the aircraft as they headed to bomb the Marshaling Yard at Nove Zamky, Hungary. Their crew of twelve included two navigators, a radar nav, bombardier, engineer, radio operator, and four gunners. The overall mission was deemed a success, but the only man to survive on Martz’s crew had a dramatic tale to tell.

The crew of Martz (pilot) and Bradley (co-pilot)

Memorial Day, where we remember those who have died in battle, seemed an appropriate time to tell a story about a distant Parks relative, Lt. William Bradley, who died in World War II. My husband had become particularly interested in him (a cousin once removed) after he discovered William and his brother were fellow Georgia Tech yellow jackets. The oldest brother graduated in 1941, and William entered that year as a freshman. William left college two years later in 1943, as many young men did, to go to war.

He was commissioned a 2LT in the Army Air Corp in 1943 and assigned to the 781st Bomb Squadron, 465 Bomb Group, 15th Air Force, flying B-24 Liberators. The the unit trained at McCook field Nebraska and operated until the war in Europe ended in 1945.

The only man to survive William Bradley’s last flight was engineer, T/Sgt. Beeson, who told his story about the fateful flight. Today that story and many others are printed in a booklet of the unit’s history published by the 781st Bomb Squadron Association. Below is an abbreviated version of that event told by Beeson in 1987.

The bombing run to the marshaling yard was not different than many others. The flak, while not as heavy as they’d encountered before, had pegged the formation’s location. The crew successfully unloaded their bombs over the target and were preparing to turn and head home. The tail gunner reported flak following their line of flight, bursting closer and closer.

B-24 Liberator over Ploesti oil fields, Romania 1943

An explosion shook their craft. Fire burst on the pilot’s side as flak came up from underneath his seat. A single glance revealed Martz had died. The last thing Beeson saw on the flight deck as he hit the bailout alarm was Lt. Bradley attempting to control the damaged aircraft. Beeson grabbed his chute and dropped into the bomb bay where the bombardier joined him with chute in hand. The plane lurched, and Beeson fell out, facing up where he could see the plane above going around and around. He never saw where it crashed. Other aircraft reported three or four chutes leaving the plane, but the unfriendly Hungarians below with their town in flames likely left them no chance for survival. Beeson lived to tell the tale because he was “rescued” from the villagers’ hands by a German soldier.

So many people have died in WWII and other wars our nation has fought. I appreciate their sacrifice to allow my friends and family to live in this great country.


  1. Hi Sandy, loved this article, my great Uncle Robert Martz was the Pilot, never heard this story, so happy to find this and thank you for writing this.. I wonder if there are more pictures of this crew?

    1. Janis – I’m delighted the story offers an insight (albeit a sad one) into your relative. My hubby might have more information about the unit and the booklet they sent him with the information/full story in it. I’ve no idea if there are more photos of the crew anywhere, but usually the unit has other photos or at least individual ones. You can contact me through my website contact form at and I’ll pass your email to him. He laughingly said he’d have to hunt for the booklet in his pile of military/family things, but I know he can get you headed in the right direction to learn more.

  2. Thank you, Sandy, for this article. Peter Renzo, the bombardier, was my cousin. Any further info information you or your husband come across would be greatly appreciated. Although this happened a long time ago, Peter’s sister died recently, and the subject has been renewed for me and our family.

    1. Hello Tom. My namesake, Uncle Robert and three crew members were buried in the Zachary Taylor cemetery in Louisville Ky..They have a document describing the last moments from the only survivor, POW. engineer Vincent Beeson .There’s a Peter Renzo mentioned..

      1. Thanks for the info, Robert. We can’t find the information we were sent but I’m pretty sure my husband googled the 781st Bomb Squadron, 465 Bomb Group, 15th Air Force and found their active member/family group who sent us the booklet. It also had the full story told by Beeson and a lot of other wonderful stories of the crews attached to the group and squadron. Both you and Tom might want to give that a try if you want more information. Thanks, again.

  3. Thanks for commenting, Tom. Whenever I can get into my husband’s storage closet and clean it out, I’ll look for the booklet and post the contact information in it for the full story.

  4. Hi everybody.I m from Nové Zámky.We found few parts from this plane.Small permanent exhibition to see at the railway station.Exactly railway station was target.I m collecting details above this crew. I would like to build small commemorative plaque in future, Dont hesitate to contact me,please.

    1. Hey, thanks for commenting, Marko. Thank you for preserving these parts. It is appreciated. A few questions for you. Is the train station in Nove Zamky? Did the parts have identification numbers to tie them to the aircraft?

      1. Hi Sandy, Yes,it is train station.Unfortunately we did not find aircraft serial number on these parts.We found several grey colour skin pieces.This colour they used for this “Pathfinder”. We are still looking for police reports and documentation from 14.march 1945.

  5. Hello. I am a young guy which is interested in ww2. Currently I am learning about liberation of southern Slovakia. I know about Vincent A. Beeson from a Slovakian book, but can you please tell me where could I find the whole story about Mr. Beeson? I am really interested in it.

    1. We cannot find the booklet that we received, but searched online for the 781st Bomb Squadron, 465 Bomb Group, 15th Air Force and found their active member/family group who sent us the booklet. It also had the full story told by Beeson and a lot of other wonderful stories of the crews attached to the group and squadron. If during a spring cleaning we locate the booklet again, I’ll be sure to post more information about it. Good luck with your research.

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