Howard Lepley and His Doomed Crewmates of the B-24 Bomber, ‘Little Sheppard’

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Howard stands 2nd from right

Howard Philip Lepley (1923-1944) stands second from right with fellow crew members of the doomed World War II B-24 bomber, “Little Sheppard,” otherwise known by its identification number 44-40107 of the 714th Bomber Squadron, 448th Bomber Group. The aircraft was shot down over Evreux, France on June 10, 1944, just four days after D-Day. Howard and four other crewmen were killed in the action, while five survived and were taken as prisoners of war. His body was recovered and buried in Europe.

Others in the image, killed in action unless otherwise marked — front, left to right: pilot Ray Towles of Vernon, TX, co-pilot Hugh Harries of Hays, KS (POW), navigator Art Zander of Chicago (POW), bombardier John Bloznelis of New York City (not on last mission). Back, L-R: tail gunner Cyrus Packer of Clinton, OK, right-waist gunner Andy Novak of Chicago (POW), flight engineer/gunner Mabron Johnson of Frisco, TX, ball turret gunner Earl Taylor of Santana, KS (POW, later died of injuries) and left-waist gunner Bob Johnson of Boston (POW). Not pictured: bombardier Thomas K. Foster of Spokane, WA.

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A descendant of Jacob and Elizabeth”Betsy” (Sturtz) Comp, Howard grew up in Wellersburg and was a seventh generation resident of Somerset County, PA. He learned the trade of carpentry and was employed by Consolidation Coal Company in or around Hyndman, PA. He was a member and taught Sunday School in the Zion Evangelical and Reformed Church in Wellersburg. During World War II, on Dec. 4, 1942, the 19-year-old joined the U.S. Army Air Force and trained as a radio operator, holding the rank of technical sergeant.

News of his missing in action status was printed in the Pittsburgh Press and Altoona (PA) Mirror, among others. Four years after his death, his parents and Uncle Jesse Lepley made a significant donation in his memory to the Zion church, consisting of hand-crafted chancel furniture and furnishings including an altar, altarcloths, pulpit, lectern, cross, candlesticks and vases. A story about the gift was published in the Cumberland (MD) Evening Times on July 8, 1948. After the war, Howard’s remains were among those shipped back to the United States for re-interment. In July 1949, a funeral service was held in the family church, with graveside military honors provided by the Old Rail Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of Mount Savage. He rests for all time in Cook Cemetery near Wellersburg.

This rare image graciously has been provided by Jason Danielson.

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