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Thomas J. Vezina
545th Bomber Squadron, 384th Bomber Group Heavy

November 30 , 2013

Due to my big interest in the history of both World Wars, and to honor those who died for our freedom, I requested another adoption grave at the Ardennes-American cemetery in Belgium. This is my second adoption grave in Neupré.

Before the war


Thomas Vezina was born on March 16, 1914 in Fall River, Massachusetts (USA).

He was the son of Thomas Vezina and Louise Bacon. He had three brothers, Henry, Leo and Alban and one sister, Janet.


Massachusetts, USA

Fall River

Thomas married Elvia Thornton in Lebanon, Missouri, on December 15, 1936. In 1937 he moved to Fall River, Massachusetts to live with his sister Jeanette.

In that period he worked in several hospitals in the states of New York and New Jersey. When he was unemployed again, he returned to Fall River. When possible he went to his wife Elvia in Missouri. After March 1940 he didn't live with his wife anymore. He continued working in hospitals in New York and New Jersey. On June 12, 1941 he divorced his wife Elvia, though no official documents exist of this.

Thomas married Mary Repko on May 18, 1942 in Charleston, South Carolina.

In the army


Thomas Vezina enlisted on March 2, 1942 in New York.

From March 7 until May 5, 1942 he was in the Second Army Air Base in Savannah, Georgia.

Savannah Air Base is also known as Hunter Army Airfield. It's a military air base that's been used since 1929 until now by the American Air Force.


Savannah Air Base, Georgia

Savannah Air Base, Georgia

From May 6 until June 3, 1942 Thomas was in the Eight Interior Command in Charleston, South Carolina.

On June 4, 1942 he shipped for England to take part in missions in the European Theater of war.

Thomas was enlisted in the 384th Bomber Group (H) of the 545th Bomber Squadron. He was a Staff Sergeant at the moment of his death.

Thomas took part in 18 missions:

Date Target Task Information
15/08/1943 Luftwaffe airbases
Poix-en-Picardie and Amiens-Glisy (France)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
17/08/1943 Ball-Bearing plant
Schweinfurt (Germany)
Ball Turret Gunner Combat mission credit
Aircraft suffered battle damage, crash landed at base
23/09/1943 Submarin repair ship
Nantes (France)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
08/10/1943 Submarine workshop facility
Bremen (Germany)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
10/10/1943 Railroad Marshalling Yards
Münster (Germany)
Waist Gunner Mission aborted after taking off
20/10/1943 Railroad Marshalling Yards
Düren (Germany)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
03/11/1943 Port area
Wilhelmshaven (Germany)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
05/11/1943 Railroad Marshalling Yards
Gelsenkirchen (Germany)
Tail Gunner Combat mission credit
16/11/1943 Molybdenum Mine
Knaben (Norway)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
05/12/1943 Luftwaffe airbase
St. Jean D'Angely (France)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
11/12/1943 Port area
Emden (Germany)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
13/12/1943 Port area
Bremen (Germany)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
Low group, high squadron deputy
16/12/1943 Port area
Bremen (Germany)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
22/12/1943 Steel shops, Railroad Marshalling Yards
Osnabrück (Germany)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
24/12/1943 V1 launch site
Croisette (France)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
30/12/1943 IG Farben industry
Ludwigshafen (Germany)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
07/01/1944 Powerhouse
Ludwigshafen (Germany)
Waist Gunner Mission aborted after taking off. Became separated from formation in dense clouds after group assembly, failed to make wing rendez-vous
21/01/1944 V1 launch site
Preuseville (France)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
Low squadron deputy
29/01/1944 Aircraft part plants
Frankfurt am Main (Germany)
Waist Gunner Combat mission credit
Lead group
30/01/1944 Aircraft assembly plant
Braunschweig (Germany)
Waist Gunner (right) Combat mission credit
Low group, high squadron. Fatal flight.


All missions Vezina flew


Information about the bomber Vezina flew on his fatal flight:
- Serial number: 42-5444
- Production code: B-17F-50-BO Fortress
- Type: B-17F
- Nickname: We Dood It
- Target: Braunschweig, Germany
- MACR: 2263

Thomas' death


Thomas Vezina died during a bombing mission on Brunswick (Braunschweig) in Germany.

On January 30, 1944, 742 bombers and 635 fighters took part in the mission. The target was an Aircraft assembly plant in Brunswick, Germany. Because of the density and the clouds a part of the group flew to Hannover for bombardments. Only 20 of the bombers failed to return.


Brunswick, Germany

It was the 56th mission for the 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy) and the 200th mission of the 8th Air Force.

The airplane 'We Dood It' departed from an airbase in Ipswich and was last seen at 11h46, six minutes before reaching the initial point (IP). The plane was attacked by German Focke Wulf-190's and began falling away from formation. It burst into flames, but continued on and dropped bombs on the target.

Eyewitnesses saw three chutes emerge from the plane. The plane crashed near Meisen, Minden in Germany.


Meinsen near Minden, about 100 kilometres from Braunschweig, Germany

Pilot Burton Ross, navigator Arthur Canziani, bomber James Seibel, radio operator Edward Davis, ball turret gunner Robert Ralph and waist gunner J. Bishop didn't survive this fatal flight either. Co-pilot Francis Nelson, mechanic/upper turret gunner Everett Bartholomew and tail gunner Robert Grimes were arrested and put in the POW-camps after they emerged from the plane and landed on enemy grounds.


Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, USA
Four of the crew members that didn't survive were buried here after the war


Robert Grimes was one of the surviving crew members and later told about Vezina: "Thomas Vezina was hit by bullets during the first attack by Focke Wulf 190 fighters. He was bleeding heavily and was lying in front of the waist door. Both waist gunners were silent after the first attack. I think they both got killed instantly."
This was probably because the plane was so badly damaged it broke in two where the waist gunners had been.
Thomas Vezina was officially declared death by the Germans on February 10, 1944.

All deceased crew members were first buried at the local cemetery of Meinsen-Warber.

Thomas is now buried at the Ardennes American cemetery in Neupré, Belgium. His grave is located in Plot D, row 22, grave 5.


Ardennes American cemetery and memorial, Neupré, Belgium

545th Bomber Squadron
384th Bomber Group Heavy



545th Bomber Squadron


384th Bomber Group (H)


Staff Sergeant


The 384th Bomb Group flew B-17s from Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire, between May 1943 and June 1945. They were engaged in daylight bombing missions over Germany as part of the Allies' efforts to destroy the effectiveness of the Luftwaffe by bombing aircraft assembly plants, ground strafing aircraft and hitting associated industrial sites.

The Group were awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations. The first was awarded to the 1st Bomb Division as a whole for flying without fighter protection to bomb aircraft factories at Oschersleben on 11 January 1944. The second was for bravery under fire when leading the 41st Wing on a mission to bomb an aircraft factory and airfield at Oberpfafenhafen, southern Germany, on 24 April 1944.

Bron: www.americanairmuseum.com

Contact


It took a while before I found any relatives of Thomas Vezina. Though I adopted the grave in November 2013, it was only in June of 2017 that I first had contact with a relative.

Thomas had three brothers, Henry, Leo and Alban and one sister Janet. Alban was the only one who was raised by family since he was an inphant. Their parents had died very early so the others had to go to an orphanage. Times were really hard.

So far I only had contact with Arline Vezina, who is the daughter of Alban Vezina, one of Thomas' brothers. She never knew Thomas, his wife or his child.

Personal information


Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army (Waist gunner)
Service # 32243997
545th Bomb Squadron / 384th Bomb Group (Heavy)
Entered service from: New York
on March 2, 1942

Born: March 16, 1914 in Fall River, Massachusetts
Hometown: Niagara County, New York

Died: January 30, 1944 in Meinsen (Minden), Germany
Status: killed in action (KIA)

Buried in: Plot D, row 22, grave 5, Ardennes American Cemetery, Belgium
Awards: Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart


Air Medal


Purple Heart


Family
Married to: Mary D. (Repko) Vezina
Children: 1
Father: Thomas Vezina (1889 - 1936)
Mother: Louise Bacon (1893 - 1923)
Brothers: Henry (1917 - 1964), Leo (1920 - 2001) and Alban (1921 - 1998)
Sisters: Jeannette (Leary) Vezina (1915 - 2000)

 






More pictures


Sources

- www.abmc.gov
- www.wwiimemorial.com NARA
- www.wwiimemorial.com overseas American cemeteries
- www.fieldsofhonor-database.nl
- www.findagrave.com
- www.384thbombgroup.com
- Andi Hunting

- Dirk Hartmann
- Rudy Kenis

Any information you can provide me about this soldier, can be mailed to me (nicklieten@hotmail.com). Thank you!