On June 4th 1944, preparations were at a critical stage for the D-Day invasion two days away. At North Pickenham airfield in Norfolk where the 492nd Bomb Group was based, Lt. Raymond Sachtleben and his crew took off in their B-24H Liberator to bomb the airfield at Avord in France. As the aircraft climbed to its cruising altitude and formation, an incident occurred, probably involving Sachtleben's aircraft and another B-24. While the details are not known, it is generally accepted that Lt. Sachtleben had to perform an evasive manoeuvre to avoid a mid-air collision and the severity of the action being outside the fully-loaded B-24’s abilities, a wing tip separated and the aircraft stalled. It was last seen by the crew of another aircrew falling through the clouds upside down and it subsequently crashed next to a pair of cottages on the edge of the village of Garveston, killing the entire crew of ten.
Upon hearing news of the crash, firemen from the nearby Shipdham airfield raced to the scene to assist in putting out the resulting fire and to rescue any survivors. While they braved the burning wreckage, one or more of the bombs on board the aircraft exploded, killing two of the firemen, Pvt. Ted Bunalski and Sgt. Monroe Atchley. Both were posthumously awarded the Soldiers medal for heroism.
According to the official accident report, the true cause of the accident is unknown. In recent years, the people of Garveston village have worked hard to create a memorial to these brave men.
For more information about their work, and more about the people behind the story, see the dedicated website Garveston 12