WWII Air Crash Remembered On Its 70th Anniversary

On October 25, 1943, two B-24 bombers from the Fairmont Army Airfield collide in the skies north of Milligan. Seventy years later, Karen Williams Edelmann, the daughter of one of the pilots, along with her husband, Ed, and two brothers, Ed and David Staubach, traveled to Milligan on the anniversary of the midair collision, to honor the memory of her father, 2nd Lt. James H. Williams, and the other airmen in the crash.

Prior to a lunch with local residents, the visitors viewed a glass window from one of the B-24 bombers that was on display in Milligan’s Legion Post window. The glass window was found by Alfred Matejka in his pasture after the crash. The piece measures 21” x 28”, is 2” thick and weighs 80 pounds. The photographs of the 18 airmen involved in the crash were also in the Legion’s window.

During the lunch, the Milligan Memorial Committee members shared communications they have had with relatives of the airmen and talked about the relatives that have visited Milligan since the dedication. Others shared stories about what they recalled and experienced on the day of the air crash.

David Staubach was given a boutonniere since this was his first visit to Milligan and Ed Staubach provided the group with jars of Dutch apple preserves that he brought from Indiana. The local residents at the gathering included: Shirley and Richard Brunkow, Merle Buzek, Dorothy and LaVern Novak, Dorothy Stych, Darlene Slezak, Melvin and Arlene Vavra, and Janet Bartels. Also attending were Kay Hughes, and her parents, Harold and Darlene Dwyer.

Kay gave a presentation on the book she co-authored with Harold, “Searching for Stanley.” The book focuses on her uncle, Stanley Dwyer, who was a WWII B-17 bomber pilot stationed in Europe. (Harold was also a bomber pilot during WWII.) On May 10, 1944, Stanley was reported missing in action over Austria and the book describes the efforts of her family to obtain information about the crash and what happened to her uncle.

Kay also told about her trips to Austria and the work of the joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. Kay presented Karen with a copy of her book.

After the gathering at the restaurant, the group went to the historical markers for a brief memorial ceremony. Karen placed a bouquet of fresh flowers next to the marker describing the October 25, 1943, crash, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, Ed Staubach read the poem, “High Flight” by pilot officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., and Janet Bartels read the names of the airmen and their hometowns.

The visitors traveled to Fairmont to tour the Fillmore County Museum and visit with Wanda Marget. Karen and her mother, Kay Williams Staubach, had previously toured the museum and met Wanda on their first trip to Nebraska in 2003.

Karen and her family were impressed with the room devoted to the Fairmont Army Airfield and the expansion of the museum. The group stopped at the airfield and the pioneer chapel located in the Ceski Bratri Cemetery before heading back to Milligan for the evening.

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