The Norton B-17

On the 15th of December 1944 B-17G Flying Fortress 43-38973 of the 305th Bomb Group, 422nd Bombardment Squadron based at Chelveston was returning from a bombing mission over the mashalling yards at Kassel in Germany.

finisIt had been badly damaged and one engine was out. The aircraft managed to return from the raid but once over the coast it began to have difficulty in maintaining height. The problems were compounded by a complete blanket of fog over England.

picture at left : Lt Finis Ewing Harris, Jr. B-17 Pilot 305 Bomb Group, 422nd Bombardment Squadron G 43-38973

Not sure of their position they flew lower and lower and eventually collided with the Air Ministry GEE mast on Borough Hill Daventry. The port wing was severed during the collision and the aircraft crashed at Norton Fields killing the crew of nine.

On August the 24th 2014 Sywell Aviation Museum carried out an excavation to locate the remains of the aircraft. All artefacts recovered during this excavation may be viewed in a special display within the museum.

On the 24th of August 2015 a memorial service was held at the Daventry War Memorial and a plaque was unveiled to the crew by the son and grand daughter of the ball gun turret operator Sgt. Burry.

The USAF was represented at the memorial service by Lieut.Col Ford, Commander of the 422nd Medical

Bob Burry

Squadron USAF from RAF Croughton and sir Tim Boswell, Deputy Lord Lieut. of Northamptonshire representing the county.

picture left : S/Sgt Robert L Burry

Delivered Hunter 24/10

/44; Dow Fd 1/11/44; Assigned 422BS/305BG Chelveston 5/12/44; ex-Kassel 15/12/44 with Finis Harris, John Griffin, R.L. Mason, Laverne Ridge, Herschel McCoy, Cliff Melton, Robert L Burry, Willie Barnes, Charles Nordland (9 Killed in Action); hit radio mast at Daventry, Northamptonshire, in poor visibilty, crashed near Daventry, Northamptonshire, UK; Sal, Missing Air Crew Report 149.

Narrative – Official Air Force Mission Description

Mission 750: 674 B-17s and 434 fighters are dispatched to attack rail targets and an armored car factory in Germany using H2X; 1 bomber and 2 fighters are lost:1. 318 of 334 B-17s hit the marshaling yard and tank factories at Kassel; 5 others hit targets of opportunity; 6 B-17s are damaged beyond repair and 11 damaged; 25 airmen are KIA and 1 WIA. Escorting are 268 of 296 P-51s; 2 P-51s are lost (pilots MIA) and 1 damaged beyond repair.

2. 327 of 340 B-17s bomb the marshaling yard at Hannover and 6 hit targets of opportunity; 1 B-17 is lost and 7 damaged. Escorting are 241 P-47s and P-51s without loss.

3. 19 of 24 P-51s fly a scouting mission.

Mission 751: 2 of 3 B-17s drop leaflets in France and Germany during the night.

Missing Aircrew Report


Birth: 1922, USA
Death: Dec. 15, 1944
Daventry District
Northamptonshire, England

Judge and Mrs. Finis E. Harris received a telegram this week from the War Department stating that another son, Lieut, Finis E. Harris, Jr., was killed in England on December 15, 1944. Only last week, a message was received by Judge and Mrs. Harris from the War Department, stating that Cpl. Perry Rowe Harris was killed in action on Leyte, in the Phillippines. Another son, Mark E. Harris, who is in training in the Army Air Corps, in Nashville, is seriously ill with pneumonia.
Judge and and Mrs. Harris have the sympathy of the people of Cookeville and the entire Upper Cumberland in this sad hour. The three brothers volunteered for service in the Army Air Corps.
Lieut, Harris volunteered in June, 1943, and was inducted into the service at Biloxi, MS. He received his preflight training at Kelly Field, Dallas, TX, primary training at Chickasha, OK, basic at Enid, OK, advanced at Pampa, TX, where he received his wings in May 1943. He went to England in August 1943, and was pilot of a B26, later being transferred to a Flying Fortress.
Putnam County Herald, Cookeville, TN: Thursday, 4 January 1945.
A report written after the crash from a crew member who bailed out reads as follows:(page one missing).. “to our base in England as fellow crew members from a raid on Kassel, Germany. The ship had been severely damaged by flack. Our number one engine was shot out and the fuselage had been badly shot out. There was considerable doubt in all minds of the members of the crew as to our ability to make our base. We were flying in zero-zero weather and were unsure as to our exact position. On reaching the coast of England our pilot, Lieutenant Harris, felt that his ability to land our damaged airplane safely was highly in question and passed the word round to we crew members to bail out if we were so inclined. My friend, Sergeant Burry, decided to stay with the ship, whilst I elected to bail out, which I did. To the best of my knowledge, almost immediately after leaving the ship it cashed into a radar tower about six miles from our home base, located near Rushedon, England. All members of the crew, including Sergeant Burry were killed in the crash…..

Family links:
Finis Ewing Harris (1899 – 1956)
Margaret Elizabeth Harned Harris (1899 – 1984)

Finis Ewing Harris (1922 – 1944)
Perry Rowe Harris (1924 – 1944)*
Mark Ewing Harris (1926 – 2006)*

*Calculated relationship

Note: Entered the service from Tennessee.

Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial
South Cambridgeshire District
Cambridgeshire, England
Maintained by: Thomas Harned
Originally Created by: CWGC/ABMC
Record added: Aug 06, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 56290473