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Wilma T Caldwell Jr


On 22-Aug-43 in B-26C 41-34971 "Pay Off" [RU:Q] 386BG/544BS while serving as pilot on a mission to bomb the German airfield Beaumont Le Roger, the aircraft was attacked by a German fighter killing the Navigator 2LT Frank A. Schultz and setting the right engine on fire. 2LT Caldwell ordered the remaining crew to bail out but he stayed with the aircraft and attempted to make a crash landing at Brionne, France. The aircraft crashed and burned in the attempt. EDIT: As reported by Chester Klier and by Sgt Billie Boyd (in wing aircraft "The Bad Penny") "Pay Off" was struck by both flak and a FW-190 and was on fire. After the last man (4) bailed out through the open bomb bay doors 3-6 seconds elapsed, and the aircraft blew up into three large parts. Wilma Caldwell went down at the controls, attempting to maintain it under control until the remainder of his crew could bail out.
Killed in Action (KIA). In recognition of Lieutenant Caldwell's selfless act, he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.


Units served with

  • 386th Bomb Group

    386th Bomb Group

    The 386th Bomb Group flew B-26 Marauders for the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces. Whilst with the Eighth, the Group developed the formation release procedure for the B-26 on missions that targeted aerodromes, marshalling yards and V-weapon sites along the...

  • 544th Bomb Squadron
  • 554th Bomb Squadron


  • 41-34971 Pay Off

    B-26 Marauder
    B-26C-15-MA 41-34971 "Pay Off" was assigned to 386BG/554BS at Boxted, UK. The aircraft was attacked by an enemy fighter as well as flak on 22-Aug-43 while on a mission to bomb the German airfield of Beaumont Le Roger, France. The fighter attack set the...


  • VIII Air Support Command 30A

    22 August 1943
    36 B-26s from 386BG are despatched to bomb the German airfield of Beaumont Le Roger, France. 35 are effective on the target. 1 B-26 Failed to Return - 2KIA 2POW 2EVD. The bomber gunners claim 3-0-0 of German fighters.

Associated Place

  • Boxted

    Military site : airfield
    Boxted was built for heavy bombers and became operational from May 1943. In the few months B-26 Marauders of the 386th Bomb Group were stationed there, there were two night attacks by the Luftwaffe. On 17 August 1943, one man was killed when bombs...


Event Location Date
Killed in Action (KIA) Brionne, France 22 August 1943

B-26B-15 MA 41-34971 'Pay Off ' crashed one mile northeast of Brionne near Rouen, France. 386th BG was part of the 8th BG from July-October 1943

Buried Bernay, France 24 August 1943

Buried by the Germans in the Community Cemetery at Bernay, France. Exact location in the cemetery has not been determined.


Date Contributor Update
25 May 2020 18:16:11 USAFflyboy07 Changes to awards and unit associations


The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Second Lieutenant (Air Corps) Wilma Thomas Caldwell, Jr. (ASN: 0-521569), United States Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a B-26 Medium Bomber in the 554th Bombardment Squadron, 386th Bombardment Group (M), EIGHTH Air Force, while participating in a bombing mission on 22 August 1943, against enemy ground targets at Beaumont le Roger, France. Shortly after the completion of the bombing run, the airplane piloted by Lieutenant Caldwell was attacked by an enemy fighter, which resulted in an engine being damaged and a fire, which involved the fuel tanks being started in the bomb bay. Faced with the imminent destruction of his crippled and almost unmanageable plane, subjected to the intense heat of the growing fire, and in spite of radio warnings from other pilots in his formation, Lieutenant Caldwell chose to remain at the controls of his ship, keeping it in a controlled glide in order to give his crew an opportunity to escape. After the fourth man had parachuted to safety, the plane exploded in midair. The gallantry displayed by Lieutenant Caldwell in sacrificing his life for his comrades is in keeping with the finest traditions of the United States Army and reflects reflect great credit upon himself, the 8th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.

Date Contributor Update
21 May 2020 11:28:40 general ira snapsorter Changes to nickname and events

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia /

Date Contributor Update
19 May 2020 19:07:12 jmoore43 Changes to nickname

Added "Possible DUPLICATE" in the Nickname field so an Admin can check out this person.

Date Contributor Update
29 October 2018 01:29:53 Edgy01 Changes to media associations


Date Contributor Update
29 October 2018 01:23:18 Edgy01 Changes to biography

From witness accounts.

Date Contributor Update
29 October 2018 01:21:51 Edgy01 Changes to biography

From published 386th History.

Date Contributor Update
14 October 2018 19:55:36 Edgy01 Changes to biography

Known facts (personally)

Date Contributor Update
14 October 2018 19:36:33 Edgy01 Changes to biography

As related to me by Chester Klier (unit historian), wing gunner Billie Boyd (On the "Bad Penny") and "Pay Off" tail gunner Ed Sharpe.

Date Contributor Update
02 March 2016 12:14:26 general ira snapsorter Changes to suffix, biography and events

Merged with duplicate entry to include details from:
- the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia ;
- Losses of the 8th and 9th AFs by Bishop and Hey, Combat Chronology Supplement;
- MACR 0375

Date Contributor Update
25 May 2015 18:07:19 Lee8thbuff Changes to service number, biography, events, place associations and mission associations

Lee Cunningham 25-May-2015. Service number and loss details per Missing AIr Crew Report 375; burial location per "Losses of the 8th & 9th Air Forces", Stan Bishop & John A. Hey MBE. Connection made to mission within existing website data.

Date Contributor Update
21 January 2015 23:20:57 Tanks Changes to firstname and role

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:26:40 AAM AAM ingest

MACR 375 / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database