By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – Input from impromptu speaker and World War II veteran Wallace Crumby was the highlight of Monday’s Memorial Day service at VFW Post 4100. Crumby addressed the crowd in the waning moments of the service, following Mayor Larry Hart and Representative Tommy Reynolds as speakers for the annual event.
Crumby traveled from Tupelo with family members to pay tribute our nation’s fallen soldiers –men and women who paid the ultimate price for our country’s freedom.
“Every time I pass these cemeteries with white tombstones in them, the thing that rubs me is the people who were buried there… wanted to be here just like me and you. They gave up every possibility they had to win this war and for the privileges that we have today. Think what they gave up so that we might have this service today. Don’t ever let people forget them,” the 91 year-old veteran told the crowd Monday.
“If we can’t give them respect, then the life they had was in vain,” the 91-year old veteran told the crowd Monday.
Wallace Crumby graduated from Camp Ground School in 1942 and less than a year later he and his twin brother, Hollis, were flying over Europe in a B-24 Liberator bomber named “Tohellandback” with Wallace as nose gunner and later as ball turret gunner and Hollis as tail gunner.
The brothers narrowly missed being shot down or killed in mission after mission. Their first mission was over Brunswick, Germany, which was in the center of the German’s Luftwaffe fighter belt. They never forgot their first raid with heavy flak breaking around them.
In April, 1943, flying their seventh mission, the crew on “Tohellandback” were attacked for two hours and 40 minutes by Herman Goering’s crack group of aces, the “Abbeville Boys.”
Their 17th mission was over Saarbrucken, a target defended with heavy concentrated flak. They returned to England, crash landing at the their base with 170 flak holes in the fuselage, the tail controls shot away, and two gunners injured.
The twin brothers participated in the first daylight raid over Berlin and on their return to England their plane ran out of gas. They tossed every removable object out of the plane. The ship barely made the first, emergency landing strip in England.
With 35 missions to their credit, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the twins returned to the states in August of 1944. Both twins survived the repeated trips without receiving a scratch.
“But that wasn’t the work of us, it was the work of God,” the veteran explained Monday. “I am proud to be a veteran and I would do it again if I were able,” Crumby added as the service came to a close.
(Editor’s Note: The flight experiences for this article originally were printed in the Daily Citizen in Tucson, Ariz., in May 4, 1945.)