FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 17, 2017
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Town Holds Memorial Ceremony to Honor Five Heroic Servicemen Who Perished in Bomber Crash 75 Years Ago
North Hempstead, NY – Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, the Town Board, the New Hyde Park Foreign Legion Post 8031 and the New Hyde Park VFW Post 1089 hosted a memorial ceremony marking the 75th Anniversary of the January 1, 1942 fatal plane crash in New Hyde Park, which claimed the lives of five heroic servicemen. The North American B-25A Bomber had taken off from Mitchel Field when an engine failed. The pilot was able to diver the plane away from the homes of what is known today as the New Hyde Park community. The memorial service was attended by several local veteran’s groups, local elected officials, residents and aviation historians.
“As a result of the brave actions of these airmen there were no civilian casualties that fateful day,” said Supervisor Bosworth. “As the survivors of WWII grow older, it is imperative that we pass down stories like this one to our younger generations so that none of the sacrifices made by those who served our country during a time of war will have been in vain.”
The New Year’s Day crash of the North American B25A Mitchell Bomber #40-2199 occurred less than a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor. One of the plane’s engines failed within minutes of take-off from Mitchel Field. The plane was heavily laden with bombs and according to aviation historians, was most likely on an anti-submarine patrol. The plane’s remaining engine could not carry the heavy load and 23-year-old pilot, 2nd Lt. Charles Van Eeuwen struggled to keep the plane aloft, trying a low, sweeping turn back to Mitchel Field. But the plane was not going to make it back.
Rather than bailing out and risking the plane crashing into the Hillside Park Oaks homes below, Lt. Eeuwen crashed the plane into a nearby sandpit. It exploded on impact killing all five young servicemen aboard. Lt. Eeuwen was later awarded a posthumous Distinguished Service Medal for avoiding hitting houses during the crash. The four other servicemen who perished in the crash were; 2nd Lt. James J. Orr, Co-pilot; Aviation Cadet Earl W. Ray, Navigator; Pfc. Edwin A. Onufrowicz, Engineer; and Pfc. Joseph W. Gallick, Radio Operator.
The Town memorialized the crew members with a ceremony at Michael J. Tully Park, then attendees proceeded outside for a gun salute, presentation of a memorial wreath and the rededication of the monument located inside the traffic circle of the park.
“On the 75th anniversary of the army bomber crash, that killed five young army fliers, we celebrate their lives and we honor their ultimate sacrifice, protecting the residents of New Hyde Park,” said Council Member Angelo Ferrara. “These young men have demonstrated the true meaning of sacrifice, their heroic act should be remembered every day. God bless their heroism, God bless all who serve our country and protect our freedoms.”
“We are so happy to be able to honor these five valiant young airmen who sacrificed their lives in order to protect the lives of residents of the Oaks area of New Hyde Park. This tribute is a fitting reminder of their heroic act seventy-five years ago during start of World War II. We should never forget that freedom is not free,” said Council Member Lee Seeman.
“It is fitting that we can all gather together on the 75th anniversary of this tragedy to honor the ultimate sacrifices of the five airmen who, as described in a New Hyde Park memorial plaque, ‘gave their lives that the people of Hillside Park Oaks and their property might be spared,’” said Howard Kroplick, Town Historian.
“It was a pleasure and honor to do with this event and help the Town of North Hempstead and show acknowledgment to these servicemen who helped to save lives in New Hyde Park,” said Michael Dolan, member of New Hyde Park American Legion Post 1089.
Also in attendance were Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello; Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum; New York State Senator Elaine Phillips and New York State Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso.
Over the years, memorial services honoring the lost servicemen were held in 1942, 1972 and 1981. For a full account of the crash, see Crash of a North American B-25A Mitchell Bomber in New Hyde Park on January 1, 1942 please visit:northhempsteadny.gov/1942fliers
Supervisor Judi Bosworth, Elected officials, Veterans and others paying respect to the fallen heroes.