Original U.S. WWII B-24 Pilot 445th Bomb Group Actor Jimmy Stewart’s Deputy Lead Grouping

Item Description

Original Items: One-of-a-kind set. This incredible grouping belonged to Lieutenant William O. Shank who flew B-24's for the 445th Bomb Group in the 701st and 702nd Squadrons. Born in Ohio in 1924, he was commissioned in May of 1944. Upon completion in the States, his crew shipped out overseas in January of 1945 bound for Tibenham, England. There they would join the 445th BG. Shank flew 11 combat missions over Germany, several of which he flew deputy lead to Jimmy Stewart's lead. Shank spoke of Jimmy as being "...very well thought of. On Saturday nights, he would drive around to all the bars and taverns in town to pick up his crew members so they wouldn't miss curfew. He ate in the dining hall with everyone else and refused to leave the control area until all squadron members landed their planes." Shank last spoke to Stewart during a book signing in New York.

Shank’s wartime service was over on a fateful day in April of 1945. Returning from a training mission, they lost an engine while flying in solid cloud cover. Unfortunately, it was the engine that provided the vacuum necessary for the flight instruments to work. The aircraft went into a spin and became badly damaged during the spin recovery. They lost the entire left vertical stabilizer and also most of the left half of the elevator. While attempting to make an emergency landing at Thorpe Abbots, they were waved off by the control tower because the runway they were lined up on was too short. To avoid the village of Thorpe Abbots, Shank had to turn into the dead engine. The aircraft stalled and crashed outside the airfield, killing 3 and injuring 6 others. Horribly injured in the crash, he had to undergo quite a bit of plastic surgery to his face.

After his release from the military, he went back to college and practiced Law until his retirement. He passed away in 2011 in Illinois.

Included in this grouping are the following items:
• Ike jacket, size 40 in excellent condition, with sterling silver pilot wings, medal ribbon bar that includes the following ribbons: Air Medal, American Campaign Medal, European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two battle stars. Latinist bars on each shoulder, 8th air force patch to left shoulder, AAF cooler pins, and original maker label still intact.
• Officer Crush Cap.
• 3 x wartime photos of Shank, one with his crew.
• Bausch and Lomb AN6531 Aviator Sunglass in the original leather case which is marked SHANK. Note - one arm is broken.
• Original Honorable Discharge with original Enlistment Record.
• Original Military Record of Separation and Certificate of Service.
• Original Instrument Pilot Certificate
• Painted of a Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber from fraternity brother Hersch dedicated to Shank.
• History of the 445th Bombardment Group (H) hardcover book along with the soft cover supplement to the History of the 445th Bombardment Group (H) both by Birsch.
• Copy of Record of Combat missions.
• Copy of an article by the Northwest Herald from July 23rd, 1997where Shank is interviewed about his time in WW2 with Jimmy Stewart.

A truly impressive grouping that belonged to a fellow pilot of Jimmy Stewart’s 701st squadron in WW2 who flew 11 successful bombing missions over Germany in 1945 finally surviving a devastating crash landing that killed 3 of his crew and injured him for life. What a hero!

Note the photo of Jimmy Stewart and the 701st Bomb Squadron patch in the primary item image are not included with this grouping.
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