Exactly 75 years after the bomber ‘Our Bay-Bee’ crashed into the current SCK•CEN’s premises, children and grandchildren of the American crew gathered to commemorate the accident. SCK•CEN took part in the commemoration among the family of members of the resistance from Mol who helped the fallen aviators, and the daughter of the German fighter pilot.
On 17 August 1943, a dark sky looms over the Campine. In the United Kingdom, a squadron of ‘B17 Flying Fortress’ bombers took off to bomb the Messerschmitt assembly and ball bearing factories in Germany. "After these aerial attacks, the squadron would fly to North Africa via Italy to refuel up there and carry out a bombing in France before coming back to its home base. Things went wrong in Aachen", explains Wim Govers of Broedering Vaderlandslievende Groepering (VVG), who organised the memorial weekend. “B17F 'Our Bay-Bee' was hit by anti-aircraft defence in Aachen, as a result of which the crew decided to fall back. They became an easy prey for German fighters.”
The crew managed to dodge a few attacks, but the aircraft was nevertheless taken down above Mol. The ten crew members were able to escape from the crashing aircraft using their parachutes. "They landed between Mol station and the Congo canal. Seven crew members were taken prisoner of war shortly after the crash, as the three others were able to go into hiding thanks to the help of resistance fighters from Mol," explains Gil Geerings (VVG). That help cost some of the resistance fighters their life.
The Verbroedering Vaderlandslievende Groeperingen (VVG) from Mol commemorated the crash last weekend. The accident happened exactly 75 years ago. The remembrance took place in the presence of the children and grandchildren of the American crew and the resistance fighters from Mol. Gil: “The daughter of the German fighter pilot who shot down the aircraft also attended the memorial.” When paying tribute to the ‘Our Bay-Bee’ monument, two Piper Cubs flew by over the location. “This kind of aircraft was used for ‘Light Flight Operations’ in the army.”
The delegation also visited the crash site which is now located on SCK•CEN’s premises. “The crash of USA bomber 'Our Bay-Bee' reminds me of two events connected to the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre”, says Eric van Walle, Director-General of SCK•CEN. “The Belgian Nuclear Research Center was founded in the framework of initiatives taken by Belgium to end World War II. At that time, Belgium supplied the USA with the uranium ore for the Manhatten project. More recently, the world was confronted with tragic events such as 9/11, the Fukushima
nuclear accident and the terrorist attacks in Brussels. Due to these events, the safety
measures were severely strengthened to avoid natural and human-induced disasters
such as a plane crash. Let this commemoration unite us to support peace and tolerance.”