S/SGT. THOMAS McCASLIN
386th Bomb Group, 555th Squadron (B-26 Marauder)
S/SGT. Thomas J. McCaslin was born on August 26, 1918 in Montana to George and Elizabeth McCaslin. He was the third child of 13 children. Thomas graduated from Creighton Prep High School in 1937. He had a job with a bakery supply company out of high school.
The devastating attack by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941 had a profound impact on Thomas. On January 3, 1942, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. Thomas completed his training at Tyndall Field, Florida, where he received his Gunner Wings. He was assigned to the 386th Bomb Group, 555th Squadron as a Tail Gunner on a B-26 Marauder medium bomber.
Thomas traveled overseas in May 1943 with his bomber group, originally stationed at RAF Boxted near Colchester, England. He flew several missions out of Boxted until September 1943 when the 386th was moved to RAF Great Dunmow near Little Easton, England. On June 22, 1944, 16 days after the D-Day landings, Thomas and his crew were one of 36 aircraft flying a nighttime raid against a German military headquarters near Caen, France, not far from Omaha Beach. The formation ran into heavy anti-aircraft fire. McCaslin’s B-26 took a direct hit by flak and fell to the ground in pieces near the village of Gavrus, France, killing all eight men on board.
The fallen plane's crew were:
Lt. Col. Don Weiss - Pilot-Commander of the 555th
Lt. Axel P. Slustrop - Co-Pilot
Lt. David Meserow - Bombardier
Lt. George Hazlitt - Navigator
T/Sgt. Robert Perkins - Radio operator
S/Sgt. John Canty - Turret gunner
S/Sgt. Thomas McCaslin - Tail Gunner
Capt. Orville Thatcher - Passenger and Flight Surgeon for the 555th
Thomas' plane fell in German-held territory and the area was not taken by the British Army until several weeks later. The body of Capt. Thatcher was found and later buried in the United States, but the other seven remained missing.
In 1986, a French farmer working in a field near Gavrus located the remains of the 4 flight officers buried together in a common grave. They were finally identified in 1994 and buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The remains of Thomas and two other crewmen remained missing.
In 2014, a British researcher living in France examined the crash site and found human remains in the wreckage. The U.S. Military is planning to fully excavate the site in 2017 in hopes of finding and identifying the remains of S/SGT. McCaslin, S/SGT. Canty, and T/Sgt. Perkins and bringing them home to their families.