Ending his seven years of Army Air Force service with a round-the-world flight scheduled to make aviation history. Master Sergeant Sigyr R. Gustafson of Norwood is resting today at an RAF hospital in Southern Arabia, the lone survivor of a big B-29 that crashed into the sea Tuesday night.
The Norwood soldier was a crew member on one of three planes that left Tucson, Arizona, a week ago to encircle the globe. The first trip of its kind ever made by the heavy bombers, it ended in disaster off the Arabian coast when Sgt. Gustafson’s plane crashed. No word of the other American airmen who were on the plane has been received Sgt Gustafson was found by Arabian fishermen who brought him to the English hospital.
At least 16 American crewmen were believed lost in the crash as authorities in the country attempted to piece together conflicting reports from Aden. Early reports from the Associated Press at Aden said that 19 were feared lost with Sgt Gustafson the Ione survivor while the United Press reported that only six were known dead. In Washington, the Strategic Air Command said it received word from a State Department consul at Aden that 19 of the 20 officers and men aboard were missing. Capt Percy H Kramer, public information officer at Davis-Monthan Field in Tucson Ariz . the ship’s home base, issued a list of 18 men aboard the ship when it left Tucson.
News of his miraculous escape was received yesterday by members of his family. His aunt and uncle Mr. and Mrs. Arvid Hermanson of Folan Avenue, who brought him up after the death of his parents when he was six years old, expressed both joy over his escape and sorrow over the fate of his crewmates. Another aunt. Mrs. Dorothy Legaski of Folan Avenue operates the grocery store at the corner of that street and Washington Street. Other members of the Gustafson family are his sister, Mrs. Esther Sheehan of 620-A Neponset street. Canton, a brother Rungar, of Milford, and a brother Ronnie, who is serving with the Army.
Gustafson was married in April to Helen Gilson of Milwaukee, who is now living in Pheonix, Arizona, where he was stationed before assignment to the crashed airship. His tour of duty with the AAF is near completion, as he re-enlisted in 1945 shortly after he had received his discharge from wartime duty.
The Norwood airman first entered the service in June 1941 He had formerly been employed as a shipping clerk with Bird and Son. Sent to England with the Eighth Air Force, he was a crew chief with the 306th Bomb Group, and for outstanding service to his plane, which flew 82 missions against the Nazis, he was awarded the Bronze Star medal. His group, part of the First Bombardment Division, was also awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for “extraordinary heroism, determination, and esprit de corps” in their successful daylight operations against aircraft plants at Oschersleben, Germany. The sergeant also received several promotions in rank and attained his present high rating of master sergeant in December 1944.
The trip of the heavy bombers was scheduled to train personnel in foreign regional’ conditions and long-water flights. After leaving Tucson the planes went to McDill Field, Florida, the Lagens Air Base in the Azores Islands, and to Wheellus Field in Tripoli, Italy The final stop was at Aden, South Arabia They had hardly left the port on the next leg of their trip to Ceylon when the crash occurred a mile offshore. Wreckage is visible from land and the R.A.F. and Navy immediately began patrols to search for the bodies of the other 19 airmen.
A total of 53 men were making the trip in the three planes, scheduled to return to Arizona on August 5.
(All articles originally appeared in the Norwood Messenger unless otherwise noted)