Belgium / Monument

Battle in the Sky Over Sprimont




Official American Missing Air Crew reports state that on 30 December 1944, three U.S. Army Air Force P-47 Thunderbolts crashed near the village of Amberloup. One of these was piloted by Second Lieutenant John I. Smith. His aircraft crashed in the immediate surroundings of the village of Sprimont.

On 30 December 1944, P-47 Thunderbolts of the U.S. 406th Fighter Group were tasked with providing ground support to the American troops in the Bastogne area, which included their former neighbours at Mourmelon, the U.S. 101st Airborne Division.

They took off from their base (A-80) that day and despite poor visibility, which was significantly reduced by thick layers of cloud and ground mist, the pilots observed a concentration of enemy armoured vehicles heading in the direction of American troop positions. The Thunderbolts of the 514th Fighter Squadron immediately prepared to attack the German column with napalm bombs.

However, the planes faced an intense and accurate barrage of defensive automatic weapon fire. Two of the P-47 Thunderbolts were badly hit. One of these was piloted by Second Lieutenant Smith from Michigan. His aircraft caught fire just before touching the ground and crashed into a small wood on the hills of Sprimont. The second P-47 Thunderbolt crashed south-west of the village of Amberloup, also killing its pilot, Second Lieutenant Vincent Pittala.

Later that same day, a third aircraft from the 406th Fighter Group was also shot down in the sky over Amberloup. This was from the 512th Fighter Squadron and piloted by Flight Officer William Norris. He survived the crash and was taken prisoner.

Second Lieutenant Smith today is laid to rest in Hamm, in the Luxembourg American Cemetery. He was decorated with the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters, as well as the Purple Heart.

Sprimont, 6680