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Vet's war years come to light

November 09, 2000

Vet's war years come to light



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer


BOONSBORO - Clyde A. Kephart flew on five successful bombing missions during World War II. His sixth was his last.

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On Christmas Day 1944, he was switched to a B-24 Liberator called the Racy Tomato. The plane lost two of its four engines during an attack on Austrian and German targets and went down in the Adriatic Sea.

Mary Jane Albert of Boonsboro was 19, the same age as her cousin Clyde, when he and eight crew mates died.

Albert, who will be 75 this month, learned more about Kephart's service and death a few weeks ago when she got a call from a New Jersey woman she didn't know.

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The woman, Barbara DeLorenzo of Howell, N.J., had an uncle, Staff Sgt. Edward J. Way, who also died on the Racy Tomato. DeLorenzo is finding out as much information as she can about the crew and its mission as a gesture for her mother and her aunt.

Albert was thrilled by DeLorenzo's call and the photo she sent of Kephart's bomber group. "She's interested in remembering that these men gave up their lives. ... It was like a fulfillment. I was excited to think that someone else was doing something about this, that (Kephart) wasn't a soul lost and forgotten."

Albert's father, Elmer Kephart, and Clyde's father, Foster Kephart, were cousins. The families grew up together in Boonsboro.

"If you go back 30 years, everybody in Boonsboro was related in some way or another," Albert said.

Clyde Kephart, third-oldest of six children, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force when he was 17. He was in the 15th Air Force, 47th Wing, 449th Bomber Group, 718th Bomber Squad.

The 449th Bomber Group, known as the "Flying Horsemen," left Mitchel Field on Long Island for Grottaglie, Italy, on June 12, 1944, according to information DeLorenzo sent Albert.

A member of the group who flew next to the Racy Tomato six months later told DeLorenzo about the radio communications he heard before the plane went down on its way back to Italy.

"He told me of the anguish the rest of the crew felt over losing their friends and of how they went out the next day flying over the Alps and the Adriatic Sea searching for them," DeLorenzo wrote to Albert. "There was no sign of them anywhere."

The nine crew members were considered missing in action for one year before they were declared dead.

Albert said Frank Warrenfeltz delivered all the bad news about Boonsboro casualties during World War II because telegrams were sent to his hardware store.

It was awful news during an awful war in with many of Albert's classmates were also killed or wounded.

"You had a sense of dread," Albert said. "You thought about the sacrifice of all these young men, but it was a balance. Do the Axis powers win or do the Allies win? You knew it was desperate."

Albert's late husband, Percy Albert Jr., who died of brain cancer in December 1996, also fought in World War II.

He was wounded twice, the first time in northwest France, south of Saint-L.

The second time was in Germany in December 1944, the same month Clyde Kephart was killed. He was sent home the following March, but remembered little of the three months before he got there.

Albert vividly described her husband's leg, hip and arm injuries.

She said she's glad that she knows a little more about what happened to Clyde Kephart, but she fears others like him are being forgotten.

"That's a shame because most of us are going to die off and the younger generation will know nothing about World War II."

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