OSCAR THORRALD HANSON

   Branch: U. S. Army Air Force

   Rank:  Captain

   Status: Killed in action

   Date of Service: WWII

   Home Town: Gully/Bemidji

Oscar Hanson and his headstone in Fort Snelling National Cemetery in St. Paul

Oscar Thorrald Hanson was born to Thomas T. and Clara Marie Syverson Hanson in Gully, Minnesota on February 15, 1918. Thomas Hanson had been born in Norway and immigrated to America in 1888.  Clara, an Iowa native who had moved to Enderlin, North Dakota in 1903, met Thomas in Enderlin and they were married there in July of 1905. Son Clifford was born in 1907 and daughter Mavis in 1910. The couple moved to Gully, Minnesota in 1911 where their children Norman, Amy, Odell, Oscar, Hilman, and Robert were born.  Thomas was a house painter and decorator and Clara took in laundry.

The family moved to Bemidji in 1921 and lived on Irvine Avenue. The children attended school in Bemidji. Thomas and Clara were divorced in 1940 and Thomas moved to Duluth while Clara stayed in Bemidji with sons Robert and Richard still at home.

Oscar signed up for the draft on January 22, 1941 when he was 22 years old. At the time he was employed by St. Ann’s Hospital in Juneau, Alaska. He was 5’9”, 155 pounds with blue eyes and brown hair. He listed his mother Clara as his next of kin.

Oscar joined the U. S. Army Air Force and trained to be a pilot and an officer. He was assigned to the 391st Bombardment Squadron, 34th Bombardment Group. The 391st began training with B-24 Liberators for overseas combat operations in January of 1944. The 34th was assigned to the Eighth Air Force in April of 1944 and its pilots began moving the air echelon to its permanent station at Royal Air Force Station Mendlesham, England in May of 1944. The 34th helped with the preparation for the Normandy invasion by bombing airfields and coastal defenses in France. It flew 170 operations from the station, the first 62 while flying the B-24 Liberators and the remainder with B-17 Flying Fortresses. 

Oscar flew 8 bombing missions in June, flying planes with such titles as “Picadilly Lucy” and “Weary Willie.”  Records of all his missions can be viewed online at http://valortovictory.tripod.com/crews/HansonOT.htm. A typical mission occurred on June 7, 1944. Oscar was the pilot of “Cookie’s Wailing Wall” on Mission #13. The plane carried 12 500-lb. GP (general purpose) bombs and flew position 4-2 in High Squadron. The bombs were dropped on the secondary target at 2100 hours from 19,000 feet. Major damage was reported to the plane, which crash-landed at Eye at 0030 hours on June 8. The plane was able to be salvaged, however, and the crew was unharmed.

In July of 1944 the 391st supported ground forces at Saint-Lô by striking V-weapon sites, gun emplacements and supply lines. Oscar flew six missions in July. His crew remained almost always the same, with 1st Lt. Keirn as co-pilot, 1st Lt. Topping as navigator, T/Sgt. Simpson as radio operator and 1st Lt. Lipscomb as bombardier. He had become a war-hardened pilot by his final mission in November.

Oscar was flying the B-17 “Chesty-V” on Mission #95 over Germany on November 30, 1944. The plane received a direct flak hit in the #1 engine just after bombs away over Merseburg, Germany. The aircraft slid violently under the formation and lost 2,000 to 3,000 feet altitude. The engine caught fire and the prop started windmilling. About five minutes after being hit the engine blew up and tore off the wing, sending the plane into a dive straight down. Witnesses reported five to nine chutes when the plane crashed in Sömmerda, Germany.

Captain Oscar Hanson was reported as missing in action, as were Simpson and Keirn. 1st Lt. Lipscomb was taken prisoner of war along with 3 other members of the crew. Only one managed to evade the enemy and survive – T/Sgt. Paul Shull of Kansas City, Missouri. In May of 1945 the status of the missing in action was changed to killed in action.  Oscar’s body was eventually found and returned to the United States for burial in Plot C-24 of Fort Snelling National Cemetery in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was 26 years old.