George Marshall Hawkins, Jr. was born on November 26, 1918 in New York to George Marshall, Sr. and Mildred Sonnenthal Hawkins. George Jr. was their only child. George, Sr. was born on June 16, 1893 in La Plata, Maryland. His parents were also Maryland natives. Mildred was born on December 16, 1898 in Queens, New York. Her parents, William and Clara Sonnenthal, were of Hungarian or German descent and immigrated to the United States in the late 1800’s. Aside from Mildred, they had four other children – Adolph, Elsa (or Elsie), Leah, and Elwood. The 1900 census reported that Mildred’s parents resided in Queens, New York.
George Sr. and Mildred lived on Laurel Street in Ridgefield Park, Bergen County, New Jersey in 1920. George Sr. (who may have gone by his middle name “Marshall” as recorded by the census) was twenty-five and Mildred was twenty-one. Mildred’s parents were reported to have been born in Vienna (her father) and Hamburg (her mother). George Jr. (who it seems also went by his middle name “Marshall”) was one and a half years old. George Sr.’s occupation was listed as a chemist in the field of medicine.
By 1930, the Hawkins family had moved to Woodbridge in Middlesex County, New Jersey, where they lived at 35 William St. George Jr. was now eleven years old.
By 1940, the family had moved to 52 Burchard Street in Raritan Township (since renamed to Edison), Middlesex County, New Jersey. George Jr. was now twenty-one and in college. George Sr. was working as a foreman of a chemical factory. (According to George Sr’s WWII draft registration card, he worked at Heyden Chemical Corporation in Fords, New Jersey).
On July 17, 1941, George Jr. enlisted in the service in Trenton, New Jersey. According to his enlistment record, he was single, had three years of college, and his civilian occupation was as an actor. After training in the states, he was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26, 1944, as navigator of the James Joseph Brodie crew. He served as navigator on nineteen missions, sixteen of them with the Brodie crew. It is unknown why he flew those three missions on different crews as the Brodie crew did fly those missions, but with a replacement for Hawkins.
George Jr. was aboard Lazy Daisy with the Brodie crew on September 28, 1944, when their B-17 collided over Magdeburg, Germany with the Buslee crew’s Lead Banana. George Jr. was one of only three men aboard Lazy Daisy to survive and became a prisoner of war. As an officer, he was not held in Stalag Luft IV with the other two survivors, enlisted men Wilfred Frank Miller (tail gunner), and Harry Liniger (waist gunner). George Jr. was held as a prisoner at Obermassfeld Hospital #1249 (Serves Stalag 9-C), Obermassfeld Thuringia, Germany 50-10.
Hawkins wrote what he knew of the accident after he returned home from the war in 1945. His account, as follows, is included in MACR9366:
Following “Bombs away” at our target over Magdeburg, Germany, our B17-G and another ship in our formation collided. At the time of the accident our plane was in good condition with nothing more than light flak damage. As far as I know, all men on board were uninjured.
At the time of the collision, the front section of our nose was carried away, and with it, the nose gunner, S/Sgt Byron L. Atkins. The plane seemed to be flying straight and level for a very few seconds and then fell off into a spin. I managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun.
Floating downward I saw an opened but empty chute. Leading me to believe that Atkins’ chute was pulled open at the time of the accident or by him later. However, because of the position of the chute I think the chute must have been opened following a free fall of a few thousand feet and then, because of damage or faulty hook-up, failed to save its occupant.
Following my own free fall, our ship was circling above me. It was then in a flat spin, burning. It passed me and disappeared into the clouds below. When I next saw the ship it was on the ground. While floating downward, I saw one other chute below me.
I landed a mile or so from the town of Erxleben, Germany…west of Magdeburg. The plane landed within two or three miles of me. Many civilians and the military there saw the incident.
The following evening I met two members of the crew…the waist gunner, Sgt. Liniger, and the tail gunner, Sgt. Miller. Sgt. Liniger said he was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. At that time Sgt. Miller said the tail assembly left the ship and he later chuted from the tail section.
To the best of my knowledge, All other five members of the crew were at their positions on the plane and failed to leave the ship. All were uninjured up till the time of the collision.
In the Casualty Questionnaire section of MACR9366, Hawkins adds that Miller, the tail gunner, rode the tail down some distance following an explosion which severed the tail from the ship. Miller later bailed out of the tail section. Also, in the Casualty Questionnaire section, Wilfred Miller adds that he heard through Hawkins that the wing of the other plane knocked Atkins out the nose without his chute.
George Marshall Hawkins, Jr. survived WWII. The fact that he was held at a hospital indicates that he was very seriously wounded, although the extent of his injuries is not known. After the end of the war, he returned to the states. In 1959, George moved to Central Florida and became a publications manager for NASA at Kennedy Space Center. He was a member of the Cape Canaveral Chapter of The Retired Officers Association. He was also a licensed amateur radio operator and a member of the Indian River Amateur Radio Club. He died on January 4, 1998 at the age of seventy-nine. He was living in Cocoa Beach, Brevard County, Florida at the time. His wife, Helen (born March 1, 1916), died on May 9, 2008. (Information from his obituary in the Orlando Sentinel and Ancestry.com.)
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015