I have one more story to tell about the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17 42-37982 Tremblin’ Gremlin on her last mission, the 19 September 1944 mission to Hamm, Germany. According to mission reports and personal accounts, all of the airmen aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin bailed out of the doomed aircraft over Binche, Belgium, leaving no one on board when Tremblin’ Gremlin crashed to the ground, reportedly in the vicinity of Binche-Charleroi.
Witnesses on the ground, however, thought differently and believed there were airmen aboard to rescue.
The Regimental HQ of the 389th Engineer General Service Regiment was located in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque, Belgium. At the time, the Regiment was reinstalling the railway between Maubeuge – Mons – Charleroi, Belgium.
On 19 September 1944, Captain Morton Coleman Weinrib, a dentist, and Major Bruce Taylor Smith, a doctor, who were with the U.S. Army Medical Corps and served in the U.S. Army’s 389th Engineer General Service Regiment, were working in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque when Tremblin’ Gremlin crashed to the ground.
Both Weinrib and Smith approached the downed aircraft to evacuate any wounded aboard when it exploded. In their attempt to save any souls on board, both men were killed in the explosion.
Reports of their deaths note that the two were evacuating wounded from the aircraft, however, we know that the crew had all bailed out before the plane crashed.
Sadly, not only did the U.S. Army Medical Corps and the U.S. Army’s 389th Engineer General Service Regiment lose two brave members, two families at home lost their sons, husbands, and fathers.
Captain Morton Coleman Weinrib was born 12 June 1916 in New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York.
Note: The above photo may or may not be Capt. Morton Coleman Weinrib. He is identified only as “M. Weinrib” in the Syracuse University 1942 yearbook and I find no corroboration that he attended that University.
Morton was the son of Samuel Weinrib and Bessie Coleman Weinrib and the brother of Leonard Weinrib. He married Therese (Terry) Marie Goldstein Weinrib (and later, Tapman) on 13 May 1939. Geni.com notes his descendants as one child, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Morton C. Weinrib attended and graduated from Columbia School of Dental and Oral Surgery, Columbia University, New York, New York.
Morton’s hometown was New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York when he entered the service. His service number was #O1690082.
Morton Weinrib died on 19 September 1944 at 28 years old in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque, Belgium. He was first buried at US Temporary American Military Cemetery of Fosse, Belgium. His permanent resting place is at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, Plombières, Liege, Walloon Region, Belgium, Plot G, Row 6, Grave 3.
Major Bruce Taylor Smith was born 14 July 1902 in Quebec, Canada. He lived in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada before immigrating to America in 1926.
Bruce was the son of Luther Lewis Smith and Mary Helen Macfie Smith and the brother of Robert Macfie Smith and Lewis Douglas Smith. He married Elin Karlsson McCartney Smith on Christmas Day 1929 and had three sons, Robert, Bruce, Jr., and Douglas.
Maj. Bruce T. Smith was a physician and surgeon before he enlisted. He had his own practice.
Bruce’s hometown when he entered the service was Fort Covington, Franklin County, New York. His service number was #O-490076.
Bruce Smith died on 19 September 1944 at 42 years old in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque, Belgium. He was first buried at Temporary American Military Cemetery of Fosse, Belgium. His permanent resting place is at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, Plombières, Liege, Walloon Region, Belgium, Plot G, Row 4, Grave 26.
The Demise of Tremblin’ Gremlin
While we are fortunate and thankful that all of the 384th Bomb Group airmen aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin survived on the 19 September 1944 mission to Hamm, Germany, let us not forget the sacrifice of Captain Morton Coleman Weinrib and Major Bruce Taylor Smith on that day. As we are so familiar these days with the actions of first responders rushing toward a scene of death and destruction, these two men put others first and risked their lives, only to become casualties of the day themselves.
Captain Weinrib and Major Smith, “thank you for your service to our country” does not begin to express the gratitude and honor you deserve for your actions. May you rest in peace and know that we are grateful that men like you served your country in World War II and defended our freedom.
Morton C Weinrib on Geni.com
Find a Grave memorial for Capt. Morton Coleman Weinrib
Fields of Honor database entry for Morton C. Weinrib
Find a Grave memorial for Maj. Bruce Taylor Smith
Fields of Honor database entry for Bruce T. Smith
B-17 42-37982 Tremblin’ Gremlin, courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website
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© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022
What a worthy addition to this story. So many similar tales I’m sure remain untold, only by people taking the time such as yourself to research them do the many other heroes get the recognition they deserve.
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Thank you, Keith.