Updated: Aug 22
I previously published a "History of Scorton airfield" and as part of the research for that I was in contact with the 425th USAF Squadron historical society and the Imperial War Museum. One of the best photographs of one of their P-61A "Black Widow" aircraft was taken at Scorton in June 1944 (below). This aircraft was serial number 425589 and was nicknamed "Tabitha". The photo shows Tabitha with its "D-Day invasion stripes" - three white stripes painted on the tail boom and wings to clearly mark the plane as Allied to air and ground forces.
The aircraft was flown by Pilot Officer, 1st Lieutenant Bruce Hefflin (Service ID O-747797) and Radar Operator William Broach.
Unfortunately, on 27th Oct 1944, both were killed in an accident as the plane returned to its base near Prosnes (east of Reims), France where the squadron had moved to a few months before. The accident report stated that the night of 27th October was extremely dark and after a night patrol looking for German trains, the aircraft was returning to base. For some reason the plane came in low and fast, struck a mound near the airfield and crashed.
Bruce Hefflin was a native of Pocahontas county, Iowa born 29 Oct 1918 the son of parents Albert and Bertha. He had at least five siblings. His nickname was apparently "Pete" for some reason. He moved to Texas in the 30s and seems to have been working for a relative (Wayne Hefflin) who was a supervisor in a motor supply company - two of Bruce's brothers were working with him (William and Jack). Bruce enlisted on 2nd Jul 1941 at Houston, Texas as a Private in the USAAF. He stated that he was single, weighed 129lbs, was 5ft 8" tall, and had 1 year of college. Bruce is buried in the American Cemetery, Epinal, France (Plot A Row 20 Grave 63).
William "Bill" Bishop Roach was born 2nd Oct 1917 in Athens, Clark County, Georgia the son of George William & Ethelene Bishop Broach. He had two brothers - Albert and George.
He was living at 393, Findley St. in Athens according to the 1930 census and his father was the manager of a public building in Athens. Bill enlisted on 30th March 1942, aged 24, at Atlanta, Georgia as a Private in the USAAF. He stated that he was Single; born in Athens, Clarke Country, Georgia; weighed 154lbs; was 5ft 8" tall & had 2 years of college. He had been a Salesman previously.
At the request of his parents, Bill was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery, Washington DC.
Recently I found an Airfix model of a P-61 Black Widow and decided to try and re-create "Tabitha" as the aircraft was at Scorton in 1944. Here some photos of my attempt.
Above: Build stage! Below: Photo and Model comparisons