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Delmont Strait

Wheeling Intelligencer

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

Remember...

Delmont W. Strait
1922-1944

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row . . . ."

John McRae

Sergeant Delmont Strait was born in Aleppo Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, during the year 1922, exact date unknown. He grew up as a member of the Anderson family with his stepfather Walter L. Anderson and mother Anna M. Strait Anderson. The 1940 U.S. Federal Census indicates he also had two half siblings: Howard Lee Anderson and Norma Gene Anderson. At some point before 1940, his family moved to Cameron in Marshall County, West Virginia. Many people that resided in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia were known to travel among surrounding states; therefore, it is hard to find information such as his birth records. It is known that he was not married during his life. It also is known that he completed four years of high school while enrolled at Aleppo High School before becoming a semi-skilled construction worker. (Source: “Sgt. Delmont Strait Killed in Action over Germany,” The Wheeling Intelligencer, 3 Nov. 1944.)

Willie David was pulled from the farmer’s life in October 1942 and sent off to train to join the U.S. Army as an infantryman. This entailed multiple areas of According to U.S. Army World War II Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, Delmont Strait enlisted on October 27, 1942, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, his native state; he was 20 years old at this time. Delmont was an airman in the newly-formed U.S. Army Air Corps, a member 330th Bomber Squadron, 93rd Bomber Group, Heavy. The plane he was assigned to crashed in a mid-air collision while on a mission to Koblenz, Germany. Every member on his plane was killed in action.

For many of the veterans listed on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial, the circumstances surrounding their deaths remain a mystery. However, in the case of Delmont Strait, we can reconstruct what happened thanks to an after-action report written by Second Lieutenant Everett E. Johnson, Airplane Commander, U.S. Army Air Corps. It states:

On the mission of 21 September, 1944 I was scheduled to fly in #2 position in the low left element of the low squadron. However, while we were forming, my element leader was flying too high and too far forward. This prevented me from getting into position because #3 man of the element was flying very low and erratic. Number 2 position in the bucket element was open so I slid over [?] flew in that position. Several times while we were forming, Ship “C,” who was [?] almost collided with our lead ship and on three occasions he came so close that [I?] pulled back so my ship would be clear if they did collide.

We started climbing the Belgian coast and were flying in very light clouds and I could easily see my lead ship but not the other ship in the formation. After a short time however the ships ahead started forming contrails and I lost sight of my lead ship. I waited a few seconds hoping to pick him up again. When I didn’t, I started flying on instruments and held the gyro heading we had in formation. I pulled my power back to 35 inches and slowed my air speed to between 140 to 145. The Co-Pilot put down 10 degrees flaps. I was fighting prop wash from the ships ahead of us but managed to hold my heading within about 5 degrees on either side. The Co-Pilot was observing while I was on instruments and suddenly he grabbed the controls. I thought it was moer [sic] prop wash for a second, then I saw his hands on the controls so I let him have them. We made a desperate effort to pull the ship up over the plane approaching in a right band at Ten o’clock. The nose section of our ship collided within the tail section of the plane “C” and we were thrown into a left bank and over into a spin, from which we were unable to recover. We were not using safety belts and I was thrown half out of my seat from the collision. As I was pulling my legs out I held the Alarm bell down.

I attempted to force open the escape hatch but was unsuccessful. The Engineer was trying to open the Bombay doors, so I started back to assist him in getting them forced open when I was thrown against the right front Bombay door. The weight of my body forced the door open and I was flung out clear of the plane. I was followed by the Co-Pilot and the Engineer. The Radio Operator saw a big hole in the nose section and made his escape there. There was so much hydraulic fluid escaping that he was unable to determine the condition of the nose section.

I pulled my ripcord at approximately 6000 feet and landed about 300 yards from the wrecked plane without injury. The Radio Operator landed about 100 yards from the plane a few minutes prior to my landing, with only a minor scratch on the forehead. The Co-Pilot landed safely; the Engineer was unable to get but one catch on his parachute fastened and sustained a broken leg from the rapid descent.

As soon as I had freed myself from the cuite [sic] I started walking toward the plane. Two bombs exploded before I reached the wreckage but no one was injured. The house nearby was almost completely demolished.

After the bombs exploded the wings and rudders were left intact, but the fuselage from the nose section to the waist windows was completely demolished.

The Tail Gunner was found half out of his turret; the Bombardier and Waist Gunner were at the rear escape hatch; the Navigator and Nose Gunner were identified near the nose section.

Plane “C” crashed about ¼ of a mile from our ship.

Delmont Strait was killed in action on September 21, 1944, and, for that, he received the Purple Heart. On the West Virginia Veterans Memorial, his last name is spelled as Straight, which is a misspelling. Strait was buried according to the rites of the Church of England (Anglican/Episcopalian) because it was believed he was of that faith. Originally, Strait was buried in Flanders Field in 1944 (thus the quote from the poem “In Flanders Fields”; however, his remains were later moved to the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium, where they remain to this day.
Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery

Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, Hombourg, Belgium. Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

Article prepared by Ethan Hammock, George Washington High School, Advanced Placement U.S. History
May 2015

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Delmont W. Strait

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