ISBN: 978-1-879080-06-5     —    LCCN: 2008908834
5 1/2 x 8 1/2, Paperback, 237 pages, profusely illustrated  -  $16.95 + $3 shipping within U.S.

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On the morning of 10 April 1944, a cold and overcast day, Thirty-six A-20s of the 416th Bomb Group were dispatched from Wethersfield RAF station in England. Their mission was to destroy a secret German V-1 Buzz Bomb installation hidden within the Bois des Huit Rues (Forest of the 8 streets) near Morbecque and Hazebrouck in Flanders (northern France). The flight encountered heavy flak and was forced to make three passes over the target due to cloud cover.   Three aircraft were lost, with only one crew surviving.  A-20G tail number 43-9699, flown by 1st Lt. William E. Cramsie with gunners SSgt Charles R. Henshaw and SSgt Jack Steward, lost an engine due to flak over the target on the first pass and stayed with the group on one engine for two more passes.  He was hit again on the third pass and had to leave the formation.  He was unable to make it back across the Channel to England and went down in Bradwell Bay between North Foreland and Clacton on Sea. Neither the crew nor aircraft were ever located or recovered.  Lt. Cramsie was a graduate of the United States Military Academy (West Point) class of June 1943.  His class was the most highly decorated in the history of West Point. He was the first of this illustrious class to be killed in action. 

   Through a twist of fate, or perhaps by Providence, the West Point class ring of Bill Cramsie has survived and surfaced after more than sixty years. This extraordinary artifact, symbolizing the principles of Duty, Honor and Country that guided Bill Cramsie's life has inspired the telling of his personal story in "First to Fall" by Wayne G. Sayles.  The search for Bill Cramsie is a story in itself, filled with spiritual connections and thin places.  The author's experience in following this yellow brick road is interwoven in a way that makes this a rather unusual and thought provoking biography.

Comments from 416th Bomb Group (WWII) Veterans:

Bob Basnett: “Just finished reading your book, it seems to be very accurate and brought back many forgotten memories."

Billy Brewer: "...had about given up on reading, but when I unwrapped your book I actually read it completely...certainly enjoyed it."

Ralph Conte: “The depth and effective accountability of events show up marvelously.  It is, indeed, engaging  reading.”

Wayne Downing:  “ excellent story.  Plus the coverage of the A-20 Havoc operation and West Point is extremely accurate and educational."

Bob Kehres: “It is so beautiful and so easy to read...I can’t begin to convey the emotions it brought out in me.”

Dick Wheeler: “...a marvelous account of a great guy and a true hero."

wall of missing

The names of Lt. Cramsie, and Sergeants Henshaw and Steward are engraved in the Wall of the Missing
at the American Cemetery and Memorial in Cambridge, England.


Visit the Wayne G. Sayles "First to Fall" blog 

Visit the 416th Bomb Group Web Site
Click Here to Play the "First to Fall" video clip (turn on audio)
If this .mov format does not play on your computer,
the same file is available on YouTube at


"Goin' Home" courtesy of the U.S. Air Force Band