- ISBN: 978-1-879080-06-5 — LCCN: 2008908834
5 1/2 x 8 1/2, Paperback,
237 pages, profusely illustrated - $16.95 + $3
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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
dispatched from Wethersfield RAF station in England. Their
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
aircraft were lost, with only one crew surviving. A-20G tail
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
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
artifact, symbolizing the principles of Duty, Honor and Country that
guided Bill Cramsie's life has inspired the telling of his personal
"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."
Brewer: "...had about given up on reading, but when I unwrapped your
book I actually read it completely...certainly enjoyed it."
Conte: “The depth and effective accountability of events show up
marvelously. It is, indeed, engaging reading.”
Downing: “...an excellent story. Plus the coverage of the
A-20 Havoc operation and West Point is extremely accurate and
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."
names of Lt.
Cramsie, and Sergeants Henshaw
and Steward are engraved in the Wall of the Missing
Cemetery and Memorial in Cambridge, England.
Visit the Wayne G. Sayles "First to Fall" blog
Visit the 416th Bomb Group Web Site
Here to Play the "First to Fall" video clip (turn on audio)
Home" courtesy of the
U.S. Air Force Band