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An Initiative of the Fayette County Cultural  Trust                                                   
 

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Thomas E. Gebadlo

Technical Sergeant Thomas E. Gebadlo of Leisenring No. 1 was a radio operator on an Army Air Forces bomber, "Big Fat Mama."  He was a victim of a mid-air colision high over an Axis target.  The plane received the tail assembly of one of the formation's Liberators on its nose.  Both planes were seen falling but "Big Fat Mama" was able to land at a friendly base still carrying the extra tail on its nose.  The gallant crew banked on "Big Fat Mama" to bring it home and she did.  Sergeant Gebadlo, who joined the army on April 27, 1942, was overseas just four months, and is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Gebadlo of Leisenring.  He has a brother, Corporal Edward, who was stationed in England.


Robert Lee Wingfield was the pilot of that B-24 Liberator and flew 50 combat sorties over Europe during World War II, none more harrowing than his second mission, on May 2, 1944.

On that bombing run he was at about 22,000 feet, about seven minutes away from the target in Parma, Italy, when his plane and another B-24 collided. The collision impaled the right rudder of the other B-24 onto the nose turret of his aircraft, “Big Fat Mama.”

A combination of skill and luck allowed Mr. Wingfield to save his aircraft and fly it — with the other plane’s rudder stuck on its nose — to a safe landing in Corsica. He lived to complete his tour of duty and a civilian life as a Dallas entrepreneur.

Mr. Wingfield, 94, died Nov. 16 of natural causes at his Dallas home.


On the day of his midair collision, Mr. Wingfield was a deputy leader of a B-24 formation when the lead plane banked to the right. He moved his plane to assume the lead position and continue on to the target.

His landing at Corsica was filmed by Movietone News, which happened to be documenting another event. Mr. Wingfield’s parents saw the report in a Shreveport, La., theater.