REMEMBERING ANCIL SHEPHERD
Fifty seven years and one day after his death, the 457th Bomb Group Association assembled with more than fifty members of T/Sgt Ancil Shepherd's family and friends to pay a tribute of remembrance and to present the "Fait Accompli" Trilogy in his memory to the E.G. Fisher Public Library in Athens, Tennessee.
In making the presentation of the Trilogy on behalf of the Association james
Bass said, "It is fitting for Ancil Shepherd to be remembered by his family,
friends, and fellow airmen. The sacrifice Ancil and thousands of others made
for the cause of Freedom should never be forgotten."
The presentation was reported by the Athens paper and a chattanooga TV
station. the paper ran an article prior to the presentation and both
interviewed the former airmen present.
Also present from the 457th were Don and Betty Seesenguth, G.R. and Linda
Taylor, and Erma Bass.
The sacrifice made by a McMinn County veteran was remembered Monday
during a ceremony at E.G. Fisher Public Library in Athens.
James L. Bass of Carthage on behalf of the 457th Bomb Group Association,
presented "The Fait Accompli Trilogy" to the library in memory of T/Sgt.
Ancil U. Shepherd.
Shepherd, who entered military service from McMinn county in World War
II, died in a bombing raid against Germany on Oct. 7, 1944.
Bass, who also served in the 457th Bomb Group, compiled the "Fait
Accompli Trilogy" in three volumes. They consist of Volume I, which is
historical; Volume II, which is 95 percent pictorial; and Volume III, which
is made up of anthologies told to Bass by men who survived missions and
memories of others who were still children during World War II.
"Our purpose today is to preserve history and the heritage of the 457th
Bomber group and to relate their Legacy," Bass said.
Shepherd grew up during the Depression in Niota with his parents,
brothers and sisters. When World War II erupted, he enlisted in the Army Air
Corps and became a flight engineer.
He had served in five previous flights in the crew of a lead plane and
was on his 28th mission at the time of his death.
Bass said Shepherd probably had only two remaining missions to fly before
he could return home. Instead, he died when his plane was hit by German
"Today, after 57 years plus one day of his death, we recognize that Ancil
Shepherd became one of the heroes of World War II. He died on his last
mission and his body was one of those never recovered," Bass said.
"The Trilogy is called 'Fait Accompli,' which means 'Mission
Accomplished' or 'Accomplished Fact'. Without the sacrifices of those who
didn't return, we wouldn't have the freedoms we have today, €¾ he added.
The 457th Bomb Group (also called "The Fireball Outfit"), flew 236
missions using B-17's and B-24s and was part of the Eighth Air Force
stationed in Glatton, England during World War II. The Eighth Air Force
became the largest military unit in World War II and the largest aerial
bomber force of all time.
The 457th was stationed about 70 miles north of London on the old York
Road, a direct route once taken by William the Conqueror on his way from
London to York.
"The road reminded me of our old secondary roads, narrow and with no
shoulders. The squadron had to go up that road to get to the base," Bass
Shepherd became a proficient flight engineer and turret gunner. On his
last mission he was serving under Group Commander Col. James R. Luper, the
air commander, and veteran pilot Alfred W. Fischer.
There were also a group navigator, a group bombardier, a group surgeon,
and other crew members.
On Oct. 7, 1944, the 457th Bomb Group would lead the entire 94th Combat
Wing of the Eighth Air Force with a total of 144 bombers. They flew their
B-17s and B-24s across the North Sea, the Baltics, Denmark and to points
farther south. The final destination was a town called Politz that was just
over the German border into Poland that lay on the mount of the Oder River
where it emptied into Stettin Bay.
Politz was the site of synthetic oil production and the destruction of
oil facilities was of great importance to the war effort.
"They were to bomb targets and then come back home (to the base), but
the Germans picked off the lead plane in which Ancil was flying and it was
engulfed in flames. The lead navigator did escape, but out of 11 men, only
five survived. Ancil did not," Bass said.
"All school children should know about the sacrifices that Ancil and
others like him made to ensure that freedom would prevail," he said.
Bass said in recent years inquiries have revealed Shepherd was entitled
to awards and decorations his family has not as yet received.
"We are working on that through the office of Congressman John Duncan,
Jr. The military says those awards are forthcoming and will be available to
his family at a later date," he said.
Family, friends, members of the 8th Air Force, the 457th and veterans of
other service groups came to E.G. Fisher Library for the recognition ceremony
and also contributed their own individual memories of that earlier fight for
McMinn Country native Carlos Landrum is Shepherd's nephew. He remembers
"He wasn't married and volunteered for service. He was just a kid and
was maybe age 24 when he died," Landrum said.
Shepherd's brother, Kelly Shepherd of Athens, also came to the
"I was serving in Germany in the infantry at that time," he remembered.
Paul Billings of Niota, who served in the 8th Air Force, also remembers
"I know Mr. Shepherd. He pulled pigtails on girls like all boys our
age!" he said.
"I was 16 at the time of Pearl Harbor and I volunteered immediately.
Since I was determined to fly, I became a gunner and went to Hethel, England
in Norfolk county.
"I flew 27 missions and was awarded an Air Medal with three clusters. I
was recognized for service in the Ardennes Forest, the Rhineland and in
Central Europe. By April 24, the Air Force had about eliminated the German
Air Force as a threat," Billings said.
Donald Seesenguth served in the 457th Bomb Group in the 748th Squadron.
"I flew 30 combat missions as a lead pilot under an air commander. We
would leave with 36 airplanes taking off two minutes apart," he said.
"What I remember most is the Christmas Eve of 1944 at the Battle of the
Bulge. The weather was so bad we had been unable to give air support. But
on Dec. 24 we were told to fly regardless of the weather. When we took off,
we could only see the middle line of the runway. Our sixth airplane crashed
"We took our planes along with another group and my plane got hit with
shrapnel. We managed to drop our bombs. Then flying through a bad fog, we
were able to land at a coastal base," he said.
Henry M. Barker of Knoxville said he was with the 453rd Bomb Group, 735th
"I was on a B-24 Liberator flying as a co-pilot stationed at a base
called Buckenham at Attleborough in Norfolk/Suffolk, England, which was about
100 miles north of London," he said.
"I would fly 20 minutes and the pilot would fly 20 minutes because the
B-24s required a lot of strength to handle. Later, I flew B-17s over
Germany," he said.
"The Hollywood actor, Jimmy Stewart, was our group operations officer.
He was over the 453rd and also over the 445th before us. He flew 22 air
combat missions. The group liked and respected him very much," Barker
Charles Lee of Madisonville also served in the 8th Air Force and
remembers May 12, 1944. That was the day he was shot down and became a
prisoner of war at the age of 20.
"I was taken as a POW first to Poland and later moved to the Baltic Sea.
I flew five missions and was shot down on the sixth mission," he said.
"Like Ancil Shepherd, I was also a flight engineer. I guess my worst
memories of the war were during the year that I spent as a POW. We were in a
12-by-12 foot room with 24 of us to a room, but we were allowed outside in
daylight hours. I weighed 85 pounds when I was liberated."
Bass said the Trilogy volumes are available but not at book stores.
Orders may be sent to:
James L. Bass Publications,
P.O. Box 500,
Carthage, TN, 37030
or phone 615-735-1122.
"Our purpose is to preserve history and the heritage of the 457th Bomb
Group," he said.
"The proceeds from sales go to the 457th Bomb Group Association and the
projects we participate in. An example is the 8th Air Force Museum in
Savannah, GA, where we're building a window in the Chapel on the grounds
near the museum."
"On Sept. 23-27, the 457th held a reunion at Colorado Springs, CO, where
280 people attended for a banquet, a dance and to share memories," Bass said.
It is the soldier, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
who has given us the freedom to
It is the soldier, not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the soldier,
who salutes the flag,
who serves under the flag,
and whose coffin is draped by the flag,
who allows the protester to burn the flag.