Date of Birth: April 7, 1918
Place of Birth: Kinsley, Kansas
Father and Mother’s Names: Harold Arthur Eslinger and Esther Elizabeth (Somerville) Eslinger
Spouse and Children’s Names: TBD - Married April, 1944
Date Entered Service: TBD
Service Branch: Army Air Corps
Rank/Specialty: Second Lieutenant, Pilot B-17, B-24 and B-29 Bombers.
Service ID: 0-760699
Division/Company/Unit info: 883rd Bomber Squadron, 500th Bomber Group (very heavy).
Riley Connection: NARA (Nation Archives and Records Administration) lists Home of Record for Lawrence as Riley Co., KS. His family moved to Manhattan, KS by 1940. Lawrence and his parents are buried in the Sunset Cemetery in Manhattan.
Date of Death (and Age): September 17, 1944 (age 26) DNB (Deceased Non-Battle).
Place of Death: Near Copeland, Gray Co., Kansas.
Grave Location: Sunset Cemetery, Manhattan, Kansas.
Bio: From the 500th Bomb Group - Day by Day
On the evening of 17 September, the Cooper crew (#349) of the 883rd Squadron took off in B-29 42-6379 on a night mission. There was a problem fairly soon, as the plane returned to the field at 2030 to debark the bombardier, a Lt Myers, who was suffering from "a slight illness." The plane took off again and the crew continued their mission, which presumably did not require a bombardier. Several hours later, over southwestern Kansas, something went seriously wrong. At about 0200 on this date, the plane crashed into a farmhouse near Copeland, Kansas. All ten men aboard were killed, along with two civilians in the house, one of them an infant. In addition, two women in the house suffered burns in the resulting fire.
So far as is known, the cause of the crash was never determined. We can't be certain of the time either. A newspaper article attached to the unit history says the crash occurred at 9:55 PM on the 17th. The 500th Bomb Group Operations Journal says 0200 on the 18th. The S-2 Journal says 1100 on the 18th. Take your pick. I picked the Operations Journal time of 0200, as it is between the other two and also provides the information about the return to the field at 2030. This was the 500th's first loss of a full, or nearly full, crew in training. (Two men had died bailing out near Omaha on 25 Aug.)
The men of the Cooper crew are not listed as combat casualties, but they were training for combat, so probably they should be. They were just as patriotic, just as young, and just as dead. One can only imagine the thoughts going through the head of Lt Myers, who survived through a quirk of fate. Or did he have a premonition? We don't know. There is no Myers on the officer roster of the 883rd Squadron for either August or September, so the lieutenant must have been new and quickly transferred out. Either that or the Operations Journal got his name wrong.
Here are the names of the men who died in this accident:
Aircraft Commander: 2/Lt Wayne B. Cooper
Co-Pilot: 2/Lt Lawrence H. Eslinger
Navigator: 2/Lt Kenneth O. West
Flight Engineer: 2/Lt William P. Kane
Radioman: Sgt Bruno Gutt
Ring Gunner: Cpl John F. Kelly
Right Gunner: S/Sgt Clarence A. Boston
Left Gunner: Cpl Robert L. Cooper
Radar Operator: Sgt George V. Johnson
Tail Gunner: Cpl Gerald J. Murphy
from - Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 12, 2015
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