On August 1, 1943, the 93rd Bomb Group was one of five groups participating in the low-level attack on the Ploesti oil fields in Romania. Operation Tidal Wave was very costly. Of the thirty-nine 93rd B-24s that took off from Benghazi, thirty-four reached the target. Only fifteen came away from the target in formation and of those, only five escaped with little damage. One B-24D shot down was Hell’s Angels piloted by LT Roy C. Harms. Of the 10 crewmen, one, SGT Jack W. Reed, survived by parachuting from 300 feet. Reed, the engineer landed on the refinery grounds, was severely injured and taken prisoner. The others, LT Earl F. Ferguson, co-pilot; LT William W. Harth, Jr., Bombardier; LT Albert W. Stahl, Navigator; SGT Ralph E. Richardson, radio; SGT Winfield V. Long, tail gunner; SGTs John Shufritz, Arnold M. Holen, and Michael Doka, all gunners; were killed. On November 13, 2017 the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency released a statement as follows:
Airman Killed During World War II Accounted For (Harth, W.)
Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. William H. Harth, Jr., killed during World War II, has now been accounted for. In the summer of 1943, Harth was a bombardier assigned to the 329th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 93rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), which was known as “The Traveling Circus.” He served on a B-24D aircraft, nicknamed “Hell’s Angels,” when he was participating in a historic mission, which was the first large-scale, low-altitude attack by U.S. heavy bomber aircraft on Ploesti, Romania, code-named Operation TIDAL WAVE. On Aug. 1, 1943, as Harth’s aircraft approached Ploesti, it was hit by German anti-aircraft fire. Harth was killed when the aircraft crashed. Interment services are pending; more details will be released 7-10 days prior to scheduled funeral services. Harth’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at an American Battle Monuments Commission site along with the others who are missing from the World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
The Romanian government took responsibility for recovering the remains of the many airmen killed in the raid. Whenever possible, the remains were identified and buried. Any remains that could not be identified were provided an appropriate burial in a grave marked unknown. After the war, the remains were returned to United States control. When the remains were identified, the next of kin were contacted and given the option of returning the remains to the United States or reinterring them in one of the American Military Cemeteries throughout Europe. The unknown remains were reinterred in the Ardennes Military Cemetery in Belgium. All missing-in-action were memorialized at one of the American Military Cemeteries overseas. In the case of 2LT Harth, he was memorialized on a stone wall at the American Military Cemetery near Florence, Italy on the "Tablets of the Missing." His remains were disinterred and processed for identification based on new and better science available today. One of the best tools is comparison of DNA with known samples from family members. Mr. Jim Bell, Mortuary Affairs – Identifications, Past Conflict Repatriations Branch, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, 1600 Spearhead Division Avenue, Dept 450 Fort Knox, KY 40122 notified the 93rd and asked for assistance in providing more information to 2LT Harth’s family. Mr. Bell made the initial notification to the family and is assisting them with returning the remains and reinterring them in the cemetery of their choice.
His remains will be returned to Columbia on Wednesday, April 4, 2018. A graveside service will be held Friday, April 6, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. in Fort Jackson National Cemetery, will full military honors. Dunbar Funeral Home, Devine Street Chapel, is assisting the family. Survivors are his nieces, Bonnie Hipkins of Irmo and Carol Watson of Summerville; great-nephews, Ben Watson of Summerville, Max Hipkins of Irmo, Josh Griffin of Columbia, and Hugh Griffin of Fort Mill; and great-nieces, Jill H. Beuk of Charleston and Ginger Wadsworth of Irmo. In addition to his parents, his sister, Velda Harth Griffin and nephew, Bill Griffin are also deceased. Please sign the online guestbook at www.dunbarfunerals.com.