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Community honors WWII crew who perished in a B-17 crash near Big Sandy

Posted at 5:47 PM, May 29, 2017
and last updated 2018-08-29 19:25:10-04

On October 1st, 1943, a crew of U.S. Army Air Corps personnel were performing a routine training mission near Big Sandy when their plane went down. All nine men on board perished in the crash.

Madonna Adams, the great-niece of one of those airmen – Sergeant Edward Tessier – made a special trip to Big Sandy this Memorial Day weekend to remember her family member who made the ultimate sacrifice.

During the opening remarks of the ceremony, Big Sandy resident Bob Quin explained: “Sometimes in war, tragedy strikes when you least expect it. And that’s exactly what happened here in Big Sandy, just two miles east of here.” 

The Army Air Corps crew was two weeks shy of deploying to the United Kingdom where they would’ve performed bombing missions over Nazi Germany.

Sergeant Tessier, hailed from a small village in Rhode Island. He left his job in a textile mill and headed west to become a gunner and radio-man in a flying fortress. When he died, his mother got very little information about the incident because of the culture of secrecy surrounding U.S. military operations during the wartime effort.

Adams recalled, “There always seemed to be such a void, was the fact that his mother Annie received a telegram from the war department, and all she was told was that, he was killed in a plane accident outside of Big Sandy, Montana.”

Adams says that no one in her family knew anything about the tragedy, so last year she decided to do some research. She sent emails to historical centers and all over the country, and was eventually connected with a Big Sandy resident who sent her a copy of a news report produced by KRTV about the event.

It was the KRTV news report from 2006 during the 63rd anniversary of the tragedy that was the impetus for Adams making her trip to Big Sandy this Memorial Day weekend to celebrate her great-uncle’s sacrifice.

Robert Boettcher, the Big Sandy resident and Korean War veterans who sent Adams the copy of the report, is on a mission to share the history of all under represented veterans.

Boettcher explained: “A lot of these people that were killed during these training missions Josh weren’t recognized, they got lost in the shuffle.” 

Organizers plan to use genealogy and historical archives to find more relatives of the crewmen who perished in the B-17 crash.

They plan to bring them to their community to speak at next year’s Memorial Day ceremony.