Craig’s Marion Adam Seick, over Frascatti in a B-24
While Craig’s Company A of the 157th Infantry was fighting its way up the Italian Peninsula, they had hometown friend, Marion Adam Seick, overhead in a B-24 Liberator doing his best to destroy the German war machine.
Seick, nicknamed “Ad,” started life as a celebrated infant. In 1924, he was the first child born in Parco, Wyoming (now Sinclair), and the town awarded him a medal for his timely appearance. His family returned to Craig, where he graduated from high school in 1942. Attracted by wartime jobs in the shipyards of Tacoma, Washington, Ad’s clan left Craig. From there he entered the U.S. Army Air Corps.
In letters shared by the family, Ad revealed his excitement for flying and gunnery school as he anticipated earning his coveted set of Air Corps wings. Soberly aware he was headed into the danger of war, Ad also viewed his assignment to the 515th squadron of the 376th bomber group in Italy as a chance to explore the world.
Between missions, always interested and curious, Ad took advantage of his free time to explore the ruins of an ancient Greek amphitheater. The closing of his letter dated May 9 demonstrates his upbeat attitude: “Well, one fine, fit and healthy son must be closing now — Love, Ad.”
But in a flash on May 23, 1944, what was always possible became reality. Making a bombing run over Frascatti, headquarters of the German command, Seick’s B-24 drew a devastating blast of flak that carved a gaping hole in the top half of the mid-section of the plane. The ship was mortally wounded, and the catwalk above the bomb doors was all that kept the plane intact.
Remarkable eyewitness accounts reveal the final struggle as the crew fought for their precious lives to overcome doomed odds. With radio communication cut, fellow airmen observed the silent struggle going on 20,000 feet in the air.
The bomb target was clouded over, so instead of possibly dropping their 1,000-pound bombs on any innocents or friendly troops the wounded ship swung out over the ocean to release the burdensome weight. Through the massive hole, escort planes could see the crew giving aid to their wounded buddies. As the beleaguered B-24 neared Naples it began its emergency descent. Suddenly, air turbulence caused the main spar to collapse and the B-24 nosedived into the earth in a fiery explosion.
No one, including Craig’s Ad Seick, gave up on the plane. No one grabbed a chute and jumped to safety. All remained together to try and bring the plane home. We can’t know the crew’s final thoughts and words to each other, but for their attention to duty, respect for the lives below, and dedication to each other, the whole crew paid with their lives.
Yet, there was one final act to this remarkable drama. One of the guards sent to protect the smoldering wreckage and bodies from circling looters was a 52-year old man, John Kuper. He caught sight of Ad’s highly coveted Air Corps wings pinned on his lifeless body. A survivor of World War I, Kuper’s empathy for a mother he did not know led him to remove Ad’s wings and take note of a name on the mangled dog tags. In 1945 he wrote Mrs. Seick, “My wife sent you the wings for which I was glad to hear for they were yours and yours only, and the boy is buried in a good cemetery….”
Ad Seick’s wings, letters and memory are treasured by his family in Washington. His name on The Museum of Northwest Colorado’s new World War II memorial will help Craig again treasure one of its own.
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