The Kassel Mission bombing raid of Sept. 27, 1944, was one of World War II's most spectacular air battles. Thirty-five B-24s of the 445th Bomb Group flew off course, lost their fighter protection, and were ambushed by as many as 150 German fighter planes.
Jim Baynham was a 19-year-old pilot from Texarkana, Texas. John Ray Lemons of Dallas was a waist gunner in his crew. Their Liberator was among the first ones hit. The two men bailed out, Baynham becoming a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft I and Lemons in Stalag Luft IV.
The 445th Bomb Group lost 25 planes in the furious battle. Many German fighter planes were shot down as well. More than 40 years later a monument was built in Germany with the names of all the Americans and all the Germans who died in the battle.
Oral historian Aaron Elson took an interest in the battle when he visited a nearby village and learned of the monument. He since has interviewed many survivors of the battle, and is a member of the board of the Kassel Mission Historical Society. He interviewed Baynham and Lemons during a visit to Dallas in 2010.