2ND LT. JAMES T. HOPE – PARK #40

 

In my opinion, this playfield is one of the loveliest in Detroit.  Situated alongside a neighborhood, the park’s wooded area fronts Burgess Street.  The west side slopes into a large field.  An asphalt trail meanders through the entire park for fitness walkers / runners.  The amenities are a well groomed baseball field, newer playground equipment, picnic shelter and wrought iron park entry.  It’s the home of the Crowell Rec Center.  [I’ll have to update this story with his info.]  Hope Park has been well maintained in recent years thanks to the ongoing investment made by the Lear Corporation, various landscapers and Motor City Blight Busters.  It is bordered by Burgess, Lahser, Verne and Puritan. 

Park isn’t on google maps but the outline of the walking trail is new.

UNLIMITED VIEW, NO HAZE

In 1940, James Hope had a year of college under his belt.  He had just begun to work and was living with his parents and sisters on Grand Boulevard in Detroit.  He enlisted for service in WWII on October 15, 1940 entering into the Air Corp National Guard.  Hope served with the 414th Night Fighter Squadron, 62nd Fighter Wing. He was a pilot and achieved the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.  

The emblem of the 414th Night Fighter Squadron. Public domain, courtesy US Air Force
The emblem of the 414th Night Fighter Squadron.
Public domain, courtesy US Air Force

 

 

In late August 1944, Hope and his First Officer / Navigator, Carmen Phillippi left on an intruder mission in a Beaufighter VIF VIII around 8:10pm from the island of Sardinia, Italy.  They were scheduled to reach their target outside of Milan at approximately 10:30pm; bomb for 30 minutes and return to Sardinia.  They were 10 minutes late in leaving with their fighter group and this misstep would become their demise.

 

The path of flight on that fatal night in 1945.
The path of flight on that fatal night in 1945.

10 MINUTES LATE

The Beaufighter was a British plane made by the Bristol Company and used by many nations in wartime.  It held a crew of two and had a max speed of 333 mph.  The variant model that Hope flew that night had a redesigned nose and improved radar system.  This aircraft was fitted with ten guns and was often referred to as the “Ten Gun Terror”.

The dedication plaque is intact on the flagpole base.
The dedication plaque is intact on the flagpole base. The play field was passed as an ordinance in 1951.

DISAPPEARED WITHOUT A TRACE

Hope’s last transmission was overheard by two other aircraft from his squadron and three ground stations – it came through at 10:25pm: “Ghero 34 bailing out, mayday, mayday”.  His manner of speaking was hurried.  

Military calculations report Lt. Hope was on his return most likely over the Italian coast when he spoke these final words.  There was an unlimited view from the craft with no haze that evening.  The fighter’s altitude would have been at 7000 feet due to the mountains he needed to cross. 

What is known:  Hope and Phillippi both bailed from the plane under the cover of darkness with no eyewitness accounts.  The US military concluded the bomber was attacked by anti-aircraft fire.  Several US and British air-sea rescue searches were conducted the next morning.  Neither Hope nor Phillipi were found.  Both men are memorialized at the Tablets of the Missing American Cemetery in Florence, Italy.   

2nd Lt. James Hope was decorated posthumously with the Purple Heart and the Soldier’s Air Medal.  His lovely memorial playfield in Detroit was dedicated in 1952.

Thanks for reading.  Copyright, 2018  Andrea Gallucci.

SGT. SYLVESTER L. DUEWEKE – PARK 31

The Dueweke clan is historically known as a large, longtime Detroit family of merchants.   Caroline and Frank Dueweke had 5 boys – Harold, Gordon, Clifford, Norbert, and Sylvester. Frank worked as a meat salesman to support his brood.  They were an east side family living on Sheridan Street in close proximity to the playground that stands as a remembrance to their youngest son.

DITCHING DEFINED

If an aircraft ditches, or if the pilot ditches the aircraft, essentially it comes down in the ocean in an emergency.  Ditching was commonplace in World War II.  Air-sea rescue planes [code named ‘dumbos’] and crew were always on standby to drop provisions and large life rafts to survivors in case of a ditch or distress.

The flagpole base is a little rusty but the dedication plaque is still intact.
The flagpole base is a little rusty but the dedication plaque is still intact.

 

MISSION No. 36

Sylvester Dueweke rose to the rank of Sergeant in WWII, working as a tail gunner in U.S. Army Air Forces, 873rd Bomber Squadron, 498th [Very Heavy] Bomber Group.  On March 31, 1945, Dueweke and 10 crew members departed Saipan in their B-29 for a bombing mission over the Japanese island of Kyushu.  Mission No. 36 went terribly wrong.  Thirty minutes into the flight, the right gunner along with another aircraft reported that the 3rd engine of the B-29 was on fire.  The airplane commander immediately aborted the mission and changed course heading toward Iwo Jima. No immediate danger was felt; no distress call was sent out.

Within minutes, the fire blossomed and the gunners informed the pilots that the blister [a transparent dome or bubble like window for observation] was melting and the right elevator was on fire.  The fuel shut off valve became inoperable increasing the risk of explosion. The ditching command was quickly given. The crew on board – Clinton, Ed, Earl, Fred, Harold, Herron, Harry, Orville, Ray, Robert and Sylvester – barely had time to take their positions.  A short three minutes elapsed from the abort decision to the ditch of the aircraft.

INTO THE SEA

Other craft in the formation radioed in distress calls.  Able crew members assisted the injured into life rafts and administered morphine.  A super Dumbo flew over dropping a smoke bomb to camouflage the wreckage from Japanese fighter eyes.  All men except for Sylvester managed to escape from the B-29 as it began sinking into the South Pacific.  The USS Ronquil submarine rescued the remaining crew at 12:22pm.  Dueweke heroically went down with the aircraft and died at sea. For his service, he was decorated with the Air Medal and the Purple Heart posthumously.  His service is memorialized through this Detroit Park, as well on the Tablets of the Missing at the Punchbowl Cemetery in Honolulu, HI.

USS Ronquil  photo: public domain
USS Ronquil photo: public domain

Dueweke Memorial Playground is a large park with older play equipment, basketball courts, wavy roofed picnic shelters and the original flagpole with a dedication plaque.  While the components are old, the park is tidy and always busy.  In the spring, summer and fall is it mowed regularly by the Detroit Mower Gang.

dueweke 4
Walking path with swings looking south.
Map courtesy of Google.
Map courtesy of Google.

Copyright Andrea Galluccci, 2014