Accident Piper L-4J Grasshopper 44-80233, 26 Jan 1945
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 193108
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Type:Silhouette image of generic J3 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Piper L-4J Grasshopper
Owner/operator:771st Tank Destroyer Battalion, US Army
Registration: 44-80233
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 2
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:in vicinity of the blown up railroad bridge 1500 yards to the northeas -   Germany
Phase: Combat
Departure airport:
Destination airport:
On 26 January 1945 the 102nd American Infantry Division and the 43rd British Division launched together Operation Swift to eliminate the German salient at the Roer-Wurm confluence. Most of the Germans in the area had withdrew during the night of 24-25 January, retreating behind the Roer river to shorten their lines. This was discovered by US patrols on the 25th and the troops of the 102nd launched their attack earlier than planned, during the night of the 25/26, and occupied the town of Brachelen and six nearby villages without encountering any serious resistance, taking about 100 prisoners and suffering only 9 casualties according to a press report, most of them wounded by mines.

The 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion, attached to the 102nd Division, was not required to support the advance but still suffered losses that day. On 17 January 1945, two L-4 observation planes and their pilots and mechanics of 690th Field Artillery Battalion had been attached to the tank destroyer units of 102nd Division, to assist them in target reconnaissance and aiming. One of them, the Piper L-4J Grasshopper 44-80233 (code 63-J) was shot down on the 26th at approximately 1200 hrs in vicinity of the blown up railroad bridge 1500 yards to the northeast of Brachelen. The pilot and observer could not be located by US patrols, that reported that the aircraft was burned except for left wing and tail, the radio was missing and tracks were found leading from aircraft towards the nearby Roer River. The crash site was under heavy MG fire from the German-held bank.

A German soldiers captured on 31 January 1945, Obgfr Johann Leis of Divisions-Füsilier-Bataillon 59, 59. Infanterie-Division, allowed the Americans to learn what had happened. The L-4 approached the river about 1000 hours (German time) from the East at an altitude of about 100 ft. It was fired on by light machine guns of Divisions-Füsilier-Bataillon 59 in position on the right bank of the river some distance south of the bridge. The aircraft dived gradually, landed on its nose and turned end over several times. The observer was thrown clear of the plane. The Germans saw him pick himself up, limp back to the plane, and remove something from the cockpit which he concealed or buried. Obgfr Leis led three men across the river to capture him. By the time they reached the officer he had completed his task and they were unable to find the object he had concealed. He was badly shaken up by the crash and had injured his thigh, but was not otherwise wounded by MG. The pilot was found dead in the cockpit. He had been shot through the chest by MG fire and apparently killed instantly. On the evening, a new German patrol crossed the river to look for the object concealed by the observer, and to salvage gasoline and equipment from the wrecked plane.

The killed pilot was 1st Lt John Badura of 690th Field Artillery Battalion. He is commemorated on the Wall of the Missing in the American War Cemetery of Margraten, Netherlands. He enlisted in Buffalo, New York on 28 July 1941. He was noted as being employed as an Actor and also as a widower, without dependents.

The captured observer was 1st Lt Richard Woodard of 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion, who was liberated at the end of the war.


"The Other Ninth Air Force: Ninth US Army Light Aircraft Operations in Europe 1944-45", by Ken Wakefield. ISBN 978-1-78155-302-2
After action report, 771st Tank Destroyer Battalion. Nov 44 thri Jan 45, Apr 45 thru May 45 (available online at

Revision history:

26-Jan-2017 19:07 Laurent Rizzotti Added

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