Lt. George Skeen

2nd Lt. George Skeen B-17 Flying Fortress Shot Down Over Germany

(Nov. 21, 1944) – 2nd Lt. George C. Skeen, 22, of 75 Van Houten Avenue, Belleville, N.J., 3211112died of wounds on Oct. 19, two days after his B-17 Flying Fortress was shot down. Lt. Skeen was reported missing Oct. 17, 1944, following a raid over Germany.

2nd Lt. George Skeen, KIA in Germany.2nd Lt. Skeen was Navigator on B-17 #43-38052 of 305th Bomb Group/366th Bomber Squadron, when he was reported missing.

He entered the Army from 75 Van Houten Place, Belleville, on Jan. 29, 1943.

Skeen was commissioned on April 22 at Selman Field, Monroe, La.

The son of Louis W. and Lillian C. Skeen, George Skeen was born Oct. 1, 1922, in Irvington, and was graduated from Irvington High School on Jan. 26, 1939.

He had one sister Lois W. Skeen (Doyle).

2nd Lt. Skeen married Betty Ann Speight on July 16, 1944, at the chapel on the Air Base in Herington, Kansas. He was shipped overseas shortly afterward. Betsy Sowers tells the story of her mother’s courtship and first marriage:

While stationed in Kansas, George Skeen befriended Peter Sommer who was also in Army Air Corps’ training. Peter invited George to be his Best Man at his wedding in Peoria, Ill. There George met Peter’s first cousin Betty Speight.

They had a whirlwind courtship, and a month later, as Peter and George heard rumors that they were about to be sent overseas, George sent word to Betty that he wanted to marry her before he left. Her own mother was ill, so her Aunt Bertha Wilson, and Mary Lou Sommer, Peter’s new bride, accompanied her to the Air Base.

The women had to travel by troop train, and the train was full, so Aunt Bertha pretended to be disabled, and rode in a wheelchair, in order to get them on the train. 

They arrived in Kansas in the middle of the night, where an Army car and driver, along with George and Peter, picked them up and took them straight to the base chapel, which Mary Lou described as looking like a portable lean-to.

A soldier in the balcony played the wedding march on a phonograph, and the rings didn’t fit. On their way to the hotel at 2 a.m., the only person on the street was a black man with a watermelon, which they bought, and ate on the curb as the “wedding reception.” 

Both couples had two days in the local hotel, which was the honeymoon for all of them, because the men had their orders to depart.  They took their brides back to the train for tearful farewells. 

Two weeks later, they called from New Jersey to say they were on their way to England.  That was the last they heard from them. Both George and Peter were killed, although they were not serving together at the time.

George’s plane caught fire over Cologne, Germany, and he was shot attempting to parachute to safety.  Peter bailed out of a crippled plane over the English Channel, and was never found.

2nd Lt. Skeen served with the 366th Bomber Squadron, 305th Bomber Group, Heavy. He is buried at Plot C, Row 28, Grave 13, Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupre, Belgium. He was awarded the Air Medal with oak leaf cluster and the Purple Heart.


Sources: 

American Air Museum

American Battle Monuments Commission

Eileen Bellisario; Betsy Sowers

The Belleville Times, Nov. 21, Dec. 14, 1944

Find-A-Grave - Jay Follett, photo

Belleville Sons Honor Roll

  A Place of Honor and Remembrance In the Home of the Brave

Belleville, New Jersey


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