Editor’s note: The following was sent to us by the Shirley American Legion, which has just received the information itself.
During World War II, a B17 bomber aircraft nicknamed “Naughty but Nice” was shot down over Papua, New Guinea, in the South Pacific, after those aboard sacrificed themselves and the aircraft by going to a lower altitude to draw enemy gun fire. This action allowed the rest of their squadron the opportunity to drop their bombs safely and successfully on target.
The plane had a crew of 10 but only one member survived by parachuting out.
One of the nine crew members who did not survive was Tech Sergeant Leonard A. Gionet of Shirley.
The remains of five of the crew members of that B17 bomber were discovered in the 1940s and identified in the 1980s.
Recently, after many decades and many trips to Papua, New Guinea, by U.S. military teams, other U.S. government teams and three trips by the sole surviving crew member, there is some good news to report. The group remains for the last four crew members have been located, though not individually identified. These remaining four crew members, including T/Sgt Leonard A. Gionet, will finally be laid to rest in a ceremony with highest military honors.
The ceremony will be scheduled for spring or summer 2011 at Arlington National Cemetery. Details about the ceremony will be released at a later date.
T/Sgt Gionet’s widow still resides in California and their only son, Leonard Gionet, resides in Oregon and Paris, France. T/Sgt Leonard A. Gionet was the son of the late William M. & Ursule M. Gionet, who had six sons in the service in World War II. Another of their sons, Leon L. Gionet, was killed on the battlefield in Italy. In addition, Mrs. Agnes Howlett , one of T/Sgt Leonard A. Gionet’s 20 brothers and sisters, still resides in Shirley. The other living siblings include William M. Gionet of West Groton, (who just celebrated his 100th birthday), Paul J. Gionet of Florida, Sylvia Schumann of New Jersey, Charles M. Gionet of Randolph and Alexandre J. Gionet of Wells, Maine.
T/Sgt Gionet was awarded the Silver Star, Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart, all with clusters.
In Shirley, Massachusetts, a street, a park, a monument and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post are all named after T/Sgt Gionet.