The B-24 Liberator aircraft flown by second Lieut. Lawrence Berkoff was part of a secret unit known as the "carpetbaggers" whose mission was to drop supplies to the resistance in France.
On September 8, 1944, Lawrence Berkoff and a crew of seven men took off from Harrington airfield in Northamptonshire, but shortly after getting airborne, flames were seen coming from the back of the plane.
The flames eventually went out, but by the time the plane had reached the south coast of Britain the flames had returned and the pilot decided to return to the base.
The problem did not go away and Lawrence ordered the crew to bail out because the plane began to lose altitude quickly.
Six of the crew did parachute from the plane, overtaking, this left just the pilot and flight engineer.
The plane went spiraling out of control with Lawrence Berkoff still trying to regain control. As the flight engineer parachuted clear, Lawrence noticed that the plane was heading towards a village. He took the heroic decision to remain with the plane managed to steer the aircraft away from houses.
When the plane crashed into a field beside Folly Road, Lawrence was killed instantly.
His bravery resulted in the plane missing Lambourn by just a couple of hundred yards.
(Transcript of second newspaper article)
A plaque to honour this pilot is above the Memorial Hall
A/C Type & Serial: Liberator B24H 42-52767 "My Gal Eileen" J-JIG
Unit: 856 BS 492nd BG USAAF 8th AF
Crew: 2nd Lt L Berkoff Jr USAAF - Pilot - Killed
Sgt J.D. Duer USAAF - Tail Gunner
Sgt A.J. Rinz USAAF - Flt Engr
2nd Lt G.M. Snyder USAAF - Bombardier
Sgt D. Transtrum USAAF - Dispatcher
2nd Lt J.H. Webb USAAF - Co Pilot
Sgt G.F. Williams USAAF - Radio Op
2nd Lt V.D. Woods USAAF - Navigator
Location: Lambourn, Nr Membury, Berkshire. UK
Cause: Take off: Harrington 2240hrs a/c crashed 2330hrs after multiple engine failure, and caught fire at Lambourn near Membury, Berkshire. All crew except pilot bailed out. Salvaged 10.09.1944.
(Additional info: Multiple engine failure over English Channel let crew bale out and crashed in field near Membury. Awarded D.F.C (posthumous) Lawrence Berkoff was from Bronx County, New York.)