Kentucky farmers were the first to the wreckage of the B-29 that went down in an electrical storm one early morning in 1945. The lone survivor, a young corporal from Brooklyn, knocked on their door and told them his nine companions, including Cpl. Roy Berryhill, the tail-gunner from Plantersville, were dead.
It seems unfair that Berryhill and his fellow soldiers died on American soil while World War II continued in Asia, but men had to train somewhere, David said.
After stops in Alabama and Tennessee, Roy and his nine companions were on their way back to New Mexico when the storm got them.
Among Berryhill’s most treasured keepsakes is a yellowed letter, penned by a woman who simply wanted to console other patriotic Americans.
She addresses herself to Berryhill’s mother. The woman’s husband and some other men went out at daybreak and watched over the bodies, shooing away animals with tree branches, she says. They stayed with the boys until the military came for them. The woman says that her sons-in-law are serving their country too, and she understands some small measure of what Mrs. Berryhill must feel.
The middle of six boys, David, remembers his oldest brother riding him on the handle bars of his bicycle. Roy was a terror to squirrels with a .22-caliber rifle. He was just 19 when the Lord called him home.
Three years ago, the folks who own the land where the plane crashed tracked down the families of all the boys who died with Roy. They were putting up a monument, they said, and they wanted everybody to come.
“It was just beautiful, one of the most moving things I’ve ever witnessed,” said David, who made the trip to bluegrass country earlier this year with his brothers.
Near a Baptist church called Soldier Creek, Roy’s youthful face, handsome and smooth beneath the brim of his uniform cap, looks out over the wooded country where he fell from the sky.
On that rainy morning his body laid at the feet of country people, just as it does now, not far from where he grew up, shooting squirrels and picking cotton in Plantersville.