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Baird Mitchell

United States Army Air Force Captain Anthony Baird Mitchell was born to Mr. and Mrs. Osborne Mitchell. Baird Mitchell grew up as the youngest of five children in the town of Poland, Ohio where his father was Mayor. He was an accomplished athlete and leader during his high school days, setting a record at a state championship track meet. He moved on to College after high school which he attended only for a short time before enlisting in the war effort. In September 1941 Mitchell enlisted with the USAAF, trained and graduated as a bomber pilot. He served on several missions on the Gulf of Mexico before being sent overseas for service in the European theatre in June 1944. He was placed with 854th Bomb Squadron, 491st Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, Heavy, based in North Pickenham, Norfolk, England.

In an ironic twist of fate Captain Mitchell landed a spot as Co-Pilot in a crew of ten, aboard a Consolidated B-24J-150-CO Liberator, piloted by Captain James K. Hunter for Operation Market Gardens. The normal Co-Pilot, 1st Lt. Charles Griffin had finished his tour of missions and wasn’t allowed to go on this one. Since there was a real competition to be included on this mission Captain Mitchell and a Captain Shy flipped a coin to see who got to fly, and Captain Mitchell “won”. On September 18, 1944 the crew of ten left to complete the operation, when their plane crashed northeast of Udenhout, Holland. The aircraft was badly hit in the right wing and the pilot, Captain Hunter decided to belly her into a field, but lost the no. 3 engine at an altitude of fifty feet, causing the right wing to dip low enough to touch the ground. Captain Hunter managed to pull the plane back into the air after hitting the ground, only for it to crash into some trees and farm buildings.

Tragically, nine of the ten men were killed (Pilot: Capt. James K. Hunter. 0-799024., Co-Pilot: Capt. Anthony B. Mitchell. 0-659391., Navigator: 1st Lt. Harry B. Parker. 0-694701., Bombardier: 1st Lt. John R. Granat. 0-754955., Nose Turret Gunner: 1st Lt. William H. Byrne. 0-814244., Engineer/Top Turret Gunner: T/Sgt. Cecil E. Hutson. 18127645, Radio Operator: T/Sgt. Barto J. Montalbano. 32692213., Right Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. James L. Evers. 34588582. and Drop Master: P.F.C. George E. Parrish. Drop Master. 34664935). The tenth member of the crew, Left Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Frank DiPalma survived the crash and was found walking away from the wreckage by some Franciscan Monks and was hidden in the Huize Assisi. Father Vinkenburg and three Dutch doctors treated his severe burns and kept him hidden till the British liberated the town.

The crew represented different states and were buried in various locations, receiving a variety of awards, as follows: Capt. James K. Hunter. Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands. Plot D, Row 21, Grave 7. Entered the service from Minnesota. Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart; Capt. Anthony B. Mitchell. Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands. Plot O, Row 8, Grave 6. Entered the service from Ohio. Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart; 1st Lt. Harry B. Parker. Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands. Plot L, Row 2, Grave 22. Entered the service from Oregon. Awards: Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart, French – Croix De Guerre with Silver Star; 1st Lt. John R. Granat. Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands. Plot I, Row 11, Grave 2. Entered the service from Oregon. Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medals with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart; 1st Lt. William H. Byrne. Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands. Plot H, Row 14, Grave 22. Entered the service from New York. Awards: Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters; T/Sgt. Cecil E. Hutson. Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands. Plot O, Row 15, Grave 8. Entered the service from Texas. Awards: Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart; T/Sgt. Barto J. Montalbano was returned to the USA at the request of his family and is buried in Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, Long Island, New York; S/Sgt. James L. Evers was returned to the USA at the request of his family and is buried in a cemetery in Alabama; and P.F.C. George E. Parrish was returned to the USA at the request of his family and is buried in a cemetery in North Carolina.

In an article in The Youngstown Daily Vindicator, dated September 16, 1946, it describes Mitchell's life, one he lived to the fullest. Datelined Poland, Ohio: More than 500 residents of this village Sunday paid tribute to one of its war heroes at ceremonies dedicating the high school stadium in honor of Capt. Anthony Baird Mitchell, an army air pilot who lost his life over Holland. He was a son of Attorney and Mrs. Osborne Mitchell. Named Baird Mitchell Field, the stadium will honor the memory of the young man whose record athletic achievements during his high school days still stand in Poland athletic annals. Attorney Franklin B. Powers, president of the board of education, in his dedication address said, "We have attempted by the use of bronze and granite to make permanent our memorial to Baird Mitchell. We pay tribute to his selfless courage, his high character and his unique place in the hearts of everyone in this community." He traced the life of Mitchell as "a child at home, a pupil in Poland Union School, a student in Seminary High School, with no conscious thought of any distinction between himself and his fellow students. He was a leader, not a follower, in any activity in which he was really interested. He played, studied, played hockey, took part in Halloween pranks, " Powers added. Powers recalled that in 1937 an invitational 14-team track meet marked the opening of this field. "Poland won by a generous margin, with Baird Mitchellthe greatest single point winner. His record time for the mile has never been equaled on this track. He was a clean, square, honorable competitor, liked and respected by all with whom he came in contact." Baird enlisted in the army air forces in September, 1941, going overseas in June, 1944, as a B-24 pilot assigned to the Eighth Air Force. Stationed in England, he flew on many raids over Holland, Belgium and Germany. "He would be the last to claim that he did any more that his fellow pilots in the hazardous life," Attorney Powers said. He continued, "Baird volunteered not once but three times. The third flight was his last. He did not return!" Captain Mitchell received the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously. The army citation said in part: "Captain Mitchell was seen to have been shot down and his aircraft explode after he had dropped badly needed supplies to the airborne forces in Holland. The superior airmanship and inspiring leadership demonstrated by Captain Mitchell on these many occasions reflect the highest credit upon himself and the armed forces of the United States." The three other members of the Poland relay team which won the Ohio Class "B" championship at the state meet in 1937 unveiled the memorial plaque. They are Robert M. Barton, Jack Johnston, and Franklin I. Powers, all fomer AAF officers. Captain Mitchell's widow attended the ceremonies with her parents, Brig. Gen.and Mrs. John Aiken of Washington, Pa. Rev. Frank O. Leonard, pastor of Presbyterian Church gave his invocation, Felix Borowski, adoration, and Dr. Bruce T. Riley, paster of Memorial Methodist Church, benediction. Principal G.M. Barton was master of ceremonies and the high school band, under the direction of J.F. Raz, furnished the music.

Captain Baird Mitchell was survived by his wife, Sara Jane Mitchell and son, Anthony Baird Mitchell II who went by Mitch Mitchell. Sara received notice that her husband was missing in action in October 1944. She later remarried in 1947 and had a daughter within that marriage. Subsequently, Sara, her second husband and daughter all perished in a plane crash in 1978. Mitch Mitchell ironically had both parents die in tragic plane crashes.

Captain Mitchell’s medals resided with his son Mitch Mitchell until his death in 2001. His wife then claims to have given the awards to the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Pooler, Ga. There is no record of the museum having received the awards. The group then presented itself at a militaria convention in Kentucky called “The Show of Shows” where hundreds of collectors and dealers attend. eMedals purchased the group in Febuary of 2013 at this show. The group was later sold to a collector, who also grew up in Poland, Ohio and practised relay on the same track that is dedicated to Captain Mitchell.
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