Stephen Peter Pedone, Lt. Col. U.S. Air Force, Ret.
Flight Officer Stephen Peter Pedone, U.S. Army Air Force
On this Memorial Day, 2020, please to remember and honor our fallen Pedone family member, Flight Officer Stephen Peter Pedone, who was killed in a B-24 bomber aircraft crash near Davis Monthan Airbase, Tucson, Arizona, during World War II, on 14 September 1944, while instructing a new pilot in how to fly the B-24 bomber. He was 21 years old.
Here is a brief background: Like his older brother, Vito, Stephen had been a student at North Carolina State College, Raleigh, NC, studying Aeronautical Engineering. Stephen would also leave college and volunteer to join the Aviation Cadet Program, to become a pilot and officer in the U.S. Army Air Force. Following basic training and pilot training, he was assigned to learn how to fly the new four-engine B-24 heavy bomber, our most advanced bomber in 1943. He had orders to be assigned to the China-Burma theater of operations with the Flying Tigers. However, the Air Training Command needed exceptionally qualified instructor pilots to train many more B-24 pilots, and wanted Stephen to remain as an instructor pilot.
Stephen was instructing a new pilot, who was flying the aircraft. They were flying at a low altitude and a slow speed preparing to approach the airfield to land, when the B-24 had a major electrical system failure, causing all four engines to stop running. The B-24 has a narrow wing, designed for speed and efficiency, and does not glide well at slow speed. To gain speed to attempt a crash landing, the pilot has to lower the noise to first dive the aircraft to gain speed, then attempt to flair the dive to level-off the aircraft before making contact with the ground. Since they were approaching the field to land, they were flying low and there was little chance to avoid a major crash. They did not make it. The front nose of the aircraft struck the ground and disintegrated. Stephen, the new pilot, and a flight engineer were killed instantly. A rear gunner was severely injured, but survived.
Stephen was buried at a cemetery in Mount Vernon, NY, near his parent's home. His grave stone had a large detailed B-24 aircraft striking a tree. I was born two and a half months later, on 30 November 1944. My dad and mom named me in honor of my uncle Stephen. In 1969, Stephen was moved to Arlington National Cemetery. The B-24 on his special gravestone had to be removed in order to qualify to be used in Arlington.
Flight Officer Stephen Peter Pedone, U.S. Army Air Force, answered the call to service, in time of war, and made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom. We are forever grateful to him and will always remember him.
We honor his memory, service, and sacrifice to our nation on this Memorial Day.
"Freedom is not free"
Stephen Peter Pedone Lt. Col. U.S. Air Force, Ret. Naples, Florida