Nine young crewmen lost their lives in a U.S. Army Air Corps Lockheed B-34 Lexington crash during takeoff here in Boca Raton. The May 12, 1944 incident happened on a runway that later became North University Drive and FAU Boulevard on Florida Atlantic University’s Boca Raton campus.
“We are here to bring that story to the surface. This is just the beginning,” FAU president Dr. John Kelly said at a campus ceremony to unveil the first marker on the school’s history as a World War II military radar base.
Boca Fire Chief Tom Wood “was the main motivator” for the project, said FAU vice president for research Dr. Daniel Flynn, who emceed the event.
“This is 10 years in the making,” Wood said. In his research, the Air Force provided 11,000 documents he sifted through with the help of Boca Raton Historical Society curator Susan Gillis, an expert on Boca history.
Wearing a necklace with the mascot of the airfield, most people here don’t know the importance the airfield played in the war effort, she said. The base has 800 buildings when radar was a new technology.
The crash represented the worst loss of life on the base, Wood said. He was able to track down five of the nine soldiers’ descendants and he read their names at the ceremony Thursday May 27. “May all these soldiers rest in peace,” he said.
The soldiers lost were: First Lts. William H. Carson, 23; Jacob M. Buie, 22; Thomas A. Lamont, 27; John J. Lominac, 25, and Benjamin R. Sibley, 27: Staff Sgt. Frank L. Bursaw, 31; Sgt. John S. Safieko, 25; Pfc. Norman R. Steiner, 20 and Pvt. Robert E. Locke 22.
By Marci Shatzman