Counting the Fallen

The July 3, 1944, V-1 bombing was the single greatest incidence of loss of life for American servicemen in Great Britain, but the exact death toll was never officially reported. On the 70th anniversary of the bombing, London Memorial partnered with Pete Wood of London to determine a final death toll.

  • Other estimates exist, however.

    1. Initial reports put the death toll at 36 people, but the death toll mounted as rescue operations went underway, with one soldier stuck for four days in the rubble and as many as 16 bodies never identified.
    2. Winston Ramsey’s “The Blitz: Then and Now,” puts the death toll at 64 dead, 50 seriously injured, and 10 civilians killed (2).
    3. The Annual Chelsea Society Report from 1998, citing the research of Chelsea resident Bill Figg, states 74 Americans and three civilians were killed, although the article questions whether the civilian count was as high as 10 (4).
  • Women Soldiers – An article in the newsletter of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea mentions 71 servicemen dead: 63 men and eight women soldiers, who were stationed at Sloane Court at the time (3).  While WACs were present at Sloane Court, London researcher Pete Wood debunks the myth that any died. He explained that civilian women killed at the scene were fire watchers wearing military uniforms. (Read more: “WACs Injured at Sloane Court“).
  • Additional Servicemen – London Memorial is currently working to confirm additional casualties.  The following servicemen stationed in the UK died on July 3, 1944:
    • Gresik, Herman E., Capt., 1313th Engineer General Service Regiment (source: ABMC)
    • Ogle, Reidar C.G., Pfc, 2nd Civil Affairs Regiment (source: ABMC)
    • Less certain: Foley Jr., John D., Cpl., 72nd Station Complement Squadron (source: ABMC)
  • Qualitative indications of the death toll remain as the best available evidence.  In a diary entry, J.M. Oakman wrote: “PAC roared across sky SE —stopped its engine and dropped dead on the road between the two blocks. This block was a hostel for American soldiers and the casualties were heavy” (5).

 

Sources

(1) List of civilian casualties, Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea, from Civilian War Dead 1939-1945, London: The Imperial War Graves Commission, 1954, p.1031-1047, in Local Studies Department, Kensington Central Library, London.  http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/.

(2) Winston G Ramsey, The Blitz: Then and Now, volume 3, London: Battle of Britain Prints International, 1990, p.408-9.

(3) “GIs remembered,” The Royal Borough Newsletter, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Winter 1997, p.12.

(4) “At last we remembered them: One man’s mission is fulfilled in Chelsea,” The Chelsea Society Report, 1998, p.32-4.

(5) Diary, J.M. Oakman, “Renewal of London Bombing,” Book VI, Sunday 17th October 1943 – 2 Dec 1944, p.14, in Local Studies Department, Kensington Central Library, London.  http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/.

(6) SHAEF numbers from July Bombing Report, G-5 Division’s Numeric-Subject Operations File, 1943-July 1945 (Entry 54), SHAEF G-5 Division Records, RG 331 Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters in World War II, National Archives at College Park, M.D.  See incident report here.