Tribute To A Hero – (1) Henry R. Briarton – Jan., 1944


Here is an interesting WW II story about a member of my family:

Dusty Briarton

During World War II, my mother’s second cousin, Henry (Dusty) Briarton, was the youngest lead bombardier in the Air Force. During one of his combat missions over Kiel, Germany, the 1,750 pounds of live bombs in the bomb bay became trapped, and he jumped on the bombs to get them to release, saving his crew.  He was quite the hero as seen in the news article below and on the news broadcast after the incident.

The transcription of the attached news article:






Bombardier Henry R. Briarton, graduate of Cardinal Hayes High School and a member of the Aviation Training Cadets of America while a student there, was the hero of a plane incident recently over Kiel and was credited with saving his plane and crew.  The story of his exploit, cabled from England, was broadcast over the NBC network, and one of the millions of listeners was a next-door neighbor of the nineteen-year-old Bombardier’s family in Jamaica, Long Island, who happened to tell his family.

While the plane flew over Kiel on a bombing mission, the bomb bay doors froze, filling the bay with 1750 pounds of live explosives.  While the rest of the flyers watched breathlessly, Bombardier Briarton jumped atop the live bombs and broke the doors open.  Seven 250-pound bombs poured down on Kiel instantly, and young Briarton almost followed them so precarious was his position.

Clutching to the sides of the bomb bay as he was sliding through, however, he saved himself, and grateful buddies hurried to his rescue and hauled him back into the Flying Fortress.

His parents, Mr. and Mrs. James Briarton, and his sister and brother, Betty, eighteen and James, sixteen, were in bed when news of Bombardier Briarton’s heroism was flashed across the airwaves, but summoned by their neighbor they managed to hear the tail end of the broadcast.  Instantly, they sent a cablegram telling how proud they are of him.

Bombardier Briarton went into the Army Air Force in September of 1942, after being graduated from Cardinal Hayes High.  His brother Jimmy is now a student there.

Two months after joining the Air Corps as a private unassigned, he started training at San Antonio Texas.  In May, 1943, he graduated from the Army Air School at Outbank Montana.  He has been on the other side since last October.

Bombardier Briarton has participated in eleven missions, and he has received the Air Medal and Oak Leaf Cluster.  He has been recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross.  He has a German plane to his credit, and the Jan. 4 incident over Kiel adds to his distinctions.

A native of Boonton, N.J., he attended St. Athanassius parish school in the Bronx, where he was president of Christian Doctrine and active in athletics, helping organize the basketball team there.  He began his high school studies at Cathedral High School for Boys and finished at Cardinal Hayes High.

After the war, Henry, who was known as Dusty, married a woman whose parents had just purchased a pool hall in Delta, Colorado.  In 1946, Dusty convinced his parents and sister to move there also. He was concerned with the safety of his family living on the East coast. He believed if there was any other kind of attacks, it would be on the New York area. I guess Dusty was a bit of a profit, although New York did not see attacks until the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and subsequent terror attack of September 11, 2001. So that is reason why that branch of the family ended up in Colorado.

I love this story, and while I am writing stories which happened during WW II, this does not fit my current blog, so feel free to use any or all of it.

I have been enjoying your blog very much.

Karen Wardamasky

You can read more about the 401st Bomb Group and you can also see a picture of very young Dusty Briarton at:

You can read Karen’s blog at

It is quite a story and I’m honored that Karen allowed me to share it. I believe the incident reported happened on Jan.4, 1944.

Judy Guion