Today in History, June 1: 1943 – BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) Flight 777, en route from Lisbon, Spain to England is shot down over the Bay of Biscay. The pilot of the DC-3 transmitted, “I am being followed by strange aircraft. Putting on best speed. …we are being attacked. Cannon shells and tracers are going through the fuselage. Wave-hopping and doing my best.” Eight German Junkers JU-88 fighters were attacking the civilian aircraft.
Among the 17 passengers and crew were British actor Leslie Howard, famous for his role in “Gone with the Wind” and several other films. After his death, rumors circulated that he was a spy and the attack targeted him. The German pilots, interviewed years later, said their mission that day was to escort a U-Boat, and they mistook the DC-3 for a military aircraft…having no knowledge of it’s passengers.
Howard joined other celebrities who lost their lives while serving during the war; Glenn Miller, Carole Lombard, Joe Kennedy, Jr and others.