The story of a propeller bushing


While traveling abroad in March 2019 with my wife I must have missed a text message on my mobile. Only in July I saw it again and responded to it. And this is the story that Mr Bruce Harper told me. The story of a part found at the crash site in 1943, held by his landlord while he was working with AFCENT (now JFC) in Brunssum in the nineties. How he found out what is was and that it is now back in the USA with the Breeden family.


Mr. Bruce Harper (* 1964)

“From 1992 to 1997, I was a US Air Force Staff Sergeant stationed with Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT), and lived in an house at Veeweg 8 in Ubach over Worms. My landlord - Mr Huppertz - was an elderly gentleman who was a teenager during the war. One day I was over at his house paying my rent. I was sitting around the table with him and his wife and the subject of the war came up.”


Parts from a crashed bomber

“And the subject of airplanes came up. He said there were American and British bombers and several German fighters that had crashed in the area. I was fascinated to hear that and we talked for a long time about the subject. Towards the end of the visit, he said something in Dutch to his wife. She disappeared into another room, and came back with two metal parts, one in each hand. 

She put the parts on the table. I recognized the larger part as some kind of propeller hub. The smaller one was like a tapered tube with a notched base. He told me the parts were salvaged by him and his father from a crashed bomber. He told me the bomber had crashed in Eygelshoven, and he was fairly sure it was an American bomber. 

Being a collector of military items, I asked him if he was interested in selling the parts. He said he wanted to keep the propeller hub, but I could have the tapered tube for nothing. I left his house that evening with a big smile knowing I had a piece of history in my hand. Since these were pre-Internet days, I had to research things the old fashioned way, mostly by library books.”

A part of the B-17 #42-3436

“I believe I found one book which had references to US bombers lost in Europe during WWII. I found reference to one that crashed in Eygelshoven on 14 October 1943 on the terrible day of Black Thursday. 
Since Eygelshoven is where my landlord had said the bomber had crashed, I knew I had found the plane, a B-17F, its serial number, the day it was lost, and what happened to the crew. 

So that information would not be lost over time, I painted the information on the side of the part; though I still did not know exactly what the part was.

Over the years, the mystery part was either in the office of different houses I lived in, or stored in a box in the attic. I never really looked any more into what it might be. When I moved to my current home in early 2016, I pulled it out once again and put it on my office shelf for display.“

Sizes (approximately): 20 cm in height and 8 cm in diameter at the base; 1 to 1.5 kg in weight.

Finding out what it is

‘In the summer of 2016 a local air museum in Warner Robins, Georgia was having an event that I wanted to visit. I knew they were restoring a B-17 there, so I got to thinking that maybe someone there might know what the part was. 

I did not want to carry the part around during the event. My goal was just to find someone who I could meet with the part at another time. Sure enough, the B-17 restoration team was there. I was told there was a gentleman on the team who would probably know what the part was, but he was not there that day. I was told I could meet with him during the week, which I thought that is what I would do. However, after I got home that day, I got to thinking that it had been a very long time since I had done any research on the part. I thought that considering how much information is out on the Internet these days, I might be able to find out more by myself.

Well, after about 5 minutes doing different Google searches on the 305th Bomb Group and the plane's serial number, I found your excellent website and research which told me everything about the crew and the events the day the B-17 went down. I was very happy and thrilled.  
As I read though your webpage and the Coeur d'Alene Press article, I realized you have been in contact with Lt Donald Breeden's family and got a photo of him from them. I thought, "Wow! That's pretty amazing."

I continued to do searches to try to somehow figure out the part. At one point, it dawned on me that the larger piece my landlord had was a propeller hub. Why it didn't hit me before, I don't know, but I then thought that maybe the part I had was also related to the propeller. 

Sure enough, after searching for the maker of B-17 propellers, Hamilton Standard, I came across some images that illustrated the breakdown of a B-17 propeller. There was the part! It was a bronze/aluminum blade bushing that went at the bottom of a propeller blade (see the attached pictures of the illustration and the actual bushing).

I was very happy. After two decades, I had finally discovered what the mystery part was!”

Bushing sent to the Breeden Family

“I got to thinking. Now knowing the names of Lt Breeden's family in California from the Coeur d'Alene Press article, I wondered if I could find them and contact them to let them know I had a piece of his airplane.  

After a little research, I found his granddaughter, Beth Long, and contacted her; I sent her an e-mail explaining who I was and what I had. Her response was very positive.  

Because I had a good feeling about her and her family, I decided to let her know I wanted to give the propeller bushing to her as a gift. I felt I had owned it long enough and that is was more appropriate for a member of the crew's family to have it in their possession.  

So I mailed it to her, along with some other items like a reproduction 364th BS patch I had, a pair of WWII 2nd Lt bars, and an original 8th AAF patch.  

She received them all and was very grateful to have them, especially the propeller bushing. She said her 14 year old son Joshua had a keen interest in B-17s and had been discussing everything in his history class. It was all very meaningful to the family.  

In conclusion, I was very pleased my mystery part had found a better home.  None of this could of happened without your dedication to B-17 42-3436 and your memorial to the crew. I thank you very much for for that. And with that I thought you might like to know this story.”


The complete ‘Counter weight service manual’ of the Hamilton Standard Propellers. For this type of bushing, see page 6-7.


Back to the story of all of the crew members of B-17 # 42-3436.
A story I started to find out why and how Donald Paul Breeden could get missing.