The young Royal Oak boy was on his first bombing mission in 1944. But he never completed it. Lt. Thomas Sevald who grew up in the Lincoln-Woodward area was a copilot on a B-17 bomber when an exploding anti aircraft shell sent a piece of shrapnel into the cockpit, striking Lt. Sevald in the neck.
The captain, John Walter, who was sitting next to Sevald on that fateful mission told me that Tom’s head slumped over onto his shoulder. He never made a sound and never regained consciousness. A crewman quickly came to the cockpit to medically assist Sevald but it was no use. Lt. Thomas Sevald had been fatally wounded.
A long time ago, I found a book in the Royal Oak library about men who went to war in B-17 bombers. There was writing inside the front cover explaining that the book was given to the library by Captain John Walter in memory of his copilot, Tom Sevald. Reading what Walter had written inside the cover did it for me. I was determined to learn all I could about Thomas Sevald and that tragic flight.
It took some time but I was able to make contact with George Sevald in Cleveland, Ohio, Tom’s brother, and I found Captain John Walter who was living in Columbus, Indiana. George told me that Tom was a perfect brother. They did a lot together often spending summer days at Kensington Park near Detroit. John Walter said he did not know Sevald very well since Tom had only recently arrived at their bomber base in England. He found Tom Sevald to be quiet, intelligent and serious minded.
I became friends with John Walter and went with him to a reunion of B-17 airmen in San Antonio, Texas. There, two of Walter’s war-time friends told me that Sevald’s death caused lasting pain for Walter. He almost left the service because of it.
A few years after World War II ended, Lt. Sevald’s remains were brought home and buried by his family in a cemetery near Detroit. On a warm, late spring day years ago, I went to Tom Sevald’s burial site. I placed flowers and an American flag on his grave and took pictures. The photos were sent to his brother, George Sevald in Cleveland, Ohio and to his captain, John Walter, in Columbus, Indiana.