Missouri high school student solves mystery for World War II researchers

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Left: Henry G. Maxham (bottom center) and the crew of the B-24 bomber King Size that crashed on Dec. 25, 1944. Right: Carter Cashen. (Images courtesy: Ashley Troutman)

SUNSET HILLS, Mo. – A local high schooler’s love of history and research helped him locate a missing photo to complete a World War II memorial.

In the summer of 2020, Carter Cashen, then a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson School, was looking to fulfill service hours required for graduation. He volunteered over 60 hours with LEGACY: Lost & Found, which identifies and returns military relics to veterans’ families free of charge. LEGACY was founded in 2018 as the nonprofit arm of Footsteps Researchers, a global network of World War II researchers who trace the lives of those who served in the war.

For the last several years, Footsteps has been searching for a photo and relatives of Henry G. Maxham, a crewman who was killed in action on Dec. 25, 1944, during the famed Battle of the Bulge.

Maxham served as the tail gunner on the King Size, a B-24 bomber. On Christmas Day, the King Size took part in a mission to bomb an industrial area in Wahlen-Kall, located just over the German border. After dropping its payload, the bomber was attacked by German aircraft and shot down in La Fosse, Belgium. Maxham and other crewmen attempted to abandon the plane and parachute to safety. However, Maxham jumped too late and fell to his death. He was 32.

Only two members of the King Size successfully bailed from the plane and landed safely.

Researchers had assembled photos and information of the crew for a memorial at the crash site but were missing a picture of Maxham.

Enter Carter Cashen.

Cashen used death records, census data, and obituaries to assemble Maxham’s family tree. He then tracked down an old newspaper article and yearbook photos from Maxham’s hometown in Vermont.

Cashen diligent research led him to one of Maxham’s last living relatives, a cousin, and eventually a photo of Maxham himself.

The photo will join the pictures of the other crewmen on the monument in Belgium by December 2021, just in time for the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.

“To have a 15-year-old dedicate considerable time over his summer break to help us solve this mystery was truly amazing,” said Dr. Myra Miller, Footsteps co-founder and Thomas Jefferson adjunct faculty member. “We had been searching for several years and without Carter’s key research, we would still be stuck.”

Cashen will graduate from Thomas Jefferson School in 2023. He hopes to follow his interest in history and further hone his research skills in college.

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