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Bomber Gunner 'Babe' Broyhill, 83

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By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 28, 2008

On a March day in 1945, 20-year-old Babe Broyhill found himself sitting exposed as the tail gunner on "Big Yank," a B-17 Flying Fortress in the skies over Berlin.

The plane was in the tail-end Charlie position, bringing up the rear in a 28-plane formation. Near the mission target, the Daimler-Benz tank works, young Mr. Broyhill watched Luftwaffe ME-262 jet fighters swarm like hornets toward Big Yank's tail.

"They were about 1,000 yards away when I started cutting loose with my guns," he recalled for a military history. "The first made a pass at 200 yards, and my tracers were going right into its fuselage. Suddenly it went down in flames. The second came into my sights after the first had dropped. I kept shooting away, because he was getting into my hair. Suddenly it also spiraled down."

Mr. Broyhill, who in the years after the war became a Northern Virginia real estate developer, died Nov. 21 of congestive heart failure at his home in Oakton. He was 83.

The Big Yank crew set a record for the number of German ME-262 jets destroyed by one crew on one mission -- three -- and Mr. Broyhill individually set two records that day over Berlin: most German jets destroyed by a single gunner in one mission (two) and most German jets destroyed by a single gunner during the entire war (two).

The 483rd Bombardment Group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for its exploits, due in no small part to the achievements of Mr. Broyhill and his fellow Big Yank crew members.

Lincoln F. "Babe" Broyhill was born in Winston-Salem, N.C. He grew up in Hopewell, Va., and later in Arlington County. He joined the Army Air Forces in 1943 and initially served with the 8th Air Force, based in England. He later was assigned to the 15th Air Force, 840th Bomb Squadron, before joining the 483rd Bombardment Group, based in Foggia, Italy.

After the war, he returned home to Arlington, where he graduated from Washington-Lee High School and then began his career in real estate with the L.R. Broyhill Co. The company developed a number of residential communities in Arlington and Fairfax counties during the post-war real estate boom.

In 1969, he formed his own company, Broyhill Enterprises Inc., and was one of the first independent developers in the planned community of Reston. He was an active member of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association until his retirement in 1980.

Survivors include his wife of 62 years, Nancy M. Broyhill, and two children, Linda S. Broyhill and Rodger A. Broyhill, all of Oakton; and a grandson.


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