8-foot sculpture part of a WWII memorial makes stop in Austin

The memorial is on its way to Iceland to become a permanent display. (KXAN Photo/Justin Hobby)
The memorial is on its way to Iceland to become a permanent display. (KXAN Photo/Justin Hobby)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An eight foot stainless steel monument to more than a dozen American heroes stopped in Austin Sunday.

The sculpture is a replica of the B-24 Liberator bomber, “Hot Stuff,” which was the first heavy bomber to complete 25 missions in Europe during WWII. It ended up completing 31 missions before crashing in Iceland on May 3, 1943. 14 people were killed.

A piece of the actual bomber, recovered from the wreckage, was on display alongside the sculpture at the Lost Creek Country Club.

Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, who took General Dwight Eisenhower’s place as commander of all forces in Europe, and members of his staff were on the plane. He, and 13 others died in the crash.

One crew member, tail gunner Sgt. George Eisel, survived the crash. But after “Hot Stuff” crashed, it caught fire. Eisel thought he would burn to death; his eyebrows were burned off. As the plane burned, ammunition onboard started firing; Eisel worried he would be shot to death. But heavy rain extinguished the fire, but not Eisel’s fear. He then worried about dying from exposure. Eisel ended up being trapped in the tail of the plane for 26 hours before escaping.

Native Austinite Robert “Jake” Jacobson was set to be on the flight. But he and four fellow crew members were kicked off when Andrews and his staff needed seats to return to the United States.

After the war, Jacobson returned to Austin and ended up working at Brackenridge Hospital, where he worked in administration.

James Lux was friends with Jacobson during his time in Austin. After hearing the story of what happened to “Hot Stuff,” he knew its story had to be told. But before Lux could conduct interview Jacobson on video, Jacobson fell and never regained consciousness.

But that didn’t stop Lux. He went to Iceland to recover wreckage. In addition to the piece that visited Austin, others are at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, and the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center in San Diego, the city where “Hot Stuff” was built.

While in Iceland, Lux says a native he was speaking with said a memorial was needed to remember those killed. Lux agreed. He later met with the U.S. Ambassador to Iceland, who agreed a memorial was needed, but to sequestration could not get the money to build one.

The replica will be installed a permanent monument on May 3, 2018, the 75th anniversary of the crash. Lux expects the President of Iceland and other dignitaries to be in attendance.

He is now raising money to make sure it happens. So far, they have raised $65,000. If you would like to donate or learn more about the project, click here.

The sculpture was created by Colorado artist Terry Hinde, who finished the piece late last year.

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