On Dec. 18, 1944, Max Krakovsky was falling through the sky over France, everything around him on fire.
The next year, he was a war veteran, knocking on the door of an East York house he’d never been to.
Krakovsky, an RCAF pilot from a small mining town in northern Ontario, was the only survivor of a plane crash that killed
15 men who were en route to Duisburg, Germany, for a bombing mission. When Carson returned to Canada, he visited the Green family at 166 Barker Ave. He told them their son James William Green, had died in the accident.
The two were crew members when two planes, carrying British and Canadian crewman, collided over Ardennes, France.
“My father always had survivor’s guilt,” said Dr. James Carson, Krakovsky’s son in an interview from his Unionville, Ont. home. “He wrote everything down about the war in his memoirs, including visiting the families of his crew, before he died in 2005.”
Before his death, Krakovsky met and befriended David Mole, the son of British wireless operator Douglas John Mole, who also died in the crash.
The younger Mole, a retired sailor with the British Merchant Navy, was on a mission. He was searching for relatives of the men who died alongside his father.
“The whole thing started when I visited my father’s grave for the first time in 1989,” Mole said in an interview from his home in England. “I wanted to create a memorial for all the men who died in the collision.”
Mole has found them all, except for two: Ernest Stanley Zadorozny, a mid- upper gunner in Krakovsky’s crew, whose foster mother was Mrs. George Jesse, of Sanford, Manitoba, and Green.
Green was a 20-year-old East Yorker who grew up in Woodbine Heights. He was a rear-gunner aboard the NP699 of 10 Squadron. It was Green’s home on Barker Avenue that Krakovsky visited to tell the family that their son had not survived.
Green was born in Toronto on May 11, 1924, to James Green, Sr., a boilermaker who served in the First World War, and Emily Smith, the daughter of English immigrants.
According to Green’s enlistment records from 1943, he was a blue-eyed 19-year-old labourer with the Canadian National Railway. He attended Danforth Technical School (now known as Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute) for three years before dropping out to take up the trade of metal sheeting, which he never finished.
Although he attended Danforth Tech, his name does not appear on the school’s memorial, located inside the library.
“Of the 2,000 pieces of correspondence and 400 postcards we have from the war, none of them belong to James Green,” said Danforth Tech alumnus Ron Passmore. “Unfortunately, not all of the former students have been memorialized on the school memorial.”
Photos of Green show a lanky young man in an unbuttoned Air Force uniform who hoped to have his own farm after the war. His favourite hobby was photography.
He was a member of the No. 432 (Leaside) Squadron.
Green began his journey in 1943 when he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force at age 19.
He boarded a ship in Halifax on March 5, 1944, and arrived in England nine days later. By the end of his training, he had completed 93 hours of flight training. Green’s records show that his ambition was to be an officer.
He was finally promoted to the rank of officer on Dec. 17, 1944, one day before his death in the crash. He was only 20. Had Green and David Mole’s father survived, it would have been their last mission before going home for good.
Green left behind his parents and a brother: Kenneth Roy Green, who continued to live on Barker Avenue.
One of their neighbours, Roberto Ramacciotti, has lived on Barker Avenue since 1972.
“I remember Emily Green very well,” Ramacciotti said. “She was always sitting in the front yard knitting when I would ride by on my bike.”
The two neighbours, a Brazilian immigrant and a “proper Anglican lady,” formed an unlikely friendship.
“She would tell me things about her life, like how she grew up in colonial India or that her husband built the house they lived in,” Ramacciotti said. “She always mentioned how much she loved her son who fought in the war. He was always a hero in her eyes.”
The younger Green son, Kenneth, lived next door to his mother at 164 Barker Ave. Ramacciotti remembers him as a man who kept to himself.
“Ken was as quiet as an oyster, like a cloud. I don’t think there was any shadow left of him.”
Ramacciotti said Kenneth Green’s family — Kenneth, his wife and daughter — moved away years ago after Emily Green was sent to a nursing home in Bracebridge.
“I miss Emily and all of our talks,” Ramacciotti said. “I’m sad I never got to say goodbye. One day I came home and she was gone.”
Today, 164 and 166 Barker Ave. have new owners, the original homes replaced by modern rebuilds.
“It’s humbling to know that I live where someone who died for our country grew up,” said Dan Farris, the new owner of 166 Barker. “This house has so much history, it gives me goosebumps thinking about it.”
For David Mole, it’s still important to find Kenneth Green or any of his descendants, to share more details about what really happened to their loved one.
“None of the families (I spoke with) knew what happened until I was able to tell them myself,” Mole said. “I remember one of the families was so grateful that I told them what indeed happened, because they knew nothing. That’s the reward of all this at the end of the day.”
James William Green’s body was never found. His sacrifice is memorialized at the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey in the United Kingdom.