A Brief History of SX-L of the 352nd Fighter Squadron.

Following on from my post on the history of SX-I of the 352nd Fighter Squadron a few weeks ago I have now completed the history of SX-L as far as we can ascertain from the information available. It might seem that I’m being a little focused on the 352nd to the exclusion of the other two Squadrons at the moment. I assure you this is not the case and it is just that it is easier for me to work methodically through the Squadrons one at a time. The 352nd is first because, for whatever reason, they have the better records. The 350th Fighter Squadron, particularly with the early Thunderbolts, is a “black hole” of missing data that I’m hoping will fill out much more as I go along and benefit from being tackled last. The plan for the next few weeks is to cover SX-Z, then SX-D and N with a post on Capt. Joe Knoble and then SX-P linked with a post on Lt. Donald Corrigan. In the meantime, if serials, names and codes are your thing, please enjoy SX-L with my thanks to Ash Gant, as always, for our ongoing discussions and head scratching. Corrections and clarifications to anything I write are most welcome.

A/C 42-22458 P-47D-2-RA. This olive drab razorback was assigned to 1st Lt. Leroy W. Ista and named “Stingeree” by him. The artwork was a stinging wasp painted on the fuselage. The aircraft flew with the Squadron from August 1943 until Lt. Ista was lost in the aircraft December 22, 1943 (MACR 1539 refers).

A/C 42-75065 P-47D-10-RE. This olive drab razorback was a replacement for the first SX-L lost with Lt. Ista and first flew with the Squadron on February 11, 1944. It was flown regularly by 1st Lt. Edison G. Stiff until his loss in the aircraft February 22, 1944 (MACR 2672 refers). We have no record of any name given to this aircraft.

A/C 42-75247 P-47D-11-RE. This olive drab razorback was a replacement for the second SX-L lost with Lt. Stiff and first flew with the Squadron on March 6, 1944. It was assigned to 1st Lt. Hildreth R. Owens until he completed his tour on May 9, 1944. We have no record of any name used on the aircraft by Lt. Owens. It was then assigned to 2nd Lt. Lloyd Hunt who flew the aircraft on eight missions during May and June 1944. We have no name recorded for the aircraft at this time either, but it was re-coded to SX-L Bar (the only use of L Bar in the Squadron) between May 27 and sometime after June 13, 1944 because the fourth SX-L operated in the Squadron at the same time. The aircraft did not fly operationally with the Squadron between June 13 and August 16, 1944 when, back as SX-L, it became the assigned aircraft of Lt. Harrison B. Tordoff. He named the aircraft “Anne” and flew it operationally between August and October 1944. There is a picture of this aircraft on p. 209 of Cross’s Jonah’s Feet Are Dry. The individual aircraft record card for this aircraft indicates that after it left the Squadron when they converted to Mustangs it went to the 56th Fighter Group as HV-L. It was salvaged due to battle damage there December 19, 1944.

A/C 42-75657 P-47D-15-RE. This olive drab razorback was assigned to the Squadron in May 1944 and was coded SX-L (leaving 42-75247 to be re-coded SX-L Bar for a time). It was flown regularly by Lt. Thomas W. Jones, but we have no record of any name given to the aircraft by him. It was salvaged following a crash landing at an advanced landing strip in Normandy due to battle damage on June 13, 1944. The pilot, Lt. Jones, suffered facial burns in the crash.

A/C 42-26564 P-47D-25-RE. This natural metal finish bubbletop was a replacement for the aircraft crashed by Lt. Jones on June 13, 1944. It was assigned to Lt. Harold O. Miller who flew it on 19 missions between June 18 and July 6, 1944. Miller related on the origins of the name he gave the aircraft: ‘“Sniffles” was a Looney Tunes cartoon originating from Mr. Chuck Jones about a little mouse that always had a “code in da nose”. It shows my age at the time (I was only 19) but I figured a weak little mouse that is given a R-2800 Pratt & Whitney engine and eight .50 caliber machine guns could be somebody too.’ Like its predecessor, the fifth SX-L had a short life with the Squadron. It was salvaged due to battle damage after Lt. Miller was forced to crash land at Advanced Landing Ground B3 (Sainte Croix Sur Mer) on the morning of July 6, 1944. Hal Miller confirmed that at the time B3 was home to 144 (Canadian) Wing led by Johnnie Johnson whom he met after his fiery crash landing. He also confirmed that when Charlie Wurtzler (Squadron Intelligence Officer) heard that he was down and in France he transferred Lt. Miller and his aircraft on temporary duty to the 9th AF so that he was not recorded as MIA. This was done to avoid unnecessary worry to Lt. Miller’s family.

The fifth SX-L "Sniffles" (a/c 42-26564). The aircraft assigned to Lt. Harold O. Miller (353rd FG Archive).

The fifth SX-L “Sniffles” (a/c 42-26564). The aircraft assigned to Lt. Harold O. Miller (353rd FG Archive).

A/C 44-14805 P-51D-10-NA. This aircraft was flown on 68 missions by 21 different pilots between October 2, 1944 and March 14, 1945. It was first assigned to Lt. Harrison B. Tordoff who flew the aircraft on 14 missions between October and November 1944 when he completed his first tour. As a keen ornithologist Tordoff named the aircraft “Upupa Epops!” after the Latin name for the Hoopoe bird. Tordoff liked the pun because the Hoopoe was noted for its ungainly flight characteristics. The two pictures to be found on p.210 of Danny Morris’s Aces and Wingmen II (Usk,1989) seem conclusive as to the name (as do Tordoff’s own letters to me) so we cannot confirm any other variations of the name. When Tordoff completed his tour the primary pilot became Lt. Ralph B. Snyder who flew the aircraft on 24 missions between November 1944 and March 1945. The aircraft was transferred to “C” Flight of the 352nd on March 14, 1945 and re-coded to SX-Z. We do not have any confirmed evidence of names for the aircraft in Snyder’s hands. I have “lists” from many sources going back some 30 years with references to both “Shirley Dean” and “Brad’s Dad,” but have no photographic confirmation. Interestingly, Ralph Snyder became the well known TV presenter Ralph Story after the war and details of his career can be found HERE. A search of the internet also confirms that he had a son named Brad – so maybe Brad is out there and can confirm the aircraft name? The aircraft was completely lost as SX-Z in the fatal crash of Lt. Donald F. Blaicher on July 12, 1945.

A/C 44-72364 P-51D-20-NA. This aircraft was assigned to the Squadron in mid March 1945 and to Capt. Harrison B. Tordoff who began his second tour February 17, 1945. The aircraft flew 24 missions with 11 different pilots, 12 of them piloted by Tordoff. He named the aircraft “Upupa Epops.” Subsequent to its time with the 352nd the aircraft was used by the Royal Swedish Air Force as Fv26061and then, in 1952, went to the Fuerza Aerea Dominicana as FAD 1916 until 1984. It is currently with the Flying Heritage Inc, Seattle, WA in wartime markings and you can see further details HERE.

Capt. Harrison B. Tordoff named his second aircraft "Upupa Epops" (a/c 44-72364). Left to Right are S/Sgt Kermit M. Knudson, Tordoff, S/Sgt William F. Jopke and Cpl Erwin G. Wolf (353rd FG Archive).

Capt. Harrison B. Tordoff named his second aircraft “Upupa Epops” (a/c 44-72364). Left to Right are S/Sgt Kermit M. Knutson, Tordoff, S/Sgt William F. Jopke and Cpl Erwin G. Wolf (353rd FG Archive).

Details for the crew of SX-L throughout the war are patchy. On Tordoff’s second SX-L they were S/Sgt. Kermit M. Knutson, S/Sgt. William F. Jopke and Cpl. Erwin G. Wolf. It is possible that, like many other “letters” in the Squadron, they were the crew of all the main SX-Ls throughout the war, but we have no evidence to confirm this. Hal Miller’s SX-L had a different crew (the original crew may have continued to crew SX-L Bar) who followed him to his next aircraft SX-S. The above photograph confirms Miller’s crew chief on SX-L was S/Sgt. James M. Cody and armourer Sgt. Raymond J. Pearn.

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Searching for Lieutenant Greene.

Timing is very important in life – it can have both trivial and monumental consequences and a fair amount in between. In 2005 I was experiencing the many joyful experiences associated with the arrival of my first child and negotiating a tricky 180 degree change in my career path. As a consequence, and much to my later regret, I never got around to purchasing a copy of Searching for Lieutenant Greene – The 351st Fighter Squadron and Operation “Market Garden” (Hoogkarspel, 2005) by Frederik Paauwe. Timing produced a trivial personal anecdote for me (relieved temporarily by the kind loan this week of a copy of the book by a good friend), but read this book and you will learn what timing cost a young American pilot called Robert N. Greene on September 17, 1944.

Cover to Searching for Lieutenant Greene - The 351st Fighter Squadron and Operation "Market Garden" by Frederik C. Paauwe (Hoogkarspel, 2005).

Cover to Searching for Lieutenant Greene – The 351st Fighter Squadron and Operation “Market Garden” by Frederik C. Paauwe (Hoogkarspel, 2005).

At this time the 353rd were flying support missions for the famous Operation Market Garden – the daring gamble by the Allies to shorten the war by capturing a series of bridges in Netherlands with airborne troops. The Group were tasked with flak suppression missions to protect the heavily laden transport aircraft delivering troops and supplies to the battle area. So intense was the fighting that the Group were awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for their contribution. Doubt not that these were immensely dangerous missions – the Group lost six pilots during this time. According to his biographers, Charlotte and John McClure, Dave Schilling, the famous leader of the 56th Fighter Group at the time, refused to fly any more of these missions after his Group lost 16 pilots. He was relieved of command temporarily by the Commanding General of the 65th Fighter Wing and reinstated only after tempers had calmed down.

The well-known picture of YJ-E "Patrica Baby" (a/c 42-75815) which Lt. Robert N. Greene flew on September 17, 1944. It was actually the assigned aircraft of Lt. John W. Bishop. Left to right in the photo are Sgt. Carl Trabin, Sgt. Bill Woods, S/Sgt. Rufus Blocker and Cpl. Earl Haley.

The well-known picture of YJ-E “Patrica Baby” (a/c 42-75815) which Lt. Robert N. Greene flew on September 17, 1944. It was actually the assigned aircraft of Lt. John W. Bishop. Left to right in the photo are Sgt. Carl Trabin, Sgt. Bill Woods, S/Sgt. Rufus Blocker and Cpl. Earl Haley.

Robert “Bobby” Greene was a replacement pilot who had only just joined the 351st Fighter Squadron. He was flying his third mission on the day he was lost when his own bomb blast set fire to his aircraft forcing him to bail out too low for his parachute to open. He was so new that his Squadron Commander did not even remember him years later when questioned about him (similarly he has left practically no trace in Group records or photographs). Yet Mr. Paauwe has, in 124 pages, done an immense service in assembling what is available in the official record and supplementing this with his tireless efforts to seek out information on the young pilot from Norfolk, Virginia. Though not of the wartime generation himself, Mr Paauwe’s connection to the story comes from being local to the area of the tragic events of 1944. The “searching” of the title is apt for the book describes his quest to find the truth behind the event and who Bobby Greene was.

Throughout Mr. Paauwe sticks closely to the available documentary evidence and uses this to good effect to tell the story of the fateful mission. This task alone required trips to the United States to visit the archives, localities known to Bobby Greene and to the 2001 P-47 Thunderbolt Pilot’s Association Reunion to meet his comrades. What is pleasing is that he sticks pretty close to the known facts and never lets speculation get the upper hand. The main conjecture he allows himself is the possibility of a German flak gun might have been responsible for the loss, but he makes it quite clear this is only a possibility based on some circumstantial evidence.

Lt. Greene was with the Squadron for such a short time that he left little record - a thorough search has only turned up two other pictures of "Patrica Baby" (353rd FG Archive).

Lt. Greene was with the Squadron for such a short time that he left little record – a thorough search has only turned up two other pictures of “Patrica Baby” (353rd FG Archive).

What is even more remarkable, however, is that Mr. Paauwe’s quest did not stop at telling the story of the mission. He traced the sister of Lt. Greene and has, with her help, provided a much fuller picture of who this young pilot was through his letters home. Whilst he does not have much information on his stateside training he makes good use of the experiences of fellow students in Class 43K to bring to life what Lt. Greene must have encountered before reaching Raydon. The truly commendable part of the book is that he does not portray Lt. Greene to be somebody beyond the evidence or as fitting some wider agenda. We learn that he was a fairly religious person, but that he was also “Scared as hell” at the thought of entering combat for the first time. He was also, in the words of a fellow pilot, “un-coachable” regarding target discipline and this may well have contributed to his untimely death. One gets the strong impression of a young man (he was four days away from his twenty-first birthday at the time of his death) who tragically did not have the time to gain the skills and knowledge that perhaps would have saved him.

Possibly Lt. Greene in the cockpit of YJ-E, but more likely its assigned pilot, Lt. John W. Bishop (353rd FG Archive).

Possibly Lt. Greene in the cockpit of YJ-E, but more likely its assigned pilot, Lt. John W. Bishop (353rd FG Archive).

The Greene family experienced their full share of wartime tragedy – Bobby’s brother Alan was also killed in the Pacific and they did not have Bobby’s fate confirmed until September 1945. The details of the father’s letters to his son attempting to get news after his death detailed in this book are heartrending. It would be hard to see the positive side to this story, but the memorial service at the crash location on September 17, 2001 and the unveiling of a memorial plaque (that you can see HERE) are a fitting and worthy commemoration. That these came about largely because of the efforts Mr. Paauwe is another reason for the 353rd community to thank him for all his tireless efforts to see that the sacrifice of this pilot was and is remembered.

The original book was limited to 100 copies and the second revised edition of 2005 has been out of print for some time. So if you are lucky enough to have a copy of this very fine book, dig it out and read it again or if you find one buy it and read it and if you find two send one to me as I sadly have to give this copy back…

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Capt. Leroy B. Highfield, 351st Fighter Squadron 1922-2014

Terry Bigger has emailed with the sad news that we have lost another veteran. His father-in-law, Leroy B. Highfield, passed away last week aged 91.

Capt. Highfield joined the 351st Fighter Squadron July 19, 1944 and flew with them through to the end of the war. He claimed a Ju88 and Me110 destroyed and a He111 damaged in the strafing mission of April 16, 1945.

Capt. Leroy B. Highfield, 351st Fighter Squadron 1922-2014 (353rd FG Archive).

Capt. Leroy B. Highfield, 351st Fighter Squadron 1922-2014 (353rd FG Archive).

These are never pleasant messages to write but I’m sure you join me in offering condolences to Leroy’s family. My thoughts are with Terry, Heather and the rest of Leroy’s family at this time…

 

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Mission#77 February 10, 1944 – Target: Brunswick. Lt. Emory, Lt Armstrong and Lt. Jordan Claims.

Date: Feb 10, 44

Dispatched: 40 Abort: 8

Mission: Withdrawal support to 1st ATF 180 B-17’s (3rd Div)

Field Order: 239 Target: Brunswick

Time Up/Down: 11:04 hrs     14:05 hrs Leader: Major Bailey

Claims Air: 02-01-01Claims Ground: 00-00-00 Lost/Damaged: 00-01

Due to take off in snow storm Group was delayed approx 14 minutes. L/F south of Den Helder 25,000ft, 12:03 hrs. R/V 2 boxes approx one hundred 3rd Div B-17s vicinity of Quackenbruck 28,000ft, 12:35 hrs. Bomber formation good. Left bombers middle Zuider Zee, L/F out Egmond 25,000ft, 13:13 hrs. On way in two T/E A/C seen vicinity Zwolle 20,000ft. Dove and disappeared in cloud when flight investigated. Near Quackenbruck one Me110 seen below bomber formation, bounced and destroyed by Wakeford Yellow flight 15,000ft. This E/A believed to be a stooge because immediately thereafter 20+ S/E E/A bounced 352nd out of the Sun. In resulting mix up from 25,000ft to 10,000ft, one Me109 destroyed and others dispersed. Vicinity Hardenberg one Fw190 dove thru 2nd bomber box. Engaged by Roughman Yellow Leader and destroyed, pilot bailing out at 12,000ft. Capt. John B. Rose and 1st Lt. Thistlethwaite of Group HQ participated.

350th: Capt Newhart. T/U 11:10 hrs. T/D 14:00 hrs. Total flight time 02:50 hrs. L/F in on course 12:10 hrs, 28,000ft. R/V with 2nd Box N of Furstanau, 12:40 hrs, 31,000ft. Good close. P-47 No e/a. Left bombers W Zuider Zee 13:00 hrs, 29,000ft. Left coast 10 miles north of Egmond 13:13, 29,000ft No flak, R/T good. Boats in Zuider Zee, small.

Capt Dewey E. Newhart (Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt Francis T. Walsh
1st Lt Robert N. Ireland
1st Lt Carl W. Mueller
1st Lt John L. Devane (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Tom Lorance
1st Lt William J. Price
2nd Lt Kenneth Chetwood
1st Lt Wayne K. Blickenstaff (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Robert S. Hart
1st Lt John Zolner
1st Lt John H. Winder
Capt Robert E. Fortier (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Joseph F. Furness
1st Lt Charles O. Durant
1st Lt Roland N. McKean
1st Lt John Zolner

351st: Lt. Emory (after Beckham and then Byers had to abort). T/U 11:10 hrs. T/D 14:00 hrs. Total flight time 02:50 hrs. Route: In at Ijmuiden, over Hardenberg, out at Egmond. Ijmuiden at 12:10 hrs at 29,000ft. [R/V] at Lingen area at 12:43 hrs at 29,000ft. Good close formation. P-47s. One Fw190 destroyed [by Lt. Emory] near Hardenberg. At coast at 13:16 hrs at 25,000ft. Egmond at 16:16 hrs at 25,000ft. 5 to 7 e/a operating singly, apparently trying to ease up to fighters before making attacks on bombers and fighters. 3 aborts (two engine trouble, one frost and ice on canopy.

1st Lt William R. Burkett (Flt Ldr) YJ-B
2nd Lt Frank J. Mincik YJ-L
1st Lt William T. Thistlethwaite YJ-O
2nd Lt Don M. Hurlburt YJ-H
2nd Lt John G. Treitz (Flt Ldr) YJ-I
2nd Lt Harry D. Milligan YJ-Y
2nd Lt Jack Terzian YJ-Z
2nd Lt Francis L. Edwards YJ-T
1st Lt Frank N. Emory (Sqdn Ldr) YJ-E
F/O Joseph E. Wood YJ-W
2nd Lt Herbert K. Field YJ-F
F/O Cletus Peterson YJ-P
Capt Vic L. Byers (Flt Ldr) YJ-V
2nd Lt George F. Perpente YJ-G 42-75688
Major Walter C. Beckham YJ-X 42-75226
1st Lt Vernon A. Leatherman YJ-A
2nd Lt Hassell D. Stump YJ-S 42-75647
1st Lt William J. Maguire (Relay) YJ-M
2nd Lt Richard D. Stanley (Relay) YJ-R

Lt. Emory reported destroying an Fw190:

I had been turning inside of the Fw190, and as he pulled back up into position, I closed rapidly from dead astern. I held my fire until about 300 yards away from him. He started a sharp left turn, so I gave him a long burst, but saw no strikes. I then dropped the lead, and put the bead on his engine and fired a three or four section burst, which struck behind the cockpit, making many flashes, and smoke poured out the back half of the fuselage.

As I overshot him, he rolled on his back and dove down. As soon as I turned around, I dove after him, following him down to 12,000ft. He levelled off on top of the clouds, and I saw something leave the aircraft. I thought it was the canopy, but it may have been the pilot himself, as I saw a chute open below and off to my right soon afterwards. The aircraft pulled up in an easy climb, rolled on its back and went straight down through the cloud deck which was about 6,000ft.

1st Lt. Herbert K. “Shorty” Field, flying number three to Emory, also fired at the aircraft but recorded no strikes.

352nd: Major Bailey. T/U 11:04 hrs. T/D 14:10 hrs. Total flight time 03:06 hrs. Made landfall in near Den Helder at 12:03 hrs flying at 27,000ft. R/Vd with three combat wings of B-17s at Quackenbruck at 12:35 hrs, 28,000ft. They were unescorted when we met them. Bomber formations were good; two combat wings followed by one combat wing. Very few stragglers. Observed other 47s, 51s and 38s. 25 plus E/A observed in the vicinity of Lingen. We engaged and destroyed one Me109 and one Me110. These engagements were at approx 12:40-12:45 hrs. Left bombers on the east coast of Zuider Zee at 12:50 hrs when another group of P-47s R/Vd with them. Left enemy coast at 13:17 hrs north of Egmond at 25,000ft. Channels very poor – much jamming. England and North Sea overcast. Breaks encountered at Zuider Zee becoming 3-4/10ths with tops around 15-18,000ft east of Zuider Zee. 4 aborts Capt. Juntilla reason unknown down at Wattisham, Lt. Corrigan belly tank would not release, Lt. Sperry engine cutting out, Lt. Schillinger escort to Lt. Sperry. 1 Me109 destroyed by Lt. Armstrong and 1 Me110 destroyed by Lt. Jordan. Rounds fired: Jordan 832, Gonnam 49, Geurtz 320, Armstrong 924. 8 down at Metfield 14:10 hrs. 1 down at Ludham [Lt. Fogarty].

Major William B. Bailey (Gp & Sqdn Ldr) SX-H
1st Lt Clinton H. Sperry SX-A 42-75707
2nd Lt Clifford F. Armstrong SX-F
1st Lt Edward M. Fogarty (Flt Ldr) SX-O 42-22470
1st Lt Charles W. Kipfer SX-Q
2nd Lt Joseph A. Schillinger SX-J 42-7910
2nd Lt Donald J. Corrigan (Flt Ldr) SX-X 42-75140
1st Lt Leslie P. Cles SX-C
2nd Lt Richard V. Keywan SX-N
1st Lt Jesse W. Gonnam (Flt Ldr) SX-U
1st Lt William J. Jordan SX-W
1st Lt Robert P. Geurtz SX-Z

1st Lt. Jesse W. Gonnam saw an Me110 to the right of the bombers during rendezvous and led Yellow flight down to attack:

I called to go down, but my receiver was out, and I didn’t know White section had started down. We bounced and I closed and fired but didn’t hit the e/a. Because my radio was out I didn’t hear my No 4 call a break when a 109 bounced the flight. My No 3 chased this ship away and I pulled up and to the right. At this time six 109s attacked the bombers and I climbed to intercept them but they broke away too quick.

Gonnam’s wing man 1st Lt. William J. Jordan followed in the attack and was awarded the Me110 as a probable:

We had just made R/V with the bombers and had made a 180 degree turn to escort them. A Me110 was called in below us at about 20,000ft and Lt. Gonnam and I peeled off diving down on him. The e/a saw us and went into a steep dive. I was directly behind Lt. Gonnam and a little below him. He got behind the e/a and fired for a while, then pulled up. I didn’t see any strikes on the e/a from the bursts that Lt. Gonnam fired. I closed in on the e/a and fired one long burst getting many strikes on both of the engines and on the cockpit canopy. Heavy black smoke began pouring from both engines and trailed back covering my aircraft. I continued firing and the e/a went into the clouds at about 15 to 16000ft, after which I pulled up and broke off the engagement. During the engagement with the 110 I opened fire at about 250 yards and closed to 80 or 100 yards.

Second element lead in Yellow flight was 1st Lt. Robert P. Geurtz, who saw an Me109 coming in:

My leader started down on an Me110. I followed with my wing man Lt. Zolner [350th FS]. I noticed a Me109 on the tail of a 47 just below me. I pulled down and behind him and fired a short burst. The P47 and 109 then rolled and went straight down. I did not get any good shots, so I broke off at about 11000ft. I climbed back up to about 27,000ft with my radio out and I continued home with my wing man.

Yellow flight had been bounced by a further 15 Fw190s and Me109s. Luckily White flight were able to give cover. 1st Lt. Clifford Armstrong, flying Wakeford White 2, claimed an Me109 destroyed:

I spotted an Me110 below us and called Wakeford leader. We started to make a pass at the 110 but another flight cut us off and so we pulled up to be top cover. About this time I heard someone call that there was an e/a on his tail. I glanced to my left and a P47 [Lt. Fogarty], followed closely by an Me109, went by. I didn’t have time to call Wakeford leader and I immediately did a half roll and went down after the 109. I followed down approximately a 45 degree dive. I fired several short bursts out of range, probably about 800 yards, hoping to get the 109 off the 47’s tail. At about 15,000ft the P47 broke to the left and the 109 continued in the dive. I followed the 109 down, gradually closing to approx 250 yards, at 350 to 400mph. I got several hits on the e/a on the left side of the fuselage; at this time I was down to 2000ft. The e/a started to smoke and [he] did sort of a half roll to the left and crashed into a field in the vicinity of Lingen. I went back up to 4000ft in a layer of clouds and flew instruments most of the time until landfall out. There were several breaks in the clouds and I could see pretty well were I was.

Flying Wakeford White three it was 1st Lt Edward M. Fogarty’s lucky day:

We were making an orbit to the left while two of our aircraft went to attack an Me110, I called in six bogies at 5 o’clock to the bombers, and received a message from some other flight of another Squadron saying that they were in position. Shortly after I turned my back to the bogies I was bounced by them. I broke left and took evasive action as I dived. In the dive, I had my left aileron partially shot away by a 20mm shell. I recovered from the dive at approx 4000ft and started climbing back up. I levelled out at about 12,000ft. Shortly after this an Me109 came at me head on. I had very little control of the ship so I kicked the nose around and came at him with guns firing. No strikes were seen, the e/a continued on and I made no attempt to turn and follow him. I joined up with Lt. Gonnam who escorted me home and landed at the first airdrome I saw in England. [Lt. Fogarty landed at Ludham without flaps or ailerons and at a speed of 180mph].

Group ERTNs/Aborts/Damaged:

42-74618 DNTO radio out LH-K
42-75647 DNTO engine overheating YJ-S Lt. Stump flying.
42-75140 ABT belly tank wouldn’t release SX-X Lt. Corrigan flying.
42-75707 ABT engine cut out SX-A Lt. Sperry flying.
42-7910 ERTN escort 42-75707 SX-J Lt. Schillinger flying.
42-8575 ABT engine cut out
42-8661 ERTN escort 42-8608
42-8608 ABT pulling too much mercury LH-D
42-8378 ABT excessive vibration LH-R
42-75226 ABT couldn’t draw gas from BT YJ-X Major Beckham flying.
42-75688 ERTN frost and ice in cockpit YJ-G Lt. Perpente flying.
42-22470 BD Cat AC SX-O Lt. Fogarty flying.

 *The two unknown aircraft may well be 350th. Hopefully I can confirm later.

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Mission#76 February 8, 1944 – Target: Frankfurt. Major Beckham’s 17th and 18th Victories. Four for the 352nd and one for the 350th Fighter Squadron

Date: Feb 8, 44

Dispatched: 38 Aborts: 2

Mission: General withdrawal support to 240 B-17’s (1st & 3rd Div)

Field Order: 237 Target: Frankfurt

Time Up/Down: 11:01 hrs     14:19 hrs Leader: Lt Col. Rimerman

Claims Air: 07-00-00Claims Ground: 00-00-00 Lost/Damaged: 00-00

L/F over Blackenburg 11:40 hrs, 23,000ft. R/V two CWs as planned at 12:10 hrs. Bombers in good formation. Other two CWs far to the rear. Escorted bombers until 12:40 hrs, where two Groups of P-47s were seen coming in L/F Gravelines 13:18 hrs, 16,000ft. All other types of friendly fighters seen. Shortly after R/V two Me190s [109s?] attacking bombers. Destroyed, pilot bailed out. In the vicinity Arlon two Fw190s encountered, one destroyed. In the vicinity of St. Hubert 30 Fw190s flying in flights of 5, approaching from 3 o’clock on the bombers, were engaged by the 352nd. 4 destroyed, others disappeared. Major Beckham destroyed his second E/A in this area. Fw190 had belly tanks well fared to the fuselage giving overall appearance similar to P-47s. 2 B-17s seen going down west of Arlon, six chutes seen. One e/a seen shot down by bombers. E/A appeared to be aggressive and after split S ing would zoom up and position themselves to the rear of the fighters. Vicinity of Cambrai, 8 T/E E/A seen on airfield. The E/A strafed by Major Beckham who observed to his dismay that they were made of light fabric. Lt Col. Rimerman, 1st Lt. Herfurth and 1st Lt. Thistlethwaite of Group HQ participated.

Claims:

1 Fw190 destroyed Capt. Dinse 350th

1 Me109 destroyed Major Beckham 351st

1 Fw190 destroyed Major Beckham 351st

1 Fw190 destroyed Capt. Robertson 352nd

1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Armstrong 352nd

1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Callans 352nd

1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Corrigan 352nd

350th: Lt Col Rimerman. T/U 11:01 hrs. T/D 13:50 hrs. Total flight time 02:49 hrs. L/F in Knocke, 11:40 hrs, 24,000ft. R/V 12:11 hrs, 26,500ft. Loose. P-38, P-47. Fw190, Me109 after R/V 15-16,000ft. Left bombers Nouzonville, 12:40 hrs, 20,000ft. Left coast Gravelines, 13:17 hrs, 15,000ft. No flak. R/T good. Barges at Calais.

Lt Col Ben Rimerman (Sqdn Ldr)
Col Henry R. Spicer (Observer*)
1st Lt William J. Price
2nd Lt Kenneth Chetwood
Capt Charles W. Dinse (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt John H. Winder
1st Lt Wayne K. Blickenstaff
1st Lt Robert S. Hart
1st Lt Roland N. McKean (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Chauncey Rowan
1st Lt Carl W. Mueller

*Col. Henry R. Spicer, then Executive Officer of the 66th Fighter Wing, flew Col Rimerman’s wing to observe and gain experience.

At 12.15 hrs, just after R/V, in the vicinity of Luxembourg Capt. Charles W. Dinse claimed an Fw190 destroyed:

I was leading Red flight in the lead Squadron when I spotted one lone Fw190 coming in on the lead flight from about 3 o’clock at the same altitude (about 25,000ft). My number 3 and 4 men (Blickenstaff and Hart) had to return early so I only had two ships.

I let the e/a continue into the flight ahead until he just about positioned himself to shoot – his action put him right in front of me about 250 to 300 yards. He made his mistake by coming in from down Sun, blocking me out of his vision. As soon as he put himself in a good position for me to shoot I opened up. Immediately after I opened fire I observed strikes on his right wing. He broke to the right and started a roll and then headed down continuing his roll. I believe that he made two or more rolls going down. I followed him through his rolls, rolling with him and firing all of the way. Just as we were about through the second roll I observed many strikes in the cockpit after which the e/a apparently went down out of control and went hell bent for the good earth. I last saw him as he disappeared under a cloud (about 2000ft), still gyrating, and going down.

351st: Major Beckham. T/U 11:03 hrs. T/D 14:13 hrs. Total flight time 03:10 hrs. Route: In at Knocke and out at Gravelines. Knocke at 11:42 hrs at 23,000ft. Unit and place unknown at 12:10 hrs at 26,000ft. Good close formation. P-38s, P-51 and P-47S. Me109 destroyed 4 minutes after R/V. Fw190 destroyed. Gravelines at 13:25 hrs. One B-17 attacked by one Me109 south of Liege. Tail section shot off. Four parachutes seen to open. Me109 destroyed by same B-17. Eight dummy E/A seen on airfield. One destroyed by Major Beckham. Two aborts – one belly tank and one engine trouble.

Major Walter C. Beckham (Sqdn Ldr) YJ-X
2nd Lt George F. Perpente YJ-G
1st Lt George N. Ahles YJ-A
2nd Lt William T. Thistlethwaite YJ-R
1st Lt Frank N. Emory (Flt Ldr) YJ-W
2nd Lt Francis L. Edwards YJ-T
F/O Cletus Peterson YJ-P
Capt Vic L. Byers (Flt Ldr) YJ-L 42-75676
2nd Lt Jack Terzian YJ-H
1st Lt William R. Burkett YJ-B
2nd Lt Harry D. Milligan YJ-Y
1st Lt Gordon B. Compton (Flt Ldr) YJ-O
2nd Lt Frank J. Mincik YJ-M
2nd Lt John G. Treitz YJ-H
2nd Lt Irving Toppel YJ-I
2nd Lt Herbert K. Field YJ-F
2nd Lt William S. Marchant (Relay) YJ-N
The publicity machine of the Eighth Air Force made much of the "Ace Race" between Beckham and Bud Mahurin of the 56th Fighter Group. Here they meet in London February 6 after Beckham drew level with 16 victories on February 3, 1944.

The publicity machine of the Eighth Air Force made much of the “Ace Race” between Beckham and Bud Mahurin of the 56th Fighter Group. Here they meet in London February 6 after Beckham drew level with 16 victories on February 3, 1944.

Another publicity shot taken of Beckham and Mahurin - this time in their work clothes. This was probably taken at either Halesworth or Metfield after Beckham drew level. (353rd FG Archive)

Another publicity shot taken of Beckham and Mahurin – this time in their work clothes. This was probably taken at either Halesworth or Metfield after Beckham drew level. (353rd FG Archive)

Beckham claimed his 17th and 18th victory to become the leading ace in the ETO (he had tied with Bud Mahurin of the 56th on February 3, 1944) by shooting down a 109 and a 190:

As we rendezvoused with the leading two wings of bombers at 12.10 hrs, I saw two Me109’s flying parallel with us, about 1000 to 1500 feet above. We used full power climbing up and catching them. Went from about 26,000 to 29,000 feet in the climb. Fired several bursts. The Me109’s flipped over and dove almost straight down, using definite evasive manoeuvres on the way. I stayed about the same distance behind with throttle nearly closed and was unable to get any good shots going down. I pulled out with difficulty. A pilot was seen to bail out of one of the 109s by the other three members of my flight. Col. Rimerman and several others saw one of them crash into the ground.

We regained 25,000 feet of altitude and rejoined the bombers. Twenty plus Fw190’s were observed at three o’clock to the bombers. I chased two of them beneath a cloud in a left turn, picking the one on the inside of the turn. The one on the right pulled up and dived down in what I thought to be an attempt to get on my tail. Because of this, I fired a long burst at about two rings deflection and excessive range in an attempt to finish the job quickly and get into the clouds.

Was agreeably surprised to see strikes, continued firing as I closed. The Fw190 rolled onto his back at about a thousand feet altitude and dove. As I pulled up and to the right I saw him crash into the ground, making a large mass of flames. Went into a cloud right away. Don’t know if the other Fw190 tried to attack me or not.

On the way home, in the clouds, I saw through a break an airfield with eight or ten plus planes parked. I was able to line up three or four of these in a dive down Sun from about six thousand feet at about 400mph indicated. Encountered no return fire although a flak tower was just northeast of the field.

Was disappointed to see as I passed over the planes that they were dummies. They were models of He111s, Me110s and at least one Me109. Believe it almost impossible that we will ever see such tempting targets sitting close together, un-camouflaged, that are not Nazi tricks. Recommend that we confine our attacks on planes on the ground to those more definitely identifiable as the real McCoy.

Encountered no ground fire on the one hour five minute trip home, until reaching the enemy coast. I flew in clouds at four to six thousand feet. Light and heavy AA fire as I crossed out west of Calais was all behind me and mostly to the right.

A contemporary newspaper cartoon of Beckham's exploits (353rd FG Archive).

A contemporary newspaper cartoon of Beckham’s exploits (353rd FG Archive).

 

Press report of Beckham's victories.

A press report of Beckham’s victories. A day of victories for the 353rd was obscured by the press following the wider story of the “Ace Race” (353rd FG Archive).

352nd: Capt Robertson. T/U 11:02 hrs. T/D 14:05 hrs. Total flight time 03:03 hrs. Made landfall on course over Knocke at 11:42 hrs, 25,000ft. R/Vd with two combat wings of B-17s at approx intended R/V point at 12:10 hrs at 30,000ft. Bombers were in two combat wings and others were reported far behind these. Two Fortresses seen going down west of Arlon; one chute observed from the first B-17 and five from the second. Other fighters seen were P-38s and P-51s. One group of 47s seen coming in as we withdrew. Our Squadron observed three Me109s and thirty plus Fw190s in the St. Hubert area. E/A were flying at 20,000-28,000ft. These E/A were colored a light gray with red stripes around the fuselage. Some of these E/A had a brilliant red colored “V” laying on its side just ahead of the cross on the fuselage, the apex of the “V” pointing towards the engine. E/A were using belly tanks that were faired into the fuselage making them look like the 47. Our planes out turned and out climbed E/A but the E/A seemed to stay with them in a dive. Believed we left bombers near Revin at approx 12:40 hrs at an altitude of 23,000ft. Left coast over Mardyck at 13:18 hrs at 20,000ft. 8/10ths low cloud, base 5,000ft prevailed over the combat area. 1 Fw190 destroyed Capt. Robertson, 1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Corrigan, 1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Callans and 1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Amstrong. Rounds Fired: Juntilla 115, Corrigan 1256, Robertson 880, Armstrong 1748, Streit 740, Owens 104, Stiff 91 and Callans 480. 1 P-47 Cat A.

Capt Raynor E. Robertson (Sqdn Ldr) SX-R
2nd Lt Richard V. Keywan SX-Q
2nd Lt Clifford F. Armstrong SX-F
1st Lt Edward M. Fogarty SX-A
1st Lt Jesse W. Gonnam (Flt Ldr) SX-X
2nd Lt Glenn G. Callans SX-V 42-75445
1st Lt William F. Streit SX-N
2nd Lt Hildreth R. Owens SX-Z
Capt Wilbert H. Juntilla (Flt Ldr) SX-K
2nd Lt Donald J. Corrigan SX-R?
2nd Lt Edison G. Stiff SX-W
1st Lt Herman Herfurth SX-J

 

Wakeford Red flight, led by 1st Lt. Jesse W. Gonnam, called in the bandits and requested cover while his flight attacked:

After R/V with the bombers, Roughman leader attacked two 109s and the group gave top cover. After this engagement I went on up to the right rear of the bombers. Wakeford Squadron was above and behind me and after sighting 5 e/a I called for help and a few seconds later started down to bounce. We pulled in behind the e/a and I pulled to the right to identify them. They proved to be 190’s but were hard to identify because of a faired belly tank, giving the appearance of a P47. I called the flight saying that they were 190s and to attack. I slid in behind the nearest plane and at about 125 yards pulled the trigger but my guns wouldn’t fire. My no 2 man, Lt. Callans, fired on the 190 on my right and hit him with a good burst, causing a large cloud of black smoke to come from it. This e/a may have blown up because as I pulled up and passed over him my aircraft was forced upward as if something had exploded under it. Five 190s were behind us and I pulled into them head on. They were light grey with red outlined crosses. They pulled in behind me and I used full power with boost to out-climb and out turn them. They were bounced by other flights from the Squadron. I climbed to 30,000ft and came out alone to the coast where I joined some of the Squadron and came home.

Although Lt. Gonnam was unable to make a claim he was able to confirm that of his wing man, 1st Lt Glen G. Callans:

About 10 minutes after R/V Red flight turned left and was approaching the bombers. Red leader called in five bogies approaching the bombers from the right side at bomber level. The bogies were identified as Fw190s and our flight started a bounce. I was on the leader’s wing and immediately said ‘I’ll take the one on the extreme right’. I pulled in to about 200 yards and about 10 degrees deflection and fired a short burst. After I fired the burst the 190 belched a large cloud of black smoke. He pulled up sharply and I fired two more bursts. At the top of his zoom he rolled over and started down. I followed firing two more bursts, closing rapidly to about 150 yards. The e/a used no evasive action going down. At this time I felt a shudder and looked back. Another Fw190 was firing at me at close range. I then made an aileron roll to the left and broke off the attack. I didn’t see the e/a I was striking after this. I continued down and pulled out below the clouds, the base of which was 5,000ft. I remained at this altitude and returned home.

Callans escaped with his Thunderbolt’s tail badly shot up by 20mm canon. The second element of the flight, led by 1st Lt William F. Streit was close behind:

There were five 190s flying below and at 4 o’clock to the bombers. Lt. Gonnam, my flight leader, called them in and asked for cover while we went down on them. On the way down I tried to fix my gunsight as it was very dim; in trying to fix it, it went out. We came in directly behind the e/a’s. I took the third one on the left as my flight leader and his wingman were on my right. I closed to about 350 yards and began firing. The e/a must have noticed me after my second burst because he split S’d and down he went. I moved over behind the next one and began firing on him. He rolled over and went down. We noticed a couple of bursts of white smoke in front of us which meant that there were a couple of e/a behind us. We did a big chandelle and got away from them. After levelling off I noticed a 190 on a P47s tail which we immediately moved in on and fired a burst on him and down he went in a split S. We didn’t follow him down as there were so many a/c in the vicinity and our flight was broken up.

Covering the fight were White and Blue flights. Leading White flight was Capt Raynor E. Robertson who was awarded an Fw190 destroyed:

Red flight sighted and attacked a flight of five Me109s. I was covering them when 15 or 20 more 190s came down on them. I bounced them with White and Blue flights. At that time I attacked one 190 that was on the tail of another P-47. I took one burst from 475 yards that struck the e/a on the bottom of the fuselage. On my second burst many strikes were observed on the canopy. On my third burst I saw many more strikes from wing tip to wing tip. At this time I had closed to around 375 or 350 yards.

The last I saw of the e/a he was spinning down at about 3000ft out of control. I believe it was impossible for him to pull out, so I made for home.

Flying the number three position in White flight was 1st Lt Clifford F. Armstrong, who was also able to destroy and Fw190:

We were just making R/V with the bombers at about 30,000ft when seven or eight 190s came in from about five o’clock to us. I called the flight and White 4 and myself immediately broke to the right. At that point I became separated from the rest of the flight. I was stooging around by myself at about 28000ft and at about five o’clock to the bombers when I saw two e/a make a pass through the bomber formation from the down Sun side. They made a wide left turn behind the formation and I dove behind them out of the Sun. I used water boost and gradually gained on them. I fired a very short burst from about 400 yards. I didn’t get any strikes at that time. I don’t think they saw me until I fired because when I fired the leader immediately broke to the right and down and the number 4 that I was after followed shortly taking violent evasive action. We started down in a steep dive from about 20000ft. I had closed up to about 300 yards and was firing a long burst. I observed strikes around the cockpit and the e/a immediately did a violent snap roll and continued down. I fired another long burst and got more strikes around the cockpit. I believe I hit the pilot as the e/a did not take any further evasive action and I last saw him disappear into a cloud at about 5 to 6000ft, going straight down. Judging from both the altitude and the attitude of the e/a when he disappeared into the clouds. I do not believe the pilot could have pulled out even if he had remained uninjured.

Armstrong’s wing man, 1st Lt Edison G. Stiff, saw seven Fw190s pass over head but they started down when he tried to climb up to them. Before following them down he saw another in the Sun, which turned into him. He fired from 800 yards and it snap rolled to the deck.

Wakeford Blue flight also gave cover to Red flight. Leading was Capt Wilbert H. Juntilla:

These 5 Me109s were being engaged by Red flight when 20 plus 190s bounced them from 4 o’clock to the bombers. I attacked this large gaggle of 190s and began to go around with one in my sights when I noticed one on my tail, firing at me. I broke into him and found I was alone among about 5 190s. I dove to about 10,000ft and joined Lt. Gonnam (Red Leader) with the 190 still following me. Both Lt. Gonnam and I used evasive action to keep them from us. Then a flight of P47s came down, forcing the 190s to go to the deck. Red leader and I then climbed to 28,000ft and proceeded home.

Juntilla’s wing man was 1st Lt. Donald J. Corrigan who was able to destroy an Fw190:

We were called on to help Red flight and we dove down. As we got there I picked out a Fw190 and fired. We went into a very steep dive and I followed as there were plenty of P47s in the area. I fired six or eight bursts from 12,000ft down to 5,000ft where he pulled out under the clouds. I only saw 2 or 3 strikes on the way down. I had trouble keeping my sights on him as dirt from the cockpit floor got in my eyes, and my ears were blocked causing much pain.

When he levelled out at about 3,000ft I started to go by him so I chopped the throttle and began to walk the rudders. He was to my right, almost abreast of me. He pulled into a tight left turn and dove slightly. I saw a piece come off which looked like a wing tip or a piece of the tail. About the same time he started a slow roll going down about 45 degrees. He made about three rolls and at this time we were right on the deck. His wing caught on the top of a tree which cart wheeled him along the ground into a hillside and he crashed. The plane was completely demolished but I did not see it burn. I then climbed up to 15,000ft to rejoin.

About 20 miles further on I spotted a slate grey 190 on top the clouds going in the same direction. I dove down on him and lined up behind him at about 500 yards. He wagged his wings so I held my fire. He made a slight turn to the left and I made sure of its identity and then made ready to fire. About this time he saw his mistake and rolled and split S’d. I fired a long burst as he rolled. I did not follow as my ammunition and gas were getting low.

Group ERTNS/Abort/Damaged:

42-75676 ABT excessive vibration YJ-L Capt. Byers flying.
42-75457 ABT broken glass elbow YJ-?* Unknown
42-75271 ERTN landing gear stuck SX-G** Unknown
42-75875 ERTN manifold pressure SX-M*** Unknown
42-75445 BD Cat A SX-V Lt. Callans flying.

*This aircraft later became YJ-A and was lost with Lt. Farley May 28, 1944. It cannot be YJ-A as no abort was recorded for that aircraft for this mission and aircraft 42-75850 carried that code until March 4, 1944. My hunch is that it was coded YJ-B as the other abort for the mission, but I cannot yet confirm this.

** The Control Tower Log at Metfield records SX-G buzzing the field at 11:10 hrs and landing safely at 11:23 hrs. It is not listed as flying the mission.

*** SX-M is not listed on the mission schedule for the day.

 

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Mission#75 February 6, 1944 -Target: Nancy Airfield.

Date: Feb 6, 44

Dispatched: 46 Aborts: 0

Mission: Penetration support to 2nd ATF, 300 B-17’s (1st Div)

Field Order: 236 Target: Nancy Airfield

Time Up/Down: 09:53 hrs     13:05 hrs Leader: Lt Col. Rimerman

Claims Air: 00-00-00 Claims Ground: 00-00-00 Lost/Damaged: 00-00

Group made L/F over Gravelines 10:35 hrs, 21,000ft. R/V 1st Div B-17s 11:00 hrs, 17,000ft. 10/10 overcast no check points. Individual bombers generally in good close formation, however some CWs considerably separated from others. P-47s, 38s and 51s observed with bombers. No E/A seen. Left bombers 11:30 hrs making L/F out over Gravelines 12:25 hrs, 20,000ft. Lt Col. Rimerman, 1st Lt. Thistlethwaite and 1st Lt. Herfurth of Group HQ participated.

350th: Capt. Pidduck. T/U 09:58 hrs. T/D 12:57 hrs. Total flight time 02:59 hrs. L/F on course 10:36 hrs, 25,000ft. R/V with lead box on course at 11:00 hrs, 32,000ft. Close. P-38S, P-51, P-47. No e/a. Left bombers 11:30 hrs, 30,000ft. Left coast on course 12:25 hrs, 25,000ft. R/T normal. No flak. 10/10 strata cumulus overcast over enemy territory.

Capt Stanley R. Pidduck (Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt Charles O. Durant
1st Lt John Zolner
1st Lt John H. Winder
1st Lt John Sullivan (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Chauncey Rowan
1st Lt Joseph F. Furness
1st Lt Carl W. Mueller
1st Lt John L. Devane (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Tom Lorance
1st Lt Wayne K. Blickenstaff
1st Lt Robert S. Hart
1st Lt William J. Price
1st Lt William F. Tanner

351st: Capt. Lefebre. T/U 09:58 hrs. T/D 13:10 hrs. Total flight time 03:12 hrs. Route: In at Gravelines, over Vitry, out at Calais. Gravelines at 10:35 hrsat 22,000ft. Unit unknown at Fromentieres at 11:06 hrsat 26,000ft. Good close bomber formation. Observed P-38s, P-51s and P-47s. Vitry at 11:28 hrs at 26,000ft. Calais at 12:26 hrs at 24,000ft. [2 early returns - Lt. Field mechanical trouble and F/O Peterson turbo trouble].

Capt Frederick H. Lefebre (Sqdn Ldr) YJ-L
1st Lt Harry F. Hunter YJ-H
1st Lt George N. Ahles YJ-A
2nd Lt George F. Perpente YJ-R
1st Lt Gordon B. Compton (Sqdn Ldr) YJ-O
2nd Lt Irving Toppel YJ-I
2nd Lt William T. Thistlethwaite YJ-X
2nd Lt Harry D. Milligan YJ-Y
Capt Vic L. Byers (Flt Ldr) YJ-W
2nd Lt John G. Treitz YJ-H
1st Lt William R. Burkett YJ-B
2nd Lt Jack Terzian YJ-P
1st Lt Frank N. Emory (Flt Ldr) YJ-S
2nd Lt Francis L. Edwards YJ-M
2nd Lt Herbert K. Field YJ-F 42-75570
F/O Cletus Peterson YJ-U

352nd: Lt Col. Rimerman. T/U 09:53 hrs. T/D 13:06 hrs. Total flight time 03:13 hrs. Penetration support to 2nd ATF B-17s (1st Div). Made landfall Mardyck at 10:36 hrs at 24,000ft. R/V with bombers at10:56 hrs, 26,000ft area unknown. Good close Wing formation in trail. P-38s, P-51s and P-47s. 6 E/A made one pass at the bombers just before we made R/V with them. We were unable to engage them. Left bombers at 11:28 hrs at 21,000ft, vicinity unknown. Left coast over Gravelines at 12:22 hrs at 20,000ft. Moderate, heavy flak from St. Omer, accurate for position but inaccurate for altitude. “A” channel good, “C” channel good while we were escorting the bombers. 2 small boats believed to have been landing craft were seen on the beach at Gravelines. Coastal areas were open but sky became 10/10 overcast of low cloud inland. Course: Landfall, R/V, Bombers split, 20-354 R/V withdraw, L/F out, Home. 17 down Metfield 13:06 and 1 down Manston (Lt. Stiff).

Lt Col Ben Rimerman (Gp & Sqdn Ldr) SX-H
2nd Lt Maurice Morrison SX-R
1st Lt Clinton H. Sperry SX-E
2nd Lt Clifford F. Armstrong SX-F
Capt Wilbert H. Juntilla (Flt Ldr) SX-K
2nd Lt Donald J. Corrigan SX-A
1st Lt William F. Streit SX-T
2nd Lt Hildreth R. Owens SX-G
Capt Raynor E. Robertson (Flt Ldr) SX-S
1st Lt Herman Herfurth SX-J
1st Lt Gordon L. Willits SX-X
2nd Lt Glenn G. Callans SX-N
1st Lt Edward M. Fogarty (Flt Ldr) SX-O
2nd Lt Richard V. Keywan SX-Q
1st Lt Robert P. Geurtz SX-D
2nd Lt Edison G. Stiff SX-W
1st Lt Gordon S. Burlingame (Spare) SX-Z
1st Lt Charles W. Kipfer (Spare) SX-V

Group DNTO/ERTNs:

42-75570 DNTO no belly tank pressure YJ-F Lt. Field flying.*
42-22472 DNTO radio burnt out LH-?

 *351st Squadron records indicate Lt. Field did take-off and flew for 45minutes on the mission. He was not awarded a credit for the mission.

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Mission#74 February 5, 1944 -Target: Romilly sur Seine/Villacoublay. The Loss of Lt. Edgar J. Albert, 351st Fighter Squadron.

Date: Feb 5, 44

Dispatched: 42 Aborts: 3

Mission: Support to 3rd ATF, 180 B-17’s (3rd Div)

Field Order: 235 Target: Romilly sur Seine/Villacoublay

Time Up/Down: 09:49 hrs     13:31 hrs Leader: Lt Col. Duncan

Claims Air: 01-00-00Claims Ground: 00-00-00 Lost/Damaged: 01-00

Group R/V’d with bombers 10.40 hrs just prior to L/F north of Dieppe, 25000ft. Proceeded with three boxes of 3rd Div bombers who were in good formation to target leaving them 11:25 hrs. Out Le Treport 12:17 hrs, 18,000ft. Six Me109s about to make a head-on attack on the bombers in strong formation target area. Attack dispersed E/A being lost in clouds. Two Fw190s about to attack rear 2nd box of bombers vicinity Sancerre engaged by White and Red flights of the 351st – 1 destroyed. White smoking object, size of small bomb in corkscrew twist seen spiralling downward this area. On way home White flight bounced by three Fw190s out of the Sun at 15,000ft NE of Orleans. Lt. Albert last seen levelling out after taking evasive action this area. No hits observed. One unknown single engine low wing single tail A/C seen flying at 39,000ft at Rouen. This A/C dove and disappeared when one of our pilots reached 34,000ft. One flight out Fecamp 12:28 hrs, 10,000ft. Other P-47s, 51s and Spitfires seen with bombers. Lt Col. Duncan and 1st Lt. Thistlethwaite of Group HQ participated.

350th: Capt Pidduck. T/U09:50 hrs. T/D 13:10hrs. Total flight time 03:20 hrs. L/F in on course 10:38 hrs, 24,000ft. R/V with bombers on course 10:50 hrs, 23,000ft. Good. Spitfires, P-51s. No e/a. Left bombers on course, 11:20 hrs, 28,000ft. Left coast Cayeux on time, 26,000ft. About 10 heavy bursts N of Paris, accurate as to altitude. R/T normal visibility good in target area.

Capt Stanley R. Pidduck (Sqdn Ldr)
Capt John B. Rose
1st Lt William F. Tanner
1st Lt Charles O. Durant
1st Lt John L. Devane (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Tom Lorance
1st Lt John Zolner
1st Lt Richard A. Stearns
1st Lt Wayne K. Blickenstaff (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Robert S. Hart
1st Lt Melvin P. Dawson
2nd Lt Kenneth Chetwood
Capt Robert E. Fortier (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Carl W. Mueller
1st Lt Joseph F. Furness
1st Lt Chauncey Rowan

351st: Lt Col. Duncan. T/U 09:40 hrs. T/D 12:50 hrs. Total flight time 03:10 hrs. Route: In north of Dieppe, over Fontainbleau, out north of Dieppe. North of Dieppe at 10:42 hrs at 25,000ft. Lead box eight minutes after landfall at 10:50 hrs at 26,000ft. First box good, other fair. P-47s and Spitfires low and high. Fontainbleau at 11:15 hrs at 28,000ft. North of Dieppe at 11:57 hrs at 27,000ft. Remarks: Bombers five to ten minutes late, causing us to withdraw sooner than planned. 3 down at Manston, 4 down at Tangmere. One P-47 abort engine cutting out at altitude [presumably Lt Terzian].

Lt Col Glenn E. Duncan (Gp & Sqdn Ldr) YJ-X
2nd Lt William T. Thistlethwaite YJ-N
1st Lt George N. Ahles YJ-A
2nd Lt Edgar J. Albert YJ-P 42-75161
1st Lt Gordon B. Compton (Flt Ldr) YJ-O
F/O Joseph E. Wood YJ-W
2nd Lt Herbert K. Field YJ-F
2nd Lt Don M. Hurlburt YJ-H
Capt Frederick H. Lefebre (Flt Ldr) YJ-L
2nd Lt Irving Toppel YJ-R
1st Lt Harry F. Hunter YJ-H 42-8379
2nd Lt Francis L. Edwards YJ-T
1st Lt William R. Burkett (Flt Ldr) YJ-B
2nd Lt Jack Terzian YJ-V 42-7958
2nd Lt John G. Treitz YJ-P
2nd Lt Harry D. Milligan YJ-Y

Lt Col. Duncan led White flight to bounce two Fw190’s coming in at 20,000ft. They were chased line astern in a diving left turn as they tried to get down on the deck. Duncan caught one and shot it down. After this action White flight got into difficulties south of Paris as 1st Lt George N. Ahles explained:

I was flying #3 in Roughman White flight. Lt Albert was #4, my wing man. At 11.30 hrs Lt Col. Duncan, the flight leader, had taken the flight down against two Fw190’s near Joigny. On the way down I called Lt. Albert asking him if he were behind me, and I think he said yes. We climbed back to 15000ft, started home, flying line abreast. Lt. Albert was about 300 ft to my right; Lt Col Duncan and Lt Thistlethwaite being on my left. At 11.45 to 11.50 hrs we were bounced by three Me109’s coming out of the Sun and from the clouds, straight down on us near Augerville. I called saying ‘Break right’ three or four times. There was no reply from Lt. Albert. Lt Albert broke to his left in a rolling, diving turn. I turned to the right in order to attack the e/a which was behind him about 1000 yards. I did not notice the e/a fire his guns. The e/a immediately disengaged and headed inland. Lt. Albert began to pull out of his dive and level off at 6000ft. I turned toward the other two e/a which broke to the right and up, and then headed north. We circled the area looking for Lt. Albert, both Lt Col. Duncan and I calling him on the radio. There was no reply.

1st Lt.Edgar J. Albert (0-793477) of the 351st Fighter Squadron lost on February 5, 1944. (353rd Archive)

1st Lt.Edgar J. Albert (0-793477) of the 351st Fighter Squadron lost on February 5, 1944. (353rd Archive)

Lt. Albert's mission and award record - click for larger view (353rd FG Archive).

Lt. Albert’s mission and award record – click for larger view (353rd FG Archive).

Flying in the White two position was 1st Lt. William T. Thistlethwaite:

At about 12.45 hrs we were slightly south west of Paris and north east of Orleans, flying line abreast, with Lt. Albert on the extreme right and me on the extreme left. We were observing two bogies ahead of us when three Me109’s bounced us from the right rear. Lt. Ahles called break right, and all did but Lt. Albert broke left and down, at the same time noticing what I’m sure was acceleration smoke. I watched him going down. Col. Duncan called him on the R/T several times but received no answer. It is my belief that Lt. Albert did not suffer any damage from the bounce. We proceeded to the coast.

It was not clear what exactly had happened to Lt. Albert, but the Red Cross reported him buried by the Germans a few days later. Lt. Albert was not flying his usual aircraft YJ-U named “Doris” for the wife he had married just before leaving the United States. His Squadron friend George Perpente wrote to tell her the bad news. Lt. Albert is buried in the Brittany American Cemetery and you can read more details HERE. The Missing Air Crew Report number for further reference is 2128. Lt. Albert’s niece, Denise Viesta, has also been in touch and kindly sent the following newspaper clippings from the time.

352nd: Major Bailey. T/U 09:49hrs. T/D 13:10 hrs. Total flight time 03:21 hrs. Course: C Griz Nez, Cayeau, R/V, withdraw, Boulogne, Home. Landfall in at Dieppe at 10:40 hrs, 5 miles W of Cayeau at 24,000ft. Bombers were flying an in-trail position good and close. Other fighters observed were Spitfires, P-47s and P-51s. 6 Me109s observed about 10 miles S of target area 24,000ft. No combat resulted. Left bombers over the target area at 11:25 hrs at 28,000ft. Left enemy coast at 12:17 hrs at 28,000ft over Le Treport. Moderate heavy flak, accurate for height but to the right was encountered in vicinity of Melun. Meager, inaccurate flak was directed at the bombers from Rouen. No bombers seen in trouble over entire route. R/T reception poor, jamming was consistent. 4/10 scattered cumulus, middle cloud. Contrails from 24,000ft. 1 early return Rouen (Lt. Stiff – smoke in cockpit, lack of oxygen). 9 down Metfield 13:10 hrs, 2 down Leiston, 1 down Hawkinge, 1 down East Church, 1 down Framlingham.

Major William B. Bailey (Sqdn Ldr) SX-H
2nd Lt Richard V. Keywan SX-N
1st Lt Edward M. Fogarty SX-O
2nd Lt William S. Marchant SX-E
1st Lt Jesse W. Gonnam (Flt Ldr) SX-F
2nd Lt Maurice Morrison SX-R
1st Lt Gordon L. Willits SX-X
2nd Lt Hildreth R. Owens SX-T
Capt Wilbert H. Juntilla (Flt Ldr) SX-G
2nd Lt Edison G. Stiff SX-W 42-22751
1st Lt Gordon S. Burlingame SX-V
2nd Lt Donald J. Corrigan SX-Q
1st Lt Robert P. Geurtz (Spare) SX-D
2nd Lt Joseph A. Schillinger (Spare) SX-J

Group Aborts/ERTNs:

42-7958 ABT oil leak YJ-V Lt. Terzian flying.
42-74647 ABT radio reception LH-U
42-22751 ABT cockpit smoke SX-W* Lt. Stiff flying.
42-8373 ERTN radio reception LH-Y? Not confirmed as code.
42-8379 ERTN cockpit gas fumes YJ-H Lt. Hunter flying.
42-75161 MIA YJ-P** Lt. Albert flying.

*I can confirm that a/c 42-22751 is SX-W and not SX-X as listed in Squadron records for February3, 1944.

**YJ-P was usually Lt. King’s aircraft. He last flew on January 11, 1944 when YJ-P was still P47D-2-RE 42-7972 “Gator Bait.” He may not have taken possession of YJ-P P-47D-10-RE 42-75161at this point as four different pilots had flown it, but not King before it was lost with Lt. Albert.

 

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Mission#73 February 4, 1944 – Target: Frankfurt.

Date: Feb 4, 44

Dispatched: 45 Aborts: 2

Mission: Withdrawal support to 2nd ATF, 360 B-17’s (3rd Div)

Field Order: 234 Target: Frankfurt

Time Up/Down: 11:47 hrs     14:24 hrs Leader: Lt Col Rimerman

Claims Air: 00-00-00Claims Ground: 00-00-00 Lost/Damaged: 00-00

Group made L/F at Flushing, 21,000ft, 12:25 hrs. Flew on course to planned R/V where 1st Div B-17s and some B-24s were met at 12:52 hrs, 25,000ft. 10/10ths overcast – no check points. Proceeded to Brussels area on Parker’s instructions. Out enemy coast at Ostend 13:40 hrs, 15,000ft. Individual boxes in good formation. Winds appeared less than forecast. No e/a seen. Shortly after L/F in, Group observed bombers escorted by P-38s and some P-47s on way out. When Group coming out enemy coast many boxes of 3rd Div bombers seen in mid Channel flying towards the Straits of Dover. Lt Col. Rimerman, 1st Lt. Herfurth and 1st Lt. Thistlethwaite of Group HQ participated.

350th: Lt Col. Rimerman. T/U 11:45 hrs. T/D 14:20 hrs. Total flight time 02:35 hrs. L/F in on course at 12:22 hrs, 20,000ft. R/V with bombers on course, 12:52 hrs, 24,000ft. Fairly good. No e/a. L/F left bombers. Left coast Ostend, 13:40 hrs. 5/10th at 3000ft layer of patchy cirrus at 18,000ft.

Lt Col Ben Rimerman (Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt Melvin P. Dawson
2nd Lt Kenneth Chetwood
1st Lt John Zolner
1st Lt John L. Devane (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Tom Lorance
1st Lt William F. Tanner
1st Lt Richard A. Stearns
Capt Charles W. Dinse (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Wayne K. Blickenstaff
1st Lt Robert S. Hart
Capt Robert E. Fortier (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Carl W. Mueller
1st Lt Joseph F. Furness
1st Lt Chauncey Rowan

351st: Major Beckham. T/U 11:40 hrs. T/D 14:20 hrs. Total flight time 02:40 hrs. Route: In at Flushing, over Stavelot, out at Flushing. Flushing at 12:25 hrs at 26,000ft. Good close formation. P-38s seen coming out while Squadron going in. 8 P-51s seen with bombers on R/V. P-47s seen going in when Squadron coming out. Stavelot (estimated) at 13:05 hrs at 25,000ft. Flushing at 13:29 hrs at 16,000ft. Balloon, shaped like barrage balloon, seen at St. Trond at 20,000ft. Aircraft seen taxiing on St. Inglevert airfield. 1 abort oil leak [this does not fit with the 3 aborts and1 early return reported in other Squadron records].

Major Walter C. Beckham (Sqdn Ldr) YJ-X
2nd Lt William T. Thistlethwaite YJ-R
1st Lt George N. Ahles YJ-A
2nd Lt Irving Toppel YJ-I
1st Lt William R. Burkett (Flt Ldr) YJ-B
2nd Lt Hassell D. Stump YJ-N
2nd Lt John G. Treitz YJ-P
2nd Lt Harry D. Milligan YJ-Y
1st Lt Gordon B. Compton (Flt Ldr) YJ-D
F/O Joseph E. Wood YJ-W
2nd Lt Herbert K. Field YJ-F
2nd Lt Don M. Hurlburt YJ-H
2nd Lt Francis L. Edwards (Flt Ldr) YJ-M 42-75114
2nd Lt Edgar J. Albert (Relay) YJ-H
Capt Frederick H. Lefebre YJ-L
2nd Lt Jack Terzian YJ-G
1st Lt Harry F. Hunter YJ-P

352nd: Capt. Robertson. T/U 11:52 hrs. T/D 14:21 hrs. Total flight time 02:29 hrs. Withdrawal support to 2nd ATF (3rd Div) B-17s. 1 abort (Capt. Robertson-oil leak). Landfall made over Flushing, 23,000 ft, 12:28 hrs. R/V with 24 CWs of B-17s near Malmedy at 12:42 at 24,000ft. Bombers were believed to be of the 1st Div. One CW of B-24s seen in the immediate vicinity. Bomber formation was good, close and easy to cover. Observed other P-47s and P-38s. Left bombers at 22,000ft over Brussels at 13:15hrs. Left coast at Knocke at 13:28 at 20,000ft. No unusual flak. R/T exceptionally good. No sea activity. 8 to 9/10 cloud coverage prevailed over the continent with tops at 24,000ft. Parts of the continent were observed to be covered with snow. Course: Landfall, R/V, withdraw, landfall out, home.

Capt Raynor E. Robertson (Sqdn Ldr) SX-S
1st Lt Herman Herfurth SX-E
1st Lt Gordon L. Willits SX-X
1st Lt Charles W. Kipfer SX-Q
Capt Wilbert H. Juntilla (Flt Ldr) SX-F
2nd Lt Richard V. Keywan SX-Y
1st Lt Gordon S. Burlingame SX-G
2nd Lt Hildreth R. Owens SX-D?
Capt Charles J. Hoey (Flt Ldr) SX-A
2nd Lt William S. Marchant SX-N
1st Lt Robert P. Geurtz SX-D?
2nd Lt Joseph A. Schillinger SX-J
1st Lt Edward M. Fogarty (Flt Ldr) SX-O
1st Lt William J. Jordan SX-T
2nd Lt Donald J. Corrigan SX-Z
2nd Lt Maurice Morrison SX-R
1st Lt James N. Poindexter SX-H

Group ERTN/Aborts:

42-75114 ABT no belly tank pressure YJ-M Lt. Edwards flying.
42-75676 ABT rough engine ?*
42-8378 ERTN gas smell in oxygen system LH-?
42-8005 ERTN tach out LH-?

*This could be Capt. Robertson from the 352nd. For some unknown reason the other aborts or early returns from the 351st by Capt. Lefebre and Lts. Hunter and Terzian were not recorded by the Group.

 

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Mission#72 February 3, 1944 – Target: Wilhelmshaven. The loss of Capt. Wilford F. Hurst, Lt. David C. Kenney and Lt. Lloyd A. Thornell.

Date: Feb 3, 44

Dispatched: 47 Aborts: 5

Mission: Penetration support to 2nd ATF, 360 B-17’s (1st Div)

Field Order: 233 Target: Wilhelmshaven

Time Up/Down: 09:47 hrs 13:25 hrs Leader: Major Bailey

Claims Air: 02-02-01Claims Ground: 00-00-00 Lost/Damaged: 03-03

Group made R/V with 3rd Div bombers, 24,000ft, 10:30 hrs. Believed to be about ten miles off enemy coast. Individual boxes in close formation, however, CW [combat wings] considerably spread out. Shortly after R/V two CW were seen to make 180 degree turn and apparently return. Group continued escort with bombers until they made turn at IP. At this time, 12+ Me109s were observed above at 32,000ft in the vicinity of Quakenbruck. The 350th Squadron climbed to attack with the 352nd as cover. When attacked, these E/A split “s” to the deck, two being destroyed. During a simultaneous attack on one of these E/A Capt. Hurst and Capt. Newhart collided resulting in the tail being cut from Capt. Hurst’s plane which went down – no chute observed. Seven Fw190s observed by one flight of the 351st Squadron in this general area, one destroyed. Two flights of the 351st continued escort over target and out Ameland Island. Majority of Group withdrew at 11:20 hrs making L/F out vicinity Ijmuiden 25,000ft, approx. 12:15 hrs. One pilot returning on deck attacked three tankers in Zuider Zee off Kampen. Two small transports damaged, one left burning of Ameland Island. Six U-boats and four M/Vs observed Ijmuiden harbour. Lt. Thornell’s engine cut out at about 900 feet over the Channel. In attempt to ditch A/C appeared to stall and crash. Search by escort for dingy was to no avail. Unable to contact bombers on “C” channel. Pilots complained markings on bombers are indiscernible unless practically on top of them. Lts. Thistlethwaite and Herfurth of Group HQ participated.

Missing:

Capt. Hurst, 350th. Result of a mid-air collision.

Lt.Thornell, 351st. Down in North Sea, believed engine failure.

Lt. Kenney, 351st. Reason unknown.

Claims:

1 Fw190 destroyed Major Beckham.

1 Me109 destroyed Major Beckham.

1 Me109 destroyed Capt. Newhart (awarded a probable).

1 Me109 damaged Capt. Newhart.

1 Me109 damaged Lt. Ireland (awarded a probable).

350th: Capt Newhart. T/U 10:52 hrs. T/D 13:08 hrs. Total flight time 02:16 hrs. Mid air collision, 1 P-47 LH-M Capt. Hurst. Tail clipped off by P-47 of this Squadron. 1 Me109 destroyed (Capt. Newhart), 2 Me109 dam (Lt. Ireland), 1 Me109 dam (Newhart) [see claims above for awards]. 3-4 tankers Lt. Rowan. L/F overcast 10:35, 26-27,000ft. R/V with 3rd Div on course before L/F at 26-27,000ft. Good close P-47, P-38. 12 Me109 Oldenburg 30-31,000ft left bombers before target, 31,000ft. L/F out Den Helder 16-17,000ft Nil flak, R/T good with fighters. 15 tankers some small boats Zuider Zee. Solid overcast.

Capt Dewey E. Newhart (Sqdn Ldr) LH-V 42-8001
1st Lt Francis T. Walsh
1st Lt Robert N. Ireland
1st Lt Chauncey Rowan
1st Lt Wayne K. Blickenstaff (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Robert S. Hart
1st Lt William F. Tanner
1st Lt Tom Lorance
Capt Wilford F. Hurst (Flt Ldr) LH-M 43-7940
1st Lt Richard A. Stearns
1st Lt Melvin P. Dawson
2nd Lt Kenneth Chetwood
1st Lt John L. Devane (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt John Zolner
1st Lt Roland N. McKean
1st Lt Joseph F. Furness
1st Lt John Sullivan
1st Lt Charles O. Durant

Capt. Newhart, flying Pipeful White Lead, reported:

We had reached the IP with the bombers. I saw a gaggle of contrails at about 4 o’clock but they were too far away to even see any planes. I called them in and proceeded to turn left while still watching them. They came closer and someone called over the R/T that they didn’t look very friendly. I called a right turn to meet them head on. They were approximately 31,000ft and we were at 29,500ft. We were still a long way from them and climbing at full throttle. As we got within 2000 yards of them, they dropped their belly tanks. I called that they were 12 Me109’s. They made no effort to attack us or break formation. I made a left turn and came in from 3 o’clock to them and one flight made a very feeble bounce on 2 P-47’s that were under them. I called for them to break, and the e/a zoomed back up. I pulled in behind two 2 e/a that were lower and to the right of the formation and opened with a burst at about 350 to 400 yards at about 30 degrees deflection, and then came around astern and closing to about 200 yards. I saw hits around the cockpit and the e/a nosed over to the right smoking and went down vertically. I watched him for about 8,000ft and he kept going straight down smoking, making no effort to pull out.

Newhart was awarded the 109 as a probable and then sighted another 109 but the tragic circumstances then intervened:

I came in from about 5 o’clock on this Me109 and opened fire at about 3000 yards. I saw hits on the left wing root, and also saw another P47 coming in from my right, which was firing at about 30 degrees deflection, his wing blanking me out and nearly hitting me. I threw everything in the left corner and went down, trying to avoid collision. At the same time the e/a rolled to the left and was right in my sight. I gave a short burst and observed no results (awarded damaged credit) because a P47 came in over my right wing, hitting my number 1 and 2 guns and cowl; my prop cutting his tail off.

Capt. Wilford F. Hurst of the 350th Squadron lost his life in a tragic accident February 3, 1944. (353rd FG Archive)

Capt. Wilford F. Hurst (0-665802) of the 350th Squadron lost his life in a tragic accident February 3, 1944. (353rd FG Archive)

The second P-47D-1-RE (a/c LH-M 42-7940 “Colleen”) was piloted by Capt. Wilford Frederick Hurst. The leader of Blue flight was last seen going down in a spiral at about 45 degrees. He was unable to leave his aircraft and was later reported killed in action when his aircraft was found 6 km from Vechta/Oldenburg (MACR 2126 refers). You can read a little more on Capt. Hurst HERE.

Newhart, flying Ben Rimerman’s LH-V, was in very serious trouble – his instruments were completely out (at one point he hung a knife on a string to stay level in clouds) and his engine was vibrating as if it were about to leave the aircraft. Only his skills as a pilot and the very rugged Thunderbolt enabled him to get home.

Capt. Dewey Newhart battled to return his aircraft home to Metfield after the collision. The damage is clearly evident in this photo of LH-V (a/c 42-8001). (353rd FG Archive).

Capt. Dewey Newhart battled to return his aircraft home to Metfield after the collision. The damage is clearly evident in this photo of LH-V (a/c 42-8001). (353rd FG Archive).

Flying second element in Newhart’s flight was 1st Lt. Robert Ireland who was also awarded a probable when the 12 109’s were intercepted:

As we met them head on but underneath them, I broke immediately losing sight of Pipeful leader, but the Me109’s continued on course climbing. White and Red flights tried to catch them. As we started closing at about 32000ft, about half of the gaggle split S’d intermittently for the deck, the rest turned sharply left. I got a 60 degree or more deflection shot on one Me109 at 200 yards, and was surprised to see hits about halfway back on the fuselage. The plane snapped and went down smoking in what developed into a vertical dive. I saw him hit the cloud layer which was about 6000ft top, vertically. I then happened to see one other Me109 who must have suddenly realised he was up there all alone, for as I pushed over and shot at him, he was already rolling and heading for the deck. He was taking violent evasive action and I could not see any hits.

Returning early over the Zuider Zee, 1st Lt. Chauncey Rowan saw a line of tankers. Dropping down to 8,000ft he dived out of the sun on them. He got scattered hits on the first two tankers, whilst the third received a concentrated burst and possibly caught fire.

351st: Major Beckham. T/U 09:47 hrs. T/D 13:25 hrs. Total flight time 03:38 hrs. Penetration support. Route: In at Egmond, over south of Oldenburg, out at Den Helder. Lost Lt. Thornell and Lt. Kenney. 1 Fw190 and Me109 destroyed by Major Beckham. 1 transport ship damaged and last seen on fire by Lt. Albert. 1 transport ship damaged by Lt. Thistlethwaite. Egmond at 10:35 hrs at 25,000ft. 3rd Air Division A B C on course at landfall time at 24 to 25,000ft. Close bomber formation. P-38s and P-47s seen. 11 E/A engaged south of Oldenburg at 15 to 31,000ft. Coast north of target at 11:22 hrs, 25,000ft. Den Helder deck to 25,000ft. 40 to 50 small vessels in Emden Harbor. Solid overcast. Damaged boats were heading east, just north of Ameland Island.

Major Walter C. Beckham (Sqdn Ldr) YJ-X
2nd Lt Irving Toppel YJ-N
2nd Lt William T. Thistlethwaite YJ-E
2nd Lt Edgar J. Albert YJ-U
1st Lt Gordon B. Compton (Flt Ldr) YJ-O
F/O Joseph E. Wood YJ-W
2nd Lt Lloyd A. Thornell (MIA) YJ-Q 42-75135
Capt Frederick H. Lefebre (Flt Ldr) YJ-L
2nd Lt John G. Treitz YJ-M
2nd Lt Harry D. Milligan YJ-Y
1st Lt David C. Kenney (Flt Ldr) YJ-D 42-75191
2nd Lt Don M. Hurlburt YJ-H
2nd Lt Francis L. Edwards YJ-T 42-75161
2nd Lt Hassell D. Stump (Flt Ldr) YJ-P
1st Lt George N. Ahles YJ-A
1st Lt Harry F. Hunter YJ-P
1st Lt William R. Burkett YJ-H
2nd Lt Jack Terzian (Relay) YJ-G
2nd Lt Herbert K. Field (Relay) YJ-F

Leading the Squadron, Beckham was able to add to his mounting victories by claiming his 15th and 16th victims:

I was leading Roughman White flight, flying with about 10 of the 350th Squadron planes. Twelve plus Me109’s, at least a thousand feet above us, came from our three o’clock as we were flying northward. Even with their altitude advantage they made no effort to attack us, but tried only to escape. We turned into them, swinging on around in about a 270 degree turn to the right and gave chase.

In this case the P47 definitely out climbed (29,000ft to 32,000ft) the 109, out-turned and out-dived it. As we climbed and closed the 109’s to the rear began half rolling by one’s and two’s. P47’s gave chase. I waited until the lead planes dived and followed one down in an almost vertical dive. I cut the throttle to avoid compressibility, but stayed about the same distance from the 109. Opened throttle and closed, fired and got hits and pieces. Got more strikes after this and don’t believe the pilot was able to get out. I pulled out and saw the 109 continue straight down into the cloud layer at 7,000ft at a speed in excess of 400mph.

Used my high speed to zoom back up. At this altitude between two cloud layers, seven Fw190’s passed in front of me at right angles to my line of flight. They were in good formation; a flight of 3 leading, a flight of 4 behind slightly, and to the right. I turned right, closed easily, and fired from astern on the one on the extreme right. Got strikes and pieces including the canopy. Flame from the engine extended along the left side of the fuselage, and the plane spun.

The two flights of three each flew serenely along as I nosed down into the clouds and set course for home at about 6,500ft. Their lack of awareness of this episode leads me to believe that with more ammunition I might have moved up and destroyed several others.

My guns had not stopped firing, but I had fired a burst or so after the tracer appeared that indicate there are only 50 rounds in each of the four guns.

My electric sight being insecurely fastened and moving around made good shooting difficult and ammunition expenditure wasteful. I found it necessary to move the stick back and forth slightly as I fired; thus throwing away a lot of bullets. The gun sight trouble is now corrected.

Whilst in the vicinity of Oldenburg, the Squadron suffered its first tragedy of the day. 1st Lt. David C. Kenney (flying a/c P47D-10-RE 42-75191YJ-D) was listed as missing in action when he failed to return (MACR 2127 refers). Although the circumstances of his loss are unclear, it appears that he may have been shot down, as 2nd Lt. Don M. Hurlburt reported:

I was flying Yellow two on Lt Kenney’s wing at 28,000ft (approx 11.15 hrs). I called to Lt. Kenney that about four Me109’s were approaching from three o’clock. He acknowledged, stating he had seen them and turned toward them. They were at four o’clock when he tightened up his turn and headed down. He was then below my nose, and I was unable to see him. I never saw him after that. I cut my throttle after heading down, pulled back around and went into a turn with the 109’s which were above me. I tightened up my turn and aileron rolled down and lost the 109’s. I then joined up with another P47.

Lt. David C. Kenney of the 351st Fighter Squadron lost February 3, 1944. (353rd FG Archive)

1st Lt. David C. Kenney (0-665373) of the 351st Fighter Squadron lost February 3, 1944. (353rd FG Archive)

Lt. Kenney's mission record and award details-click for larger view (sorry not great quality).

Lt. Kenney’s mission record and award details-click for larger view (sorry it’s not great quality).

As the Squadron withdrew there were further opportunities. 1st Lt. William T. Thistlethwaite returning over the Frisian Islands with his wing man Lt. Edgar J. Albert spotted five medium sized ships. Under intense return fire they were able to attack the ships and observed several fires.

Also returning home was Roughman Red flight who suffered a second tragedy for the Squadron as they came in over the cold North Sea. 1st Lt. Gordon B. Compton, the flight leader, reported the loss of 1st Lt. Lloyd A. Thornell (a/c P-47D-10-RE 42-75135 YJ-Q):

My flight, Roughman Red, was made up of Lt. J. E. Wood, on my left wing and Lt. L. A. Thornell on my right wing. After letting down from 12,000ft through an almost solid overcast we levelled off at about 1000ft and flew for several minutes. It was then that Lt. Thornell called me and said his engine was cutting out. I called back two or three times but could not get an answer. I had started a turn to the right, Lt. Wood had turned inside me, and we watched him pull up a little and then lose altitude until he struck the water. Lt. Wood went down and I went up and gave a Mayday on “B” Channel. Reception was very good.

We circled about twenty minutes, during which time neither of us saw anything to lead us to believe that Lt. Thornell had gotten out of his plane. There had been no complaint from Lt. Thornell previous to this time, and Lt. Wood and I had between 90 and 100 gallons of gas when we landed [MACR 2125].

1st Lt. Lloyd A. Thornell (0-793559) of the 351st Fighter Squadron lost his life returning from the mission of February 3, 1944 (353rd FG Archive)

1st Lt. Lloyd A. Thornell (0-793559) of the 351st Fighter Squadron lost his life returning from the mission of February 3, 1944 (353rd FG Archive)

2nd Lt. Joseph Wood also reported:

The first we knew he was in trouble was when he called Lt. Compton, the flight leader, and said his engine had cut out and that he did not have any fuel pressure. We were at about 1000ft then Lt. Compton and I immediately made a turn and watched Lt. Thornell. He began to slow up and lose altitude fast. At about 25 feet above the water I saw his plane apparently stall, the right wing dropping. The plane straightened up, but at this time he hit the water, nose first, and sank out of sight immediately. We circled for some time, but nothing could be observed.

The area of the North Sea where Lt. Thornell was last seen.

The area of the North Sea where Lt. Thornell was last seen.

Lt. Thornell's mission and award record (click for larger view).

Lt. Thornell’s mission and award record (click for larger view).

Lt. Thornell from Pitsford, New York is commemorated on the Tablets of the Missing at the Cambridge American Military Cemetery. Further information can be found HERE.

352nd: Major Bailey. T/U 09:48 hrs. T/D 13:01 hrs. Total flight time 03:13 hrs. Target support to 2nd ATF (1st Div) B-17s. Course: Landfall, Folder, R/V, Target, W/D, Home. Target Wilhelmshaven. Landfall believed north of course at approx 10:32 hrs at 23,000ft, the vicinity [of] unknown. Bombers were flying good formation within combat wings but the wings were scattered too much for good coverage. Other P-47s, P-38s, and P-51s observed. 4 Me109s were observed in the vicinity of Quakenbruck or Clopenburg. We turned to attack but were unable to engage. Left bomber near Cloppenburg at approx 11:10 hrs. Scattered inaccurate flak from both Wilhelmshaven and Emden. Intense, heavy accurate (black) flak observed from Ijmuiden. “A” channel good, “C” channel congested. 6 small ships believed to be submarines and four larger boats believed to be merchant vessels were observed in the harbor at Ijmuiden by an E/R. 10/10 overcast covered both England and continent with base at 1,500ft and tops at 25,000ft. 1 P-47 abort (Lt. Poindexter – Engine throwing oil on windshield). 12 down at Metfield 13:01 hrs, 1 down at Halesworth, 1 down at Manston.

Major William B. Bailey (Gp & Sqdn Ldr) SX-S
2nd Lt Richard V. Keywan SX-E
1st Lt Jesse W. Gonnam SX-F
1st Lt William J. Jordan SX-T
1st Lt James N. Poindexter (Flt Ldr) SX-H
2nd Lt Joseph A. Schillinger SX-J
1st Lt Robert P. Geurtz SX-B
2nd Lt Harry H. Dustin SX-Z
Capt Charles J. Hoey (Flt Ldr) SX-A
2nd Lt William S. Marchant SX-Y
2nd Lt Wilton W. Johnson SX-D
1st Lt Herman Herfurth SX-V
1st Lt Edward M. Fogarty (Flt Ldr) SX-O
2nd Lt Maurice Morrison SX-R
1st Lt Gordon S. Burlingame (DNTO) SX-M 42-75875
2nd Lt Hildreth R. Owens (DNTO) SX-W 42-22751
1st Lt Charles W. Kipfer (Spare) SX-Q

Group Losses/ERTN/Aborts/Damaged:

42-75875 DNTO engine trouble SX-M Lt. Burlingame flying.
42-22751 DNTO engine trouble SX-W Lt. Owens flying*
42-75161 ABT radio out YJ-P Lt. Stump flying.**
42-75135 Engine trouble YJ-Q Lt. Thornell flying.
42-75191 MIA YJ-D Lt. Kenney flying.
42-7940 Mid-air collision LH-M Lt. Hurst flying.
42-8001 Mid-air collision Cat B LH-V Capt. Newhart flying.

*Now confirmed as SX-W and not SX-X as per Squadron records.

**For some reason the other 351st aborts and that of Lt. Poindexter were not reported to 8th Fighter Command.

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Filed under 350th Fighter Squadron, 351st Fighter Squadron, Missions

A Brief History of SX-I of the 352nd Fighter Squadron

It seems a good time to catch up on some more long-delayed posting. Ash Gant and I worked on the details of SX-I in the 352nd Fighter Squadron around a year ago, but things got delayed and I’ve only just now got around to posting. Here is a brief history of the aircraft under this code with thanks to Ash and to Mike Martorella for his help with photos of his father’s aircraft.

A/C 42-8390 P47D-2-RE. This was an olive drab razorback assigned to Lt. Robert P. Geurtz though he seems not to have ever named his aircraft. The aircraft was certainly with the Group at any early date (an oxygen leak and engine trouble forced the pilot to abort on the first two missions for the Group). There is an early photography of this aircraft on p.63 of Cross’s Jonah’s Feet Are Dry. Geurtz flew the aircraft on 34 missions in the period January to April 1944 (we don’t have details of the flights made in 1943). The Squadron sent the aircraft for salvage after Lt. Geurtz’s landing accident April 22, 1944.

The first SX-I (a/c 42-8390) after Lt. Robert P. Geurtz crashed on take-off after a tyre blew out April 22, 1944.

The first SX-I (a/c 42-8390) after Lt. Robert P. Geurtz crashed on take-off after a tyre blew out April 22, 1944.

A/C 42-25771 P47D-22-RE.This was a natural metal finished razorback initially assigned to Lt. Donald J. Corrigan who flew it operationally three times between April 30 and May 20, 1944 (he completed his last mission on May 20 and left the Squadron May 24, 1944). His usual assigned aircraft was SX-P, but his son Kevin confirms that he told him he was assigned a “War Bond” plane and named it “Agony Wagon.” After Corrigan left the Squadron the aircraft was flown most often by Lt. Virgil C. Johnston who flew the aircraft on 20 missions between April and June 1944. He was lost in this aircraft on June 10, 1944 when it was brought down by flak while he was strafing Rennes airfield (MACR 5561 refers). There is a further photo of “Agony Wagon” on p.231 of Cross’s Jonah’s Feet Are Dry.

Lt. Donald J. Corrigan was not the assigned pilot to the second SX-I (a/c 42-25771). This was possibly a photo opportunity on completion of his tour. The name of the ground crewman is unknown.

Lt. Donald J. Corrigan was the first assigned pilot to the second SX-I (a/c 42-25771) and called it “Agony Wagon.” The single kill marking indicates it is his aircraft (Johnston had no kills) though the name has yet to be painted on the aircraft in this shot. The name of the ground crewman is unknown.

A/C 42-26631 P-47D-25-RE. A natural metal finished bubbletop assigned to Lt. William T. McGarry and named “Butch” by him. The aircraft name and “Butch II” (his later SX-B) is often mistakenly attributed to 352nd CO Bill Bailey. McGarry flew the aircraft on 34 missions between June and August 1944. The aircraft was brought down by ground fire near Dernancourt August 7, 1944. The pilot, Lt. Richard Daines, was killed in action (MACR 7444 refers).

Lt. William T. McGarry in the cockpit of the third SX-I (a/c 42-26631) named "Butch" by him.

Lt. William T. McGarry in the cockpit of the third SX-I (a/c 42-26631) named “Butch” by him. (353rd FG Archive)

A/C 44-19798 P47D-28-RE. A natural metal finished bubbletop assigned to Lt. Frank H. Bouldin and named “Miss Mary Marie” by him. The aircraft was flown on a handful of missions by Bouldin between August and September 1944 (the photo on p.233 of Cross’s Jonah’s Feet Are Dry confirms Bouldin as the assigned pilot). The aircraft is sometimes listed as P-47D-28-RA 42-28798, but we feel this is incorrect because 42-28798 was assigned to the 351st Fighter Squadron and 44-19798 shows up, as you would expect, in 352nd battle damage reports (see also the close-up photo of the serial below).The aircraft would have left the Squadron when they converted to the P-51 Mustangs.

The fourth SX-I (a/c 44-19798) named "Miss Mary Marie" by Lt. Frank H. Bouldin (Gant)

The fourth SX-I (a/c 44-19798) named “Miss Mary Marie” by Lt. Frank H. Bouldin (Gant)

Another shot of "Miss Mary Marie" with Sgt. George Gardner. (Gant)

Another shot of “Miss Mary Marie” with Sgt. George Gardner. (Gant)

This time it's Sgt. Frank Helke with "Miss Mary Marie." (Gant)

This time it’s Sgt. Frank Helke with “Miss Mary Marie.” (Gant)

A close-up of the serial number of the fourth SX-I confirming it's 44-19798. (353rd FG Archive)

A close-up of the serial number of the fourth SX-I confirming it’s 44-19798. (353rd FG Archive)

N.B. Various sources on the internet state that P-47 42-74680 was re-coded to SX-W from SX-I. We can find no evidence to substantiate this and feel it is unlikely as there is no gap in the chronology of the other aircraft. Corrections and clarifications are always welcome.

A/C 44-14495 P51D-10-NA. This aircraft was assigned first to Lt. Frank H. Bouldin and named “Dallas Doll” by him after Miss Christine Crisp of Dallas, Texas. The aircraft flew 85 missions with the Squadron between October 1944 and April 1945 and was the only P-51 to carry the SX-I coding. Bouldin flew the aircraft for 30 of those missions and completed his tour in mid January 1945.  The Squadron then assigned the aircraft to Lt. Michael J. Martorella who renamed the aircraft “Jeannie” for his fiancé and later his wife when he returned from Europe (Jeannie’s full name was Regina but she went by the name of Jean). Martorella flew 18 of his 40 assigned missions in the aircraft including the Group’s final mission of the war on April 25, 1945.

The famous picture of the fifth SX-I (a/c 44-14495) named for Miss Christine Crisp of Dallas, Texas by Lt. Frank H. Bouldin.

The famous picture of the fifth SX-I (a/c 44-14495) named for Miss Christine Crisp of Dallas, Texas by Lt. Frank H. Bouldin.

With such a great photo it is easy to miss the details. Note the design around the pilot and crew names on "Dallas Doll."

With such a great photo it is easy to miss the details. Note the design around the pilot and crew names on “Dallas Doll.”

S/Sgt. Clarence E. Frye at the controls of "Jeannie" as Lt. Michael J. Martorella renamed "Dallas Doll." The photo is almost the exact same spot at Raydon as the photo above. (Martorella)

S/Sgt. Clarence E. Frye at the controls of “Jeannie” as Lt. Michael J. Martorella renamed “Dallas Doll.” The photo is almost the exact same spot at Raydon as the photo above. (Martorella)

SX-I (a/c 44-14495) in flight with SX-M (a/c P-51C-5-NT 42-103363) "Lucky Leaky II" assigned to Lt. John E. Davenport. (Martorella)

SX-I (a/c 44-14495) in flight with SX-M (a/c P-51C-5-NT 42-103363) “Lucky Leaky II” assigned to Lt. John E. Davenport. (Martorella)

Lt. Michael J. Martorella of the 352nd Fighter Squadron with his aircraft "Jeannie" (a/c 44-14495). Note he carries a side arm for operational flying. (Martorella)

Lt. Michael J. Martorella of the 352nd Fighter Squadron with his aircraft “Jeannie” (a/c 44-14495). Note he carries a side arm for operational flying. (Martorella)

Lt. Michael J. Martorella and Capt. Horace Q. Waggoner at Raydon. (Martorella)

Lt. Michael J. Martorella and Capt. Horace Q. Waggoner at Raydon. (Martorella)

As a final word on the crew for SX-I – the crew chief throughout the war was S/Sgt. Clarence E. Frye, the Assistant Crew Chief until at least Lt. McGarry’s tenure was Sgt. Thomas W. Hacker (no ACC is listed on “Miss Mary Marie” and the ACC for “Dallas Doll/Jeannie” appears to have changed to a Sgt. E. C. Town/Brown but sadly the photo is unclear and the Squadron roster does not help either). The armourer throughout the war was Sgt. John F. Gibb.

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Filed under 352nd Fighter Squadron