Category Archives: 351st Fighter Squadron

All posts relating to the 351st Fighter Squadron

Update on the third “Lonesome Polecat”

Summer is proving a busy time for me, but I will continue the blog as and when I get time. The forthcoming schedule is a post on Joe Knoble of the 352nd with a history of SX-D and N. Then I’m putting together a post on another 352nd pilot, Don Corrigan, with a history of SX-P. Along the way I’ll also keep posting the mission summaries so hopefully plenty to take a look at coming soon. Keep an eye out also for an exciting announcement on a UK reunion for the families of 353rd veterans in 2015.

Mark Richie, Vice President of the 4th FG Association, kindly got in touch with a wonderful colour picture of George Ahles’ third “Lonesome Polecat” (a/c YJ-A 42-8619). It seems that the 4th FG used the aircraft as a OTU/Hack aircraft at some point. I post the photo here with thanks to Mark for sharing the image and for filling in another piece of the aircraft’s service record.

 

Lt. George N. Ahles' third "Lonesome Polecat" (YJ-A a/c 42-8619) as QP-O "Man Made Monster" with the 4th Fighter Group. This fine colour photo comes from a sequence recording the return of 4th FG aircraft from Operation Frantic (mission to Russia) July 5, 1944 so it looks as if the aircraft was with them from at least this date. We have a record indicating "Man Made Monster" was a 351st FS name, but have no indication of who was responsible for it. Records indicate the aircraft kept the name when it later flew with the 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron (credit/copyright CWO E.B. Richie, 4th Fighter Group with thanks to Mark Richie, Vice President, Association 4th FG WWII)

Lt. George N. Ahles’ third “Lonesome Polecat” (YJ-A a/c 42-8619) as QP-O “Man Made Monster” with the 4th Fighter Group. We have a record indicating “Man Made Monster” was a 351st FS name, but have no indication of who was responsible for it. Records also indicate the aircraft kept the name when it later flew with the 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron (credit/copyright CWO E.B. Richie, 4th Fighter Group with thanks to Mark Richie, Vice President, Association 4th FG WWII)

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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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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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Jack “Jake” Terzian, 351st Fighter Squadron – July 28, 1919 to June 18, 2013

Toni TerzianWellhausen has been in touch with the very sad news that her father, Jack Terzian, passed away June 18, 2013. Jack “Jake” Terzian was an original member of the 351st and was proud of his association with the Squadron – referring to his fellows as the “greatest group of men I have ever known.”

"Jake" Terzian of the 351st Fighter Squadron July 28, 1919 - June 18, 2013 (353rd FG Archive)

“Jake” Terzian of the 351st Fighter Squadron July 28, 1919 – June 18, 2013 (353rd FG Archive)

The story of his wartime career is one to really bring home the sacrifices and service made by some during the war. Jake quit his job as a photographer and enlisted in the Army Air Corp in March 1941 eventually joining the 351st on March 28, 1943. Flying his aircraft named “Marty” for his fiancee, Martha Tait, he claimed a shared Fw190 destroyed in the air and a number of aircraft destroyed on dangerous strafing missions.

A copy of Jake Terzian's individual mission record - click for larger view (353rd FG Archive)

A copy of Jake Terzian’s individual mission record – click for larger view (353rd FG Archive)

In the Spring of 1944 the Group were really pushing to the furthest limits of penetration on missions and on April 9 Jake’s aircraft ran out of fuel over the North Sea. He was forced to bail out and struck his ankle on the aircraft before landing in the freezing water. Luckily, Bill Maguire and his flight  were able to locate him before he bailed and directed the Air Sea Rescue service to the scene. His ankle was badly strained and when he returned to base he was grounded for three weeks while he recovered. During this time Eighth Fighter Command raised the mission requirements from 200 to 300 hours meaning Jake now had a further 120 hours to complete his tour of duty.

On May 22, 1944, while flying some of these “extra” combat hours, Jake was brought down by ground fire on a strafing mission. He made contact with the Resistance who helped him to evade, but was eventually captured by the Gestapo. He was then incarcerated in St. Gilles prison where he faced many hardships. Jake was able to escape when German forces attempted to move the prisoners by rail as the Allies advanced into Belgium and he was liberated September 3, 1944.

After a brief return visit to Raydon Jake was flown home to the United States and married Marty (who had spent the painful intervening months with little information on Jake’s fate) on October 15, 1944.

This brief post cannot do justice to Jake’s life, career and service and there is a much fuller obituary HERE.

The above is written with sincere condolences to Marty, Toni and the rest of Jake’s family and in fond memory of Jake Terzian – Fighter Pilot.

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Albert William “Bill” Barlow Jr. – Pilot 351st Fighter Squadron June 15 1924 to May 20 2013

Rob Barlow, the grandson of Bill Barlow, has just got in touch with the very sad news that his grandfather passed away yesterday at the age of 88.

1st Lt. Albert W. "Bill" Barlow Jr. (0-758773) served with the 351st FS, 353rd FG May 3 - September 8 1944. (353rd FG Archive)

1st Lt. Albert W. “Bill” Barlow Jr. (0-758773) served with the 351st FS, 353rd FG May 3 – September 8 1944. (353rd FG Archive)

Bill enlisted in 1942 and actually completed his training in P-51 Mustangs. After brief assignment to the 339th Fighter Group, the powers that be decided the 353rd’s need was greater and so Bill had a very quick conversion to P-47s! He served with the 351st Fighter Squadron from May 3 to September 8 1944 flying his aircraft YJ-B bar (for Barlow) called “Flak Bait,” among others, on over 60 missions. During his time with the Squadron Bill became a member of the celebrated “Goldfish Club” after he bailed out of his aircraft on May 29 and was successfully rescued from the Channel. He also claimed an Me109 destroyed in the air August 4, 1944. On September 8 1944 his luck ran out when his aircraft was hit by flak and caught fire over Germany. He bailed out just before it blew up and managed to avoid capture by walking for eight days back to Allied lines. Bill told me that the first time he returned to Raydon was sometime in the early 1980s with his flight leader on the fateful day in 1944, Charles Stafford. As they stood on the derelict airfield at Raydon, Stafford quietly told Bill he had finally managed to get Bill home – even if it was 40 years late.

I was lucky to meet and get to know Bill and his wife Betty as friends on their several trips back to the United Kingdom and at 353rd reunions in the US. One of the many striking  things about Bill was his happy outlook on life – my wife always called him “Smiley Bill.” This, for me, was a mark of the man – particularly given the many hardships he faced directly resulting from his time in the service. I certainly have many fond memories of times spent with Bill and Betty.

Bill will be sadly missed and this is posted with condolences to Betty, Rob and all of Bill’s family.

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Capt. George N. Ahles, 351st Fighter Squadron and the “Lonesome Polecat.”

An early picture 1st Lt. George N. Ahles (0-793476) of “A” Flight, 351st Fighter Squadron in England .(McCloskey)

One of the many nice things about setting up this blog is that, slowly but surely, old friends and contacts are getting back in touch. One who has just done so is David McCloskey who has kindly updated me with his research into his grandfather George N. Ahles (pronounced Ah-les). I thought this would be a good excuse to interrupt the mission sequence again and take a look at the career of this long-time member of the 351st Fighter Squadron.

Ahles, an original member of the Squadron, was born in Evansville, Indiana on February 29, 1916. He enlisted Army Air Corps at Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois in November 1939, some two years before the United States entered the war. Initially the Air Corp assigned him to armament and bombsight maintenance at Lowry Field, Colorado. He was then posted to an A-20 light bomber squadron at Barksdale Field, Louisiana and went with the Squadron to Hunter Air Base Savannah, Georgia. So Ahles already had some experience of the Air Corp before he qualified for pilot training in November 1940, though he did not enter aviation cadets training until January 1942. He was awarded his “wings” as a member of class of 42-J and while he was in Advanced Pilot Training at Craig AFB, Selma, Alabama, he married Mary Louise. He then joined the nucleus of 351st Squadron at Norfolk, Virginia in December 1942 and travelled with them to England in June 1943.

An early photo of the Squadron in line-astern formation. (McCloskey)

David McCloskey wrote to me in an email that he knew “he wasn’t one of the All-Star pilots of the group.” By this he meant that he was not one of the well-known top scorers or aces and this observation raises an interesting point – most of the pilots in the Group were not “All-stars.” A few made the headlines, but the bulk of the flying effort and eventual achievement of air supremacy and effective support of ground forces relied on competent men like George N. Ahles going out, day after day, to complete the missions they were ordered to fly.

George Ahles in relaxed mood – the car he is leaning on is probably the old Desoto Glenn Duncan used as his personal transport. (McCloskey)

In doing this Ahles recorded an impressive tally of missions. As his record shows he flew on the Group’s first mission of August 9, 1943 and completed his final eighty-eighth mission and his tour on August 14, 1944. His individual mission chart (see below) tells us a number of interesting things. The first is that he completed 300 hours of combat flying and was awarded an Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters (OLC) and a Distinguished Flying Cross with one OLC. Air Medals were awarded for the completion of a certain number of missions, so you would be awarded OLCs (meaning a further award of the medal) when you reached a certain number of combat missions. The DFC was awarded for completion of a tour of duty, shooting down an enemy aircraft or another act worthy of recognition.

Part I of George Ahles’ Individual Mission Chart – click for larger view. (McCloskey)

Part II of George Ahles’ Individual Mission Chart – click for larger view. (McCloskey)

Interestingly, if you subtract the total number of hours flown since May 15, 1944 (156 hours) from his total (300 hours) you can see that he only had 144 hours by that date. This is important because it means he would have been ordered to fly an additional 100 hours to complete his tour. This decision by Eighth Fighter Command to keep experienced men in England as D-Day approached was, understandably, very controversial among the pilots. Anyone who completed 200 hours flying before May 15 could go home; anyone who did not have the required number of hours had to stay until they reached 300 hours. We do not know what George Ahles thought of this – though he was probably keen to get home to see his wife and new daughter Pat who was born while he was in England. We also know that he lost good friends during his time with the Squadron and would have been well aware of the dangers of staying on. One was Bill Thistlethwaite who was lost on May 12, 1944. His wife Marjorie was friends with George’s wife Mary Louise and sent a telegram to tell her the tragic news. A good indication, if it were needed, of the anxiety the wives and loved ones at home face every day their husbands, brothers or sons were in Europe.

Lt. William T. Thistlethwaite (left) listens to his friend Lt. George N. Ahles speak in fighter pilot language at the Metfield pilot’s snack bar. Thistlethwaite was killed on May 12, 1944. (McCloskey)

The telegram sent to Mary Louise Ahles by Marjorie Thistlethwaite after her husband was lost. (McCloskey)

Cartoon of Mrs Ahles and Mrs Rarey living at Selma, Alabama drawn by George Rarey. (McCloskey)

Thistlethwaite was not the only good friend Ahles lost during his time in England. George Rarey was a close friend from pilot training who served in England with the 379th Fighter Squadron, 362nd Fighter Group. Mary Louise and Rarey’s wife, Betty Lou, lived together for a time while their pilot husbands were stationed at Selma, Alabama. Both men also had children born while they were overseas. Rarey’s son, Damon, would never know his father – he was killed in action June 26, 1944 while flying a mission over France. Ahles’ friend was an incredibly talented artist and made many sketches of his experiences in the service. You can read a bit more about him HERE.

We do know from Ahles’ individual mission chart that he was very busy over the June to August 1944 period in a frenetic run of missions with doubles and over eight hours of flying on some days. On D-Day Ahles was actually enjoying a well-earned break at one of the rest and recuperation (R&R) centres in England and so missed the first day of the invasion. He returned to the Squadron a few days later to make up for missing out by claiming his only confirmed credit on June 8. Flying as Blue Flight Leader on a mission to bomb rail targets in France he was awarded an Fw190 damaged:

10 e/a climbed out of the cloud deck and passed directly below from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock, apparently unaware of our presence. I made a tight orbit to the left and tagged onto the last plane in the flight. He started a steep dive and I fired two long bursts, observing strikes on both wing roots. He then went into the clouds and I lost him. I then rejoined my section.

Geroge Ahles in the first YJ-A “Lonesome Polecat” (a/c 42-8380). Ahead is Vic L. Byers in YJ-V “Hawkeye” (a/c 42-7958). (McCloskey)

The individual mission chart seems to tell a different story – the blue diagonals record 6 aircraft destroyed, the red record 12 probable and the yellow his damaged on June 8. None of these victories show up in Squadron or other Eighth Air Force records and I suspect they are based on Squadron records from the time. Pilots would put in claims or accounts and they would only be confirmed by Eighth Air Force Intelligence at a later date following analysis of the supporting evidence.  The 351st FS would record the details, but then, in the absence of confirming accounts or gun camera evidence, higher headquarters probably disallowed the credits. Whatever the case, the diagonal lines tell us that Ahles certainly mixed it up with the Luftwaffe on many occasions during his tour and no doubt had a few hair-raising tales to tell. He was also a respected leader and pilot – he led his Squadron on eight missions during June to August 1944. Commanders did not give such a responsibility to just anyone and it is a good measure of the trust they placed in him.

George N. Ahles in later life. (McCloskey)

After he completed his tour, Ahles returned to his wife and daughter in the United States. He remained in the service until 1949 with postings in the Guam, Hawaii and the mainland United States. In civilian life he worked as a salesman. Flying certainly stayed in the family – his daughter Pat married Jim McCloskey who became a pilot with Delta. They had two children – Beth and David – Beth became an Art Teacher and David a pilot for UPS. George N. Ahles remained in touch with his friends from the 351st and enjoyed attending reunions of the P-47 Pilots Association in his later years. He died January 1, 1982.

His friend George Rarey was not the only connection Ahles had to the world of cartoons and illustrations. All his aircraft were named “Lonesome Polecat” after the character from the L’l Abner cartoon strip. “Lonesome Polecat” along with “Hairless Joe,” were purveyors of the potent “Kickapoo Joy Juice – the fumes of which alone have been known to melt the rivets off battleships.” Ahles’ aircraft was one of a pair in the 351st FS with Lt. Joseph E. Wood flying YJ-B “Hairless Joe.” There were other aircraft named after cartoon characters in the Squadron – Fred Lefebre named his first P-47 after the well-known “Chief Wahoo.” Even one of the accommodation areas at Raydon was called “Dogpatch” after the stereotypical hick community in which L’l Abner lived. Cartoon strips, especially satirical ones, played an important role in the world of GIs and particularly pilots – Bill Maudlin’s “Willie & Joe” was another very popular strip. They were often a subversive art form that could help recent civilians, now in the military, poke a little fun at authority and ease the tension just a fraction. L’l Abner characters were used a great deal more by the 56th Fighter Group on their aircraft and their leader Hub Zemke even set a goal of shooting down 100 enemy planes by “Sadie Hawkins Day” (the fictional day in Dogpatch when a woman could run down a bachelor and force them into matrimony).

In closing I must thank David McCloskey for all his kind help and the information he contributed to this article. I must also thank Ash Gant whose knowledge of the 353rd aircraft and expertise is unrivalled. To finish up here is a summary of all the personal aircraft of George N. Ahles. As ever, further information or contributions are very welcome:

The first “Lonesome Polecat” was YJ-A P-47D-2-RE (a/c 42-8380). Ahles had a landing accident in it at RAF Biggin Hill September 29, 1943, but it was repaired and stayed with the Squadron probably until around late February or early March 1944 when Ahles received a new P-47D-15. It subsequently was sent to training command and has a recorded accident at Membury on August 23, 1944. This aircraft is sometimes recorded as flying with the 352nd FG as PE-C. This we feel is an error as the easily confused 42-8580 actually flew under this code. Some records have 42-8380 as crashing with the 359th FG on January 27, 1944. Again, this is a typo as P-47C 41-6380 was actually involved in the crash.

Lt. George N. Ahles in the cockpit of the first “Lonesome Polecat” (a/c 42-8380) at Metfield. (McCloskey)

The other side of the first “Lonesome Polecat” at Metfield (note the unmodified engine cowl vents that would have appeared on the D-2). This shot clearly shows the names of the Crew Chief S/Sgt Thomas O’Leary and Assistant Crew Chief Sgt John W. Durkin.

The first “Lonesome Polecat” again with Durkin believed left and O’Leary on the right.

The second “Lonesome Polecat” was YJ-A P-47D-15-RE (a/c 42-75850). This new D-15 replaced the first aircraft in late February/March 1944, but was lost along with Lt. William R. Burkett March 4, 1944.

The third “Lonesome Polecat” was YJ-A P-47D-5-RE (a/c 42-8619). Lt. Paul Trudeau crashed this aircraft May 21, 1944 (there’s a picture on page 481 of Jonah’s Feet Are Dry). It was then under repair for a time before being returned to service and recoded at YJ-A. It probably became Lt. Alex Hartley’s “Anvil Chaos” at this point. It suffered a further accident at the hands of Lt. Frank on June 30, 1944 and did not return to service until July 8. We do have a record that indicates that at some point the aircraft the aircraft was coded YJ-A and named “Man Made Monster” with the 351st but the evidence is too unclear to state anything conclusively at this stage. Some records indicate the aircraft was declared “War Weary” and went on to the 4th FG as an OTU aircraft and then the 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron still as “Man Made Monster” but we are unable to confirm this.

The fourth YJ-A was P-47D-11-RE (a/c 42-75457). Ahles is recorded as flying it as YJ-A on May 22, 1944, the day after Trudeau crashed his previous aircraft. This aircraft was lost with Lt. Joseph R. Farley on May 28, 1944. We suspect that given the short time the aircraft was with the Squadron Ahles would never have had time to name it. We have also confirmed that it was one of a batch of olive drab painted P-47s so it does not tally with the picture we have of the  “Lonesome Polecat IV” which was natural metal finish.

The fourth “Lonesome Polecat IV” and fifth YJ-A was therefore P-47D-22-RE (a/c 42-26246). This was Ahles’ aircraft from sometime after May 28, 1944. It remained with him until he completed his tour and then passed to Lt. Harry D. Milligan who renamed it “Carolene” after his wife (picture on page 208 of Jonah’s Feet Are Dry).

A nice shot of “Lonesome Polecat IV (a/c 42-26246) at Raydon. Note the natural metal finish that proves the fourth YJ-A was not included in the naming sequence. (McCloskey)

A final and very poor shot of “Lonesome Polecat IV.” I assure you that you can just see the “IV” if you look very, very carefully (McCloskey)

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James F. Hinchey, 351st Fighter Squadron

I was very sorry to learn that James F. Hinchey  passed away June 11, 2012. Hinchey was a pilot with the 351st Fighter Squadron at Raydon from July 1944 until April 19, 1945. We never met, but I did enjoy a correspondence with him regarding his time with the Squadron and he was always very helpful in detailing his experiences. My thoughts to his family at this sad time.

Lt. James F. Hinchey, 351st Fighter Squadron, 353rd Fighter group receives his Air Medal from Col. Ben Rimerman, Raydon, December 30, 1944.

Lt James F. Hinchey and P-47

Further to this post James F. Hinchey’s son Bob contacted me (June 29) with some very interesting

Lt James F. Hinchey and P-51

further details on his father’s career with the 351st Squadron. Lt Hinchey’s P-51D10-NA  YJ-I (a/c 44-14728) was called ‘Thunderbug.’ The aircraft also had a picture of a ‘Shooting Bunny’ on the tail. This was used by Hinchey until his penultimate mission March 2, 1945 – he completed his tour on the mission of the following day. The aircraft was then taken over by his good friend Lt L. Blaine Highfield who renamed the aircraft ‘Persuader,’ but kept the rest of the artwork. Now for the postscript – Highfield flew the  aircraft up to Scotland after the war for scrapping, but actually managed to save the two panels of artwork as a souvenir. The years passed and in 2001 Jim Hinchey visited his old wartime friend in Seattle and was presented with the two panels – finally returning them to the original owner. Quite a story about two good friends and it surely has to be unique for 353rd aircraft artwork to have survived. The attached pictures are courtesy of Bob Hinchey.

YJ-I (a/c 44-14728) when flown by Lt L. Blaine Highfield.

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