Monthly Archives: June 2012

William Streit of the 352nd Fighter Squadron and the story behind the ‘Scotty Bill’

Tomorrow (June 29) it will be sixty nine years to the day since a young pilot from the 352ndFighter Squadron lost his life in a flying accident. Lt William M. Mathias was the first loss to the Group since arriving in England. Taking off from Goxhill to complete a camera gunnery mission, Mathias got into a rat race with another pilot (as the training mission required) but misjudged his altitude while trying to evade his opponent and smashed into the ground at high speed. As the pressure mounted on the pilots before they entered combat simple mistakes could become deadly ones.

Sadly this was not to be the only loss suffered by the Group. During their time in England the 353rd lost nineteen pilots in flying accidents (not including weather related combat losses) and suffered a further two pilots seriously injured. Across the Squadrons the 350th lost nine pilots, the 351st lost three and the 352nd lost seven – clearly then the bad luck was not confined to the 352nd. When you also note that the Group recorded 137 non-combat related accidents involving damage to aircraft during this time you can appreciate just how dangerous operating Thunderbolts and Mustangs was – it was not just the enemy that could get you killed and moments of carelessness, inexperience or just bad luck could cost you dear.

The well known photo of SX-Y (a/c 42-76195) with L to R S/Sgt L Nelson (Asst Crew Chief), S/Sgt Commodore Collins (Crew Chief), Lt William Streit and Sgt J Hogan (Armorer).

As a postscript to this story, William ‘Bill’ Streit was very good friends with Bill Mathias and ‘Scotty’ McPherson. Returning to Goxhill from leave in London, Streit was devastated to hear of the loss of Mathias and later named his aircraft ‘Scotty Bill’ in honour of his two close friends. The name served him well and ‘Scotty Bill’ carried him, with a few incidents, through most of his tour. Streit left the Squadron in June 1944, but before then the aircraft was assigned to another pilot – sadly the luck didn’t hold and the aircraft was lost, along with its pilot 2ndLt Luther Avakian, after being hit by flak June 7, 1944.

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352nd Fighter Squadron Updates

I’ve just made some further additions to the 352nd Fighter Squadron page by  adding pictures of all the Squadron Commanders and then some representative pictures of Squadron pilots for various times during the war. On the larger late-war photo I’ve been unable to confirm a few of the names with 100% certainty (so over to you). I can usually recognise most Group pilots up to late summer 1944, but it gets more difficult with the later P-51 pilots because some completed tours so quickly that they rarely show up in the photographic record. I had help here too – I have several versions of the photos, one annotated by Wilton Johnson and another by Frank Bouldin (who provided most of the IDs). Bouldin, of course, was famous as the pilot of ‘Dallas Doll’ – a photo of which has the honour of probably being the most reproduced and published of the 353rd ever. A nice shot it is too, but who was the real life ‘Dallas Doll’? Answer: Miss Christine Crisp of Dallas, Texas.

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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

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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Additions to 350th Fighter Squadron page

I’ve just finished putting all the 350th ground personnel photos/details on – phew! I’ve got similar photos for the other two squadrons, but sadly not as much name data. I’ll post those up when I’ve got over this lot. It does give a good indication of the support organisation needed to make the flying bit happen in a Squadron. One Squadron had around 250 men in addition to the pilots, but also relied on the service Squadrons on base and the wider support network to keep things going…

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Book reviews

Added a brief review of the available (or unavailable!) 353rd books.

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Additions to pages

I’ve been filling out the basic Group structure pages as an ongoing project. They are rather ‘officer centric’ at the moment, but it is my intention to include as much about the enlisted men as possible when time permits.

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Hello

And so it begins…

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