Mission#6 August 16, 1943 – the loss of Lt. Col. Joseph A. Morris

The mission on August 16, 1943 was a disaster for the Group. It was their first real taste of combat and they had the misfortune to run into a skilful and determined enemy. It cost the Group their leader, Lt. Col. Morris, who was probably shot down by a covering enemy aircraft when he dived after an Fw190. The 353rd were engaged in numerous combats in the Paris area and returned home low on fuel and split in singles and pairs. Major Loren G. McCollom, from the 56th Fighter Group, was given command as an experienced leader to steady the shaken Group. You can read a bit more about Mac McCollom in his official USAF Biography. He remained officially with the 56th until August 18, when his orders formalised the take-over of the 353rd. Major Duncan acted as Group Commander, in name only, during the interim period. Note also the three 56th FG pilots on this mission (Adrianse, Lamb and Day). They may have flown to make up numbers or perhaps were part of a continued effort to give the 353rd the benefit of their experience on these early missions.

Date: Aug 16, 43

Dispatched: 44 Aborts: 0

Mission: Penetration Support to 180 B-17s Paris Le Bourget airfield

Field Order: 37/105

Time Up/Down: 08.26 hrs 10.24 hrs Leader: Lt. Col. Morris

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

The Group left Metfield at 05.58 hrs and flew down to Thorney Island for the mission. Group made landfall at 09:02 hrs over Fecamp at 25,000 ft, orbit off coast made and bombers picked up about 30 miles from French coast and escorted over Elbouf towards northwest outskirts of Paris. There was lots of smoke seen over the north section of Paris. Ten plus E/A (Fw190) were seen coming from above this Group down on the bombers from the direction of Paris. Enemy aircraft (both Fw190s and Me109s) were scattered over a large area in singles and in pairs. Numerous combats ensued during which Lt. Col. Morris led his flight down to port in an almost vertical dive on the tail of a Fw190 attacking the bombers. Lt. Herfurth, his wing man, drove off an Fw190 from his tail, coming out of the dive below 13,000 ft after which he did not again see his leader. Lt. Juntilla leading the second flight in the squadron led by Lt. Col. Morris reported seeing a P-47, believed to be Lt. Col. Morris’ ship, firing at an Fw190. The Fw190 appeared to be hit and out of control emitting a large cloud of black smoke. Lt. Juntilla was then engaged by other Fw190s and when he turned again toward the leading flight he saw a plane hit the ground and a chute nearby and two P-47s peeling off in front of him.

During engagement with E/A the Group split up and returned independently, 24 planes landing to refuel at advance bases [The report states 18 down at Metfield 10:24 hrs, 9 down at Manston 10:10 hrs (6 from 350th, 3 from 352nd), 6 down at Woodchurch (2 from 352nd, 4 from 351st), 5 down at Lewes (4 from 351st, 1 from 352nd), 1 down at Ashford (352nd)]. E/A reported with black dirty brown camouflage and yellow nose. Light flak over Rouen between 15,000 ft and 18,000 ft, black bursts leading. There was heavy flak over Paris at bomber height. R/T was good with slight whine over the French coast and slight jamming on the way out. Channel “C” jammed from take-off on. Weather was excellent, practically no clouds.

350th: Major Rimerman. T/U 08:26 hrs. T/D 10:24 hrs. Total Flight Time 1:58 hrs. The Squadron made landfall at Fecamp at 23,000 ft at appointed time. Passed over Elbeuf and escorted bombers to northwest outskirts of Paris. E/A consisting of single ME109s and FW190s were encountered, scattered over a large area. Lt Fortier led his flight down to a FW190 and broke off when it went for the deck. Lt Hurst saw one FW190 spinning down in smoke over the airfield at Moulen. Large fires were seen in the vicinity of Abbeville. Light flak was encountered over Rouen, between 15,000 ft and 18,000 ft. E/A making passes at the bombers came in from head on and below, looping over the top. Lt Fortier had three .50 cal bullet holes in his fuselage – one aft of pilot by about three feet with the inner cooler doors damaged and supercharger line hit.

Times stated are for Group mission from Thorney Island as Squadron records only detail T/U 06:12 hrs and T/D 12:20 hrs from Metfield. Six Squadron aircraft, low on fuel, had to land at Manston.

Major Ben Rimerman (Sqdn Ldr)
2nd Lt Robert N. Ireland
1st Lt Harold W. Long
2nd Lt William F. Tanner
1st Lt Robert E. Fortier (Flt Ldr)  LH-?  42-7903
2nd Lt Charles O. Durant
1st Lt John Sullivan
2nd Lt Roland N. McKean
Capt Stanley Pidduck (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt John Zolner
1st Lt Wilford F. Hurst
1st Lt Melvin P. Dawson
1st Lt Dewey E. Newhart (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Francis T. Walsh
1st Lt William W. Odom
2nd Lt Joseph Rosenberg
1st Lt Irvin E. Venell Spare
Lt Lamb (56th FG)

351st: Major Christian. T/U 08:26 hrs. T/D 10:24 hrs. Total Flight Time 1:58 hrs. The Squadron observed Fw190s all over the sky attacking the bombers over Paris. 1st Lt. Kinkade led his flight to attack several 190s above and behind the bombers. He closed to 400 yards on one and fired four short bursts, before the 190 rolled out of sight. His wing man, 2nd Lt. Herbert K. Field also fired but observed no strikes. He reported being fired on by a 190 on his tail.

Major Shannon Christian (Sqdn Ldr)
Lt Adrianse (56th FG)
1st Lt David C. Kenney
2nd Lt Richard D. Stanley
2nd Lt Irving Toppel
1st Lt Orville A. Kinkade (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Herbert K. Field
1st Lt Frank N. Emory
2nd Lt Francis L. Edwards
1st Lt Jack R. Walsh (Flt Ldr) R41
2nd Lt Lloyd A. Thornell  R42
1st Lt William R. Burkett  R45
2nd Lt Harold J. Morris  R46

The Squadron was scattered and low on fuel as they returned. Four aircraft landed at Woodchurch and four at RAF Lewes. One of them, 2nd Lt Lloyd A Thornell (Roughman 42 flying a/c 42-8372) ran out of fuel completely and had to belly-land there.

352nd: Lt Col Morris. T/U Thorney Island 08:36 T/D Metfield 10:23. Total Flight Time 1: 57 hrs. The lead flight dived to attack an Fw190 and each member was drawn off by further enemy aircraft. Lt. Col. Morris was presumed shot down and listed as missing in action. Lt. Junttila leading the second flight reported seeing a P-47, believed to be Lt Col Morris, firing at an Fw190. The Fw190 appeared to be hit and out of control, smoking badly. Major Duncan of the lead flight claimed an Fw190 damaged and Lt. Corrigan of the second flight claimed and Me109 probably destroyed. Corrigan’s victory, however, was not confirmed and Lt. Col. Morris and Major Duncan were awarded an Fw190 damaged. The Squadron lost close formation and returned to station singly and in pairs (three down at Manston 10:10 hrs, two down at Woodchurch 10:10 hrs, one down at Lewes, one down at Ashford 10:10 hrs). F/O Perry (Wakeford 56) was heard asking for emergency homing which was given to him. He was recorded as not yet returned, but actually landed at Chailey at approximately 10:00 hrs due to gasoline shortage. F/O Perry telephoned RAF Gatwick at 10:30 hrs requesting his home base be notified of landing. Returning to home base at 20:45 hrs at which time this base had not been notified of his landing at Chailey.

Lt   Col Joseph   A. Morris (Gp Ldr) W19 42-7990
1st   Lt Herman Herfurth
Major Glenn   E. Duncan
F/O Earl   A. Perry  W56
1st   Lt Wilbert   H. Juntilla (Flt Ldr)
2nd   Lt Donald   J. Corrigan
1st   Lt Edward   M. Fogarty
2nd   Lt Leroy   W. Ista
Major William   B. Bailey (Flt Ldr)
2nd   Lt William   J. Jordan
1st   Lt Thomas   J. Forkin
2nd   Lt Leslie   P. Cles
Capt Raynor   E. Robertson
2nd   Lt Robert   T. Murden
Lt Day (56th FG)

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