Mission#59 December 30, 1943 – Target: Ludwigshafen. The Loss of 1st Lt. William W. Odom, 350th Fighter Squadron and 2nd Lt. Russell E. Moriarty, 352nd Fighter Squadron.

Date: Dec 30, 43

Dispatched: 48 Aborts: 0

Mission: Penetration support to 1st ATF (300 B-17’s, 1st Div & 60 B-24’s, 2nd Div)

Field Order: 210 Leader: Major Bailey Target: Ludwigshafen

Time Up/Down 09:50 hrs 12:50 hrs

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

Made L/F over Gravelines 10:39 hrs,  24,500ft, making R/V with 4th box of bombers approximate vicinity of Montdidier 10:40 hrs, 26,000ft. Bomber formation in individual boxes was good but boxes very much spread in trail and horizontally. On arriving with 1st box of B-17s observed a gaggle of 6+ Me109s coming at bombers from 12 o’clock below. Lead flight positioned themselves and bounced E/A following them northwest down to 16,000ft where engagement was broken off due to distance from the bombers. Made left orbit back to join B-17s. Lead Squadron went back to help in a high engagement above the second box, but this attack had been successfully dispersed with the 350th Squadron claiming one damaged in the area between Charleville and St Hubert. Yellow flight of the 352nd engaged 15+ E/A above and between first two boxes destroying one Me109 and one Fw190D, probably destroying one Me109 and damaging another Me109 north of Miziers. Lt. Odom, 350th Squadron, was last seen in engagement with Me109 in this vicinity. When leader again joined lead box of bombers, the P-38s were seen and contacted on “C” channel. Group left bombers at 11:31 hrs, 27,000ft in the vicinity of Ostende. One unidentified S/E fighter seen going down out of control at 11:15 hrs. On entering enemy coast, two unidentified E/A were observed patrolling Pas de Calais area above 32,000ft. No bombers observed in distress. No Spitfire escort seen. Several bursts of flak from Calais and St Omer. R/T reception fair to good with usual whine. Contact on “C” channel with Goldsmith 1-1, 1-2 Smallboy excellent. Contact with Rightfield poor. Capt. Stafford of Group HQ participated.

1 Fw190 destroyed Lt. Johnson 352nd

1Me109 probably destroyed Lt. Gonnam 352nd

1 Me109 destroyed Lt. Gonnam and Lt. Willits 352nd

1Me109 damaged Lt. Stearns 350th

1 Me109 damaged Lt. Gonnam 352nd

[The tactical analysis from Major Bailey gives a good assessment of the problems and frustrations encountered on this mission]:

This Officer is cognizant of the difficulties encountered in controlling large bomber formations. At the same time, however, it is felt that CW (combat wings) should be flown at close intervals due to the difficulties involved in giving them adequate fighter protection. On this mission our forces were extended with the result that adequate top cover up to 33000ft could not be provided. Our fighters were outnumbered, not surprised. The enemy was quick to press home his advantage of altitude and numerical superiority.

350th: Capt Pidduck. T/U 09:54 hrs. T/D 12:55 hrs. Total flight time 3:01 hrs. Squadron entered coast at Gravelines at 26,000ft on time. Flak at St Omer heavy but inaccurate. R/V at Roye at 31,000ft. Escorted first box to Marle, then over 2nd box to Charleville. Over third box to point of departure 11:35 hrs. P-38 seen with B-24 at point of departure. 15 plus Me109s seen in vicinity of Charleville to St Hubert where engagement took place. Lt. Stearns damaged 1 Me109. Squadron followed planned course out, flights coming out over Ostend. Lt. Odom was seen going down on an Me109, firing, with another 109 on his tail.

Capt Stanley R. Pidduck (Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt Joseph F. Furness
1st Lt Robert N. Ireland
2nd Lt Chauncey Rowan
1st Lt William W. Odom (Flt Ldr) 42-8398
1st Lt Tom Lorance
1st Lt William J. Price
2nd Lt Richard A. Stearns
Capt Wilford F. Hurst (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Kenneth Chetwood
1st Lt Melvin P. Dawson
2nd Lt William F. Tanner
Capt Charles W. Dinse (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt John H. Winder
1st Lt John Zolner
2nd Lt Walter L. Angelo
1st Lt Roland N. McKean
1st Lt Charles O. Durant

Probably the last person to see Odom alive was the number four man of Red flight, 2nd Lt. Richard Stearns:

We found ourselves in a tight Luftberry [sic] with about 15 Me109’s and Fw190’s. As we circled, losing altitude all the time, the top cover for the e/a came streaking down, firing at us. This engagement took place at 25,000ft. I saw Lt. Odom about 1,000ft below me chasing 3 Me109’s with several 109’s on his tail. I went down to assist him, and the e/a on his tail broke away. One of the lead Me109’s also broke off the engagement.

Lt. Odom took the e/a on the right and I engaged the one on the left. Lt. Odom and the plane he was firing at suddenly pulled ahead of the e/a I was firing at, who then started to position himself on my fighter leaders tail. I started firing at extreme range and closed very slowly to about 500 yards. I saw a thin stream of smoke coming from the e/a. At this point my ammunition was expended, but I continued following on down, keeping my camera running. We were now at 7,000ft just above the cloud level, when off from the right came another 109, starting to come in on my tail. I turned into him, thinking I could bluff him into breaking away, but with no luck. We passed almost head on, with only a few feet to spare.

I turned and started again to make a pass, and at this point I saw Lt. Odom still going down on the e/a with the other Me109 on his tail. I entered the cloud layer and evaded the e/a. I had made several calls on my R/T warning the aircraft of the e/a on his tail, but called Lt. Price, whom I thought was flying this ship. I later found out that it was Lt. Odom. I believe Lt Odom was aware of the Me109 on his tail because of the violent evasive action he took just before going out of sight.

Stearns was awarded an Me109 damaged.

1st Lt. William W. "Dub" Odom from Ashburn, Georgia failed to return from the December 30, 1943 mission. Dub's aircraft was named "Flamin Mamie" and had a naked woman painted on the nose cowl (the PG rating of this WordPress site prevents me posting a picture of said lady).  There is no proof that I have seen that P-47 42-8398 was this aircraft or that it was LH-O as is sometimes stated (I believe this reference comes from a profile in Roger Freeman's American Eagle's Volume 3). LH-O was, of course, Bill Tanner's usual aircraft - it was battle damaged November 13, so I suppose it's possible a new LH-O was assigned to Odom, but I think it unlikely. If anyone has any further information on this do let me know.

1st Lt. William W. “Dub” Odom (0-428625) from Ashburn, Georgia failed to return from the December 30, 1943 mission. Dub’s aircraft was named “Flamin Mamie” and had a naked woman painted on the nose cowl (the PG rating of this WordPress site prevents me posting a picture of said lady). There is no proof, that I have seen, that P-47 42-8398 was this aircraft or that it was LH-O as is sometimes stated (I believe this reference comes from a profile in Roger Freeman’s American Eagle’s Volume 3). LH-O was, of course, Bill Tanner’s usual aircraft – it was battle damaged November 13, so I suppose it’s possible a new LH-O was assigned to Odom, but I think it unlikely. If anyone has any further information on this do let me know.

Nicholas George, a 20 year olf Frenchman from the village of Erpion at the time of Dub's loss, witnessed the crash. He wrote a short book (in French) about the excavation of the crash site in 1995 and his investigations into the story of the young flyer. The 77 pages are certainly a moving tribute to Dub lost on his thirty-seventh mission for the 350th Squadron.

Nicholas George, a 20 year old Frenchman from the village of Erpion at the time of Dub’s loss, witnessed the crash. He wrote a short book (in French) about the excavation of the crash site in 1995 and his investigations into the story of the young flyer. The 77 pages are certainly a moving tribute to Dub lost while flying his thirty-seventh mission for the 350th Squadron. Dub’s remains were returned the the United States after the war and he is now buried alongside his family at Rosehill Cemetery, Ashburn, Georgia.

351st: Major Beckham. T/U T/D Total flight time. Route: In Gravelines – R/V at Roye vicinity of Libremont – out south of Ostende. Squadron took off Metfield. Made landfall at Gravelines at 10:40 hrs, 25,000ft. Proceeded on course, sighting bombers at 10:50 hrs, and making R/V at Roye at 11:00 hrs. Squadron took up escort position with third box of bombers at 11:35 hrs. Out enemy coast 10 miles south of Ostende, 12:15 hrs, 25,000ft. 8 bogies seen at 33,000ft, 10:50 hrs, coming in from ahead of bombers and passing on out to the left without making an attack on the bombers. One B-17 seen to abort 11:10 hrs. Contact on “C” channel made with bombers. Denver two one heard on “C” channel. P-38s seen entering just after Squadron left coast on way out. Clear over coast, but increasing to solid overcast as went inland.

Major Walter C. Beckham (Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt Harry F. Hunter
Capt Charles L. Stafford
F/O Cletus Peterson
Capt Frederick H. Lefebre
2nd Lt Harry D. Milligan
1st Lt William R. Burkett
2nd Lt John G. Treitz
1st Lt William J. Maguire
2nd Lt Frank J. Mincik
1st Lt Francis N. King
2nd Lt Richard D. Stanley
1st Lt David C. Kenney
2nd Lt Don M. Hurlburt
2nd Lt Lloyd A. Thornell
F/O Joseph E. Wood
2nd Lt Irving Toppel

352nd: Major Bailey. T/U 09:50 hrs. T/D 12:52 hrs. Total flight time 3:02 hrs. Squadron up 09:50 hrs, Major Bailey leading the Group. Obtained altitude and crossed enemy coast over Gravelines at 10:39 hrs, at 24,500ft. Few bursts of flak from St. Omer, accurate for altitude but behind. Proceeded to R/V point and on the way 2 A/C were called in to be stooging around above us at about 35,000ft. R/V west of intended R/V point on the 4th box of bombers at 10:49 hrs at 26,000ft. Made left hand turn and flew to the first box of bombers which was apparently ahead of planned time. Had good contact with the bombers on “C” channel and 1st box of bombers reported bandits near them at 12 o’clock. White and Red flights answered the call and proceeded after bandits, chased them to 16,000ft, broke away and pulled up to rejoin the bombers. Second box called for help so White and Red flights went back, but by the time they arrived and got in position the fight was over. At the right turn to go back to the second box Red#2 saw an unidentified S/E A/C go down apparently out of control. No other A/C was seen in the immediate vicinity of the fluttering A/C. During the fight over second box, Lt. Gonnam, leading Yellow flight, got a 109 probable. He and his second element leader, Lt. Willits, then fired on another 109 which they shared destroyed. Lt Gonnam then damaged another 109. Our Blue flight was split into elements as they turned back to help the second box when they saw 15 plus bandits approach from 12 o’clock high. These E/A made attacks on Blue flight leader, Capt. Hoey, and his wingman, Lt. Johnson, who broke into the attack and dove downward to evade. Lt. Johnson had started homes on the deck when he was attacked by two Me109s and one 190D. Lt. Johnson made a climbing turn and got on th tail of the 190D and destroyed it. On his way home he saw a Hs126 which he tried to attack but the 126 went into the clouds and Lt. Johnson being low on gas did not press the attack but returned home. Remainder of the Squadron continued [with] the lead units of 1st Task Force until 11:31 hrs when we turned left and came home. Landfall out at 12:13 hrs west of course between Dunkirk and Ostend. No flak encountered on the way out. Sky clear over Channel. Low and middle clouds built up from enemy coast to a solid overcast, tops at 7,000ft on a line parallel to the coast and 75 miles inland. R/T- A and C channels both very good. 14 Down at 12:52, 1 down Manston.

Major William B. Bailey (Gp & Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt William J. Jordan
1st Lt Robert A. Newman
2nd Lt Joseph A. Schillinger
Capt Charles J. Hoey (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Wilton W. Johnson
1st Lt Robert P. Geurtz
2nd Lt Victor L. Vogel
Capt Thomas J. Forkin (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Harry H. Dustin
1st Lt William F. Streit
2nd Lt Russell E. Moriarty SX-? 42-74636
1st Lt Jesse W. Gonnam (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Glenn G. Callans
1st Lt Gordon L. Willits
2nd Lt William S. Marchant

The section consisting of Yellow and Blue flight reached Pipeful Red flight and became involved in a major engagement. Leading Wakeford Yellow flight was1st Lt. Jesse W Gonnam:

I heard a call from Pipeful Red leader saying he needed help at the 2nd box of 17’s. I turned and dove into a fight on the left side of the 2nd box of bombers. I saw an Me109 on the tail of three 47’s and I made a stern attack, starting to fire at about 300 yards. I saw flashes from wing tip to wing tip and strikes on the left side of the fuselage. I fired another burst from astern and saw strikes again on the e/a. I fired a third burst and noticed two guns on the right had stopped firing causing me to swerve to the left with each burst. I saw strikes on the third and again on the fourth burst. I couldn’t reason out why the e/a didn’t take evasive action or why I didn’t knock him down with the number of hits I saw. I then fired again, firing a long burst. I again saw strikes and the e/a started slow evasive action. On the sixth burst he rolled and I pushed forward to fire again but overran him and rolled with him. He recovered going straight down and I noticed smoke trailing him for the first time. I recovered and the e/a went straight down into the clouds that started at about 7000ft. From the hits and smoke observed, and apparent uncontrollability of the e/a, I believe I destroyed this ship.

I crossed to the left and opened fire on the closest of the two Me109’s at about 300 yards and saw strikes on him. I overran and my #3 man started firing at this ship. Flames and smoke burst from him and he went straight down trailing black smoke from the cowling and fuselage. I was then firing at the lead e/a at about 400 yards. I saw strikes and followed him, still firing, into the clouds where I zoomed out and started climbing to go back to the bombers’.

1st Lt. Gonnam was awarded a 109 probable, a 109 destroyed (shared with Lt. Willits) and a 109 damaged, in the order of his attack. 1st Lt. Gordon L Willits, leading the second element, reported his shared victory with Gonnam:

We turned back to help. There was a fight behind the second box. We dived down and got on the tail of three Me109’s who evidently didn’t see us. Lt. Gonnam fired at one and after several hits it rolled over and went straight down through clouds, smoking badly.

He then fired at a second Me109 and I observed many strikes. When he overran I opened fire on the same a/c, firing about six bursts at a range of 350 yards and closing to 50 yards. I observed numerous strikes in the fuselage at the left wing and a burst of smoke, and when the 109 and myself went into the clouds he was still smoking badly. I pulled up and joined Lt. Gonnam again.

Wakeford Blue flight, also heading back to help Pipeful Red, were split into two elements as they turned after being bounced by 15+ bandits, approaching from 12 o’clock high. Capt. Charles Hoey was leading:

Fifteen + Me109’s crossed our line of flight 2000ft above (30,000ft) and turned to a course parallel to the bombers, halfway between the first and second boxes.

I started to climb and the e/a bounced our element. We turned into the e/a but three e/a had gotten awfully close to Blue Two, Lt. Johnson. He started evasive action and dove for the deck. At this time three e/a were also chasing me and I started evasive action and then started to dive. There were no other friendly aircraft in the vicinity of this encounter, at this time.

I pulled out of my dive about 15000ft and looked around for e/a or friendly a/c. I then saw an Me109 at about 8000ft, almost directly below me. I dove on him, closing to about 500 yards and fired a short burst just as he entered a cloud at about 5000ft. He was in a gentle turn to the left as I opened fire. Since I was closing fairly rapidly I made a sharp turn in the cloud to prevent this e/a from shooting at me in case I emerged from a cloud in front of him.

Hoey made no claim, his wing man, 1st Lt. Wilton W Johnson, had better luck and claimed an Fw190 destroyed:

We were immediately to the rear of the 1st box of bombers at about 28000ft, when 15+ contrails were seen at about 11 o’clock to us. The contrails appeared to be climbing in a right turn until they were directly into the Sun from our position. By that time we had identified them as e/a, and shortly thereafter they bounced us. We turned into the e/a, which turned out to be 109’s with a yellowish brown color, with a lighter underside.

Three e/a got in a string and commenced firing at me, and there were several others attacking Capt. Hoey. The remainder of the e/a evidently stayed up for top cover while the others pressed the attack. I turned into the attackers as much as possible, and finally rolled over on my back and began a vertical dive doing violent evasive action. I couldn’t pull out when I had intended to, and so continued right through the clouds and down to the deck.

I had pulled out and was picking up a course for home when immediately off to my left two 109’s and another aircraft bearing German markings dove though the cloud layer. The first two began a steep turn to the left, and the unidentified German a/c also made a left turn, but was somewhat behind the other two. I still had excessive airspeed from the dive and so made a slight climbing turn to the left and got on the tail of #3 man, which I believe to be either a Fw190 or perhaps a German P-47. It was a yellowish brown color, with a light underside, similar to those that bounced us previously and appeared to have a radial engine with slightly larger wings than the ordinary Fw190. I fired from about seven hundred yards, and the aircraft showed distinct hits in the fuselage, and began to make a diving turn to the right, smoking considerably. It continued to dive and crashed into the ground causing a huge explosion.

The altitude at which I fired was roughly 1500ft and it was easy to follow the e/a into the ground. I made a left orbit over the wreckage and went down on the deck and proceeded on a course home. I crossed an airfield that had no aircraft on it, and approximately a minute or two passed the airport, I noticed what I believe to be a Henschel 126 far off to my left, and just below the clouds. As it was some distance away and so near the clouds and my gas supply was low, I did not press the attack, but continued home.

The day would not be completely one-sided. It is not entirely clear from MACR 1866 what happened to 2nd Lt. Russell E Moriarty though it seems likely that he was shot down by an unseen covering enemy during the combat. He survived the war as a POW in Stalag Luft I Barth.1st Lt. William Streit was flying Wakeford Red three :

Lt. Moriarty was flying Wakeford Red 4 on my wing. We were escorting the first box of bombers when a call came through from the 2nd box that they were in trouble. Wakeford White flight turned 180 degrees and we turned, which left Lt. Moriarty and I as the last two ships.

Four 190’s came out of the Sun swinging in behind us. I called for Lt. Moriarty to break with me. We broke into the e/a and started a Luftberry [sic] with them. After two 360 degree turns I was in position to fire on the #4 e/a, then they all did a wing over and went down. I then called Lt. Moriarty and he answered. I gave him my position and asked him his but I never received an answer. My belief is that he went down after them. Just before we broke with the e/a was the last time I saw Lt. Moriarty. The four Fw190’s were flying the same formation as we; also I definitely out turned them. This was in the vicinity of Charleville, France.

Group Losses:

42-8398 MIA LH-? Lt.   Odom
42-74636 MIA SX-? Lt.   Moriarty

1 Comment

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One response to “Mission#59 December 30, 1943 – Target: Ludwigshafen. The Loss of 1st Lt. William W. Odom, 350th Fighter Squadron and 2nd Lt. Russell E. Moriarty, 352nd Fighter Squadron.

  1. Michael Moores LeBlanc

    The ‘would-be’ evasion of 2/Lt Russell E. Moriarty is one I am very well aware of – excepting the exact circumstances and details of his arrest in the Pyrenees area. Up to that particular point in time I have studied him, his co-evadees and his helpers and have collected a great deal of information about it. I would like to share this with you and perhaps see it posted because of its great adventure and drama . . . involving a love affair and eventually his marriage to the lady involved in arranging his passage from Antwerp to the French frontier with Spain.

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