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.

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.

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.

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].

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 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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3 Comments

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

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

  1. Once again, I am touched by your posts of these missions and the bravery of these men. Of course, seeing Jack Terzian’s name brings up a whole set of emotions. Did all the pilots keep these kinds of records of their missions? Would my dad have done the same? We have hundreds of files I’ve yet to go through. Just wondering. Thank you for what you do.

    • Thanks for your comment Toni. The records for the mission reports are an amalgamation of the Squadron and Group records that were sent home at the end of the war. They are now at the National Archives in Washington and Maxwell AFB, Alabama. So it’s a case of bringing together a lot of different sources to present a picture of each mission.

  2. Patrick Maher

    Lt. Kenney is my 2nd cousin, do you have any more records than above regarding either his time with the 351st or his crash? I already have a copy of his MACR. He was one of 4 downed airmen in the family. Only one, my grandfather, SSGT Merlin B Gearon Jr, returned from the war.
    Thanks

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