Following on from my post on the history of SX-I of the 352nd Fighter Squadron a few weeks ago I have now completed the history of SX-L as far as we can ascertain from the information available. It might seem that I’m being a little focused on the 352nd to the exclusion of the other two Squadrons at the moment. I assure you this is not the case and it is just that it is easier for me to work methodically through the Squadrons one at a time. The 352nd is first because, for whatever reason, they have the better records. The 350th Fighter Squadron, particularly with the early Thunderbolts, is a “black hole” of missing data that I’m hoping will fill out much more as I go along and benefit from being tackled last. The plan for the next few weeks is to cover SX-Z, then SX-D and N with a post on Capt. Joe Knoble and then SX-P linked with a post on Lt. Donald Corrigan. In the meantime, if serials, names and codes are your thing, please enjoy SX-L with my thanks to Ash Gant, as always, for our ongoing discussions and head scratching. Corrections and clarifications to anything I write are most welcome.
A/C 42-22458 P-47D-2-RA. This olive drab razorback was assigned to 1st Lt. Leroy W. Ista and named “Stingeree” by him. The artwork was a stinging wasp painted on the fuselage. The aircraft flew with the Squadron from August 1943 until Lt. Ista was lost in the aircraft December 22, 1943 (MACR 1539 refers).
A/C 42-75065 P-47D-10-RE. This olive drab razorback was a replacement for the first SX-L lost with Lt. Ista and first flew with the Squadron on February 11, 1944. It was flown regularly by 1st Lt. Edison G. Stiff until his loss in the aircraft February 22, 1944 (MACR 2672 refers). We have no record of any name given to this aircraft.
A/C 42-75247 P-47D-11-RE. This olive drab razorback was a replacement for the second SX-L lost with Lt. Stiff and first flew with the Squadron on March 6, 1944. It was assigned to 1st Lt. Hildreth R. Owens until he completed his tour on May 9, 1944. We have no record of any name used on the aircraft by Lt. Owens. It was then assigned to 2nd Lt. Lloyd Hunt who flew the aircraft on eight missions during May and June 1944. We have no name recorded for the aircraft at this time either, but it was re-coded to SX-L Bar (the only use of L Bar in the Squadron) between May 27 and sometime after June 13, 1944 because the fourth SX-L operated in the Squadron at the same time. The aircraft did not fly operationally with the Squadron between June 13 and August 16, 1944 when, back as SX-L, it became the assigned aircraft of Lt. Harrison B. Tordoff. He named the aircraft “Anne” and flew it operationally between August and October 1944. There is a picture of this aircraft on p. 209 of Cross’s Jonah’s Feet Are Dry. The individual aircraft record card for this aircraft indicates that after it left the Squadron when they converted to Mustangs it went to the 56th Fighter Group as HV-L. It was salvaged due to battle damage there December 19, 1944.
A/C 42-75657 P-47D-15-RE. This olive drab razorback was assigned to the Squadron in May 1944 and was coded SX-L (leaving 42-75247 to be re-coded SX-L Bar for a time). It was flown regularly by Lt. Thomas W. Jones, but we have no record of any name given to the aircraft by him. It was salvaged following a crash landing at an advanced landing strip in Normandy due to battle damage on June 13, 1944. The pilot, Lt. Jones, suffered facial burns in the crash.
A/C 42-26564 P-47D-25-RE. This natural metal finish bubbletop was a replacement for the aircraft crashed by Lt. Jones on June 13, 1944. It was assigned to Lt. Harold O. Miller who flew it on 19 missions between June 18 and July 6, 1944. Miller related on the origins of the name he gave the aircraft: ‘“Sniffles” was a Looney Tunes cartoon originating from Mr. Chuck Jones about a little mouse that always had a “code in da nose”. It shows my age at the time (I was only 19) but I figured a weak little mouse that is given a R-2800 Pratt & Whitney engine and eight .50 caliber machine guns could be somebody too.’ Like its predecessor, the fifth SX-L had a short life with the Squadron. It was salvaged due to battle damage after Lt. Miller was forced to crash land at Advanced Landing Ground B3 (Sainte Croix Sur Mer) on the morning of July 6, 1944. Hal Miller confirmed that at the time B3 was home to 144 (Canadian) Wing led by Johnnie Johnson whom he met after his fiery crash landing. He also confirmed that when Charlie Wurtzler (Squadron Intelligence Officer) heard that he was down and in France he transferred Lt. Miller and his aircraft on temporary duty to the 9th AF so that he was not recorded as MIA. This was done to avoid unnecessary worry to Lt. Miller’s family.
A/C 44-14805 P-51D-10-NA. This aircraft was flown on 68 missions by 21 different pilots between October 2, 1944 and March 14, 1945. It was first assigned to Lt. Harrison B. Tordoff who flew the aircraft on 14 missions between October and November 1944 when he completed his first tour. As a keen ornithologist Tordoff named the aircraft “Upupa Epops!” after the Latin name for the Hoopoe bird. Tordoff liked the pun because the Hoopoe was noted for its ungainly flight characteristics. The two pictures to be found on p.210 of Danny Morris’s Aces and Wingmen II (Usk,1989) seem conclusive as to the name (as do Tordoff’s own letters to me) so we cannot confirm any other variations of the name. When Tordoff completed his tour the primary pilot became Lt. Ralph B. Snyder who flew the aircraft on 24 missions between November 1944 and March 1945. The aircraft was transferred to “C” Flight of the 352nd on March 14, 1945 and re-coded to SX-Z. We do not have any confirmed evidence of names for the aircraft in Snyder’s hands. I have “lists” from many sources going back some 30 years with references to both “Shirley Dean” and “Brad’s Dad,” but have no photographic confirmation. Interestingly, Ralph Snyder became the well known TV presenter Ralph Story after the war and details of his career can be found HERE. A search of the internet also confirms that he had a son named Brad – so maybe Brad is out there and can confirm the aircraft name? The aircraft was completely lost as SX-Z in the fatal crash of Lt. Donald F. Blaicher on July 12, 1945.
A/C 44-72364 P-51D-20-NA. This aircraft was assigned to the Squadron in mid March 1945 and to Capt. Harrison B. Tordoff who began his second tour February 17, 1945. The aircraft flew 24 missions with 11 different pilots, 12 of them piloted by Tordoff. He named the aircraft “Upupa Epops.” Subsequent to its time with the 352nd the aircraft was used by the Royal Swedish Air Force as Fv26061and then, in 1952, went to the Fuerza Aerea Dominicana as FAD 1916 until 1984. It is currently with the Flying Heritage Inc, Seattle, WA in wartime markings and you can see further details HERE.
Details for the crew of SX-L throughout the war are patchy. On Tordoff’s second SX-L they were S/Sgt. Kermit M. Knutson, S/Sgt. William F. Jopke and Cpl. Erwin G. Wolf. It is possible that, like many other “letters” in the Squadron, they were the crew of all the main SX-Ls throughout the war, but we have no evidence to confirm this. Hal Miller’s SX-L had a different crew (the original crew may have continued to crew SX-L Bar) who followed him to his next aircraft SX-S. The above photograph confirms Miller’s crew chief on SX-L was S/Sgt. James M. Cody and armourer Sgt. Raymond J. Pearn.