There is a close link through the penultimate P-51 Mustang SX-L to the SX-Z code in the Squadron so I thought it would make sense to cover that code next. Just to reiterate that in these histories I only write what I can confirm through photographic evidence in the 353rd FG archive, photographs published in books (I will always provide a reference in this case) and other documentary evidence. As the first SX-Z demonstrates, even the documentary evidence can be wrong sometimes and so I try, where possible, to confirm names, serials and pilots from several sources. These include, missing aircrew reports, individual aircraft record cards and various Squadron/Group reports available in the Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell AFB (I was last there in January and they are just great people!). There are also substantial Group records in the National Archives in Washington which I last visited in June 2013. I only use online sources as a way to highlight where any questions could exist as I do not wish to appear to claim credit for the hard work of others in collecting data or to dilute any original material they might have assembled. Neither do I wish to repeat data I cannot verify myself. This seems to me a pragmatic approach to achieving accuracy and hopefully contributes to a wider knowledge on the Group’s aircraft. With that in mind, here is my brief history of SX-Z with thanks, as always, to Ash Gant for his efforts.
A/C 42-7905 P-47D-1-RE. This olive drab razorback has caused some problems and required a bit of checking. MACR 541 detailing the loss of F/O Earl W. Perry on September 6, 1943 was incorrect in recording the aircraft number as 42-7901 as this aircraft was assigned to the 4th Fighter Group (as WD-G detailed in a Combat Report July 30, 1943) at least between July 1943 and February 1944. The Cumulative Loss Listing, Individual Aircraft Record Card and abort records all confirm that Perry was actually lost in 42-7905. I do not think that this was Perry’s assigned aircraft as I have a letter from Sgt. Welbourn, the Crew Chief, stating that his aircraft was SX-N. It might be that the “N” was put on its side in his memory over the passage of time, but I cannot be any more conclusive than this pending any further photographs or evidence being found.
A/C 42-22762 P-47D-4-RA. This olive drab razorback was presumably a replacement for the first SX-Z lost with F/O Perry and was flying with the Squadron from at least December 4, 1943. It was flown regularly by Lt. Harry H. Dustin but we have no confirmation of any name he gave the aircraft. At some point, probably mid to late February when D-15s came into the Squadron, the aircraft was transferred to the 56th Fighter Group. Combat reports from that Group (March 8 and April 15, 1944) confirm it flew as UN-S with the 63rd Fighter Squadron. The aircraft was then transferred to the 390th Fighter Squadron, 366th Fighter Group of the 9th Air Force. It was lost July 26, 1944 with Lt. Robert L. Ackerly who became a POW (MACR 7482 refers).
A/C 42-75683 P-47D-15-RE. This olive drab razorback was possibly swapped with the 56th Fighter Group for the above aircraft as it is listed by them as transferred to the 352nd FS (no date given). The aircraft was flown by Lt. Harry H. Dustin until he was MIA March 16, 1944. The aircraft was then assigned to Lt. William S. Marchant with the name “Big Totsy” though I cannot confirm whether he inherited the name from Dustin or named the aircraft himself. The artwork was of a woman in cowboy boots and a Stetson just by the cockpit. The aircraft was lost with Lt. Francis L. Edwards on May 30, 1944 (MACR 5205 refers).
A/C 42-26549 P-47D-25-RE. This natural metal finish bubbletop was the assigned aircraft of Lt. Edward C. Andrews and named “Eager Eddie” by him. Andrews flew the aircraft on 50 missions between June and the end of August 1944 and it was then inherited by Lt. Harold E. Nance who flew it on missions until the Group converted to Mustangs in October 1944. Nance said of the aircraft “It had Eager Eddie painted on the side when I inherited it…As I went by the name Ed at the time and he [Andrews] had good luck and finished his tour, I left the name on.” Nance never mentioned to me that he ever had the additional name “Nance” on the aircraft (other than presumably the nameplate on the side of the aircraft). Neither does the photographic and documentary evidence available to me suggest this additional name was ever used. The aircraft suffered an abort due to an oil leak on August 11 and then is recorded as being in the hanger for an engine change on August 14, 1944. After that the documentary trail goes cold and we do not know what happened to the aircraft after it left the 352nd Fighter Squadron. There are numerous photos of this aircraft in Cross’s Jonah’s Feet Are Dry (see p. 120 and 210).There is also a photo in Bill Hess, Aces and Wingmen II – Volume II (Usk, 1999), p.122.
A/C 44-14259 P-51D-10-NA. This aircraft was assigned to Lt. Harold E. Nance and named “Poopdeck Pappy” by him. On the origins of the name Nance wrote: “I named Poopdeck Pappy for my father. At the time Popeye’s father appeared in the comic strip and he was called Poopdeck Pappy and I got in the habit of calling my Dad that name.” The aircraft was flown on 25 missions by 13 different pilots (nine of them by Nance). It was destroyed in a crash at Raydon November 26, 1944 when the pilot, Lt. Stephen J. Kritz, attempted an emergency landing after the engine suffered a coolant leak. Nance also commented on this tragic loss: “A new pilot on his first mission [actually his sixth] took my P-51. After take-off his element leader said the cockpit appeared to be filled with fog or smoke and the pilot augured in within sight of the field. I didn’t even know his name.” Nance completed his tour and left the Squadron in early January 1945.
A/C 44-15691 P-51D-15-NA. This aircraft was flown on 36 missions by eight different pilots between December 18, 1944 and March 2, 1945. As 28 of these missions were flown by Lt. Joseph L. Schreiber it seems safe to assume that it was his aircraft and that he was responsible for the name “L’il Shirl.” The aircraft was lost March 2, 1945 when Lt. Schreiber was shot down by enemy fighters and became a POW (MACR 12864 refers).
A/C 44-14805 P-51D-10-NA. The final aircraft to carry this code in the Squadron was the former SX-L transferred to “C” Flight of the 352nd on March 14, 1945 and re-coded to SX-Z. As Lt. Ralph B. Snyder’s aircraft it was flown on 24 missions by 12 different pilots between March 17, 1945 and the end of the war (six by Snyder). 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 a well known TV presenter 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.
There is no recorded use of the code SX-Z Bar in the Squadron.
The code SX-Z appears to have been associated with “C” flight throughout the war. The crew for much of that time was S/Sgt. Harold H. Gladden (Crew Chief), Sgt. John W. Nicholson (Assistant Crew Chief) and Sgt. Eugene H. Ploger (Armourer). SX-Y, T and P (at least) were also in “C” flight and it does appear that the crew chiefs at least were sometimes swapped around. As the Nance photo shows S/Sgt Lloyd C. Nelson was his crew chief (he had previously assisted on SX-Y) and 352nd records note the S/Sgt Gladden was given SX-P on September 8, 1944. It is not definitely known therefore who the crew for the later SX-Zs were.