Some further information has come in on 1st Lt. Hildreth R. “Holly” Owens that I would like to share with you. Holly Owens from Quinton, New Jersey was one of a batch of five early replacements who joined the 352nd Fighter Squadron on September 14, 1943. Sadly, he does not show up in Squadron records much other than on the flight schedules for his 59 recorded missions. He flew his first mission on October 3, 1943 and completed his tour May 8, 1944. There is a bit of a mystery after he left the Squadron for the Zone of the Interior on May 12, 1944. Squadron records indicate he intended to return for another tour, but he does not appear to have done so. The assumption therefore is that he must have been posted to another unit elsewhere.
There are two occasions Holly Owens does appear in the records. The first is at Metfield November 12, 1943 when he was taxiing SX-K (a/c 42-8414).He nosed over the aircraft when a Command Car driven by Lt. Murphy headed towards him and he had to make an emergency use of the brakes. The other occasion is April 8, 1944 when, as wing man to Capt. Hoey, he attacked a gun battery:
We went down to strafe an airdrome but missed it and came just up the north side of it. I shot at one small building about 500 yards off the perimeter track, hopped over some small trees, and saw a gun battery with about 50 guns which I think were 50 mm. It was too late to strafe them all but directly in my sights was one, manned by four men. They were turning the gun so as to shoot at us as we flew away. I gave them about a three second burst and saw many strikes and a lot of dust created by my bullets. I then stayed low for a few seconds and saw a large building slightly to my left and gave it a two second burst.
Of the four other pilots Owens joined the Squadron with, Lt. Hajosy was killed in an accident September 18, 1943, Lt. Moriarty was shot down and became a POW December 30, 1943 and Lt. Keywan was killed in action June 12, 1944. Owens and his best friend Joe Schillinger were the only ones to complete their tours – Owens was later best man at Schillinger’s wedding. Holly Owens passed away in 1981 following a battle with cancer. The following post is made with thanks to Holly’s daughter Valerie Owens-Weigel who was named so because her father heard the popular name while he was in England. Valerie has also kindly provided the photos of SX-L under her father’s ownership.