Category Archives: 351st Fighter Squadron

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Lt. Stanley S. Petticrew Jr., 351st Fighter Squadron, January 20, 1922 – January 21, 2015.

I have to report that we have lost another veteran of the 351st Fighter Squadron. Pilot Stanley Scott Petticrew Jr., passed away January 21, 2015 in his home town of Springfield, Ohio – the day after his 93rd birthday.

Stan undertook ten hours familiarisation flying in a Piper Cub at Birmingham Southern College during April/May 1943 and then completed his pre-flight at Maxwell Field, Alabama, his primary training at Decatur, Alabama, his basic at Courland, Alabama and his advanced training in Craig Field, Alabama – graduating February 2, 1944. No doubt the amount of time he spent in Alabama during his training resulted in the name of his P-51 with the 351st “Birmingham Anne.”

Stan then completed 100 hours in P-40s at Fort Myers and Page Field where he served with the 15th FS of the 53rd FG. After this he travelled to Camp Kilmer and on August 4, 1944 embarked on a 15 day voyage to the United Kingdom arriving at Bristol.

After a short stay with the 495th Fighter Training Group at Goxhill (August 20 – September 18, 1944) he joined the 505th FS, 339th FG at Fowlmere and recalled that he flew several mission with them (I have no further details to confirm this at this point).  The 353rd FG were at this time desperately short of pilots and so ten pilots were hastily transferred from  Fowlmere to Raydon  on October 2, 1944 (they were Warren, Linger, Clark, Rosen, Arnold, Fulton, French, Gilmer, Petticrew and Brock). Stan knew many of these pilots well from training and was saddened when Arnold, French and Brock were later killed in action.

The Group did not give him long to settle in. Stan flew the first of 65 missions from Raydon on October 12, 1944 and his last on April 20, 1945. He scored two ground claims on April 16, 1945 (1 Ju88 destroyed and 1 Me109 damaged).  His assigned aircraft was YJ-Y “Birmingham Anne” (a/c 44-11191). This aircraft has a number of names associated with it and was certainly flown by Stan for a time under its previous owner’s name “Betts 2nd” (as named by Lt. Christensen).

Stan was very proud of his association with the Squadron and Group and returned to Raydon in 1995 as part of the reunion party that year. I also had the pleasure of meeting him at several reunions in the United States and spending a very pleasant day with him at the Wright Patterson USAF museum in 1998. He was buried January 24, 2015 with a full USAF Honour Guard in attendance.

This news is posted with condolences to his family at this time and with thanks to his niece, Melinda Callahan, for notifying us of this sad news.


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Robert F. Hahn – Fighter Pilot of the 351st Fighter Squadron.

It is with great sadness that I have to start the year with a  report that we have lost another Group veteran recently. Robert F. Hahn II writes that his father, Robert F. Hahn, passed away December 9, 2014 aged 93.

Bob Hahn joined the 351st Squadron in the autumn of 1944 and flew his first mission on November 10 of that year. Over the coming months he flew some 54 missions with his final operational flight made on April 19, 1945.

He claimed one Me109 destroyed in the air and four Ju88s destroyed and one Ju88 damaged on the ground. On April 7, 1945, flying wing to Capt. McGraw, he reported:

At about 12.40 hrs I was flying with Capt McGraw at 19000 ft when we saw two Me109s getting into position for an attack on the bombers from 6 o’clock high to the rear. They were coming from the right side of the bombers. We made a climbing turn to the right to cut them off. Capt McGraw told me to take the one on the left. I pulled up behind mine and opened fire. I observed strikes and the e/a started smoking. I then pulled off to stay with my leader and cover his tail. I saw mine slowly roll over and head straight down. At the same time, Capt McGraw’s target started into a spin and a wing broke off. No chutes appeared from either plane. His next claims, again as wing man to Capt. McGraw, came on the big strafing mission of April 16, 1945: I followed my leader, Capt McGraw, down on Kircham landing ground making my pass in a south westerly direction. On my first pass I put a few bursts into a Ju88 backed into the woods on the far side of the field. I pulled off and followed my leader around for a second pass. On this pass I poured lead into the Ju88 and observed it to burst into flames. As I pulled up over the flaming aircraft, I observed another of the same type just to the left of it. On my second pass this Ju88 also burst into flames. On these passes I observed numerous fires scattered all along the edge of the woods. The traffic pattern was then reversed. After making approximately eight passes on three t/e e/a, believed to be Ju88s, on the opposite side of the woods, these a/c failed to burn although I covered each with numerous strikes. When the Squadron left the field these three a/c had not been destroyed.

He later recounted the grim realities of this type of mission:

It was a balmy April day. Our Group recorded its biggest bag and I flew my first strafing mission. By tea time there were so many wrecked Nazis that it took a while to count up the victories. We knew a flak barrage protected Pocking airdrome and that expert camouflage concealed several hundred planes of all shapes and sizes. Our Squadron Commander said we should get at least two apiece. The flak was terrific, but we took care of it. The guns were not place to fire head on or down, so we flew under the flak and put some emplacements out of business by firing into them head on. I saw bodies of gunners tossed into the air by the impact of our bullets. There were Mustangs all over the place, making patterns from every possible angle. It reminded me of ground gunnery practice in the States. Because of the congestion, my flight moved out to an auxiliary field nearby. The planes, hidden with tree branches, were parked in the surrounding woods. I could barely see their noses protruding on the grassy landing strip. In a nearby field a farmer had abandoned his ploughing and was lying in a furrow, his arms wrapped around his head. Another Farmer was kind of fatalistic – he went right on working, hardly glancing up as we made our passes at the planes. Small arms fire opened up from adjacent barracks and a couple of Mustangs left the woods to work over the buildings until the enemy fire stopped. I followed my flight commander down, our propellers inches above the grass. We finally saw some pine covered Junkers which hadn’t been picked yet as targets. I pressed the trigger and as the first Junkers exploded I turned to another. I made pass after pass at them from every angle and one of them blew up, throwing debris sky high. Only one of my guns was working so I called it a day and headed home.

A Second Lieutenant while with the 351st Fighter Squadron, Bob Hahn remained in the USAF post WWII and retired as a Major in 1964. Bob was one of the first group veterans I got to know and it was always a pleasure to meet with this lively, animated man at reunions in Raydon and the United States. He will be sorely missed and this is posted with condolences to all his family and with thanks to his son Robert for communicating the sad news.


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1st Lt. John W. Bishop, 351st Fighter Squadron

Scott Bishop has been in touch with some further  information and pictures from his stepfather’s wartime album. 1st Lt. John W. Bishop from Austin, Texas flew a tour with the 351st Fighter Squadron from June to October 1944. He completed 270 combat hours and was awarded the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters and the DFC. Lt Bishop was the pilot of P-47 Thunderbolt YJ-E “Patrica Baby” lost along with Lt. Greene on September 17, 1944.  Some of the photos from Lt. Bishop’s album are posted here with thanks to Scott Bishop for sharing this fascinating further information. Rather than cropping the photos, I have left the original captions as they were written by John Bishop. Some of the details are also quite difficult to see so just click on the images for a larger view.

1st Lt. John W. Bishop (0-663448) of Austin Texas and the 351st Fighter Squadron in June 1944 (S Bishop).

1st Lt. John W. Bishop (0-663448) of Austin Texas and the 351st Fighter Squadron in July 1944 (S Bishop).

Lt. Bishop during basic training (S Bishop)

Lt. Bishop during basic training (S Bishop)

Lt. Bishop with "his old P-47." Note that this is clearly not YJ-E "Patrica Baby" and may well be another aircraft as he was not consistently flying YJ-E until the end of July, 1944 (S Bishop)

Lt. Bishop with “his old P-47.” Note that this is clearly not YJ-E “Patrica Baby” and may well be another aircraft as he was not consistently flying YJ-E until the end of July, 1944 (S Bishop)

Lt. Bishop outside his barrack hut at Raydon. The "Weg" may roughly translate as road or way in Dutch and German - thus "Immelmann Road/Way" as the huts title after the famous combat manoeuvre - though this is entirely speculation on my part. Maybe someone can be more precise as to its meaning? (S Bishop)

Lt. Bishop outside his barrack hut at Raydon. The “Weg” may roughly translate as road or way in Dutch and German – thus “Immelmann Road/Way” after the famous combat manoeuvre – though this is entirely speculation on my part. Maybe someone can be more precise as to its meaning? (S Bishop)

A page from a map belonging to Lt. Bishop showing the location of Raydon (S Bishop)

A page from a map belonging to Lt. Bishop showing the location of Raydon (S Bishop)

 Around the Base at Raydon

The "Thunderbolt Theatre" at Raydon (S Bishop)

The “Thunderbolt Theatre” at Raydon (S Bishop)

Left to right are Bishop, Stump, Milligan [looks like Maguire], Compton and Fuchs [Intelligence Officer] (S Bishop)

Left to right are Bishop, Stump, Milligan [looks like Maguire], Compton and Fuchs [Intelligence Officer] (S Bishop)

Left to right are Rosen, Murray, Stump (with Capt. bars), Murphy, Knicklebein, unknown and Milligan (S Bishop)

Left to right are Rosen, Murray, Stump (with Capt. bars), Murphy, Knicklebein, unknown and Milligan (S Bishop)

Inside the barrack hut at Raydon (S Bishop)

Inside the barrack hut at Raydon (S Bishop)

"Big Friends" returning home over Raydon (S Bishop)

“Big Friends” returning home over Raydon (S Bishop)

Colchester High Street - not much has changed since the 1940s (S Bishop)

Colchester High Street – not much has changed since the 1940s (S Bishop)

Transition to Mustangs

Lt. George S. Montgomery from Opelika, Alabama flew with the 351st between August, 1944 and April 1945. The aircraft is unidentified, but may well be his (S Bishop)

Lt. George S. Montgomery from Opelika, Alabama flew with the 351st between August, 1944 and April 1945. The aircraft is unidentified, but may well be his (S Bishop)

Thunderbolt and Mustangs at Raydon (S Bishop)

Thunderbolt and Mustangs at Raydon (S Bishop)

Being checked out on the P-51. Lt. Bishop's first Mustang mission was on October 3, 1944. From the flight of four Mustangs taking part Capt. Daniel became a POW when his aircraft engine failed. His element lead aborted as escort to the struggling aircraft - hence Bishop's note about two lost. (S Bishop)

Being checked out on the P-51. Lt. Bishop’s first Mustang mission was on October 3, 1944. From the flight of four Mustangs taking part Capt. Daniel became a POW when his aircraft engine failed. His element lead aborted as escort to the struggling aircraft – hence Bishop’s note about two lost. (S Bishop)

Lt. Walter E. Murphy of Albany, IN and the 351st Fighter Squadron (S Bishop)

Lt. Walter E. Murphy of Albany, IN and the 351st Fighter Squadron (S Bishop)

"Donna J" (serial and code currently unknown) is thought to be the aircraft of Lt. Billy J. Murray who appears to be seated in the cockpit (S Bishop)

“Donna J” (serial and code need checking) is thought to be the aircraft of Lt. Billy J. Murray who appears to be seated in the cockpit (S Bishop)

A Typical Mission

The 351st Ready Room at Raydon (S Bishop)

The 351st Ready Room at Raydon (S Bishop)

Heading to the planes from the briefing hut at Raydon (S Bishop)

Heading to the planes from the briefing hut at Raydon (S Bishop)

Heading to the aircraft (S Bishop)

Heading to the aircraft (S Bishop)

Take-off (S Bishop)

Take-off (S Bishop)

Take-off (S Bishop)

Take-off (S Bishop)

Lining up - in the front in Fred Lefebre's "Willit Run?" (S Bishop)

Lining up – in the front in Fred Lefebre’s “Willit Run?” (S Bishop)

Mustangs of the 351st FS take-off (S Bishop)

Mustangs of the 351st FS take-off (S Bishop)


Filed under 351st Fighter Squadron

Mission#88 March 4, 1944 – Target: Berlin. The Loss of Lt. William R. Burkett, 351st Fighter Squadron.

Date: Mar 4, 44

Dispatched: 36           Aborts: 2

Mission: Withdrawal support to 1st & 2nd ATF, 660 B-17s

Field Order: 260        Target: Berlin

Time Up/Down: 13:03 hrs     16:18 hrs

Leader: Lt Col: Rimerman (A) Major Pidduck (B)

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

“A” Group

L/F Flushing 22,000ft, 14:45 hrs. Flew to planned R/V point. No bombers seen. Contrails to north turned out to be P-47s and P-51s. Bombers reported by Denver 1-6 to be below overcast. Investigation made but no bombers see. No e/a seen. Accurate flak believed Hamm and Rotterdam. L/F out Hook of Holland, 27,000ft, 15:34 hrs. Lt. Burkett last seen approx. Vicinity Liege. Lt Col. Ben Rimerman and Capt. Charles J. Hoey of Group HQ participating.

351st: Lt Col Rimerman. T/U 12:57 hrs. T/D 16:05 hrs. Total flight time 03:08 hrs. Route: In at Walcheren Island, out at Rotterdam. Withdrawal support. [L/F in] Walcheren Island at 13:34 hrs, 24,000ft. P-47S and P-38s [seen]. Rotterdam at 15:53hrs at 26,000ft. [Flak] Heavy and intense over Ruhr. One NYR Lt. William R. Burkett. Lt. Burkett was last seen in the Liege area where he turned back to give escort to Lt. Weaver, who had called on R/T saying that his oxygen was almost out. Later a call was heard on R/T saying ‘I almost hit compressibility and am at 4,000ft, I might have to bail out, maybe I can straighten it up.’


Lt Col Ben Rimerman (Gp & Sqdn Ldr) YJ-H
2nd Lt Irving Toppel YJ-I
1st Lt Francis N. King YJ-P
2nd Lt Frank J. Mincik YJ-M
1st Lt Frank N. Emory (Flt Ldr) YJ-E
2nd Lt George F. Perpente YJ-G
F/O Cletus Peterson YJ-P
Capt Frederick H. Lefebre (Flt Ldr) YJ-L
2nd Lt John G. Treitz YJ-J
2nd Lt Jack Terzian YJ-W
2nd Lt William J. Weaver (Flt Ldr) YJ-N
1st Lt William R. Burkett YJ-A 42-75850
2nd Lt Harry D. Milligan YJ-Y
2nd Lt Francis L. Edwards (Not dis) YJ-F 42-75570
2nd Lt Richard D. Stanley (Not dis) YJ-R 42-75507
Capt Vic L. Byers (Not dis) YJ-V 42-75563

In the vicinity of Liege 2nd Lt. William J. Weaver’s aircraft developed a fault with his oxygen supply forcing him to descend through the overcast to a breathable altitude:

I was flying on the left wing of Lt. Burkett in number three position when my oxygen regulator became inoperative. I called Lt. Burkett and told him I had to go home and had to go down to a level where I did not need oxygen. He called back saying he was coming with me. I made a left turn out of formation and he did likewise. He called me to make a right turn and get on his wing, which I did.

We flew in close formation skimming over the tops of the clouds at 24,000ft. Twice he called me while flying like this, asking if I was all right. Both times I replied saying I was all right so far but had to get down right away as I had full emergency oxygen on and still was getting very little oxygen. We then started to descend through the clouds together, flying a course of around 300 degrees, which was roughly the course home.

We descended about 4,000ft together in close formation. Then Lt. Burkett started a turn to the right with me on the inside of the turn. The turn began getting steeper and steeper until my airplane was shuttering almost to the stalling point. I called to Lt. Burkett to make a left turn and I received no answer. I called him a second time to make a left turn, and gain I received no answer.

Suddenly my plane did a high speed stall from the sharp angle of bank and I made a stall recovery. Just as I made the recovery Lt. Burkett faded away from me in the clouds. This was somewhere in the Liege area.

I then pulled up into a steep climb and my airspeed fell off sharply. I immediately put the nose down and went into a steep dive with both wing tanks on. The airspeed hit 600 mph and with the altimeter reading 8,000ft I tried the controls which were frozen solid. I then gave two rolls of trim tab and pulled back on the stick with both hands. I broke out of the clouds at about 3000ft, and at the same time the plane pulled out of the dive, pulling right back up into the clouds.

When I last saw Lt Burkett he was in a steep right bank with his left wing tank on and his right one off [MACR No 2793 refers].

Bill Weaver returned alone on instruments and landed at Duxford. 1st Lt. William R. Burkett flying YJ-A (a/c 42-75850) evidently did not escape from the dive and remained with his aircraft. Lt. Burkett from Jefferson, Iowa is buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupre, Belgium. More information can be found HERE.

352nd: Major Bailey. T/U 13:01 hrs. T/D 16:08 hrs. Total flight time 03:07 hrs. Withdrawal support to 1st and 3rd Div of B-17s. Made L/F in on course at 24,000ft at 13:44 hrs. Did not R/V with bombers. Observed P-38s coming out, they called us and said “No Big Friends -Mercury”. Controller said B Fs still in there. We observed flak to our left and turned to investigate and found other P-47s and P-51s over Ruhr. We went NE and then W. Left coast over Watwijk ann Zee at 15:33 hrs at 28,000ft. No flak directed at our Squadron. Active cumulus with hi cirrus layer at 26-28,000ft over entire route. Few thin spots. One Group of B-17s seen returning home as we made L/F in. Denver 1-6 talked to us and said they were with Big Friends at 16,000ft and everyone was happy. We never did see them.

Major William B. Bailey (A Group) SX-U
1st Lt Charles W. Kipfer SX-Q 42-75544
1st Lt Clinton H. Sperry DNTO SX-G
1st Lt Robert P. Geurtz SX-I
1st Lt James N. Poindexter (Flt Ldr) SX-H
2nd Lt Joseph A. Schillinger SX-S 42-75691
1st Lt William F. Streit SX-K
2nd Lt Glenn G. Callans SX-V
Capt Charles J. Hoey (Flt Ldr) SX-Z
2nd Lt Donald J. Corrigan SX-W
1st Lt Gordon S. Burlingame SX-M

“B” Group

350th: Major Pidduck. T/U 14:02 hrs. T/D 16:25 hrs. Total flight time 02:23 hrs. L/F on course 14:50, 24,000ft. No R/V with bombers. P-47s. Left coast at Ostend 15:50, 26,000ft. Flak Koln Heavy intense accurate. R/T normal. 8/10-10/10 alto cumulus 6/10-8/10 stratus over continent. Swept area from Dutch islands to Koln to Brussels to Ostend along the bomber route.

Major Stanley R. Pidduck (Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt John H. Winder
1st Lt John Sullivan
1st Lt Chauncey Rowan
1st Lt Wayne K. Blickenstaff (Flt Ldr)
F/O William W. Hargus
1st Lt Joseph F. Furness
1st Lt Carl W. Mueller
1st Lt John L. Devane (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Richard L. Bedford
1st Lt Melvin P. Dawson
1st Lt Robert S. Hart
Capt Robert E. Fortier
1st Lt Charles O. Durant

352nd: Capt Robertson. T/U 13:59 hrs. T/D 16:19 hrs. Total flight time 02:20 hrs. Withdrawal support to 1st and 3rd Div of B-17s. Landfall at Schouwen Islands 14:45 hrs at 24,000ft. No R/V made. L/F out at Knocke 15:55 hrs at 27,000ft. Heavy, intense, accurate flak at Cologne and Munchen. Point of deepest penetration S of Cologne. Proceeded on course but never saw the bombers at briefed R/V.

Capt Raynor E. Robertson (B Group) SX-R
2nd Lt Joseph L. Knoble SX-O
2nd Lt Wilton W. Johnson SX-Y
2nd Lt Hildreth R. Owens SX-F

Group Aborts/ERTNS/MIAs

42-  75691 ABT supercharger out SX-S Lt. Schillinger flying.
42-  75544 ABT oil leak SX-Q Lt. Kipfer flying.
42-  75850 MIA YJ-A Lt. Burkett flying.
42-    8608 ERTN oil leak LH-D
42-  75157 ERTN belly tank not draw LH-Y
42-    7903 ERTN belly tank not draw LH-?
42-  75507 ERTN oil leak push rods YJ-R Lt. Stanley flying.
42-  75563 ERTN pilot illness YJ-V Capt. Byers flying.
42-  75570 ERTN gas fumes in oxygen YJ-F Lt. Edwards flying.





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Update on the third “Lonesome Polecat”

Summer is proving a busy time for me, but I will continue the blog as and when I get time. The forthcoming schedule is a post on Joe Knoble of the 352nd with a history of SX-D and N. Then I’m putting together a post on another 352nd pilot, Don Corrigan, with a history of SX-P. Along the way I’ll also keep posting the mission summaries so hopefully plenty to take a look at coming soon. Keep an eye out also for an exciting announcement on a UK reunion for the families of 353rd veterans in 2015.

Mark Richie, Vice President of the 4th FG Association, kindly got in touch with a wonderful colour picture of George Ahles’ third “Lonesome Polecat” (a/c YJ-A 42-8619). It seems that the 4th FG used the aircraft as a OTU/Hack aircraft at some point. I post the photo here with thanks to Mark for sharing the image and for filling in another piece of the aircraft’s service record.


Lt. George N. Ahles' third "Lonesome Polecat" (YJ-A a/c 42-8619) as QP-O "Man Made Monster" with the 4th Fighter Group. This fine colour photo comes from a sequence recording the return of 4th FG aircraft from Operation Frantic (mission to Russia) July 5, 1944 so it looks as if the aircraft was with them from at least this date. We have a record indicating "Man Made Monster" was a 351st FS name, but have no indication of who was responsible for it. Records indicate the aircraft kept the name when it later flew with the 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron (credit/copyright CWO E.B. Richie, 4th Fighter Group with thanks to Mark Richie, Vice President, Association 4th FG WWII)

Lt. George N. Ahles’ third “Lonesome Polecat” (YJ-A a/c 42-8619) as QP-O “Man Made Monster” with the 4th Fighter Group. We have a record indicating “Man Made Monster” was a 351st FS name, but have no indication of who was responsible for it. Records also indicate the aircraft kept the name when it later flew with the 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron (credit/copyright CWO E.B. Richie, 4th Fighter Group with thanks to Mark Richie, Vice President, Association 4th FG WWII)


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Searching for Lieutenant Greene.

Timing is very important in life – it can have both trivial and monumental consequences and a fair amount in between. In 2005 I was experiencing the many joyful experiences associated with the arrival of my first child and negotiating a tricky 180 degree change in my career path. As a consequence, and much to my later regret, I never got around to purchasing a copy of Searching for Lieutenant Greene – The 351st Fighter Squadron and Operation “Market Garden” (Hoogkarspel, 2005) by Frederik Paauwe. Timing produced a trivial personal anecdote for me (relieved temporarily by the kind loan this week of a copy of the book by a good friend), but read this book and you will learn what timing cost a young American pilot called Robert N. Greene on September 17, 1944.

Cover to Searching for Lieutenant Greene - The 351st Fighter Squadron and Operation

Cover to Searching for Lieutenant Greene – The 351st Fighter Squadron and Operation “Market Garden” by Frederik C. Paauwe (Hoogkarspel, 2005).

At this time the 353rd were flying support missions for the famous Operation Market Garden – the daring gamble by the Allies to shorten the war by capturing a series of bridges in Netherlands with airborne troops. The Group were tasked with flak suppression missions to protect the heavily laden transport aircraft delivering troops and supplies to the battle area. So intense was the fighting that the Group were awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for their contribution. Doubt not that these were immensely dangerous missions – the Group lost six pilots during this time. According to his biographers, Charlotte and John McClure, Dave Schilling, the famous leader of the 56th Fighter Group at the time, refused to fly any more of these missions after his Group lost 16 pilots. He was relieved of command temporarily by the Commanding General of the 65th Fighter Wing and reinstated only after tempers had calmed down.

The well-known picture of YJ-E

The well-known picture of YJ-E “Patrica Baby” (a/c 42-75815) which Lt. Robert N. Greene flew on September 17, 1944. It was actually the assigned aircraft of Lt. John W. Bishop. Left to right in the photo are Sgt. Carl Trabin, Sgt. Bill Woods, S/Sgt. Rufus Blocker and Cpl. Earl Haley.

Robert “Bobby” Greene was a replacement pilot who had only just joined the 351st Fighter Squadron. He was flying his third mission on the day he was lost when his own bomb blast set fire to his aircraft forcing him to bail out too low for his parachute to open. He was so new that his Squadron Commander did not even remember him years later when questioned about him (similarly he has left practically no trace in Group records or photographs). Yet Mr. Paauwe has, in 124 pages, done an immense service in assembling what is available in the official record and supplementing this with his tireless efforts to seek out information on the young pilot from Norfolk, Virginia. Though not of the wartime generation himself, Mr Paauwe’s connection to the story comes from being local to the area of the tragic events of 1944. The “searching” of the title is apt for the book describes his quest to find the truth behind the event and who Bobby Greene was.

Throughout Mr. Paauwe sticks closely to the available documentary evidence and uses this to good effect to tell the story of the fateful mission. This task alone required trips to the United States to visit the archives, localities known to Bobby Greene and to the 2001 P-47 Thunderbolt Pilot’s Association Reunion to meet his comrades. What is pleasing is that he sticks pretty close to the known facts and never lets speculation get the upper hand. The main conjecture he allows himself is the possibility of a German flak gun might have been responsible for the loss, but he makes it quite clear this is only a possibility based on some circumstantial evidence.

What is even more remarkable, however, is that Mr. Paauwe’s quest did not stop at telling the story of the mission. He traced the sister of Lt. Greene and has, with her help, provided a much fuller picture of who this young pilot was through his letters home. Whilst he does not have much information on his stateside training he makes good use of the experiences of fellow students in Class 43K to bring to life what Lt. Greene must have encountered before reaching Raydon. The truly commendable part of the book is that he does not portray Lt. Greene to be somebody beyond the evidence or as fitting some wider agenda. We learn that he was a fairly religious person, but that he was also “Scared as hell” at the thought of entering combat for the first time. He was also, in the words of a fellow pilot, “un-coachable” regarding target discipline and this may well have contributed to his untimely death. One gets the strong impression of a young man (he was four days away from his twenty-first birthday at the time of his death) who tragically did not have the time to gain the skills and knowledge that perhaps would have saved him.

The Greene family experienced their full share of wartime tragedy – Bobby’s brother Frank was also killed in the Pacific and they did not have Bobby’s fate confirmed until September 1945. The details of the father’s letters to his son attempting to get news after his death detailed in this book are heartrending. It would be hard to see the positive side to this story, but the memorial service at the crash location on September 17, 2001 and the unveiling of a memorial plaque (that you can see HERE) are a fitting and worthy commemoration. That these came about largely because of the efforts Mr. Paauwe is another reason for the 353rd community to thank him for all his tireless efforts to see that the sacrifice of this pilot was and is remembered.

The original book was limited to 100 copies and the second revised edition of 2005 has been out of print for some time. So if you are lucky enough to have a copy of this very fine book, dig it out and read it again or if you find one buy it and read it and if you find two send one to me as I sadly have to give this copy back…

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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.


Capt. Hurst, 350th. Result of a mid-air collision.

Lt.Thornell, 351st. Down in North Sea, believed engine failure.

Lt. Kenney, 351st. Reason unknown.


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.


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

Jack “Jake” Terzian, 351st Fighter Squadron – July 28, 1919 to June 18, 2013

Toni TerzianWellhausen has been in touch with the very sad news that her father, Jack Terzian, passed away June 18, 2013. Jack “Jake” Terzian was an original member of the 351st and was proud of his association with the Squadron – referring to his fellows as the “greatest group of men I have ever known.”

The story of his wartime career is one to really bring home the sacrifices and service made by some during the war. Jake quit his job as a photographer and enlisted in the Army Air Corp in March 1941 eventually joining the 351st on March 28, 1943. Flying his aircraft named “Marty” for his fiancee, Martha Tait, he claimed a shared Fw190 destroyed in the air and a number of aircraft destroyed on dangerous strafing missions.

In the Spring of 1944 the Group were really pushing to the furthest limits of penetration on missions and on April 9 Jake’s aircraft ran out of fuel over the North Sea. He was forced to bail out and struck his ankle on the aircraft before landing in the freezing water. Luckily, Bill Maguire and his flight  were able to locate him before he bailed and directed the Air Sea Rescue service to the scene. His ankle was badly strained and when he returned to base he was grounded for three weeks while he recovered. During this time Eighth Fighter Command raised the mission requirements from 200 to 300 hours meaning Jake now had a further 120 hours to complete his tour of duty.

On May 22, 1944, while flying some of these “extra” combat hours, Jake was brought down by ground fire on a strafing mission. He made contact with the Resistance who helped him to evade, but was eventually captured by the Gestapo. He was then incarcerated in St. Gilles prison where he faced many hardships. Jake was able to escape when German forces attempted to move the prisoners by rail as the Allies advanced into Belgium and he was liberated September 3, 1944.

After a brief return visit to Raydon Jake was flown home to the United States and married Marty (who had spent the painful intervening months with little information on Jake’s fate) on October 15, 1944.

This brief post cannot do justice to Jake’s life, career and service and there is a much fuller obituary HERE.

The above is written with sincere condolences to Marty, Toni and the rest of Jake’s family and in fond memory of Jake Terzian – Fighter Pilot.


Filed under 351st Fighter Squadron

Albert William “Bill” Barlow Jr. – Pilot 351st Fighter Squadron June 15 1924 to May 20 2013

Rob Barlow, the grandson of Bill Barlow, has just got in touch with the very sad news that his grandfather passed away yesterday at the age of 88.

Bill enlisted in 1942 and actually completed his training in P-51 Mustangs. After brief assignment to the 339th Fighter Group, the powers that be decided the 353rd’s need was greater and so Bill had a very quick conversion to P-47s! He served with the 351st Fighter Squadron from May 3 to September 8 1944 flying his aircraft YJ-B bar (for Barlow) called “Flak Bait,” among others, on over 60 missions. During his time with the Squadron Bill became a member of the celebrated “Goldfish Club” after he bailed out of his aircraft on May 29 and was successfully rescued from the Channel. He also claimed an Me109 destroyed in the air August 4, 1944. On September 8 1944 his luck ran out when his aircraft was hit by flak and caught fire over Germany. He bailed out just before it blew up and managed to avoid capture by walking for eight days back to Allied lines. Bill told me that the first time he returned to Raydon was sometime in the early 1980s with his flight leader on the fateful day in 1944, Charles Stafford. As they stood on the derelict airfield at Raydon, Stafford quietly told Bill he had finally managed to get Bill home – even if it was 40 years late.

I was lucky to meet and get to know Bill and his wife Betty as friends on their several trips back to the United Kingdom and at 353rd reunions in the US. One of the many striking  things about Bill was his happy outlook on life – my wife always called him “Smiley Bill.” This, for me, was a mark of the man – particularly given the many hardships he faced directly resulting from his time in the service. I certainly have many fond memories of times spent with Bill and Betty.

Bill will be sadly missed and this is posted with condolences to Betty, Rob and all of Bill’s family.


Filed under 351st Fighter Squadron

Capt. George N. Ahles, 351st Fighter Squadron and the “Lonesome Polecat.”

One of the many nice things about setting up this blog is that, slowly but surely, old friends and contacts are getting back in touch. One who has just done so is David McCloskey who has kindly updated me with his research into his grandfather George N. Ahles (pronounced Ah-les). I thought this would be a good excuse to interrupt the mission sequence again and take a look at the career of this long-time member of the 351st Fighter Squadron.

Ahles, an original member of the Squadron, was born in Evansville, Indiana on February 29, 1916. He enlisted Army Air Corps at Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois in November 1939, some two years before the United States entered the war. Initially the Air Corp assigned him to armament and bombsight maintenance at Lowry Field, Colorado. He was then posted to an A-20 light bomber squadron at Barksdale Field, Louisiana and went with the Squadron to Hunter Air Base Savannah, Georgia. So Ahles already had some experience of the Air Corp before he qualified for pilot training in November 1940, though he did not enter aviation cadets training until January 1942. He was awarded his “wings” as a member of class of 42-J and while he was in Advanced Pilot Training at Craig AFB, Selma, Alabama, he married Mary Louise. He then joined the nucleus of 351st Squadron at Norfolk, Virginia in December 1942 and travelled with them to England in June 1943.

An early photo of the Squadron in line-astern formation. (McCloskey)

David McCloskey wrote to me in an email that he knew “he wasn’t one of the All-Star pilots of the group.” By this he meant that he was not one of the well-known top scorers or aces and this observation raises an interesting point – most of the pilots in the Group were not “All-stars.” A few made the headlines, but the bulk of the flying effort and eventual achievement of air supremacy and effective support of ground forces relied on competent men like George N. Ahles going out, day after day, to complete the missions they were ordered to fly.

George Ahles in relaxed mood – the car he is leaning on is probably the old Desoto Glenn Duncan used as his personal transport. (McCloskey)

In doing this Ahles recorded an impressive tally of missions. As his record shows he flew on the Group’s first mission of August 9, 1943 and completed his final eighty-eighth mission and his tour on August 14, 1944. His individual mission chart (see below) tells us a number of interesting things. The first is that he completed 300 hours of combat flying and was awarded an Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters (OLC) and a Distinguished Flying Cross with one OLC. Air Medals were awarded for the completion of a certain number of missions, so you would be awarded OLCs (meaning a further award of the medal) when you reached a certain number of combat missions. The DFC was awarded for completion of a tour of duty, shooting down an enemy aircraft or another act worthy of recognition.

Interestingly, if you subtract the total number of hours flown since May 15, 1944 (156 hours) from his total (300 hours) you can see that he only had 144 hours by that date. This is important because it means he would have been ordered to fly an additional 100 hours to complete his tour. This decision by Eighth Fighter Command to keep experienced men in England as D-Day approached was, understandably, very controversial among the pilots. Anyone who completed 200 hours flying before May 15 could go home; anyone who did not have the required number of hours had to stay until they reached 300 hours. We do not know what George Ahles thought of this – though he was probably keen to get home to see his wife and new daughter Pat who was born while he was in England. We also know that he lost good friends during his time with the Squadron and would have been well aware of the dangers of staying on. One was Bill Thistlethwaite who was lost on May 12, 1944. His wife Marjorie was friends with George’s wife Mary Louise and sent a telegram to tell her the tragic news. A good indication, if it were needed, of the anxiety the wives and loved ones at home face every day their husbands, brothers or sons were in Europe.

The telegram sent to Mary Louise Ahles by Marjorie Thistlethwaite after her husband was lost. (McCloskey)

Cartoon of Mrs Ahles and Mrs Rarey living at Selma, Alabama drawn by George Rarey. (McCloskey)

Thistlethwaite was not the only good friend Ahles lost during his time in England. George Rarey was a close friend from pilot training who served in England with the 379th Fighter Squadron, 362nd Fighter Group. Mary Louise and Rarey’s wife, Betty Lou, lived together for a time while their pilot husbands were stationed at Selma, Alabama. Both men also had children born while they were overseas. Rarey’s son, Damon, would never know his father – he was killed in action June 26, 1944 while flying a mission over France. Ahles’ friend was an incredibly talented artist and made many sketches of his experiences in the service. You can read a bit more about him HERE.

We do know from Ahles’ individual mission chart that he was very busy over the June to August 1944 period in a frenetic run of missions with doubles and over eight hours of flying on some days. On D-Day Ahles was actually enjoying a well-earned break at one of the rest and recuperation (R&R) centres in England and so missed the first day of the invasion. He returned to the Squadron a few days later to make up for missing out by claiming his only confirmed credit on June 8. Flying as Blue Flight Leader on a mission to bomb rail targets in France he was awarded an Fw190 damaged:

10 e/a climbed out of the cloud deck and passed directly below from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock, apparently unaware of our presence. I made a tight orbit to the left and tagged onto the last plane in the flight. He started a steep dive and I fired two long bursts, observing strikes on both wing roots. He then went into the clouds and I lost him. I then rejoined my section.

Geroge Ahles in the first YJ-A “Lonesome Polecat” (a/c 42-8380). Ahead is Vic L. Byers in YJ-V “Hawkeye” (a/c 42-7958). (McCloskey)

The individual mission chart seems to tell a different story – the blue diagonals record 6 aircraft destroyed, the red record 12 probable and the yellow his damaged on June 8. None of these victories show up in Squadron or other Eighth Air Force records and I suspect they are based on Squadron records from the time. Pilots would put in claims or accounts and they would only be confirmed by Eighth Air Force Intelligence at a later date following analysis of the supporting evidence.  The 351st FS would record the details, but then, in the absence of confirming accounts or gun camera evidence, higher headquarters probably disallowed the credits. Whatever the case, the diagonal lines tell us that Ahles certainly mixed it up with the Luftwaffe on many occasions during his tour and no doubt had a few hair-raising tales to tell. He was also a respected leader and pilot – he led his Squadron on eight missions during June to August 1944. Commanders did not give such a responsibility to just anyone and it is a good measure of the trust they placed in him.

George N. Ahles in later life. (McCloskey)

After he completed his tour, Ahles returned to his wife and daughter in the United States. He remained in the service until 1949 with postings in the Guam, Hawaii and the mainland United States. In civilian life he worked as a salesman. Flying certainly stayed in the family – his daughter Pat married Jim McCloskey who became a pilot with Delta. They had two children – Beth and David – Beth became an Art Teacher and David a pilot for UPS. George N. Ahles remained in touch with his friends from the 351st and enjoyed attending reunions of the P-47 Pilots Association in his later years. He died January 1, 1982.

His friend George Rarey was not the only connection Ahles had to the world of cartoons and illustrations. All his aircraft were named “Lonesome Polecat” after the character from the L’l Abner cartoon strip. “Lonesome Polecat” along with “Hairless Joe,” were purveyors of the potent “Kickapoo Joy Juice – the fumes of which alone have been known to melt the rivets off battleships.” Ahles’ aircraft was one of a pair in the 351st FS with Lt. Joseph E. Wood flying YJ-B “Hairless Joe.” There were other aircraft named after cartoon characters in the Squadron – Fred Lefebre named his first P-47 after the well-known “Chief Wahoo.” Even one of the accommodation areas at Raydon was called “Dogpatch” after the stereotypical hick community in which L’l Abner lived. Cartoon strips, especially satirical ones, played an important role in the world of GIs and particularly pilots – Bill Maudlin’s “Willie & Joe” was another very popular strip. They were often a subversive art form that could help recent civilians, now in the military, poke a little fun at authority and ease the tension just a fraction. L’l Abner characters were used a great deal more by the 56th Fighter Group on their aircraft and their leader Hub Zemke even set a goal of shooting down 100 enemy planes by “Sadie Hawkins Day” (the fictional day in Dogpatch when a woman could run down a bachelor and force them into matrimony).

In closing I must thank David McCloskey for all his kind help and the information he contributed to this article. I must also thank Ash Gant whose knowledge of the 353rd aircraft and expertise is unrivalled. To finish up here is a summary of all the personal aircraft of George N. Ahles. As ever, further information or contributions are very welcome:

The first “Lonesome Polecat” was YJ-A P-47D-2-RE (a/c 42-8380). Ahles had a landing accident in it at RAF Biggin Hill September 29, 1943, but it was repaired and stayed with the Squadron probably until around late February or early March 1944 when Ahles received a new P-47D-15. It subsequently was sent to training command and has a recorded accident at Membury on August 23, 1944. This aircraft is sometimes recorded as flying with the 352nd FG as PE-C. This we feel is an error as the easily confused 42-8580 actually flew under this code. Some records have 42-8380 as crashing with the 359th FG on January 27, 1944. Again, this is a typo as P-47C 41-6380 was actually involved in the crash.

Lt. George N. Ahles in the cockpit of the first “Lonesome Polecat” (a/c 42-8380) at Metfield. (McCloskey)

The second “Lonesome Polecat” was YJ-A P-47D-15-RE (a/c 42-75850). This new D-15 replaced the first aircraft in late February/March 1944, but was lost along with Lt. William R. Burkett March 4, 1944.

The third “Lonesome Polecat” was YJ-A P-47D-5-RE (a/c 42-8619). Lt. Paul Trudeau crashed this aircraft May 21, 1944 (there’s a picture on page 481 of Jonah’s Feet Are Dry). It was then under repair for a time before being returned to service and recoded at YJ-A. It probably became Lt. Alex Hartley’s “Anvil Chaos” at this point. It suffered a further accident at the hands of Lt. Frank on June 30, 1944 and did not return to service until July 8. We do have a record that indicates that at some point the aircraft the aircraft was coded YJ-A and named “Man Made Monster” with the 351st but the evidence is too unclear to state anything conclusively at this stage. Some records indicate the aircraft was declared “War Weary” and went on to the 4th FG as an OTU aircraft and then the 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron still as “Man Made Monster” but we are unable to confirm this.

The fourth YJ-A was P-47D-11-RE (a/c 42-75457). Ahles is recorded as flying it as YJ-A on May 22, 1944, the day after Trudeau crashed his previous aircraft. This aircraft was lost with Lt. Joseph R. Farley on May 28, 1944. We suspect that given the short time the aircraft was with the Squadron Ahles would never have had time to name it. We have also confirmed that it was one of a batch of olive drab painted P-47s so it does not tally with the picture we have of the  “Lonesome Polecat IV” which was natural metal finish.

The fourth “Lonesome Polecat IV” and fifth YJ-A was therefore P-47D-22-RE (a/c 42-26246). This was Ahles’ aircraft from sometime after May 28, 1944. It remained with him until he completed his tour and then passed to Lt. Harry D. Milligan who renamed it “Carolene” after his wife (picture on page 208 of Jonah’s Feet Are Dry).

A nice shot of “Lonesome Polecat IV (a/c 42-26246) at Raydon. Note the natural metal finish that proves the fourth YJ-A was not included in the naming sequence. (McCloskey)

A final and very poor shot of “Lonesome Polecat IV.” I assure you that you can just see the “IV” if you look very, very carefully (McCloskey)

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