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Lt. Richard V. Keywan, 352nd Fighter Squadron Follow Up Post

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for quite some time – planning the forthcoming reunion and other 353rd history related endeavours are my only excuse. Hopefully I will resume posting more regularly in the near future. In the meantime, Laurent Herisson has kindly got in touch with some photos of the memorial dedication on May 8, 2015 in his home village of Gaudreville. I’m sure you will join me in thanking Laurent for all his endeavours to ensure Lt. Keywan is remembered and in congratulating the people of the area for such a moving tribute to a member of the 353rd who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The new memorial stone to Lt. Keywan in Gaudreville (Herisson)

The new memorial stone to Lt. Keywan in Gaudreville (Herisson)

Dedication of the memorial by the ocal community (Herisson)

Dedication of the memorial by the local community (Herisson)

Gaudreville Flags (Herisson)

Gaudreville Flags (Herisson)

Parts of Lt. Keywan's Thunderbolt (Herisson)

Parts of Lt. Keywan’s Thunderbolt (Herisson)

GPA Amphibious Jeep on the day (Herisson)

GPA Amphibious Jeep on the day (Herisson)

Click on links for news articles reporting the day (in French)

inauguration de la stèle 8 mai 2015

2013-07-17 182138

 

 

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Lt. Richard V. Keywan, 352nd Fighter Squadron

I was recently contacted by Laurent Henrisson from Gaudreville, France. His village  are dedicating a memorial plaque for Lt. Richard V. Keywan of the 352nd Fighter Squadron on May 8, 2015. Laurent has been investigating the circumstances of the crash that cost Lt. Keywan his life and sent me below write-up of events June 12, 1944.

I thought it rather touching and significant that the village in which Lt. Keywan lost his life are looking to remember him this year. I have never had any contact with Lt. Keywan’s family and the village are hopeful that they will be able to trace someone to attend the ceremony on their behalf and, as a public event, welcome anyone who would like to attend. Sadly, I cannot make the trip due to a prior commitment.

If anyone out there has contact with the Keywan family then drop me a line or Laurent direct…

Lt. Keywan's story by Laurent Henrisson (L Henrisson)

Lt. Keywan’s story by Laurent Henrisson (L Henrisson)

A rough translation from the French of the above by me (with apologies):

“4:34 pm, June 12, 1944, off the resort 157 Raydon (Suffolk UK). Colonel Duncan directs three squadrons of 12 aircraft with an escort of eight P-47, 351 FS and 352 FS on a mission bombing and strafing against enemy communications in the region of Evreux – Dreux. In Evreux, squads split up to attack specific targets:
The 352FS, led by Lieutenant Colonel Bailey takes care of a truck convoy near Evreux before heading to rail objectives and Goms station. He soon found himself outclassed by 50 Messerschmitt 109 German. In this action 1st Lt. Richard V. Keywan destroyed and damaged two Me 109 before he was brought down by enemy fire.
Coming from the direction “the boscherons – Gaudreville” Richard bailed out, but too low. Indeed his parachute did not have time to open and he was killed and on the edge of the Vigne Street. His plane ended up in a field 500 yards away without causing damage in the village.
A posthumous award was made to Lt. Keywan Lieutenant of the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf (DFC – OLC)
An eyewitness reported that his body had been buried in our village cemetery. At the end of the war, like many Americans fighters, he was laid to rest in the Américan cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer.
For your sacrifice Richard: RIP (Rest In PEACE).

L. HERISSON

A big thank you to everyone who helped me in these particular research Mr Rémy Square, Ms. Seuret, Mr Christian Lefébvre and the municipality of Gaudreville. I remain available and contactable for any additional information about this aircraft.”

 

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A Brief History of SX-C and SX-F of the 352nd Fighter Squadron

SX-C

The following is posted with grateful thanks to Lt Col. McCollom’s daughter, Patty McCollom Bauchman.

A/C 42-8531 P-47D-5-RE. This olive drab Thunderbolt appears to have come into the Squadron in early September 1943. Lt Col. Loren “Mac” McCollom took it as his personal aircraft and named it “Butch II” for his wife. As commander of the 61st FS, 56th Fighter Group, McCollom called his P-47 “Butch.” His daughter Patty explains that “Butch” was her father’s humorous nickname for her mother – a very diminutive, feminine and educated woman who you could never imagine calling “Butch.” When he left the 56th to join the 353rd, McCollom’s old P-47 would likely have remained on the 56th books and the natural thing to do would be to call the new 353rd aircraft “Butch II.” It seems that “Butch II” was disappointingly unreliable in the air. McCollom’s diary for the time recorded that “she’s a little rough I’m afraid” on September 7, 1943 and then “Butch II is still a little rough and not as fast as Butch” on the following day. McCollom’s frustration was evident in his diary entry for October 20 writing “[I] had to come back because she overheated. I’m going to have to give Butch II up. She’s just not dependable.” To add to these problems, Glenn Duncan had lost a wingtip from the aircraft in combat on September 23, 1943 so you can imagine that McCollom was probably not sorry to lose the aircraft.

After McCollom, the aircraft then became the assigned aircraft of Lt. Gordon L. Willits, but there are few records indicating that he ever flew it operationally. It did receive further battle damage while being flown by Major Bill Bailey on December 1, 1943. By the time records do become more comprehensive in January, 1944 it seems a variety of 352nd Squadron pilots flew it, but with no regular pilot it perhaps had a poor reputation in the Squadron. It last flew operationally with the Squadron on March 6, 1944 in the hands of Lt. Clifford F. Armstrong and probably left the Group soon after this date. There are no details about the ground crew for SX-C.

The aircraft shows up twice in subsequent accident reports after leaving the Group. The first is an accident at the hands of Reavy H. Giles while landing at RAF Woodchurch on April 23, 1944. The second was taxiing accident by Ansel J. Wheeler of the 373rd Fighter Group at Le Culot (A-89) on December 10, 1944.

Just as a final note on SX-C – the coding was only used once in the Squadron during the entire war. Inevitably this fact has brought some speculation that it was not used again as a tribute to Lt. Col. McCollom who was brought down by flak on the mission of November 25, 1943 to become a POW. This now seems unlikely to me as McCollom, it would appear, had given up the aircraft at some point in late October. Roger Freeman in his 56th Fighter Group (Oxford, 2000), p.21 also describes British Air Ministry recommendations not to use “C” in aircraft codes. This seems a much more plausible reason for the lack of “C” in the Group though I have no further information on this at this stage.

SX-F

A recent query from the 8th Fighter Command research community has prodded me out of inaction on the aircraft histories part of this blog. So here is a summary of the tragic history of SX-F aircraft with the 352nd resulting from that query.

A/C 42-7904 P-47D-1-RE. This olive drab Thunderbolt was an early aircraft with the Squadron. It was the assigned aircraft of Lt. Clifford F. Armstrong who named it “8 Gun Melody” Cross’s Jonah’s Feet Are Dry has an early picture of this aircraft (p.57) and a close-up of the artwork on (p.88). The aircraft continued in Armstrong’s hands, but was lost along with 1st Lt. Victor L. Vogel on January 11, 1944.

A well-known photo of Lt. Cliff Armstrong about to climb into his aircraft  SX-F "8 Gun Melody" (a/c P-47D-1-RE 42-7904). Lt. Vogel was lost flying this aircraft January 11, 1944.

A well-known photo of Lt. Cliff Armstrong about to climb into his aircraft SX-F “8 Gun Melody” (a/c P-47D-1-RE 42-7904). Lt. Vogel was lost flying this aircraft January 11, 1944.

A/C 42-75622 P-47D-15-RE. This olive drab Thunderbolt was a replacement for Lt. Clifford F. Armstrong’s first aircraft. He named his second aircraft “Hun Buster” and flew it regularly until he completed his tour extension at the end of June 1944. There are two photographs of this aircraft in Cross’s Jonah’s Feet Are Dry (p. 208). The aircraft was then flown by a variety of Squadron pilots until assigned to F/O John J. Swanezy. He named the aircraft “Betty” and flew it throughout July and into August, 1944. Swanezy was killed in action while flying this aircraft on August 18, 1944. There is a nice colour photo of this aircraft available from the Jeff Ethel collection HERE though I have seen other versions of this photo but cannot establish who actually has the copyright. Although it does not appear that the Squadron flew another SX-F before converting to Mustangs, the records for September are missing so it can only be assumed that no further SX-F coded Thunderbolts existed.

A/C 44-14694 P-51D-10-NA. This Mustang was long-serving as one of the original aircraft assigned to the Squadron. The original pilot, Lt. Herbert F. Niklaus, flew it on 19 missions before completing his tour at the end of January, 1945. The aircraft was then taken over Lt. Albert P. Lang who named the aircraft “Eleanor” and flew it on 25 missions between January, 1945 and the end of the war. Tragically, 1st Lt. Edward A. Knickelbein lost his life in this aircraft after a mid-air collision and crash on July 3, 1945 near Stowmarket, Suffolk. There is a full account and pictures of the accident in Cross’s Jonah’s Feet Are Dry (p.624-625).

There are no SX-F bars recorded as flying with the Squadron.

As a final note on the crew for SX-F that flew as part of “B” Flight. The crew chief on the Thunderbolts was S/Sgt Joseph F. Brandon, Assistant Crew Chief was S/Sgt Raymond A. Wierzgacz and the armourer was Cpl. Earl A. Dunn. The crew for the Mustang period is unconfirmed and may have either changed entirely or in part. There is some evidence to suggest that Pvt. Joe Lopez may have been armourer at this time.

 

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352nd Fighter Squadron Mustang Update

Mike Martorella has been in touch with some interesting additional photos he found in his father’s album. You will recall from my previous post that Lt. Michael J. Martorella flew with the 352nd FS at Raydon between November 1944 and the end of the war. So here are the photos and further information with many thanks to Mike for sharing this new material

 

 

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Lt. Hildreth R. “Holly” Owens of the 352nd Fighter Squadron and SX-L

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.

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A Brief History of SX-Z of the 352nd Fighter Squadron.

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.

An interesting photo showing the fourth SX-Z (a/c 42-26549) in the hands of Lt. Edward C. Andrews (fourth from left). Far right is Sgt Gladden the crew Chief and on Andrew's right is Sgt. Nicholson, his Assistant Crew Chief. The other men are Sgt. Harold L. Gibson (far left) and next to him S/Sgt Florian J. Robosky. Robosky was Crew Chief for SX-T in "C" Flight and Gibson his assistant. You can often spot Gibson in photos because of his distinctive "Gibby" cap.

An interesting photo showing the fourth SX-Z (a/c 42-26549) in the hands of Lt. Edward C. Andrews (fourth from left). Far right is Sgt Gladden the crew Chief and on Andrew’s right is Sgt. Nicholson, his Assistant Crew Chief. The other men are Sgt. Harold L. Gibson (far left) and next to him S/Sgt Florian J. Robosky. Robosky was Crew Chief for SX-T in “C” Flight and Gibson his assistant. You can often spot Gibson in photos because of his distinctive “Gibby” cap.

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.

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A Brief History of SX-L of the 352nd Fighter Squadron.

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.

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A Brief History of SX-I of the 352nd Fighter Squadron

It seems a good time to catch up on some more long-delayed posting. Ash Gant and I worked on the details of SX-I in the 352nd Fighter Squadron around a year ago, but things got delayed and I’ve only just now got around to posting. Here is a brief history of the aircraft under this code with thanks to Ash and to Mike Martorella for his help with photos of his father’s aircraft. A/C 42-8390 P47D-2-RE. This was an olive drab razorback assigned to Lt. Robert P. Geurtz though he seems not to have ever named his aircraft. The aircraft was certainly with the Group at any early date (an oxygen leak and engine trouble forced the pilot to abort on the first two missions for the Group). There is an early photography of this aircraft on p.63 of Cross’s Jonah’s Feet Are Dry. Geurtz flew the aircraft on 34 missions in the period January to April 1944 (we don’t have details of the flights made in 1943). The Squadron sent the aircraft for salvage after Lt. Geurtz’s landing accident April 22, 1944.

The first SX-I (a/c 42-8390) after Lt. Robert P. Geurtz crashed on take-off after a tyre blew out April 22, 1944.

The first SX-I (a/c 42-8390) after Lt. Robert P. Geurtz crashed on take-off after a tyre blew out April 22, 1944.

A/C 42-25771 P47D-22-RE.This was a natural metal finished razorback initially assigned to Lt. Donald J. Corrigan who flew it operationally three times between April 30 and May 20, 1944 (he completed his last mission on May 20 and left the Squadron May 24, 1944). His usual assigned aircraft was SX-P, but his son Kevin confirms that he told him he was assigned a “War Bond” plane and named it “Agony Wagon.” After Corrigan left the Squadron the aircraft was flown most often by Lt. Virgil C. Johnston who flew the aircraft on 20 missions between April and June 1944. He was lost in this aircraft on June 10, 1944 when it was brought down by flak while he was strafing Rennes airfield (MACR 5561 refers). There is a further photo of “Agony Wagon” on p.231 of Cross’s Jonah’s Feet Are Dry.

Lt. Donald J. Corrigan was not the assigned pilot to the second SX-I (a/c 42-25771). This was possibly a photo opportunity on completion of his tour. The name of the ground crewman is unknown.

Lt. Donald J. Corrigan was the first assigned pilot to the second SX-I (a/c 42-25771) and called it “Agony Wagon.” The single kill marking indicates it is his aircraft (Johnston had no kills) though the name has yet to be painted on the aircraft in this shot. The name of the ground crewman is unknown.

A/C 42-26631 P-47D-25-RE. A natural metal finished bubbletop assigned to Lt. William T. McGarry and named “Butch” by him. The aircraft name and “Butch II” (his later SX-B) is often mistakenly attributed to 352nd CO Bill Bailey. McGarry flew the aircraft on 34 missions between June and August 1944. The aircraft was brought down by ground fire near Dernancourt August 7, 1944. The pilot, Lt. Richard Daines, was killed in action (MACR 7444 refers). A/C 44-19798 P47D-28-RE. A natural metal finished bubbletop assigned to Lt. Frank H. Bouldin and named “Miss Mary Marie” by him. The aircraft was flown on a handful of missions by Bouldin between August and September 1944 (the photo on p.233 of Cross’s Jonah’s Feet Are Dry confirms Bouldin as the assigned pilot). The aircraft is sometimes listed as P-47D-28-RA 42-28798, but we feel this is incorrect because 42-28798 was assigned to the 351st Fighter Squadron and 44-19798 shows up, as you would expect, in 352nd battle damage reports (see also the close-up photo of the serial below).The aircraft would have left the Squadron when they converted to the P-51 Mustangs.

The fourth SX-I (a/c 44-19798) named

The fourth SX-I (a/c 44-19798) named “Miss Mary Marie” by Lt. Frank H. Bouldin (Gant)

Another shot of

Another shot of “Miss Mary Marie” with Sgt. George Gardner. (Gant)

This time it's Sgt. Frank Helke with

This time it’s Sgt. Frank Helke with “Miss Mary Marie.” (Gant)

A close-up of the serial number of the fourth SX-I confirming it's 44-19798. (353rd FG Archive)

A close-up of the serial number of the fourth SX-I confirming it’s 44-19798. (353rd FG Archive)

N.B. Various sources on the internet state that P-47 42-74680 was re-coded to SX-W from SX-I. We can find no evidence to substantiate this and feel it is unlikely as there is no gap in the chronology of the other aircraft. Corrections and clarifications are always welcome. A/C 44-14495 P51D-10-NA. This aircraft was assigned first to Lt. Frank H. Bouldin and named “Dallas Doll” by him after Miss Christine Crisp of Dallas, Texas. The aircraft flew 85 missions with the Squadron between October 1944 and April 1945 and was the only P-51 to carry the SX-I coding. Bouldin flew the aircraft for 30 of those missions and completed his tour in mid January 1945.  The Squadron then assigned the aircraft to Lt. Michael J. Martorella who renamed the aircraft “Jeannie” for his fiancé and later his wife when he returned from Europe (Jeannie’s full name was Regina but she went by the name of Jean). Martorella flew 18 of his 40 assigned missions in the aircraft including the Group’s final mission of the war on April 25, 1945.

The famous picture of the fifth SX-I (a/c 44-14495) named for Miss Christine Crisp of Dallas, Texas by Lt. Frank H. Bouldin.

The famous picture of the fifth SX-I (a/c 44-14495) named for Miss Christine Crisp of Dallas, Texas by Lt. Frank H. Bouldin.

With such a great photo it is easy to miss the details. Note the design around the pilot and crew names on

With such a great photo it is easy to miss the details. Note the design around the pilot and crew names on “Dallas Doll.”

As a final word on the crew for SX-I – the crew chief throughout the war was S/Sgt. Clarence E. Frye, the Assistant Crew Chief until at least Lt. McGarry’s tenure was Sgt. Thomas W. Hacker (no ACC is listed on “Miss Mary Marie” and the ACC for “Dallas Doll/Jeannie” appears to have changed to a Sgt. E. C. Town/Brown but sadly the photo is unclear and the Squadron roster does not help either). The armourer throughout the war was Sgt. John F. Gibb.

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Lt. Douglas A. Makikuhna, 352nd Fighter Squadron

Sandy Kuhna, the daughter-in-law of 352nd pilot Doug Kuhna (Makikuhna during WWII), got back in touch after she saw a photo of Doug I posted on the Facebook page last year. Sandy advises that her father-in-law is alive and well at 91 years young and tells her lots of war stories whenever she sees him. Luckily, Sandy has written some of these stories down and kindly shared them with me for the blog along with some great photos. The below is a summary of Doug’s career in training and combat that included thirty nine missions with the 352nd. It is posted with thanks to Doug and Sandy for sharing their memories and research (and with apologies from me for the time it has taken to get it posted).

Doug wasn’t drafted into the military. He went along to a recruitment office with a friend who wanted to sign up for the Air Force. As it happened the friend couldn’t pass the eye test, but the recruiters saw Doug wasn’t wearing glasses and asked him if he wanted to take the test. Assuming he wouldn’t pass he agreed and actually came through all the tests with flying colours. The recruiter suggested he would be drafted soon anyway and so talked him into joining the Air Force. As Doug was not yet 18 he needed his parent’s signatures of agreement and had to drive to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to get his mother’s (Olga) signature. It seems that his parents were none too impressed with their son’s decision – his mother told him straight-out that the next time she would see him he would be in a box.  His father, who had fought for Finland and Russia as an NCO sharpshooter during World War I and knew the hardships of war, advised him to hide in the woods behind the farm. Both gave their signatures.

Doug spent the first three months of his military life in Miami Beach, Florida and the College Training Detachment at the University of Toledo, Ohio (in addition to providing basic military training both of these were often a way of hoarding eligible recruits from the clutches of the other two services until they were required for flight training). Doug then moved to Maxwell Field, Alabama for pre-flight assessment and training at the Air Force Pilot School. This included all kinds of courses on the mechanics and physics of flight, codes, meteorology along with plenty of physical training. Next Doug went to Ocala, Florida for primary flight training (probably at the AAF Contract School at Taylor Field). He flew the first time in a Piper Cub, but the majority of his primary flight training was in the PT-17 Kaydet (an open-cockpit bi-plane) which he flew dual for up to 15 hours before being allowed to fly solo. Doug’s first solo was on his twenty-first birthday, September 24, 1943.

After about 60 hours of training Doug moved on to basic flight training in Bainbridge, Georgia. There he flew a Vultee BT-13 Valiant (a mono-wing basic trainer). He was there for 60 more hours of flight training over a period of some three months. He then moved to advanced single-engine training at Mariana, Florida. There he flew the AT-6 Texan for another 60 hours of flight training. Doug passed the course and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Air Force. On his graduation day his future wife, Ethel Johnson, came down to Mariana to pin his pilot’s wings on him. It was a proud day for all concerned.

Doug then headed for Punta Gorda, Florida for advanced fighter transition training flying on P-40 Warhawks. The Air Force then assigned him to the 8th Air Force in England. On reaching England Doug would probably went to the 496th Fighter Training Group at Goxhill for some additional training on P-51 Mustangs before joining the 352nd Fighter Squadron at Raydon on November 19, 1944. At his new home he would have undergone further training in the Operational Training Unit (OTU) before flying his first mission just under a month later on December 18, 1944. Doug would fly Mustangs throughout his tour – he did get to fly the P-47 Thunderbolt a few times but only for training or fun. Regardless of the aircraft Doug always loved flying – particularly among the big fluffy clouds where there were tunnels that you could fly through and the thin wispy clouds that you could cause to disintegrate with the aircraft.

By coincidence the 352nd CO Major Wilbert H. Juntilla was also, like Doug, of Finnish descent. They did not know one another prior to serving at Raydon, but quickly found out they lived about ten miles apart in Michigan (Juntilla was from Calumet and Doug from Atlantic Mine). They became firm friends and Doug jokes he may have been treated better than the other pilots because he was a fellow Finn. When he took over Capt. William Davis’s old aircraft, Juntilla let him change the name of his plane to “Miss Ethel” faster than the other replacement pilots.

Doug has many memories of his tour and was awarded the Good Conduct Medal and Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters during his service. The longest missions he flew were to Berlin – a flight of seven hours round trip in a very cramped cockpit. He particularly remembers a “Maximum Effort” to Berlin in early 1945 that involved nearly 2000 aircraft. The fighter pilot’s job was to keep the German planes away from the bombers, but by this stage of the war most of them were afraid of the American fighters so they would turn back or abort an attack when they spotted them. Doug did almost get his first kill with an ME 109, but the bombers got it first. The white cliffs of Dover were a welcome sight on many missions and let him know he had made it back safely. His friends sometimes did not make it back and it was always a very sad time. Doug recalls going to bed at night and looking at the bunk next to him that had been stripped and was empty.

If the Germans didn’t come up to harass the bombers then Doug and his fellow pilots went down to look for targets of opportunity such as trains and trucks. He was told never to bring back unused bullets. Strafing was dangerous work and the pilots learnt to avoid some trains in particular because they had flak guns that would shoot straight up at attacking aircraft. Nevertheless Doug was able to destroy two locomotives and several ground vehicles on the mission of February 26, 1945. Doug also remembers that with this kind of work he would see farmers out in their fields and would not shoot at them because his father was a farmer back in Michigan and so Doug understood that by this stage in the war they were just trying to keep their families fed.

Flying fighters was, of course, a dangerous activity and Doug remembers quite a few close shaves. During one practice bombing run at Raydon he accidently dropped one of his bombs (inert) on the base PX and caught a lot of grief. Another time he was taking off when one of his external gas tanks fell off and he had to return to base or he would never have made it to Germany and back (this probably would not have counted as dispatched as the aircraft failed on take-off. Doug’s only recorded abort from a mission was due to a rough engine on December 23, 1944).

One day it was so foggy at Raydon the pilots couldn’t see to land and someone had to stand at the end of the runway with flares and shot them up so the pilots could see them. They also shot flares in an arch so the planes could land under the arch and know it was the runway. Another time Doug was landing (aircraft always landed two at a time side by side) and the guy next to him veered into his lane so Doug pulled up and took off to make another pass. This is very difficult to do since the plane will start dipping a wing if you try to go to fast all at once. Doug managed it without smashing into the ground at high speed and when he landed his CO made him get into another plane straight away and take off and land again so he could shake off his nerves. Doug modestly describes the incident as like getting back on the horse straight away when you fall off.

Doug’s last mission of the war was in his faithful SX-A on April 25, 1945 (also the Group’s last mission escorting bombers to Hitler’s mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden). He was on leave in Dublin when word came that US forces had used an atomic bombs on Japan and the war ended a few days later. He returned to Raydon and learnt that getting sent home depended on a points system. You got more points for your age, whether you had a wife, kids or fulfilled many other detailed criteria. With few points Doug was sent to Frankfurt, Germany as part of the occupation. This was about six weeks before they were sent home and Doug remembers piles of Nazi weapons and regalia laying around and brought some of it back as souvenirs.  He then travelled by train to Le Havre, France and came home on the SS Argentina via Camp Kilmer. The base did not give any passes but, as his sister Hilkka and her husband Arvo lived in New York, he found a hole in the fence behind the barracks and visited them whenever he could. The first time he made his elicit escape he and his friends thought the hole in the fence was a big secret until they saw the big line of taxi cabs just the other side of the fence. He got his discharge a few weeks later.

After the war some pilots went to work for the airlines, but Doug heard they did not want “hot shot” pilots from the war as they might be too reckless. Instead he decided to go back to his studies and went to Michigan Technological University in Houghton on the GI Bill and got a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Subsequently he worked for the John Fauver Company who sold pumps and valves until he retired in the late 1980s.

Doug at home in more recent years talking about his time with the 352nd Fighter Squadron (Kuhna)

Doug at home in more recent years talking about his time with the 352nd Fighter Squadron (Kuhna)

A Brief History of SX-A

The following is as complete history of the use of SX-A coding on aircraft by the 352nd Squadron as we currently have. There was, as far as we know from Squadron records, no use of SX-A Bar as an aircraft code. Posted with thanks to Ash Gant for our usual brain-storming and, of course, I welcome evidenced corrections or clarifications.

A/C 42-8420 P-47D-5-RE. We have no details of the assigned pilot, but the aircraft was lost September 15, 1943 when Capt. Robert C. Durlin was forced to bail out.
A/C 42-74728 P-47D-6-RE. This aircraft shows up in Squadron records for the first time October 10, 1943. It appears to have been assigned to Capt. Charles J. Hoey. The aircraft left the Squadron (probably around the time D-15s came in February 1944) and went to the 495th FTG. Lt. Paul Fulton lost his life when he crashed in the aircraft August 24, 1944.
A/C 42-75707 P-47D-15-RE. This aircraft shows up on Squadron records for the first time on February 10, 1944 as part of the upgrade to D-15s. Capt. Charles J. Hoey flew SX-A on 28 missions between January and March 1944, but was assigned to Group in February 1944 and it is possible the aircraft then became the personal aircraft of Lt. Richard V. Keywan. He flew the aircraft on 50 missions between April and June 1944. Given his flight record and the famous photo it would seem very likely he was responsible for the name “Little Hotsy” rather than Hoey but we cannot state this to be known fact. Keywan lost his life when he was shot down in this aircraft June 12, 1944.

The famous photo of Lt. Richard V. Keywan in front of SX-A

The famous photo of Lt. Richard V. Keywan in front of SX-A “Little Hotsy” (a/c 42-75707). Sadly the names of the two ground crew were not recorded.

A/C 42-26643 P-47D-25-RE. This aircraft joined the Squadron mid to late June 1944 and was the personal aircraft of Lt. William M. Newton Jr. who flew it on 46 missions between July and October 1944. Lt. Newton’s name for the aircraft “Aw Nuts” was, perhaps, appropriate for it was involved in an embarrassing taxiing accident at the hands of 2nd Lt. Edward C. Andrews on July 9, 1944. A picture of the aircraft artwork and damage is on p.518 of Jonah’s Feet Are Dry. A close look at that photograph indicates this was one of the camouflaged aircraft in the Squadron. The aircraft was still flying with the Squadron in September 1944 and was sent to the 509th FS, 405th FG when the 352nd converted to P-51s. It flew as G9-D “The Virgin” with the 509th and was damaged in a landing accident at R-68 Straubing June 4, 1945 while being flown by Lt. John H. Carroll.

A/C 44-14642P-51D-10-NA. This history of this aircraft is unclear in places. It was assigned to the 352nd in October 1944 and remained with the Squadron until after the end of the war. It was the only “A” coded P-51 in the Squadron flying 94 missions between October 1944 and April 1945 with 25 different pilots. The first assigned pilot was Capt. William C. Davis who flew the aircraft on 25 missions between October and December 1944. Davis completed his first tour in January 1945. We believe he named this aircraft “Aurora Houn Dog” and that his first aircraft was SX-A and not SX-V as is sometimes stated. The confusion arises because on his return to the Squadron Davis flew SX-V (a/c 44-72392) “Aurora Hound Dawg” – his old SX-A had by this time become the personal aircraft of Lt. Douglas A. MakiKuhna who named it “Miss Ethel” for his future wife Ethel Johnson. Makikuhna flew the aircraft on 29 missions between December 1944 and April 1945.

As a final word – the crew for SX-A throughout the war were S/Sgt Cecil C. Clark (Crew Chief), Sgt Horton (Assistant Crew Chief) and Sgt Murray H. Scheshko (Armourer). Horton does not show up on the original stateside roster for the Group so may have joined them later as a replacement. Clark and Scheshko were originally from “B” flight and transferred to “D” flight when it was formed in the spring of 1944 to cope with the increased number of Squadron aircraft. It really is a shame that so many of the official photos do not name the ground crews and this makes identification difficult. Let me know if you can confirm who is who…

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Capt. Maurice “Mo” Morrison, 352nd Fighter Squadron

This post has been at the top of my “to do” list for quite some time. Bryan Gilbert got in touch to update me on his research into his great-uncle’s career with the 352nd Fighter Squadron. Capt. Maurice “Mo” Morrison joined the Squadron in April 1943 and served two tours flying both Thunderbolts and Mustangs from Metfield and then Raydon. “Mo” (he did not like to be called Maurice) is interesting in 353rd Fighter Group history for many reasons and I detail just a few of them here for your interest and with thanks to Bryan for sharing the material on his great-uncle.

“Mo” from Kalamazoo, Michigan did not begin his career as a Captain and was actually a Flight Officer (F/O) on first joining the Squadron. The rank of F/O (instituted by the USAAF July 8, 1942) was one of the more controversial ranks because it denied full commissioned status to pilots. In practice it did not amount to much difference in the field (F/O base pay was the same as a Second Lieutenant), but it did indicate that the pilot had not qualified for a full commission because of previous enlisted status or perhaps some error made by them during training. In the mass approach to producing large numbers of pilots at this time the final decision could often be both arbitrary and subjective. We do not know if “Mo” had done anything during his air force career to warrant his F/O grade. Perhaps the name of his first P-47 “Hi-Lander” is a clue and he was getting his own back on those who had passed a wrong judgement on his flying skills. In any event a F/O who joined the Group and performed well in their duties would be quickly promoted to a full commission. This proved true in “Mo’s” case and Bill Bailey must have seen his ability as a pilot because he promoted him to his Lieutenancy at the start of September 1943. “Mo” would eventually hold a Captaincy with the Squadron and even lead it on three missions in February and April 1945.

“Mo” flew the Squadron’s very first mission on August 12, 1943 and as Wakeford (then Jockey 48) he flew a total on 92 missions to complete his first tour on 14 June 1944. His first tour was not without excitement – on the Schweinfurt mission of October 14, 1943 “Mo” had a narrow escape as number 3 man of a flight as 1st Lt William Streit reported:

Major Bailey went down after it and called to us to watch his tail, we stayed above. Then a 109 came in front of us and I took a shot at him, I didn’t see any strikes. He rolled over and went down. Just then I noticed a 109 come in on my wing man’s tail, Lt. Morrison. I called to him to break. Lt. Morrison didn’t hear me at first so I began to do evasive action so the e/a couldn’t get a decent shot at him and also tried to get on the e/a’s tail. I kept calling Lt. Morrison, when he heard he broke left and then I pulled in behind the 109, he rolled over, went down and I followed. He then pulled out and climbed into the Sun, I was closing in on him when he rolled over again.

At this time I began firing, my first burst brought smoke and flames. Seemed like the first shell caught him on fire. I was approximately 300 yards from him. I kept firing and he began to spin down. My wing man saw him spinning and burning.

“Mo’s” aircraft (a/c SX-R 42-8687) received several hits in the tail and, no doubt, gave him an interesting return flight to Metfield.

On November 3, 1943 “Mo” got the opportunity to take the fight to the enemy when he claimed an Me210 destroyed (later credited as an Me110):

Lt. Juntilla led the flight down and started firing at an e/a that went into a left turn, I then lost him because I followed Lt. Poindexter on an Me210 which blew up. I then went under Lt. Poindexter and started firing at an Me210 at about 300 yards. Strikes came from the right side of the cockpit and wing root and several large pieces came off. He went into a left spin with fire coming from his right wing a fuselage.

"Mo" Morrison received an award from Brig Gen. Murray C. Woodbury of 66th FW at Metfield March 23, 1944.

“Mo” Morrison received an award from Brig Gen. Murray C. Woodbury of 66th FW at Metfield March 23, 1944.

 

Given that “Mo’s” first tour ran to June 14 he probably either chose to extend and fly extra hours over D-Day or was caught, like many others, by the May 15, 1944 increase in combat hour requirements to complete a tour. It was a situation that led to another very narrow escape for him. Flying on the June 12, 1944 mission “Mo” took part in the most costly mission for the 353rd during the war – two of his fellow 352 Squadron  pilots were lost together with a  further six pilots from the 350th when they were bounced by German aircraft while on a dive-bombing mission over France.

Despite the many narrow escapes “Mo” took the brave (and entirely voluntary) decision to fly a second tour of operations. We do not know his reasons for the decision, but after a brief leave back in the US he returned and began flying his next tour on September 18, 1944. He quickly ran up a further 19 missions during which he was able to claim further aircraft destroyed. Leading his flight on November 18 he claimed an Me163 destroyed and He177 damaged:

We were to follow Red and Yellow flights across the target. I started our dive at the N tip of Ammer Lake and was to the deck approximately 3 miles to the NW. On my dive I noticed 3 green flares shot from the hanger line of the drome, evidently to alert the gun crews.

On my pass from the east, I fired on a Me163 on the east side of the landing strip. I got many strikes and as I pulled up over it, fire broke out and I believe it destroyed. I then fired on a He177 parked in front of the hanger on the W side of the field. I got more strikes on the e/a damaging it.

My wing man, Lt. Thomas, fired on an e/a he believed to be a Ju88. This a/c burned and he claims it destroyed. He also damaged another Me 163 and an unidentified twin engine a/c.

Lt. Hernandez, flying number 3, fired on a Ju88 in the middle of the drome, setting it on fire. This a/c he claims destroyed.

After a brief stint at the Rolls-Royce engine school in early December 1944 “Mo” returned to operations on December 15 and flew a further 10 operations before going on nine days of well-earned leave in early January 1945. He returned to operations on February 3, 1945 and flew a further 17 mission – flying his last on April 5, 1945.

This was not to be the end of his exciting career with the Group. On April 10, 1945 “Mo”, Bill Maguire and Lt Col. Bailey were given the task of ferrying Mustangs to Sweden. “Mo” and Bill Maguire then returned to the UK via transport plane while Bill Bailey remained to organise the handover of the P-51s to the Swedish air force. The Swedes wished to modernise their air force and so purchased the aircraft from the US. There are unconfirmed reports that the deal had a “secret” clause in which the neutral country would aid the allies if an invasion of Norway was required, but I have never seen any evidence for this claim. You can read much more about “Project Speedy” HERE and HERE.

After his mission to Sweden “Mo” returned to Raydon and was posted to the zone of the interior May 6, 1945. “Mo” died relatively young in 1968 and so he never got to attend any of the Group reunions. He was well-remembered by his comrades as a stalwart and long-serving member of his Squadron. Hopefully this post sheds a little light on his fascinating career.

A Brief History of SX-R

“Mo” flew a variety of aircraft coded SX-R. Here I detail the further information we have (with thanks to Ash Gant for our usual brain-storming and checking in the interests of accuracy).

A/C 42-7985 P-47D-2-RE. We have not seen any evidence to confirm that this aircraft was assigned to Morrison or named by him – though he may well have flown it on early missions. There is a picture of this aircraft (with no name showing) on p.29 of Jerry Scutts, Lion in the Sky (Wellingborough, 1987). Lt. F. Hajosy was killed in this aircraft when it crashed at Metfield September, 18, 1943.

The first SX-R (a/c 42-7985) was lost when Lt. Hajosy crashed and was killed at Metfield September 18, 1943.

The first SX-R (a/c 42-7985) was lost when Lt. Hajosy crashed and was killed at Metfield September 18, 1943.

A/C 42-8687 P-47D-5-RE “Hi-Lander.” This was Lt. Morrison’s aircraft though we do not know the origin of the name. The aircraft was salvaged by the 10th Air Depot Group, 9th AF on August 15, 1944, but we have been unable to identify which 9th AF Group it then went to.

The well known shot of Lt. Morrison's SX-R "Hi-Lander" (a/c 42-8687). Crew Chief S/Sgt. R. E. Moore, Asst C.C. Sgt. E. H. Gardner and Armourer Sgt. T. H. Jones.

The well known shot of Lt. Morrison’s SX-R “Hi-Lander” (a/c 42-8687). Crew Chief S/Sgt. R. E. Moore, Asst C.C. Sgt. E. H. Gardner and Armourer Sgt. T. H. Jones.

A/C 42-75552 P-47D-5-RE. The earliest reference to this aircraft indicates that it was with the Squadron by April 18, 1944. It is sometimes also referred to as “Hi-Lander,” but we have been unable to find any evidence that confirms this. We do have a reference to P-47 SX-R named “Marie” which could possibly be the name given to this aircraft by Morrison. This aircraft was lost while flown by F/O Earl W. Green June 6, 1944.

As a further clarification there are a number of “typos” on the internet associated with this aircraft so caution is required in tracing the history of the airframe. It is sometimes listed as B7-E “Bald Eagle” of the 374th FS/361st FG, but this was aircraft 42-75522 (as per combat report April 1944). It is also sometimes listed as also being OI-X of the 356th FG and HL-N of the 78th FG. QI-X was actually 42-75522 while HL-N was 42-25552. Whilst we do not know the history of the SX-R before it joined the 352nd we are confident that none of these are the same aircraft (subsequent to this post Peter Randall confirmed that 42-75552 flew with the 361st FG prior to the 353rd).

A/C 42-26665 P-47D-25-RE “Buzz Bunny.” Lt. Morrison flew the final two missions of his first tour in SX-R on June 12 and 14, 1944 after the previous SX-R was lost. Thus Morrison probably flew this aircraft, but it was named and flown almost exclusively between July and October 1944 by Lt. Thomas W. Jones. There is a picture of this aircraft (without name) on p.207 of Danny Morris, Aces and Wingmen II Volume I (Usk, 1989). The aircraft left the Group when they converted to Mustangs and was lost with Lt. William J Gray of 391st FS, 366 FG 9th AF April 16, 1945.

A/C 44-14804 P-51D-10-NA “El Gato” (Capt. Maurice Morrison) and “Honey Bee II” (Lt. Harold Miller). This was the only P-51 to fly as SX-R between October 1944 and the end of the war. It logged 84 missions with 32 different pilots (31 with Morrison and 5 with Miller). Morrison named the aircraft “El Gato” (Spanish for The Cat) after returning eight times either badly shot up or after another worrying experience. When he was assigned a P-51 he felt he was on his ninth life. The artwork is sometimes mistaken for an alligator (probably helped by the name) but as illustrations show it is clearly a panther (i.e. a cat). Further pictures are on p.208 of Morris’s Aces and Wingmen.

As a final note, the crew on SX-R throughout the war was: Crew Chief S/Sgt. Ralph E. Moore, Asst Crew Chief Sgt. E. H. Gardner and Armourer Sgt. T. H. Jones. Danny Morris names Ralph Morrow as the crew chief – as there was no recorded crew chief by that name in the 352nd we assume it is a typo or Ralph Moore later changed his name.

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