What’s in a Number Anyway?

There is little doubt that the post-World War II renumbering of many USAAF combat groups and squadrons coupled with their allotment to the Air National Guard has confused and confounded many people over the years, whether those who wondered what ever happened to their old World War II unit or folks on the other end of the relationship wondering about their historical roots.

 

As for Frisky and his 371st Fighter Group, there is no need to fret.  This postwar change is explained in a recent post on the 142nd Fighter Wing website, titled “What’s in a Number Anyway?  The Origins of the 142nd Fighter Wing,” posted on the wing’s website at:

http://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123474219

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Any landing you can walk away from…

…is a good landing!

//BREAK//UPDATE//

Information received on Valentine’s Day from a friend in Europe from a P-47 in the ETO expert in France indicates this film is of “P-47 – 42-28929, crash landing on 10 April 1945 at Eschborn (Y-74), in Germany”

Correlating information on the Joe Baugher serial number webpage indicates this serial number fell within the range of 42-28439 to 42-29466, which equates to a Block 28 P-47D (or more formally, a Republic P-47D-28-RA Thunderbolt, built at the Republic aircraft plant in Evansville, Indiana), and which comments as such:   “28929 (405th FS, 371st FG, 9th AF) in landing accident at Eschborn Airfield Y-74, Hesse, Germany Apr 10, 1945.  Pilot survived aircraft badly damaged, unknown if repaired.”

Source:  http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1942_1.html

//BREAK/ORIGINAL POST//

It’s not every day that one finds a film clip of one’s own fighter group on the internet, but snippets of the 371st Fighter Group do seem to emerge over time. The latest discovery by this web log writer is of a 405th Fighter Squadron P-47D Thunderbolt fighter making a wheels-up belly landing at an airfield on the continent of Europe. View the short 16-second clip at:

Although the exact date and location are unknown, one can look at a year (1945) shown in the original posting on YouTube, at the aircraft and the view of the open fields which may give an impression of Y-1/Tantonville Airfield, where the 371st FG was based from 20 December 1944 to 15 February 1945.

The squadron code on the fuselage reads 8N, which is the code for the 405th Fighter Squadron, and the blue colored engine cowling is another visual identifier for a “Discharge” (405th FS radio call sign) aircraft.

Note also this aircraft is an early “Bubbletop” of the P-47D-25-RE (Farmingdale-built) or P-47D-26-RA (Evansville-built). The Bubbletops built from either the Block 27 or Block 30 on, depending on source you use, had a dorsal fin fitted at the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer to improve directional stability.

According to the Joe Baugher website’s P-47 page describing the first Bubbletops, “These batches also had the R-2800-59 or -63 engines, the paddle-bladed propeller, and the “universal” wing first introduced on the “razor-back” P-47D-20-RE. Stronger belly shackles capable of carrying a 91.6 Imp. gall. drop tank were fitted. This tank, together with the 170.6 Imp. gall. main fuselage tank, an 83-gallon auxiliary fuel tank and two 125-gallon underwing tanks, made it possible to carry a total fuel load of 595 Imp. gall, providing a maximum range of 1800 miles at 195 mph at 10,000 feet.”

The pilot lands the aircraft smoothly, and has the canopy cracked open for a speedy exit if needed. He puts it down nicely on what looks like the field alongside the runway, a wise move so as not to foul or damage the runway for other aircraft. The landing appears good enough that perhaps the aircraft was repaired and restored to service.

Note the B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber in the background at :13 as the P-47 slides by, and the possibly cannibalized B-24 Liberator heavy bomber in the background near the end of the clip as the P-47s slides to a halt.  The tail markings on the B-24 appear to be a natural metal vertical surface with a black bar down the middle, like something the 44th Bomb Group (H) would have had.

An aircraft serial number would help in researching this, but the film quality doesn’t allow for such identification. Plus, it appears the olive drab camouflaged tail and rudder may be battle damage repair “replacement” parts from a cannibalized Razorback. Which begs a question as to whose serial number may have been o the tail of the aircraft, the Bubbletop’s or the Razorback’s?
References:

368th Fighter Group P-47 Thunderbolt variations, serial numbers and production webpage, at: http://www.368thfightergroup.com/P-47-2.html

Joe Baugher website, P-47 webpage, at: http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_fighters/p47_4.html

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A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

There’s no evidence to indicate Santa Claus flew the P-47 Thunderbolt with Frisky during the war, but if he had, he might have taken part in one of the six combat missions the 371st Fighter Group flew on Christmas Eve, 1944, before his night work.  Perhaps his missions would have been recorded as seen below?  His all-weather flying skills would have been quite handy in those missions flying supplies to beleaguered troops such as the men of the “Lost Battalion” on the ground in late 1944. He could have been handy up north around Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge too!

Santa in P47D

Santa Claus signals mission success from a late-model P-47D Thunderbolt.  (Courtesy “Panzer Juan” posting on the Philippine Scout Heritage Society Facebook page)

Flying from Tantonville (Y-1), France, during Christmas of 1944, Frisky might have heard French Christmas carols echoing around the surrounding villages or countryside. Maybe something like:

Regardless, from Frisky (and Santa above) to all readers of this web log, a hearty Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Frisky’s First E.M. Club

As the Battle of the Bulge blazed up north in Belgium and Luxembourg, on 20 December 1944, Frisky was amidst a move from Advanced Landing Ground Y-7/Dole to Y-1/Tantonville Airfield. It was a non-flying day for the group, which allowed for the Group Headquarters to make the move to the new field. The planes followed in two days. At the new base, Frisky would remain assigned to the 1st Tactical Air Force (Provisional).

But something new at the new field was the 371st Fighter Group Enlisted Men’s Club. It officially opened at 1900 hours on 20 December 1944 – Col Kleine and the squadron commanders were invited to attend. This was the group’s first Enlisted Men’s club and was a big boost to the morale of the men.

371FG EM Club founder

First Sergeant William H. Wheatly of the 405th Fighter Squadron, pictured at top left, was the senior enlisted man in the group that organized Frisky’s first EM Club, at Tantonville Airfield, France (Y-1) (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

Those who were key to getting it organized and started included 1st Sergeant William H. Wheatly (405th Fighter Squadron), T/Sgt Paul L. Demers (Group HQ), T/Sgt John J. Monaghan (405th), Sgt. Nathan Dietch (405th), Sgt. Neigh and Miss Nancy Orr of the Red Cross field office attached to the 371st Fighter Group.

371FG Red Cross Nancy Orr

Miss Nancy Orr of the American Red Cross was a value-added member of the 371st Fighter Group Team in the E.T.O.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

The club quickly showed its value as a place where the men could gather and socialize off duty.  A number of dances were held there as well, presumably with local ladies, and hopefully that added to positive Franco-American relations.

Given that Tantonville was out in the countryside, it was a good thing to have the EM club to help combat the boredom and monotony of performing the same vital work tasks every day and then retiring to a drafty tent in the winter weather. It would not be until mid-January when arrangements were made for the enlisted men to go to the city of Nancy on pass, so a local hangout was most welcome for the hard-working enlisted men of the 371st Fighter Group.

371FG EM Club

Enlisted men of the 371st Fighter Group relax as they toast with a little brew (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

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A Frisky Mystery: The Loss of 1st Lt. Roger P. Trevitt

Roger P. Trevitt is not apparently mentioned in The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O., published in 1946. Not in the general history section, not the organizational sections, nor in the membership directory at the end of the book.

He’s not found in the official history of the group either. Not in the troop listing for those who went overseas in early 1944, nor in the monthly mentions of newly assigned personnel, nor any mention of him in the monthly narrative portions of the history.

But according to the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) which oversees the military cemeteries overseas, Roger P. Trevitt, service number O-910873, was an officer assigned to the Headquarters, 371st Fighter Group. His body is interred in the Rhone American Cemetery in Draguignan, southern France, at Plot B, Row 10, Grave 8. The Find A Grave website provides photo evidence of his association with the group.

Roger P Trevitt grave marker

Cross marking the grave of 1st Lt. Roger P. Trevitt in the Rhone American Cemetery, France.  (Courtesy of Find A Grave.com)

So, what else do we know about Roger P. Trevitt? The information on the ABMC website indicates he died on 9 July 1945, after the war, while the group was assigned to Fürth/Industriehafen Airfield (R-30) in occupied Germany.

Page 23 of the War Department’s Honor List of Dead and Missing for the State of Texas (June 1946) has a listing of military casualties from Dallas County, Texas, and indicates Roger P. Trevitt’s death was DNB, a non-battle death.

He was a First Lieutenant at the time of his death, so had been in the service for more than a couple of years.

According to the HonorStates.org website, Trevitt received two military awards, the American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. This would suggest that he served in the United States in some unit with a defensive role prior to going over to Europe.   The absence of a medal for the European-African-Middle Eastern campaign is perhaps odd, given Trevitt presumably died in Europe.

It’s unknown why he is absent from the Group’s war book (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.) and official histories.  Perhaps he was a new postwar arrival in the unit, and was lost in the shuffle of personnel in and out of the group.  New guys don’t garner much attention among older hands hankering to return home.  And by July, 1945, the group’s war book draft was well-along in development and would go to military censors in late August in pre-publication coordination actions.  Perhaps Trevitt arrived too late in the unit to be mentioned.

As for what connection the 371st Fighter Group has with southern France, The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O. (Chapter 6, page 51) mentions that after the move to Metz Airfield (Y-34) in eastern France in mid-February, 1945, leaves began in earnest, and makes mention of pilots beginning rest and recreation leaves in the Riviera of southern France while ground officers and enlisted men went on 48-hour passes to Paris. Seven day leaves to England also began.

It is only speculation to surmise that Lt. Trevitt may have died while on leave in southern France. But absent any other information at this time, this would appear to be only a possibility.

If anyone knows something more about the fate of 1st Lt. Roger P. Trevitt, please contact the writer of this web log by leaving a comment.
References

The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O., Army & Navy Pictorial Publishers, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1946

371st Fighter Group official histories, April, 1944 through August, 1945

Roger P. Trevitt, entry in ABMC Burials and Memorials Database, at: https://www.abmc.gov/node/546901#.Vl0dUeL3i7N

Roger P. Trevitt, Service Details, at HonorStates.org: http://www.honorstates.org/index.php?id=344465

War Department Honor List of Dead and Missing for the State of Texas (June 1946), accessed on the Fold3 military historical research subscription website on 30 November 2015

Roger P. Trevitt, entry with images in Find A Grave website, at: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=trevitt&GSfn=roger&GSmn=p&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSob=n&GRid=56511387&df=all&

American Campaign Medal, Wikipedia entry, at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Campaign_Medal

European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal, Wikipedia entry, at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European-African-Middle_Eastern_Campaign_Medal

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Frisky’s Happy Thanksgiving in 2015!

No doubt Frisky enjoyed his first postwar Thanksgiving 70 years ago and the many since then.  And well he should, having served the nation so well in World War II.

9QX & 9QV

An element of 371st Fighter Group P-47 Thunderbolts prowl the skies of Northwestern Europe during World War II. These aircraft are from the group’s 404th Fighter Squadron (squadron code 9Q).   (Courtesy Doug Harrison)

He could probably reflect that his was not the first, nor would it be the last, generation of servicemen and women to celebrate a Thanksgiving, in peace or at war.  And he probably did well to remember that through it all in his wartime experience, training, deployment, combat, the heat, the cold, even loss, or return, to “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

On this Thanksgiving Day, 2015, take a look back at how America’s servicemen and women have celebrated Thanksgiving, courtesy of John Clark at the Task & Purpose web log, in his posting “Thanksgiving Through The Years And Wars,” at:  http://taskandpurpose.com/thanksgiving-through-the-years-and-wars/

To all who served with Frisky in the 371st Fighter Group, assigned, or attached, family and friends, a wish for a Happy Thanksgiving!  We have much to be grateful for.

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Remembering Frisky on Veterans Day, 2015

For some months after the war in Europe ended, it was unclear what Frisky’s fate would be. Would he be sent to the Pacific to finish the war against Imperial Japan? Would he be going back Stateside and return to civilian life?  The uncertainty began to vex him.

Despite worries to the contrary, Frisky did make it home before he had the chance to add that many hashmarks to his sleeve or grow that long, non-regulation beard!  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

Despite worries to the contrary, Frisky did make it home before he had the chance to add that many hashmarks to his sleeve or grow that long, non-regulation beard! (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

He was in limbo, and in wartime parlance, ”sweating it out.” Orders finally came down sending him back to the States (Hurray!) aboard the SS Stetson Victory, arriving in New York City in November, 1945, and then traveling up the Hudson River to Camp Shanks.

The unofficial emblem of the 371st Fighter Group of World War II, with the group's radio call sign of "Van Dyke."  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

The unofficial emblem of the 371st Fighter Group of World War II, with the group’s radio call sign of “Van Dyke.” (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

On Frisky’s second day back on the soil of the United States following the end of World War II, on 10 November 1945, just a day before Armistice Day (called Veterans Day today), the group officially inactivated, thus concluding the World War II service of the 371st Fighter Group.

But that did not end the story of the 371st Fighter Group. Even as the former members of the group left for every point on the Compass Rose, plans were being formed in Washington, D.C. for Frisky’s revival.

This return to service, however, would be delayed, and would not occur for over six months after the group’s inactivation, long after the members had scattered hither and yonder for civilian life or other military service.

It would also entail a a redesignation, from the 371st Fighter Group to the 142nd Fighter Group. The number reflected the series of numbers of National Guard aviation units.  This is shown on page two of a memorandum from the War Department dated 5 December 1946 which recapped the redesignations of World war II combat groups with National Guard numerical designations.  Thus the 371st Fighter Group became the 142nd Fighter group, effective 24 May 1946m as shown at the link to page 2 of the document, immediately below.

War Dept memo of 5 Dec 1946, page 2

The other element of Frisky’s return to service would be a relocation, from the East Coast some 3,000 miles west to Portland, Oregon. There the unit would be organized from scratch with completely new members having no connection to the 371st Fighter Group, though many World War II veterans did join the unit and bring to it their tremendous wartime experience. In Portland the unit equipped with another fine American fighter plane, the P-51 Mustang.

A P-51D Mustang fighter of the 142nd Fighter Group, Oregon National Guard flies in Pacific Northwest skies after World War II.  (Courtesy 142FW Archives)

A P-51D Mustang fighter of the 142nd Fighter Group, Oregon National Guard flies in Pacific Northwest skies after World War II. (Courtesy 142FW Archives)

No wonder many people today might be confused when they learn that the 371st Fighter Group remains in service today. To any members of the WWII-era 371st Fighter Group, or family and friends thereof, please know that today your unit is still flying, as the 142nd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard at Portland ANG base in Portland, Oregon.

Col. Richard W. Wedan, 142nd Fighter Wing commander, takes off on his 'Fini Flight' from the Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore., in his F-15 Eagle, Feb. 7, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs/Released)

Col. Richard W. Wedan, 142nd Fighter Wing commander, takes off on his ‘Fini Flight’ from the Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore., in his F-15 Eagle, Feb. 7, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs/Released)

There in Portland it operates the F-15 Eagle and is the principal air defense element for the nation in the greater Pacific Northwest region on alert 24/7, still proudly serving in the community, state and nation. See the 142nd Fighter Wing website, which includes a link to the unit’s Facebook page, and learn more at: http://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/

And so let’s remember our veterans of the 371st Fighter Group of World War II on this Veterans Day, 2015, as well as their successors in the 142nd Fighter Group, now the 142nd Fighter Wing. Hand salute!

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A Frisky Mystery Solved!

Since this web log writer began to study the 371st Fighter Group in detail, one bit of information has remained elusive. That is what ship did the group return to the US aboard after the war? This “Frisky Mystery” is now solved!

Patrol of the internet found e-copy of the Wednesday, 7 November 1945 issue of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper. On page 3 is the following article, or perhaps notice is a better word:

7 Transports Due With 8,427 Troops
Seven transports were scheduled to dock today with 8, 427 troops.

The Stetson Victory carried 1,961 including the 321st Fighter Control Squadron; the 402d 485th, 404th, 405th and 406th Fighter Squadrons; 371st Fighter Group; Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron of the 502d Air Service Group; 929th Air Engineer Squadron; 744th Air material Squadron; 1790th Signal Service battalion Headquarters Squadron, and the 45th AAA Air Raid Warning Battalion.

The Coaldale Victory, the William and Mary Victory, the Aiken Victory, the John Moorhead, the John Poe and the Raold Amundsen carried 6,466 miscellaneous troops.

Those on the Stetson, Coaldale and William and Mary will be processed at Camp Shanks, N.Y. Those on the Poe and Amundsen will go to Fort Hamilton, N.Y., and the others will be taken to Camp Kilmer, N.J.

The SS Stetson Victory arrives in Seattle, 1946, bringing another load of troops back from overseas service. (Courtesy )

The SS Stetson Victory arrives in Seattle, 1946, bringing another load of troops back from overseas service. (Courtesy Museum of History & Industry)

Another report from the Associated Press in the St. Peterburg Times, 7 November 1945, page 3, indicated the Stetson Victory was due at New York on that day as shown in this excerpt:

More Than 26,000 Troops Reach Home Ports Today
AT NEW YORK-(Statson Victory from Antwerp (Belgium)) 1,961 troops including the 321st fighter control squadron; 402nd, 485th, 404th, 405th, 406th fighter squadron; 371st fighter group; headquarters and headquarters squadron 502nd air service group; 929th air engineer squadron; 744th air materiel squadron; 1790th signal service battalion, headquarters squadron; 562nd signal battalion; 452nd AAA air raid warning battalion, and miscellaneous troops.”

The typo in the ship name at second source aside, the information in two newspapers indicates the SS Stetson Victory was the vessel that brought Frisky home!

The Stetson Victory was a Victory ship, the mass-produced cargo ship follow-on design to the famous Liberty Ship of the earlier war period. She was a VC2-S-AP2 design, built in Baltimore, Maryland at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Ship yard. About the same size as the Liberty ship, the Victory Ships had improved propulsion and were faster (16 knots) vessels. Some 273 Victory Ships of the AP2 variant were built at four US shipyards during the war – total American production of all Victory variants was 531 ships built at seven US shipyards (another three were completed postwar).

The Red Oak Victory, preserved as a museum ship in Richmond, California. (Courtesy )

The SS Red Oak Victory, preserved as a museum ship in Richmond, California. (Courtesy Richmondmuseum.org)

Typical of the speed of wartime transport construction, the Stetson Victory was laid down on 3 May 1945, as the 371st Fighter Group was in its final week of combat operations against Nazi Germany. The vessel was launched on 16 June 1945, and delivered complete to the Maritime Administration on 18 July 1945. She soon began operations, to include bringing the 371st Fighter Group back to the States from Europe.

Ironically, the Stetson Victory was photographed afterward on the west coast in Portland, Oregon, soon to be the home of the 371st Fighter Group after its redesignation as the 142nd Fighter Group in May, 1946.

Partial view of the SS Stetson Vicotry in Portland, Oregon, to the immediate left of the US Navy LPD (Courtesy NavSource)

Partial view of the SS Stetson Victory in Portland, Oregon, moored across the pier to viewer left from the USS Rushmore, LSD-14, in foreground circa December, 1945. (Courtesy Mr. William Brown via NavSource)

After bringing Frisky back to the States from Antwerp, Belgium (Frisky probably boarded from Camp Top Hat), the SS Stetson Victory changed status and in July, 1946 was transferred to the War Department for US Army operation. On 31 October 1947 she was renamed US Army Transport Sgt. Sylvester Antolak, for a soldier who earned a posthumous Medal of Honor for valor above and beyond the call of duty in actions on 24 May 1944 near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy. Audie Murphy, America’s most decorated soldier in World War II who also earned the Medal of Honor in 1945, was in the same infantry company as Antolak, and witnessed his heroic action. Sylvester Antolak is buried overseas in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery at Nettuno, Italy, at Plot C, Row 12, Grave 13.

A cross marks the grave of Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant (SGT) Sylvester Antolak, one of many killed during the World War II fight for southern Italy in 1943-44. The American dead are buried at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery. (Wikipedia)

A cross marks the grave of Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant (SGT) Sylvester Antolak, one of many killed during the World War II fight for southern Italy in 1943-44. The American dead are buried at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery. (Wikipedia)

After a brief period of service, including taking USAF personnel from Japan to Germany for participation in the Berlin Airlift, the Sgt. Sylvester Antolak was placed in reserve on 31 October 1949.

USAT Sgt. Sylvester Antolak seen in service between WWII and Korean War, circa 1947 - 1949. (Courtesy )

USAT Sgt. Sylvester Antolak seen in service between WWII and Korean War, circa 1947 – 1949. (Wikipedia)

In reserve less than a year, the Antolak was reactivated 22 July 1950 by the Navy as a US Naval Ship (USNS)and troop transport (T-AP-192) for Korean War service, which included shuttling troops to Japan from the US, to Korea from Japan, and also the Philippine Expeditionary Force To Korea (PEFTOK) from the Philippines to Korea, earning seven battle stars. She was inactivated once again in September 1952 and remained in reserve until disposal in December, 1971.

While the actual date and time and other details of the SS Stetson Victory’s arrival are still not established for the record of this web log, nor is the debarkation and movement of the group and its three fighter squadrons. The units then moved out from the port by either railroad or watercraft from the New York Port of Embarkation/ Brooklyn Army Terminal.

New York Port of Embarkation's Brooklyn Army Base shown in this post-World War II view. (Courtesy )

New York Port of Embarkation’s Brooklyn Army Terminal shown in this post-World War II view. (Wikipedia)

But official USAAF history sources indicate the 371st Fighter Group and three fighter squadrons arrived at Camp Shanks, 30 miles north of New York City up the Hudson River, by 9 November 1945. Camp Shanks was the largest embarkation base the US Army operated in World War II, and processed around 3 million military personnel going out to and/or returning from overseas destinations.

A view of one small portion of the sprawling Camp Shanks, New York. (Courtesy )

A view of the barracks in one small portion of the sprawling 2,000+ acres of Camp Shanks, New York. (Courtesy Don.genemcguire.com)

Frisky was likely just another number in line when it came to reception at the large camp area in Orangeburg, New York. But at that point he probably didn’t care, home at last after doing his duty for the nation. And so we render a hand salute to the officers, men, and women, who served with the 371st Fighter Group to achieve the hard-fought Victory in Europe against fascism!

A Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, clean with no bombs or external tanks carried, banks away from a camera plane in the European Theater of Operations in World War II. The national insignia on the bottom of both wings was an ETO measure to help Allied personnel on the ground identify it as a friendly aircraft. (Courtesy 142FW History Archives)

A Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, clean with no bombs or external tanks carried, banks away from a camera plane in the European Theater of Operations in World War II. The national insignia on the bottom of both wings was an ETO measure to help Allied personnel on the ground identify it as a friendly aircraft. (Courtesy 142FW History Archives)

References

“The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.,” Army & Navy Pictorial Publishers, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1946

371st Fighter Group, official histories

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 7 November 1945, page 3, online at: http://bklyn.newspapers.com/image/54526745/

St. Petersburg Times, 7 November 1945, page 3, at: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=888&dat=19451107&id=eBIwAAAAIBAJ&sjid=pE4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=7185,977365&hl=en

USNS Sgt. Sylvester Antolak, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USNS_Sgt._Sylvester_Antolak_%28T-AP-192%29

Sylvester Antolak, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvester_Antolak

USNS Sgt. Sylvester Antolak (T-AP-192), ex USAT Sgt. Sylvester Antolak (1947 – 1950), es SS Stetson Victory, NavSource Ship Photo Archive, at: http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/22/22192.htm

Victory Ship, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_ship

SS Red Oak Victory, website at: http://richmondmuseum.org/ss-red-oak-victory/

Outboard Profiles of Maritime Commission Vessels – The Victories and her Subdesigns, at: http://drawings.usmaritimecommission.de/drawings_v_types.htm

Levine, David, “Remembering Camp Shanks: More than a million World War II soldiers headed overseas after a stint at Camp Shanks in Rockland County,” at: http://www.hvmag.com/Hudson-Valley-Magazine/September-2010/Remembering-Camp-Shanks/

SS Stetson Victory, picture at Seattle, at: http://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/imlsmohai/id/3751

Camp Top Hat info in Dutch: http://www.axis4peace.eu/historia/tophat.htm

New York Port of Embarkation, at: http://www.wikiwand.com/en/New_York_Port_of_Embarkation

Brooklyn Army Terminal, and image of, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooklyn_Army_Terminal

Gottluck, Wesley, “Camp Shanks: Last Stop USA,” at: http://www.boatingonthehudson.com/images/flippingbook/2013/04_april/Articles/CAMP_SHANKS.pdf

Camp Shanks picture, at: http://don.genemcguire.com/CampShanks.htm

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A Post-War Hero: The Last Flight of Captain Francis T. Evans, Jr.

When World War II ended and the 371st Fighter Group returned to the States in November, 1945, and inactivated, the former group members scattered to the winds. Many left the military service in the big post-war demobilization, eager to get back to their civilian lives after serving the country. Some kept a tie to the service and joined the Air National Guard, and a few stayed on with active duty.

One of these who left the service, but later joined the ANG was Captain Francis T. Evans, Jr., who flew with Frisky’s 405th Fighter Squadron. He was the son of Col and Mrs. Francis T. Evans Sr. Col Evans was known as Marine Aviator Number 4, who had a distinguished career in Marine Corps aviation.

THE EVANS FAMILY Left to Right: Francis T. Evans, Jr., Francis T, Evans, Sr., Douglas K. Evans.  (Courtesy Earlyaviators.com)

THE EVANS FAMILY
Left to Right: Francis T. Evans, Jr., Francis T, Evans, Sr., Douglas K. Evans. (Courtesy Earlyaviators.com)

During World War II the younger Evans joined the Army, became a fighter pilot and completed 101 combat missions with the 371st Fighter Group. He also received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

First Lieutenant Francis T. Evans Jr. pictured during his service as a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter pilot with the 405th Fighter Squadron of the 371st Fighter Group.  (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

First Lieutenant Francis T. Evans Jr. pictured during his service as a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter pilot with the 405th Fighter Squadron of the 371st Fighter Group. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

A source indicates that after the war he became a member of the 121st Fighter Squadron of the Washington D.C. ANG, and as such he was likely involved in the call-up to active duty during the Korean War which occurred in early 1951 and lasted until 1952. In that period, the unit became a fighter-interceptor squadron with an air defense mission in the northeastern United States.

Evans apparently decided to stay on active duty after the war, as in 1953 he was assigned to the 95th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. On a fateful day in 1953, however, the combat veteran faced another split-second life and death decision, and this time gave his own, that others might live.

This shot of a 95th FIS F-86D, taken during an airshow at Andrews in 1956, shows off the slats and rocket tray to advantage, as aerospace writers are wont to say from time to time.  (Isham Collection via Replica in Scale)

This shot of a 95th FIS F-86D, taken during an airshow at Andrews in 1956, shows off the slats and rocket tray to advantage, as aerospace writers are wont to say from time to time. (Isham Collection via Replica in Scale)

The heroic, if tragic story, is recounted on “The Francis T Evans Jr Story webpage, which this web log writer viewed last week. But sadly, since that viewing, the page appears to have gone down with no indication if it will be restored. A cached version of the front end of it, sans all the details attachments and links, has the following information to describe Francis T. Evans Jr’s heroic deed on 16 June 1953, just outside Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland:

“Tuesday – June 16, 1953

At 14:54 First Lieutenant Leon A. Blackmon in Skyhigh 22 and Capt. Francis T. Evans Jr. in Skyhigh 16 took off from Andrews AFB on runway 19 due South on a training mission. First Lieutenant Blackmon was going up for his F-86D “VFR Instruction Check” with Capt Evans being his instructor piloting the “chase plane”. They rose to 20,000 feet for maneuvers before descending for more.

At 15:00 the bell rang at Forestville Elementary School signifying the end of the school day and, on this particular day, the end of the school year. Parents picked up some of the kids, most of the walking students started walking home while some of them stayed to play with friends they might not see for 3 months, and those who rode the first of the three bus trips that were required to get students to and from school each day got on their bus. The rest of the students started playing in the large playground.

Some “moments” before 15:19, the jets’ Adapter Drive Spline, which connects the engine to the hydraulic pump for the normal flight control hydraulic system, sheared due to material failure. This failed system controlled the Aileron and Elevator. At this time Capt. Evans activated the electrically driven alternate flight control hydraulic system.

At approximately 15:19, while approximately 30 miles southeast of Andrews AFB at an altitude about 7000 feet, Capt Evans radioed his student pilot that he was returning to base due to hydraulic failure and that he should continue his mission.

At about 15:21 Capt. Evans contacted the control tower asking for landing instructions and informing them he still had about 2500 pounds of fuel remaining and was operating on the alternate flight control system. The tower radioed all planes in the area to stay out of the area for 5 minutes for an emergency landing and alerted the crash equipment to the end of runway 19. Capt Evans then entered a normal overhead pattern for runway 19.

On the downwind leg he slowed down to 185 knots and lowered the flaps and landing gear. About 7000′ north of the runway he turned onto base leg at which time he discovered the alternate flight control hydraulic system had failed. (This failure was caused by a short circuit in that system.) This left him with only the throttle to control the aircraft. On jet aircraft there is NO direct connection between the pilots’ controls and the flight control surfaces. Without hydraulics there is simply no way to operate the aileron or elevator. His last transmission to the Control Tower was Negative Hydraulics which, unfortunately, meant he was unable to execute the last turn he needed to make before landing. This left him heading straight for the playground.

Seconds later the kids and teachers on the playground and those standing in line waiting to board the second of the three bus trips turned their heads towards the sound of a jet being way too low. (The final approach for runway 19 is very close to being directly over the school itself so the students and teachers alike were very familiar with the sounds the different planes made as they took off or landed.) He then ejected the canopy. A second or so later he saw the playground full of kids. Virtually everyone on the school property just froze in place with eyes fixed on the too low jet that had now come into view not too far above the treetops.

At 15:23 Capt. Evans, 44 days shy of being 32, USAF jet fighter pilot, husband, father of a 3 year old daughter with their second child due in 3 months, made a fateful split second decision and pulled the throttle back hard and as soon as the jet was in a 45 degree dive (another split second) he pressed the eject button. The ejection seat tumbled uncontrollably through the air at a 45 degree angle to the horizon and Capt. Evans was unable to pull the ripcord even after he and the seat separated (see ejection seat note below).

Capt Evans had managed to crash the jet 30 feet into the woods. The 30 feet of woods protected everyone from the flying pieces of the jet. Had Capt. Evans taken one second to make his next to last split second decision, the jet would’ve crashed in the playground. The ensuing explosion broke at least a third of the windows on the north side of the school some 300 feet away. No other building damage occurred. No child, teacher or school employee on the ground was injured in any way.

USAF Capt. Francis Thomas Evans Jr. had achieved his #1 goal.

Tragically, he was unable to achieve his secondary objective. Captain Evans Jr. was 31 years old, leaving behind his wife, soon to be 2 daughters, father, mother and younger brother.”

All F-86D Sabre jets were grounded pending completion of the investigation on this mishap.

Archived newspaper photo of wreckage at Capt. Francis T. Evans, Jr.'s, plane crash site. Article retrieved from The Francis T. Evans, Jr., Story. (Washington Post photo/Charles Del Vecchio, via JB Andrews)

Archived newspaper photo of wreckage at Capt. Francis T. Evans, Jr.’s, plane crash site. Article retrieved from The Francis T. Evans, Jr., Story. (Washington Post photo/Charles Del Vecchio, via JB Andrews)

The accident report on Capt Evans crash attributed the cause to mechanical failure, as mentioned in the broken Adapter Drive Spline mentioned above. The report made the following recommendations:
– Ejection seats were to be improved to operate without tumbling during low altitude / non level flight ejections.
– Determine a better metal for the Adapter Drive Spline.

Grateful citizens, younger and older, remember Capt Evans’ sacrifice that day. The Forestville Elementary School placed a portrait of Capt Evans and a plaque which hung for many years in the old Forestville Elementary School. It was in an auditorium that was built in his honor. Of note, a grateful President Dwight D. Eisenhower was aware of the incident, and wrote a personal letter.

Archived newspaper article from Capt. Francis T. Evans, Jr.’s, memorial service, original source is unknown. Article retrieved from The Francis T. Evans, Jr., Story. (Courtesy JB Andrews)

Archived newspaper article from Capt. Francis T. Evans, Jr.’s, memorial service, original source is unknown. Article retrieved from The Francis T. Evans, Jr., Story. (Courtesy JB Andrews)

The picture of subsequent events is not quite clear with regard to the school memorial. Between 1994 and 2006 the portrait and plaque were moved to the “new Main Entrance” foyer when public access to the auditorium was removed. In the same time frame, someone had the plaque restored. The old Forestville Elementary was replaced by a new school, and the old school building was repurposed as government offices.

In 1968, Francis T. Evans Elementary School opened, named in honor of the brave captain. Fast forward to 2014, and US Air Force Airmen from Andrews AFB were involved in a project to improve the display inside Francis T. Evans Elementary in honor of Capt Evans. Master Sgts. Matt Cagle and Phillip Allen, 744th Communication Squadron, built an oak display case to display the Evans portrait, plaque and other memorabilia of the school’s namesake.

Master Sergeants Phillip Allen and Matt Cagle, 744th Communication Squadron program managers hold up the former memorial display in front of the newly dedicated memorial display case specially made for the school May 2, 2014. The case is on display at the Francis T. Evans School, located just outside of Joint Base Andrews, Md., and will encase memorabilia of the school’s namesake, Capt. Francis T. Evans, Jr. (U.S. Air Force photo by Aimee Fujikawa)

Master Sergeants Phillip Allen and Matt Cagle, 744th Communication Squadron program managers hold up the former memorial display in front of the newly dedicated memorial display case specially made for the school May 2, 2014. The case is on display at the Francis T. Evans School, located just outside of Joint Base Andrews, Md., and will encase memorabilia of the school’s namesake, Capt. Francis T. Evans, Jr. (U.S. Air Force photo by Aimee Fujikawa)

It was unveiled to the students and staff on 2 May 2014, nearly 61 years after Evans’ sacrifice.

Dr. Deborah Stone, Francis T. Evans Elementary School principal, thanks members of the 844th and 744th Communication Squadrons for the memorial display case built in honor of the school's namesake May 2, 2014. The case is on display at the Francis T. Evans School, located just outside of Joint Base Andrews, Md., and will encase memorabilia of  Capt. Francis T. Evans, Jr. (U.S. Air Force photo by Aimee Fujikawa)

Dr. Deborah Stone, Francis T. Evans Elementary School principal, thanks members of the 844th and 744th Communication Squadrons for the memorial display case built in honor of the school’s namesake May 2, 2014. The case is on display at the Francis T. Evans School, located just outside of Joint Base Andrews, Md., and will encase memorabilia of Capt. Francis T. Evans, Jr. (U.S. Air Force photo by Aimee Fujikawa)

It is always sad to see the loss of a comrade in arms. In war such a sacrifice may have a military purpose, which is maybe harder to see in peacetime. But the military has to train well in peacetime and sometimes that training takes a toll, as it did on 16 June 1953.

It is a testament to the character of 371st Fighter Group combat veteran Francis T. Evans, Jr., that on that day he passed the ultimate gut check and gave his live to save the lives of others. As Jesus said, recorded in the Book of John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
References

Francis T. Evans, Sr., Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Thomas_Evans,_Sr.

FRANCIS THOMAS. EVANS, Early Aviators website, at: http://earlyaviators.com/eevans.htm

History of Francis T. Evans Elementary School, at: http://www1.pgcps.org/francistevans/index.aspx?id=97122

Fujikawa, Aimee, “Airmen go above, beyond for “Bonehead”” Joint Base Andrews webpage, at: http://www.andrews.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123409822

John 15:13, Bible Hub website, at: http://biblehub.com/john/15-13.htm

John 15, Bible Gateway website, at: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+15

F-86D picture at:  http://replicainscale.blogspot.com/2011_08_01_archive.html

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Men at Work

The conditions at the Advanced Landing Grounds on the European continent were often were very basic field conditions for Army Air Force units.   A glimpse into what this was like is offered in a 5:23 minute film of 406th Fighter Squadron (squadron code 4W) armorers at work at ALG A-6, aka Beuzeville, La Londe, Ste Mere Eglise in June of 1944, which you can view on YouTube, by DDay-Overlord, at:

371st Fighter Group – Beuzeville-au-Plain – 28/06/1944

In the first scene you will see men at a munitions storage area hitching up an M5 Bomb Trailer loaded with 500-lb bomb bodies to a 4X4 M6 Bomb Service Truck for transport out to the 406th aircraft at their dispersal area on A-6.  The bombs are stored out in an open area, no protective bunker or revetment for these munitions! Note the jerry cans secured in the truck.

3D computer-aided design (CAD) rendering of the Chevrolet M6 bomb truck and M5 trailer. (Courtesy Airfix)

3D computer-aided design (CAD) rendering of the Chevrolet M6 bomb truck and M5 trailer. (Courtesy Airfix)

In the next scene the truck and bomb-laden trailer arrive at the aircraft, bouncing over some rough turf off the Square Mesh Track (SMT) operating surface of the field.  At the aircraft, the bombs are seen already loaded and fitted out aboard the fighter, as an officer wearing a jacket and an ascot, with a pipe, chalks a message onto one of the bombs.  A 406th pilot shows up, briefly examines the loaded ordnance and climbs into the cockpit.  Lastly, shipping pins on the fuses are removed and shown to the pilot as he prepares to fly the aircraft on a combat mission.

The camera then shifts back to the munitions storage area, where the armorers once again work to load bombs on a trailer, in one view removing the shipping collars the bombs came in with.  Bombs go out to aircraft again, and this time the preparation of the bomb is filmed.  As it rests on a hand trolley, the tail assembly is screwed on, then the weapon is hand-trucked to the loading position beneath a pylon on the wing.

Once the bomb is secured to the aircraft, the armorers, officer in ascot and pipe and another man, remove AN/M103 nose and tail fuzes from shipping containers – note the difference between the nose and tail fuzes.  You can see one man removing the nose plug on the bomb before installing the nose fuze.  Last view is of him bringing the arming wire forward from the pylon and attaching it to the short lower vane of the nose fuze.

Compare the film above with that of USAF bomb loading 70 years later, as seen in a 2014 example from the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas ANG, in the 4:10 video at:

This five-minute film from World War II shows just one part of the work required by Frisky to prepare an aircraft for a combat mission. Every man in the outfit had a Military Occupational Specialty and was present at A-6 for one reason, to generate combat airpower to defeat the enemy.  No matter the position, everyone had a part on the 371st Fighter Group team, and contributed directly and/or indirectly to successful mission accomplishment.  Hand salute to the 371st Fighter Group men at work!
References

M6 Bomb Service Truck, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M6_Bomb_Service_Truck

M5 Bomb Trailer, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M5_Bomb_Trailer

B-17G Flying Fortress and USAAF Bomber Resupply Set, plus Defiant update, at: http://www.airfix.com/uk-en/news/workbench/5889/

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