It’s wonderful to discover family tributes to 371st Fighter Group personnel posted on the internet, as is the case for the 3 October anniversary of a 1944 dogfight in which 406th Fighter Squadron P-47 pilot 1st Lt. Lawrence D. “Dag” Damewood was shot down, and thankfully survived. His daughter Diane Damewood posted a thoughtful remembrance in Facebook, as you can see here, shared with her kind permission.
“On this day, 76 years ago during WWII, our Dad was involved in a aerial dogfight against a German fighter pilot, flying his favorite plane, the P-47 “Jug”, he scored a victory. Hit by ground enemy fire Dad’s plane sustained enough damage that he had to bail out.
In the Missing Air Crew Report filed after the mission (MACR 9823), fellow pilot 2nd Lt. Harry L. Bailey made the following eyewitness statement of the loss of Damewood and his aircraft, P-47D-22-RE, serial number 42-26311, no known nickname, at about 1640 hours on 3 October 1944, about three miles southwest of Gerardmer, France. At the time the 371st Fighter Group was operating out of Dole Airfield under XII TAC control, and Damewood was on a dive bombing mission when enemy aircraft intercepted his formation.:
“When the ME-109’s attacked our flight, I shot one off Major Bacon’s tail. When I pulled up again I saw a silver ship with a thin stream of black smoke trailing behind it. I thought it was Major Bacon so I figured the plane I shot down had hit him. When I got close I saw it was 4W-F which Lt. Damewood was flying. I saw he had been hit somewhere around the engine because the smoke began to come out thicker and take on a blue color. He was in the middle of the fight flying straight and level so I figured I had better stay with him and keep enemy planes from finishing him off. He finally started away from the fight and flew for about 2 minutes. The smoke got worse and thin flames started coming out under his motor cowl. When I saw he was on fire I told him to bail out because the flames were in a position he couldn’t see them.
He then jettisoned his canopy and bailed out. He made a delayed jump from about 7 or 8 thousand feet. The plane hit the ground before his chute opened. He landed on a hill top which was wooded. I could not see him after he hit the ground because I didn’t want to go real low and give his position to the Germans. I don’t know if he was injured or not. He may have purposely made the delayed jump or he may have been hurt. The plane glided, flaming into the ground and exploded on contact.” (End of Bailey statement)
Diane Damewood continues: “As he parachuted down he looked at the surroundings, once he hit the ground he shed the parachute off and buried it. He took off for a barn that he had noticed before he touched down. Inside was a huge barrel, it was filled with straw and he was able to crawl into it, covered himself up and waited. He fell asleep and sometime later he awoke to hands going thru the straw, a French farmer motioned him to stand up. When Dad did, the farmer, seeing that Dad was an American fighter pilot, tried telling him to stay where he was. The farmer pointed all around to outside of the barn saying “bouche, bouche” (slang word I believe for German, correct me please Stephane Muret, if this wrong), Dad understood enough that the farmer was telling him to stay put as German troops were all around the area.
For 17 days Dad stayed in that barn, food, milk, water was brought to him by the French farmer and his wife. On the 17th day, not hearing any troops or seeing the farmer, Dad left the barn, went to the house of that farmer, looked inside and saw no one was there. He found some clothes, a hat and a blanket. He wrapped his flight suit in the blanket and started walking towards a town he had seen on his map he had. He had grown a beard, practically, and walked 20 miles.
On the way he passed German troops, the way he was dressed they didn’t notice anything different. As he got to the end of that 20 mile walk, he passed a house and noticed a soldier on the front porch, they glanced at each other and Dad kept walking. The soldier called out to Dad and motioned him to come to him, Dad kept walking. The second sound Dad heard was the click of a gun, he turned and the soldier again motioned him to come to him, but this time with a gun pointed at him. In Dad’s words “my Momma didn’t raise no dummy”, he proceeded to walk over to the soldier.
As he got closer, Dad noticed the uniform and patches on the Soldier, he was a member of the Free French Forces. The soldier spoke enough English to get Dad inside where there were other soldiers. Dad told them his story, they fed him and later on they got into a truck with Dad and drove him to where American troops were.
For 17 days, Dad’s family and a beautiful young lady named Jean Haupt, only knew that Dad had been shot down and was listed as MIA (missing in action). That beautiful young lady was our Mom that Dad married 8 months later on June 29, 1945.
WE REMEMBER DAD, WE HONOR YOU ALWAYS AND THANK GOD THAT YOU WERE KEPT SAFE BY THE FRENCH PEOPLE. STEPHANE MURET, THANK YOU FOR THIS PHOTO YOU CREATED HONORING DAD, WITH HIS NAME, HIS FACE AND HIS BELOVED P-47.
ALWAYS AND FOREVER DAD
OVER AND OUT
P.S. Of note, Lawrence Damewood continued on in service after World War II, and later flew another Republic product, the F-105 Thunderchief, in combat again during the Vietnam War. A quick internet search shows a Lt Col Lawrence D. Damewood as the Operations Officer of the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base as of 30 June 1965. The squadron history Fact Sheet for the 336th FS (4th FW, Seymour-Johnson AFB, NC) shows him as the Commander, 336th TFS, circa 1 July 1965.
According to fellow F-105 pilot Ed “Moose” Skowron, “Dag’s” F-105 was hit during recovery from a dive bombing pass on a Rolling Thunder combat mission early on in the campaign, which started 2 March 1965. His aircraft was hit in Route Pack 1 or 2 by a 37mm anti-aircraft shell which exploded in the belly of the F-105, knocking out his comm and navigation gear (in vicinity of the “hell hole”).
No one saw Damewood after the attack, and he couldn’t respond to any radio calls to effect a rejoin with the others. As he headed down the Vietnamese coast alone to land at the nearest friendly base, Da Nang Air Base, an RF-101 recon pilot, alone, unarmed and unafraid, spotted him as he heard radio calls looking for him and put two and two together. The RF-101 pilot replied he spotted a single F-105 headed south. So he formed up on Damewood and noted the battle damage beneath the aircraft with damaged panel latches that allowed various panels to open and close in flight. He radioed back to the other F-105 pilots that he was with Damewood and his radio was out. So the RF-101 pilot decided to accompany him back to Da Nang where Damewood landed safely.