THE P47 THUNDERBOLT OF LIEUTENANT RUDOLF AUGARTEN

Some info and pictures from a French museum website on excavation of crash site of P-47 pilot Rudolph “Rudy” Augarten (371st Fighter Group/406th Fighter Squadron) in Normandy. He was able to evade and escape captivity and eventually returned to friendly lines, flew more combat missions: http://museegrandbunker.com/en/the-p47-thunderbolt-of-lieutenant-rudolf-augarten?unapproved=610&moderation-hash=0a649dd7abea13bb992d4706de9866f9#comment-610

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The Wing’s First Purple Heart

Carried over from the 142nd Fighter Wing’s website, posted on 7 August 2019

By Lt Col Terrence G. Popravak, Jr., USAF (Retired), 142nd Fighter Wing/Public Affairs / Published August 07, 2019

PORTLAND, ORE. — On August 7, 1782, General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, established the original Purple Heart, then called the Badge of Military Merit. August 7 is now known as Purple Heart Day.  It was 75 years ago this year that a member of the 142nd Fighter Wing, which was designated as the 371st Fighter Group during World War II, first received the Purple Heart medal.

1 Purple_Heart_Medal

The Badge of Military Merit was never abolished after the Revolutionary War, nor was it used again. Interest grew over time to revive the badge and after General Douglas MacArthur became the Army Chief of Staff in 1930, he directed an effort be made to do so. Army heraldic specialist Ms. Elizabeth Will was tasked to redesign the newly revived award, and created the design sketch used for the present medal.

2 PH Designer

Elizabeth Will, former illustrator at The Institute Of Heraldry, receives an award for her work on the design of the Purple Heart Medal. (U.S. Army)

The new Purple Heart Medal was first awarded February 22, 1932, on the bicentennial of Washington’s birth. It was a fitting tribute to Washington’s memory and military achievements.

On June 5, 1944, Major Edmond A. “Buster” Goolsbee, Operations Officer of the 406th Fighter Squadron, became the first member of the 371st Fighter Group (redesignated as the 142nd Fighter Group, later fighter wing, after the war) to be honored with the Purple Heart. He was the first pilot in the group to be wounded in action against the enemy, which occurred on May 21, 1944, during a “train-busting” mission at Rennes, France.

The whole 371st Fighter Group flew out on a train hunt in France on that day, led by the commander of the 405th Fighter Squadron, Major Harvey L. Case, Jr. Two trains were destroyed and another badly damaged, but it wasn’t without a price.

As Major Goolsbee passed over the first train, German light flak found the range. A piece of it pierced his canopy and hit him in the shoulder from behind, wounding him; his instrument panel and gas and hydraulic lines in the cockpit area were smashed or damaged.  From the group’s “warbook” published after the war:  “Ground crews and officers, gathered around the loudspeaker to listen to the progress of the mission, chilled to the sound of his voice, high with excitement, whining through the air. “Someone lead me in; I’m a cinch for the Purple Heart!!””

Hit and bleeding, “Ma” or perhaps better known as “Buster” Goolsbee returned to Bisterne Airfield in England, landed his flak-ridden P-47 safely and received prompt medical attention. Perhaps a bit too prompt as this quote from the 406 Fighter Squadron’s history for May 1944 suggests: “In spite of this (wound and damage) he was able to make his way across the channel OK and land at home base in good enough shape to bitch loudly at the Medical Corps for not feeding him before hacking the shell fragments out of his shoulder.”

Major Goolsbee left the hospital a few days later of his own volition and returned to duty with the usual well-chewed cigar in his mouth.

3 406fs-pilots for PH

Lt. Robert Meyer is pictured in the center of this group of “Yearling” (406th Fighter Squadron) pilots (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

The second train cost Frisky something too, when 406FS P-47 pilot Lt. Robert R. Meyer lost two cylinders on his big Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine during his pass from a well-placed German 20mm cannon shell. He sweated his return back across France and the English Channel to England, oil pressure dropping along the way, until there was no pressure left. Fortunately he was able to recover at Warmwell Airfield after a safe landing.

4 406fs-tree-damaged-tbolt for PH

406th Fighter Squadron damaged by collision with tree(s). This may be the ship flown by Lt. Francis E. Madore on his 21 May 1944 “train-busting” mission over France. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

The third train was no different from the first two, insofar as cost was concerned, as Lt. Francis E. “Francisco” Madore found out. Making a minimum altitude approach to reduce his exposure to enemy fire, he took evasive action against the light flak as he neared the target. But a tree suddenly interposed itself between him and the train. His mighty Thunderbolt clipped the top of the tree with a wing, chopping off a portion of both tree and wing, and bringing some of the tree back with him to England in the wing and fuselage. “He (Madore) claimed that the wing would stall out at IAS.” Fortunately he was also able to get his beaten aircraft back across the channel for a safe landing.

5 buster-goolsbee-gets-the-purple-heart

Major Edmond A. “Buster” Goolsbee, 406FS Operations Officer, receives the Purple Heart from Brig. Gen. Alvan C. Kincaid, IX TAC Chief of Staff on June 5, 1944 at Bisterne Airfield, England. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.)

Two weeks after the “train-busting” mission over France that fairly busted Frisky’s chops, pilots assembled under a “mottled-gray sky” in the field behind headquarters used for a baseball diamond. Those slated to receive an award were “slicked up in Pinks, and wearing blouses.” On June 5, 1944, Brig. Gen. Alvan C. “Ack-Ack” Kincaid, Chief of Staff, IX Tactical Air Command, presided over the ceremony, and presented 371FG members with awards earned during the group’s early operations in the ETO. Gen. Kincaid, himself a recipient of the Purple Heart, presented Maj. Goolsbee with the Purple Heart. And so it was, on this day before D-Day in 1944, a member of the unit received his first Purple Heart, the first of many more.

 

Article posted at:  https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1928814/the-wings-first-purple-heart/

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Advanced Landing Ground Y 74 Frankfurt Eschborn Schwalbach, April May 1945

Speaking of Advanced Landing Ground Y-74 (Frankfurt/Eschborn), there’s another YouTube video available that shows some 371st Fighter Group P-47s as well as a variety of Luftwaffe aircraft in various conditions at the field.  At 12:09 you can view the recovery of a crash-landed 404th Fighter Squadron (9Q) P-47D.  View it at:

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Thunderbolts – The Conquest Of The Reich

There have been many documentary programs covering the design, development and employment of the P-47 Thunderbolt.  Some are better than others, but most all usually have something interesting or insightful to offer.

In the case of this particular video found on YouTube, it has color footage of the P-47 in the European Theater of Operation.   Video clips between 9:17 and 9:49 appear to be those of P-47s of the 371st Fighter Group, as evidenced at the start with a red-nosed ship with squadron code 9Q indicating the 404th Fighter Squadron of the group.  Formation footage may have been taken during the group’s first assignment in Germany at Frankfurt/Eschborn (Y-74) circa April, 1945.

In any event, this 45-minute video gives a useful representation of P-47 operations in the ETO along with the damage inflicted and cost sustained in the ferocious a-r-ground fighting that took place 1944-1945 across Northwestern Europe.  You can view it at:

 

 

 

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The 371st Fighter Group in Operation Overlord: Remembering Normandy at 75

The following article was published on the 142nd Fighter Wing website on June 69, 2019 for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy, France, commencing the western land effort to liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny. Over 150,000 Allied soldiers, including over 13,000 airborne troops, landed from aircraft and ships on or behind five heavily defended Normandy beaches; some 9,000 of them became casualties that day.

Although the initial landings took place on June 6, 1944, they commenced a military campaign for Normandy that lasted from 6 June to 24 July 1944, a seven-week series of battles to establish and defend the beachhead and prepare for the actual movements outward from the beachhead to liberate the continent. The 142nd Fighter Wing, then designated as the 371st Fighter Group, played an integral role in the preparation of the battlespace before the landings, on the day of the landings and in the following Normandy Campaign.

The group commenced combat operations in Northwest Europe from Bisterne Airfield in England in the spring of 1944 with the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter. It flew its first combat mission on April 12, 1944, described in the article titled “The Curtain is raised for the 371st Fighter Group in the European Theatre of Operations,” at:

https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/864387/the-curtain-is-raised-for-the-371st-fighter-group-in-the-european-theatre-of-op/

The 371st continued combat operations leading up to the D-Day air efforts over Western Europe, conducting fighter sweeps, armed reconnaissance, interdiction and escort of heavy and medium bombers. The group lost its first two pilots in this early period. As D-Day began on June 6, the group was postured for operations on call by the Ninth Air Force. Personnel waited nervously through the day, listening to reports of the landings over the radio, waiting and wondering, chomping at the bit to join in and do their part.

1 Francis E Madore 406FS

Local area resident and 371st Fighter Group P-47 Thunderbolt pilot Francis E. “Gene” Madore flew 103 combat missions in the group’s 406th Fighter Squadron. He is credited with four aerial victories over enemy fighter planes achieved between July and October, 1944, including three Me-109s and one FW-190. He is an original member of the group who flew combat from the group’s first days in the air war in Europe. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

They were not denied, and by late morning orders came in; the first P-47 took off for Normandy at 1241 in the afternoon. Of the 8,700 sorties flown by Allied fighters, bombers and transport aircraft that day, the 371st Fighter group flew two combat missions of 112 sorties, dropping 275 bomb weighing 500 pounds each (over 68 tons) and firing nearly 50,000 rounds of .50-caliber machine gun ammunition on enemy targets. One aircraft was shot down by anti-aircraft fire on the second mission of the day with the pilot, 2nd Lt. Joseph E. LaRochelle, being captured as a Prisoner Of War (POW) by the Germans; he was the group’s first POW.

(For more details on the group’s D-Day combat missions, see “The 371st Fighter Group on D-Day, June 6, 1944,” at:  https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/438242/the-371st-fighter-group-on-d-day-june-6-1944/  and “D-Day, June 6, 1944, The Longest Day,” at:

https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/864382/d-day-june-6-1944-the-longest-day/

The euphoria of the day soon gave way to a sort of routine, sometimes turned deadly, as the group sustained efforts supporting the beachhead. After the D-Day landings, from June 7 to 17, the group provided combat air patrols over the landing beaches and seaward approaches. It was during this period the unit’s first air combat took place, with both losses and aerial victories occurring on  June 8, and afterward as the German Luftwaffe responded to the landings. The radio communication in one dogfight gives a sample of the dynamic nature of aerial combat:

“Hey, Augarten, where in the hell are you?” exclaimed flight leader Capt. Uno Salmi after his Largo Blue flight broke into a pair of approaching FW-190 fighters with Salmi knocking down one. “I’m 500 yards behind an FW-190!” exclaimed his element leader Lt. Rudolph “Rudy”Augarten as he pursued the other.

As things turned out Augarten didn’t get that FW-190, but during the Normandy campaign pilots of the group were credited with ten aerial victories. For a more detailed look at this first day of the group’s air combat, see “First Blood in the Air,” at:

https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/864380/first-blood-in-the-air/

On June 14, the group went into the expeditionary mode, deploying an advanced echelon from England by sea and land to Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) A-6, just outside the famed village of Sainte-Mère-Eglise.  It arrived on 17 June at ALG A-6, also known as Beuzzeville-au-Plain, La Londe, or Manche. From this airfield carved out of the farm fields and hedgerows of Normandy, the group continued the fight.

2 Arthur W Holderness 405FS

“MUMBLIN JOE,” a Republic P-47D-20-RE Thunderbolt, serial number 42-76452, was assigned to the 371st Fighter Group’s 405th Fighter Squadron (squadron code 8N). The aircraft bore the name of pilot Lt. Arthur W. “Bud” Holderness Jr., with the individual aircraft letter of “H” aft of the national insignia on the fuselage. It is pictured here with 41 mission symbols, bombed up and headed out for another combat mission, probably from A-6 airfield in France in the summer of 1944, probably with Lt. Holderness as the pilot. Holderness, a 1943 USMA graduate, flew 142 combat missions with the 371st during the war, received the Distinguished Flying Cross, 19 Air Medals, the French Croix de Guerre and was one of two pilots in his squadron to earn the Lead Crew Combat Pilot patch. He went on to have a long and successful postwar career in the USAF, retiring in 1971 as a brigadier general. (Via Capt Tom Silkowski, 190th Fighter Squadron, Idaho ANG)

On June 18, the 371st commenced armed reconnaissance missions inland against German ground forces, hammering much enemy equipment and many troops.  This coincided with a strong American effort to seal off the base of the Cotentin peninsula and cut-off German forces within.  After one particularly effective mission that day which ambushed an enemy convoy trying to leave Cherbourg by the last road left open, the Commanding General of the Ninth Air Force, Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, commended the group’s performance: “…In the course of these operations the 371st Fighter Group killed from eight hundred to one thousand enemy troops, destroyed 98 motor vehicles and one flak tower. In addition, extensive damage was done to radar stations, gun emplacements, artillery batteries, railway equipment and barracks.”

With the ferocious German response to the Allied landings, the fighting in Normandy was heavy, at times savage, and the 371st experienced its share of pilots and planes lost in combat, with others wounded and damaged.  Fourteen pilots were shot down by fighters or flak, or forced to bail out over enemy-held territory due to engine failure, their aircraft lost. Seven were killed, two were taken as prisoners of war, two evaded capture on land and returned to friendly lines, one was picked up by a British destroyer at sea and two, though initially captured, managed to effect escapes and evaded back to friendly-controlled territory.

On June 21, the fighters left England and deployed into ALG A-6 to continue operations on the continent – by the end of the month all remaining personnel were on their way to France.  Now safely ensconced on liberated French soil, the group continued to generate airpower for the Normandy campaign.  It was at A-6 that the group celebrated its first birthday on July 15 that year.

3 John L Jackson and ground crew 405FS

“BLACK JACK” was another 405th Fighter Squadron P-47D (8N-O), shown here being serviced in an expeditionary setting between missions, probably at A-6, with the pilot whose name was on the ship and its assigned ground crew. They are, probably, from left to right, Corporal Anthony J. Tenore, Lieutenant John L. Jackson (who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross), SSgt Robert L. Teague and SSgt Robert E. Vaughn. (Via Capt Tom Silkowski, 190th Fighter Squadron, Idaho ANG)

At a celebration that afternoon, group commander Col. Bingham T. Kleine announced that the group had become a “father,” as it temporarily “adopted” a grievously wounded French farm girl transferred to the group from a nearby Army field hospital that moving up near the front lines. Mme. Yvette Hamel was doted on by members of the group and her heartwarming story of survival and recovery is told in: “The French Farm Girl of the Flying Field: Yvette Hamel and the 371st Fighter Group,” at:

https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/864399/the-french-farm-girl-of-the-flying-field-yvette-hamel-and-the-371st-fighter-gro/

The campaign in Normandy continued on until the breakout from Normandy began on June 24, with Operation Cobra, with the 371st in the thick of the action. For its role in the Normandy campaign the 371st Fighter Group was awarded the second of its six campaign credits in World War II, by War Department General Orders 102, (Dated) 9 November 1945. After Normandy, over nine months of hard fighting remained before the war in Europe ended in Nazi defeat. And the 371st Fighter Group played an important role in achieving that outcome, earning credit for participation in four more military campaigns and being awarded the highest level of unit award, the Distinguished Unit Citation (Presidential Unit Citation today).

4 371FG Battle Honors Normandy campaign streamer

The Normandy Campaign was one of six military campaigns credited to the 371st Fighter Group during World War II. A total of 19 military campaigns took place throughout the European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre during World War II. Units carry streamers similar to this Normandy campaign streamer on their colors to represent their battle honors, and a Normandy Campaign streamer is proudly placed on the 142nd Fighter Wing’s colors. (U.S. Army Center of Military History)

On this 75th anniversary of the landings in Normandy, we salute the personnel of the 371st Fighter Group, today’s 142nd Fighter Wing, and its attached units that generated 112 combat sorties to help make these landings successful and the thousands of sorties flown over the course of the campaign. Their efforts also prevailed in completing the campaign in an epic defeat of Nazi forces.

To learn more about the contributions of airpower in Normandy, see the National Museum of the Air Force D-Day 75th Anniversary webpage at:  https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Upcoming/Events/D-Day-75th-Anniversary/

For a great overview of the Normandy Campaign, see the US Army Center for Military History’s brochure online at:  https://history.army.mil/brochures/normandy/nor-pam.htm

Source:  https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1868126/the-371st-fighter-group-in-operation-overlord-remembering-normandy-at-75/

 

 

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A Redhawk Midway Connection

The following article was published on the 142nd Fighter Wing website on June 9, 2017 for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, which took place between 3-07 June 1942.  As one delves deeper into any unit’s history, more connections to historic events and people can be found, as in this case.

A Redhawk Midway Connection

Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore. —

 

This week marks the 75th anniversary of the epic Battle of Midway, Jun 3 – 7 1942, in which the US Navy achieved an “incredible victory” over a superior Imperial Japanese naval force.  It was a pivotal battle, essentially negating the early war advantages the Imperial Japanese Navy had in the war in the Pacific.

As the anniversary passes, we find there is a Redhawk connection to the battle, and there may be more we yet don’t know about.  One of the great combat leaders of the 371st Fighter Group in World War II (the 142nd Fighter Wing’s previous designation) was Lt Col John W. Leonard.  The son of an Army colonel and a military family, he graduated from the US Military Academy in 1942 and by the end of that year earned his pilot wings.  He later became a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter pilot in the 371st Fighter Group and deployed with the unit for combat overseas in Northwest Europe, initially to England, and later after D-Day, to France.  But he wasn’t the first Leonard to fly and fight in World War II.

 

Leonard John

Lt Col John W. Leonard, Commanding Officer of the 405th Fighter Squadron, pictured here in 1944, was a well-regarded P-47 Thunderbolt pilot and combat leader in the 371st Fighter Group. Unfortunately, he was fatally wounded in a dogfight with German fighter planes near Worms, Germany, in January, 1945. His older brother William was a distinguished Navy fighter pilot and ace in the Pacific who participated in the Battle of Midway in June, 1942. Source: (Courtesy Mr. Jürg Herzig, Stand Where They Fought website, used with permission)

Enter his older brother William “Bill” N. Leonard, who graduated from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1938 and became a naval aviator.  When Japan attached in the Pacific in December, 1941, Bill was a F4F Wildcat fighter pilot assigned to Fighting Squadron Forty-Two (VF-42), a Navy fighter squadron that deployed to the Pacific aboard aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5).

 

Leonard William

William N. Leonard, USNA 1938, older brother of 371st Fighter Group P-47 Thunderbolt pilot John W. Leonard (USMA 1942), was designated as Naval Aviator #6953 in 1940. He is pictured here after the Battle of Midway, circa 1943 as a US Navy Lieutenant. Source: (Wikipedia)

From the decks of this famous warship Bill participated in the early battles of the Pacific War.  He flew on combat air patrol (CAP) for Yorktown during her raid on Jaluit and Mili in the Marshall Islands and Makin in the Gilbert Islands on February 1, 1942.  On March 10 he flew as escort for strike aircraft in a raid against the Japanese landings at Lae and Salamaua in New Guinea.  On May 4, Bill achieved two aerial victories against a new type of Japanese navy seaplane encountered during the attacks against the Japanese landings at Tulagi, near the infamous island of Guadalcanal.  He even made a highly accurate sketch of the Mitsubishi F3M aircraft he fought with, a kind of hot rod of single-engine seaplanes, later known by the code name “PETE.”

At the Battle of the Coral Sea he escorted Yorktown’s torpedo planes in their May 8 attack against the Shokaku, one of the six Japanese carriers involved in the Pearl Harbor attack.  His division of four Wildcats tangled with defending enemy Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters from two Japanese carriers and successfully kept them away from the lumbering TBD Devastator torpedo planes, his team downing two Zeroes and damaging a third in the process.  On the way back to Yorktown, he spotted a lone Japanese Aichi D3A dive bomber returning to its carrier after the Japanese attack on US carriers and shot it down – this was probably the senior aviator and commander of the carrier Shokaku’s air group.  He received the Navy Cross for his actions at Tulagi and Coral Sea; by the time of Midway he was a seasoned fighter pilot.

After an unfortunate accident enroute to Midway, Bill became the executive officer of Fighting Squadron Three (VF-3) which had replaced VF-42 aboard Yorktown as she received hasty repairs at Pearl Harbor in between the battles at Coral Sea and Midway.  VF-3 was a blend of VF-42 and VF-3 pilots and all VF-42 ground crews and thus benefitted from the experience accrued in these early battles.

On the day of principal actions at Midway, the big carrier battle of June 4, Bill Leonard flew three combat sorties in F4F-4 Wildcat Bureau Number 5244.  His first mission was on an uneventful CAP of 2.8 hours duration over Task Force 17, centered on Yorktown, as American carrier aircraft made their devastating attacks on the Japanese fleet knocking out three Japanese carriers, Akagi, Kaga and Soryu.  He was out of the cockpit back aboard Yorktown when shortly thereafter the Japanese made their first counterattack with dive bombers at 1210 hours; with the rest of the crew he had to endure being on the receiving end of three bomb hits as the carrier fought off her attackers.

Bill soon joined seven other pilots who were to augment the CAP over the damaged flattop.  His aircraft had not yet been serviced after his earlier mission due to the dive bomber attack and battle damage actions and had maybe only 30 gallons of gas.  In fact, the next attack, by Japanese torpedo planes, was inbound at 1440 hours as Bill and the others hastily launched from Yorktown as the carrier and her escort ships opened fire with their anti-aircraft guns on the attackers.  He had barely taken off when he achieved an attack position against an incoming, low and fast Nakajima B5N torpedo plane amidst the defending anti-aircraft fire and hammered it, forcing the crew to drop their torpedo too early to be successful against Yorktown in a vain effort to survive – he pursued it through the exploding shells and fired again – the Nakajima flamed and crashed into the sea.

Midway 1

Japanese Type 97 shipboard attack aircraft from the carrier Hiryu amid heavy anti-aircraft fire, during the torpedo attack on USS Yorktown (CV-5) in the mid-afternoon, 4 June 1942. At least three planes are visible, the nearest clearly having already dropped its torpedo. The other two are lower and closer to the center, apparently withdrawing. Smoke on the horizon in right center is from a crashed plane. It is possible that the object very close to the horizon, in center, is another attacking aircraft. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives. Source: (U.S. Navy)

 

Midway 2

A Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighter (Bureau # 5244) takes off from USS Yorktown (CV-5) on combat air patrol, during the morning of 4 June 1942. This plane is Number 13 of Fighting Squadron Three (VF-3), flown by the squadron Executive Officer, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) William N. Leonard. Photographed by Photographer Second Class William G. Roy, from the ship’s forecastle. Note .50 caliber machine gun at right and mattresses hung on the lifeline for splinter-protection. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Source: (U.S. Navy)

Midway 3

Two Type 97 shipboard attack aircraft from the Japanese carrier Hiryu fly past USS Yorktown (CV-5), amid heavy anti-aircraft fire, after dropping their torpedoes during the mid-afternoon attack, 4 June 1942. Yorktown appears to be heeling slightly to port, and may have already been hit by one torpedo. Photographed from USS Pensacola (CA-24). The destroyer at left, just beyond Yorktown’s bow, is probably USS Morris (DD-417). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives. Source: (U.S. Navy)

Unable to gain a position of advantage on the other swift attackers in the swirling battle with his relatively low airspeed after takeoff, he ascended through some clouds to patrol for any possible dive bomber threat.  Instead he encountered a lone A6M Zero fighter which seemed to be observing damaged Yorktown and pursued it.  But the enemy pilot fled the scene before Leonard could engage him, perhaps to bring word of the damage the torpedo attack had caused, hitting Yorktown twice and immobilizing her (the gallant carrier later succumbed to an enemy submarine attack).  For this action defending his carrier against the enemy torpedo plane attack Leonard received his second Navy Cross.

At the end of his 1.1 hour sortie, Leonard recovered aboard USS Enterprise and as the senior VF-3 pilot aboard, was rushed up to flag officer spaces to report personally to Rear Admiral Spruance, the Task Force 16 commander.  He flew his third sortie of the day from Enterprise, another quiet CAP of 2.3 hours duration over forlorn Yorktown.  Had a second American attack against the Japanese fleet that afternoon not disabled the last Japanese carrier in the area, Hiryu, which was near to launching a third attack, he may have again had opportunity to engage the enemy of this most remarkable day.

After Midway, Bill Leonard played a role in the test and evaluation of a captured A6M Zero fighter that shed much of the mystery about Japan’s frontline fighter plane.  He then flew a combat tour with VF-11 ashore at Guadalcanal in the Solomon’s campaign of 1943 and served on staff with Task Force 38 in the Western Pacific later in the war.  He was ultimately credited with six aerial victories in World War II.

Leonard served postwar as one of the Navy’s first test pilots and commanded the supercarrier USS Ranger (CV-61); he flew everything in his career from the N3N biplane in 1940 to the F-4 Phantom in 1961 and eventually reached the rank of Rear Admiral before he retired in 1971. He passed away at age 89 in 2005 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery with other members of his family.  Famous World War II aviation historian Barrett Tillman called Bill Leonard a “national treasure” because of his generosity “…with his time and knowledge, records, and photos.”

We can speculate as to how much Bill’s example of courage in battle at Midway and the other early Pacific War battles inspired and influenced his younger brother John.  John reportedly wore a Navy leather flight jacket his brother had given him, which could be seen to demonstrate pride in his brother’s achievements.  But there is no doubt that both men showed incredible bravery in combat, and never waffled in doing their duty.

Like his brother Bill, John Leonard distinguished himself in aerial combat.  He was an original member of the 371st Fighter Group’s 405th Fighter Squadron and eventually commanded the squadron from September 1944 to January, 1945.  He flew and led many combat missions in support of Allied ground forces, including General George S. Patton, Jr. and his Third Army’s dramatic sweep across France.  With his squadron, John developed renown for expertise in finding and destroying railroad locomotives, train busting, on interdiction missions.

John Leonard played an important role in the aerial resupply of the “Lost Battalion” (First Battalion, 14th Infantry, 36th Division) in the Vosges Mountains of France in October, 1944.  His leadership in these low-level resupply missions in terrible weather was vital to ensure the surrounded unit could hold out until relieved, even though he himself was shot down by “friendly” anti-aircraft guns.  He survived the low altitude bailout to have a chat with the gunners about aircraft recognition.

This lion of the air was lost in battle when he and his squadron engaged in a large aerial dogfight on January 15, 1945, his formation outnumbered at least 3 to 1 against a bevy of Luftwaffe Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf fighters.  He shot down one and shared credit for another before he was hit and wounded, not surviving his bailout.  He was 24 years young.

A tribute by a 405th FS pilot Flight Officer Robert Marks, who was his wingman and also shot down on this mission says a lot about the kind of warrior John Leonard was:  “I might add one more word about our squadron commander—he was as honest and sincere as any man you would ever wish to meet. He never asked anything of any of us that he wouldn’t do himself.”

For his service and sacrifice, Lt Col John Leonard received the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart (posthumously), the Air Medal with 21 oak leaf clusters and was awarded the Croix de Guerre avec Etoile de Vermeil from the French Government.  He is also buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

On this 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, we remember with pride John Leonard, and salute the accomplishments of his brother Bill, a brave air warrior who helped turn the tide of the war in the Pacific in that epic sea battle.

 

Source:  http://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1209478/a-redhawk-midway-connection/

 

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Protecting Our Skies: Taking flight with the fighter pilots who protect Oregon, Washington

Last month KATU Channel 2 Portland reporter Ms. Jackie Labrecque did a story on the 142nd Fighter Wing, showcasing the air defenders of the greater Pacific Northwest.  It’s good for the civil-military bond in our country for the media to help tell the story of our Citizen Airmen on duty 24/7 defending our country.  You can ready her report and view her video at the link below.  Thank you KATU News!

http://katu.com/news/local/protecting-our-skies-flying-with-oregon-air-national-guard-fighter-pilots

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142nd Fighter Wing in the News

Local Portland TV station KOIN TV Channel 6 visited the 142nd Fighter Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard at Portland ANG Base last week, and on Monday, 29 January ran the following story about the unit. http://www.koin.com/news/oregon/where-we-live-portlands-142nd-airborne-is-a-national-force/943193079

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National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day 2017

Today is National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day on this, the 75th anniversary of the Fall of Bataan in the Philippines, 1942.  President Donald J. Trump issued a proclamation for this day, which is viewable at:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/04/07/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-april-9-2017-national-former-prisoner

The 371st Fighter Group had 18 P-47 Thunderbolt fighter pilots taken prisoner by the Germans in combat missions flown over the Continent in 1944-1945.  This number includes two pilots that subsequently escaped enemy captivity and another one detained under unusual circumstances by some curious French resistance forces.  Their names are listed in an earlier web log posting at:  https://371stfightergroup.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/remembering-the-former-pows-of-the-371st-fighter-group/

Last year the Oregon Air National Guard’s 142nd Fighter Wing published one 371st Fighter Group former POW’s story titled “Kriegie on the Move:  The POW Experience of Luther P. Canup,” which you can view at:

http://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/864343/kriegie-on-the-move-the-pow-experience-of-luther-p-canup/

So on this National Former POW Recognition Day, 2017, let us render a hand salute to those 371st Fighter Group men who served and sacrificed as a POW for our country.  These former captives deserve our recognition and appreciation.

P.S.  Regrets to all readers for the absence of new material in recent months.  A sudden family health crisis required priority attention and still does, so updates will likely be slow for the foreseeable future.  But if you have found this web log, please do look through all the material posted already and you will surely find something else that is interesting.

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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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