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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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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