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:
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:
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.
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:
…is a good landing!
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.”
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?
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
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
“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