The 371st Fighter Group and the Aftermath of the Holocaust

Former concentration subcamp prisoners in front of the camp in Holleischen, 1945. In March, 1945, 400 Hungarian-Jewish women were transferred from the Nuremberg subcamp to Hollesischen which held over 1,000 women, including French, Polish and Russian near the end of the war.  Shortly after the liberation, these unidentified former inmates were pictured in front of where they were imprisoned.  (Flossenbürg Concentration Camp Memorial website)

During this April 24 through May 1, 2022 Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust, with the Russo-Ukrainian War raging in Europe and perhaps some of the ghosts of World War II being stirred, we remember the terrible things that can happen when one group of human beings are demonized, scapegoated, abused and killed by another group of people because they are different in some way. 

During the Second World War, the 371st Fighter Group, today Oregon’s 142nd Wing, flew the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter and fought in the northwest of the European Theater of Operations in order to help liberate the continent from Nazi tyranny. The group began combat operations from England in the spring of 1944, then moved to France after D-Day, and operated from various bases eastward across France into the spring of 1945.

Towards the end of the war, the 371st FG and many others began to fully grasp the horrors of the Holocaust and the massive disruption it brought to Europe. Read about this in “The 371st Fighter Group and the Aftermath of the Holocaust,” on the 142nd Wing website at:

https://www.142wg.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/3012076/the-371st-fighter-group-and-the-aftermath-of-the-holocaust/

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“I’m on the ground.  I bumped my head, but I’m alright.”

The Mysterious Fate of William T. “Shorty” Bales, Jr.

Sometimes it takes a while for a mystery to become clear, or at least clearer. On this date in 1945, April 13, the 371st Fighter Group suffered it’s last combat fatality of World War II, Capt. William T. “Shorty” Bales, Jr.

William T. “Shorty” Bales, Jr. was a veteran P-47 pilot and credited with the 371FG’s firs jet kill.

The last radio transmission from “Shorty” to his flight leader on that fateful day was “I’m on the ground. I bumped my head, but I’m alright.” And that was the last anyone in the group heard from P-47 Thunderbolt pilot “Shorty” Bales. Years later, however, the mystery became clearer.

To learn more, read “The Mysterious Fate of William T. “Shorty” Bales, Jr.” on the 142nd Wing website at: https://www.142wg.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2998138/the-mysterious-fate-of-william-t-shorty-bales-jr/

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The Postwar Career of 405th Fighter Squadron Pilot Arthur W. Holderness, Jr.

“B-47? I thought this was a web log about the P-47?!” Indeed it is, but that doesn’t mean strictly the P-47, as the men who flew the 371st Fighter Group’s Thunderbolts went on to fly other aircraft, for those who continued their Air Force careers after the war.

Witness the example of 405th Fighter Squadron pilot Arthur W. Holderness, Jr. His post-war career was captured today, 25 March 2022, by The Lincoln Air Force Base Legacy Project, a Facebook group that shares much wonderful information about that base in southeastern Nebraska. Here is their post commemorating the 25 March 1965 inactivation of then Col Holderness’ command, the 307th Bomb Wing (SAC)

The Lincoln Air Force Base Legacy Project

4h  ·

On March 25, 1965, the 307th Bomb Wing deactivated at Lincoln Air Force Base as did the 818th Strategic Aerospace Division. It’s last B-47 would depart on March 9th. 53-4223 had quite an experienced crew with Lt. Col. H.T. Moore as aircraft commander, Lt. Col. John Allison as copilot, and Lt. Col. Alan Simpkins as navigator.

307th Commander Colonel Arthur W. Holderness, Jr. saluted 4223 as it lifted into Lincoln skies and turned southwestward towards the familiar destination for most B-47s – the boneyard of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.

Holderness had graduated from West Point in 1943 and had flown 142 missions in P-47s during World War II with the 371st Fighter Group, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, before flying in seven B-29 missions over Korea. His career had been prolific before he came to the 307th at Lincoln, and he would move on to command the 449th Bomb Wing at Kincheloe AFB, Michigan, the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, and the 18th Strategic Aerospace Division at Fairchild AFB, Washington. He later served as a United Nations Air Force advisor in Korea before his eventual retirement as a Brigadier General in 1971.

The 307th would reactivate as a Strategic Wing in 1970 at U-Tapao Air Base in Thailand where it would support B-52 and KC-135 operations throughout the duration of the Vietnam War.

Lincoln Air Force Base would continue winding down operations until the 98th Strategic Aerospace Wing would end it’s presence at Lincoln and the base would close on June 25, 1966.

(Photo: Cold War Cornhuskers)

Brig Gen Holderness was born into a military family at Fort Riley, Kansas on 28 Oct 1920. His father was a US Military Academy graduate and served 38 years in the Army in the cavalry and attained the rank of Colonel. Like father, like son, Jr. attended the USMA and then served 28 years in the “aerial cavalry” of the Air Force. He passed away on 10 Feb 2000 in Fairfield, California. Both father and son are buried at West Point.

Grave of Brig Gen Arthur W. Holderness, Jr. at West Point (Photo by Chip Rowe, via Find a Grave)

This being a P-47-focused web log, it’s open to telling the stories of unit members who went on to do good things for the country. And we’;ll close this post with a picture of “Mumblin Joe,” Which Arthur W. Holderness, Jr. flew in combat in World War II.

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

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A European Thanksgiving, 1944

“Thanksgiving – a day that brings back memories of home, family gatherings, and bountiful meals brought us just the meal.  We were short on home and family.  The cold, crisp weather was just right for going to a football game and returning to the warmth of one’s hearth.  The turkey and all the trimmings would have looked better on china, and on a family dining-room table. We used mess kits and mess tents, and hoped for better luck next year.” (Source: The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO, narrative from November, 1944 on page 40)

The end of November, 1944 saw the mud at Dole Airfield (Y-7), France freeze up as temperatures took a dive.  In addition to the cold, a “…Lack of proper hardstands made maintenance difficult…” But still the maintainers did their magic and P-47 Thunderbolt operations continued, at least on days when the weather didn’t shut things down.  (Source: The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO, narrative from November, 1944 on page 40)

For a little bit more on the group and Thanksgiving, 1944 from the unit’s official histories, recalling that the 371st team was busy fighting a war at the time, see the 371st Fighter Group web log post, “Frisky’s Thanksgiving, 1944,” at: 

Wishing all of you, your family and friends a Happy Thanksgiving!  Despite the madness of the world around us, we do have much to be thankful for.

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Remembering Lieutenant Sumner J. Calish of the 406th Fighter Squadron, 371st Fighter Group

It is encouraging and humbling also to see other people around the world pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of the men of the 371st Fighter Group in World War II.  One such person who makes an active effort to thoughtfully remember the fallen is French citizen Monsieur Frederic Henoff of the Bombes sur le Cher 1939-45 (Bombs on the Cher 1939-45) web log, at: https://airwar-18.blogspot.com/

In late-December, 2019, M. Henoff made a post about the fate of 371st Fighter Group P-47 Thunderbolt fighter pilot Second Lieutenant Sumner J. Calish.  This translation of his original post was accomplished by the writer of this web log (Note: Any misinterpretation or inaccuracy is mine, mea culpa).  Please see Monsieur Henoff’s original post about Sumner Calish in French language at: https://airwar-18.blogspot.com/2019/12/24-aout-1944.html

August 24, 1944 / 371st Fighter Group

Posted on December 29, 2019

On that day, the 371st Fighter Group and 406th Fighter Group belonging to the 9th Air Force took off with 71 P-47s fighters for armed reconnaissance on areas between Troyes, Joigny, Vosne as well as Gien, Orleans, Vierzon, Tours.

The balance sheet at the end of these sorties – during which 25 rockets were used – is 28 trucks destroyed and 6 damaged, 15 railroad cars destroyed and 40 damaged, 40 horse-drawn vehicle teams destroyed, 2 locomotives damaged, 2 buildings probably made unusable and 6 artillery positions silenced.

2nd Lt. Sumner J. Calish – he is 23 years old here.

The weather had not been favorable in previous days and grounded most of the aircraft of the 371st Fighter Group, the unit which interests us for this day of August 24.

Excerpt from  the 371st Fighter Group’s “The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E. T. O., published in Baton Rouge, La. by Army Navy Pictorial Publishing, 1946″:  “Fog and rain hampered our operations a great deal, but when it was clear, the Krauts were fire-bombed, pin-point bombed, skip-bombed, strafed and chased until the mere sound of a P-47 sent them shivering to the nearest hole. “Achtung Jabos!” became as familiar to them as “Heil Hitler”. They shot everything thay (sic) had at us, even rifles and pistols. Although the latter were ineffective, their anti-aircraft guns (Flak) concealed in haystacks or wisely attached to trains, took a heavy toll.”

Excerpt from the unit history of the 371st Fighter Group for August 1944, from August 23: “The next three days were jammed with the squadrons taking part in numerous diversified missions, dive bombing trucks, railroad targets,  and gun positions.” During these sorties, 2nd Lt. Sumner L. Calish of the 406th Fighter Squadron and 2nd Lt. William J. Jorgenson of 405th Fighter Squadron were missing.

The P-47s of the 406th Fighter Squadron took off at 15:30 (English time) to patrol the assigned area between 16:00 and 17:30 (English time). North of Orleans, the squadron performed the following: “Attacked a convoy of 50 or more vehicles causing two large explosions and 7 fires. 20 vehicles destroyed, several damaged.  Armed reconnaissance continued southwards.  Attacked 100 box and tank cars in Marshalling Yard at  Vierzonville sector.  Two engines damaged.”  

The hunters, following the railway line towards Tours, came across a troop train stopped at Villefranche-sur-Cher station and attacked it.  Second Lieutenant Calish was killed during his strafing pass on this train (while the testimonies below suggest that he was shot down over Vierzon) when, during his dive, his P-47 was hit by fire from a flak battery attached to the train. The attack occurred in the late afternoon, around 4:00 p.m. (French time). The remaining aircraft of the 406th Fighter Squadron returned to base at 18:30 (English time).

For the other squadrons of the 371st Fighter Group, their sorties resulted in a few strafed vehicles on a road west of Argent-sur-Sauldre for the 404th Fighter Squadron, and vehicles and a train strafed in the Chatillon-sur-Cher sector by the 405th Fighter Squadron.

Few details are known about Calish’s crash, except those made by the witnesses below in the Missing Air Crew Report (MACR 10122) completed the days following the loss of the pilot.

Testimony of Major Sanders E. Delaney: “I was leading Yellow Flight, flying slightly to the rear and right of Red Flight prior to the attack. I watched Red Three and Red Four go in on their strafing run. I looked away to clear the air and when I looked back the ship was pulling up and the other ship apparently had  crashed. Because of the large amount of smoke and fire it is my opinion that the pilot, Lt. Calish, could not have survived the crash.”

Testimony of 1st Lt. Paul J. Hurley – who led this mission of the 406th Fighter Squadron: “While leading Yearling Squadron, I observed the second element of Red Flight strafing the marshalling yards of Vierzon-Ville. Red Four, Lt. Calish, raked several railroad cars with machine gun fire. I saw the plane hit the ground and explode.

From where I watched the last part of the strafing run it seemed that Lieutenant Calish’s plane never even attempted a pull-out. In my opinion there is no possibility that the pilot survived.”

Testimony of 2nd Lt. Henry W. Parslow: “The first time I observed Lieutenant Calish, he was in the middle of his strafing run. I turned away to check my position and when I looked back I was just in time to see his ship burst into flames.

In my opinion, the pilot, Lt. Calish, did not survive the crash.”

Second Lieutenant Sumner J. Calish was initially buried in Villefranche-sur-Cher, then in the Saint-André military cemetery in Evreux.  He was repatriated to the United States and buried on June 19, 1949 during a military ceremony at Temple Mishkan Tefila Memorial Park near Boston, his hometown.

At a U.S. 9th Air Force fighter base in France, Lt. Col. Jim Daley (right) of Amarillo, Texas, and Lieutenant Sumner J. Calish of Boston participate in a small boxing match as a relaxation between sorties. (Fred Namage/Associated Press).

Sumner Justin Calish, born in Boston on January 12, 1921, attended Northwestern University in Boston where he was a member of the track and field team and Northeastern University in Boston. He was still a student when he volunteered to serve in the Army Air Corps and enlisted in Boston on July 1, 1942. On February 27, 1943 he attended a “Preflight” training at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama. Then it was “Primary” flight training in mid-April in Douglas, Georgia. At the end of June, he continued with “Basic” flight training until the end of August (probably at Bush Field, Augusta, Georgia). Finally, he completed so-called “Advanced” flight training at Spence Field, Moultrie, Georgia in early September, at the end of which he received his “wings” on November 3, 1943 and the rank of 2nd Lt. (second lieutenant).

Two figures speak for themselves to demonstrate the dangerous nature of such missions: For the month of August 1944 alone, the 371st Fighter Group lost 21 pilots and 29 aircraft…

Hand Salute to Monsieur Frederic Henoff for his 2019 tribute to 2nd Lt. Sumner J. Calish! And many thanks to him for the work he and his colleagues are now doing to prepare a tribute to 371st Fighter Group/405th Fighter Squadron P-47 pilot 2nd Lt. Robert A. Mezzetti, another one of those August 1944 losses, killed in action on 2 August 1944 (see MACR 7930). They are planning for a memorial and commemoration ceremony for Lt. Mezzetti next year in France. Godspeed and good hunting!

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Walter Sommer has flown West

The writer of this web log received word today from Germany of the passing earlier this year of Mr. Walter Sommer, due to complications following a surgery.  In World War II Herr Sommer was a Luftwaffe Me-109 fighter pilot, assigned to the 10. Staffel, III./JG 76 in the summer of 1944.  And a former opponent of the 371st Fighter Group.

Unteroffizier Walter Sommer in the summer of 1944 with an Me-109G-6 at his training unit, JG 103 at Stolp an der Ostsee. From here he was transferred to JG 76 in July, 1944. (Courtesy Herr Wolfgang Sommer)

A season later, on October 20, 1944, he and his unit found themselves in aerial combat with P-47 Thunderbolts of the 406th Fighter Squadron, 371st Fighter Group, over the Black Forest, on the German side of the tri-border area between southwestern Germany, France and Switzerland.  

In the fighting, Sommer’s Messerschmitt Me-109G-14, Black 2, werknummer 461963, was hit by a 406th Fighter Squadron P-47, his engine damaged and he had to bail out.  In the process he was injured, striking the tail of the aircraft.  He survived his descent in parachute, but due to his injuries there was no more flying, a development he credited with saving his life.

Fast forward 70 years to 2014, and Walter Sommer, with help from his son Wolfgang, sought to find any of the American pilots he fought with that day.  Having survived the war, having then led a full life having a family, working, etc., he looked back upon his wartime experience and thought he was fortunate to be shot down and survive, even if injured.  In a way, being shot down on October 20, 1944, saved his life – odds were ever greater against the heavily outnumbered Luftwaffe pilots surviving in the desperate air battles late in the war. 

USAAF Gun Camera Footage of attacks against Luftwaffe FW 190/Me 109 fighter planes:

Contact efforts eventually yielded father and son with information indicating one of the American pilots, Francis E. “Gene” Madore, resided in Vancouver, Washington.  The author of this web log was able to play a role as an intermediary to help connect the two former adversaries.

Lt Francis E. “Gene” Madore, high scorer of the 406th Fighter Squadron, 371st Fighter Group with four aerial victories, and an opponent of Walter Sommer in the October 20, 1944 dogfight over the Black Forest. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

We were never able to sort out exactly which American pilot shot down Walter Sommer in the dogfight.  The encounter reports foiled by the American pilots after the mission didn’t line up with Walter Sommer’s description, or Gene Madore’s recollection.  The Americans claimed six victories in that battle and the Germans four.  Actual numbers appear to be four Me 109s and one P-47 lost.  But they had both been in the fight that day – Madore claimed one victory that day, and was credited with a total of four during the war, the high scorer of the 406th Fighter Squadron. Sommer had shot down one enemy fighter a few weeks earlier before the Black Forest battle, though official credit was given to another pilot.

It’s maybe an awkward thing, how former combatants are to regard a former deadly enemy after a war ends.  For some the traumatic stress and ferocity of combat make it problematic.  For example, I had a Great Uncle Pete who was a Marine in World War II.  He served in China before the Pearl Harbor attack, and fought at Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima – he dreaded the prospective invasion of Japan.  Years after the war his unit visited Guam for a reunion, and Uncle Pete went.  But he could not go back to Iwo Jima for a similar opportunity later on.  It’s different for each individual.  In this case, Walter Sommer just wished to find his former opponents, thank them in his way and wish them well.

Of note a description of Walter Sommer’s flying career was a feature article titled “Into the Cauldron” in an issue of Aeroplane Magazine in March, 2021 – information at:   https://www.key.aero/article/cauldron-0

Gene Madore, the last known American pilot in the Black Forest dogfight of October 20, 1944 passed away in December, 2019 after a brief illness, at age 98.  And now the last known German participant, Walter Sommer, flew west in January, 2021 at age 97.  Maybe they’re looking down on us now, and among other things recreating that dogfight to find out just who did what to whom on that fall day.

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A Flying Memorial and Tribute to William Gorman, 405th Fighter Squadron

As we celebrate Memorial Day in the United States on this May 31, 2021, just one week ago, on Monday, May 24, 2021, the Idaho Air National; Guard celebrated its 75th anniversary in an event held at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho.  As part of the celebration, a “Heritage Hog” was unveiled, an A-10C of the 190th Fighter Squadron painted in the colors and markings of a 405th Fighter Squadron P-47 Thunderbolt circa 1944.

Idaho ANG 190th Fighter Squadron’s A-10C Thunderbolt II Heritage Hog at Gowen Field, Idaho, May 24, 2021 (Author’s collection)

Seventy-five years ago, on May 24, 1946, the 405th Squadron, which was part of the 371st Fighter Group during World War II, was renumbered as the 190th Fighter Squadron and allotted to Idaho.  This was part of a postwar buildup of the air component of the National Guard in a bid to create a more robust ready air reserve.

A pilot with the 190th Fighter Squadron, 124th Fighter Wing, Boise, Idaho, flies an A-10 Thunderbolt II with a newly painted World War II heritage paint scheme from the Air National Guard’s paint facility in Sioux City, Iowa to its new home at the Idaho Air National Guard, Gowen Field, Idaho, May 12, 2021. The heritage A-10 aircraft was painted to commemorate the 190FS’s 75th Anniversary and made to mimic the 1944 version of the P-47 Thunderbolt flown in WWII by the 405th Fighter Squadron, which was later re-designated as the 190FS. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt Mercedee Wilds)

The colors reflect the olive drab over neutral gray camouflage paint scheme.  The 8N represents the 405th Fighter Squadron’s assigned squadron code.  The white nose and white stripes on the vertical/horizontal tail the USAAF’s ETO fighter aircraft recognition markings of the time. Also added are the D-Day black/white Allied aircraft recognition stripes underwings and fuselage as used on D-Day and afterwards in the campaign to liberate Europe.

 On the tail is a serial number in yellow, a blend of both numbers the squadron has used.

The tail of the 190th Fighter Squadron Heritage Hog wears a blended faux serial number in insignia yellow to commemorate the 405/190th lineage and help people understand the connection between the two – it’s actually the same squadron, just a different number. (Author’s collection)

On the engine nacelles is the unofficial emblem of the 405th Fighter Squadron. It was added after the aircraft returned to Idaho from the ANG paint facility in Sioux City, Iowa.

The slightly modified WWII unofficial emblem of the 405th Fighter Squadron is proudly worn on the engine nacelles of the 190th Fighter Squadron’s Heritage Hog (Author’s collection)

The Discharge squadron’s unofficial emblem of World War II featured a number of heraldic elements on a shield, including a stylized pilot helmet to represent a “knight of the air.”

The unofficial emblem of the 405th Fighter Squadron, the Discharge Squadron, in World War II (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

As part of the 75th anniversary commemoration, a special cake bearing the squadron’s emblem was presented. It was successfully attacked at the proper time over target! Kudos to the baker for getting this right!

The Idaho Air National Guard’s 75th Anniversary Cake (Author’s calorie collection)

On a related note, the 190th Fighter Squadron found a creative and apropos way to incorporate their “Skullbanger” logo into the 405th’s pilot helmet element of the 405th’s WWII emblem in a special morale patch worn by squadron pilots.

The 190th Fighter Squadron “Skullbanger” wears the 405th Fighter Squadron helmet in this blended emblem morale patch worn by squadron pilots. (Author’s collection, courtesy of Major Tom Silkowski,190th Fighter Squadron)

It’s on the nose, however, where the pilot’s name is listed that thoughtful design continued on this paint scheme, where one can find a memorial to the squadron’s only pilot still Missing In Action (MIA) from World War II, Flight Officer (F/O) William Gorman, who went MIA off the coast of France on August 7, 1944.

Closeup of the pilot and crew chief placard on the 190th Fighter Squadron Heritage Hog, May 2021 (Courtesy Maj Tom Silkowski)

William Gorman hailed from Brooklyn, New York, and was one of the founding members of the squadron and the group, part of the original cadre at Richmond Army Air Base in Virginia in the summer of 1943.

Flight Officer (F/O) William (NMI) Gorman, T-223063, poses for a picture in the cockpit of a P-47D Razorback Thunderbolt. Note his right hand atop the rear view mirror on the windscreen. (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO)

Late in the day on August 7, 1944, Gorman flew an armed reconnaissance mission with Discharge Squadron in P-47D-20-RE Thunderbolt 42-76478. The 405th Fighter Squadron had been running frequent armed recce missions that day, every two hours. He took off as Yellow 4 in a flight of the squadron from Advanced Landing Ground A-6, and set a course of 180 degrees for the St. Nazaire area along the coast of France.  As Gorman and the other ships on the mission reached the area they found visibility to be about three or four miles, a bit hazy.

“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 Maj Tom Silkowski, 190th Fighter Squadron, Idaho ANG)

First Lieutenant Francis T. Evans, Jr., his element leader (Yellow 3 in Yellow Flight), described what happened in Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 7646:

“At approximately 1940 we were flying south straight and level at 7,500 feet over the bay, south of St. Nazaire, when heavy flak burst to our right and on level.

We immediately began taking evasive action.  I started a climbing turn to the left but made the climb straight ahead when I found that I was getting too close to Yellow leader.  Gorman was close to my wing when flak burst between us.  He started to turn towards  me and then then roll away doing a diving turn to the right.  I followed him and he was soon going straight down.  I yelled for him to pull up but he (his) plane continued on in its dive hitting the water vertically.  I saw no sign of his attempting to bail out.”

The location Gorman went down at was listed as grid coordinate N-4263 off the French coast just south of St. Nazaire.  The graphic from the MACR 7646 shows about where that was.

Map of loss location for F/O William Gorman, 405th Fighter Squadron, 7 August 1944 near St. Nazaire, France. (Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 7646, via Fold3)

No search was subsequently made, given the eyewitness report of the circumstances of his loss.  William Gorman and his aircraft apparently remain missing, but not forgotten, with his name painted on the 190th Fighter Squadron Heritage Hog, just in time for Memorial Day 2021, nearly 77 years after he went missing.

William Gorman is also remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at Brittany American Cemetery, St. James, France. He was awarded the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters.

F/O William Gorman’s name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Brittany American Cemetery near St. James, France (Find-A-Grave)

The 371st Fighter Group lost 56 men killed in combat and in non-combat operations during World War II and the immediate aftermath.   In combat operations the group lost 44 P-47 pilots in 13 months of combat in Northwestern Europe.  Three P-47 pilots were killed in non-combat flying accidents and two more in flight ops ground accidents.  Another seven men were non-combat losses, including a case of someone in the ground echelon who just went missing and was later declared dead.  All of their names sans one are listed at:  https://371stfightergroup.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/the-group-remembers-on-memorial-day/

And the one more name to add to the roll of honor, apparently the group’s last casualty of World War II, is 1st Lt. Roger P. Trevitt of group HQ, who died on 9 July 1945:  https://371stfightergroup.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/a-frisky-mystery-the-loss-of-1st-lt-roger-p-trevitt/

On this Memorial Day, we remember F/O William Gorman and the other men of the 371st Fighter Group who gave their lives in World war II for our freedom and liberty. And hand salute to the Idaho Air National Guard, 124th Fighter Wing and 190th Fighter Squadron for knowing and honoring their history and heritage!

A pilot with the 190th Fighter Squadron, 124th Fighter Wing, Boise, Idaho, flies an A-10 Thunderbolt II with a newly painted World War II heritage paint scheme from the Air National Guard’s paint facility in Sioux City, Iowa to its new home at the Idaho Air National Guard, Gowen Field, Idaho, May 12, 2021. The heritage A-10 aircraft was painted to commemorate the 190FS’s 75th Anniversary and made to mimic the 1944 version of the P-47 Thunderbolt flown in WWII by the 405th Fighter Squadron, which was later re-designated as the 190FS. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt Mercedee Wilds)

References

MACR Listing for August 1944: https://aviationarchaeology.com/src/MACRmonthly/44AugMACR.htm

Find-A-Grave entry for William Gorman at: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/56352070/william-gorman

The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the ETO, Army & Navy Publishing, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1946

405th Fighter Squadron official histories, 1943-1944

American Battle Monuments Commission entry on William Gorman at: https://www.abmc.gov/decedent-search/gorman%3Dwilliam-2

ANG paint facility paints P-47 scheme on Thunderbolt II, at: https://www.185arw.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2596660/ang-paint-facility-paints-p-47-scheme-on-thunderbolt-ii/

Personal images of Heritage Hog and images from Idaho ANG via Major Tom Silkowski.

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A Grateful Daughter – Remembering Lawrence “Dag” Damewood

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.

Portrait of Lawrence Damewood as an aviation cadet prior to earning his pilot wings and commission (Courtesy Diane Damewood)

“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.

Tribute graphic of the crash site of Lt. Damewood’s P-47, 3 October 1944 (Courtesy Stephane Muret, via Diane Damewood)

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.

Post-war view of the bran that Damewood hid in as he evaded capture with the help of French citizens (Courtesy Diane Damewood)

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.

Miss Jean Haupt married Lawrence Damewood after V-E Day (Courtesy Diane Damewood)

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.

Tribute graphic for Lawrence D. “Dag” Damewood (Courtesy Diane Damewood)

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.

https://www.afhra.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/433236/336-fighter-squadron-acc/

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.

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Local fighter pilot recounts being scrambled on 9/11

Portland’s KATU TV Channel 2 interviewed 142nd Fighter Wing, 123rd Fighter Squadron Redhawk pilot Lt Col Steve “B.C.” Beauchamp who scrambled from Portland ANG Base on 9/11 for a real-world intercept over the Pacific Ocean of an approaching airliner with comm problems. 

See their video report posted on the 10th anniversary of that chaotic day:  https://katu.com/news/local/local-fighter-pilot-recounts-being-scrambled-on-911

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The 142nd Fighter Wing Remembers 9/11

Remember!  The youngest members of the 142nd Wing, designated the 371st Fighter Group in World War II,  were born after 9/11/2001 and may know about it in general but not be familiar with how the organization responded on that day and in the period after. 

Oregon Air National Guard F-15 Eagles of the 142nd Fighter Wing prepare for take off. On September 11, 2001, it wasn’t long before the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) at McChord AFB, Wash., called on the Oregon Air National Guard to provide air defense for the Pacific Northwest. Lt. Col. Steve Beauchamp (pictured) and other Oregon Air National Guard pilots began to sit alert in the cockpit of their jets in anticipation of WADS tasking in a very dynamic and unpredictable threat environment. (U.S. Air Force Stock photograph by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs) (RELEASED)

Nor is the unit’s response on that day necessarily familiar to anyone with connection to the 371st Fighter Group. 

Oregon Air National Guard F-15 Eagles from the 142nd Fighter Wing, Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore., diligently maintain their watchful Aerospace Control Alert (ACA) vigil; ready to respond any day or night in defense of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. (U.S. Air Force Stock Photograph by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs) (RELEASED)

So if you wonder, see the story of how the unit responded that day at:  https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/438204/the-142nd-fighter-wing-remembers-911/

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