Remembering Jack T. McWilliams and the 371st Fighter Group on Memorial Day 2014

Memorial Day is the special annual day of remembrance in the United States for all the men and women who died in service to our country with the Armed Forces. We owe them our sincere thanks for giving their all for the freedom and liberty we are able to enjoy today.

Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial, St. James, France (Courtesy Dillsboro, Indiana American Legion)

Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial, St. James, France (Courtesy Dillsboro, Indiana American Legion)

For those who served in the military, we particularly remember our comrades in arms, the ones we served with, and especially the ones who will remain forever young.

Some of those lost on duty were still missing at the end of a given conflict, and in a sense there is no closure for family and friends when a loved one goes missing in action. Sometimes some of the missing are found. But even when they are, not everyone who knew them gets the word, and there are still people who aren’t aware of the discovery.

Such was the case for many years regarding 1st Lt. Lee McDuff, a 405FS P-47 pilot who was shot down over Germany in September, 1944, captured, and finished the war in a German POW camp. His buddy in the 405th, 1st Lt. Jack McWilliams, later went missing on a combat mission over Germany on January 14, 1945. When Lee McDuff got out of the POW camp in May, 1945, and returned to the States, Jack McWilliams was still MIA.

Fast forward many years to this time when the internet allows much information to be posted and searches to be made for the same. A fragment of a webpage indicated that Jack McWilliams had been found well after the war and returned to Montana. This lead to email which readily allowed contact with the hometown newspaper in early 2014, the Daily Inter Lake of Kalispell, Montana, and Managing Editor, Mr. Frank Miele. Mr. Miele was kindly willing to dig into the paper’s archives and help find the information about Jack McWilliams, which he then shared, coincidentally, on VE Day, May 8, 2014. So now, 70 years later, Lee McDuff has the “rest of the story” on the wartime fate of his good friend Jack McWilliams.

1st Lt Jack T. McWilliams (Courtesy Daily Inter Lake)

1st Lt Jack T. McWilliams (Courtesy Daily Inter Lake)

1st Lt. McWilliams was lost in action on his 36th combat mission, while attacking a target in France just west of the Rhine River, northwest of Baden Baden, Germany. This mission occurred during the time and in the area affected by German Operation North Wind, the last German offensive on the western front during World War II. The mission appears to have been in the US VI Corps area, at a time when that corps was being hit hard on three sides by German attacks.

According to squadron operational reports, Jack McWilliams was on a fighter-bomber mission led by the squadron commander, Major Gavan Robertson, on the morning of January 14, 1945. After bombing the target the formation of 12 P-47D Thunderbolts was suddenly bounced at 1015 by 15 German Me-109 fighters, coming out of the sun in a one pass hit and run attack and which kept going after that. The flight leader called on the radio to break into the enemy aircraft as they rapidly approached, but McWilliams didn’t break quick enough, was hit and his aircraft exploded and went down. He wasn’t seen to bail out.

The military officially declared him dead in 1946, even though he was still missing. In three years of military service he was awarded with the Air Medal with a silver oak leaf cluster, and the European Theater of operations ribbon with three bronze stars signifying his participation in three military campaigns in Europe during the war. Jack T. McWilliams was 22 years old.

On January 4, 1952, the Defense Department informed the parents of Jack McWilliams that the remains of their son and his aircraft had been found, nearly seven years after he went missing. News was carried about this in the January 27, 1952, issue of the Inter Lake paper, which indicated his body was to be returned to Montana on March 12, 1952, with funeral on March 15, and burial in the veterans section of Conrad Memorial Cemetery. He was survived by his parents, John (a First World War veteran) and Opal, his wife, the former Jean Bull, whom he married in May, 1944, before going overseas, a brother, Gerald, and a sister, Myrle.

This Memorial Day, we remember Jack T. McWilliams, and also all 55 Airmen on the 371FG’s Roll of Honor who were lost in service during World War II, including the six men still missing. By name, and with available information, they are, in alphabetical order by last name:

Allen, Macey E., Cpl., 404th Fighter Squadron, from Huntsville, Alabama. KBEA, March 29, 1945, in a fort near Metz, France. He is buried at the Marietta National Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia, at Plot G, 8366G.

Angst, Theodore R., 2nd Lt., 405FS, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. KIFA, April 18, 1945, near Darmstadt, Germany.

Bailey, John E., 2nd Lt., 404FS, from Whitefield, New Hampshire. KIA, July 30, 1944, over France. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, at Section 34, Site 1609. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

Bales, William T., Jr., Capt., Group HQ, from Chattanooga, Tennessee. MIA, April 13, 1945, over Germany. Postwar determined dead, he is buried at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium, at Plot D, Row 8, Grave 6. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with oak leaf cluster.

Banks, Glenn O., 1st Lt., 404FS, from Ponea, Oklahoma. KIA, July 17, 1944, near Quettou, France.

Bilstin, Leon, Capt., 405 and 406FS, from Los Angeles, California. KIA, September 28, 1944, while with the 378th Fighter Squadron of the 362nd Fighter Group. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the Lorraine Military Cemetery, in St. Avold, France. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters.

Booth, Robert A., 1st Lt., 405FS, from Oakville, Connecticut. KIA, October 27, 1944, on food drop mission to the “Lost Battalion” near St. Die, in P-47D 42-76477. He is buried at the Epinal American Cemetery, Epinal, France, at Plot B, Row 12, Grave 23. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and the Air Medal with nine oak leaf clusters.

Boyle, Charles J. Jr., Flight Officer, 404FS, Worchester, Massachusetts. KIA, February 27, 1945, near Metz, France. He is buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery, in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, at Plot E, Row 3, Grave 23. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with oak leaf cluster.

Bridges, Doctor Samuel Boyce, Jr., 1st Lt., 406FS, from Henrietta, North Carolina. KIA, March 23, 1945, near Germersheim, Germany. He is buried at the Cliffside Cemetery, in Cliffside, North Carolina.

Bunting, Joseph A., 1st Lt., 405FS, from St. Petersburg, Florida. MIA, April 4, 1945, over Germany. Found in 1949, he is buried in the St. Augustine National Cemetery, Saint Augustine, Florida.

Calish, Sumner J., 2nd Lt., 406FS, from Brighton, Massachusetts. KIA, August 24, 1944, over France.

Chandler, Fred T., Sgt., 404FS,from Slater, South Carolina. KBEA, March 29, 1945, in fort near Metz, France. He is buried at the Marietta National Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia, at Plot G, 8366G.

Clark, Bradley B., 2nd Lt., 406FS, from Mt. Vernon, New York. KIA, December 23, 1944, at Tantonville, France, on return from a combat mission. He is buried in the Epinal American Cemetery, at Epinal, France, at Plot B, Row 24, Grave 9. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal.

Daley, William J., Lt. Col., Group HQ, from Amarillo, Texas. KIFA September 9, 1944, in taxing accident at Coulommiers, France. He is buried at the Epinal American Cemetery, Epinal, France, at Plot B, Row 25, Grave 65. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters, and the British Distinguished Flying Cross.

Delaney, Sanders E., Lt. Col., 406FS, from Litchfield, Illinois. KIFA, June 5, 1945, in L-5 crash near Nuremburg, Germany. He is buried at the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France, at Plot E, Row 13, Grave 14. He was awarded the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster and the Air Medal.

Feit, Herbert E., PFC, 406FS, from New York, New York. Missing April 1, 1945, near Metz, France. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France.

Fisher, Walter K., Capt., 404FS, from Westerville, Ohio. MIA April 7, 1945, over Germany. Postwar determined dead, he is buried at the Oak Grove Cemetery in Delaware, Ohio.

Fletcher, Charles R., 2nd Lt., 404FS, from Holton, Kansas. KIA, April 7, 1945, during engagement with enemy aircraft over Germany. He is buried at the Holton Cemetery, in Holton, Kansas, in Section K.

Franklin, Elkin L., Capt., 404FS, from St. Louis, Missouri. MIA, April 20, 1944, over Italy. Postwar Determined Dead. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia at Section 1, Site 602.

Goodman, George M., S/Sgt, from Richmond, Virginia. Died in line of duty, August 24, 1944, near LaCambe, France. He is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, at Plot I, Row 26, Grave 11.

Gorman, William, Flight Officer, 405FS, from Brooklyn, New York. MIA, August 7, 1944, over St. Nazaire, France. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the Brittany American Cemetery in St. James, France. He was awarded the Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters.

Gray, Rockford V., Maj., Group HQ, from Dallas, Texas. KIA, September 4, 1944, at St. Mere Eglise, France, while returning from a mission.

Harris, Christo G., 2nd Lt., 404FS, from Los Angeles, California. MIA, March 16, 1945, over Germany. He is buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery, in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, at Plot D Row 5 Grave 9. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air medal with five oak leaf clusters.

Hayes, Edward J., Capt., 405FS, from Independence, Kentucky. KIA, November 1, 1944, over eastern France. He is buried in the Lorraine American Cemetery, in St. Avold, France, at Plot B, Row 17, Grave 54. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, and the Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters.

Hess, Charles E., 2nd Lt., 405FS, from Mt. Vernon, New York. MIA, December 22, 1944, over Germany. Not in ABMC database for burials or tablets of the missing.

Hohl, Harry W., Jr., Capt., 404FS, from New Brighton, Pennsylvania. KIA, January 2, 1945, over eastern France.

Holm, Wayne L., 2nd Lt., 405FS, from Portland, Oregon. MIA January 2, 1945, over Germany – Postwar Determined Dead. He is buried in the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France, at Plot D, Row 7, Grave 14. He was awarded the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters.

Humphreys, Edwin S. Jr., Flight Officer, 404FS, from Chicago, Illinois. MIA, June 8, 1944, over France – Postwar Determined Dead. Remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal.

Jorgenson, William, Jr., 2nd Lt., 405FS, from Waterloo, Iowa. KIA, August 25, 1944, near Troyes, France. He is buried at the Epinal American Cemetery, Epinal, France, at Plot A, Row 28, Grave 61. He was awarded the Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters.

Lamb, William R., Capt., 404FS, from Chateaugay, New York. KIFA, January 14, 1945, near Epinal, France. He is buried at the Epinal American Cemetery, Epinal, France, at Plot B, Row 40, Grave 17. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and Air Medal with 12 oak leaf clusters.

Leach Ernest W., 1st Lt., 405FS, from Dennisport, Massachusetts. KIA, August 9, 1944, over France. He is buried in the Brittany American Cemetery in St. James, France, at Plot D, Row 17, Grave 9. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with seven oak leaf clusters.

Leonard, John W., Lt. Col., 405FS, from St. Petersburg, Florida. DOWRIA, January 5, 1945, over Germany. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery at Section 1, Site 304-C.

McWilliams, Jack T., 1st Lt., 405FS, from Somers, Montana. MIA, January 14, 1945, over Germany. Postwar Determined Dead. Found circa 1952. He is buried in the Veterans section of the Conrad Memorial Cemetery near Kalispell, Montana. He was awarded the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters.

Mezzetti, Robert A., 2nd Lt., 405FS, from San Antonio, Texas. KIA, August 2, 1944, over France. He is buried at the Brittany American Cemetery in St. James, France at Plot K, Row 9, Grave 9. He was awarded the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters.

Motherway, John W., 2nd Lt., 406FS, from Springfield, Massachusetts. MIA, March 1, 1945, over Germany. Postwar determined dead, he is buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupre, Belgium, at Plot B, Row 27, Grave 19. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

Mueller, William J., Capt., 404FS, from Robbinsdale, Minnesota. KIA, July 31, 1944, at Mortain, France.

Murphy, Chester M., Jr., 2nd Lt., from Landis, North Carolina. DOWNC, March 4, 1945, at Metz, France. He is buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery, in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, at Plot G, Row 6, Grave 1.

Murphy, John F., 2nd Lt., 404FS, from Bonita Springs, Florida. DOWNC, March 4, 1945, at Metz, France.

Nerney, Frederick W., 2nd Lt., 406FS, from Attleboro, Massachusetts. KIA, March 19, 1945, over Rhine Palatinate, Germany. He is buried in the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France, at Plot A, Row 29, Grave 22. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with oak leaf cluster.

Pieck, George D., Capt., 404FS, from Clarksdale, Mississippi. MIA, August 10, 1944, over France. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the Brittany American Cemetery, St. James, France. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with 13 oak leaf clusters.

Pollingue, Alvin M., 2nd Lt, 405FS, from Vineland, New Jersey. KIA, July 17, 1944, while strafing a train in France. He is buried at the Brittany American Cemetery, St. James, France, at Plot J, Row 6, Grave 15. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters.

Rector, Gerry S., 2nd Lt., 405FS. MIA, April 4, 1945, over Germany. Postwar determined dead, he is buried at the Laredo City Cemetery, in Laredo, Texas, at BL-36 Section 3, Row 5, Space 5.

Salmi, Uno, Capt., 406FS, from Lake Charles, Louisiana. MIA, June 16, 1944, near St. Lo, France. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters.

Sample, Harry M., Jr., Capt., 404FS, from Houston, Texas. KIFA, October 29, 1944, one mile SE of Le Lox, France, while on local flight in P-47D 42-76366. He is buried at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Texas, at Section N, Site 130.

Sanderson, Eugene E., 2nd Lt., 405FS. KIFA, April 12, 1944, while on an engineering test hop at Bisterne Airfield, England. He is buried at the Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England, at Plot F, Row 1, Grave 47.

Shepard, John H., 1st Lt., 406FS, from Buenos Aires, Argentina. KIA, June 18, 1944, near St. Saveur, France. He is buried at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, at Plot E, Row 28, Grave 38. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters.

Sparks, Charles P., 1st Lt., 406FS, from Swayzee, Indiana. KIA, October 15, 1944, in engagement with enemy aircraft near Strasbourg, France. He is buried at the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France, at Plot C, Row 14, Grave 32. He was awarded the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters.

Spicer, Harold H., 1st Lt., 405FS, from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. KIA, March 18, 1945, near Metz Airdrome, on return from mission over Germany. He is buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, at Plot H, Row 14, Grave 67. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with oak leaf cluster.

Springer, George W., III, 2nd Lt., 406FS, from Seneca, Kansas. KIA, October 17, 1944, over Germany. He is buried in St. Peter and Paul’s Cemetery in Seneca, Kansas, at Section 1, Lot 151, Space 1.

Strahlendorf, Harry W., 1st Lt, 404FS, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. KIA, June 24, 1944, over Normandy. He is buried at the Greenmount Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was awarded the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, European Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.

Unruh, Victor L., 2nd Lt., 406FS, from Pawnee Rock, Kansas. MIA, June 21, 1944, while returning from escort mission to Berlin, Germany. Single source report indicates he survived shoot down but subsequently died of injuries.

Voss, John, Sgt, 406FS. KIGA, September 10, 1944, motor accident near St. Dizier, France. He is buried in the Epinal American Cemetery, Epinal, France, at Plot A, Row 20, Grave 68.

Webster, Spencer A., T/Sgt, 406FS. KIGA, September 10, 1944, motor accident near St. Dizier, France. He is buried at the Long Island National Cemetery, in Farmingdale, New York, at Plot J, 16497.

Weller, John G., 2nd Lt., 406FS, from Chicago, Illinois. KIA, August 9, 1944, over France. He is buried in the Brittany American Cemetery in St. James, France, at Plot P, Row 1, Grave 17. He was awarded the Air Medal with seven oak leaf clusters.

Wieczorek, Henry, 1st Lt., 406FS, from Elyria, Ohio. KIA, January 22, 1945, in eastern France. He is buried in the Saint Mary Cemetery, in Elyria, Ohio.

Hand Salute!

Participants and attendees stand during the 2013 Memorial Day ceremony at Brittany American Cemetery in France.  (Courtesy ABMC)

Participants and attendees stand during the 2013 Memorial Day ceremony at Brittany American Cemetery in France. (Courtesy ABMC)

DOWNC = Died Of Wounds, Non-Combat
DOWRIA = Died Of Wounds Received In Action
KIA = Killed In Action
KIFA = Killed In Flying Accident
KIGA = Killed In Ground Accident
MIA = Missing In Action

References

“The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O.,” Army & Navy Publishers, Baton Rouge, LA, 1946.

American Battle Monuments Commission Search Page, at: http://www.abmc.gov/search-abmc-burials-and-memorializations

Arlington national Cemetery, Army Burials Listing, Alphabetical, A to L, at: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/usarmy1.htm

Find A Grave, Search Page at: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gs&

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3 Responses to Remembering Jack T. McWilliams and the 371st Fighter Group on Memorial Day 2014

  1. Paul Walmsley says:

    Great website! I was fortunate to be able to visit the 371st site in Normandy last week. I found the Farm at La Londe and the Chateau in Beuzeville-en-Plain. Also a memorial to the AAA Bn attached to defend the base.
    It is approx 1/1/2 miles NE of St Mere Eglise on D17.
    If anyone wants photos I snapped please email me. There is much use, even today, of the square mesh netting used to build the runways, which is used in fencing and gates.
    PWalmsley@aol.com

    • Roger Keck says:

      I live in East France near the Jack T.Mc WILLIAMS crash point and I would like to write a booklet about Mc Williams and give it to the town village. For this booklet it wil be helpfull to have informations about Mc Williams life – the exact point of crash- the target for this mission and every thing interesting about him. (parents ,where do they live , hobby, school … )
      On the other hand I know 4 witness who remember the crash . They remember also when US Army found the plane and the remains of Mc Williams but today we are not sure about the exact crah place. I am looking at all kinds of informations .I want to do that before every thing disapears and to transmitt what young people do for us ( he was twenty two years old ! )
      yours sincerely

    • Keck says:

      I live in East France not far from the Jack Williams crash point and i would like to write a booklet in french about Mac WILLIAMS and give it to the town village.Before I must be sure about the exact crash place and the name of the pilot found in 1952.
      Picture and biographie of Mac WIlliams would bring interest to read the booklet.
      With the village majorI i will look if we can put a tablet near the crash point.
      Thank you in advance
      yours sincerely
      Roger

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