On this Monday, May 26, 2020 we remember those in uniform who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the people of the United States of America. Not to be confused with Armed Forces Day (to honor those serving currently) or Veterans Day (to honor those who served), Memorial Day is a solemn occasion to remember those fallen in service to the nation. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).
A presidential proclamation has been released as we honor our fallen, taking note that 2020 marks 75 years since the end of World War II and victory over Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan that cost us more than 400,000 American service men and women to ensure: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-prayer-peace-memorial-day-2020/
It may be forgotten by some amidst long weekend barbecues and such, but there is ample reason because of our freedom to remember those who made it possible. All one has to do is make an effort. Some ways to remember on Memorial Day are:
- Remember a family member or friend who was lost in the service. Speak their name. Share a memory about them.
- Look around you at your family, friends and community, and appreciate all of what they mean to you, that you are able to do that because someone else laid their life on the line to defend it.
- Visit a veteran’s cemetery and read the names, units and dates on the headstones. Find some for a unit you served in or a conflict you fought in.
- In the future, non-COVID-19 time, participate in a Memorial Day ceremony or event in your community, or create one of your own today.
- Pray for the fallen, their families and loved ones.
- Fly Old Glory in their honor.
- Take an active role as a citizen of the country and in your community, and express yourself to your elected representatives – perhaps too many of these are not working for the best interest of people and country but for partisan and self-interest. They are elected and even re-elected all too often. Citizens shouldn’t be silent or indolent lest they lose what freedom and liberty we enjoy. For freedom isn’t free, as we all should remember, on Memorial Day.
In the case of the 371st Fighter Group, 56 men were 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 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, the group’s last casualty of World War II, is 1st Lt. Roger P. Trevitt of group HQ, lost on 9 July 1945: https://371stfightergroup.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/a-frisky-mystery-the-loss-of-1st-lt-roger-p-trevitt/
But there are more names to remember. If one adds the dead of the 142d Wing’s 123rd Fighter Squadron in World War II, then designated as the 123rd Observation Squadron and the 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, there are another 11 men to remember: https://35prs.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/memorial-day-2014-and-the-35th-photo-recon-squadron/
…with one more to update the list, a charter member of the 123d Observation Squadron who transferred out to become an A-20 Havoc pilot killed in action in Europe, at: https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/864337/remembering-thad-c-williams/
And there are yet more names, in peacetime since World War II ended and the 371st became the 142nd and based in Portland, Oregon in the Oregon Air National Guard, there are 18 losses from 1948 to 2007, from the P-51 Mustang era to the F-15 Eagle. These postwar casualties are remembered by name on a tablet in the 142nd Wing’s Memorial Park on Portland ANG Base: https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/864383/the-oregon-air-national-guard-memorial-park/
Another category of loss to remember would be of personnel who served in the unit and were later lost while in service with another unit. Such is the case for former 371st Fighter Group P-47 pilot Francis T. Evans Jr. of the 95th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, lost in an F-86D flying accident 16 Jan 1953 when the engine of his aircraft failed; he stayed with it to ensure it missed a nearby elementary school and paid the ultimate sacrifice: https://371stfightergroup.wordpress.com/2015/11/03/a-post-war-hero-the-last-flight-of-captain-francis-t-evans-jr/
And a former 35th Photo Recon Squadron (123rd Fighter Squadron today) F-5E pilot who survived his combat tour in WWII, Edward B. Burdett Jr., went on to command the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing during the Vietnam War. He was shot down on a combat mission over North Vietnam in his F-105D Thunderchief, captured and died the same day, 18 August 1967: http://www.veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=127
Of note, there are five fallen members of the 371st Fighter Group still missing in action (MIA) in Europe from World War II, as well as three men from the 35th Photo Recon Squadron missing in Asia, for a grand total of eight unit members still MIA. May the lost yet be found: https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1963948/remembering-on-national-powmia-day-2019/
So, with all these numbers added up there are 88 men of the 371st Fighter Group/142nd Wing to remember who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and liberty. They are buried or remembered far and wide across the world, overseas and in the United States, in national cemeteries and private plots. We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude for their service and sacrifice for our land and people. Let’s remember them on this Memorial Day.