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

  1. What a great way to pay tribute to Gorman. Long may he be remembered.

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