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Remembering on National POW/MIA Day 2019

Remembering on National POW/MIA Day 2019

Family memorial to 1st Lt Phillip L. French, 35th Photo Recon Squadron MIA F-5 pilot, in Maplewood Memorial Lawn Cemetery, in Emporia, Kansas. (Courtesy photo)

Remembering on National POW/MIA Day 2019

War Department telegram to the parents of 371st Fighter Group P-47 pilot 2d Lt. George R. Simmons confirming that he was a prisoner of war in Germany.

PORTLAND, ORE. --

On this day we remember our nation’s prisoners of war (POW) and those yet missing in action (MIA).  According to an 8 June 2005 report by the Congressional Research Service on POWs and MIAs, in conflicts from World War I until now nearly 140,000 Americans have been held as POWs:

In World War I 4,120 service members were captured; 147 died in captivity

In World War II 130,201 service members were captured; 14,072 perished as prisoners

In the Korean War 7,140 service members were captured; 2,701 of them died as captives

In the Vietnam War 725 Vietnam War service members were captured; 64 died as POWs

In conflicts since 1991 37 service members were captured; none remain in captivity

And according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) webpage on the missing of past conflicts (as of 13 September 2019), more than 80,000 Americans who fought in World War II and subsequent conflicts remain MIA, including:

World War II:  72,661 MIA

Korean War:  7,616 MIA

Vietnam War:  1,587 MIA

Cold War:  126 MIA

Conflicts since 1986:  6 MIA

On this day, personnel of the 142d Fighter Wing remember those POWs and MIAs close to home.  There are 22 men from the unit’s historic rosters who were POWs; 21 from World War II and one from Korea.  And there are another 11 men still missing from the Second World War.  It’s important for members serving in their unit of assignment to remember them because besides their family and friends, who else in the nation will remember?  It can be complicated for current unit members to know about their unit’s POW/MIAs, as many ANG units created after World War II were actually active duty units during the war which were renumbered and allotted to the National Guard in 1946.  So the connection between past and present may not be clear across the ANG. 

For example, the 142d Fighter Wing was designated as the 371st Fighter Group during World War II, a P-47 Thunderbolt outfit that served in Europe.  To add to the mix, the wing’s 123d Fighter Squadron, which started out before World War II as the 123d Observation Squadron, was brought onto active duty status and redesignated during World War II, serving overseas in China as the 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron.  The squadron was redesignated again in 1946 as the 123d Fighter Squadron.  So the World War II-era POWs and MIAs in many ANG units might be overlooked unless one remembers to include unit personnel from the World War II era.  The different numerical designator doesn’t change the fact that these are the same units, with all the lineage and honors achieved over time, and with all the POWs and MIAs to be remembered and honored as well.

In the years since World War II, some of the missing have been found, as in the case of 1st Lt. Jack McWilliams, a 371st Fighter group P-47 Thunderbolt pilot who went missing on his 36th combat mission over Germany on January 14, 1945; he was found in 1951.  Fast forward to today, and we’ve recently received word of a planned DPAA mission later this year to northern Thailand in hopes of finding 35th PRS MIA 1st Lt. Franklin J. McKinney.

142d Fighter Wing Former Prisoners of War - On this day, we remember 22 members of units assigned who became prisoners of war (POW) during World War II and the Korean War:

Allen, Merlin R., 1st Lt., 35th Photo Recon Squadron, aerial photo-interpreter, attached and/or reassigned at some point once the squadron was in China to the 16th Combat Camera Unit of 14th Air Force. On a mission with the 322nd Troop Carrier Squadron to drop supplies and then leaflets on 25 June 1945, Lt. Allen served as a photographer aboard a C-47 transport. The aircraft was damaged by enemy flak at low level in the Changsha area - Lt Allen and another officer bailed out and were captured. According to post-war Office of Strategic Services (OSS) reporting, Lt Allen “…was subsequently injured in a train explosion on 2 July 1945 at 1.5 miles from Tatoupu Station while he was enroute to Headquarters at Hengyang. He died at 0530 hours on 16 July 1945 at Changsha. He was buried behind the Jap(anese) Gendarmerie Headquarters at Changsha.”

Augarten, Rudolph, Capt., 371st Fighter Group, 404th Fighter Squadron, was shot down by flak on 10 June 1944 near Monteille, France, while flying P-47D-20-RE Thunderbolt, serial number 42-76365. He bailed out four miles east of Lisieux, France, and was last seen running to a farmhouse and waving to P-47’s above. He was captured, held as a POW briefly, but escaped, evaded, and returned to the unit on 14 August 1944, after which he continued flying combat missions. (Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 5686)

Canup, Luther P., Capt., 371st Fighter Group, 405th Fighter Squadron, was shot down by flak on 8 July 1944 near Vire (or Cambernon), France, on an armed recce mission while flying Republic P-47D-20-RE serial number 42-76454. He was reported as a POW on 14 February 1945, and returned to military control after end of the war in Europe.  He was held in Stalag Luft III, Sagan, Germany, transferred to Stalag XIII at Nuremberg, Germany and lastly to Stalag VII-A, Moosburg, Germany.  Canup was one of the former POWs who signed the “Moosburg flag” after liberation. (MACR 6646) See more on his POW experience in the story “Kriegie on the Move - The POW experience of Luther P. Canup,” at: 

https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/…/kriegie-on-the-move-the-pow…/

Gamble, Robert M., 1st. Lt., 371st Fighter Group, 405th Fighter Squadron, was flying an armed reconnaissance mission on 2 January 1945 while flying P-47D-28-RA, serial number 42-28858. His flight was bounced by two ME-109s after bombing and the Thunderbolts pursued one of them down to the deck. Gamble was last seen at low-level near Hinterweidenthal, Germany, chasing an ME-109 in a valley and in control of his aircraft. (MACR 11617)

Hooper, Leon L., Jr., 1st. Lt., 371st Fighter Group, 405th Fighter Squadron, was flying an armed reconnaissance mission when he experienced a mechanical difficulty with his engine that forced him to belly in six miles north of Schleiz, west of Langgrun, at grid coordinates J-8515 in enemy territory in P-47D-25-RE serial number 42-26551. (MACR 14107)

Jack, William A., Capt., 371st Fighter Group, 406th Fighter Squadron, was flying P-47D-30-RA serial number 44-33036 (4W-O, named “Virg”) on 20 April 1945 when his aircraft was damaged by trees while strafing. He came down in the vicinity of Greding, Germany and was taken prisoner. Jack was the last member of the 371st Fighter Group captured in World War II. (MACR 14092)

Johnson, Glenn H., 1st. Lt., 371st Fighter Group, 404th Fighter Squadron. On 14 February 1945 while flying P-47D-21-RA serial number 43-25551 squadron code 9Q-D on a dive bombing mission about 10 miles NW of Zweibrucken, Germany, he collided in mid-air with P-47D flown by 1st Lt. Darrel G. Shumard. His aircraft exploded, tumbled end over end in flames and expelled him. He came down in the vicinity of Kirkel, Germany and was captured. The MACR reports an explosion of unknown cause occurred, but a postwar report indicates his aircraft was struck by his wingman’s aircraft, flown by Lt. Darrel G. Shumard. Also, a German flak battery claimed it shot down Lt. Shumard. (MACR 12389)

Kirkland, Edward R., 1st Lt., 371st Fighter Group, 406th Fighter Squadron. Shot down while flying P-47D-30-RA serial number 44-32961 on 18 March 1945 near Birkenfeld, Germany. Captured, escaped, captured again, escaped again and evaded back to advancing Allied Forces, joining up with the 4th Armored Division of Patton’s Third Army before returning to his unit on 27 March 1945. (MACR 13132)

LaRochelle, Joseph E., 2nd. Lt., 371st Fighter Group, 404th Fighter Squadron. Shot down by flak and seen to bail out on D-Day, 6 June 1944, just off the coast of Normandy near St. Pair-sur-Mer while flying Republic P-47D-20-RA Thunderbolt serial number 43-25278. He became the first POW of the group. (MACR 5540)

Marks, Robert L., F/O, 371st Fighter Group, 405th Fighter Squadron, was shot down in aerial combat on 5 January 1945 near Herschberg, Germany, while flying P-47D-28-RA serial number 42-28964. (MACR 11598)

Martin, Russell M., 1st. Lt., 371st Fighter Group, 405th Fighter Squadron, was shot down in aerial combat on 2 January 1945 near Brenschelbach, Germany while flying P-47D-28-RA serial number 42-28617. (MACR 11600)

McCoy, Jefferson M., 2nd. Lt., 371st Fighter Group, 404th Fighter Squadron, was shot down by flak on 25 February 1945 near Kohlhof, Germany while flying P-47D-11-RE serial number 42-75462. (MACR 12729)

McDowell, Gildas D., 2nd Lt., 371st Fighter Group, 405th Fighter Squadron, was shot down by flak on 14 October 1944 while flying P-47D-15-RE Thunderbolt serial number 42-76219 and bailed out about 10 miles south southwest of Belfort, France. He was seen after the war by 371FG Capt. Emott in London late May 1945 and had returned to military control 29 Apr 45. (MACR 9647)

McDuff, Lee E., 2nd. Lt., 371st Fighter Group, 405th Fighter Squadron, was shot down in P-47D-22-RE serial number 42-26341 by flak on 20 September 1944 about two miles east of Cobern, Germany. He bailed out behind enemy lines and was formally reported as a POW as of 14 January 1945. (MACR 9175) He was held in Stalag Luft I, Barth, Germany.  For more on Lee McDuff’s POW experience, see “Remembering our POW/MIAs - The Wartime Saga of Lee McDuff,” at: https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/…/remembering-our-powmias-the…/

Schleppegrell, William, 2nd. Lt., 371st Fighter Group, 405th Fighter Squadron, was shot down by flak on 1 January 1945 in the vicinity of Völklingen, Germany, while flying P-47D-28-RE serial number 44-20122. (MACR 11615)  He was held in Stalag Luft I, Germany.  For more on William Schleppegrell’s POW experience, read “Caged Thunderbolt – The POW Experience of William Schleppegrell,” at: https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/…/caged-thunderbolt-the-pow-e…/

Shumard, Darrel G., 1st. Lt., 371st Fighter Group, 404th Fighter Squadron. On 14 February 1945 while flying P-47D-27-RE serial number 42-27262 (9Q-V) he collided over enemy territory with a P-47D flown by 1st Lt. Glen H. Johnson (another source states his aircraft was damaged by the explosion of the element leader’s aircraft while in flight – a German flak unit claimed to down him) and came down about five miles southwest of Homburg (NW of Zweibrucken) and was captured. (MACR 12388)

Simmons, George R., 2nd. Lt., 371st Fighter Group, 405th Fighter Squadron, was shot down by flak on 26 December 1944 near Haslach, Germany, while flying P-47D-25-RE serial number 42-26664 (8N-P, named “Snuffy II”). He was held in Stalag Luft I, Barth, Germany.  (MACR 11610)

Sullivan, John B., 1st Lt., 371st Fighter Group, 405th Fighter Squadron, was shot down by flak on 14 October 1944 near Ersingen, Germany, while flying P-47D-15-RE serial number 42-76230 (named “Peggy Woo”). Initially carried as MIA, his status changed to POW in April 1945. He was seen postwar by 371FG Capt. Emott in London in late May 1945. (MACR 9648)

Tait, Harry H., Jr., Capt., 371st Fighter Group, 406th Fighter Squadron, was shot down in an aerial engagement on 20 October 1944 near Fribourg-en-Brisgau in the tri-border area (France, Germany, Switzerland) in P-47D-27-RE serial number 42-27343. (MACR 9787)

Tandy, Orval H., 1st Lt., 123rd Fighter Squadron. While called up and serving on active duty and assigned to 18th Fighter-Bomber Group, 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron in Korea, he was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery in North American F-51D Mustang serial number 44-74794 on 5 September 1951 during his 57th combat mission and became a POW. He was released 10 September 1953—almost exactly two years from day and within an hour of when he was shot down in 1951. He was one of over 4,600 U.S. servicemen held captive and was detained in the Pyok-Dong prison camp with over 1,100 other POW’s.

Wolcott, Robert S., Maj., 371st Fighter Group, 404th Fighter Squadron. His aircraft, P-47D-28-RA Thunderbolt serial number 42-28629, was damaged by flak on 8 October 1944; he bellied in east of Stuttgart, Germany and became a POW. Wolcott returned to military control 29 April 1945 as Allied forces advanced into Germany. (MACR 9824)

In another interesting 371st Fighter Group prisoner experience, Capt. Harry W. Hohl, Jr., 404th Fighter Squadron, was shot down in aerial combat with ME-109s on 8 June 1944 near Cormeilles, France, while flying P-47D-21-RA 43-25567. He was “captured” by French guerillas of dubious loyalty. These guerillas apparently debated to whom they might sell Hohl and some other American, British and German “captives” for the highest price, either to the Germans or the Americans! Left unguarded momentarily, Hohl and an American P-51 pilot took off, bringing the two Germans in the group with them, and found their way to friendly lines. (MACR 5872) (Note that F/O Edwin S. Humphreys, Jr. was in the same flight as Hohl on 8 June and went MIA on the mission, details below.)

142d Fighter Wing Missing in Action - In addition to those unit members who were POWs, we remember on this day those members assigned to the 371st Fighter Group and 35th Photo Recon Squadron who never came back from the war and remain MIA. There are 11 who remain MIA to this day, five in Europe, three in Asia and three in the Mediterranean Sea. These men are:

Berringer, Merroll J., 1st Lt., 35th Photo Recon Squadron. Lt. Berringer, from Clarinda, Iowa, was last sighted 21 November 1944 over Nimrod Sound (south of Ningpo, China) and went MIA the same day during a photo recon mission flying Lockheed F-5E-2 serial number 44-23237 from Flight “H” at Suichuan. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Republic of the Philippines as well as a stone memorial in the Clarinda Cemetery, Clarinda, Iowa. He was awarded the Purple Heart. (MACR 10095)

Feit, Herbert, E., Private First Class (PFC), 371st Fighter Group, 406th Fighter Squadron, from New York, New York, went missing on 1 April 1945, near Metz, France; he went on pass in Metz and "...just never showed up again." He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France.

French, Phillip L., 1st Lt., 35th Photo Recon Squadron, from Kansas, went MIA on 30 July 1945 during an administrative flight flying F-5E-2 Photo Lightning serial number 43-28397 and nicknamed “Blue Goose” between Chanyi and Chihkiang. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Republic of the Philippines. He was awarded the Air Medal. (MACR 14836)

Gorman, William (NMI), Flight Officer (F/O), 371st Fighter Group, 405th Fighter Squadron, from Brooklyn, New York, went MIA on 7 August 1944, over France while flying P-47D-20-RE Thunderbolt 42-76478. He failed to return to base from a dive-bombing mission, going down overwater at grid coordinate N-4263 off the French coast south of St. Nazaire after a burst of flak hit his flight. He is 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. (MACR 7646)

Green, Bruce C., M/Sgt, 5th Recon Group, 32d Photo Recon Squadron (former 123d Observation Squadron founding member). M/Sgt Green went MIA on 20 April 1944 with two other “charter members“ of the 123d Observation Squadron aboard the Liberty ship SS Paul Hamilton in the Mediterranean Sea off Algeria. The vessel catastrophically exploded after being hit by a torpedo in an attack by a German bomber and all 580 persons aboard were lost, including 317 officers and men of the 32d PRS. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the North Africa American Cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia, as well as a stone memorial in the Lewisville Cemetery, Battle Ground, Washington. He was awarded the Purple Heart. For more about the loss of 123d Observation Squadron founders M/Sgt Green, T/Sgt Miller and S/Sgt Mayer aboard the SS Paul Hamilton, see “A Somber Thursday, 20 April 1944” at: https://www.142fw.ang.af.mil/…/a-somber-thursday-20-april-…/

Humphreys, Edwin S., Jr., F/O, 371st Fighter Group, 404th Fighter Squadron, from Chicago, Illinois, went MIA on 8 June 1944, over France in the Cormeilles area southeast of Le Havre; while flying P-47D-16-RE 42-76081 he was separated from his flight during an engagement with ME-109's and did not return to base. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England. He was awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart. (MACR 5876)

Mayer, Leonard W., S/Sgt, 5th Recon Group, 32d Photo Recon Squadron (former 123d Observation Squadron founding member) went MIA on 20 April 1944 aboard SS Paul Hamilton in Mediterranean Sea off Algeria. The vessel catastrophically exploded after being hit in an attack by a German torpedo bomber and all 580 persons aboard were lost; only one body was recovered. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the North Africa American Cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

McKinney, Franklin H., 1st Lt., 35th Photo Recon Squadron, from Providence, Rhode Island. Lt. McKinney went MIA on 5 November 1944 on a photo recon mission over Southeast Asia flying Lockheed F-5E-2-LO Photo Lightning serial number 43-28615 from “G” Flight at Yunnan-yi. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Republic of the Philippines. He was awarded the Purple Heart. (MACR 10057) We have received reports that Franklin McKinney’s crash site appears to have been found in northern Thailand and that based on this information the DPAA plans to send out a team to investigate later this year.

Miller, Albert R., T/Sgt, 5th Recon Group, 32d Photo Recon Squadron (former 123d Observation Squadron founding member) went MIA on 20 April 1944 aboard SS Paul Hamilton in Mediterranean Sea off Algeria. The vessel catastrophically exploded and all 580 of the crew and passengers were lost after it was hit in an attack by a German torpedo bomber. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the North Africa American Cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

Pieck, George D., Captain, 371st Fighter Group, 404th Fighter Squadron Operations Officer, from Clarksdale, Mississippi, went MIA on 10 August 1944, over France. When his plane, P-47D-20-RE 42-76408 was shot up by flak, he bailed out a few miles east of Flers, France, and was observed by another flight member to land safely on the ground about 15 miles inside enemy lines, but was not heard from again. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at Brittany American Cemetery, St. James, France. He was awarded the Air Medal with 13 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart. (MACR 8011)

Salmi, Uno A., Captain, 371st Fighter Group, 406th Fighter Squadron, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, went MIA on 16 June 1944, near St. Lo, France. Flying P-47D-20-RE Thunderbolt 42-76526 he led his flight away from a flak concentration and disappeared into the clouds flying downward through overcast. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England. He was awarded the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart. (MACR 6055)

Lest we forget, may we always remember our brave air warriors who fought and defeated fascism in World War II and stymied communism in Korea. On this day we honor the unit’s 22 former POWs and 11 MIAs.  And we thank those who serve in uniform today, because freedom in every generation isn’t free.