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Richard DeBaugh, 41st Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group
By Richard DeBaugh
I am in receipt of a two and a half page exerpt from what I assume is a part of your 307th BG History. For the most part, the excerpt deals with Charles Lindbergh--the great Lone Eagle. My interest in the matter is that I was a P-47 pilot with the 41st FS, 35th FG. One of my missions was flying wing on our first raid to Balikpapan, Borneo. It may be that we flew cover for B-24s from the 307th on this mission. Just to dimly recall a date (which I could find in my files), my hunch is that the time of this raid was around December 1, 1944. As for my Balikpapan mission, my recall is that the B-24s were under the command of the 13th Air Force as were we. Normally, my outfit flew as a part of the 5th AF.
One of the highlights of my 15 months overseas with the 41st FS was when Lindbergh made a presentation, quite technical, to our outfit about extending the range of our P-47s. It was a fascinating moment for all of us as Lindbergh was a heroic figure in our minds. The upshot of his presentation was, of course, that we were able to increase our airborne mission duration well over two hours. (Our meeting with Lindbergh took place at Nadzab in New Guinea.) It is easy for me to recall several missions that I flew from our Morotai base to eastern Borneo--I downed a Jap Zero there--and up into the Philippine Islands. Some of these missions lasted well over eight hours; it was a touchy matter taking off with three external fuel tanks, other times with two external wing tanks and a belly bomb. One of our main worries was whether or not our tires could handle the strain and weight. As I recall, we only lost one pilot on take-off, he was one of my tent mates.
As you might guess, we pilots of the 41st were well aware of the legendary status of Charles Lindbergh; I can still see him in all of his seriousness as he spoke to us of the combat radius extension methodology which he was so instrumental in developing. His work in this particular field of aviation was certainly a factor in improving the combat ability of all fighters.
As for LIndbergh's actual flying in combat, we of the 41st were aware of his many missions in the P-38. To my knowledge, he did not fly P-47 missions, but I may be in error about this. Also, I am unaware of any missions he flew in the P-51 but was interested to learn that he may have flown P-51 combat missions. Toward the end of my own tenure with the 41st FS we did transition to Mustangs so I was familiar with that plane, and, as an aside, my preference remained with the 47 because the Jug and I teamed through so many tough missions, a couple that I doubt the 51 could have completed.
Appreciatively, Richard DeBaugh
Additional Information from Richard DeBaugh in followup emails-January 2005:
. . . My own tour of the South Pacific arena of war has a number of similarities with the 307th account you give. You mention Morotai, which was the northernmost island of the Halmahera (sp) Group. My outfit, the 41st Fighter Squadron, was based there for a couple of months. It was from there that we staged in and out for an escort mission to Balikpapan, a mission that I flew. I can remember so well that I was flying tail-end Charlie for this mission. We came over the target area at about 18,000 feet; I was able to look down and see fighters well below us and momentarily envisioned our flight mixing it up with enemy fighters. Of course, the enemy was primarlily concerned about dealing with the B-24s, a few thousand feet below us. To my dismay and disappointment, my flight leader made the decision to cut off any possible engagement with the enemy. His reason: he was getting low on fuel to the degree that he was concerned about being able to return to base, Morotai. My recall is that he did land on "fumes," which was odd to me because I landed with 150 gallons, according to my Crew Chief. My personal sense is that those dicta given by Lindbergh were really proved as I flew according to his "message." Today, I can't speak for my flight leader and his fuel consumption.. I do recall that the rest of the squadron had a few shootdowns. I was not scheduled for our next Balikpapan mission during which the 41st downed fifteen enemy fighters.
Clark Field was also mentioned in your website. Here, we have a second mutuality. The 41st was stationed at Clark, a field where I had duty as Assistant Air Drome Commander (sounds more important that the duties were). In this slot, I became a member of Group Headquarters, the 35th FG, as I was off flying. I had experienced a crash on returning to base--a two hour flight--following a dive bombing mission to Formosa. (Isn't Formosa now Taipei?) I had taken several hits on my plane, was able to return to base at Mangalden on the Lingayan Gulf, was ready to land, received a red light and a flare from the tower, and was supposedly meant to go around the traffic patter again. Except, it didn't happen that way. But that's another story. One of my tasks at Clark Field was to order landing priorities, and I recall watching B-24s land according to my orders, which were stated in a manual. It was at Clark, also, that the 41st transitioned to the P-51, the Mustang fighter. But I ramble; sometimes recall and reminiscence take over. Probably, I ramble because I have what is now an inherent desire to remember the days of WW II because I was there and because they simply should be remembered and recorded.
I was interested in some of the reading listed in your site. I recall Louis Zamperini, the Olympian athlete and distance runner and have read his book, "Devil at My Heels." The Ambrose book, "The Wild Blue," is shelved in my personal library. Robert F. Door is familiar through his regular column seen in "The Air Force Times." And then James Brady's "Fly Boys" is undoubtedly one of the best books I have ever read.
So you can see, Pat, that your website has touched my thinking. My fervent wish is that you are able to eventually achieve a degree of closure regarding the Coleman crew. It seems remarkable that you have managed to learn as much as you already have. (Oh, yes, your mention of the Zeke aircraft--it was a Zeke that I downed off the coast of Borneo, a point of recall that is vivid and crystal clear in my own history.) Of interest to me is the more than one account by witnesses of the descriptions of that "perfect loop" made by the Coleman plane in its death maneuver. A perfect loop by a B-24 is questionable, assuming that the plane was more or less in a level flight configuration at the time of its being hit by enemy fire. But, who knows? I was not there and should not judge. Anyway, a perfect loop in a fighter plane is certainly a different matter whereas such a maneuver with a B-34 is, for me, merely conjecture . . .
A tentmate was gone. A life had ended, an existence snuffed out. The evidence of this was acute in its stark reality: an empty cot.
For the tentmates of him who had been taken from their circle, the old banter and raillery was now gone, gone for a while, at least, because this kind of heartbreak simply had to be lived through. That's the way it was. The tent became a different place, and he who was gone became seared into the memories of his tentmates, memories never to be erased. Of course, those tentmates knew what would happen next. The cot would be filled again, probably by someone new in the outfit, a replacement for one, it was momentarily felt, who was beyond replacement. Life in the tent was forever changed; but, as expected, life went on with a different personality present to exert his subtle influence. The new guy was quickly accepted, and a slightly altered comity soon developed in the tent. The new guy was never looked upon as an intruder; he merely took the place of an old friend and soon became a new friend. It was just that simple even though the old friend was fixed in the memory, eventually to become a mythic figure of respect, admiration, and deserving of the constancy of recall that he was given.
In the course of its life overseas, the 41st Fighter Squadron experienced many empty cots. They were expected as a part of wartime life, but they were never easy to deal with. An empty cot could create a raging helplessness, a realization of war's futility, a reminder that we were merely frail human beings with weaknesses and passions. But the men of the 41st were a steadfast lot. An empty cot was never an overture to fear. Rather, it was a symbol that caused the squadron to become more resolute in its pursuit of personal and unit aims, a symbol that gave strength to each squadron member as well as to the 41st's "raison d'etre." Still, we sensed deep loss in the presence of an empty cot, an ultimate metaphor of war.
Reprinted with permission from Richard DeBaugh, 41st Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group
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