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Author Topic: 79th fighter group P-40s  (Read 301 times)
Mark Joyce
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« on: August 13, 2020, 07:54:24 AM »

Several months ago I contacted the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) in an attempt to obtain any mission or operational records the agency might have for the 79th Fighter Group.  I ended up obtaining several files that contain some very useful and interesting information on the group.   In addition to the information, a number of photographs were in the files as well.  Some of them have been published but several I've never seen before.  Unfortunately, since these files are in Microfilm format the quality of the photos is quite poor.  As a result, I contacted AFHRA in hopes of obtaining better quality photos but, because of the Coronavirus, the agency closed about the time I made my request so was unable to follow-up on it.

Fortunately, the agency has recently reopened to some extent and fulfilled my old request.  I thought I would share some of these photographs, most of which are of the 85th Fighter Squadron of the group.

Here's the first, "The Crump Machine," a P-40F flown by Lt. Thomas Cox.  Lt. Cox was from Memphis, TN, which helps explain the plane's name.  Edward Hull "Boss" Crump was a politician from Memphis for several decades in the early 20th century and head of a powerful political "machine," hence "The Crump Machine."  I don't know specifically why Lt. Cox chose this as his plane's name, though.  Lt. Cox is wearing the flight jacket, but unfortunately I don't have the others identified, at least not yet.  I have a copy of "The Falcon," which is basically the 79th FG's yearbook, that has photographs of most the group's members but haven't had a chance to compare faces.
 
The date on the caption is incorrect, for the year would have been 1943.

Here's a photo of likely the same airplane, which was posted over on Hyperscale when I was originally attempting to locate a better quality photo of the one I've posted here and is from an album of the then-squadron commander, Major Schoellkopf:

X3-6 was likely Lt. Cox's assigned airplane, being the one he usually flew based on the mission records I have.  Unfortunately I don't know the serial number or how this hard landing came about.  The apparent replacement lower cowl, or "tub," is quite evident.

And here's likely the rudder art on the plane, with Lt. Cox by it.  Note the name "Miss Memphis" next to the artwork. This photo has been published elsewhere, as has another of the rudder art with Lt. Cox and others admiring it.  In that photo, you see part of the last number on the fuselage, which could be the numeral "6" (but others as well).
 
Perhaps someday, someone will do decals for this plane.  Kits World has the artwork but the wrong plane number as well as no nose name.

That's all for now, but I'll post more photos as time allows.

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Mark Joyce
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« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2020, 07:56:32 AM »

Here are some more from the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

On the top is P-40F "Sand Fly 3rd." Interestingly, I can find no record of a Lt. Bauber having served with the 79th FG, let alone as a pilot in the 85th FS, in "The Falcon."  I don't know if it's a misspelling or an incorrect caption.  On the bottom is P-40F "Cookie." Lt. William Abbott was in the 85th FS, being one of the squadron's original pilots, flying 80 missions and receiving numerous awards and medals, including the Purple Heart.  He was credited with the destruction of a Me-109 on 20 April 1943.  From what I can tell from the mission records, he usually flew aircraft coded X3-2.


Here's Lt. Abbott in the cockpit of a P-40:

Last for now, this pilot is listed as Flight Officer Farrel Yocum in front of what again appears to be "Sand Fly 3rd." F/O Yocum, who joined the squadron when it was stationed at LG 174 in Egypt, was killed in action on 3 August 1943 during a strafing run.  It was his 42nd mission.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2020, 07:35:28 AM by Mark Joyce » Logged

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Mark Joyce
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« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2020, 06:59:07 AM »

Here, on the top, we have P-40F "The Tennessean" with Lt. William Ryburn who, like Lt. Cox, hailed from Tennessee (can't say I'm surprised by that based on the name on his plane).  He was credited with the destruction of a Me-109 on 5 May 1943 and and another on 8 June 1943.  Lt. Ryburn flew 80 missions and also received numerous awards and medals.  His usual aircraft was coded X3-3.

On the bottom is Lt. Malcolm McNall, who flew a whopping 114 missions so got his fair share of awards and medals.  He was credited with the destruction of a MC-202 on 30 April 1043.  Lt. McNall seemed to alternate quite a bit between a couple of aircraft, coded X1-3 and X3-1, the latter which likely was originally assigned to Cpt. Joe Connelly. Unfortunately I don't know the entire plane name.

Both Ryburn and McNall were original members of the 85th FS.

I have to mention that the years on all these photographs is likely wrong.  All probably were taken in 1943 and not 1942 as listed in the captions.

« Last Edit: August 21, 2020, 07:30:49 AM by Mark Joyce » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2020, 05:54:11 AM »

Here we have one of the squadron commanders of the 86th, Maj. Tarleton Watkins, with his crew (again, unidentified at this point) in front of P-40F "Lonesome Polecat." If this was Maj. Watkins aircraft, it was likely coded X4-0 as this was the one he flew most frequently and the numbers usually assigned to the 86th squadron commander.  (X1-0 would have gone to the 85th squadron commander while X7-0 to the 87th commander).

I don't have the number of missions he flew but Maj. Watkins received the Air Medal and D.F.C.  He was credited with the destruction of a Me-109 on 29 April 1943, another on 9 June '43, and a third the following day, 10 June '43.

Tarleton Watkins retired from the USAF as a brigadier general and passed away in 2009 at the age of 95.
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« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2020, 01:04:09 PM »

Wow, that's some great stuff, thanks!  Smiley
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Mark Joyce
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« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2020, 07:48:17 AM »

Some more.  Here's another of Major Watkins.  No name visible on this P-40F, but it appears to have the stripe, possibly red, on the front of the lower cowl that's also visible on the previous photo I posted of him.

Here we have several 86th FS P-40Fs about to take off on a mission.  I believe the closest one is #40, likely Maj. Watkin's "Lonesome Polecat."  Note what appears to be that same stripe.  I also believe its serial number is 41-14531. Joe Baugher's website indicates this P-40 was shot down on June 6, 1944, whilst on a strafing mission near Rome in Italy.  It was assigned to the 522nd FS, 27th FG at the time, and its pilot (unknown) bailed and and became a POW.

Here's one with a group of NCOs in front of an 86th FS P-40F possibly named "El Lobo." I can't make out its entire fuselage code numbers but it's possibly X5-7. However, its serial number, 41-14559, indicates per Joe Baugher's site that it met the same fate on the same day with the same unit as X4-0.  Unfortunately, whoever its pilot was at the time was KIA.

Some misspellings on this next photo.  The pilot is John J. Gumbleton and another person is likely Cpl. O'Brien.  Sgt. Albin Krezel was an armorer in the 86th.  And if it's S/Sgt. Gerald Ervin, an 86th FS crew chief, he was the only non-pilot of the 79th FG KIA.  On December 17, 1944, a P-51 crashed into the squadron dispersal area at Fano, Italy, killing him. If "Lucky Lady" was Lt. Gumbleton's airplane, it was likely coded X6-2.  I don't have the number of missions he flew, but Lt. Gumbleton received the D.F.C and Air Medal with 4 OLCs.

Lastly, we have the rudder of possibly the most modeled 79th FG P-40; Lt. "Jazz" Jaslow's "Sweet Bets" of the 87th FS.  There are some wonderful color photographs of his P-40F and L in books and floating around the Internet, one reason why many decals have been offered for his planes, but I think this is the first photograph I've seen showing the "Passionate Dwarf"/Dopey artwork on the starboard side of the rudder.  I know a duplicate was on the port side, so this is new to me.

« Last Edit: September 09, 2020, 11:58:32 AM by Mark Joyce » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2020, 05:27:52 PM »

Great stuff, thanks for sharing!
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