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376th Fighter Squadron
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Although Lt. John M. Bentley's career with the 376th began favourably, with one Fw190 destroyed on 6 March 1944, it ended abruptly on 15 April 1944 when the tail of his P-47D 42-22756 was cut off in a mid-air collision with another P-47 over Holland. Fortunately, the other pilot, Lt. Robert O. Comstock, returned to base, while Lt. Bentley baled out, only to become the Group's first prisoner of war.(USAF)
Lt. Morris C. Williams poses with his P-47D "Devil May Care", 42-75549, coded E9:G, maintained by his crew-chief, S/Sgt. Albert F. Godwick and assistant, Sgt. Richard B. Shults. Lt. Williams was credited with two aerial victories, but was shot down on the 24 May 1944 mission to Berlin and taken prisoner.(Welch)
click here for enlargement Lt. Dennis D. Noble posing with his P-47D "Dos Loboes", coded E9:N and ground crew, S/Sgt. James H. Williams, crew-chief, Sgt. Henry S. Wiechers, assistant, Sgt. Creel R. McDonald, armourer and Sgt. Harry M. Morgan, radio man. While returning from Berlin on 19 May 1944, Lt. Noble abandoned his P-51 in the Channel, but was rescued. (Wiechers)
One of the Squadron's leading pilots, Capt. Wallace B. Frank poses for the camera with his ground crew and P-47. On 10 June 1944, Capt. Frank suffered a broken leg while baling out of his flak damaged P-51 over France. He was confined to a German hospital but, luckily, was later liberated by advancing U.S. troops and returned to the UK. (Welch)
click here for enlargement 376th Squadron CO Maj. Roy B. Caviness demonstrates fighter tactics for two of his ground crew, crew-chief S/Sgt. Henry A. Socha (L) and assistant S/Sgt. Albert G. Lapierre. L/Col. Caviness was interim Group CO for periods in September and November 1944, but eventually commanded the 361st from mid-April until the end of June 1945. (USAF)
Lt. Bill May's P-47D 42-75505, E9:M looked decidedly battered after the Munster mission of 22 February 1944. Following a scrap with Fw190s north of the Ruhr, 376th Squadron flights were reforming for return to base when Lt. May was attacked from astern by a single '190. With fuel running very low, he headed for the deck, but collided with trees and high tension wires. After landing at Manston, however, only ten gallons of fuel were found in his tanks! (May)
With 108 US gallon drop tanks slung on belly shackles, 376th Thunderbolts line up on the Bottisham perimeter ready for the Group's first operational mission on 21 January 1944. The pierced steel planking (PSP) shown at left was later used to widen the existing Sommerfeld track main runway, enabling four aircraft to take off simultaneously. (Casto) 
Dwarfed by his personal mount, P-47D "Goona", 42-22784, coded E9:C, Maj. Roy B. Caviness awaits his turn to take off on the Group's first mission, 21 January 1944. On returning from the Chartres mission of 17 March 1944, Maj. Caviness was forced to make a one-wheel landing, but managed to get "Goona" down safely, with minimal damage. (Rames)
Shown here posing with his P-47, Lt. Robert G. Van Stryland was the first pilot in the 361st Fighter Group to complete a 300 hour combat tour and return to the United States. Lt. Van Stryland's ground crew included S/Sgt. John D. Paul, crew-chief, Cpl. Salvatore M. Pecoraro, armourer and Cpl. Peter J. Santora, radio man.(Bain)
One of the few natural metal finish P-47D-22-REs assigned to the Group before the conversion to Mustangs, 42-25969 was assigned to 376th Squadron Operations Officer Capt. John D. Duncan. Also coded E9:D, his first Mustang was P-51B 43-24808 which was replaced by P-51D 44-13717, named "Golden Wave" in honour of his Florida high school. (USAF)
click here for enlargement S/Sgt. Charles F. Dailey and S/Sgt. Merrill L. Weibley pose with Lt. Jay W. Ruch's P-51B "Flying Jeanie III", 42-106944, coded E9:A, parked on its Bottisham dispersal. Later renamed "Mary Jane", this aircraft was eventually shot down by Me109s near Geldern on 17 September 1944. The pilot, Lt. Woodrow W. Glover was killed in action. (Wiechers)
click here for enlargement The Group's top scoring Ace, Lt. Dale F. Spencer poses in the cockpit of a P-51B. Between 19 May and 13 September 1944, Lt. Spencer claimed a total of 9.5 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air and one damaged, plus a shared claim on the ground. His assigned aircraft was P-51B "Little Luke", 42-106538, coded E9:S.     (Fielding)
click here for enlargement Air Executive L/Col. Joseph J. Kruzel's P-51D "Vi", 44-13391, coded E9:K, is prepared for another mission by his crew-chief, S/Sgt. John P. Piazza, assistant S/Sgt. Chester Kosciolek and armourer Cpl. Joseph J. Nilles. While '391 survived into 1945, L/Col. Kruzel was assigned P-51D 44-14609, coded E2:K and named "Vi/Athelene", when he later took command of the 361st. (Drew)
click here for enlargement Bottisham airfield was a hive of activity on D-Day, 6 June 1944, with the 361st flying a total of six strafing and dive-bombing missions in support of the Allied landings in Normandy. Cpl. Chauncey J. Fritchman, Jr. (L) and crew-chief S/Sgt. James H. Williams refuel P-51B E9:N, while the latter's crew check and reload the guns. (Frank)
Lt. Harold D. Mitchell of the 376th Squadron (3rd left) poses with his ground crew at Bottisham (L-R) S/Sgt. Richard B. Shults, S/Sgt. Joseph D. Ulmer and Cpl. Albert S. Williams and his personal P-51B "The Holly Warrior", named in honour of his home town in Michigan. Lt. Mitchell completed his tour credited with one Me109 and two Fw190s destroyed in the air.(Ulmer)
click here for enlargement Lt. Jimmie C. Wright and his crew-chief pose in relaxed mood with Lt. Wright's personal mount P-51D "Small Fry IV", 44-14165, coded E9:Q. In March/April 1944, Lt. Wright was one of four 361st pilots assigned to "Bill's Buzz Boys" and destroyed two Ju88s and an Me110 on the ground, probably destroyed an Me210 and damaged another, plus another Me110. (Fielding)
Top scorers of the 27 September 1944 mission to Kassel compile their combat reports. Lt. William R. Beyer (L) became an "Ace in a Day", claiming five Fw190s destroyed. Lt. Victor E. Bocquin (R), the squadron leader, destroyed another three. Capt. Beyer would add a further four enemy aircraft to his aerial score before finishing his tour. (Overholt)
click here for enlargement 376th Ace Lt. William J. Sykes poses in full flying gear. Between 16 June and 24 December 1944, when he was posted missing, Lt. Sykes claimed a total of five aerial victories, two probables and five destroyed on the ground. His assigned aircraft was P-51D 44-14520, coded E9:S, but was shot down, seriously wounded, aboard P-51D 44-11203, coded E9:F. (Sykes)
click here for enlargement Another 376th Ace, Lt. George R. Vanden Heuvel relaxes in his P-51D. Lt. Vanden Heuvel claimed a total of 5.5 aerial victories, including two Fw190s which collided head-on, three destroyed on the ground and one damaged. His assigned aircraft was P-51D "Mary Mine", 44-14685, coded E9:L. His second "Mary Mine", 44-64005, E9:Z survives to this day. (Nyberg)
P-51D "Daisy Mae III", 44-14514, E9:Y leads a 376th Squadron echelon over Essex in July 1945. The "war-weary" P-51B, 42-106538, E9:A was previously named "Little Luke" (E9:S), Lt. Dale F. Spencer's personal aircraft, while Lt. Kenneth J. Scott's "Curiosity Betty II", 44-14600, E9:V formates in the background. 44-14514 was eventually lost in a crash on 22 August 1945. (Wiechers)