1943 — North Africa
Frank had tried to enter the service several times and was not "heavy" enough (136' and needed to be 138') but had completed 2 Years of College and then did enter the Service on 29 Dec. 1941 in Texas at Kelly Field. Frank was accepted directly into the Army Air Corp and would eventually fly Combat in the B-25 Mitchell Medium Bomber in the Mediterranean Theatre in the 321st Bomb Group, 447th Bomb Squadron.
Frank would also be one of "the 1st" of the Pilots who seemed to have all walked in shoulder to shoulder and all were in the [Now Famous] Gen Bob Knapp's 321st Bpmb Group "Flight over the Atlantic (The "HOP") the Southern Route in a single mass without loss. Leaving Morrison Field, Fla. 15 Feb. 1943,
Capt. Francis E McGowan was an original with the Knapp Group that crossed the Atlantic by the Southern Route, a pilot that flew in the co-pilot's seat with Lt Austin D Andrews in the Southern Belle #41-12997 with W Murtha, M Small, and M Boris. Frank was a bunkmate with Lt Dan McDuff. . . Great friends with John "Buster" Burns, Big Rich ( R Richardson), Big and Little Brink (Hamilton and Wilton Brinkley), McKinnley (KIN) Cohagen. Frank and Al Duke were also friends and trained together with Bob Spikes and Jim Bugbee. . . well, they pretty much all went through pilot training together at Randolph and Ellington Field. These men made up the original Cadre' . Frank was all of 21 years old when he went to SC, the 321st BG, then the 447th BS. Frank said "I flew about the 1st fifteen to twenty Missions with Austin Andrews, as co-pilot, then got my own ship with Paul Gill, and Harold Paiton as my Bombardier. I also flew many Missions with Roy Tate as my Bombardier. I still correspond with Serge Neprash, (2007) our Squadron Intelligence Officer, who stayed on with the Bomb Wing until the war ended in Europe.
In the War Diary, Frank became 1st Lt. on 21 Aug. '43 . . . Reaching his 50th Mission on 14th Oct. '43. By then had become Captain. Capt. McGowan said "On one of my first Missions (Africa) I was instructed to land at about 50 feet and after a wide-eyed landing, asked the crew chief how high the strip was ?" (as he was certain that he had touched the waves) and he said, "Oh, about 50 feet !" He figured his approach, then , had been about 5 feet above sea-level !
Frank also said that "The small landing strip near Ain M'Lila was usually covered with sheep g raising on the grass, so they would have to buzz the runway before we could land the planes. And especially "One Mission over Sicily, we shot down 14 Fighters and lost not one B-25 !" ***************************************************************************** Correspondence 4 Jan. 2007 to Historian Barbi Ennis Connolly from Frank's proud son Mike..... Dear Barbi, My father, Frank McGowan, had only one bullet strike his plane during his tour! The bullet came from another B-25! It happened when his plane & crew was dispatched as a reserve aircraft in case another scheduled aircraft had to return to base before it could complete the mission. Frank's plane was 'in trail' after launch and formation assembly. He followed the main formation out to sea until it was evident his aircraft was not needed and he turned back to base. However, before that could take place various gunners 'cleared' their guns and a stray bullet struck his wing. He was not aware of it and it was not until he RTB'd (returned to base) that the ground crew saw the damage and asked "How the hell did that happen when you did not go on a mission?"!!!! His most memorable mission was when the lead ship turned the wrong way after the bombing run and nearly caused a massive mid-air between the two flights of B-25s. Dad and the aircraft he was in formation with pulled up to avoid the mid-air. The lead then corrected his course and the formation proceeded back towards base leaving Dad's plane and the one he was in formation with well behind as a result of their evasive maneuver. Frank flew very close formation with the other aircraft as a flight of enemy ME-109s lined up for an attack on them. However, faced with the combined defenses of the two B-25s so closely together, the 109s soon left them and proceeded to attack the main body of B-25s in front of them. They returned to base unscathed and with gunners claiming several enemy aircraft 'shot down'! Mike McGowan