24 February 1945 — Darfeld, Germany
The 20th Fighter Group, 79th Fighter Squadron of the Eighth Air Force was based at Station 367, Kingscliffe, England. Located twelve miles west of Peterborough, Kingscliffe aerodrome was the most northerly and furthest west of all Eighth Air Force fighter stations. Originally a grass surfaced runway, a new 5,100 foot main runway with two intersecting runways, several blister type hangers and several barracks were built so that the 20th Fighter Group could begin operations in late December 1943. With their P-51 Mustangs, the group completed 312 combat missions by the end of the war.
Saturday, 24 February 1945
362 B-17 bombers and 195 P-51 fighter escorts were dispatched to hit oil refineries at Hamburg, Germany. Four fighter pilots were lost that day. 2nd Lt. Leonard Wright, Jr. was the pilot of P-51D serial number 44-11244 nicknamed “Nina Merle.” This was his first mission having only joined the squadron about one month before. His mission was flying bomber escort. He experienced mechanical failure with the loss of coolant at approximately 1324 hours over Darfeld, Germany. Wright tried to return to base but his engine burst into flames while he was at 4,000 feet and some 45 miles from the squadron formation. He was later captured and sent to Stalag Luft XIIId - Nuremberg. Missing Air Crew Report 12617 was completed when Wright failed to return to base.