22 February 1945 — Okerkrich, Germany
The 50th Fighter Group, 81st Fighter Squadron was stationed at Strip A-96 Toul/Ochey, which was located near Nancy, France in November 1944. The fighter group (originally part of the Ninth Air Force) was transferred to the First Tactical Command Air Force (Provisional). Their mission was to fly in direct support of the U.S. Sixth Army. The 1st TACAF was an ad hoc force quickly created to prevent the Germans from exploiting a weak Allied Southern front. American and French fighter groups began flying under the same command to provide much needed air support which included four P-47 fighter groups, one nightfighter and three reconnaissance units plus five French P-47 units.
The 50th helped stem the German offensive in the Saar-Hardt area in early 1945; was part of the offensive that reduced the Colmar bridgehead; and supported the drive that breached the Siegfried Line and allowed the Allied forces into southern Germany in the spring of 1945.
On 22 February 1945 and under cloudy skies, Captain Sidney B. Futch took off from Toul/Ocehy airfield for a dive bombing mission to Strasbourg, France. He was flying a P-47D-28-RE serial number 44-19781 and was the lead aircraft of the second element. The following accounts of the events of that day are found in Missing Air Crew Report 12679:
On 22 February 1945 I was Red two flying on Major Personett’s wing. Captain Futch was leading the second element, and Lt. Burkhart was Red four, on his wing. Just after we crossed the Rhine, Lt. Burkhart returned to base after bombing, because of propeller trouble. A little while after that the Major told us his engine was running rough. We reached our target, and dive bombed. There was very little light flak on target. The Major suggested that we return to base because of the trouble. At this time, about 1530 hours, Captain Futch called Red leader and asked him to throttle back because he was having trouble. He said that his oil pressure was down to 20 lbs., his oil temperature was above 100 degrees and his cylinder head temperature was well above 200 degrees. He was pouring smoke from the turbo flighthood and his engine was running only intermittently. He was headed across the line but he called and said he was sure that he could not make it for fear of fire and explosion. He said he was going to bail out and signed off the air. He delayed his jump and we observed his chute open and the plane crash to its destruction. We did not observe Captain Futch on the ground as we did not want to draw ground attention to his position.
Futch did bail out at approximately 10,000 feet landing in the Black Forest near Okerkrich, Germany. This location was only about 25 miles east of the target. The P-47 Thunderbolt crashed nearby. Futch was taken prisoner.