Summary

Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Branch:
Army 1
Birth:
1919 2
Death:
05 Oct 1954 3
Gerald, Franklin, Missouri, United States of America 4
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Pictures & Records (2)

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Personal Details

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Person:
George Theodore Lee 4
George T Lee 1
Level of Education: 4 years of high school 1
Marital Status: Single, without dependents 1
Birth:
1919 2
Birth:
05 Aug 1919 5
1919 1
Norwood, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States of America 5
Massachusetts 1
Male 5
Death:
05 Oct 1954 3
Gerald, Franklin, Missouri, United States of America 3
Cause: Due to Conflagaration; In plane crash during thunderstorm. 3
Residence:
Place: Norwood, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States of America 6
Place: Norwood, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States of America 7
Place: Norwood, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States of America 8
Place: Norfolk County, Massachusetts 1
From: 1930 6
From: 1920 7
From: 1919 8
To: 1941 6
To: 1930 7
To: 1920 8
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Birth:
Mother: Mary Jean Tierney 5
Father: Thomas Michael Lee 5
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World War II 1

Branch:
Army 1
Enlistment Date:
18 Dec 1941 1
Army Branch:
Air Corps 1
Army Serial Number:
11037164 1
Enlistment Place:
Boston Massachusetts 1
Enlistment Term:
Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law 1
Source of Army Personnel:
Civil Life 1
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Occupation:
Pilot with the USAAF 4
Occupation:
Semiskilled meatcutters, except in slaughtering and packing houses 1
Race or Ethnicity:
White 1
Aviation Accident:
02 Oct 1950 4
Aviation Accident:
Read attached document for details. 9
Source Information:
Box Number: 0060 1
Film Reel Number: 1.53 1

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Stories

George T Lee

Norwood, Norfolk, Mass.

An AMAZING Life!

George T. Lee, who would fly 258 combat missions over North Africa and Europe in 1943.

Fifty-four years after the death of Colonel George T. Lee, the heroic Norwood fighter pilot who flew hundreds of combat missions during World War II is the star of a documentary debuting today inspired by forgotten film footage shot from the nose of his P-47 Thunderbolt.

The grainy, 13-minute films at the heart of this historic tale were stacked in canisters in a Norwood High School audio-visual closet, overlooked for more than four decades, until Jack Tolman, the station manager for Norwood Public Access Television, found them in 2001.
It would be three years, though, before the faint labels on the dark-green canisters - "Lee," "Pisa, Italy" and "1945" - would begin to mean something for Tolman, and another three years before the film would be finished.
"It started as a fluke and just kind of snowballed," said Tolman. "When I learned about [Lee's] accomplishments and realized I had the film, my background kicked in. I wanted to tell the story."
The 75-minute film premieres today during a special screening for Veterans Day at 1 p.m. in the high school auditorium. Admission is free.
Tolman had looked at the films briefly as he was looking for old football footage for a show he was doing. He watched just a few seconds, assumed they were part of an old social studies project, and promptly forgot them. But when he happened to watch them a second time, he realized he was onto something special.
The films capture battle scenes from the fighter pilot's point of view: chasing down a Nazi plane; blasting supply trains in the Italian countryside; shooting trucks and other vehicles crawling along rural roads. The documentary intersperses the battle footage with interviews and photos.
In making the film, Tolman called on town veterans agent Ted Mulvehill, an Air Force veteran and the son of a WWII aviator, for expert advice. The two assembled information, old photos, and remembrances from Lee's relatives and surviving friends.
But it wasn't until Tolman was seated in a Brimfield living room listening to Lee family members tell stories about "Uncle Georgie" that the saga became real. "What struck me is that every town in the country has a World War II hero," he said. "This is Norwood's, but it could be Anywhere, USA."
George Lee was one of seven children of Thomas and Mary Lee, of Rock Street. A member of Norwood High's Class of 1937, Lee was working as a butcher at the Walpole A&P on Dec. 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked. When he tried to enlist, though, he was too skinny, recalled his nephew, Alan Lee, now a Foxborough dentist. "So he ate seven pounds of bananas and cream and bulk-loaded," he said. "And when he weighed in, he made it by a pound."
A natural aviator, George Lee rose rapidly up the ranks in the Army Air Corps and made full colonel by age 25, eventually becoming commander of the 86th Fighter Group. He flew a remarkable 258 combat missions over North Africa and Europe, targeting enemy supply lines. He earned the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the British Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Croix de Guerre, among others, but no one knows where they are, Alan Lee said.
After the war ended, George Lee opened up a nightclub with his brother Tom, but he was called back to active duty in 1948. He took part in the Berlin Airlift in 1949. In 1954, he was inspector general of the Air Force Central Air Defense Command and had been recommended for promotion to brigadier general when he died while on a training exercise in Missouri, officials and family members said.
In assembling the film, Tolman tracked down people across the country who had known Lee. In Fort Walton Beach, Fla., he found Lee's best friend and fellow pilot Bill Colgan.
Now almost 88, Colgan wrote "World War II Fighter-Bomber Pilot" in 1985. The cover features a group shot - Lee included - of pilots who flew a total of 1,000 missions.
Lee and Colgan met in Sicily in August 1943 and grew close as war raged in Italy, France, and into Germany. "I stayed the rest of the war with him," Colgan said. "We flew the same missions. And I came home [to Norwood] on a short leave with him."
That visit is captured in a photo taken on May 18, 1944, which will be on display at today's screening. The two pilots are surrounded by well-wishers of all ages during a festive parade. Colgan joked that Lee had a whole town come out for him when he returned home, while Colgan only had his wife.
"He was the closest individual friend I've had in my life," said Colgan. "On the surface you would think George was quiet. He was really anything but."
Alan Lee attests to that, describing his uncle as a fun-loving daredevil who didn't drive his yellow Cadillac El Dorado convertible around town, "he flew it. . . . And he'd fly his plane upside down along Washington Street to let Ma Lee know he was home," Lee said. "Let's face it, he was the pride and joy of the family."
On a stormy Labor Day in 1954, after a visit to the family's Dennisport summer home, Colonel Lee was being driven back to his plane at Otis Air Force Base when family members asked him if the fierce wind and rain were a concern. The pilot's response was no, Alan Lee recounted: "It's the lightning he said he didn't like."
Weeks later, George Lee, 35, lost his life when his plane crashed after being struck by lightning.
"I was in seventh grade," Alan Lee recalled. "And an altar boy. I was to serve at Mass that day, and I remember when the priest came over and knocked on the door."
During today's screening, the original films will be returned to the Lee family.
Mulvehill wonders where Lee's career could have gone had he lived. "He had achieved a high level of respect," he said. "For someone to fly 258 missions in a one-seater when most people did 70, well, this is history. He relied on his own talent, his skill, and his nerve. It provides a glimpse into a way of life that has come and gone."
Although most of George Lee's contemporaries are dead, there are many older town residents who remember him, and who will be thrilled to see the film, Mulvehill said.
"Here's a kid who did Norwood proud. Believe me, he hasn't been forgotten."

Story by Michele Morgan Bolton
****************************************************************************************                             Born in Norwood Massachusetts to Thomas M Lee and Mary Jean (Tierney), George Theodore Lee was the youngest (at the age of 25) to be promoted to full Colonel in the USAAF during WWII. By all accounts he was a "pilot's pilot", an "Ironman". He was friendly, yet he was as demanding on his men as he was on himself. He impressed his superiors and, before his death, one such superior suggested that he was on track to being promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.
He died during a routine jet training mission over Missouri. He was not the pilot during this flight.
Many articles were written on him before and after his death, some of which the author of this biography has in her posession. One of his nephews is in the progress of writing a screenplay about this "Hometown Hero".
On November 9, 2008, in his hometown of Norwood, Massachusetts, Jack Tolman released a documentary on George to a crowd that filled the Norwood High School Auditorium.
Thanks to the sales of the documentary and to a donation by his nephew, Alan Lee, the Nahatan Street Bridge was rededicated to George on October 4, 2009 with new signs. The old signs were previously to small to be read from the street. It was originally dedicated to George in 1988.
There is an extensive file on George at the Norwood Historical Society. It includes the film footage of his aircraft cameras.
Links to a few of the online newspaper articles/biographies about this person (for all other articles, contact Balthazar):

Lt George T Lee, P-47 Pilot

North Africa, Italy

Return flight    A heroic Norwood aviator's exploits saved from obscurity

George T. Lee, a Heroic P-47 Fighter Pilot who would fly 258 combat missions over North Africa and Europe during 1943 and 1944. 

***By Michele Morgan Bolton***
Globe Correspondent / November 9, 2008
Fifty-four years after the death of Colonel George T. Lee, the heroic Norwood fighter pilot who flew hundreds of combat missions during World War II is the star of a documentary debuting today inspired by forgotten film footage shot from the nose of his P-47 Thunderbolt.

More to come on this Film.

Col. George T. LEE, WWII US Army Air Force

1945

Col. George T. LEE, WWII US Army Air Force 79th FG 87th squadron & 86th FG 525th, 526th, & 527th squadrons;

GEORGE THEODORE LEE
(AO 791 125)

Born 5 August 1919 at Norwood, Massachusetts

Aviation Cadet 18 Dec 41
Second Lieutenant, AC Reserve 5 Aug 42
First Lieutenant, AUS 3 Jul 43
Captain, AUS 14 Nov 43
Major, AUS 28 Jan 44
Lieutenant Colonel, AUS 31 Oct 44
Colonel, AUS 30 May 45
First Lieutenant, ORC 5 Aug 45
Colonel, ORC 16 Jul 47
Colonel, AFUS (Date of rank 8 Sep 46) 13 Dec 48

SCHOOLS ATTENDED

Pre-Flight Pilot Training School, Maxwell Field, Alabama 1942
Air Corps Primary Flying School, Douglas, Georgia 1942
Air Corps Basic Flying School, Shaw Field, South Carolina 1942
Air Corps Advanced Flying School, Spence Field, Georgia 1942

RATED

Senior Pilot

SERVICE

George Theodore Lee enlisted at Boston, Massachusetts, on 18 December 1941, in the grade of Aviation Cadet for service in the Air Corps. He was assigned to the Pre-Flight Pilot Training School at Maxwell Field, Alabama, on 20 December 1941 to commence his pilot training. After completing the prescribed course at this school on 16 January 1942, he proceeded to the Primary Flying School at Douglas, Georgia, where he graduated on 26 March 1942, and was transferred to the Basic Flying School at Shaw Field, South Carolina. He completed the basic course of flying on 27 May 1942 and was assigned to the Advanced Flying School at Spence Field, Georgia. Upon completion of his final phase of pilot training at the Advanced Flying School on 5 August 1942, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, Air Corps Reserve, with a rating of pilot.
After receiving his commission, he was immediately called to extended active duty with the Air Corps and was assigned to the 87th Fighter Squadron, 79th Fighter Group, stationed at Rentschler Field, Connecticut, with duties as Squadron Operations Officer. On 23 October 1942, he departed the United
States with this organization for duty in the European Theater. From 18 November 1943 to 2 September 1945, he performed duties of Squadron Commander of the 87th Fighter Squadron, Group Commander and Air Base Commander of the 86th Fighter Group. During his tour of duty in the European Theater, he completed 258 combat missions, for a total of 420 combat hours, and was officially credited with the destruction of three enemy aircraft.

He returned to the United States on 1 October 1945 and was assigned to the Redistribution Station at Greensboro, North Carolina. He was relieved of this assignment and entered on patient status on 28 March 1946 and remained in this capacity until 16 July 1947. On 17 July 1947 he was placed on terminal leave until 4 September 1947, when he was relieved from active duty at Walter Reed General Hospital, Washington, D. C. by reason of demobilization.

He was recalled to active duty on 13 December 1948 and was stationed at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, pending foreign service assignment. On 16 December 1948, he departed the United States for duty in Germany and assumed command of the 61st Maintenance and Supply Group of the 1st Air-lift Task Force on 11 January 1949 during a highly critical period of Operation Vittles. Grom 16 July 1949 to 9 January 1950, he served with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, 86th Fighter Wing, as Special Assistant to the Wing Commander, Acting Group Commander, and Deputy Wing Commander. He was temporarily attached to the Joint American Military Advisory Group from 19 January to 24 April 1950 as Officer in charge of the Air Training Section at London, England. On 25 April 1950, he returned to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, 86th Fighter-Bomber Wing as Wing Executive Officer and in October 1950 commanded the 86th Fighter Bomber Group. He was transferred to the 36th Fighter Bomber Group on 6 March 1951 as Commanding Officer, and on 3 December 1951 was assigned as Special Assistant to the Wing Commanding Officer of Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, 36th Fighter-Bomber Wing.

On 24 December 1951, he returned to the United States with temporary duty station at Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts. From 2 February 1952 to 13 May 1954, he served with the 31st Air Division, Central Air Defense Force, stationed at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, with duties as Inspector General, Deputy Commander, and Assistant Deputy Commander. In May 1954, he was transferred to the Central Air Defense Force at Grandview Air Force Base, Grandview, Missouri, as Inspector General.

Colonel Lee was killed in an aircraft accident on 5 October 1954 near Gerald, Missouri. He is survived by his mother, Mrs. Mary J. Lee, whose latest address of record is shown as 26 Rock Street, Norwood, Massachusetts.

DECORATIONS AND AWARDS

Silver Star – 00 112, Hq 1st Tac AF, 11 May 1945

Citation: “For gallantry in action on 20 March 1945, Lieutenant Colonel Lee flew with eight other P-47 aircraft in a bombing attack coordinated with our ground forces on pillboxes and defended positions near Niederschlettenbach, Germany. When the target was found to be obscured by low visibility and cloud cover, Lieutenant Colonel Lee instructed the flight to remain in the area while he courageously dove through the overcast and established exact target pinpoints. Returning to the flight, he led the initial bombing attack after which, exposed to the enemy fire, he hovered over the target directing each aircraft’s bombing. Only when friendly troops were observed moving in to occupy, did he call off the attack. The gallantry and skill of Lieutenant Colonel Lee reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States”.

Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster
DFC – 00 62, Hq 9th AF, 13 Jul 43
1st OLC – 00 36, Hq 12th AF, 21 Feb 45
Bronze Star Medal – 00 22, War Dept, 14 Feb 47
Air Medal with two Silver Oak Leaf Clusters and two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
AM and 2 OLC’s – 00 1, Hq 9th Ftr Comd, 15 June 43
3-OLC’s – 00 2, Hq IX Ftr Comd, 25 Jun 43
OLC – 00 5, Hq IX Ftr Comd, 7 Aug 43
2-OLC’s – 00 9, Hq XII ASC, 31 Jan 44
2-OLC’s – 00 10, Hq CII ASC, 31 JAN 44
OLC – 00 11, Hq, XII ASC, 31 JAN 44
OLC – 00 16, Hq XXII TAC, 21 Feb 45
Commendation Ribbon – 00 124, Hq USAFIE, 20 Jul 49
World War II Victory Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two Silver Service Stars for participation in the Egypt-Libya, Maples-Foggia, North Apennines, Rhineland, Central Europe, Rome-Arno, Sicily, Southern France, Tunisia and Air Combat Campaigns
Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp and Berlin Airlift Device
Medal for Humane Action
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Distinguished Unit Citation Emblem with one Oak Leaf Cluster
Aviation Badge “Senior Pilot”

FOREIGH DECORATIONS:

French Croix de Guerre with Palm
British Distinguished Flying Cross

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