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Crash of P-51 44-11244 MACR 12617


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Mission 20th Fighter Group

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.

  • Darfeld, Germany
  • 24 February 1945

Leonard Marshall Wright, Jr.

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2nd Lt. Leonard Marshall Wright, Jr. (O-832950) was born on 2 January 1923 in Boston, MA the son of Leonard M. and Pricilla Wright. He attended Milton Academy and Harvard University but the war interrupted his studies.  He received his pilots wings on 23 May 1944 and was assigned to the squadron on 25 January 1945. After returning to the states, Wright finished his education and gradutated from Harvard in 1947.  He worked for several advertizing agencies and Look magazine. From 1971 to 1978 he worked at the New York Times as a marketing and promotion manager and also contributed articles. His passion was trout fishing and he wrote 11 books about trout fishing including the popular “Field & Stream Fish Finding Handbook.” His first book “Fishing the Dry Fly as a Living Insect” caused controversy with fishing experts and weekend fishermen. A resident of the West Village in New York, he later retired to Islamorada, FL with a summer home in Claryville, NY. He died at age 78 of an apparent heart attack on 24 August 2001 on the way to a hospital from his summer home.

Contributor: jkurtspence
Created: September 24, 2011 · Modified: September 27, 2011

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