4 May 1943 — Casablanca, Morocco
1st Lt Bion L Taylor crash location
“On 4 May 1943, Lt Taylor left Portreath, (Cornwall) England for Casablanca, Morocco, for a ferrying mission along with nine other planes and indicated that one P-38 in flight crashed into the sea near Gilbraltar Straits between Cape St Vincent, Portugal and Casablanca, Morocco. The pilot was seen to bail out. Restricted message Number Ex28782, dated May 1944 from Headquarters Eigh Air Force and Headquarters USSPAF had failed to furnish the whereabouts and present status of Lieutenant Taylor.”
There is no record of Lt Taylor having been reported as a prisoner of war or interned. The subject Officer’s AG 2C1 file dontains no additional pertinent information concerning his status. There is no eyewitness statement, MACR or additional information on file in this headquarters nor the Office of the Quartermaster General, Washington, D. C., concerning the subject casualty. Attempts to associate unknown remains recovered from those costal areas and washed ashore cases with subject casualty proved negative.
In view of the above facts and lack of evidnce it can only be concluded that Lt Bion L Taylor died when his aircraft crashed into the Mediterranean Sea and his remains have not washed ashore, but rest with the wreckage in an unrecorded place which precludes recovery.
The 78th Fighter Group
The Duxford Eagles
Duxford 3 April 1943 to 10 October 1945
Greywall (A Group) to 22 April '44 then Phoenix
Bakehouse (B Group) to 22 April '44 then Slapstick
Boycott (C Group from 23 April '44
(No Squadron Callsigns in C Group)
82nd Fighter SquadronCode:MXCallsign:Stedman (A Group)
Churchtime (B Group)
to 22 April '44 then:
Surtax (A Group)
Rainbow (B Group)
83rd Fighter Squadron
Code:HLCallsign:Lockyear (A Group)
Cleveland (B Group)
to 22 April '44 then:
Cargo (A Group)
Turquoise (B Group)
84th Fighter SquadronCode:WZCallsign:Bayland (A Group)
Clinton (B Group) to 22 April '44 then:
Shampoo (A Group)
Spotlight (B Group)
Lt. Col. Charles M Christ, Tulsa, OK. Group Headquarters. P-51D 44-72214 HL-A "Poop Shooter"
photo: Lt. Col. Christ's daughter Pam Grudeck
Second World War (1939-1945)
American Period 1943-1945
In February and early March 1943, there seemed to be an exodus from Duxford. The AFDU (and NAFDU) moved to Wittering and 1426 Flight to Collyweston, 1448 Flight to Halton and 169 Squadron to Barford St John, and by mid-March flying activity was at a minimum.
On 24 March 1943, a convoy of trucks arrived at Duxford's main gates carrying the advance party of the 78th Fighter Group, United States Army Air Force (USAAF), which was, it turned out to be stationed there for the next two and a half years. With the US now firmly in the war, the USAAF was moving into Britain, and to East Anglia in particular, in a big way. The 8th Air Force, of which 78th FG was a part, occupied many airfields either leased or purpose-built for them, ready to attempt daylight bombing to complement the RAF night raids. Fighter support was an essential part of this plan and during 1 - 8 April 1943 the 78th FG, under the command of Lt. Col. Arman Peterson, brought in 75 of their Republic P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft to Duxford. Having moved in, the Group began working up the three squadrons, the 82nd, 83rd and 84th Fighter Squadrons, to operational status.
78th Fighter Group
78th FG had been formed in the US in May 1942 and had trained in California on P-38 Lightnings. The Group moved to Goxhill, Lincolnshire, on 1 December 1942 and by Christmas most of the tools and equipment had arrived, together with a few aircraft. In January 1943, while the Station was building up to operational strength on P-38s, a handful of P-47C Thunderbolt flew in and were assigned to squadrons. Thunderbolts were new, and pilots tried them out, but few seriously considered operating with any aircraft but Lightnings. Abruptly, however, the entire picture changed. Aircraft and pilots were needed for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, and the 78th were to re-equip with P-47s instead of P-38s. Only 15 of the Group's seasoned pilots remained in the UK, including the CO, Lt. Col. Arman Peterson. New pilots and more P-47Cs were rushed to Goxhill and another training period was hurried through. Crewmen became acquainted with the simpler maintenance on Thunderbolts, and pilots became familiar with the more complicated gunnery problems caused by wing-mounted guns replacing nose-mounted guns. On 1 April 1943, the entire Group, comprising some 1,700 personnel, began their move to Duxford.
78th Fighter Group insignia (right). 78th FG comprised the 82nd, 83rd and 84th Fighter Squadrons.
Twelve Duxford aircraft flew an uneventful fighter sweep with the 4th FG from Debden on 8 April, but it was not until five days later that the 78th flew its first mission from Duxford. Just before noon on 13 April, Lt. Col. Peterson led the P-47C Thunderbolts of 83rd FS into the air from Duxford. The 12 aircraft of the 78th joined two squadrons from the 4th FG in a sweep over the northeast corner of France at approximately 30,000 feet. They penetrated as far as the Luftwaffe base at St. Omer, but sighted neither enemy aircraft nor flak. Lt. Col. Joseph L Dickman baled out northeast of Calais on the way back but was picked up by RAF air-sea rescue. He was awarded the Group's first Purple Heart. Less than 4.5 hours after the 83rd landed, Lt. Col. Peterson took off again, leading 12 aircraft of the 82nd to the St. Omer area. With the 82nd was one squadron from the 4th FG and one from the 56th FG. Again the report read, "No enemy aircraft; no flak."
The first enemy aircraft were sighted by Duxford pilots two days later when the 84th Fighter Squadron flew its first mission. The 84th sent up 12 aircraft, and the 82nd and 83rd put up six each to form a second squadron. Those two squadrons and one from Debden were cruising over Belgium when enemy planes were reported over an airfield. The pilots were eager, but lost the enemy aircraft in cloud cover before they could be engaged. With three missions under its belt in co-operation with other groups, the 78th struck out by itself for the first time on 17 April, 1943. That day Lt. Col. Peterson led two squadrons of 16 aircraft each on two missions, both of which proved uneventful. All three squadrons furnished aircraft for the two composite squadrons on both missions. The first flak was sighted by the group over Rotterdam on 21 April, but no damage was reported.
As the unit's experience increased, so did its striking power, and on 29 April it sent out its first formation of three 12-aircraft squadrons. On 3 May two squadrons put up 16 aircraft each, and the other provided 15. Just before 17:00 on the next day the 78th settled into what was to become a familiar pattern of operations. For the first time, Lt. Col. Peterson led three squadrons of 16 aircraft each, and for the first time the 78th escorted bombers. The Thunderbolts cruised uneventfully over Dunkirk, Calais and St. Omer, encountering neither enemy aircraft nor flak.
During the next two weeks the group flew two more uneventful missions. On 14 May 1943, later considered as a turning point in the aerial war over Europe, the 78th encountered the Luftwaffe for the first time in combat. Leading three squadrons of 16 planes each, Col. Peterson (just promoted to full Colonel), took the 78th up to support bombers which were to attack targets at Antwerp. The Group encountered more than 20 Focke Wulf FW190s and Messerschmitt Bf109s in the Antwerp area, and dogfights broke out over the sky. Maj. James J Stone (then CO of the 83rd and later, as Lt. Col., Station CO) and Capt. Robert E Adamina of the 82nd achieved the first 78th FG victories, each shooting down one FW190. Three pilots - Capt. Adamina, Capt. Elmer E McTaggart and F/0 S R Martinek of the 83rd - were lost, but none was killed. Capt. McTaggart lost 25 pounds in weight while becoming the first Duxford pilot to evade capture, by working his way south-ward across the Pyrenees into Spain. Capt. Adamina, who set his Thunderbolt down on the water, is believed to be the first - and perhaps only - pilot to ditch a P-47 successfully. The success of the Thunderbolts in protecting bombers that day, although the claims were small and the losses were felt, strengthened the belief of higher officers that the bomber escort theory was sound.
A 78th Fighter Group Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, belonging to 83rd Fighter Squadron. Note the chequerboard marking, the pattern of which is reminiscent of 19 Squadron's marking some 10 years previously.
Men of the 84th Fighter Squadron and a P-47 Thunderbolt, June 1943
In the first two months of operations, the 78th FG had proved to be the most successful of the three Fighter Groups and began to establish a high reputation. Morale was high and several well-known stars of the cinema and radio came to Duxford, including James Cagney, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. The 78th formed a dance band, the Duxford Thunderbolts, which as well as playing for Station dances appeared in Cambridge and London and at other 8th Air Force bases. Radio broadcasts were also made, and some were relayed to the US. On 26 May, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Duxford to officially welcome the 78th FG to the station. On 15 June, the Station CO, Wg. Cdr. Matthews, formally handed over the command of Duxford to Col. Peterson - as Station 357 of USAAF VIII Fighter Command. From 14 May to 1 July operations followed a fairly routine programme, bomber escort and fighter sweeps with only a little action and few losses, and during this time the P-47D was introduced to service, which was an improvement over the earlier version.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth welcome the 78th FG to Duxford, May 1943 (left).
15 June 1943, Wing Commander Matthews hands over command of Duxford to Col. Arman Peterson, CO 78th FG (right).
On 1 July, however, the 78th was dealt a severe blow. The highly respected and popular CO, Col. Peterson, was lost. The group destroyed four FW190s, probably got another and damaged five others for the loss of one man - the CO, who had led the group since its formation in the US in May 1942. Morale sagged. Comedian Bob Hope and singer Frances Langford visited the station two days later, and even the Hollywood gagster admitted he had trouble getting laughs out of his Duxford audience. The Fourth of July wasn't much of a holiday, either, with an uneventful mission being flown during the noon hour and followed by an outdoor supper on the athletic field.
On 12 July a new CO arrived, Lt. Col. Melvin McNickle, who had been US liaison officer with 601 Squadron's Bell Airacobra's the the Autumn of 1941. On 14 July a wounded Duxford pilot, 2nd Lt. A V DeGenaro of the 82nd, risked drowning rather than let his plane crash into a town and earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest US award for valour. While escorting bombers which attacked an airfield at Amiens, Lt. DeGenaro destroyed two FW190s and damaged another. During combat, however, he was severely injured in both hands, his right knee and both ankles. Because of his injuries, he had to fly his Thunderbolt with his forearms. His instruments were shot out, his right aileron was gone, his right wing was badly shot up, and his tail surfaces were damaged. Although barely able to manoeuvre the plane, he found the English Channel and headed across, ducking into low clouds to evade three pursuing FW190s which followed him almost to the British coast. He had planned on making a crash landing, but after crossing the coast he discovered his safety belt was unfastened (he had unhooked it in combat) and was unable to fasten it again because of his wounds. Realising that baling out over land would mean his aircraft would crash into a coastal town, he headed out to sea again, baling out in view of a fishing boat which then rescued him.
The mission of 30 July 1943 marked several milestones in Duxford's combat history. For the first time the fighters carried drop tanks, enabling them to fly right into Germany (though in these early days the tanks were not pressurised and so were dropped before the aircraft reached the enemy coast, thereby allowing pilots to gain altitude and have more manoeuvrability against enemy fighters). The Group was providing escorts for bombers returning from Kassel and flew as far as Haldern. The pilots claimed 16 victories (7 Bf109s and 9 FW190s) and the 78th became the first American unit to run its victories into two figures on one mission. Capt. Charles P London, of the 83rd, shot down one Bf109 and one FW190 to become the first American "ace" (five victories) in the European Theatre of War. Maj. Eugene P Roberts, of the 84th, shot down two FW190s and one Bf109 to become the first American in the European theatre to score a "triple". For fighting off superior numbers of enemy fighters in getting his triple, the major won the group's second Distinguished Service Cross, and went on to become the second "ace" that October. Lt. Quince L Brown, of the 84th, suffered engine problems and lost altitude, and whilst he was hedge-hopping home he shot up a freight locomotive and a gun battery to the west of Rotterdam. This was the first recorded ground-strafing by an 8th AF fighter pilot. On a sadder note, 78th lost its second CO within a month. Station CO Lt. Col. Melvin McNickle, who had succeeded Col. Peterson, was shot down and became a prisoner of war. Two other pilots also were lost that day, one evading capture. Lt. Col. James J Stone, who had been with the 78th since its formation and who had achieved its first victory some two month previously, became the new Station CO.