by Maj. Gen. Hal Gray Jr.
“PER ARDUA AD ASTRA”
DATES AND EVENTS IN THE LEGACY OF A W.W.II FIGHTER PILOT
“My flying career began with the Meade Glider; Heath Parasol; Mohawk Pinto; OXS Waco 10 and Travel-Air 3000.”
Multi-engine in Lockheed’s 10, 11, & 12, while attending the University of Minnesota.
March Signed on first contract with RCAF to ferry Lockheed Hudsons to Britain. Upon arrival contract was canceled. The RAF desperately needed pilots in all categories. I was offered a transfer to the RAF to fly bombers, but I opted for fighters. In honor of my recruitment King George presented me with an official RAF pocket bible.
May Checked out in Spitfire MK-1A – “What an exhilarating experience. I still feel this aircraft to be one of the best W.W.II fighters I have ever flown.”
July Joined RAF 54 Squadron & “Battle of Britain,” operating from airfields like “Hornchurch,” “Bigginhill,” “Windsor,” “Manston-in-the-Dust,” and Lympne,” intercepting the German bombers and “Yellow-Tailed” fighters.
Note: From June 18 to August 22 the combined RAF Squadrons had shot down one-thousand German aircraft, and the score was steadily climbing. By August 24 the full extent of their victory had yet to be realized.
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many by so few…..All hearts go out to the fighter pilots whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day.” – Sir Winston Churchill.
May-June North Africa Campaign – Sent to aid 252 Squadron flying “Beaufighters.” Impeded “Desert Fox’s” armor and rounded up Italians.
July Returned to 54 Squadron to fly the Spitfire V; combating German fighter and bombers and participating now in raids into France and Belgium.
Jan 5 Hit by ground-fire during a low level strafing mission over St. Omar, Belgium. Managed to make it back over Channel and cliffs of Dover, but crashed into hill just short of Lympne Field. Both legs, one arm and several ribs broken. Subsequent (Feb) removal of 6-inches of intestine justified transfer (Mar) to Edmonton, Alberta, BPNH hospital for convalescence.
End of March Released from hospital with an ApBp (4F) classification.
April Back home to Long Lake, Minnesota.
May Enlisted as a cadet in Army Air Corp., “Constantly hoping my Canadian classification would not catch up with me.” Progressed rapidly through Primary, Basic, and Advanced Training to finally checking out in the P-38 and P-39.
January Sent to Darwin, Australia as a gunnery instructor in P-400’s, and then to Port Moresby combating Zeros with the P-39.
February Sent to Milne Ray, 39th Squadron, 35th Fighter Group.
August Assigned to the newly formed 475th Fighter Group, 431st squadron (Satan’s Angels). Flew P-38’s from New Guinea, the Philippines and Okinawa until the end of hostilities with Japan.
“They were salty shock troops who gave enemy aircrews little quarter and no comfort at all. Their gaudy and lustily painted P-38’s were the scourge of the Japanese from Dobodura to the Asian mainland. The Japanese called them the ‘Bloody Butchers of Rabaul,’ and the Satan’s Angels relished the title.” – Charles Lindbergh.
Editors note: “My Kim” was the nose art name given to Hal Gray’s P-38’s which he flew with the 475th FG in the Pacific War. Pilots often considered it “Bad Luck” to change the name of an airplane, so if they were assigned a replacement aircraft, they would carry the name over as ____ II, ____III and so forth.
KIM’S I & II – Lost to combat damage.
KIM III – Destroyed on ground along with nine other P-38’s by a P-47 making a “very bad takeoff.”
KIM IV – Flew its very last mission (“along with my British helmet and goggles”) on 7 January 1945 out of Dulag, Philippines, commanded by Major Thomas B. McGuire, America’s 2nd leading ace.
“In the chapel at Bigginhill there is a golden book in a glass case. Everyday a page has been turned. On each page one can read the names and ranks of those who took off on that day and never returned. Sometimes the page is filled to the last line. They were all Dowding’s boys.” – Lord Dowding of Bentley Priory.
“Having flown for Lord Dowding and General Douglas MacArthur through it all, maybe my lucky rabbit’s foot was the Bible King George gave me. Definitely providence.”