|Pilot Col. Gwen G. Atkinson (survived) C.O. 58th FG
Crashed January 3, 1945
Built by Republic at Farmingdale, NY. This Thunderbolt had a natural aluminum finish with star and bar fuselage marking. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled at the 4th Air Depot at Garbutt Field near Townsville.
During 1944, piloted by William Otto Carter, Jr. from Garbutt Field on a ferry flight to Port Moresby for 5th Fighter Command General Whitehead. Later, assigned to the 5th Air Force, 58th Fighter Group, 311th Fighter Squadron. No known nose art or nickname.
Took off from Hill Airfield (Hammer) on Mindoro on a fighter sweep over Clark Field. Flying as his wingman was P-47D 43-25490 piloted by 2nd Lt. Roy E. Kindred. The pair followed Major Edward F. Roddy (HQ Squadron) leading the first flight with 1st Lt. Crystal L. Andress flying as his wingman.
Colonel Atkinson recalled:
"I confirmed Roddey's position and went in to strafe, followed by Kindred. The Japs put up a barrage of fired which we flew through (years later in Japan I became acquainted with the Japanese Air Force Officer who was in command at Clark Field on that day and he told me there were some 300 anti-aircraft weapons around Clark). I could see holes in my wings of my plane and felt a heavy jolt."
Despite being hit and not aware that his plane was on fire Atkinson continued flying and saw a "Dinah" taking off. He turned 180 degrees and pursued the aircraft. He attacked when it was at 50 feet and shot it down without the Japanese pilot taking any evasive action. Atkinson was credited with an aerial victory.
Also shot down by anti-aircraft fire was P-47D 43-25490 piloted Kindred.
Although the 310th Bomb Wing, Air-Sea Rescue was notified, no search was made of the area due to enemy activity. No information was received from Filipino guerrillas afterwards.
Fate of the Pilot
Atkinson managed to bailed out at low altitude and landed in a soft plowed field, roughly 200' from where his Thunderbolt crashed. His parachute jerked open just as he hit the ground, and injured the ribs on his left side. Meeting a Filipino farmer and a young boy, he asked them where the Japanese were, then took off his shoes and began running in the opposite direction, away from Clark Field towards Mount Arayat.
Followed by the Japanese for six or seven days, getting help from Filipinos who delayed the Japanese troops or gave them misinformation. On the seventh or eighth day, he observed a US Navy dive bomber crew bail out and asked the Filipinos to bring them to him.
Together, they requested to join a guerrilla group in the area and were taken to the Hukbalahap ("Huks", Communist guerrillas) headquarters, led by De La Cruz. They agreed to lead them to USAFFE guerrillas and were treated decently. Other American aviators joined them, totaling 28 men. Tipped off that they might be betrayed, Atkinson insisted the group be led to a secret American radio station near Akle run USAFFE guerrillas.
After contacting FEAF, 5th Fighter Command HQ, a clearing was cleared as a runway and Piper Cubs landed to fly out all 28 men. By late January, Atkinson was returned to Mindoro and was debriefed at 5th Air Force Headquarters.
No Glamour... No Glory! The Story of the 58th Fighter Group of World War II, p 211-214, 224-225, 304-305
USAF Aerial Victory Credits - ATKINSON GWEN G
Thanks to Edward Rogers and William Otto Carter, III for additional information
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February 4, 2018