P-47 pilot honored during POW / MIA recognition day

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Heading south from Advanced Landing Ground A-6 near Saint-Nazaire, Normandy, France, the P-47 Thunderbolt fighter pilots flew.

Two months after D-Day, one summer evening they carried out an armed reconnaissance mission which took them to the region of Saint-Nazaire, still occupied by the Nazi forces. But before they find an enemy target to hit, the enemy has hit them.

Flight Officer William Gorman, pilot of 405 Fighter Squadron, poses for a photo in the cockpit of a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt. Groman, an MIA / PG, was shot down near Normandy, France on August 7, 1944. (Courtesy photo)

Flight Officer William Gorman was one of the mission’s P-47 pilots. He was a native of Brooklyn, NY, and a founding member of the 405th Fighter Squadron and its parent 371st Fighter Group, which was part of the original cadre at Richmond Army Air Base, Va., Which formed the unit at the summer 1943.

A year later, he was in the thick of the fight as the Allies fought in Normandy and sought to escape the enclave dug since D-Day. Late that day, August 7, 1944, Gorman carried out a reconnaissance mission army with the discharge squadron in a P-47. The 405th FS had carried out frequent armed reconnaissance missions that day, every two hours. It took off as Yellow 4 in an Advanced Landing Ground A-6 squadron flight, and established a 180 degree heading for the Saint-Nazaire region along the French coast. When Gorman and the other mission ships reached the area, they found the visibility to be about three or four miles, a bit hazy.

First Lt. Francis T. Evans, Jr., element leader of Gorman (Yellow 3 in Yellow Flight), described what happened next in Missing Air Crew Report 7646:

“Around 1940, we were flying in a straight line south and level 7,500 feet above the bay, south of Saint-Nazaire, when the heavy flak burst to our right and level.

We immediately began to take avoidance measures. I started an uphill turn to the left but went straight uphill when I saw that I was getting too close to the yellow leader. Gorman was near my wing when the flak erupted between us. He started to turn towards me and then to roll, diving to the right. I followed him and he would soon go straight down. I shouted at him to stop but he (his) plane continued its dive, hitting the water vertically. I saw no sign of his attempt to bail out.

The place where Gorman crashed was listed as vX-4263 (Modified British System, French Lambert Zone 1 grid) grid coordinate off the French coast just south of Saint-Nazaire. The chart of MACR 7646 shows where it was.

No search was subsequently carried out, given the eyewitness report on the circumstances of his loss, the pace of the war and the enemy presence in the area. Gorman and his plane are apparently still missing to this day, missing, but not forgotten.

Gorman is remembered on the tablets of the missing at the Brittany American Cemetery, St. James, France. He received the Air Medal with cluster of silver oak leaves.

Pictured are the tablets of the missing at the Brittany American Cemetery near St. James, France, including flight officer William Gorman. Groman, an MIA / PG, was shot down near Normandy, France on August 7, 1944. (Courtesy photo)

Fast forward about 77 years and Gorman is remembered in another way, by his squadron. After the war, in November 1945, the 371st FG and its three fighter squadrons; The 404th FS, the 405th FS and the 406th FS, were inactivated.

On May 24, 1946, as part of the post-war build-up of the National Guard’s air component, the 371st FG was renamed 142nd FG and assigned to Oregon. The group’s 404th FS became the 186th FS and was assigned to Montana. The 405th FS was renamed 190th FS and assigned to Idaho.

On May 24, 2021, the Idaho Air National Guard celebrated its 75th anniversary at Gowen Field near Boise, Idaho. As part of the celebration, a special commemorative painting was unveiled on one of the unit’s A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft, the unit’s “Heritage Hog”, which bore the colors and markings of a 405th FS P-47 in 1944.

Of note, a WWII squadron pilot’s name was painted on the aircraft, in honor of the only remaining member of the 190th FS who went missing in action, F / O William Gorman.

Gorman is one of five MIAs from 142 Wing in the European Theater of Operations. In addition, the unit has three MIAs from the Théâtre du Pacifique and three others from the Théâtre de la Méditerranée.

On this National Prisoner of War / Missing Carrier Appreciation Day, 2021, we salute F / O Gorman and the other Airmen from the unit who went missing during World War II. They have answered the call to duty for our country – may they still return home.

Flight Officer William Gorman, pilot of 405 Fighter Squadron, poses for a photo in the cockpit of a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt. Groman, an MIA / POW, was shot down near Normandy, France on August 7, 1944. (Courtesy photo)

In the photo, a Republic P-47D-20-RE Thunderbolt, aka “Mumblin Joe”, before a combat mission in 1944. Assigned to 405 Fighter Squadron, 371st Fighter Group, the aircraft was named after pilot Lt. Arthur W. Holderness Jr., with the letter “H” of the individual aircraft on the back of the national badge on the fuselage. (Idaho Air National Guard photo by Maj.Tom Silkowski)

Pictured are the tablets of the missing at the Brittany American Cemetery near St. James, France, including flight officer William Gorman. Groman, an MIA / POW, was shot down near Normandy, France on August 7, 1944. (Courtesy photo Find-A-Grave)


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