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DakotaDave

DFC and AM to a KIA USAAF night fghter pilot.

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One type of aircraft most WWII buffs recognize by sight and name is the British Mosquito. However, few today know that the U.S. Army Air Force had one, and only one, night fighter squadron equipped with them, that was the 416th Fighter Squadron which operated in the European and Mediterranean theaters. This is the story of one of their pilots.

 

John A. Davies was born in Madison, WI in 1915. He enlisted in the Army at Luke Field, AZ on April 15, 1942. His NPRC file and IDPF shed little light on his initial entry and training. However, by late 1944 he had advanced to rank of Captain and was assigned as a pilot to the 416th, flying first night fighter equipped British Beaufighters and then the highly reputable Mosquito. By the time he was KIA he had earned the Air Medal with 2 bronze oak leaf clusters.

The night he and his R/O, 2nd Lt Hubbard P. Larsen, were KIA is still clouded with questions. That night was January 27, 1945, Capt. Davies and Lt Larsen departed their base at Pisa Airdrome in northwest Italy at 0300 hours for a routine intruder mission into the Po Valley region of northern Italy. The operation normally lasted 3 to 3 ½ hours and they were tasked with strafing German road traffic to interdict the movement of supplies to German front line units. At 0415 Capt. Davies last radio contact was recorded between himself and Lt. Eldon Blake, also flying a Mosquito from the 416th that night. The conversion went thus:

Capt. Davies – “Hi, buddy”

Lt. Blake – “Hi, buddy, goin’ home”

Capt. Davies – “Roger”

Lt. Blake’s statement meant that he was returning to base after his earlier night mission into the Po Valley. Lt. Blake would himself be KIA on March 30.

Nothing further was heard from Capt. Davies and at 0645 when overdue to return repeated radio calls were made to him going unanswered, search by dawn fighter patrols turned up nothing as well, Davies and Larsen were posted as MIA and then KIA 2 days later. Following the end of the war in May the graves of the two officers were located in a cemetery and the remains of the Mosquito at the salvage dump at Lonate Airfield, 25 miles northwest of Milan. It wasn’t until 1946 that the Army finally indicated in a letter to his mother that Capt. Davies had been downed by AAA fire over Lonate Airfield.

At this point I’m going to interject what I think happened to Capt. Davies that night. After completing his road interdiction mission he had decided, as was normal for night fighter pilots, to loiter over the Lonate Airfield hoping to bounce a German night fighter unit based out of that field as it was returning from its nightly mission intercepting British bomber streams leaving Italy for Germany, unfortunately for Davies the hunter became the hunted and he was himself downed by a German night fighter. That is my personal conclusion. As it is we will never entirely know how Capt. Davies was downed. His remains rest today at the American Battle Monuments cemetery at Florence.

 

As for his medals, when I came upon them the seller did not, unfortunately, have the Purple Heart. They are excellent examples of the official script style used in 1947-49. They have an extraordinary patina, known in numismatic circles as “rainbow” patina in the engraving lines. This is probably due to being stored with brass collar insignia and other medals under high heat and humidity conditions. Obviously, if anyone has his Purple Heart I’d be very interested in hearing from them.

 

 

 

 

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"Consider yourselves already dead." - General Savage to assembly of the fictional 918th BG - "Twelve O'clock High"

 

"The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end, that's all there is."

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post-9914-1343356183.jpg

"Consider yourselves already dead." - General Savage to assembly of the fictional 918th BG - "Twelve O'clock High"

 

"The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end, that's all there is."

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post-9914-1343356242.jpg

"Consider yourselves already dead." - General Savage to assembly of the fictional 918th BG - "Twelve O'clock High"

 

"The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end, that's all there is."

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post-9914-1343356313.jpg

"Consider yourselves already dead." - General Savage to assembly of the fictional 918th BG - "Twelve O'clock High"

 

"The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end, that's all there is."

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post-9914-1343356361.jpg

"Consider yourselves already dead." - General Savage to assembly of the fictional 918th BG - "Twelve O'clock High"

 

"The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end, that's all there is."

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Very nice set to a brave man that sacrificed all! Pretty rare to obtain anything from this squadron. Hope you find the heart!


AAF Collector...........
**Always Buying WW2 Aviation Related Items: Especially Operation Tidal Wave items (1st Ploesti Raid) ..... WW2 Fighter Ace Related Items.....Higher End A-2 Flight Jacket Groups....AAF Related Valor Medal Groups**

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Thanks JDK, I thought so as well.......

 

Regards

 

DakotaDave


"Consider yourselves already dead." - General Savage to assembly of the fictional 918th BG - "Twelve O'clock High"

 

"The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end, that's all there is."

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A very nice medal pair!

 

Just curious on the research about their loss... You noted that they had been downed by flak. Do you know if that information obtained was obtained via German flak unit reports? I want to say that they exist and researches can try and get information from them, but I do not recall specifics on who holds them (National Achives??) or how complete or incomplete they are, etc.

 

MW


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A very nice medal pair!

 

Just curious on the research about their loss... You noted that they had been downed by flak. Do you know if that information obtained was obtained via German flak unit reports? I want to say that they exist and researches can try and get information from them, but I do not recall specifics on who holds them (National Achives??) or how complete or incomplete they are, etc.

 

MW

 

MW

 

The information was from a letter contained in his IDPF. The letter was dated 14 June 1946 and signed by Brigadier General Leon W. Johnson, Deputy, AC/AG-1. I'll qoute the pertinent paragraphs -

 

"In an effort to furnish the next of kin with all available details concerning casualties among our personnel, the Army Air Forces recently completed the translation of several volumes of captured German records.

 

In regard to Captain John A. Davies, these records indicate that he was killed in action 27 January 1945. His plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire while on a mission to the Po Valley and was downed over the Lonate, Italy air base. Lonate (45 degrees 35 minutes north, 8 degrees 42 minutes east), is twenty-five miles northwest of Milan, Italy. These records state further that interment was made in the Lonate Cemetery 28 January 1945, Grave No. 10."

 

Just to fill out the picture a bit..... the Lonate air base is now the Milan International Airport.

 

And food for thought, if his Mosquito was downed at around 0430 (sunrise occured around 0800) by an AA crew, they must have been damned good or just damned lucky.

 

DakotaDave


"Consider yourselves already dead." - General Savage to assembly of the fictional 918th BG - "Twelve O'clock High"

 

"The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end, that's all there is."

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MW

 

The information was from a letter contained in his IDPF. The letter was dated 14 June 1946 and signed by Brigadier General Leon W. Johnson, Deputy, AC/AG-1. I'll qoute the pertinent paragraphs -

 

"In an effort to furnish the next of kin with all available details concerning casualties among our personnel, the Army Air Forces recently completed the translation of several volumes of captured German records.

 

In regard to Captain John A. Davies, these records indicate that he was killed in action 27 January 1945. His plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire while on a mission to the Po Valley and was downed over the Lonate, Italy air base. Lonate (45 degrees 35 minutes north, 8 degrees 42 minutes east), is twenty-five miles northwest of Milan, Italy. These records state further that interment was made in the Lonate Cemetery 28 January 1945, Grave No. 10."

 

Just to fill out the picture a bit..... the Lonate air base is now the Milan International Airport.

 

And food for thought, if his Mosquito was downed at around 0430 (sunrise occured around 0800) by an AA crew, they must have been damned good or just damned lucky.

 

DakotaDave

 

Intresting! Thanks for answering that! I bet that those records they mention were exactly that - the flak unit logs. Doesn't look like it took too terribly long for those records to get gone over either, if they were able to know that and write about it by June 1946. Then again, with the effort to find and ID lost aircrew, I suppose it was a priority though too.

 

I'd agree with you on the shootdown - probably just dumb luck that they got them with a flak hit at that hour. What's the term or phrase used to talk about aircrew getting shot down - small bullet / big sky - something like that?

 

MW


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Right before I left on deployment, I picked up a Purple Heart and forgot to research it. I did a search and sure enough...I am the owner of John A. Davies' Purple Heart!


DakotaDave - do you still have his DFC and AM?

Dave


Only a weak society needs government protection or intervention before it pursues its resolve to preserve the truth. Truth needs neither handcuffs nor a badge for its vindication. -Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

Peace is not the absence of war, but the defense of hard-won freedom. -Anton LaGuardia


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