Second Lieutenant Morgan Jackson Barton
2nd Lt. Barton, O-728545, was born December 6, 1917, in Greybull, Wyoming, and was a resident of Sheridan, Wyoming, for most of his life. He graduated from Sheridan High School in 1936 and four years later from Hastings College, Hastings, Nebraska, where he studied music. A week after the attack on Pearl Harbor he entered the Army Air Corps on December 13, 1941.
He received his training as a fighter pilot in Arizona, California, New Hampshire, and New Jersey. At Millville, New Jersey, he was assigned to the 352nd Fighter Squadron of the 353rd Fighter Group. The 353rd was assigned to Millville for the final phase of their pilot training. On April 17, 1943, flying a P-47D Thunderbolt (#42-22340) on an instrument training mission, he went into an uncontrollable spin and crashed into Barnegat Bay near Seaside Park, New Jersey.
His mother, who was staying in nearby Toms River, witnessed the crash. Twenty-five years old, he was the first fatal P-47 pilot accident from the Millville Army Air Field.
Second Lieutenant William Engle Canniff, Jr.
2nd Lt. Canniff, O-835959, was from Englewood, New Jersey. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 22, 1920. As a boy, Bill dreamed of becoming a pilot and had pictures of pilots on his bedroom walls. After graduating from Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood, New Jersey, he attended Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and graduated Class of 1941. When he went to enlist, he initially did not pass the dexterity test due to a finger deformity. With great determination, he practiced picking up straight pins for hours each day. He passed the test and his lifelong dream was fulfilled when he enlisted in the Army Air Force in early 1944.
He received his primary training at Jackson, Mississippi. In March he went to Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, for basic training then onto Napier Field, Alabama, for advanced training in May of 1944. He received his wings and was commissioned on August 4, 1944.
2nd Lt. Canniff had been assigned to the 135th Fighter Squadron at the Millville Army Air Field when on May 14, 1945, piloting a P-47D-23 (#42-27826) on a chemical training mission over the Delaware Bay, the flight leader changed the formation. 2nd Lt. Canniff was the last of the four P-47 aircraft in formation. As a result of the formation change, his Thunderbolt struck the water, broke up, and submerged immediately. No one saw the crash. The crash site was approximately 2-1/2 miles southwest of the mouth of the Cohansey Creek. Another P-47 remained on the scene until relieved by a Navy PBY aircraft. Boats were dispatched to the scene, but his body was never found and his aircraft never recovered.
His younger sister answered the knock at the door when they came to tell the family of the accident. Second Lieutenant William Engle Canniff, Jr., was just a week away from his 25th birthday.
Captain Harold Hedley “Red” Crossley
Captain Crossley, O-789304, was born in East Templeton, Massachusetts, on May 6, 1917; he was the youngest of eight. He was named “The Best Athlete” in 1935 at Gardner High School, Cushing Academy, where he was a three-letter athlete and high-scoring quarterback. After graduating, he attended the University of Vermont, leaving in his senior year to enter military service from Boston on September 4, 1941. After attending flight schools in the Southeast, he received his wings and commission on April 29, 1942.
After arriving overseas in January 1943 and piloting the P-40 Warhawk in combat over North Africa and the Southern Europe Sicilian area, Captain Crossley shot down two Nazi aircraft, with one more probable and damaging three. He is also credited with destroying two more on the ground.
On September 7, 1943, flying a fighter sweep on his last mission, his group was heading back to home base when they came across four barges and a sea-going tug. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, Captain Crossley led his group in an astern attack on the vessels. What he didn’t realize was that the Germans had set up the four barges for their target practice. As the Warhawks were attacking the vessels, the Germans opened up on the fighter group. The vessels were sunk without a single loss to the group. When they landed at the base, his P-40 was so shot up it had to be scrapped.
After completing 60 combat missions, and attaining the rank of Captain, he was sent back to the States. He then transitioned to the P-47 Thunderbolt and arrived at Millville in February 1944 as a gunnery instructor.
On April 2, 1944, leading a flight of four on a gunnery mission, he was killed when his P-47D-2 (#42-22553) caught fire and crashed in the Atlantic Ocean 10 miles off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Married in 1942, he left a widow. Age 26 at the time of his fatal accident, Captain Crossley was a seasoned veteran and flight instructor.
Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Force Citation of Honor, and the Europe-Africa-Middle East (EAME) Campaign Ribbon with three battle stars.
Second Lieutenant Robert George Derwent, Jr.
2nd Lt. Derwent, O-816063, was born December 18, 1922, in Manhattan, New York, and lived in Trenton, New Jersey, when he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on February 8, 1943. He attended Trenton Catholic Boys School and then Bordentown Military Institute where he played football and was an All-State guard. He had also worked at John Roebling & Sons in Trenton, New Jersey. 2nd Lt. Derwent received his wings and commission in November 1942 at Spence Field, Georgia.
On February 8, 1944, while on an aerial gunnery mission, 2nd Lt. Derwent was number three aircraft of four. His takeoff was normal until about 300 feet when his P-47D-RE Thunderbolt (#42-22264) made a flat turn to the left, spun in, crashed, and burned a quarter mile off the runway behind Reich farm on Cedarville Road. An inspection of the wreckage revealed the propeller governor linkage had malfunctioned, causing a sudden change in propeller pitch. He was assigned to the 536th Fighter Squadron.
2nd Lt. Derwent had turned 21 only two months prior to his fatal accident and was the youngest of the fourteen P-47 pilots killed at the Millville Army Air Field.
Flight Officer John Francis Driskill, Jr.
FO Driskill, T-124801, was born June 24, 1922, in Van Horn, Iowa, and moved to Lone Rock, Wisconsin, as a child. John graduated from Richland Center High School in 1940 then went to work at the Forest City Knitting Company before enlisting in the Army on November 12, 1942. He went to basic training at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, and was later accepted as an aviation cadet. He received basic, primary, and advanced flight training at fields located in Oklahoma and Texas. On February 8, 1944, FO Driskill received his wings and was sworn in as a Flight Officer at Enid, Oklahoma. He was then sent to Camp Springs, Maryland, for P-47 transition training and on to Millville for P-47 advance training with the 537th Fighter Squadron.
Shortly after 9 P.M. on July 26, 1944, his P-47D-2 (#42-8220) developed engine trouble while on a night navigational training mission. This was to be FO Driskill’s last training flight at Millville, just one day before graduation. His Thunderbolt crashed and exploded on Pete May’s farm located on the White Horse and Hamilton Roads, about five miles southeast of Trenton, New Jersey.
FO Driskill had turned 22 years old only a month prior to being killed. Forty years after his death, the City of Millville and the Millville Executive Airport named Driskill Street to honor his memory.
Second Lieutenant Andrew Jackson “AJ” Easterwood, Jr.
2nd Lt. Easterwood, O-823046, was born April 4, 1923, in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, and was three years old when his family moved to Dadeville, Alabama. After graduating from Tallapoosa County High School in May 1941, he entered Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University, in the fall to pursue a career in Aeronautical Engineering.
On October 19, 1942, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and reported for active duty on February 1, 1943. He attended training at Technical School Special Training Unit in Miami Beach, Florida, and Tennessee Polytechnic Institute Training Center in Cookville, Tennessee, where he was classified for pilot training.
His cadet training was in the Army Air Corps Southeast Training Command; preflight was at Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama. He soloed in primary training at Decatur, Alabama. Basic training was at Courtland Army Airfield in Courtland, Alabama, where he was introduced to formation and night flying. Advanced training took place at Craig Field in Selma, Alabama. He graduated in Class 44-A on February 8, 1944, receiving his wings and commission as a 2nd Lieutenant at the age of 20. Following graduation, he traveled home for his first leave.
Despite recommendations for combat training, 2nd Lt. Easterwood was selected as an instructor pilot and transferred to the Central Instructors School at Randolph Field, Texas. Completing Instructor School, he returned to Courtland as an instructor before being accepted for combat training. Training in P-40s took him back to Craig Field, and gunnery at Eglin Field, Florida. He was then assigned to the Pilot Replacement Pool at Richmond Army Air Base, Virginia. Then he was transferred to Camp Springs Army Air Base in Washington, D.C. to fly the A-24 Dive Bomber and the P-47 Thunderbolt. From Camp Springs he reported to the Millville Army Air Field, Millville, New Jersey, to the 536th Fighter Squadron in early September 1944 for Advance Gunnery Training in the P-47.
2nd Lt. Easterwood’s dream to become a fighter pilot was snuffed out on the morning of September 23, 1944, only two weeks after reporting and on his eighth flight at Millville. He took off as the number three in a flight of four on an aerial gunnery mission. While firing on a tow target off the coast of Townsend’s Inlet, his P47-C5 (#41-6498) apparently struck the tow target cable. Crashing into the Atlantic Ocean seven miles from shore off the Cape May Naval Station in Cape May, New Jersey, neither he nor his aircraft was ever recovered.
AJ was remembered by his family and friends for his excellent scholastic work, how positive he was about life when just talking to him, and what a good influence he had on others. A close friend said AJ would make the best of any situation and would always come up with a grin.
Forty years following his death, the city of Millville and the Millville Executive Airport named Easterwood Street in his memory.
Second Lieutenant Earle Hepburn, Jr.
2nd Lt. Hepburn, O-715538, was born in Marion Station, Pennsylvania, on April 25, 1919, and was the son of an Army colonel. He attended Episcopal Academy and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania class of 1941 where he studied law, participated in many sports, and joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
He enlisted in the Army Air Force just after Pearl Harbor but was notified he would be called only for a non-combat role because of complications from an old operation. In order to become a pilot, his only choice was to undergo a dangerous surgery. He survived the September 1942 surgery and went on to get his wings and commission on March 12, 1944. A short break in his training as a fighter pilot with the 537th squadron enabled him to get married on June 5, 1944, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tragedy struck on July 12, 1944. As his wife watched from the Officer’s Club, 2nd Lt. Hepburn’s Thunderbolt crashed short of the runway while on a tow-target mission and he was killed. He was flying a P-47D-11 (#42-75500) at the time of the crash.
2nd Lt. Hepburn was 25 years old and had been married two months to the day when he died.
First Lieutenant William Sterling Malone
1st Lt. Malone, O-664630, was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on October 27, 1921. He studied at Marquette University and was a junior at the University of Wisconsin majoring in physics when he enlisted. He left college the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked and joined the Army Air Force. His family noted that at only 5’4″ he was a remarkable young man of wit, intelligence, and integrity. His younger sister “worshipped him and thought of him as a hero from the time she was old enough to think.” He loved photography as a hobby and made several cameras that took very good pictures. Suffering from asthma, he didn’t tell the Army when he enlisted and it never bothered him when flying.
He received his pilot wings and commission at Victoria Field, Texas, on September 6, 1942. He spent the next three years at bases in the United States flying larger planes prior to putting in a transfer request to fighters; he was also an instructor at that time.
He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on October 25, 1943.
His transfer finally granted, he was stationed in June 1945 at Millville for training as a P-47 fighter pilot with the 135th Fighter Squadron. With the war now ending with Japan’s surrender, his family was happy and relaxed that they didn’t need to worry about him anymore. Though he was offered to be released out of the Army Air Force, 1st Lt. Malone chose to stay because of the rumors that we would soon be fighting with Russia.
Flying a P-47D-30 (44-32738) on September 24, 1945, while on a gunnery training run on a range near Shaws Mill Pond, he crashed. He was unable to pull his Thunderbolt out of a dive on his third attack on the target and was killed instantly when his airplane hit the ground behind the target.
His family was devastated; it made his father an “old man” overnight and his mother never ceased to grieve. Twenty-three at the time of his death, he had been engaged to a young woman from Millville. He would be the last P-47 Thunderbolt pilot killed at the Millville Army Air Field and the only one during peacetime.
Malone Street at the Millville Executive Airport was named in honor of him by the City of Millville.
Flight Officer Ceylon Richard Morrison
FO Morrison, T-192074, was born in Niagara Falls, New York, on January 22, 1921. He graduated from Trott Vocational School in 1939 and was employed by the Hooker Electrochemical Company until 1940 when he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force for three years. He often went by the name C. Richard Morrison.
He transferred to the United States Army Air Force in 1943. Fall of 1944 found him assigned to the 537th Fighter Squadron at the Millville Army Air Field for advanced fighter training. Piloting a P-47D-6 Thunderbolt (42-74849), he lost his life when his engine failed after takeoff and he crashed into Union Lake in Millville on December 22, 1944.
FO Morrison was exactly one month away from turning 24.
Second Lieutenant Lee Lon “Sonny” Pryor, Jr.
2nd Lt. Pryor, O-836019, was born in Calhoun City, Mississippi, on Mar 24, 1921. He attended Columbia Military Academy in Columbia, Tennessee, Mississippi State University, and Delta State University before entering the College of Mortuary Sciences in St. Louis, Missouri, graduating in 1941. Sonny had married earlier in 1941. In January 1942, after passing the state board he received his embalmer’s license. He then worked in the family business at Pryor Funeral home in Calhoun City.
Entering the Army Air Force on January 30, 1943, in Biloxi, Mississippi, 2nd Lt. Pryor received flight training in Nashville, Keesler Field, Maxwell Field, and Camp Springs. He was assigned to Millville for advanced fighter training with the 135th Fighter Squadron in March 1945.
During a skip bombing training mission — his final training mission — his Thunderbolt collided in mid-air with another P-47 piloted by 2nd Lt. William Slater on May 2, 1945. 2nd Lt. Pryor’s plane crashed into a lake near Lummistown, New Jersey, seven miles southwest of Millville. He was piloting a P47G-15 (#42-25185).
2nd Lt. Lee Lon Pryor, Jr. was the only child of Lee and Bessie Pryor. He left a widow and daughter. Forty years after his death, the city of Millville and the Millville Executive Airport named Pryor Street to honor his memory.
Second Lieutenant John Dunlevy Rumbaugh
2nd Lt. Rumbaugh, O-806734, was born August 30, 1917, in Millersburg, Ohio. He was the son of a doctor. In 1935 he graduated from Millersburg High School, where he played basketball, was a manager on the football team, sang in the Glee Club and was active in the Chess Club. After graduating from Ohio State University, he was employed by the Lima Gro-Cord Sole and Heel Company as a chemist. He was also an avid outdoorsman and loved hunting and fishing, and raised carrier pigeons for many years.
He entered the Army Air Force in 1942 and received his wings and commission at Spence Field, Georgia, on June 30, 1943. He served briefly with the 325th Fighter Squadron at Richmond Army Air Field, Virginia, and was then assigned to the 388th Fighter Squadron, 365th Fighter Group on August 9th. The 365th was sent to Millville, New Jersey, for gunnery training in the fall of 1943.
Piloting a P-47D-6RE Thunderbolt (42-74763) on October 18, 1943, 2nd Lt. Rumbaugh was towing the target for a gunnery mission off Atlantic City. He radioed the flight leader saying he had to make an emergency landing and asked for the nearest field. He was directed to Bader Field west of Atlantic City. The flight leader radioed to tell him to release the tow-target but communication was lost between the two aircraft. He lined up his Thunderbolt for the landing but the tow-target failed to release and caught on the playground equipment across the street from the field. The tow-target tore loose, causing his airplane to crash and explode while trying to make the landing.
2nd Lt. Rumbaugh was 26 years old at the time of his fatal accident.
Second Lieutenant William Dennis Slater
2nd Lt. Slater, O-835928, was born June 21, 1917, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Having graduated from Rindge Technical High School, he took night courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, concentrating on mechanical engineering. He was a skilled auto mechanic and automobile race driver before enlisting in the Army Air Force on October 23, 1942. He was first employed at Jordon Marsh Company, and then at the Pratt and Whitney plant in Hartford, Connecticut, when he enlisted from Massachusetts.
He received his wings and commission at Craig Field, Alabama, in August 1944 and then was sent to Millville, New Jersey, in April 1945 for advanced fighter training with the 135th Fighter Squadron. On May 2, 1945, flying a P-47G-5 (42-25129), he was killed during a skip bombing training mission when his Thunderbolt collided in mid-air with another P-47 piloted by 2nd Lt. Sonny Pryor. The collision happened over Lummistown Pond, seven miles south of the Millville Army Air Field. He crashed in Cedarville, near Lummistown Pond.
2nd Lieutenant Slater was almost 28 years old and the oldest of the 14 pilots who perished during training at the Millville Army Air Field.
Second Lieutenant James Franklin “Tommy” Thompson
2nd Lt. Thompson, O-804072, was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, on January 24, 1920. He graduated from Churchland High School in 1941. He was a clerk for the U.S. Government at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and had been a flight instructor at the Portsmouth Airport before entering the Army Air Force in 1943.
He received his wings and commission on May 28, 1943, and was assigned to the 387th Fighter Squadron, 365th Fighter Group, in the summer of 1943. The 365th conducted gunnery training in Millville in September and October 1943. Standing approximately 5′ 6″, he flew with a pillow under his parachute pack in order to have proper vision. Not an uncommon practice for those of short stature.
On October 23, 1943, 2nd Lt. “Tommy” Thompson was killed when his P-47D-6RE Thunderbolt (#42-74798) crashed while making a strafing run on ground gunnery target #2 when it snapped-rolled and crashed behind a target range. It was suspected that the prop-wash from the previous plane caused his crash.
Second Lieutenant Charles Melchoir Weber, Jr.
2nd Lt. Weber, O-705650, an only child, was born in Muscatine, Iowa, on January 6, 1923, and lived there until entry into the military service. He attended Muscatine Public Schools where he was on the basketball and tennis teams. After graduating high school, he went on to Muscatine Junior College. He worked in the family’s Weber Cigar Store before enlisting in the Army Air Force in July 1942 and was called to duty in February 1943.
He received his wings and commission on January 7, 1944, at Aloe Field, Texas. In the spring of 1944, 2nd Lt. Weber was sent for P-47 training to Millville, New Jersey, with the 536th Fighter Training Squadron. Piloting a P-47D-2RE Thunderbolt (#42-8275) on May 23, 1944, his airplane struck the ground target while on his fifth dry-run practice at the Millville gunnery and bombing range (B).
The crash was fatal to 2nd Lt. Weber, who was only 21.