WWII P-47 Thunderbolt pilot who trained at the Millville Army Air Field and flew with the famous ‘Orange Tails’
It was a very special day when Ena McClure visited the Millville Army Air Field Museum. She came in honor of her husband, Major Max Whitley McClure, who was one of the 1,500 P-47 pilots who trained at Millville in preparation for service overseas during WWII. But Major McClure went well beyond Millville and WWII with his military career and service to the United States.
Max McClure was born to Oran R. and Ann B. McClure in Spur, Texas, on August 8, 1918. His parents founded the Texas Spur Newspaper in 1909. McClure entered the Army Air Corps in 1942 and, after flight and gunnery training stateside, his career began in full with his service during World War II in the European theatre. Max McClue was a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot in the 358th Fighter Group, 366th Fighter Squadron– ‘The Orange Tails.’ He flew 100 missions over Europe with 220 combat hours tallied. McClure was awarded the Air Medal with ten oak leaf clusters.
Max McClure was released from active duty at the end of WWII in 1945, but remained in the reserve. In 1952, he was called up once again to active duty to serve in the Korean War. McClure remained on active duty in the U.S. Air Force for the balance of his career, retiring Major Max McClure in 1965.
After retirement, McClure attended St. Mary’s University, where he received a BBA degree in accounting and a masters degree in financial management. He was the head accountant for the Model-Cities Program with the City of San Antonio. He retired in 1976 after seven years with the City of San Antonio. Major Max McClure died in June 1996 at age 77.
But there is a bit more to this story. It is the story of Ena McClure, her love, devotion, and dedication to her husband and to all of the men of the 358th Fighter Group. And it is a story of romance that began in England, when a young girl, just a day past her eighteenth birthday, met a young man named Max McClure. Ena, who was betrothed to another young man chosen by her parents, fell in love with this American soldier, and made a choice that truly demonstrated ‘the strength and conviction of love.’ The love story of Ena and Max is featured in a booked compiled by Larry King, entitled Love Stories of WWII.
Ena and Max were married for 51 years and seven months. “They were wonderful years. We traveled the world. We made friends with some of the finest people over. The military is like a family, you know,” said Ena, “We supported one another and honored their service.”
And to show her respect and appreciation for the men who served in WWII, years after her husband’s death Ena agreed to organize and host the seventh reunion of the Unites States Air Force 358th Fighter Group, the ‘Orange Tails,’ in her hometown of San Antonio, Texas, in October of 2005. “I was pleased and honored to take on the challenge,” said Ena, “and ultimately it was my gift to these heroes of WWII and to the memory of my husband, Max.” And what a gift it was! San Antonio, Texas, was their ultimate host with dinners, tours, gifts, and even a concert by the U.S. Air Force Band, all orchestrated by Ena McClure to honor these P-47 pilots and veterans of WWII and remember their service and sacrifices!
Ena, who is 85 years old, has worked as a volunteer for 21 years at Wilford Hal U.S. Air Force Military Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX.
The original article, written by Donna Vertolli, is located in the official May 2012 Thunderbolt Newsletter.