Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Mad Rebel: Lt. John H. Oliphint

Lt. John Houston Oliphint - "The Mad Rebel"
359th Fighter Group, 369th Fighter Squadron

Lt. John H. Oliphint flew with the 359th Fighter Group from April 1943 through June 8, 1944, when he was nearing La Fleche and his P-51 began to lose coolant. He continued to strafe, releasing his bombs point blank into the side of a locomotive. He crash landed, was injured, and needed medical attention, so the Maquis reported his position to the Germans. It was the Gestapo, though, who took him prisoner.

After interrogation and torture, Lt. Oliphint and several others escaped. During his stay with the Resistance, Lt. Oliphint gathered data for British Intelligence. On August 5, 1944, he was picked up by the RAF at a covert airfield and returned to England.

He served in the U.S. Air Force for 26 years, through World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and was awarded Command Pilot wings and 43 medals including the Silver Star, 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 8 Air Medals, 2 Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, Commendation Medal, Prisoner of War Medal, and numerous theater and foreign medals.

John Houston Oliphint passed away on December 19, 2011. He was a true Texan and a great fighter pilot.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Book review by Rene Burtner

Fogg in the Cockpit is based on a diary by Howard Fogg. Howard, a fighter pilot in WWII with the 359th Fighter Group began his diary shortly before the Group sailed to England in October 1943. His intention at the time was to provide notes if at some later date he decided to write a book about his war years. The book did not materialize during his lifetime but has now become a reality thanks to his son and daughter-in-law, Richard and Janet Fogg. Howard’s college degree in English Literature and his artistic perception are displayed throughout the book.

As an ex fighter pilot I read the book with great anticipation and was rewarded with a gem. The time, places, events, and routines in the diary were those shared by all fighter pilots and they rekindle lost memories as well as enhance memories fading through time. First impression of England – the beauty of the countryside – quaintness of the villages – fortitude of the British people – the weather – sinus – blackouts – bicycles – air raids – buzz bombs – V2s – card games – billiards – briefings – missions – periods of dullness – perils of strafing – sports – hobbies – parties – leaves in London, Scotland – Flak Home – Me109s – Fw190s – Me262s – Me163s are there to be relived along with the lack of glory in war and the little time for mourning.

Richard and Janet Fogg have provided well chosen information connecting the individual pilot’s activities and those of the Group to the overall war effort. References to military terms are explained and timely news items are mentioned regarding the progress of the war around the world. Howard’s lifelong love affair with trains and his art work combine for a very successful career as a railroad artist and we enjoy some examples of his beautiful watercolors and oils in the appendix.

~ Rene Burtner, 369th Fighter Squadron Leader, 359th Fighter Group

On August 2, 1944, Lt. Rene L. Burtner Jr. was one of five replacement pilots assigned to the 369th Fighter Squadron, 359th Fighter Group. On his fifth mission he was shot down while strafing the St. Dizier Airfield after a bomber escort mission. He was able to evade and escape capture, and returned to Wretham on September 1, 1944. He continued flying until April 17, 1945. Photo courtesy of Anthony C. Chardella: Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.