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Old 22nd December 2021, 20:50
Laurent Rizzotti Laurent Rizzotti is offline
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1st Air Commando Group casualties, 14 February 1944

Hello, the following is what I gathered about the first casualties of 1st Air Commando Group on 14 February 1944:

"The Fighter Section of the 1st Air Commando Group flew its first combat mission over Burma on 3 February 1944 and met for the first time Japanese aircraft on the 14th. At 0820 hrs, the unit's commander, Col Philip Cochran, led 13 P-51s on a bombing mission against Zaundaing railroad station just north of Mandalay. Leaving a few planes above as cover, Cochran and the others dived down on the target. Just after they released their bombs, the high cover shouted out that Japanese fighters were diving on them. Ten Ki-43s Oscars of 50 Sentai that were providing air cover for railway traffic between Indaw and Kawlin came out of the sun and hit the Mustangs at their most vulnerable point, just as they were beginning their pull out.
The Air Commandos lost two pilots: Captain John Miller bailed out to become a prisoner of war, while Lt Carl Hertzer was posted as missing in action. Three other aircraft were damaged. In the dogfight that followed, Captain Paul Forcey, Major R.T. Smith, and Captain Duke Phillips each claimed a damaged Oscar. The 50 Sentai claimed eight P-51s destroyed in the Maungdaw area.
Following this mission, Major General Orde Wingate, the commander of the Special Force that the Air Commandos were supporting, put a stop to Cochran's combat flying. He was too valuable to risk losing, and Wingate grounded him."

Sources:
"Air Commando Fighters of World War II", by Edward Young, ISBN 1-58007-022-1, pages 15-16
"Air War for Burma", by Christopher Shores. ISBN 1-904010-95-4, page 161

Both sources above agree on the identities of the two shot down pilots, but as Shores included Young's book in his bibliography, they may come from the same source.

I now believe that both names are false:
_ there is no Carl Hertzer listed on ABMC, findagrave, fold3 or http://www.usaafdata.com/?q=search. But all except findagrave have a Carl Hartzer
https://www.fold3.com/memorial/63722...carl-jr-1st-lt
https://www.abmc.gov/decedent-search/hartzer%3Dcarl
http://www.usaafdata.com/?q=node/184496
The death date of 18 January 1946 is very probably the official date when his status was changed from MIA to dead, no hope remaining to find him alive. It is very common for USAAF crews missing in the Pacific and CBI areas.

_ Capt Miller was captured but I first could not find him in the NARA POW database. There was a John H Miller, but he was a civilian in China. What make me wonder was that the date of the first report for him was 14 February 1944, the date Capt Miller was shot down. But there is a Capt Donald V Miller, O-660175, who was captured in Burma. First report date is 19 February 1944, five days after the battle, so the pilot could have avoided capture for some days or the report was late. AFAIK there was no other US loss in Burma between 14 and 19 February from where this Miller can come. End of captivity is 2 May 1945, the day 1400 POWs were liberated in Rangoon. There is no trace of Miller's release on this day in both books listed above, both including how L Coll Pryor of 2nd Command Group was freed then.
John H Miller: https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-...=31&rid=113305
Donald V Miller: https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-...=371&rid=97295

I am searching more proofs of my assumptions. Hartzer's case is the clearest IMHO. As for Miller, I would like more sources than the above.

Thanks in advance

Edited: by the way, there are no MACR for these two pilots.
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Old 23rd December 2021, 01:02
Laurent Rizzotti Laurent Rizzotti is offline
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Re: 1st Air Commando Group casualties, 14 February 1944

I found the confirmation of my ideas in another book: Any Place, Any Time, Any Where The 1st Air Commandos in World War, II by R.D. van Wagner.

It includes a personnal roster of 1st Air Commando Group for 12 April 1944, and this includes a 1st Lt Carl Hartzer Jr (listed as deceased) and a Capt Donald V Miller (listed as missing). There is also a Pfc John J Miller, but he is not a pilot and was not missing at the time.
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Old 23rd December 2021, 01:40
RSwank RSwank is offline
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Re: 1st Air Commando Group casualties, 14 February 1944

There is also this record which puts Miller, O-660175 in the First Air Commando Group.

https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-...pg=1&rid=18413


Newspaper story on his release. Note it says he went missing on February 14, 1944:

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/9100...ader-telegram/

Last edited by RSwank; 23rd December 2021 at 16:57.
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Old 23rd December 2021, 02:03
Laurent Rizzotti Laurent Rizzotti is offline
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Re: 1st Air Commando Group casualties, 14 February 1944

Thanks
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Old 23rd December 2021, 16:21
Leendert Leendert is offline
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Re: 1st Air Commando Group casualties, 14 February 1944

Laurent,

Perhaps interesting: https://www.hmdb.org/PhotoFullSize.asp?PhotoID=368228

Also see https://www.newspapers.com/clip/3330...rl-hartzer-jr/

Regards,
Leendert
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Old 29th December 2021, 07:49
Matt Poole Matt Poole is offline
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Re: 1st Air Commando Group casualties, 14 February 1944

Laurent,

I know a thing or two about Donald V. Miller and Rangoon Jail, and in the past I've been in close communication with his son, who followed in his father's footsteps to become a military fighter pilot. Jim flew jets in the military and then, as a civilian in retirement down near Pensacola, he was still instructing aboard military jets, at last word (but now several years ago). Jim took a great interest in his dad's experiences, though as a boy he and his siblings were told by their mother never to mention the war to Dad.

Hopefully Jim's email address still works. I have just written to him. I have a snail mail address which, via the Internet, seems to be where he still resides, so hopefully I can reach him one way or another -- just in case you would like to make contact with him.

I have two photos of Don Miller - one from the CBI before he was shot down and one in the hours after his liberation (with fellow 1st Air Commando Group POWs).

RAAF Wing Commander Lionel Hudson scribbled a mini-biography of men in 8 Block of Rangoon Jail, where he was incarcerated. I have a copy of the American bios, and here is what is written about Donald "Red" Miller:

1035 No. O-660175 CAPT. MILLER DONALD V. MENOMONIE WISC. 1st A.C. [Air Commandos] P.51. On 14.2.44 D. [downed?] bombing supply dump N. of Mandalay attacked by Oscars. A/C [aircraft] on fire, bailed out. Walked for 3 days. Then contacted friendly Burmese. After 2 days police intervened. Handed to Japs. Memyo [Maymyo, Burma] 3 mths. [months] Dysentry, no med. T. [dysentery, no medical treatment] Rang. Prison [Rangoon Jail, the POW prison] 26.5.44. Cell 50. Sol. 5 mths. [Solitary for 5 months]


Don was one of the 400+ POWs force-marched from Rangoon Jail by the Japanese in an attempt to outrun the rapidly advancing Allied forces and escape down into Thailand. However, the geography was such that the march had to procede northwest from Rangoon to be able to cross the Sittang River and then head south into Thailand. The POWs were a burden to the Japanese, so near Pegu, Burma, remarkably, instead of murdering them, the head Japanese officer simply set the POWs free so that the Japanese could escape, unencumbered by the sick and fatigued POWs. This put the POWs in a precarious position, as the nearby Allied forces didn't know of their existence, and many POWs were dressed in Japanese gear.

When Hurribombers (Indian pilots, I think) spotted the POWs, they attacked, and the only death among the POWs was to the top-ranking British prisoner, Brigadier Clive Hobson, who, not much earlier, had addressed his men by declaring that "We are free!" Hobson had been a prisoner since 1942.

Donald Miller and the others were, eventually saved. I have some info on their ordeal, and there is a YouTube video (NARA film footage) taken right after these me were back in Allied hands. See here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0WkG_fgMec .

Red Miller is not seen in this video; his son is positive of this.

Let me know if contact is desired with Jim Miller, or if you wish to correspond with me by email.

Lastly, for now, here's a reproduced story from early May 1945, though Donald Miller is not mentioned:

++++++++++++++++++++++

PAGE 26 MAY 2002 EX-POW BULLETIN

Liberated Prisoners of Pegu

By PFC Jim Buttric

At ten o'clock on the morning of May 1st, word was flashed to Four Corps Headquarters that an unestimated number of Allied prisoners of war had been freed at Pegu, in the front line of the British advance, just north of Rangoon.

In a half-hour, Capt. Julius Goodman loaded his C-64 with correspondents and Signal Corps photographers, and took off for the Pegu encampment.

The expressions of the faces that later met the planeload of Yanks made an everlasting impression. Some of the weary relaxed inside the row of four-man tents, smoking American cigarettes, and watching the others, equally tired and hungry, either stumble into the queue for fresh clothing issue (British fatigues, woolen socks, and sneakers), or wander aimlessly about, talking to former cell companions. Here, along the blacktop road, four miles north of Pegu, these four hundred and twenty Allied prisoners of war, the first to be liberated in Burma, were becoming reacclimated to a life of unrestricted freedom. Airmen clad in their battered jump suits and Chindits, wearing nothing more than Jap loincloth, still limped from their 55-mile barefoot march from Rangoon's city prison, a veritable torture chamber.

The rescued prisoners, headed by Lt. Col. Douglas G. Gilbert, West Point, class of '33, from Washington, D.C., believed that when they had set out on April 26th, their captors had planned to herd them into Indo-China. But having miscalculated the rapidity of the 14th Army's drive, the Japanese abandoned their "excess weight" two days later to make their own escape to the East that much easier.

As our truckload of Signal Corps photographers drove into the area in search of men long given up for lost, the clothing queue disappeared. Even the B-24 pilot, who hadn't covered his feet in a year said, "To hell with the shoes for now," and rushed over to UP correspondent Hugh Crumpler, asking if he would send a message home to his wife.

Everyone's eyes strained to locate a familiar face. Suddenly Capt. Goodman called out, "There's ‘Red’ Gilmore - Hey ‘Red’, you old Santa Claus!"

Lt. Richard Gilmore, stocky 1st Air Commander fighter pilot, of Pittsburgh, PA, had sprouted a heavy beard since he was shot down northeast of Heho, on Jan. 18th. Burmese kept him until the 20th before turning him over to the Japs,

"Compared with the way most of the airmen were treated, I haven't any cause to complain," he said. "Luckily, they put me in the hands of an MP, who promised that I'd be treated as a prisoner of war, as long as I stayed with him. I was let off mildly, with only a few raps across the legs and rump with a pick handle. Look, I've even acquired a belly."

But Gilmore's story wasn't reechoed by the other captives. Alongside Gilmore stood his squadron mate, Lt. Hilton Weesner, of South Bend, IN, chatting with Capt. Goodman and Lt. Col. Bill Taylor of Combat Cargo Task Force. Weesner's cheeks were drawn, his one-piece flying suit that had not been washed since he crashed on Nov. 12th near Meiktila, was punched full of holes. Weesner was the first of the Group's fighter pilots lost in this year's operations. When he spoke, he blurted out his words excitedly:

"Guess they gave me up for dead. The rest of the flight saw my ship burn, while they circled overhead. That night, after coming to, I was picked up by a Burman in an ox-cart and taken straight to the Japs. I wouldn't give them my unit's name or tell them anything about the P-47, so they beat me across the face with the flat side of a sword.

"Later on, they transported me by truck across the Irrawaddy to Rangoon. Occasionally, we'd hear rumors of the British advance, though the Japs never mentioned it to us. They beat the airmen with clubs continually. Seems their practice was to discriminate against aircrews. They showed us into individual cells, and placed the ground troops in compounds. Had dysentery, but wasn't allowed medication. Dropped from 172 to 145 pounds."

Flight Officer Robert Hall of Spokane, Washington, S/Sgt. Robert Bicknell of Friona, TX, and Cpl. Fred Pugh of Athens, TX had been forced down behind enemy lines during the first night of the Wingate-Cochran airborne invasion of northern Burma on March 5, 1944.

Hall and Bicknell were immediately seized and given a rough going over by a band of Japanese guerillas, while Pugh made his way to the upper regions of the Chindwin before he was captured on the 27th.

"Yes, sir," Pugh kept repeating, "I still can't believe they turned us loose." When asked by embarrassed enlisted men not to "sir" them, his only retort was, "Hell, I'm so happy I'm going to ‘sir’ everybody."

++++++++++++++++++++

Cheers,

Matt Poole
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Old 1st January 2022, 16:08
Matt Poole Matt Poole is offline
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Re: 1st Air Commando Group casualties, 14 February 1944

Laurent,

Yes, Donald V. Miller is your man. From my Rangoon Jail research, I have good info on Donald, who was called "Red" because of his hair. If you haven't seen it, I can share a photo of him and other 1st Air Commandos (Hilton Weesner, Fred Pugh, Richard “Red” Gilmore, Robert “Tex” Bicknell, Jr., and Robert Hall) very soon following their POW liberation (after they had been force marched out of Rangoon, then abandoned, not murdered, by their fleeing Japanese captors. I'm in touch with Miller's son, who followed in his late father’s footsteps and became a military fighter pilot, and who is very keen to learn more about his father and enlighten others about his dad. I'll be glad to play middleman, should you feel a desire to share info with the son, but, related to his professional work, the son needs to keep a low profile.

Here's a mini-bio of Red Miller, which was secretly compiled in Rangoon Jail by fellow prisoner RAAF W/Commander Lionel "Bill" Hudson:

++++++++++++++++++++++
1035 [Miller's POW ID number]
No. O-660175 CAPT. MILLER DONALD V. MENOMONIE WISC. 1st A.C. [Air Commandos] P.51. On 14.2.44 D. [dive?] bombing supply dump N. of Mandalay attacked by Oscars. A/C on fire, bailed out. Walked for 3 days. Then contacted friendly Burmese. After 2 days police intervened. Handed to Japs. Memyo [Maymyo, Burma] 3 mths [months]. Dysentry, no med. T. [no medical treatment for dysentery] Rang. Prison [Rangoon Jail] 26.5.44. Cell 50. Sol. 5 mths Cell #50 in solitary for 5 months].
++++++++++++++++++++++

If you give me your email address, I'll contact you. Or leave me a Facebook Messenger correspondence; my Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/matt.poole.750 .

Cheers from the Washington, DC area (Loonyville), and Happy New Year,

Matt Poole
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