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Old 15th May 2017, 03:06
kaki3152 kaki3152 is offline
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3rd PRU detachment - Malta 1943

In March 1943, the 3rd Photographic Recon Group sent a detachment of F-5As to Malta from Tunisia to join 683 SQ (PR Spitfires). As far as I can tell, the following pilots were sent to Malta. The information was derived from the recollection of a PR Spitfire pilot:
1) Lt. Robert Spencer
2) Lt. George F. German
3) Lt. Ike B. Web Jr., O-659207, KIA October 24,1943 by E/A
4) Lt. Arthur Earl Luthy
5) Lt. Joseph L. Sugg
6) Lt. Ed(Ward?) Berry
7) Lt. John MacLaughlin
8) Capt. Lewis H. Richardson, O-424678, KIA March 28, 1943.

I've enclosed the picture of the detachment, along with pilots of 683 Sq. The book is "Memoirs of WWII" by Laurie Philpott. The following is from this book:

"After the invasion of North Africa…brought a unit of USAAF photo-reco pilots to Algiers…[i]n time, Roosevelt [ Colonel Roosevelt]sent five pilots to Malta to be responsible to Warbie [W/C Warburton], while they attempted to aerial photograph all of Sicily using a special type of mapping camera mounted in a P-38.A Captain (I can't remember the idiot's name,Richards[sic], I think) who brought the pilots over immediately ignored Warbie. It was assumed that the captain got lost on his first flight and he plunked down, in cloudy weather, onto an aerodrome in Southeast Sicily, according to RT conversations picked up. The P-38, which the captain was flying carried secret equipment. At once, Warbie ordered Ed and me to try and find the P-38. After some roundabout, I found the P-38 in a pen on Gerbini airfield. A couple of Spitfires, which were fitted with bombs, dive bombed the P-38. Too late? We never knew."

In MAW3, the fate of Captain Richardson is reported as taking from Malta at 1340 hours to photograph the Mezzouna area and probably shot down by Uffz Fritz Werner of 4./JG-77 at 1412 hrs. When he did not return to base, he was reported missing at 1740 Hrs.
Captain Lewis H. Richardson Jr. is buried at Plot E Row 8 Grave 16 in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery.

If anyone can provide more information, it would be welcomed. In a pamphlet in my possession titled "Pictorial History 1943 Mediterranean Allied Photo Reconnaissance Wing" (published 1944) it has the following: 'To Malta, in March, went a part of the Third Photo Group charged with a most important mission –the mapping of Sicily on aerial photographs. Working with PRU Malta, the Americans flew several hundred sorties over the island."
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  #2  
Old 15th May 2017, 13:25
Alex Smart Alex Smart is online now
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Re: 3rd PRU detachment - Malta 1943

Hello,

From what I find elswear on the www the airman Captain Lewis H. Richardson is very little.
He is recorded as KIA from Ingam County, Michigan, 5th Sqdn, 3rd Photo Group.
If this story is accurate the this may well be the first P-38(?) captured and it preceds that of the one that is well known and photographed, said to have landed at Capoterra on 12th June 1943.
There is some reports of a second P-38(?) but details are sparce on it.
The Richardson a/c may well be it ?

A Robertson was in aircraft AF108 and involved in a non fatal taxiing accident at RAF Station 582 in the UK on 28th March 1943. Station 582 was RAF Station Warton near Preston,Lancashire. His Unit is stated to have been at that time 2010TS ( not sure at this time if this is 2010 TS or 201 OTS ?).

Also the 3rd Photo unit undertook its first op from the UK on 28th March to Dieppe, this was AFAIK one a/c flown by the Group's 13PS Commander Major James T. Hall. No a/c was lost on this operation

[ I have put P-38(?) in the above because it may well be either a P-38 or an F-4 And am not sure at this time if F-5's were in theatre in March of1943].

EXTRA: I see from the book that the a/c is noted to have been an F-5A .
However in "Fighters over Tunisia" on page 272 it has -
"Sunday, 28 March 1943 ..... 683 squadron on Malta had recently been joined by a detachment of F-4's from the3rd Photo-Reconnaissance Group of the USAAF, led by Capt. Richardson, and reported that on the 28th. Richardson himself failed to return from a mission over Sicily. It is possible that this latter aircraft may well have fallen to Oblt. Schiess of III/JG53, who is believed to have claimed a lightning around this date".
In a previous paragraph there is mention of an F-4 Reconnaisance Lightning on strength of the 154th Squadron that took off at 1340 to photograph the Mezzouna area was missing at 1740.

So an F-4 or F-5A ?
Alex

Last edited by Alex Smart; 16th May 2017 at 11:28.
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Old 15th May 2017, 20:35
Mark R. Mark R. is offline
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Re: 3rd PRU detachment - Malta 1943

I have the March 1943 Form 540 for 683 Squadron on Malta. It mentions Captain Richardson's loss but states that he was flying over Sicily. There is one pilot not mentioned in your roster - Lt Joseph D. Scalpone. He took over for Captain Richardson according to the aforementioned Form 540. That said, his assignment might have been temporary. Note: Scalpone had previously served as Colonel Roosevelt's aide de camp.

Mezzouna is mentioned in the 12th Air Force Daily Periodic Intelligence Report No. 139 [dated 29 March] which notes that an F-4 sent by the 68th Observation Group to photograph that area on 28 March was missing. A subsequent 12th AF Daily report noted its return to base on 2 April, suggesting perhaps it landed somewhere else to repair mechanical problem or battle damage.

Am not sure this helps much, but it pretty much seems to me that two PR Lightnings were involved on that date.

Reference the P-38 versus F-4 designation, the 12th AF reports take care to differentiate between both variants as the former usually, but not always, were tasked to conduct weather reconnaissance. Most of those missions were assigned to the 1st FG.

Mark
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Old 16th May 2017, 01:18
kaki3152 kaki3152 is offline
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Re: 3rd PRU detachment - Malta 1943

Hi Mark, Thanks for the information. I will add Lt Joseph D. Scalpone to the Malta 3 PG detachment list. F/O Philpott reported that Lt. Joseph Sugg took command after Capt. Richardson's loss.

As it stands, it looks like the information provided in MAW3 for Capt. Richardson's loss is incorrect. There was another source that listed Capt. Richardson's loss as over Sicily, but I will have to remember where I found this source:

The questions are:

Was Capt. Richardson's death in Sicily and not in Tunisia?

If so, is Laurie Philpott's description of the event correct? Was Capt. Richardson killed by the Spitfires dive bombing his F-5?

He is buried in Sicily. If he had been killed in Tunisia, would he have been buried in Tunisia?
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Old 16th May 2017, 02:53
Mark R. Mark R. is offline
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Re: 3rd PRU detachment - Malta 1943

I must admit that Scalpone might have been a temporary commander as I do have a picture of him with Roosevelt taken in Tunisia on 12 April 1943.

I cannot envision him commuting back and forth from Malta to Tunisia. But the British Form 540 does mention him by name which it would not have done if he had not arrived in Malta.

As for 683 Squadron looking for a captured PR Lightning, it would be easy to check on that (which I will do) as I should be able to see where it sent PR missions in the week following 28 March.

From what I know of the American Battle Monuments Commission, Richardson would have most likely been buried in Tunisia if he died on North African soil.

Thanks for pointing out the Philpott book as I was able to purchase it on ABE Books earlier today.

Will get back to you soonest with an update.

Cheers,

Mark
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Old 16th May 2017, 03:00
kaki3152 kaki3152 is offline
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Re: 3rd PRU detachment - Malta 1943

Thanks for all the help, Mark, maybe we can get to the bottom of this.
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Old 16th May 2017, 21:15
Monaco Monaco is offline
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Re: 3rd PRU detachment - Malta 1943

I have only 1 claim for a P-38 this day in the MTO:
24.10.43 Fw. Alfred Scharl 2./JG 53 P-38F ⬜ W. Bolsena: 1.500 m. 12.06 Film C. 2031/II Anerk: Nr.352

Could Scharl be the opponent of Ike B. Web regarding time and location?

Regards

Monaco
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Old 16th May 2017, 22:12
Mark R. Mark R. is offline
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Re: 3rd PRU detachment - Malta 1943

As promised........

First, recapping the 683 Squadron Form 540 for March 1943 (AIR 27/2209/4):

28 March Entry - "Capt Richardson, O.C. No. 3 Photo Group, Adv. Unit 3, USAAF detachment reported missing over Sicily. Three sorties were flown by this unit. W/Cdr Warburton reported A.A. intense over PALERMO and Bocca di Flaco [sic] a/drome. Enemy fighters seen taking off to intercept."

My question - did fighters looking for Warburton find Richardson? I don't know if their mission times overlapped.

End Note after 31 March entry: "A detachment of Adv. Unit. 3 No. 3 Photo Group, USAAF, arrived this unit on temp duty (equipped with Lockheed Lightnings (P-38s), Capt Richardson, O.C. detachment was unfortunately reported missing after the units first sortie from the island. Lt. Scalpone assumed command."

I then looked at the mission profiles from 28 March through 29 April to see if it appeared as if 683 Squadron was making a special effort to locate a captured U.S. aircraft. I also tried to keep track of Philpott's mission taskings. The April information is from AIR 27/2209/5 and 27/2209/6.

28 March Wx bad Warburton and Philpott flew port missions 0930 - 1230.

29 - 31 March - all 683 Sqdn missions during this period are TARANTO MESSINA NAPLES PALERMO port reconnaissance tasks. Note: Philpott flew TARANTO mission on 0920 - 1140 on 30 March.

1 April Philpott flew B Sortie (ports) 0935 -1200 hours.

1 April F/Sgt Lewis flew A Sortie (airfields) 1015 - 1145 but clouds obscured most airfields.

First mention of Gerbini is "A Sortie" mission on 3 April. Apparently A Sorties cover all airfields in Southeastern Sicily. It was flown by Flt/Lt W.G. Brown from 1520 - 1745 hours. On that same date, Philpott is photographing ports 0745 - 1110 hours.

Philpott next mission is 10 April 0920 - 1300 hours to MESSINA and TARANTO.

Philpott flies "B Sortie" on 13 April - ports again - 1035 to 1325 hours.

Next mission mentioning Gerbini is 11 April - F/Off Maloney flies A Sortie 1430 - 1650.

On 17 April, Philpott flies a Sortie A mission in which Gerbini is mentioned again. Mission times 0945 - 1205 hours.

Philpott's next mission is 18 April photographing ports.

Same on 20 April.

On 21 April, Philpott flies a dinghy search.

On 23 April, Philpott flies a photography mission over Italian ports.

Next "Sortie A" mission is recorded on 26 April - Flt/Lt Brown.

Last mission for Philpott in April is on the 29th - "X Sortie" which seemed to be a sea search task.

Not making any judgments, but it doesn't seem as if 683 Squadron dropped everything to find the missing F-4. Perhaps they found it during the course of an "A Sortie" in April. These were flown on 1, 3, 11, 17, and 26 April. Doesn't seem to be a regular schedule but they are at least a week apart with the exception of 1 and 3 April which seem to reflect the former's lack of success due to weather leading to the mission profile being repeated the next time the weather supported photo runs over S/E Sicilian airfields.

If I had to hazard a guess, I would think the 11 - 17 April time period might be when a divebombing mission may have occurred. Pre and post strike photos? Would be willing to look into Malta Spitfire ORBs if I could be pointed in the right direction as to which unit might have flown that mission. I don't think the Germans or Italians would have let Captain Richardson hang around his plane that long after it may have landed.

Based on previous similar incidents - where USAAF fighters destroyed B-17s captured intact after forcelanding in Tunisia on two occasions - the fighter units usually don't make a secret of their mission or its results.

Best, Mark
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Old 17th May 2017, 00:29
kaki3152 kaki3152 is offline
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Re: 3rd PRU detachment - Malta 1943

Wow, great stuff. There is some further confirmation in the book "Warburton's War" by T. Spooner.
"Their C.O. , Captain Richardson crash-landed his Lightning on a strip in southern Sicily on the first sortie next day."
One interesting question is what caused the demise of Captain Richardson?
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Old 17th May 2017, 01:42
Mark R. Mark R. is offline
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Re: 3rd PRU detachment - Malta 1943

It would be neat to find out, but I can only offer speculation. I would think it feasible that Richardson got lost in bad weather. After all, he was new to the operating area. Plus he would not have been the only USAAF plane to land in Sicily during overcast and cloudy conditions. I cannot see him deliberately crashing his plane or bailing out over the sea if perhaps he was over friendly territory. Otherwise it would be destroying a very rare and useful photo recon platform.

As for Italian or German interceptors, Prien's JG 53 Vol. 2 certainly indicates III/JG 53 was flying on 28 March as evidenced by one of its aircraft being damaged when ground looping (p. 590) That said, III/JG 53 did not make any claims for 28 March (Die Jagdfliegerverbande der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945 Teil 11/II, Prien, Stemmer, Rodieke & Bock, s. 267) From my perspective, it doesn't seem like Richardson went down as a result of air to air combat.

Now here is a late breaking interesting coincidence: Lewis H. Richardson, whose obituary listed him as attaining the rank of Colonel in the USAF with service in WW2. Korea, and Vietnam, was born on March 3, 1918. He died on September 19, 2006 at 88 years of age. He is buried in San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery Section 9 Site 743, Santa Nella, Ca. How many Lewis H. Richardson's do you suppose were in the USAAF in WW2?

Last edited by Mark R.; 17th May 2017 at 03:27.
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