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John Read P-47 42-28460 Pilot 365th Fighter Group the Hell Hawks

John Read

On 13 September 1944 John was flying P-47 serial number 42-28460. He and his fellow pilots were following train tracks looking for targets of opportunity near Arzfeld, Germany. The tracks lead into a valley with several water towers located near the tracks. As he was flying through the valley German antiaircraft guns opened up on him hitting his plane. Because of the damage to his P-47, John ended up crash landing his P-47 near Logbierme, Belgium. As the plane slid to a stop he quickly climbed out of the cockpit closing the canopy and ran for the woods.


John Read was born in October 1924 in Hampton, Virginia. As a teenager he worked in the shipyards at Newport News building battleships. At the age of 17 he enlisted in the army after being accepted to Virginia Polytechnic Institute. John Read Story 03 Reads P 47Due to his young age his father had to sign his enlistment papers. He trained in Tennessee and Florida and became a P-47 pilot. He was sent to England in 1944, before the Normandy invasion. During his first combat mission he was so fascinated by golf ball shaped orange flak that he forgot to climb out of range until he looked for rest of his squadron and saw them high above him. As the weather cleared during the Battle of the Bulge, allowing his fighter group to resume flying, he could not believe the amount of scattered abandoned equipment covering the landscape. One of his most vivid memories of the war was seeing a moving German train on fire that had just been attacked with people jumping out of the windows.

On 13 September 1944 John and his fellow pilots were following train tracks looking for targets of opportunity near Arzfeld, Germany. The tracks lead into a valley with several water towers located near the tracks. They knew the Germans used water towers to locate aircraft and artillery spotters, he flew into the valley to check out the towers and if necessary destroy them. As he was flying through the valley German antiaircraft guns opened up on him hitting his plane. He did not know the Germans had anti-aircraft guns hidden on the slopes above the valley. Because of the damage to his P-47, John ended up crash landing his P-47 near Logbierme, Belgium. As the plane slid to a stop he John Read Story 02 John Reads P 47quickly climbed out of the cockpit closing the canopy (most likely out of habit) and ran for the woods. Members of his squadron saw him running from his plane and into the woods. He was unhurt and he said ran so fast and far that he got sick to his stomach. He thought he heard dogs searching for him at one point. He found a stream and filled his canteen with water, adding a tablet he had been issued to purify water. He did not encounter anyone until walking along a road he saw an older man and a young boy coming his in direction. As they walked past each other not saying a word he covered the squadron patch on his flight jacket with his hand fearing that would identify him as an American. After three days of walking toward the West he ran into an US Army unit scouting the area. They took him back to the American lines and after a couple of days he was back at his air base. Soon after returning to base his squadron leader asked him was he ready to fly again and he said yes. On his next mission as he attempted to climb into his new P-47 he started shaking and trembling and could not get into his plane. He was then given a two week furlough to rest after having been shot down. John was sent to a rest and recreation center in the English countryside, which he found too quiet and boring. He soon checked himself out of the facility and spent the rest of the time in London. He said he was probably the only pilot in the Army Air Corps that was ever shot down by guns located at a higher elevation than he was flying.

John Read Story 06 John and Jane

After the war John attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute and completed a degree in Industrial Engineering. His first job after college was with Esso Corporation in Richmond, Virginia. He later became involved in the corrugated box industry and worked for Westvaco in Richmond as well as other box companies in Western New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey. When he was in his late fifties he retired to Skaneateles, New York in the Finger Lakes region where he had a lake house and where his wife's family had lived for
generations. He loved fishing, boating and sailing on Skaneateles Lake.

John married his wife Jane on 16 September 1950. They met while she attended Mary Washington University in Virginia. They had five children Elizabeth, Suzanne, Bob, Millee, and Mary, twelve grandchildren and three great grandchildren. John passed away on 11 April 1993 at the age of 68.

John Read Story 05 Twin pieces of flakOn display is the access panel that was removed from the left wing of John’s P-47. We found two small pieces of flak still lodged inside the access panel 72 years after being hit and crash landing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Read Story 04 John Reads daughters

John Reads daughters

 

Bob 23 July 2016
Bob, July 2016 

 

John Read Daughter Suzanne
John Read's Daughter Suzanne

 

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