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William C. Littlewood Pilot F6C 42-103460 111th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron

William Littlewood

On 25 December 1944 he was flying a F6C (recon version of the P-51C) serial number 42-103460. The plane had two nose art names, “Rome Gnome” and "Weenie Merchant 2". This was his 100th mission. He departed from Azelot France on a combat reconnaissance mission in the Frankfurt Germany area.

 

 William C. Littlewood was born on 3 May 1923 in Plainfield, New Jersey.  His parents were William Littlewood and Dorothy Cushman.  He had one brother, Robert.

He was attending Cornell University just before the war but dropped out, or was pushed out.  He told his family that he had flushed a cherry bomb down a toilet causing plumbing problems all over campus.  He said that it also blew out some of the old lead piping.  He volunteered for the Navy, which turned him down.  He next volunteered for the Army Air Force and was accepted.

William LittlewoodUpon completing his pilot training he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in November 1943.   William was flying P-47’s with the 324th Fighter Group 316th Fighter Squadron.  On 9 September 1944 he was flying a mission near Basel France where he first destroyed a locomotive and 12 freight cars.  He continued searching for other targets in the area and he destroyed two more locomotives, four freight cars, and damaged 15 other freight cars.  During the attack, his plane was hit by flak and he had to make a crash landing back at his base.  He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for this in December 1944.  He wanted to fly P-51’s and was able to transfer to the 111th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, XII Tactical Air Command, of the 12th Army Air Force.  On 25 December 1944, he was flying a F6C (recon version of the P-51C) serial number 42-103460.  The plane had two nose art names, “Rome Gnome” and "Weenie Merchant 2".  This was his 100th mission.  He departed from Azelot France on a combat reconnaissance mission in the Frankfurt Germany area.  He was flying as wingman for Captain Victor Gentzler.  As they reached the target area, Victor called William to stay on his wing as they were about to drop down and start the photo run.  When they started the run, William was flying off to his right wing, and when he leveled out to begin the run he was still there.  After completing the photo run, he lost sight of William, calling out to him over the radio.  That is when he saw about 12 German ME109 fighters off to his right with William flying amongst them.  As he was heading in that direction, he saw William shoot down one of the German fighters before losing sight of him with another ME109 on his tail.  Victor called out to him telling him to dive for speed, hit the deck, and head for home, but William did not answer.  A few minutes later William called back telling Victor that he was losing altitude and that his engine was shot up badly.  He called again a few seconds later telling Victor that he was bailing out.  He was captured after several days and was interned at the German POW camp Stalag Luft 1. 

After the war William went to Harvard University, while there he met Ruth Bosson a freshman at Radcliffe College.  He and Ruth married in May 1947.  After graduating from Harvard, he attended the University of Chicago to study psychology.  He worked as a psychologist but never got an advanced degree. When his father died, he moved the family to California where he got an MA degree from Antioch University. William’s shoe remains as recovered from the crash site

He and Ruth had five children, Lee, Jill, David, Steven, and John.  William passed away on 27 November 2017. 

German aviation historian and author Kurt Langer recovered the artifacts from the crash site of William’s plane about 30 years ago.  When we received the artifacts there was also shoe that Kurt had recovered from the crash site.  When talking with William’s son Lee and describing the artifacts that were found I told him that there was also a shoe that had been recovered from the crash site of his dad’s plane.  Lee laughed, telling me that over the years his dad had told the story about bailing out of the plane and then realizing that he had lost a shoe, and never knew if it come off in the plane, or when he parachuted out.

The original wartime color photos with this story are from William’s family.

 

 F6C serial number 42-103460

F6C serial number 42-103460

 

William Littlewood

William Littlewood

 

Artifacts from the crash site

Artifacts from the crash site

 

The gun sight

The gun sight

 

One of the wing fuel tank gauges

One of the wing fuel tank gauges

 

William Littlewood next to his P-47 while flying with the 324th Fighter Group, 316th Fighter squadron

William Littlewood next to his P-47 while flying with the 324th Fighter Group, 316th Fighter squadron

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