The 459th Twin Dragon Fighter squadron, Burma Banshees
We have done one in-depth story on the 80th Fighter Group Burma Banshees in the China-Burma-India Theater of WWII. We have also published a set of photos provided us by the son of one of the group's pilots. We have now received a historic set of photos from the daughter of a master sergeant in the group, MSgt. Herb Walker. This set is special, as it deals with the 459th Twin Dragons, who flew the P-38 Lightning. The other three squadrons flew the P-40 Warhawk. This will be mainly a gallery of the Walker Collection of photos, with some limited commentary. The P-38 was fighter most feared by Japanese pilots, and the 459th knocked down and destroyed its share of Japanese to earn that respect.
By Ed Marek, editor
June 1, 2008
80th Fighter Group (FG) "Burma Banshee" P-38 " Model photo presented by Aiken's Airplanes. You can see her unique "Twin Dragon" art. The 459th Fighter Squadron was the only one of the Banshee squadrons to fly the P-38, and it came to be known as the "Twin Dragons." This model is in honor of Capt. Walter Duke, a leading "Ace" of the 10th AAF, a 459th FS "Twin Dragon" lost in combat in June, 1944. His aircraft was "Miss V."
Earlier this year, Toni Pralle contacted me to say that her father was in the 459th Twin Dragon Fighter Squadron. The 459th Fighter Squadron (FS) was the first US squadron in India to receive the P-38H "Lightening," in September 1943. It was assigned to the 80th Fighter Group (FG), known as the Burma Banshees, which fought from bases in India and Burma in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Campaign of WWII in the Pacific. The other three squadrons in the group flew P-40s and P-47s.
Since then, Toni has sent us a batch of photos he found among his father's things. Toni is the son of Herbert Wayne Walker, Master Sergeant (MSgt.), US Army Air Force (USAAF).
Back on February 22, 2005 we published an article entitled, "Burma Banshees, 'Angels on our Wings,' the call of death to the enemy."
We're now proud to display photos sent to us by Toni Pralle. The 459th was a unique squadron in the Banshees, and this is a bit of history that we should not miss. I believe there are at least a few historic photos here.
By war's end, the 80th FG destroyed 149 enemy aircraft in the air and on the ground, of which over 100 were air-to-air victories. The squadron destroyed 123 enemy aircraft in its first 58 combat days. Six of the squadron's pilots were aces.
All photos in this report are courtesy of the Pralle family of Iowa, from those kept by its father, unless otherwise indicated. Among the most historic photos the family provided is this squadron group shot.
I do not know what year it was taken. I am going to break the photo up into eight sections, so perhaps some readers can recognize a family member or friend. If they do so, I hope they notify me. I would like to identify them all if I can.
I have also made this a B&W photo hoping for better clarity. I am going to move from left to right. There will be some overlap to make sure I get everyone in there. As I conducted my research of the squadron, I ran across identified photos of individuals, mostly pilots. I have tried to match them to these photos but must admit I am on shaky ground. Help if you can.
My first conclusion is that the enlisted guys are wearing flight caps while the pilots are wearing the "crush caps." The crush cap was the Visor Cap, or Service Cap, deliberately worked on by the pilots much as we do baseball caps these days. The best "worked over" of them were known as the "50 mission crush cap," a sign of a guy who has been around the block a few times. A web site known as acmedepot.com has said this:
"Nothing made an aviator look more seasoned than when sporting a floppy, crumpled cap riding at a jaunty angle atop his head."
Front row, second from the left with crush cap, possibly Lt. Burdett Goodrich, ace credited with 5.5 air victories. Killed in action.
Fourth row, second from let with his crush cap cocked back a bit, sporting a mustache, resembles Major James Fielder. He has writtten an excellent book on the 459th FS, entitled, A history of the 459th Fighter Squadron: The Twin Dragons, CBI, 1943-1945, which can be ordered through the Burma Banshee web site. This web site has some wonderful photography of its own.
Second row, second from the right, Francis Salvatore Nudi, Pittsburgh.
Third row, third pilot from the left, sitting next to an enlisted man, looking straight at us, could be Capt. Wally Duke, the top ace in the squadron, ten confirmed kills in the air and eight on the ground. Killed in action.
Third row, fourth from the right, crush cap cocked up and back, possibly Capt. Henry Mahler, an ace with three air victories and two-and-a-half on the ground. Second row down from the top, first on the right, MSgt. Herbert W. Walker.
Third row, fourth from the right, looking straight at you, a wild chance this is Capt. Hampton Boggs, number two ace in the squadron.
This last shot is very overlapped with the previous one, I just had to get that Twin Dragon nose in there with the squadron patch. Plus, of course, third row, second from the right, flight cap cocked, sunglasses on, he had to be shown in his full splendor yet again.
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