Researcher’s Corner

The Air Force Historical Foundation “Researcher’s Corner” is a utility created specifically to support the documentation of air power history. If you are hitting a roadblock in your research efforts, our broad base of members and web audience can be of assistance.

All requests for information will be posted on this page for a period of six months, which can be extended by request.

If you have details on an item already posted in the “Researcher’s Corner,” please send your input to the e-mail address provided above.

C-141 StarLifter flights in the 1970s from Ton Son Nhut to Travis AFB

For a historical novel, I would like to correspond with pilots, air crew, loadmasters of C-141 StarLifter (B) or (C) out of Ton Son Nhut or Da Nang into Travis AFB.  Interested in  route flown, stops for fuel, etc.; duration from wheels up to wheels down, and on-board crew accommodations.

Seeking the subject of a World War II-era photographic portrait

I am writing to you from a small Village in West Sussex, England, called Billingshurst. In the village, we have a small thrift shop for the charity, Age UK.

Their manager, Susan Edwards, contacted me about a photographic portrait that has been in their possession for some time. They do not want to sell it, but would like to freely reunite it with the owner (or the descendants of the owner).

At first I thought it was the photograph of a Canadian Pilot, as we had a large Canadian base nearby that took part in the Dieppe raid (almost 75 years ago). However, on closer inspection, it appears to be a U.S. Air Force serviceman.

I contacted a World War II aircraft enthusiast, who gave me the following details:

“The cap badge is of an officer in the U.S. Army Air Force, which dates it between June 1941 and September 1947 (when it became the U.S. Air Force).There are various versions of it which I’m not that well up on that could narrow down the dates, but I suspect it is World War II.

“A framed picture usually indicates someone with a reasonably close affinity with the area. If it is local, I would suggest someone billeted in the area during the war years. Other possibility is someone helped by persons in the area after, say, an accident.

“Difficult to say for sure, but the sheepskin jacket doesn’t look like a USAAF-issue B3 or B6 flying jacket, or even a D1 Mechanics jacket as there are no leather straps, but of course they could have been cut off. It’s possible it could be an AN-J4 which had a larger sheepskin collar and was developed from a U.S. Navy design. That didn’t appear until 1943.

“Taking the first assumption, billets weren’t usually far from their place of work. The USAAF only had a few bases in Sussex, the nearest of which was Burton Rough (AAF number 593) which was the home of 461 Signal Construction Battalion, Ninth Engineering Command. It was in Petworth, not far from Billingshurst, and the most likely. Theoretically, the base number is in the range allocated to 8th Air Force Ground Support (post 1942) but that doesn’t necessarily hold true as a lot of the later bases were just given consecutive numbers regardless of use. The assumption that he was Canadian would tie in with this, as Burton Rough was also used by Canadian forces signal units (base listed as SU9719) during and shortly after World War II.

“It might be less of a search than you may think as 461 Signal Construction Battalion had a Headquarters and Medical Detachment at Burton Rough. Both of these are listed as Black units, i.e. made up of African Americans in March 1944. They weren’t there in December 1943. The Medical Detachment had gone by June 1944 and the HQ unit by August 1944. Neither unit remained in the UK.

“IX Engineering Command had a variety of construction battalions but can’t find 461 listed, however, it is quite possible that the unit was absorbed into the new IX Engineer Command. Haven’t had time to go through the whole thing, but it appears that in 1944 the command only had about 70 officers in all.

“The nearest flying groups were at Ford (2 Detachment, 14th Fighter Group), and around Chichester at West Hampnett – now Chichester Airfield (allocated to 31st Fighter Group) and Tangmere (general 8th Air Force field, or may have had an HQ unit there). These are the only bases in Sussex listed for the USAAF. There were also a lot of what were effectively Military Police posts usually located in local houses, but it isn’t very likely that one of those would be in the area given the lack of major facilities in Sussex.”

Is there anyone that might know who the subject is and help aid the portrait’s return?

Graeme McAlpine

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