Offered here is an amazing World War II United States Army Air Forces archive composed of personal effects belonging to navigator Lt. Homer S. Gentry Jr. who participated in the infamous Ploesti Raid and was killed in action while returning from a bombing run over Germany in 1944. Lt. Gentry trained with a group of Consolidated B-24 Liberator crews in North Africa for the USAAF’s first bombing raid on the oil refineries located in Ploesti, Romania, which provided the Axis with 30-50% of its fuel needs. Codenamed Operation Tidal Wave, the low level strategic bombing mission over Ploesti was designed to cripple the Axis petroleum output. “Ninth Air Force strategists envisioned a decisive knockout,” wrote Air & Space Magazine writer Stephen Joiner. Instead, the mission proved to be one of the costliest in USAAF history in the European Theater. In all, “Black Sunday” resulted in 54 bombers being lost, 440 aircrew members being killed, and 220 captured or missing. Forty percent of the refinery’s capacity was destroyed, but within weeks the refinery was repaired. The official USAAF report concluded "no curtailment of overall product output". The operation was a total failure. Lt. Gentry survived the slaughter and was among numerous aircrew members who were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (see “Montgomery in the Good War: Portrait of a Southern City, 1939-1946” on page 88). The 1962 edition of James Dugan and Carroll Stewart’s “The Great Ground-Air Battle of 1 August 1943,” and a well-known photograph (285 of 1943) of the Ploesti Raid signed by the pilot of “Utah Man,” Colonel Walter Stewart, are items related to the Ploesti Raid that are included. In Oct 1943, Lt Gentry was promoted and transferred to England in the 707th Bomb Squad of the 446th Group, 8th Air Force, likely at the request of his first cousin, Val Griffths, pilot of the "Patriotic Patty." In April 1944, Lt. Gentry was killed in action aboard the B-24 "Patriotic Patty." The Western Union telegram announcing his death to his family is a part of this archive. Upon his death, Lt. Val Griffiths, pilot of the “Patriotic Patty” and Lt. Gentry’s cousin, wrote his parents of their son’s navigating heroics to set the B-24 on a correct course back to base while bleeding to death from a wound he sustained from anti-aircraft fire. This letter is included. For his actions, the consignor notes state Lt. Gentry was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, his second such medal for his distinguished combat record. Lt. Griffiths’ letter also mentions sending his cousin’s personal effects—“watch, 45 pistol, and some of the smaller items”—back to his family. Some of these items, including the Model 1911A1 pistol, are among the artifacts offered in this outstanding archive. The Remington-Rand Model 1911A1 pistol is listed by serial number as belonging to Lt. Gentry in accompanying official USAAF equipment issue inventory papers. The pistol was manufactured by Remington-Rand in 1944 and has the two-line Syracuse address on the left side of the slide. The frame is stamped with Frank J. Atwood's inspector mark and "P" around the magazine release on the left side and standard U.S. nomenclature with the Ordnance Corps cartouche is stamped on the right side. It has a full blue magazine. Comes with a U.S. Boyt 1943 dated leather shoulder holster. Articles of Lt. Gentry’s flight gear are part of the archive and includes: B-8 goggles, Bates Shoe Co. manufactured AN-H-15 cloth flight helmet with a leather “LT. GENTRY” name tab (lacks receivers), service shirt and stellar painted Aero Leather A-2 jacket. The A-2 jacket has “Junior” hand marked in white above Lt. Gentry’s leather name tab, which includes a navigator wing patch, on the left breast, painted 1st Lieutenant bars on leather shoulder insignia, and 446th Bomb Group insignia on painted leather patch on the right breast. The back of the jacket is painted with a fantastic image of Lt. Gentry’s B-24, “Patriotic Patty,” and two rows of bombs representing 22 bombing missions. “Patriotic Patty” is listed in Forman’s “B-24 Nose Art Name Directory” as serving with the 446th BG. The jacket has the rare Aero Leather civilian label. It is a size 44. Other items related to Lt. Gentry include: U.S. military shipping tin from Lt. Griffith addressed to Lt. Gentry’s father, flight school papers, several letters to home that give the modern day reader a glimpse into Lt. Gentry’s combat life, several photographs, Kinfolks knife with sheath, Catco pocket knife, silver wings, dog tags, sealed first aid tin, pilot wing ring, wrist watch with leather band, id bracelet, 518th Infantry Regiment distinctive insignia, USAF Technical Training distinctive insignia, inscribed to Lt. Gentry, Air Medal (lacks ribbon), parachute ripcord, and two 1st Lt. overseas caps. Provenance: The Saloga Collection
The pistol is excellent with 98% plus original parkerized finish showing very slight edge wear, a blued barrel with typical cycling wear and a few nicks in the overall sharp checkering. The holster is fine showing some minor handling/storage marks and tight stitching. The A-2 jacket is good with a sizeable tear on the left sleeve, a couple tiny tears on the right sleeve and some areas of dry rot. Most of the painting on the back remains. The remaining items are good to very good overall. A well-documented archive that includes a desirable painted A-2 jacket and identified Model 1911A1 from a decorated Ploesti Raid eyewitness and killed in action USAAF navigator, Lt. Homer S. Gentry Jr., for the serious WWII aviation collector. The A-2 jacket alone makes for a grand statement even in the most advanced WWII aviation collections! A true piece of WWII history worthy of a museum!
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