03.11.1943 334th Fighter Squadron P-47D 42-7924 F/O. Gallion
Operation: Bomber Escort Wilhelmshafen Germany
Date: 3rd November 1943 (Wednesday)
Unit: 334th Fighter Squadron 4th Fighter Group
Type: P47D Thunderbolt
Location: Wieringervlaak-Ijsselmeer. Netherlands
Pilot: F/O. Frank D. Gallion Air Medal. Purple Heart T-190742 USAAF Age 28. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Frank D. Gallion, a 28-year old pilot from Ohio, takes off with his Republic P-47D Thunderbolt from an Allied airbase in Essex, east England. Together with 11 other fighter aircraft of the 334th squadron he will escort bombers on a daylight raid to Wilhelmshafen. It's early in the morning as they leave. The war has reached a stage where the Allies no longer need the darkness of night for their bombing campaign over Germany. German cities are bombed day and night.
F/O. Frank D Gallion (courtesy Ron Putz via Michel Beckers)
However, this doesn't mean the mission is without danger. The Luftwaffe is weakened but has not yet been defeated. The 334th squadron will notice that on this mission. About halfway, over the northernmost part of the Dutch province Noord-Holland the squadron is intercepted by ten Messerschmitts.
The Thunderbolt may be a sturdy and fast airplane, but it is not invulnerable. Only nine out of the twelve Thunderbolts will return at the base that day.
One crashes near Opmeer, another one close to Vatrop on Wieringen and the third plane dives into the IJsselmeer a few kilometres southeast of Den Oever. It is Frank Gallion's plane. He fails to get out of the cockpit and disappears under water with the aircraft...
In the IJsselmeer south east of Den Oever, a vessel of the water authority, Rijkswaterstaat, collides with an unknown wreck while measuring the depth of a new channel. The wreck lies at approximately 3 metres depth on the lake floor. A few weeks later Navy divers take a look. They take two machine guns, ammunition and some pieces of metal back to the surface. With this can be established that it's a Thunderbolt P-47D lying there, and furthermore it was Frank Gallion's plane.
Because the wreck is obstructing the shipping in the new channel, it is considered dangerous. Especially when there could be explosives etc. on board. A salvage operation will be necessary.
The county Wieringermeer, where the wreck is located, has no money for this operation and this means the salvage operation is delayed for two years.
P51-D Wreck photographs (courtesy Michel Beckers)
The salvage of the P-47 fuelled a lot of interest. It's rare that a wreck is conserved so well. In this case it was because it lay under water for the most part.
The first phase consisted of divers taking the sand around the airplane away with dredging equipment. In this process the cockpit could be accessed and the remains of the pilot could be taken out after 50 years. Next, ropes were attached and the cranes of the salvage ships could start the most difficult part: to hoist the P-47 out of the water. The IJsselmeer doesn't give his treasures away that easily. For a moment the whole operation seems to go wrong. Because the wreck has filled with mud it has become much heavier, and the cranes can hardly pull the load. It is likely that the mud caused the wreck to break in two shortly after being pulled out of the water.
Once on the deck of the salvage ship it's a race against time. The army war graves service searches the plane one more time for human remains and other prove that would enable a final identification of the pilot. In the mean time the wreck is sprayed with oil to prevent it from turning into a big pile of rust after 50 years under water. After conservation the airplane will be exhibited.
Any further assistance with information would be gratefully received.
P-47D QP-F Taken at the New Land Polder Museum 1995 (courtesy Michel Beckers)
F/O. Frank D. Gallion - Born on the 19th September 1914 at Kilbuck, Holmes County, Ohio, the son of Mrs John Skelly of West Clinton Street, Millersburg. Returned to Hawaii for identification then home to Millersbuy, Ohio, USA where he is now laid to rest. Husband of Phylis Gallion (née Zerman) from Holmes County, Ohio. USA.
Dave Moyer wrote to us recently (November 2012) and described what he knew:
"I regret that I have no photos of Frank. Actually, all I have is memories from my youth...conversations between family members at family get togethers, specially around the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I do know he had a wife, Phylis, and actually did know her as I was growing up..late 40's early 50's. I know that she got a telegram about 2 weeks after Frank went missing, advising her of that situation. Frank was the love of her life. She never remarried. She died in 1990 and I think it so sad that she never knew the complete story. I know that among Frank's affects were his zippo lighter, what was left of his flight log book, part of his woolen flight jacket, and his dog tags. I can also give some little information, I know that before Frank flew for the USAAF he had been in the Royal Canadian Air Force, with the rank of Captain. For years, in my bedroom, was stored an all leather suitcase with his name and rank under which was RCAF. Sorry that I cannot add more.
Life is ironic. When I was about 13/14 I began writing to Bomber groups, trying to find any information about Frank. We knew the date of his disappearance but little else. I do not know how this happened, but I got a letter from a Luftwaffe pilot stating that his twin brother disappeared on the same date in about the same location where it was thought Frank went down. He offered me luck in finding information.
The letter, alas, was unsigned. I have thought of this man over the years, wondering if he, like me now, found his brother. It made me realise, then, just how vast the conflict was. Huge information for a very young lad. I wish that I could have contacted him.
I very much appreciate what you are doing.
Article prepared by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered. Our thanks also to Dave Moyer - nephew of the pilot for additional information.