08.07.1944 411th Fighter Squadron P-47D Thunderbolt, 42-25686 2nd.Lt. Francis N. O’Hara
Operation: Dive bombing mission at Chartres, France
Date: 8th July 1944 (Saturday)
Unit: 373rd Fighter Group, 411th Fighter Squadron, 9th Air Force
Type: P-47D Thunderbolt
Base: Woodchurch airfield (Station #419), Kent, England
Location: 4 miles NW of Elbeuf (Seine-Maritime), France
Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Francis Norman O’Hara O-689814 AAF Age 25. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
2nd.Lt. O’Hara took off as #4 of a flight of four P-47s from Woodchurch airfield on the morning of the 8th July 1944 on a mission to dive bomb targets at Chartres in France.
The after mission statement by the flight leader, Capt. Harry L. Downing Jr., O-437990, reported that:
“At approximately 14:45 near Elbeuf, France, SW of Rouen my flight of four ships was subject to anti-aircraft fire while letting down through an overcast. At about 4,000 feet I glanced to the rear and observed a parachute just below #4 aircraft. The plane rolled over on its back and went into the ground. Lt. Francis N. O’Hara was flying that aircraft. Although I did not see the gun fire hit his plane I assume that was the reason for his bailing out. We couldn’t stay to observe him land.”
The entry for the aircraft in the “Losses of the 8th & 9th Air Forces - Volume 4: by Stan Bishop” reported that while letting down through the overcast the aircraft was shot down by flak, at 14:58 hrs, 4 miles NW of Elbeuf (Seine), France. The pilot bailed out and landed in the woods of La Londe, at Saint Nicolas.
He suffered a gunshot wound in the thigh from a rifle shot fired by an unknown SS soldier, who was from a unit quartered in the Château Callouel at Le Bosc-Roger-en-Roumois. The circumstances leading up to him being shot are unknown. However, a report to Dulag Luft, Wetzlar recorded that the pilot of an aircraft shot near Elbeuf (Seine) was a fugitive. How much can be inferred from this report is debatable.
He was then taken by a horse-drawn car to Saint-Pierre-lès-Elbeuf, over 6 miles, without medical care. He died from his wound but the Germans dressed his wound before burial.
The circumstance of his death were suspicious but no evidence of a trial has been found so any negligence contributing to his death or potential murder was not proven.
Photograph Courtesy of the American Air Museum in Britain; Grave marker Courtesy of 'Frogman' FindAGrave
1st.Lt. Francis Norman O’Hara. Air Medal (Three Oak Leaf Clusters). Buried in the community Cemetery at Elbeuf and in July 1946 he was reinterred at the US Military Cemetery at St. André near Evreux, Plot H, Row 10, Grave 196. Finally reinterred at the Normandy American Cemetery, Plot I, Row 27, Grave 23. Born on the 7th October 1918 in Middlesex County, New Jersey. Son of Martin John and Elizabeth Colette (née Woods) O’Hara of Middlesex County, New Jersey, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this Pilot with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.