Last Known Activity
Richard Lear Alexander was born in Grant Park, Illinois on July 22, 1914. Not much has been discovered concerning his early education, but in October, 1940, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.
He took pilot training and was certified as a pilot, given his wings, and commissioned as Lieutenant by September 1941. He went to England and joined the newly-formed RAF 133 Squadron, known as "The Eagle Squadron" because of the number of Americans in it. He flew a Supermarine Spitfire from RAF base Kingscliffe on bomber escort, fighter sweep, and home defense missions, receiving credit for one aerial victory and one "probable."
On September 23, 1942, Alexander transferred to the U.S. Army Air Forces and was assigned to the 4th Fighter Group. In January 1943, he was posted briefly to the 109th Observation Squadron, a reconnaissance unit.
April 1943 saw him assigned to the 2nd Fighter Squadron of the 52nd Fighter Group, flying P-39s. He led a flight of P-39s from England to North Africa, encountering trouble on the way. Weather and bad engines forced the unit down in Spain where they were interned for two months. Leaving Spain, the unit finally reported to Algeria in North Africa. Because of the many Americans still within the unit that had transferred, it was humorously nicknamed "The American Beagle Squadron." Alexander had somewhere picked up the personal nickname of "Dixie." This unit of the 52nd Fighter Group flew Spitfires and P-39s on strike and escort missions over North Africa, changing to P-51 aircraft in early 1944. With this, and extending strikes into Germany, Alexander was credited with an additional four victories. In November 1943, the 52nd Fighter Group moved to Piagiolino, Italy.
In May, 1944, he was shot down on a long range mission, and captured by the Germans, He was held as a POW in the Stalag Luft III, the infamous German POW camp featured in the film "The Great Escape." He was liberated at war's end in May of 1945.
He remained with the USAAF in Germany on Occupation duty with the 60th Fighter Squadron of the 33rd Fighter Wing. In 1947, he lost his right arm in an accident (type unspecified) in 1947 and was medically retired in 1948.
USSAF Aircraft inventory records
When flying for the RAF, Alexander utilized two Spitfires, both named "Chappie." Tail number BL722 coded MD-B and tail number BL723 coded MD-M.
When he transitioned into P-51s, he was assigned P-51B #43-24816, named "Chappie" and "Dixie MK X. This was the aircraft in which he was shot down. Missing Air Crew Report 5636 applies.
In addition to the U.S. awards and decorations, Captain Richard L. Alexander was entitled to wear ribbons denoting the award of Canadian Service Volunteer Service Medal, 1939-1945 Star (British), the Mentioned in Despatches Medal (British) and another which has not been identified to date.
Service photo source: