Last Known Activity
Joseph H. Bennett was born in Marlow, Oklahoma on November 25, 1918. After graduating from high school, he attended Abilene Christian College in Abilene, Texas and Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico.
He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet program on April 25, 1941, and graduated on December 13, 1941, one week after Pearl Harbor. Awarded a commission as 2nd Lieutenant, and with pilot wings, he was assigned to the 54th Fighter Group for combat training in the P-39. In March 1943, he was transferred to the 360th Fighter Squadron of the 356th Fighter Group and underwent combat training in the P-47 at Mitchell Field, New York and Grenier Field, Connecticut.
In August 1943, he deployed to Coxhill Field in England, and was promoted to Captain. On November 29, he scored a "probable kill" on an enemy fighter, and this was his last mission with the 356th Fighter Group. He was assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron of the 56th Fighter Group, where he transitioned into the P-51 aircraft. On December 23, he received his first confirmed aerial victory. In April 1944, his aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision over the Dutch coast, but Bennett was rescued from the English Channel.
The next month, he was awarded 4 more aerial victories, but almost met his end in a dogfight. While engaging a flight of German fighters, Bennett was jumped from the rear by a BF-109. As the German pilot pulled into firing position, his guns jammed. Intent on destroying the American aircraft, the pilot deliberately rammed the nose of his aircraft into the tail structure of the P-51. The tail assembly disintegrated, and Bennett managed to bail out of the spinning wreckage, while the German managed to make a succesful belly-landing. Bennett was captured and imprisoned in Stalag Luft VII near Moosburg, Germany. Here he was visited by the German flier who rammed him, Oberfahnrich Hubert Heckmann. After the war, they became friends and visited each other annually.
Liberated in April 1945, Bennett remained in Germany on Occupation duty until January 1846, when he returned to the U.S. and was honorably discharged. He moved to West Texas and became a farmer. Later, he worked with the Army Corps of Engineers until his retirement in 1980.
Major Joseph H. Bennett passed away on August 18, 2000. He is buried in the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery in Dallas, Texas.
USAAC/USAAF Aircraft Inventory records
Major Joseph h. Bennett had an interesting relationship with aircraft. His first assigned aircraft with the 61st Fighter Squadron was P-47D #42-8396, nicknamed "Lucky." This aircraft was later assigned to another pilot and was severely damaged in a landing accident on February 2, 1945 while being flown by Flight Officer William H. Carrington.
Bennett's next aircraft was P-47D #751XX*, nicknamed "Ann II." He was then assigned to P-47D#42-75269, no name or artwork. After his transfer to the 336th Fighter Squadron, he was assigned P-51B#42-106686, nicknamed "Ann III." This was the aircraft lost in the mid-air incident off the Dutch coast. Later, he was given P-51B#43-6572, nicknamed "Paul," after his son. This aircraft was assigned to him the day before he flew the mission in which he was rammed and became a POW. Missing Air Crew Report # 5720 applies.
*Note: USAAC/USAAF records indicate only the first three numbers in the serial number of "Ann II."