Walter E. Starck was born in Hosington, Kansas on September 2, 1920. He was the son of a Lutheran minister, who died in 1933. Walter's mother returned, with her children, to her home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. From age 3, Walter expressed a desire to be a pilot. He worked to support the family starting in his teens and saved money from his job as a theater manager.
He graduated High School, and applied for Aviation Cadets, but a requirement was 2 years of college. He hired a tutor to enable him to receive the equivalent education. After the war began in 1941, the 2-year requirement was eliminated, so Walter enlisted and requested Cadet status in January 1942.
On November 10, 1942, he graduated from flight training and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and awarded pilot wings at Moore Field, Texas. He was then sent to Westover, Massachusetts to familiarize himself on the P-47. Later he was assigned to the 321st Fighter Squadron of the 326th Fighter Group.
After training, he was assigned to the 487th Fighter Squadron of the 352nd Fighter Group as the Engineering Officer. He deployed with the unit in 1943 to Bodney Field, England. He began routine missions in the P-47, escorting bombers, and making fighter sweeps. He moved to P-51 fighters when the 352nd Fighter Group transitioned from the P-47.
On November 27, 1944, he and his flight engaged enemy fighters in defense of a bomber stream. At that time, his record was 5 aerial victories, with 1 probable and 2 damaged. In the ensuing dogfight, he shot down 2 more enemy aircraft, but debris from his last kill struck his aircraft and damaged the engine. He reported to the flight leader he was making for England, but the aircraft lost all power and Starck was forced to bail out.
He was captured by the Germans and interrogated for 19 days under extreme conditions, Finally, he was shipped to Stalag Luft I where he stayed under primitive conditions until liberated by the Russians in May 1945. He was promoted to Major and returned to the U.S. at duty stations Moore Field, Texas and Luke AFB, Arizona.
In 1946 he returned to Europe on Occupation duty at Schweinfurt, Germany. In 1948, he was assigned to Red Bank, New Jersey. He then had a tours at various organizations and bases such as Wright-Patterson AFB, Illinois; Taegu AFB, Korea: and Lincoln AFB, Nebraska in the Civil Engineering area.
He became the Division Civil Engineering Officer for the 3rd Air Force in 1962 at Anderson AFB, Guam. In 1964, he was appointed as Executive Civil Engineering Officer at Hgs SAC at Offutt AFB, Nebraska.
Colonel Walter E. Strack retired from the Air Force on July 31, 1965.
He passed away on January 7, 2010 at his home in Berlin, Maryland.
Walter Starck's first assigned aircraft was P-47D #42-8684, nicknamed "Lucia."
When the 352nd Fighter Group transitioned to P-51s, Starck was assigned P-51B #43-24807, nicknamed "Starck Mad." This name was on the left side of the aircraft; "Even Steven" (for Keith Steven, crew chief) was on the right side.
Later, Starck was given P-51B #43-6929, which was lost on May 12, 1944 while being flown by Lt. Alfred P. Howard, Jr., who was shot down and captured. Ironically enough, Starck was flying P-51B #44-14794, nicknamed "Buzz Boy," assigned to Lt. James Bateman, when he was forced to bail out and become a POW.
The 352d Fighter Group was one of the most highly decorated USAAF Fighter Groups inWorld War II, producing many leading aces of the war. The 352d was composed of three squadrons: (the 328th, 486th and 487th Fighter Squadrons). Once deployed to the European Theater of Operations (ETO), the group was eventually headquartered in Bodney, England before being forward deployed to Belgium. It performed a variety of missions for the Eighth Air Force, but predominantly served as bomber escort. After the war the unit was transferred to the District of Columbia Air National Guard and redesignated the 113th Fighter Group.
The first missions of the 352d FG were flown on 9 September 1943 when the Thunderbolts flew an escort mission over the North Sea protecting B-17 Flying Fortress bombers returning from a raid over continental Europe. Skirmishes with the Luftwaffe were frequent, but it wasn't until 26 November when Major John C. Meyer of the 487th FS scored the Group's first victory over Europe – an Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter. Meyer later became deputy commander of the 352d during its most successful period of operations.
On 8 April 1944, the 352d exchanged their radial-engined P-47s for sleek North American P-51 Mustang fighter planes. It was then that the Group adopted their unique blue nose marking. It is legend among aviation historians that the German Luftwaffe referred to the 352d as the "Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney." Whether this is true or not is irrelevant because indeed, the 352d FG was undoubtedly successful. In the end, the Group flew nearly 60,000 combat hours in 19 months, claimed 519 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air (4th highest among the 15 groups of VIII Fighter Command), 287 on the ground and produced 26 aerial aces for losses in combat of 118 aircraft. Notable pilots of the 352d include top scoring P-51 aces Major George Preddy and Col. John C. Meyer, Captain Donald Bryan, Lt. Robert "Punchy" Powell, Capt. John "Smokey" Stover, Capt. John Thornell, Capt. William C. Miller, Capt. Raymond Littge and Capt. William T. Whisner.
Stations flown from :
Bodney, England (July '43 - Jan '45)
Chievres, Belgium (Jan '45 - April '45
Bodney, England (April '45 - end WWII)
Air Offensive, Europe
The Pilot: Utah native Alden Rigby flew this P-51, named for his wife and baby daughter. Logging 76 combat missions, comprising 272 combat hours, during World War Two, and being credited with six victories, he was decorated with the Silver Star, the Air Medal with seven oak leaf clusters, and the Distinguished Unit Citation, and retired a Major in 1979 after 25 years with the Utah Air Guard.
Maj. George E. Preddy, Jr.
This photo was taken following a mission on July 18 '44 when Preddy claimed 4 Ju-88s. His claim was reduced to 3 confirmed
P-51B-10-NA "Princess Elizabeth"
Unit: 487th FS, 352nd FG, 8th AF, USAAF
Serial: HO-W (42-106449)
Pilot - 1st Lt.William Whisner, May 1944. Now the plane at Imperial War Museum, Duxford, UK.
P-51B-10-NA "Snoot's Sniper"
Unit: 328th FS, 352nd FG, 8th AF, USAAF
Serial: PE-S (42-106703)
Pilot - Francis Horne. RAF Bodney, UK, 1944. He flew this airplane during WW2 in Europe, he was credited with 5.5 kills. Note: name is misspelled; it was meant to be 'Snoot's Snipper', because crew chief Art 'Snoot' Snyder was a barber. Note: 'barber pole' stripes on tail.
The personal mount of Major (later colonel) John C Meyer. Natural metal overall. Propeller spinner and fuselage Medium Blue, propeller Black with Yellow blades tips.
P-51D-10-NA "Little One III"
Unit: 328th FS, 352nd FG, 8th AF, USAAF
Serial: PE-B (44-14061)
The Pilot: The third in a succession of aircraft named for his wife Francis, Don Bryan racked up a score of 13 victories during his combat tour, including a victory over the hard-to-catch Arado 234 jet bomber. Bryan entered the Army Air Force in 1943 and joined the 352nd Fighter Group after serving as an advanced instructor stateside. During his combat tour, he was especially proud that he brought his wingmen back from each mission: I think that Im the luckiest leader in the Group. I flew 140 combat missions, and I never lost a wingman. Mr. Bryan received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, and the Air Medal with 14 oak leaf clusters. He served in the Air Force for 23 years, and retired as a Lt. Col.
P-51D-10-NA "Straw Boss 2"
Unit: 352nd FG, 8th AF, USAAF
Serial: PE-X (44-14111)
Pilot - CO of 352 FG Col. James Mayden.
There are a number of websites, books and magazines containing pictures of the illustrated P51B Mustang, "The West 'by Gawd' Virginian with its middle section burned out lying in the middle of an English field. One would think that having an ammo and fuel-laden airplane burst into flames shortly after takeoff and having to belly-land it would be enough of a thrill.
However, pilot Bob 'Punchy' Powell tells of a mission that he maintains gave him a more meaningful thrill. On May 4, 1944, the 328th Squadron of the 352nd Fighter Group, led by Col. John C. Meyer, Jr., took off on a "Ramrod" (bomber escort) mission. Four flights of four, 16 Mustangs in all, climbed into a low-hanging overcast expecting to breakout at about 8,000 feet.
Typically, the squadron leader flew on his instruments and the other 15 pilots, flying only 15 to 20 feet apart, focused intently on the silhouetted aircraft next to them to maintain their position with virtually zero visibility.
But the human element is a slippery factor. Just imagine 16 aircraft loaded with fuel and ammunition, flying in dense, dark clouds just a few feet apart and the intense concentration required of these pilots just to maintain their position in the formation. Someone must surely crack . . . lose their cool. Or, loosen up a fraction, fand slide a few deadly feet left or right...or maybe forget to switch fuel tanks, and the sputtering engine slows the plane just enough to collide with an airplane behind...
The reported 8,000 foot ceiling never opened. Instead, the thick clouds (called soup) continued up to their assigned altitude of 27,000 feet. There, they got a call that the bombers had been ordered to abort the mission. No Ramrod today. Time elapsed? About 90 minutes.
Anyone who's ever driven in a white-out blizzard at 5 mpg can testify that after 15 minutes, nerves get frayed. To imagine nearly two hours of the stuff, in wing-to-wing traffic at 250 mph is staggering!
Nevertheless, the 328th wasn't going to stay in the air forever, and landing at one of the plentiful Luftwaffe airfields wasn't an option. So, J. C. Meyer called to the three squadrons to make precise, incremental turns, still on instruments, to return to base, still depending on their skills and fortitude to get home safely. Regardless of one's affections, faith becomes quite tangible considering the variables offered them.
Each of the three squadrons began their 180 degree turns and opting to let down to try to get under the dense clouds. (Punchy recalls cold sweat on his face and body from the lengthy stress of flying tight formation for such a long period). Finally, they punched through the base of the overcast still over enemy territory. Without a word of command, these pilots quickly moved to combat formation as if on signal. Punchy remembers his feeling of pride in this exhibition of precise teamwork on this memorable mission, one of the 87 he flew.
Col Joseph L. Mason: 18 May 1943 - 15 Nov. 1944.
Col Mayden acting CO 24 Jul. 1944 - 1 Sep. 1944
Col James D. Mayden: 16 Nov. 1944 - Sep. 1945.
Lt Col William T. Halton: Sep. 1945 - Nov. 1945.
First Mission: 9 Sep. 1943
Last Mission: 3 May 1945
Aircraft MIA: 118
Claims: Air 519 air; 287 ground.
Two Distinguished Unit Citations: 8 May 1944: Brunswick escort.
1 Jan. 1945, 487FS only: destruction 23 enemy aircraft
Unit Claims to Fame
George Preddy, highest scoring Mustang ace in 8AF.
487FS only 8AF squadron to be independently awarded a DUC. Destroyed 38 enemy aircraft in 2 Nov. 1944 battle, second highest record for single day's kill
Activated 1 Oct. 1943 at Mitchel Field, NY. Actual formation at Bradley Field, Conn. in Oct. 1942, with 486 and 487FS unit was redesignated as 21 and 34 FS. Early training at Westover Field, Mass. and Trumbull Field, Conn. On 9 Mar. 1943 moved to Farmingdale AAField, NY. and commenced traininq on P-47 aircraft. Moved Westover Field, 24 May 1943, and. operated there until 16 Jun. 1943 when overseas movement began with a move to Camp Kilmer, NJ. Then the unit sailed on the Queen Elizabeth on 1 Jul. 1943 and arrived in Clyde on 6 Jul. 1943
Many personnel transferred for early return to US after VE-day. aircraft to went to depots in Aug. 1945. Remaining personnel returned to the US on Nov. 1945, sailing on the Queen Mary on 4 Nov. 1945 and arriving in New York on 9 Nov. 1945. Group established at Camp Kilmer, NJ. and inactivated on the 10 Nov. 1945. Redesignated the 113 FG and allotted to DC ANG in 1946, and activated as an Air Defence Unit. Equipped with various fighter aircraft. Later as 113 Tactical Fighter Wing was flying F-100 super saber jet aircraft.
Capt. Ed Heller's "HELL-ER Bust"
Pilot: Capt. Edwin L. Heller
Nose art: Hell-er-Bust
Serial #: 44-14696
P-51D-10-NA "Moonbeam McSwine"
Unit: 487th FS, 352nd FG, 8th AF, USAAF
Serial: HO/W (44-14237)
Pilot - William T. Whisner.
P-51D 'Diann Ruth II' flown by Captain Charles Cesky
Kentucky Babe.Lt. Steve Price
Lt. Col. J. C. Meyer
Lt. Richard F Semon. 328th Fighter Squadron. P-51D 44-14343 PE-S_ "Dingbat".
Lt. Eugene W James. 328th Fighter Squadron. P-51D 44-14207 PE-E_ "Rose Marie" (L) "The Kelly Kid 2" (R).
Lt. Charles M Price, 486th Fighter Squadron. P-51D 44-13671 PZ-X “Little Skunk”.