Kirkham, Virgil Paul, 1st Lt

Fallen
 
 Service Photo   Service Details
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Last Rank
First Lieutenant
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
M 1055-Pilot, Single-Engine Fighter
Last AFSC Group
USAAF
Primary Unit
1944-1945, 362nd Fighter Group
Service Years
1943 - 1945
First Lieutenant

 Last Photo   Personal Details 


Home State
Oregon
Oregon
Year of Birth
1924
 
This Military Service Page was created/owned by CMSgt Don Skinner to remember Kirkham, Virgil Paul, 1st Lt.

If you knew or served with this Airman and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
 
Casualty Info
Home Town
Troutdale, OR
Last Address
Illeschaim AB, Germany

Casualty Date
Apr 30, 1945
 
Cause
Hostile, Died while Missing
Reason
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Location
Czech Republic
Conflict
World War II
Location of Interment
American Cemetery - Lorraine, France
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Plot A Row 21 Grave 18

 Official Badges 

Meritorious Unit Commendation 1944-1961


 Unofficial Badges 




 Military Association Memberships
World War II Fallen
  2014, World War II Fallen

 Photo Album   (More...


 Ribbon Bar


Aviator (Basic)



 
 Unit Assignments
Aviation Cadet Flight School362nd Fighter Group
  1943-1945, Aviation Cadet Flight School
  1944-1944, M 1055, 362nd Fighter Group
  1944-1945, 362nd Fighter Group
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1944-1944 European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Rhineland Campaign (1944-45)
  1945-1945 European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Central Europe Campaign (1945)
 My Aircraft/Missiles
PT-19 Trainer  P-47 Thunderbolt (Jug)  
  1943-1944, PT-19 Trainer
  1944-1944, P-47 Thunderbolt (Jug)
 Additional Information

Last Known Activity

Virgil Paul Kirkham was born on November 27, 1924 in Troutdale, Oregon. He was the son of William Cory and Mary Elizabeth Rayburn Kirkham.

No records concerning his early life have been located to date; however, there is a brief notation in one article that states "while he was at the University." There is no mention of the name of the institution.

The date of his entry into service can only be speculated on, however; with a birthdate of late 1924, it is doubtful he could have joined the Aviation Cadet program until possibly 1942. The length of most basic and primary training, plus the familiarization flights for the P-47 fighter, would see him commissioned and assigned to an operational unit not much before late 1943.

Kirkham was assigned to the 377th Fighter Squadron of the 362nd Fighter Group of the 9th Air Force. The primary mission of the unit was bomber escort and fighter sweeps, but after D-Day, the P-47s were utilized in ground attack mode as fighter bombers. As a result of the mission change, the 377th Fighter Squadron moved from RAF Headon to Lignvulles, France, and to Illeschaim, Germany.

On April 30, 1945, Lt. Virgil Paul Kirkham took-off on his 82nd combat mission. The targets were German armored stock in Czeckoslavakia. Near the city of Pilsen, Kirkham and his flight were positioning themselves for an attack on a column of armored cars and tanks when they came under intense anti-aircraft fire. In attempting to evade the low-altitude flak, Kirkham swerved his aircraft, and the wing tip hit a tree. The aircraft cartwheeled into the ground, exploded, and burned.

His body was retrieved by local citizens and buried near the crash site just outside Klencin. He was later moved to the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial where he lies today.

Lt. Virgil Paul Kirkham was 20 years old, and the last fighter pilot killed in Europe in World War II.

A 14 year-old Czech girl, Zdebky Sladkova, was so impressed by the young American's sacrifice to liberate her country that she has tended a small memorial at the crash site for 65 years. At the age of 79 (2010) she still tends it.

  

Comments/Citation

Lt. Virgil Paul Kirkham was flying his assigned aircraft, P-47D #44-89700. nicknamed "Lady Jo-Ann II" when he was killed in action.Missing Air Crew Report 14219 applies.

Lt. Kirkham was credited with one aerial victory in combat.

Service photo source:
www.findagrave.com

   
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