Remembering Across Time: Memorial Day 2022 in the 142nd Wing

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Terrence G. Popravak, Jr., USAF (Retired)
  • 142nd Wing / History Office

Who to remember on Memorial Day?  In our busy lives some people either forget or never learned the differences between Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day and Veterans Day.  Simply put, Memorial Day is to remember those members of the Armed Forces who died in service to the country.

We should note also that there is a National Moment of Remembrance on Memorial Day.  All Americans are encouraged to pause for a minute of silence or to listen to Taps at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. 

For other pertinent ideas for how to commemorate this day, consider “Memorial Day Traditions: 10 Powerful Traditions to Show Pride” here.  

World War II Era

For the 142nd Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard, on Memorial Day we remember those who died while serving from the unit’s earliest days, when it was designated as the 371st Fighter Group in World War II.  We also remember the fallen of the 123rd Fighter Squadron when it began in 1941 as the 123rd Observation Squadron and then when it was redesignated as the 35th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron in World War II. 

The post-war unit redesignations of the 371st Fighter Group to the 142nd Fighter Group (later Wing), and the 35th Photo Recon Squadron to the 123rd Fighter Squadron, can make it difficult to see connections.  But there is a thread of continuity in the lineage between them, and it’s important to remember all those who fell in service while assigned to the units when they had these various designations.

The 142nd Wing, as the 371st Fighter Group in WWII, lost 56 men during the war and the immediate post-war occupation period in Europe.  These personnel were killed in combat missions, non-combat flights in-theater, and in ground operations in the European Theater of Operations.  The first was 2nd Lt. Eugene E. Sanderson on April 12, 1944 and the last was 1st Lt. Roger P. Trevitt on July 9, 1945.

The 123rd Fighter Squadron, as the 123rd Observation Squadron in 1941, and then redesignated as the 35th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron in 1943, lost 14 men in the war in service in the United States and overseas in the China-Burma-India Theater and the war’s immediate aftermath.  The first was Lt. Charles P. Clark, killed on February 20, 1942 when the O-49 Vigilant he was flying with observer Lt. Rudy J. Binder crashed just after takeoff for a coastal patrol from the Moon Island Airport near Hoquiam, Washington.  Both men were killed.  The last was Flight Officer Stanley C. Price, an F-5E Photo Lightning pilot who died of diphtheria on October 26, 1945 aboard the troopship USS General C. C. Ballou (AP-157), returning the 35th PRS home in 1945. 

Of the 14, four were original charter members of Oregon’s 123rd Observation Squadron when it was first activated on April 18, 1941, and were lost in service with other air units they were subsequently transferred to.  Three of them, M/Sgt Bruce C. Green, T/Sgt Albert R. Miller and S/Sgt Leonard W. Mayer, were with the 32nd Photo Recon Squadron enroute to Italy on the transport ship SS Paul Hamilton.  The ship was hit in a German air attack while in the Mediterranean Sea on April 20, 1944 and disintegrated in a catastrophic explosion which killed all 580 aboard.  See “A Somber Thursday, 20 April 1944,” here

Charter member 1st Lt. Thad C. Williams volunteered for flight training and became a pilot.  He subsequently flew the A-20 Havoc attack bomber in Europe with the 410th Bomb Group and had flown around 25 missions before he was killed in action in Germany on April 13, 1945.  Lt. Williams kept control of his fatally damaged A-20J long enough for the two other crew members to bail out safely.  See “Remembering Thad C. Williams,” here

Of these 70 losses in World War II, 11 men are still unaccounted for, Missing in Action, five in Europe, three in the Mediterranean Sea (bodies deemed unrecoverable) and three in Asia. 

Post-World War II Era

During the Korean War, when the 123rd Fighter Squadron was ordered on active duty at Portland as part of the Air Defense Command during the larger Cold War standoff, three F-51 Mustang pilots of the squadron, Capt. Carl L. Brose, 1st Lt. Paul S. Taggart and 2nd Lt. Richard D. Price, were killed in 1951 flying accidents.  They are remembered in “Memorial Day 2021 – Remembering a Rough Transition” here

Two of the 123rd Fighter Squadron’s pilots who were called to active duty in the Korean War, Capt. Taylor C. White, Jr. and Capt. Wallace L. Parks, completed their 100-mission tours of combat in that war and returned safely to Portland.  However, on May 5, 1952, Capt. White was killed in an F-51 Mustang flying accident.  Capt. Parks transitioned into the jet age, but on June 25, 1956, he and radar observer 2nd Lt. John G. Kominoth were lost in an F-94B take-off mishap. 

These four fighter pilots and 14 others killed in post-WWII flying accidents from 1948 to 2007 are remembered on the tablet at the Memorial Park on Portland ANG Base.  See “The Oregon Air National Guard Memorial Park,” here.  

Related Losses

Some of the personnel associated with these units who continued on in service to the nation in other flying units met their fate in peace and in war.  First Lieutenant Merlin R. Allen of the 35th PRS was transferred to the 16th Combat Camera Unit in China and was on a psychological operations mission dropping leaflets over enemy-held territory when the C-47 transport aircraft he was aboard came under enemy fire.  He parachuted and was captured by the Japanese, but was later inadvertently wounded in an air attack on the train he was being transported on and died in captivity on July 16, 1945. See “Remembered, Not Forgotten,” here.  

A P-47 Thunderbolt pilot of the 371st Fighter Group, Capt. Francis T. Evans completed over 100 combat missions and continued to serve after the war.  On June 16, 1953 while flying a F-86D Sabre jet fighter he experienced a hydraulic system failure.  Enroute back to Andrews AFB in Maryland, Capt. Evans was near an elementary school when the backup system failed.  With what control he still had of the jet, he steered the plane to a wooded area beyond the school and bailed out, too low for his parachute to open fully and he was killed, but he saved the lives of some 200 children then on the grounds of the school.    

During the Vietnam War, a former F-5E Photo Lightning pilot of the 35th PRS, Col. Edward B. “Shifty” Barnett, commanded the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat Royal Thai AFB.  He survived combat tours in WWII and Korea but was killed after his F-105D Thunderchief was shot down by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile over North Vietnam on November 15, 1967 during the Rolling Thunder air campaign.

The Ground Echelon in the Post-World War II Era

Less well-known, perhaps, but still important to remember are the unit’s Airmen of the ground echelon lost in the line of duty.  Senior Airman Jill L. Stark, was an admin technician assigned to the 142nd Resource Management Squadron.  She had just completed her duty day on January 28, 1991 and was riding home on her bicycle when she was struck by a truck and died.  She was 22 years old.

On June 9, 1996 Master Sergeant Douglas R. Galash, chaplain’s assistant and 17-year veteran of the Oregon ANG, completed the unit’s annual fitness run that day.  A few minutes later, he suddenly fell to the pavement from a heart attack and subsequently passed away.  He was 43 years old.

Portland Air Base-Related

In addition to the Oregon ANG-associated unit personnel highlighted above, there are those in uniform who were assigned to Portland Air National Guard Base through the years during its various designations who should also be remembered.  Such as the members of the Southern Crew lost during a coastal patrol off Oregon in their A-29 bomber on November 20, 1942 assigned to the 75th Bomb Squadron of the 42nd Bomb Group (Medium) at Portland Army Air Base here.  

A jet-age casualty at Portland Air Force Base was on October 22, 1964, when Korean War veteran pilot Capt. John R. Quigley of the active duty 460th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 337th Fighter Group was killed in his F-102A Delta Dagger fighter-interceptor in a takeoff accident at Portland.

Fast forward to November 22, 1996 and the loss of 10 of the 11-member crew of the Portland Air Reserve Station’s 304th Air Rescue Squadron (AFRC) HC-130P Hercules “KING 56.”  A memorial to the crew is at Willamette National Cemetery, which can be seen in the Air Force Reserve Command article “Portland reservists rededicate memorial to King 56 crew,” here.  


Memorial Day Reflections

As you can see, there are many lives associated with the 142nd Wing which have been given in service to the nation, many names to remember.  A Department of the Air Force Memorial Day memorandum of May 26, 2022 adds another important aspect for the day: “It also affords us the opportunity to pay homage to those families who lost their loved ones in service to the Nation-and continue to feel the full weight of that sacrifice today.” 

Whatever the circumstances of their loss, in war or in peace, we remember those who fell while serving our country in the armed forces.  As American citizens, as a matter of respect and of self-respect, let us honor these fallen who died in service that we could have freedom and liberty.  May we be worthy of their sacrifice.