An Anniversary and an Adjustment: Remembering the former POWs of the 142nd Wing

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

Today, April 9, 2024 is National Former Prisoner of War (POW) Recognition Day, when government officials, our veterans as well as civic and private organizations across the nation recognize our former POWs with ceremonies and events.

It marks the 80th anniversary year of the 142nd Wing’s first member falling into captivity during World War II (1944).  Those who are history savvy and/or will note that in that war, the 142nd Wing was designated as the 371st Fighter Group, a unit equipped with the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and assigned to Ninth Air Force for combat in the European Theater of Operations (ETO).  Most of the wing’s former POWs served in this unit.  However, there is one former POW from the China-Burma-India Theater in World War II as well as one from the Korean War and one from the Vietnam War.

The First Unit POW

By the time of the “Day of Days,” D-Day, Tuesday, June 6, 1944, 2nd Lt. Joseph E. Larochelle of the group’s 404th Fighter Squadron had completed 33 combat missions as part of the air offensive in Europe.  On D-Day he was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and bailed out of his stricken P-47D-20-RA, serial number 43-25278, just off the west coast of Normandy near St. Pair-sur-Mer, just south of Granville.  Taken captive, Lt. Larochelle was duly processed and eventually imprisoned in Stalag 7A in Moosburg, Bavaria, Germany.

Lt. Larochelle, who hailed from Methuen, Massachusetts survived his captivity to return to the northeastern US.  A graduate of Bates College who lettered in five sports, he married and was father to two sons and a daughter.  Larochelle was employed at the Bigelow Sanford Carpet Company, then later at the Emhart Manufacturing Company, a leading glass machinery maker and served as Director for International Division Personnel  maker and retired in 1985 as the Director of Industrial relations.  He flew west on  September 20, 1996 at the age of 75 and is buried at the Fairview Cemetery in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Accounting for Another

National Former POW Recognition Day is also an opportunity to adjust the POW roster because, as it often happens in history, research can uncover things which were previously unknown about a person, place or event which can affect the historical record.

This happened for the 142nd Wing in 2022, when an additional name was identified to be added to the wing’s former POW roster.  This was possible through the research work accomplished by freelance journalist Mr. Ralf Härtel from Mittweida, Germany. 

Herr Härtel found that Maj. William T. “Shorty” Bales, Jr., of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a member of the 371st Fighter Group headquarters staff, force-landed in P-47D-28-RA, serial number 42-29256, in enemy territory during a dog-fight with Luftwaffe fighters on April 13, 1945.  He found out that Maj. Bales was fatally shot in an encounter on the ground with angry German civilians.  Briefly captive, he died from his wounds the next day despite care given in a German hospital.  He was 29 years old and left behind his wife.  Maj. Bales is buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupré, Belgium at Plot D, Row 8, Grave 6.  For more on this event, see “The Mysterious Fate of William T. “Shorty” Bales, Jr., at:

The 142nd Wing Former POW Roster

With this addition, we track 24 names of personnel affiliated with the 142nd Wing who held status as former POWs.  The current roster whom we remember and honor is as follows:

Name / Rank / Unit / Date captured / Remarks

Allen, Merlin R., 1st Lt., 16th Combat Camera Unit (former member of the 35th Photo Recon Squadron (designation of the 123rd Fighter Squadron, 1943 to 1945)), Jun 25, 1945, Died in Captivity

Augarten, Rudolph, Capt., 371st Ftr Grp, 406th Ftr Sqn, Jun 10, 1944, Escaped & Evaded

Bales, William T., Jr., Maj., 371st Ftr Grp staff, Apr 13, 1945, Died in Captivity

Burdett, Edward B., Col., 388th Tactical Fighter Wing in the Vietnam War (former member of WWII 35th Photo Recon Squadron), Nov 18, 1967, Died in Captivity

Canup, Luther P., Capt., 371st Ftr Grp, 405th Ftr Sqn, Jul 8, 1944

Gamble, Robert M., 1st. Lt., 371st Ftr Grp, 405th Ftr Sqn, Jan 2, 1945

Hohl, Harry W., Jr., Capt., 371st Ftr Grp, 404th Ftr Sqn, Jun 8, 1944, Escaped & Evaded

Hooper, Leon L., Jr., 1st. Lt., 371st Ftr Grp, 405th Ftr Sqn, Apr 11, 1945

Jack, William A., Capt., 371st Ftr Grp, 406th Ftr Sqn, Apr 20, 1945

Johnson, Glenn H., 1st. Lt., 371st Ftr Grp, 404th Ftr Sqn, Feb 14, 1945

Kirkland, Edward R., 1st Lt., 371st Ftr Grp, 406th Ftr Sqn, Mar 18, 1945, Escaped & Evaded

Larochelle, Joseph E., 2nd. Lt., 371st Ftr Grp, 404th Ftr Sqn, Jun 6, 1944

Marks, Robert L., F/O, 371st Ftr Grp, 405th Ftr Sqn, Jan 5, 1945

Martin, Russell M., 1st. Lt., 371st Ftr Grp, 405th Ftr Sqn, 2 Jan 1945

McCoy, Jefferson M., 2nd. Lt., 371st Ftr Grp, 404th Ftr Sqn, Feb 25, 1945

McDowell, Gildas D., 2nd Lt., 371st Ftr Grp, 405th Ftr Sqn, Oct 14, 1944

McDuff, Lee E., 2nd. Lt., 371st Ftr Grp, 405th Ftr Sqn, Sep 20, 1944

Schleppegrell, William, 2nd. Lt., 371st Ftr Grp, 405th Ftr Sqn, Jan 1, 1945

Shumard, Darrel G., 1st. Lt., 371st Ftr Grp, 404th Ftr Sqn, Feb 14, 1945

Simmons, George R., 2nd. Lt., 371st Ftr Grp, 405th Ftr Sqn, Dec 26, 1944

Sullivan, John B., 1st Lt., 371st Ftr Grp, 405th Ftr Sqn, Oct 14, 1944

Tait, Harry H., Jr., Capt., 371st Ftr Grp, 406th Ftr Sqn, Oct 20, 1944

Tandy, Orval H., 1st Lt., 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron in the Korean War (123rd Fighter Squadron, activated for service in Korea), Sep 5, 1951

Wolcott, Robert S., Maj., 371st Ftr Grp, 404th Ftr Sqn, Oct 8, 1944

The 142nd Wing honors its former POWs by flying the POW/MIA flag on designated days, and by keeping a POW/MIA table at the wing dining facility where all are reminded of their service and sacrifice.  On this day, let’s remember to salute these and all of our nation’s former prisoners of war.