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moon pic.jpg (24788 bytes)

Leo Moon

Leo Moon was the commander of  the 508th squadron of the 404th Fighter Group throughout the time the squadron was a Winkton. In late 1944 he succeeded Colonel McColpin as Group Commander, a post he occupied until two weeks before the end of the war in Europe. This page is just a brief summary of his time at Winkton, whilst Leo and his son Mike prepare a much more detailed history akin to those on the site for Carroll McColpin, Hal Shook and Clay Tice Jr.

It is reported that Leo used to like firing long bursts from his guns, a practice that over time could burn out the gun barrels due overheating. Having been criticised for this he and his crew chief used not to secure the metal sleeves that fitted over the barrels, and immediatly before takeoff, his chief would remove the barrels allowing greater air cooling of the guns whilst firing. Ever one to experiment Leo also had his guns wired so that when he fired only two guns on each side fired and when ammunition was exhausted he could then switch to the remaining four guns on his P47.

The P47s usually attacked with guns and bombs however later in the war rockets became available, initially in the form of three tubes strapped together under each wing. Their accuracy was not great and they limited manouverability whilst fitted so many pilots fought shy of using them. Not Leo, he seemed to delight in hanging on the biggest punch his P-47 could handle.

I've heard other pilots say they were apprehensive if they flew on Leo's wing, not because of his ability but because he was in many cases rather unpredictable. He would see opportunities for action or manouver that were other than the norm, but he took no prisoners with his wingmen - they were still expected to keep right with him.

Some pilots at least had a nickname for him as Group Commander. He was apparently known as "Little Ceasar".

Designed in January 1945, the insignia of the 404th Fighter Group is a heraldic shield, showing a cracked shield, a fallen helmet and a broken sword being struck by a thunderbolt. Background colours are blue sky, and blood-red ground. The Latin inscription. “Igne ferroque hostem armatum con-tere,” on a scroll beneath the shield, may be rendered, "With fire and steel crush the armed (or armored) foe."

It is believed that Lt. Col. Leo C. Moon, S/Sgt. Luis M. Hender-son and Sgt. Joseph H. Saling all participated in the conception, design and execution of this insignia. Both the inscription and the symbolism of the shield (the enemy's defensive armor), the sword (his weapons), the helmet (enemy personnel), and the thunderbolt (representing both attack from the air, and the type of aircraft used by the Group), are singularly appropriate.

The 404th is still sometimes referred to as being nicknamed the Tin Hornets. In fact the 404th's nickname was never officially adopted as Leo Moon didn't like the "tinhorn" gambler implication. Andy Wilson, (the Group PRO) does admit he may have used it in one or two press releases. The thunderbird emblem displayed on many of the group's aircraft late in the war does also resemble a dragonfly type of insect - which would have reinforced the Tin Hornet appellation.

On January 1st 1945 the 404th's base at St Trond was attacked by German fighter bombers as part of Operation Bodenplatte, an attempt by the Luftwaffe to destroy allied aircraft on the ground. The losses suffered in both aircraft and particularily experienced pilots was catastrophic for the Luftwaffe. One FW190 aircraft, flown by Gefreiter Walter Wagner, of JG4 is (was) White 11, a FW190A-8 of 5 Staffel II/JG4. To see pictures of this aircraft as captured click here to go to the Hyperscale web site. Wagner apparently mistook his intended target of LeCulot and attacked either/both St Trond and American ground forces around Bastogne, and then force landed at St Trond thinking it was LeCulot. His unit took very heavy casualties that day, 17 pilots dead, missing and wounded plus a further 6 as POWs, 42% casualties and less than 10 planes serviceable that night.

Wagners plane was retrieved with only light damage by the 404th FG who put it back into flying conditions, with the apparent intent of having Leo Moon fly it, escorted by two P47s. To distinguish it from a real FW190 it was painted in an overall bright orange red and marked with a false code 1-1-45 (its date of capture), the mock unit/aircraft markings OO*L and on the port cowl there remained what looks like a Luftwaffe unit crest, presumably JG4.

FW190_1.JPG (18175 bytes)       FW190_2.JPG (17076 bytes)

(photos USAAF)

The plane's codes are OO*L, have been described dramatically as standing for OH OH 'ELL, however St Trond was a Belgian base and OO is the Belgian national code for aircraft registration purposes. Presumably the L was for its intended pilot Leo Moon . In the end the aircraft was never flown and was left behind when the 404th left St Trond.