68 years ago: Virgil Kirkham becomes the 362nd’s final loss

Each squadron in the 362nd Fighter Group flew two 16-plane armed recces east of Erfurt April 10, 1945. The area was packed with trains and trucks, much of them carrying oil or ammunition, resulting in huge tallies. The 378th Fighter Squadron went after another airfield and registered a Ju 88 destroyed and 18 other planes damaged. The 379th Fighter Squadron attacked trains at Neuenmarket, dropping 16 M-27s on six locomotives and 500 box cars loaded with ammunition, causing huge explosions all over the yard. The estimate of damage was five locomotives and 350 cars destroyed. Eight more M-27s were dropped at Imperneth, setting 40 rail cars on fire. The 377th was conducting close support southwest of Taus in Czechoslovakia when Blue Flight spotted some trucks on a small road hidden beneath some trees. “We began to shoot up these trucks when Lt. (Virgil ) Kirkham made a low pass and his wing appeared to hit the tree tops,” said Lt. Merrill E. Holland, “which caused his plane to do a quarter roll and he went straight into a hill covered with trees. I saw his plane hit the ground, explode immediately and burn.” Kirkham was killed when P-47D 44-89700, “Lady Jo-Ann II,” crashed.

Virgil Kirham’s memorial stone outside of Pilsen, Czech Republic

 

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