69 years ago: the 378th FS loses Lt. Daniel Sipe

On May 12, 1944, the 362nd Fighter Group escorted three groups of A-20s  to three different airfield targets in the morning mission, striking Merville, Achiet and Menchy. Later, the 362nd was supposed to escort three groups of B-26s to three different coastal targets, but the fighters were unable to make the rendezvous. Lt. Donald Gipple of the 377th crashed on takeoff in P-47D 42-75240 and died of his injuries a few days later. The 379th pressed all the way to Bremen in the face of heavy flak, which to date was the longest dive-bombing mission in the ETO. The 378th, with Lt. Col. Joe Laughlin leading, took the opportunity to conduct a fighter sweep around LeHavre but found no business. Another sweep on May 13 in the Doummer Lake area found no activity, so the Thunderbolts headed north to the Bremen Municipal Airport, where they dropped their loads of 250-pound bombs. They encountered almost no flak as they strafed the hangars and buildings, but on the way in Lt. Daniel Sipe of the 378th, flying P-47D-15-RE 42-75619, suffered a sudden drop in oil pressure. “Lt. Sipe called to see if anyone knew what to do in such an emergency,” said Lt. Kevin Gough. “He received no answer.”  Before the flight could reach the Dutch coast, Sipe radioed that his oil pressure was continuing to drop. Eventually, said Gough, his plane began issuing heavy black smoke and the prop could be seen windmilling. Shortly thereafter he stalled the ship and made a clear jump. This was at about 9500 feet.”

Gough called search and rescue, but reception was poor and he could not hear the return messages clearly. Sipe released his parachute and plunged into the English Channel 15 miles west of Danhelder, Holland. Gough watched him inflate his dinghy and climb into it, and was able to circle him for two hours before being forced back to base, but the weather worsened. Before leaving, Gough buzzed Sipe, who waved back. Despite Gough’s efforts, radio transmissions to rescue forces had gone unheard, and by the time he was able to report Sipe’s situation after landing at the forward base at Southend, it was too late. Sipe was never recovered.

 

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