Oscar C. Fitzhenry
B-24 Liberator Pilot
5th Bombardment Group (5th BG)
In memory: Oscar C. Fitzhenry passed away April 24, 2020.
Oscar Charles Fitzhenry was born in August 3, 1921 in San Antonio, Texas. He grew up on a farm, graduated high school and completed one year of college and was employed as a salesperson. On January 13, 1942 Fitzhenry enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as an aviation cadet with serial number 18101845. After earning his wings, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant at Lubbock, TX. Afterwards, sent overseas to the South Pacific (SOPAC).
Assigned to the 13th Air Force (13th AF) "The Jungle Air Force", 5th Bombardment Group (5th BG) "Bomber Barons", 72nd Bombardment Squadron (72nd BS). Assigned to B-24D "Scootin' Thunder" 42-40100 as pilot with co-pilot Lt. Robert Houser and began flying bombing missions over the South Pacific (SOPAC). Later, assigned to the 394th Bombardment Squadron (394th BS) and continued flying combat missions in the South Pacific (SOPAC).
On December 30, 1943 scheduled for take off from Munda Airfield on New Georgia piloting B-24J Liberator 42-73268 armed with 1,000 pound bombs on a bombing mission against Tobera Airfield near Rabaul. Before take off, the bomber's no. 2 supercharger failed. During the repair, 13th Bomber Command gave this bomber an alternate target and after a rapid repairs took off at 10:15am to bomb Maleai on Magusaiai Island in the Shortland Islands and returned safely. This was the forty-third combat mission flown by Fitzhenry.
On December 31, 1943 took off from Koli Field (Bomber 3) on Guadalcanal as one of five B-24s on a search mission over Bougainville and New Ireland for the crew of B-24D "Pretty Prairie Special" 41-24186 including Colonel Marion D. Unruh (C. O., 5th BG). At 10:30am the two other B-24s piloted by 2nd Lt. James D. Robertson and Captain Fitzhenry spotted something white on the southern coast of New Ireland. Flying at low altitude, Fitzhenry's bomber took three photographs of a group of eight white men on the beach plus native people and native huts among the coconut trees. They were unable to determine their precise identity but believed the tallest man was Unruh. The bombers circled at 400' and 100' and dropped a medical kit, rations and relayed their position at 11:30am and noon before departing due to lack of fuel.
In total, Fitzhenry flew at least 64 combat missions in the South Pacific (SOPAC) and while piloting the B-24 Liberator often took 16mm film footage with a movie camera and kept a personal diary. On February 17, 1945 he married Ruth Burton of Virginia. The couple had four children: two sons and two daughters.
Fitzhenry joined the U. S. Air Force (USAF) and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before he retired in 1961.
The couple retired to Isle of Palms, South Carolina where they lived in retirement. Ruth passed away December 3, 2013 at age 94 and the couple were married for 68 years and have eleven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Afterwards, Oscar continued to live independently in his own home and continued to lead an active life in his community and during winters was an active downhill skier. He published his wartime diaries and was active member of the 5th Bomb Group Association and lectured at area schools about his wartime experiences, aided researchers and commissioned a painting of B-24D "Scootin' Thunder" that he donated to the U. S. Air Force Academy (USAF Academy) on October 22, 2018.
On April 24, 2020
Fitzhenry passed away at age 98 in a rehabilitation facility in South Carolina. Memorial services are pending.
Jim Campbell (grandson)
"I feel grateful to you and all those who have documented his unique experiences. The way that he faced adversity in those terrible times has provided continual inspiration to me in my own personal journey."
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Oscar C. Fitzhenry
Diary of Oscar C. Fitzhenry 1943–1944
Report of Turn-Back Aircraft, Date January 1, 1944
"3. Date of mission:
December 30, 1943 6. Pilot's Statement: No. 2 supercharger was out so I couldn't take off until 10:15 from Munda. After it was fixed, Bomber Command gave me the target, village of Maliai [Maleai] on
Missing Air Crew Report 1620 (MACR 1620) page 17
Statement by Captain Oscar G. Fitzhenry via Missing Air Crew Report 1620 (MACR 1620) page 17:
"I flew within 100 feet of the men on the beach, and at the same time my waist gunner counted eight men on the beach. We buzzed the place once more, dropping the large emergency kit and taking two photos. The gunners thought they recognized Col. Unruh standing on the beach, and identified one of the Colonel's enlisted men. Both ships then left and each of us sent a message to COMAIRSOLS, telling them the time sighted, position, and number of persons sighted. Lieut. Roberson, pilot of the other plane sent his message 1130L and I sent mine at 1200L. Before this latter message was sent, the identical message was sent to COMAIRSOLS through DANE Base, and I was told the message would receive immediate attention. Upon landing, we found that Group Operations already had word, proving that at least one of the messages was received. The film was developed and found to show eight men on the beach, several natives in the background, and a number of native huts among the coconut trees. We did not land at Munda Airfield because of bad weather."
"Making Camera As Hobby S. A. Flier On 58 Missions" by John R. Henry INS Staff Correspondent 1944
Flying Into Harm's Way - The Wartime Experiences of Captain Oscar Fitzhenry in World War II 1943 to 1944 by
Craig Hadley / The Living History Group, February 2008
FindAGrave - Ruth Burton Fitzhenry
Moultrie News "Tales of Valor - Turbulent times in the South Pacific" September 28, 2017
KOAA News5 "A veteran, a B-24, and a painting of both" October 22, 2018
YouTube "A veteran, a B-24, and a painting of both" October 22, 2018
Thanks to Oscar C. Fitzhenry and Jim Campbell for additional information
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