Lee was a fighter pilot flying over Germany and France out of a base in England. He flew P-47s and P-51s. He was a member of the 354th Fighter Squadron, the Mustang Group
Lt. Mendenhall, who graduated from South Park High School in Beaumont in 1935 and from Lamar College in 1939, was employed by Chambers County Telephone Company before entering the Air Corps in July, 1942.
Lt. Menenhall also wears the Air Medal with the three Oak Leaf Clusters awarded "For meritorious service."
4 May 1944 -- Lt. Bags 3JU88 Enemy Planes -- 8th AAF Fighter Station In England. Less than two weeks after he had tallied his first victory by blowing up a Messerschmitt 109, Lt. Lee G. "Mendy" Mendenhall, P51, Mustang pilot from Anahuac, TX., scored a "triple" by destroying three German aircraft on the ground.
In the low level attack in airfields deep in southwestern Germany, the 23 year old Texas, former manager of the Chambers County Telephone Company, also damaged three enemy planes, a locomotive, and shot up airdome buildings.
Describing today how he bagged his triple, Lt. Mendenhall said, "I sprayed three JU88s, which were parked close together, on our first trip across the field. I saw hits on 'em all, and as we pulled up I put a lot of holes in a building. I had time to spray one more before we pulled off."
"As we started around to make a third pass I spotted a railroad station with quite a few engines and coaches standing alongside. I wasn't in very good position, but by rolling almost on my back I was able to pull a stream of bullets through a locomotive."
"On the third pass at the field I hit another JU88 and when we circled the field, just before starting home, I saw it burning like hell."
"It was a busy afternoon, all right. We were happy as hell when we got back, but oh, brother, were we tired!"
The Lt., who was an outstanding backfield star at Lamar Junior College, from which he was graduated in 1939, is the son of M/M C. G. Mendenhall, of Anahuac.
He wears the Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded "for extra-ordinary achievement" and the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters.
From left to right are; Lt. Lee G. Mendenhall, Anahuac, Texas; Lt. Ray "Silky" Morris, Birmingham, Alabama; Lt. Charles "Chuck" Lenfest, Boise, Idaho; Lt. Thomas Neal, Chatham, Vermont. Group led by Lt. Col. Everett Stewart, Abilene, Kansas. The group is shown a few minutes after a mission. They were credited with 17 German aircraft destroyed, three probably destroyed and six damaged. This flight group of 4 planes accounted for 6 ME 109s and a locomotive. Morgan Willcox shared with me that Grover Willcox Jr., shown below with Lee, was also an Anahuac, Texas boy and had the first "Texas Terror" in the European Theatre.
Lee Mendenhall was part of the 355th Fighter Group called the Mustang Group. it was this Fighter Group who destroyed more enemy aircraft by ground strafing than any other Eighth Air Force Group. Based at Steeple Morden from July 1943 to July 1945, the Group flew Thunderbolts and Mustangs as escorts for bombers and in area patrols and fighter sweeps.
With his mother’s permission, Barker lied about his age so he could join the US Army Air Corps. He was a cargo pilot during World War II flying mostly over New Guinea and sent money home to his mother and sisters. His brother Jack, six years his senior, joined the US Marines and served in the Pacific Theater in Iwo Jima.
Barker 'Moose' Morehead, the son of Katie Mae Fisher Morehead, enlisted in the Air Force, at the age of 16, after graduating from Anahuac High School and attended flying school in Texas. He was appointed a flight attendant in 1943 and received his commission as Second Lieutenant in January of 1944. Lieutenant Morehead received the Distinguished Flying Cross that same month "for extraordinary achievement" while participating in 50 operational flight missions in the Southwest Pacific area during which hostile contact was probable and expected while serving with a troop carrier squadron with the Fifth Air Force.
These operations consisted of dropping supplies and transporting troops to advanced positions in flights which involved low altitudes over mountainous terrain under adverse weather conditions in a transport plane which often necessitated landing within a few miles of enemy bases. Throughout the flights, he demonstrated outstanding ability and devotion to duty.
In May of 1944, somewhere in New Guinea, he received a bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a second award of the Air Medal. The award was made "for meritorious achievement" while participating in operational flight missions in the Southwest Pacific Area, during which hostile contact was probable and expected.
These operational missions consisted of dropping supplies and transporting troops to advanced positions in Gen. MacArthur's coordinated air, land, and sea offensive against the Japanese in New Guinea and northward from Australia. These flights were under the same hazardous conditions as the previous missions for which he received an award.
By May of 1945 Lieutenant Barker Morehead had been promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.
In July of 1945, Barker received an honorable discharged after serving 4 years and 10 months. Eighteen months of his service was overseas on troop carrier command.
After his discharge from the Air Corps he secured a job with Pennsylvania Central Airline (PCA) as a co-pilot. He was one of 36 Army combat pilots accepted by PCA as co-pilots immediately after the war. He had logged over 2500 hours of flight time and flew 149 missions while serving in Central America, Hawaii, Australia, New Guinea, and the Caribbean.
Ensign Leslie ‘Buster’ Penick enlisted in the air corps October 24, 1942. He shipped out on the USS Intrepid, February 29th with the UBF-10 Fighter Pilot Squadron and served eight months at sea where he was credited with 150 combat missions.
Buster flew the F-4U Corsair off the carrier, Intrepid, in the Pacific war against Japan in 1944. After flying jets in the Naval Reserve a few years, he returned to Anahuac to become an Ag-Pilot and rice farmer. He farmed rice from 1946-2005, a total of 55 years.
In Buster's log book he recorded the mandatory items of outfit and flight clothing he was issued. They were: Headset, Helmet, Goggles, Jacket, Gloves, and Watch.
United States Pacific Fleet
Bomber Fighter Squadron Ten
Ens. Penick has been under my observation for the past nine months, during which time both in combat and in training he has been outstanding as a pilot and officer and has demonstrated a natural aptitude to handle VF type aircraft.
He has shown marked ability to handle new situations, adjust and make accurate decisions. He is eager to learn and willingly accepts responsibility. His loyal enthusiastic attitude towards the Navy makes him invaluable as a member of this squadron.
Ens. Penick possesses good qualities of leadership and understands the regular Navy in it's every meaning.
I highly recommend Ens. Penick for transfer to regular Navy.
He was a member of this squadron during a combat tour against Japan and Okinawa. His skill, courage, and dependability were at all times in keeping with the highest traditions of the Navy.
Immediately after Buster's group returned from the mission they were heading to in the above photo, a Kamikaze pilot attacked their carrier. The service man walking behind Buster in the photo was wounded in the attack.
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the GOLD STAR in lieu of a Second Air Medal to:
ENSIGN LESLIE ALTON PENICK
UNITED STATES NAVAL RESERVE
for service as set forth in the following
"For meritorious achievement in aerial flight as Pilot of a Fighter-Bomber Plane in Fighting-Bombing Squadron TEN, attached to the U.S.S. INTREPID, during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the vicinity of Ryukyu Islands and the Japanese Homeland from March 18 to April 8, 1945. Participating in ten strikes during this period, Ensign Penick contributed to the infliction of extensive damage on hostile shipping, airfields and installations. His skill and gallant devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
For the President,
Secretary of the Navy
The following letter was written to Buster from his hometown friend Barney Chambliss. Sadly, it was the last he would hear from him, as Barney was killed in action just over two months later.
Rec’d your letter 12/27/44 a few days ago and thought I’d try to throw a few scampy lines together to for somewhat of a letter.
Sure was good to hear from you. Been a long time since either of us has written – sure glad you broke the ice.
I’ve been hearing from home about what you’ve been doing but it’s not like hearing first hand.
I received a nice X-mas card from your Mother – she sure is thoughtful to think about the boys in the service – especially your pals. She’s a really thoughtful mother.
You talk about cold weather – I’ve seen my share of it this year – and then some. Within the past 3 weeks we’ve had no less than 24” of snow and the only protection we’ve had against that was fox holes. Many mornings we’ve awakened to find ourselves snowed in. If it’s not snowing -- it’s blowing giving the same effect. I’m sure you’ve had some snow there in N.J. and know what I’m talking about. One good thing however, we’re being issued Arctic clothing – from snow shoes, waterproof pants, and scarf, Arctic mittens, head, hand, etc. Really getting us equipped for the weather. It’s about time tho’. Been here in the front line – looking down Jennys throat for about 80 days now. Sure hope he gives up one of these days – I’m ready to call it quits. It’s not a very pleasant feeling to be standing outside your “humble abode” and some blasted Kraut take a pot shot from across the way. How do we know they’re shooting at us? Can see the snow fly around us & also the zings of those shots going over our heads. It’s a good thing he’s a piss poor shot – Amen!!
Well, this is about it for now! Write when you get the chance & I’ll do said same.
Your pal and buddy,
Lloyd Whitman Steen, born 31 July 1924 in Jackson, Mississippi to John and Ruby Steen, was a captain in the Army Air Forces. Because of an inner ear problem they would not license him to fly at the higher altitudes, so he became a navigator of a B-26.
He began flying with A. T. Morgan of Lake Charles Louisiana and flew in the Anahuac area beginning in the late 40s when Morgan set up a satellite base there. Morgan then set up a base camp in Leland, Mississippi in 1960 and left it under the capable supervision of Lloyd. Lloyd's son, David said when his dad first began running the business he made more money working the cotton gin than he did flying, but once the business got off the ground they were working 80 to 100 hour weeks.
Steen ran this unit so well he eventually bought the business and operated it under his own name until his untimely death in Leland, Mississippi on 20 July 1974 in a two-plane midair collision with Tony Stanfield of Houston, TX.
Steen was a leader in Mississippi’s agricultural flying industry. He served as president of the Mississippi Agricultural Aviation Association for two years. His son, David Steen followed in his father's path as a crop duster and owned and operated Mid Delta Ag Crop Dusting Service in Leland, Mississippi. Much of Lloyd's crop dusting information came from the book Low and Slow by Mabry I. Anderson.
Lloyd flying for Anahuac Flyers in the late 40s. He would fly in from Mississippi to work during crop dusting season. Betsy Harmon Greak said, "Because the crop dusting season for cotton and rice were different the Mississippi pilots would help Anahuac with their spraying during rice season and the Chambers County pilots would do the same for Mississippi during cotton spraying season."
Dick served his country for three years in the elite group of the 10th Special Forces as an airborne Ranger during the Korean conflict. During the final 24 months of Dick’s tour of duty, he was barracked at Flint Kaserne, Bad Tolz, Germany, one of Hitler’s SS troops’ headquarters.
Dick began flying with the Anahuac Flyers in 1957 and was also a flight instructor. Two pilots I have been told he taught were Bobby Wheat and Tommy Willcox. Tommy told Dick's daughter, Cheryl that he was amazed to witness Dick crash a plane one day, crawl out of it, hop in another one and take off! It never even phased him, he had crashed so many.
In 1967 he joined Coastal Air Ag, then flew for Bill Brown from 1973-1975. In 1976 he went into full time farming and he and his son, Brett bought their own plane in 1977 and began their crop dusting business at that time.
In this photo, Dick loads his son, Brett's plane. This photo was taken a year before Dick passed away. I know he would be so proud that his son is continuing his legacy.
Dick's son, Brett continues to run the agricultural business he and hs father began in 1977. Brett's son, Cale, who proudly has his grandfather's initials in his name, Cale David Swope, is also a pilot. The apple never seems to fall far from the tree! What a legacy Dick has left.
Lieutenant John Richard Tunze, born in Columbia, Illinois, was a member of the 501st Bombardment Squadron called the Black Panthers Squadron of the 345th Bombardment Group and served in this unit from December 1942 to June 1944. During that time, he flew a B-25 Mitchell bomber and completed 50 missions over enemy territory logging a total of 215 combat hours. For his service he received the Air Medal and two Oak Leaf Clusters.
The following article was published in the Columbia Star
Columbia Star ~ Columbia, Illinois
Surprise bombing of Jap airdromes and systematic destruction of shipping has virtuously eliminated Tojo's air strength in the Southwest Pacific, Lieutenant John R. Tunze Jr., Columbia, Illinois B-25 bomber pilot said today (June 14) on his arrival at Overseas Reception Station No. 9, Jefferson Barracks, to be granted a 21-day leave.
Son of Mr. and Mrs. John R. Tunze of Columbia. Lt. Tunze has been awarded the Air Medal and an additional Oak Leaf Cluster for completing 50 bombing missions, totaling 215 hours of combat flying against the Japs. He has been overseas 13 1/2 months.
"The surprise raids of our air force with the resultant destruction of hundreds of planes on the ground has put a severe dent is Jap air strength," he stated. "Jap supply ships also have been virtually driven out of the New Guinea area creating shortages of fuel and food," he added.
The greatest opposition he encountered, he said, was last October 22 on a raid on the former great Jap supply base at Rabaul. "We went in unsupported by fighters and between 50 and 75 Zeros jumped us . Our score was about 25 Zeros, the rear gunner of my plane getting one."
"However, in recent months we have encountered few Zeros on raids," he commented.
He shared the "sinking" of a Jap cargo ship at Kaviang Harbor when his bombs blew off the upper deck and the bombs of a plane following him followed right into the hold. He also participated in the surprise raid of Weawak Airdrome when they caught and destroyed 75 Jap planes on the ground.
Another successful means of eliminating Zeros practiced by the B25s he said was to fly almost at water level when they attacked. "When they dived down and tried to get under our planes they would misjudge their distance and plunge into the ocean. I personally saw three nose into the water that way," he said.
Lieut. Tunze volunteered February 28, 1941 and was assigned to the Armored Forces as a member of a Tank outfit. He was accepted for cadet training in April 1942 and was commissioned January 4, 1943. He is a graduate of Columbia High School and attended Southern Illinois Normal. Before entering the services he worked as a weighmaster for the Columbia Quarry Company.
Lt. John R. Tunze 0-755704
501st Bomb Sq. 345th GP.
APO 929 C/O PM San Francisco
July 22, 1942
Just completed 9 hours of good sleep. Didn't have to get up this morning. This being my day off I'll spend the rest of the day reading, writing a few letters, & more sleep. Today is an ideal day for all this, very cloudy, looks like rain, which makes for good rest.
Received two Waterloo Republicans & a Columbia Star the past two days. Also day 'fore yesterday I received a letter from Pop. The papers were dated from the first 2 days in May but it does pass the time and that's what counts around here. The Republican has huge headlines about "The Worst Flood in Century." I see by the "News of Armed Services" that several more Columbia men were called. Was Beans Volkert ever taken? I see they still have their "Red Cross drives and blood banks."
In reference to Pop's letter, no, we don't have any big game hunting over here. The only animals or game I've heard or seen are plenty of insects, large birds, parrots, wild hogs, wallabys, kangaroos, rats, and snakes. Pythons are the most common, but quite harmless. Several have been killed 15 feet long. They aren't poisonous.
Our canteen is now open. Of course not mush variety. Mostly all canned stuff like meats, sliced peaches, cordial, cheese, etc. The other day our ___stocked up on stalks of bananas and coconuts. The natives sell them to us fairly cheap. The Yanks really spoil the natives by giving them too much. There was I time I've heard when one could buy anything for an old razor blade.
We are still getting up- to-the-minute news by our "guinea gold." There is almost a fight for our limited supply each day after dinner. It's good to hear of the much awaited invasion. We also get quite a bit of the most important news from back home. Also a bit of Australian news. Right now they have a very "hot" election going on over here.
Our crew is still all together and everything is O.K. How's everything at home?
At wars end John Tunze was stationed in Lake Charles, Louisiana where he met and married Jimmie Marie Blair on January 1, 1947 in Choupique, Louisiana. It was in Lake Charles where John also met Morgan and Watson, owners of a crop dusting company who were hiring pilots. They saw a need for a branch office in Anahuac and started the Anahuac Flyers Flying Service; in 1947 or 1948 John and Jimmie relocated there. John flew crop dusters for Anahuac Flyers and also gave flying lessons.
Their daughter, Lynn Dell Turner, said she doesn’t think they even owned a car at that time, they flew or took a train wherever they needed to go. John flew Jimmie back to the air base in Lake Charles to give birth to their children.
John Tunze, Buster Penick, and Dick Swope eventually started their own flying service called Coastal Ag Air and were the first to bring in single wing planes called Snows which were named after Leland Snow, the man who built them.