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Howard Allred « North Carolina's WWII ExperienceNorth Carolina's WWII Experience

Howard Allred

Hometown: High Point, NC
Branch of Service:
Air Force, 12th Photo Recon Squad
Location of Service
: Europe

The following is excerpted from the Howard Allred book, Alone, Unarmed and Unafraid, recounting his assignment to the 12th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron of the 12th Air Force:

Several recon pilots boarded a C-47 and flew to Florence. I was assigned to the 12th Photo Recon Squadron, 3rd Photo Group (Recon), 90th Photo Recon Wing, 12th Air Force, MAAP (Mediterranean Allied Air Force).

The 12th Air Force was composed of wings – Bomber Wing, Fighter Wing, and Photo Recon Wing. Each wing was composed of groups, e.g. the 90th Photo Recon Wing had the 3rd Photo Group and the 5th Photo Group. Each group was composed of squadrons – mine was the 12th Squadron, 3rd Photo Group.

The 90th Photo Recon Wing was formed by combining the USAAF 3rd Photo Group (Recon), the French Groupe de Reconnaissance 2/33, and the RAF 682 Squadron. The first Wing Commander was the president’s son, Col. Elliot Roosevelt. He had not completed the aviation cadet program, so he was not a qualified military pilot. Colonel Roosevelt said in an interview:

A photo pilot must have all the training that goes into a bombardment pilot and a bombardier without the use of a bombsight, because in making a run over a target the same technique is employed as in making a bomb run. He must also have complete training as a fighter pilot and must be extremely proficient in the use of evasive tactics. Since he does not have any guns on his aircraft, the only skill he is not required to have that fighter and bombardment pilots have is proficiency in firing a gun.

Famed author Antoine de Saint-Exupery (The Little Prince), at age 45, was a pilot in the French 2/33, which was merged into the 90th Photo Recon Wing. The primary target area for him and other French pilots was France. He never returned. He was never found.

The 12th Air Force was activated on August 20, 1942 at Bolling Field, Washington, DC, and transferred to England September 12, 1942 with Major General James H. Doolittle as its commander. November 19, 1942 several units of the 12h AF, including the 3rd Photo Group, landed in Algeria, North Africa.

My squadron, 12th Photo Recon Sqdn, was formed November 13, 1943. Stations included Algiers, Tunisia, Sicily, Corsica, and three places in Italy before setting up operations, August 1944, at Florence/Peretola. The squadron remained there from September 21, 1944 until April 30, 1945, and then moved to Villafranca (near the Alps), Italy, where it remained until the end of the war in Europe.

I have a copy of a former secret war diary for the 12th Photo Recon Squadron. In the record for September 1944 is this entry: Sept. 23, ’44: first mission flown from new base at Florence. A villa was requisitioned for the officers and will provide very comfortable living quarters. The EM [enlisted men] are billeted in a school building formally occupied by the Germans.”

P-38s, renamed F-5s (F for photo), B-25s, and Spitfires were used for reconnaissance. The Spitfire was a single-engine, all metal, British fighter that won the air war over England in 1940. In our squadron, they were flown by Australian pilots. The war diary for November 1944 states: “5 new pilots were assigned to the Squadron – Lts. Crutsinger, Allred, Bailey, Bannan and Barnes.” Nov. 17: “Lts. Allred, Bailey and Barnes flew their first operational missions for us today, each without incident, and each covered his assignment very well.” The December 7th entry says, “we received PX rations today which consisted of 15 packs of cigarettes, 9 bars of candy, 1 bar of soap, 3 cigars, cookies and peanuts.”

I flew the Lockheed P-38/F-5. It had an olive drab upper surface and a pale blue undersurface. Our squadron number was not painted on the aircraft. There were only three digits painted on the tail as an aircraft number. We did not have an emblem or colors for our squadron. On the nose of my plane, I painted my wife’s nickname: BOOTS. Our motto as recon pilots was “Alone, Unarmed, Unafraid.”

War diary for December 1944: December 25: “10 missions flown today. The photo lab printed 6,673 prints today.” Dec. 26: “23 missions today. The photo lab put out 13,203 prints today.” Dec. 31: “The officers are having their New Year’s party tonight at the officers’ villa. [...] This month we flew 156 missions and produced 101,499 prints.”

In his book, Alone, Unarmed and Unafraid, Major Glen B. Infield said, “There isn’t much glory for the reconnaissance plot, but no flier – fighter ace or strategic bomber commander – has a more important job or a more dangerous one. It is an assignment that demands resourcefulness, accuracy of detail, technical skill, and devotion to duty; a mission that is usually flown alone, not in a formation; one that is anticipated by the enemy, who is usually waiting to pounce upon the reconnaissance aircraft or bracket it with intense antiaircraft fire.” During World War II, the recon pilots took 171,000,000 negatives!