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2nd Lieutenant Thomas W. Saling, III was my cousin, the son of my father’s brother who lived in Dallas, Texas. As a child growing up I remember hearing the stories that he was returning from a mission in WWII and broke off to attack a train. The implication or suggestion was that this was a rash act that resulted in his death.

As I began to work on my genealogy I discovered that every aircraft that crashed during WWII was assigned a MACR (Missing Air Crew Report). It didn’t matter if it was combat related or an accident, every crash was assigned a MACR number. I searched the Internet for Thomas W Saling III and found his MACR number. Further search located the actual MACR report #10438, which provided basic information about his crash. What was surprising was that attached to the MACR report were copies of German records detailing the crash information. The German records indicated that the crash site was 3 kilometers northwest of Uelzen, Germany. Records indicated that pilot was found dead hanging from his parachute harness in a tree. Then name Saling printed on his harness. He was buried in the local cemetery and later repatriated to the

United States in 1947.

Lt. Saling graduated from flight school in May 1943 and married Fay Guerin on May 31, 1944 in California before shipping out. He arrived at Boxted Airfield on September 19, 1944 and was assigned to the 63rd Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group. He was 20 years old. This was during the Market Garden campaign. The 56th Fighter Group, Zemke’s Wolfpack was the most aggressive and highly decorated fighter group in the European Theater. I would suspect there was great pressure to prove your self in this type unit.

Lt. Saling’s first combat mission was on 11 October 1944.

11 October PENETRATION SUPPORT to 3rd Div. attacking Koblenz. R/V was made on the Eastern border of Luxembourg, from where we escorted the bombers in to their target. On the way in, near Euskirchen, Lt. Julius De Mayo went into a slight orbit with his element leader, and was never seen again. Although the reasons for his disappearance are unknown, it is believed that he must have spun in. UP:0812; DOWN 1255 (4:43) White: Conger, Saling, Frederickson, Ogden Red: Marshall, Scherz, Chinn, De Mayo Blue: Janson, Andermatt, Anderson, Murphy

Lt. Saling's last combat mission was on 10 November 1944.

10 November DIVE BOMBING marshalling yards at Ludwigslust. We did a bit better today, scoring 2 direct hits on the yards. As we strafed them later, it was impossible to tell what damage was done by bombing and what by strafing. However, our claims for the mission add up to : 3-0-0 locomotives, 0-0-25 freight cars, 1-0-0 shed running the entire length of the yards, 1-0-1 locomotive (definitely fr. strafing), 6-0-5 brand new trucks on flat cars, 0-0-1 control tower, 1-0-0 truck and 1-0-0 car. UP: 0843; DOWN: 1326 (4:43) White: Conger, Hoffman, Trumble, Martin Red: Frederickson (ER), Baston, Daniel, Saling Blue: Kling, Dawson, Davis, Murphy Lt. Thomas W. Saling is missing from this show. Last seen peeling off to go into his dive at the target at 1110. At 1125 he called in that he was heading out.

He flew a total of 12 combat missions before being shot down on 10 November 1944. He had a total of 51 hours and 47 minutes of combat flight time. His squadron was bombing Ludwigslust and he was shot down bombing a rail yard in Uelzen, which was 40 nautical miles southwest of Ludwigslust. The weather was overcast with low ceiling. It could be that Lt. Saling became disoriented and attacked the wrong target or it could be that he attacked a target of opportunity, which cost him his life?

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