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<bgsound src="sentimentaljourney.mid" loop="2"> BIOGRAPHY OF
JACK M. ILFREY

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Hear Col. Harold J. Rau, CO 20th.FG, speak of Jack Ilfrey

Jack Ilfrey talks about his first plane ride*
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Jack Milton Ilfrey was born July 31, 1920 in Houston, Texas, graduated from Mirabeau Lamar Senior High School (also the alma mater of Ensign George Gay and Kermit Behan, of "Bock's Car" fame,) there and went on to Texas A&M College. It was there he learned to fly in the first Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP), in 1939. He continued his CPTP during the day, at the University of Houston, while employed by The Hughes Tool Co. during the evenings, and entered the US Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet in April of 1941. He graduated with the first wartime class of pilots,at Luke Field, Arizona, on December 12, 1941,( Class 41-I) and was assigned to the famed 94th. Pursuit Squadron, 1st. Pursuit Group. His first assignment found him flying P-38D and E's (see picture at the top of this page) in defense of the California coastline.

In the spring of 1942, the 1st. Fighter Group (as they were now designated,) were equipped with new P-38Fs and were ordered to Dow Field, Maine to prepare for the "Bolero Mission," the first mass flight of fighter planes and bombers to England."We called it the Guinea Pig Mission, cause that is what we were." Ilfrey said. On July 4, 1942,The Hat In The Ring Emblem the 94th. "Hat In The Ring" squadron took off on the first leg of the mission, from Presque Isle, Maine to Goose Bay, Labrador. Four P-38s were assigned to each of the 97th. Bombardment Group B-17s that joined them on the mission. On July 6th. the second leg was flown from Goose Bay to Reykjavik, Iceland. It was on this leg of the mission that six of the P-38s and two B-17s ran low on fuel and were forced to land on an ice cap in Greenland. While all of the crewmen survived, all eight aircraft had to be abandoned. Later dubbed the "Lost Squadron," many expeditions were formed to recover these craft, and in the summer of 1992, one of the P-38s was removed from beneath its 270 foot tomb of ice. Dubbed "The Glacier Girl", there are plans for the craft to eventually finish it's mission. Checkout the website dedicated to this aircraft below.
One of the Lost Squadron P-38s


On July 26th., most of the 94th. FS (including Ilfrey,) landed at Kirton, in Lindsey, Lincolnshire, England. They were stationed there with the Polish 303rd. Koscuisko Squadron, who taught them many of the tricks of the trade. On September 1st., the 1st. FG made the first all American fighter sweep over northern France from Beurnmouth, on the English Channel's coast. This was also the first mission of the US 8th. Air Force against the enemy.

Many other missions would soon follow. On November 15th. the group took off from Chivenor, in the Lands End area of England, on "Operation Torch," the invasion of North Africa. It was not long before they all discovered what war in the air was all about.

It was during this mission that the first of many noteworthy happenings in Ilfrey's career occured. Shortly after take off, Ilfrey lost a belly tank, which meant he would not have enough fuel to complete the mission. He calculated that he had enough to make an emergency landing in Gibraltor, but his calculations proved incorrect and he was forced to land in Lisbon, Portugal. Immediately upon landing he was informed that, as the country was neutral, all pilots and aircraft from outside countries that landed there would be interned. Ilfrey managed to con the Portuguese out of some fuel, and an international incident flared before he had even taxied the Lightning down the runway. He finally made it to Gibraltar, where he was informed that the US State Dept. was demanding for him to return to Lisbon, but General James "Jimmy" Doolittle stepped in and smoothed things out for Jack.

Jack soon put all of his training into action over North Africa, as on November 29th. he shared credit for downing a Messerschmitt Me-110 near Gabes Airdrome, in Tunisia. On December 2nd. he downed two Messerscmitt Bf-109s over Gabes Airdrome, Tunisia, and on December 26th. he shot down two Focke Wulf Fw-190s 5 miles west of Bizerte. on January 11, 1943 he damaged a Bf-109 5 miles north of Gabes Airdrome and on March 3rd. he downed another Bf-109 near El Aounia, Tunisia, making him one of the first aces who flew P-38s*, and the first ace from the Houston, Texas area*. The action continued when, on the following day, he damaged another Bf-109 over Bizerte Harbor.

He received a commendation for his actions from the Chief of Staff, US Army, on February 3rd, 1943. After a total of five and 1/2 air to air victories, 2 confirmed damaged enemy aircraft, 208 combat hours and 72 missions, Jack was relieved of combat duty and reassigned to the states as a flight instructor in P-38s and P-47 Thunderbolts.

Ilfrey Returns To The E.T.O.
Click On The P-38 To Learn About Ilfrey's
2nd. Tour In The E.T.O.


*=Neither of these facts have been acknowledeged by historians but have been accepted by many as fact.

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"Beware the lesson of the fighter pilot who would rather fly a slide rule then kick your ass!" Commander Ron "Mugs" McKeown, USN

(*= This audio wave taken from "Start Engines:Plus Fifty Years", available from the 8th.AF Historical Society, (c) 1992)

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