1st Lt Alphonso Simmons
March 25, 1919 – March 3, 1945
Class: 43-I-SE
Graduation Date: October 1, 1943
Unit: 332nd Fighter Group, 100th Fighter Squadron
Service # O-814207

Alphonso was born in 1919, the son of John Simmons and Rose Powell. He was the youngest of 8 children. He was born in Georgia, but his father moved the family to Jacksonville, Florida when he was young. It was there that he grew up, and in 1940, he registered for the draft. He was employed by the Works Progress Administration and worked as a teacher.

Alphonso enrolled in the Tuskegee Institute Air Pilot Program, and was awarded his wings on Oct 15, 1943.  He was assigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group and deployed to Ramitelli Air base in Italy. In November of 1944, he was promoted from 2nd LT to First Lieutenant. 8 fellow airmen were promoted to the rank of Captain. Prior to his promotion, Alphonso was flight on an escort mission with B-17’s on a mission to Gyor, Hungary. He was flying a P-51C when he was reported missing south of Banja Luka, Yugoslavia. Simmons was forced to parachute from his P-51 Mustang on Aug. 9, 1944.

“While flying on course with the group formation at 24,000 feet, I heard Lt. Simmons call in ‘sack time’ over the radio,” 2nd Lt. Charles H. Duke wrote in a military report. Duke was instructed to return to base, or sack time, with Simmons. “I made a 180-degree turn, which put me on a heading of approximately 190 degrees, and at first I failed to see Lt. Simmons’ plane. After about two minutes, I saw his plane on my left, heading 90 degrees and dropping fast. I attempted to follow, but lost him in some clouds at about 7,000 feet. I circled the area for about 20 minutes but failed to see any sign of a parachute, plane or fire so I returned to base.”

Simmons bailed from his damaged plane near Krupa, Yugoslavia, and joined a band of the Yugoslav Partisans, a Communist resistance group. He eventually was able to return to the 100th Fighter Squadron and resumed flying.

On March 2, 1945, Simmons and seven other pilots were sent to strafe railroads in Austria.

“We flew over this air field where there was no opposition,” Lt. Robert L. Martin said in a 2008 interview at Pritzker Military Library in Chicago. “We saw two airplanes parked a little bit off the field, and we said, ‘We’ll get more credit for destroying two airplanes than shooting up a railroad train.’ We went in to shoot up those planes.”

Simmons’ and Martin’s planes were hit by anti-aircraft fire as they flew over the air field. Martin was able to parachute from his plane; Simmons was killed. He is buried at the Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Italy, Plot J Row 9 Grave 68.

According to a government database, Simmons was awarded an Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters and a Purple Heart for his military service.

Saint Louis Daily Dispatch


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