1st Lt Frederick D. Funderburg
March 13, 1922 – December 29, 1944
Graduation Date: December 5, 1943
Graduation Rank: First Lieutenant
Unit: 332nd Fighter Group, 301st Fighter Squadron
Service # O-817585
1st Lt Funderburg was the 1st 301st Fighter Squadron pilot to score an aerial victory.
Funderburg, of Monticello, Georgia., graduated from flight training on Dec. 5, 1943, at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama and soon deployed to Italy with the 301st Fighter Squadron, part of the 332nd Fighter Group.
In June 1944, the 332nd Fighter Group was assigned bomber escort missions. On June 9, the group was flying top-cover for bombers to Munich, Germany. Near Udine, Italy, four enemy planes were spotted attacking the escorted B-24 bombers. Funderburg, flying a P-47 Thunderbolt, dived down toward one of the attacking Messerschmitt 109 and fired at it. The plane began to fall apart. As he pulled up for another pass at the plane, Funderburg crossed paths with two more Me-109s. He fired at and hit one of the planes, sending it crashing into the Adriatic Sea. He was the 1st 301st Fighter Squadron pilot to score an aerial victory.
Funderburg was credited with two aerial kills. The group collected three other kills: One credited to Lt. Wendell Pruitt, one credited to Lt. Melvin “Red” Jackson, and half a credit each to Lt. Charles Bussey and Lt. William Green.
However, two B-24 bombers were shot down – the first-time enemy planes shot down a bomber being escorted by the 332nd Fighter Group. The group also lost a fighter pilot: 1st Lt. Cornelius G. Rogers was killed after experiencing engine trouble on the flight back to base and crashing in enemy territory.
On Dec 29, 1944 he went missing near Munich during a bomber escort mission flying a P-51 Mustang nicknamed “Stinky III” to Landshut and Muehldorf, Germany, possibly after sustaining flak damage. His body was not recovered.
“About five minutes from the target bubbles, blue flight was caught in the middle of a concentration of flak,” 1st Lt. Stanley L. Harris wrote in a military report. “In the following evasive action, I became separated from 1st Lt. Frederick D. Funderburg Jr. and 2nd Lt. Andrew D. Marshall, who were the other two men in this flight with me. I joined up with the nearest group of planes and I did not see them again. I heard radio transmission from both of them later, however, and they were trying to join up with another squadron. They were not heard or seen after this.”
Funderburg’s and Marshall’s names are included on the Tablets of the Missing at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy. This is an American Battle Monuments Commission location.
According to a government database, Funderburg was awarded an Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters and a Purple Heart for his military service.