2nd Lt Ronald W. Reeves
December 29, 1924 – March 24, 1945
Class: 44-G-SE
Graduation Date: August 4, 1944
Unit: 332nd Fighter Group, 100th Fighter Squadron
Service # O-835413

Ronald was born in 1924 to John Astor Reeves and Elise Chapman. There isn’t much information pertaining to either of his parents, nor his life as a youngster. He was born in MIddleboro, Massachusetts, but was living in Hartford Connecticut in December of 1942 when he completed his draft card.  He attended schools in Washington DC, graduating from Francis Junior High in June of 1939, receiving honors art.  He completed the Tuskegee Preflight course in Jan of 1944. He received his commission as a second lieutenant in August of 1944 and was assigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron.

On March 24, 1945, the Fifteenth Air Force launched its longest mission: A 1,600-mile roundtrip mission to a tank assembly plant in Berlin. Pilots from the 332nd Fighter Group, led by Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., escorted bombers to support the mission, leaving Ramitelli Air Field, Italy, at 11:45 a.m. The fighter pilots who were scheduled to relieve the 332nd Fighter Group at the outskirts of Berlin were late; Davis instructed his pilots to continue toward the target with the bombers. As the fighters and bombers neared the capital, 25 enemy jets attacked. The 332nd Fighter Group fought back, and by the end of the day it had destroyed three enemy planes and would earn a Distinguished Unit Citation.

But during the mission, he and Lt. Robert R. Robinson realized that they were low on fuel. Capt. William T. Mattison, squadron leader, heard one of them say “There a field, we’ll land there” due to the fact that their planes were low on fuel. The position was believed to have been just past the Udine coast at the time the call was heard. There was no further communication from Ronald.

Following standard procedure, Reeves’ status was changed from missing in action to killed in action a year later. Reeves was posthumously awarded an Air Medal.

In 1949, remains that had been discovered near Koepnick, Germany, and buried at an American cemetery in Belgium were identified as Reeves. Koepnick is more than 550 miles from Reeves’ assumed crash site. His status was changed again: Reeves had been killed in action on March 24, 1945.

Five years after he disappeared on Feb. 17, 1950, Secretary of the Army Gordon Gray wrote to Reeves’ mother, Elise Reeves, that her son would be awarded Purple Heart. “At the request of the president, I write to inform you that the Purple Heart has been awarded posthumously to your son, Second Lieutenant Ronald W. Reeves, Air Corps, who sacrificed his life in defense of his country. Little that we can do or say will console you for the death of your loved one. We profoundly appreciate the greatness of your loss, for in a very real sense the loss suffered by any of us in the battle for our country is a loss shared by all of us. When the medal, which you will shortly receive, reaches you, I want you to know that with it goes my sincerest sympathy.”

At the request of his family, Ronald’s remains were returned to the United States for burial on Marcy 23, 1950, in Arlington Cemetery.

Pilots go over flight information in MArch 1945 at Ramitelli Air Field in Italy. Front row, left to right: unidentified airman; Jimmie D. Wheeler (with goggles); Emile G. Clifton (cloth cap) San Francisco, CA, Class 44-B. Standing left to right: Ronald W. Reeves (cloth cap) Washington, DC, Class 44-G; Hiram Mann (leather cap); Joseph L. “Joe” Chineworth (wheel cap) Memphis, TN, Class 44-E; Elwood T. Driver? Los Angeles, CA, Class 44-A; Edward “Ed” Thomas (partial view); Woodrow W. Crockett (wheel cap) (Toni Frisell, courtesy of The Library of Congress)

Saint Louis Daily Dispatch


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