2nd Lt Samuel Jefferson
August 19, 1920 – June 22, 1944
Class: 43-H-SE
Graduation Date: August 30, 1943
Graduation Rank: Second Lieutenant
Unit: 332nd Fighter Group, 100th Fighter Squadron
Service # O-811283

Samuel was the son of Samuel Jefferson and Helen Taylor, born in Galveston, Texas. His father was a dock worker who died when Samuel was three, from pneumonia. His mother then remarried to John Barnfield, and he and his siblings were living with them in 1930. It’s difficult to know whether there might have been some family estrangement, because in 1940, none of his siblings who were Samuel Sr’s children were living with their mother. Samuel, Jr, was living with Florence Gordon who claims him as a foster son, but surely, he was old enough to have been out on his own. When Sam filled out his draft registration card, though, he listed his mother, Helen Barfield, as his next of kin.

Samuel had been working at the Todd dry docks when he decided to enter the Tuskegee Flight school in Alabama. By July of 1943, he had completed his basic flight training and had been assigned to advanced flight class.

He traveled with a group of Airmen to Italy in late December, having been assigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron with the 322nd Fighter Group at Ramitelli airbase in Italy.

On June 22, 1944, the 332nd Fighter Group was assigned a low-flying mission to strafe an enemy supply line near Aircasea, Italy. About 30 miles from the coast of Corsica, the engine in 2nd Lt. Charles B. Johnson’s plane stalled. His plane hit the water almost immediately. Johnson recovered before making a belly landing, but failed to open the canopy before hitting the water. His plane quickly sank with Johnson trapped inside.

Soon after Johnson crashed, the belly of Lt. Earl Sherrard’s plane hit the water. He tried to pull up, but a wing hit the water. According to “The Tuskegee Airmen: The Men Who Changed a Nation,” Sherrard was able to get out of his plane, walk out on the wing and inflate his dinghy before his plane sank.

Jefferson, who was flying to Sherrard’s right, made a tight turn to try to circle the downed pilot, but got caught in a downward slip stream, which threw his P-47 Thunderbolt into a flat spin. Jefferson’s plane crashed and exploded; the low altitude made it unlikely that he was able to escape. Shortly after Jefferson crashed, the planes reached the coast of Europe between southern France and Italy — 60 to 80 miles away from its intended target.

Capt. Robert B. Tresville, who was leading the flight, tried to correct an earlier navigation error, and made a 90-degree turn to fly up the coast of Italy. Lt. Spurgeon Ellington, who flew opposite Tresville during the mission, said the captain was looking at his map when his plane slid off course and plunged into the water.

Lt. Woodrow Crockett, the deputy flight commander, took over and the flight returned to Ramitelli Air Base in Italy. Sherrard was rescued by a British ship and returned to the base later that day.

Johnson, Jefferson and Tresville 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, Jefferson was awarded an Air Medal and a Purple Heart for his military service.

Saint Louis Daily Dispatch



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