2d Lt Wellington G. Irving
July 29, 1920 – July 18, 1944
Class: 44-K-SE
Graduation Date: December 5, 1943
Graduation Rank: Second Lieutenant
Unit: O-817589
Service # 332nd Fighter Group, 301st Fighter Squadron

Irving of Belzoni, Miss., graduated from flight training on Dec. 5, 1943, at Tuskegee Army Air Field, Ala. In February 1944 he deployed to Italy with the 301st Fighter Squadron, part of the 332nd Fighter Group.

On July 18, the 332nd Fighter Group was sent to escort bombers to Memmingen in southern Germany. When the 66 P-51 Mustang pilots arrived at the rendezvous point, the bombers they were to meet weren’t there. The fighter pilots circled the area; when the bombers were spotted, so was a swarm of 30 enemy planes. More than 20 of the P-51 pilots rushed toward the Messerschmitt 109s to break up the attack.

The bombers and the rest of the fighters continued toward the target. Near Kempten, Germany, about 25 miles from the target, 30 more enemy planes were spotted. Four of them attacked the bombers, and four P-51 pilots, including Irving, responded.

“Approximately half way between the Alps and the target, our lone flight of four dropped back of the bomber formation and enemy aircraft were sighted,” 1st Lt. Joseph P. Gomer wrote in a military report. “Lt. Irving and his wingman, Lt. (Stanley L.) Harris, broke away and Lt. (Gene C.) Browne, my wingman, went into attack an enemy aircraft headed at us.” Irving and Browne were later reported missing. Browne was captured and spent the rest of the war at a prisoner of war camp. Irving was not seen again.

“The last time I saw 2nd Lt. Wellington G. Irving was when he was diving on the top of a formation of about 30 FW-190s,” Harris wrote in a military report. “I was on his wing, but in the ensuing mix-up I never saw him again.”

No military records have yet been found to confirm that Irving was awarded a Purple Heart, but Zellie Rainey Orr, the historian for the Atlanta chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., may change that.

Rainey Orr’s research was instrumental in the posthumous issuance of medals, including the Purple Heart, in 2004 to Lt. Quitman C. Walker, another Tuskegee Airman and Mississippian who was killed during a strafing mission in Hungary.

Orr says she sees no reason to stop there.

“It’s the least we can do for people who gave so much,” she said.

Wellington G Irving is buried or memorialized at Vicksburg National Cemetery, Mississippi. This is a National American Cemetery administered through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Saint Louis Daily Dispatch


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