William E. Griffin
DOB unknown – 1979
Unit: 99th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group
Lt. William E. Griffin was shot down over Germany and spent more than a year at a prisoner of war camp.
After graduating from Miles College in Fairfield, Ala., Griffin became the principal of a junior high school in Gainesville, Ala. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in June 1942, and graduated from flight training on Feb. 16, 1943, at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. Griffin deployed to North Africa with the 99th Fighter Squadron in April. The squadron flew its first combat mission on June 2. The squadron moved from Tunisia to Italy on July 28. Although it moved within the country, the squadron remained based in Italy for the rest of the war.
On Jan. 15, 1944, three weeks after the first lieutenant’s 23rd birthday, the 99th Fighter Squadron was sent to strafe targets in San Valentino, Italy. Griffin was last seen over the target area.
“Lt. Griffin flew my wing out to the target area,” 1st Lt. Leon C. Roberts wrote a military report. “I peeled off on my bomb run after the first four ships initiated their run. Griffin followed and we bombed in string formation. Immediately after I released my bomb, I pulled up on a right turn. Looking back, I saw Griffin pulling off the target. He seemed in no apparent trouble. I made a turn left to pick up the main flight; I haven’t seen Griffin since.”
Griffin’s P-40 Warhawk was hit; he was forced to crash-land. Griffin was captured and remained a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft I until May 1945. Lt. Gene C. Browne remembered meeting Griffin and three other Tuskegee Airmen at the POW camp.
Griffin’s flying days weren’t over: He also flew planes in the Korean War.
According to military records, Griffin was awarded a Purple Heart during World War II military service. Griffin’s daughter Gail Olabisi remembers her father’s military medals.
“My father received a Purple Heart during WWII,” she said. “I recall playing with it as a child.”
Griffin died in 1979; he is buried in Indianapolis.
Visit the Red Tail Virtual Museum to see the Missing Man report and local news clipping.
Class 43-B graduated from flight training on Feb. 16, 1943, at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama.
Left to right: Roy M. Spencer, Claud B. Govan, James R. Polkinghorne, John R. Prowell, William H. Walker, William E. Griffin, Walter M. Downs
Lt William E. Griffin, second from left, flew 23 missions before he was forced to crash-land in Germany and taken prisoner of war.
Source: Saint Louis Dispatch
Archives photos courtesy U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Alabama