|Twins enter service |
Charles C. “Buck” Pattillo and his twin brother, Cuthbert, were born just seven minutes apart on June 3rd , 1924, in Atlanta, Georgia, Cuthbert being the oldest of the two. Just like many other identical twins, their lives would often run parallel: both enlisted in the Army Air Force, both flew with the 352nd FG, both left the service and entered the Georgia School of Technology, both re-entered service in 1948 and were assigned to the same base in Georgia before moving to the same base in Germany. Both were part of the display team “The Skyblazers”, both helped to form and were part of the original USAF Thunderbirds demonstration team, both would assume command of a Fighter Wing in Vietnam and both became Generals at the end of their military carreers.
Also, like many identical twins, both played identity tricks on people when they were kids. Buck stated that they used to switch girlfriends.
They graduated from Atlanta Technical High School in 1942 and enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in November of 1942. Thanks to the alphabet, both brothers went through the same process during and after their training. When the list was parcelled out for training, both brothers were shipped off to primary training in PT-17s, followed by basic training in BT-13 monoplanes and finally advanced training in the AT-6. Bill said that they never saw any class rankings during flight training, so they didn't know who was doing better: him or his brother. “I thought I was the best there was” , Buck says.
They completed the aviation cadet program and received their pilot wings as Second Lieutenants at Marianna, Florida, on March 12th , 1944. After completing P-40 Warhawk training, they would be assigned to a Fighter Group. His brother Bill remembers fearing that the Army Air Forces would finally separate them, following the loss of several Sullivan brothers on one ship.
They were separated… in a certain way. Both brothers were assigned to the 352nd Fighter Group, then known as the “Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney”, however Bill was assigned to the 487th FS while Buck was assigned to the 486th FS. They would make the trip to Europe in late November of 1944.
At that time, the 352nd had already converted to the P-51 Mustang and Buck inherited his P-51D 44-13737 PZ-W “Little Rebel” from Capt. Alton J "Al" Wallace. Buck didn't bother to change the name of the Mustang.
On a mission on March 2nd , 1945, Buck damaged 2 aircraft on a strafing mission.
On April 16th , 1945, both brothers were part of an epic strafing mission at Gonecker airfield near Straubing, Germany. Upon attacking an airfield, the attacking force would usually split up into two groups: one group would take care of the flak units and once this task was completed, the second group would come in and establish a pattern to tear up the airfield. In most cases, the first group would then join them in the attack.
On this particular mission, his brother Bill was part of the group which had to take care of the anti-aircraft batteries and Buck was part of the strafing team. Bill effectively aided in silencing the flak batteries which enabled Buck to commence his strafing run.
During his multiple strafing passes, Buck managed to destroy 3 FW-190s and 2 Me-109s. He damaged one more, a FW-190.
Lt. Col. Willie O. Jackson signalled the attack and described in his encounter report: “We decided to hit the airfield with one section drawing flak, another busting flak and the third as top cover. I took my flight across first from south-west to north-east, not firing, and 15-20 guns opened up. After four or five passes most of those were neutralised by the flak-busters, and a gunnery pattern was set up.”
Buck posing with his P-51 44-13737 "Little Rebel" (© 352nd FG Association Archive)
During the next half hour the Bluenosers hammered the airfield, leaving it a burning wreck. The pilots claimed a total of 40 aircraft destroyed and 27 damaged following the attack:
Lt Col. Jackson accounted for 4 destroyed and 3 damaged
Capt. Ed Heller destroyed 7
Bill Pattillo destroyed 6 and damaged 2
Buck Pattillo destroyed 5 and damaged one
Capt. Ray Littge of the 487 th destroyed 3 and damaged 5
However, 2 pilots were lost during the attack: Lt. Walden Padded died after his Mustang was downed by flak and Bill was shot down and taken prisoner by German troops.
On the entire April 16th , 8th AF fighter pilots destroyed no less than 752 enemy aircraft on various missions for the loss of 34 of their own.
Rare in-flight image of Buck flying P-51 44-13737 "Little Rebel" (© 352nd FG Association Archive)
Buck's brother Bill was taken prisoner, but was finally liberated by tanks of Patton's 3rd Army on May 5th . Buck didn't know that his brother had survived the April 16th crash until May 17th , when Bill came walking into the 486th pilot's ready room.
In all, Buck completed 37 combat missions with the 486th , and scored 5 strafing kills. In addition, he damaged one more on the ground. He got his first Distinguished Flying Cross during his time with the 486th .
The citation read:
“For extraordinary achievement while serving as Pilot of a P-51 airplane on bomber escort and strafing missions over Germany and German occupied countries, from February 1945 to 17 April 1945. Throughout these operations Lieutenant Pattillo exhibited outstanding flying ability and inspiring determination. By his exceptionally accurate gunnery, this officer aided immeasurably in the disruption of enemy transportation and in the destruction of five enemy aircraft on the ground. Despite intense ground fire Lieutenant Pattillo exhibited exemplary aggressiveness in pressing home vicious attacks, contributing materially to the success achieved on numerous missions. The courage, coolness and devotion to duty displayed by this officer on all these occasions reflect the highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.”
(© 352nd FG Association Archive)
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