Major Moses J. Gatewood, Jr. X-XX613, A.C. now assigned to the Office of
AC/AS-2, Headquarters Army Air forces, was serving with the 397th Bomb
Group (M) 597th Bomb Squadron, Ninth Air Force, when his plane was shot
down 24 June 1944 over Paris France. This officer, the pilot, succeeded
in evading capture and reached England two months later, 20 August 1944,
after traversing France and Spain.
This officer's bravery, courage, and coolness in face of danger has
never received official recognition because of many extenuating
circumstances involving time, position, and situation. Major Gatewood
evaded capture and was under constant jeopardy of being shot for spy
work because in Paris he was given documents and a new code system, the
old having been ciphered, to deliver to the Allies. In addition, thin
officer carried from Lyons to Marseille to Perpignon a British suitcase
radio set which was used by French contacts in each town. These actions
were highly dangerous, hazardous and worthy of praise which is borne out
by the Military Air Attaché to Spain, Lt. Colonel Spilman, who informed
Major Gatewood that the underground routes had broken down shortly after
D-Day in Europe and that such evasion from the Paris area with existing
German tension and alertness was almost impossible, Nonetheless, in
London this officer's processing was so greatly confused by the sudden
large influx of POW's, evaders, and escapees liberated by the Allied
armies advancing on Paris that no normal processing occurred and no
official recognition of his achievements were enacted. USSTAF, G-2, and
his former Group did not take action at that time because of the press
and rapid movement of the war in Europe.
Major Gatewood exhibited extraordinary achievement while participating
in aerial flight. On the 24th of June 1944, about 1900 hours, over the
vicinity of Paris, France, Major Gatewood (then Captain) was flying
deputy flight lead in the 597th Squadron, 397th Bomb Group (M), Ninth
Air Force. The target was an important rail bridge over the Seine just
outside of Paris, and the entire area was studded with heavy flak
batteries. Being the last flight over the target, the flak was Intense
and accurate and at 10,000, Major Gatewood's B-26 bomber was badly holed
before going on bomb run but bombs were on target (target destroyed by
Group action) before a direct burst cut elevator, rudder, and aileron
control cables. The aircraft immediately whipped into a vertical
uncontrolled dive until trim tab control pulled it out at 3,000 feet,
then it climbed to a stall at 4,000 feet where Major Gatewood retained
control and headed home. The flak became very intense and accurate at
this low altitude and since only sluggish maneuvers were possible with
nothing but trim tab control, the aircraft received further damage. Gas
tanks were seriously ruptured, hydraulic system shot out, first the
right engine failed and would not feather, then the left engine started
losing power. At this point, four of the six crew members were wounded
but still at positions since two Me109's were trailing low on the deck.
Major Gatewood gave the bail out order at 2500 feet and crew members in
the rear abandoned ship but front crew members were handicapped by the
bomb bays failing to open. When informed that bomb bays would not open,
Major Gatewood directed the bombardier to jump on the nose wheel which
also would not function properly. This worked and everyone cleared the
aircraft safely, although Major Gatewood's chute opened approximately 50
feet above the ground.
Such cool thinking, appropriate action, excellent command of his crew,
and skillful flying of a badly crippled aircraft through intense flak
reflects extraordinary achievement of the highest degree.
To the best of my knowledge the above events are true as outlined to me
by Major Gatewood. Subject officer served under my command in the 597th
Bomb Squadron, 397th Bomb Group (M), of which I was squadron commander.
FRANK L. WOOD, JR.
Lt. Colonel, A.C.