Moses Joseph Gatewood, Jr. AKA. “MoJo”
Aircraft commander of the “Holy Moses”
“GATEWOOD WAS A U.S. MILITARY ACADEMY GRADUATE, CLASS OF JANUARY 1943. ASSIGNED TO 9TH AIR FORCE, 397TH BOMB GROUP, 597TH SQUADRON AS AIRCRAFT COMMANDER OF A B-26 MARTIN MARAUDER MEDIUM BOMBER NAMED ‘HOLY MOSES’. WHILE FLYING ANOTHER AIRCRAFT, THE ‘MAMA LIZ’, HE WAS SHOT DOWN ON JUNE 24, 1944 OVER WEST SUBURBS OF PARIS SUPPORTING OPERATION OVERLORD. ESCAPED TO SPAIN VIA FRENCH UNDERGROUND AND RETURNED TO BASE IN ENGLAND WITH A NEW CODE SYSTEM FORWARDED BY FRENCH OPERATIVES FOR COMMUNICATING WITH THE FRENCH RESISTANCE. LATER RECOMMENDED FOR A SILVER STAR FOR THIS 2 MONTH EXTENDED MISSION. Remainder of crew were captured and remained POWs till end of war.”
HEADQUARTERS ARMY AIR BASE
Westover Field, Mass. 2/b1
26 February 1946.
SUBJECT: Recommendation for Award of Silver Star for Major MOSES J. GATEW00D, JR., X-XX613, A.C.
THRU: Officer-in Charge, AC/AS-2, Headquarters Army Air Forces, Washington, D.C.
TO: The Adjutant General, Washington 25, D.C.
1. In compliance with paragraph 20, AR 600-45, recommend that Major MOSES J. GATEWOOD, JR, X-XX613, A.C., now assigned to office of AC/AS-2, Headquarters Army Air Forces, be, awarded the Silver Star for outstanding, bravery and extraordinary achievement in action.
2. Major (then Captain) Gatewood s plane was shot down 24 June 1944 over Paris, France, He evaded capture and reached England 20 August 1944 after traversing France and Spain.
(See enclosures for full description of events)
3. Major Gatewood was a member of the 597th Bomb Squadron, 397th Bomb Group (M) of which I was squadron commander, and request every consideration be given to this recommendation.
FRANK L, WOOD, JR.
Lt. Colonel, A.C.
Deputy: Commanding Officer.
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.
I was flying a B-26 median bomber in the number four position behind Captain Swartzrock at 10,000 feet on 24 June 1944, about 1900 hours. The target was a rail bridge at Maisons Lafitte which is on the west suburbs of Paris. For the last ten minutes, heavy flak had been intense and accurate as the crew has reported numerous holes appearing in the fuselage and wings. Finally starting on the bomb run, the ship was hit by a close burst which knocked out most of the plexiglass nose and all of the co-pilot’s windshield. No injuries were sustained by the bombardier, but the co-pilot was cut and bleeding from numerous plexiglass wounds about the face and arms. The plane still functioned properly and was held in formation on the bomb run and bombs were dropped on the target. Suddenly, while turning off the bomb run, the ship received a hit which threw it out of formation and out of control as elevator rudder, and aileron cables were cut. I attempted to regain control as we dived almost vertically towards tho ground, but all controls were completely useless–even the trim tabs refused to take effect. At this point, I rang the alarm bell and over interphone gave the bail-out order, but no one was able to leave due to forces on bodies and escape hatch.
Still vainly playing with the elevator trim tab, I was rewarded by a slow reaction then a violent pull out at 3000 feet which shot us back up to 4000 ft. almost stall out. The crew were still in the plane and the engines were running so we turned for the beachhead 180 miles away through flak that became heavier and more accurate since control of the plane was vary sluggish using trim tabs only. Friendly lightning escort was notified of our position and dilemma as two Me109s were seen low to our left by the tail gunner, who, had been wounded painfully in the shoulder and jaw. About this time, two or three minutes after recovery from the 6000 feet uncontrolled dive, we skidded into predicted flak in front of us which knocked out the right engine, some of the instrument panel, and badly ruptured the right wing gasoline tanks. The engine would not feather and we began to lose altitude.
Again we could not turn quickly enough with trim tabs and flak bounced us around. This time cutting internal gas lines and probably hydraulic lines because smoke, gas, and oil fumes filled the ship. I think this burst also nipped a large hunk of flesh from the radio operator’s thigh because he had been in the top turret reporting visible outside damage to the ship when he suddenly announced he was hit hard in the legs somewhere. (This picture was gained in July 1945 when all of my crew returned home from PT Camps).
At this stage of the game, I could get no sense from the remaining instruments on the instrument panel and I could not maintain altitude an flying speed, so I gave orders to prepare for immediate bail-out. I gave this order at 2500 feet when the plane wan stalling, shuddering, streaming gas from the wing tanks, and was losing altitude at the rate of 800 feet per minute. The three crew members in the rear checked by interphone on leaving. Then the bombardier and co-pilot pounded through my head that the bomb bay
door would not open as they were shot up. The co-pilot and I worked on lowering the nose wheel which was stuck until the bombardier forced it down by jumping on it. They left immediately and I followed – noticing the altimeter
read 1500 feet as I removed flak suit:, helmet, head phones. I started to count to three but suddenly realized that I was awfully low so I pulled my rip cord immediately. Behind me I could see the other parachutes. Then I saw the ship strike the ground, explode and burn. Next I began to doubt if my chute had opened because I had felt no jerk, but a glance above showed a whipping chute slowly opening and I also observed relative forward motion to the ground which I immediately hit, and rolled along for at least 100 feet between a row of apple trees. I disengaged myself from the chute and shroud lines and to my surprise I was in one piece and all limbs functioned.
I gathered my chute up alone with my Mae West and ran to a nearby road where a French woman was standing mutely by a bicycle. Racking my confused brain for French, I managed to utter “Est il possible, pour vous m’aider”, at which she began to cry and wail in French that I was a poor, poor boy and asked if I was hurt. I sheepishly but worriedly said “Non” and pleadingly asked “Cacher, cacher?” At this point a farmer came running down the hill gesticulating with his arms (a good vamoose signal If I ever saw one) “Les Allemanges”. I know what this meant so retreated to an island of woods in which I hurriedly dumped my parachute before continuing to run out of the woods. I could hear the Germans coming so I flopped in a drainage ditch and pulled briars over my body. After at least fifteen minutes, I lifted my head and saw two Germans entering the woods and shooting in the underbrush. I felt pretty puny with my 45 so crawled through some oats to the nearest tree which eras an apple tree with lots of foliage. The Germans puttered around for the next hour up and down the wood and finally left in direction of the plane which was two blocks away and was burning with all ammunition going off. I spent the night in the wood and most of the next day hoping that the French would come to help me, but no luck.
For the next two days I wandered through the woods asking different civilians for help then back-tracking and running after they said no. This happened about 12 times and I became despondent so began to walk along a road. A Frenchman stopped me and took me to his home where I ate my first meal and drank wine. Around midnight we pulled out in a hurry because the Germans were searching the village. We slipped by several German road blocks but were not fired upon.
Contact was made with the Maquis who tried to move me toward Draux and Coen and finally was taken by automobile to Paris which was swarming with German troops still moving toward Normandy. I remained in Paris for two weeks and finally consented to take a code system back to England for the Maquis to tell the Americans how badly the Maquis needed arms and munitions (No mention of money convinced me the people had a real honest organization). All of this time I was dealing with, supposedly, colonels, leaders, and generals in the old French army. The 13th of July, 1944, I left Paris with two men and a women by car. We proceeded to Sens, Dijon, Chalons, Lyons, Avignon and Marseille, billeting in German military hotels at Dijon, Charlons and Marseille. By this time I know my friends were experienced operators because I had seen Gestapo passes flashed about every ten miles when the German road block guards stopped us.
I also had been called upon to carry a suitcase radio set into and out of hotels and would nervously sit in the hotel room each night as …
the French worked the radio. This radio, the code system, and staying in German hotels got on my nerves, but the climax came at Avignon where we got mixed up in a fight between the Mawuis and the Germans – I remaining neutral under the car while bullets whistled by overhead. After fighting, my friends returned with SS troopers and after much arguing in German, we were taken before the SS Captain of the town. I talked French with him for ten minutes explaining that I was a collaborator traveling with my German friends and that I had left my papers in Lyons by mistake in another unit. After much talking, we finally proceeded to Marseille where radio communication with Algiers failed to work. We then continued along the coast to Perpignon where we gave the radio away and learned that the Gestapo was watching the border too closely. Also at Perpignon, I dropped my paratrooper boots in front of two German officers as we stood in line checking out clothes before going swimming. I did a slow death as I picked them up but the Germans didn’t seem to notice. From Perpignon we proceeded to … across from …, Spain. For eight or nine lays, I enjoyed relative peace of mind as my friends crossed the border almost every other day arranging for a proper crossing and a sure fire way of handing the code over to the American consul before I was caught and searched by the Spanish.
This was successfully accomplished but I wound up in jail in Spain on 9 August 1944. An American consular representative arrived two days later and started my on my way back to England. T’was a happy day!
/s/ MOSES J GATEWOOD, JR.
A True Story
Frank L. Wood, Jr.
Lt. Colonel, A.C.
R. Medley Gatewood, Lt. Col. USAF (Ret.)
Nephew of Moses J. Gatewood