P-51 MUSTANG PILOT

USAAF

382nd Fighter Squadron / 363rd Fighter Group

 
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Lt. Antony E. Ladas was born on December 16, 1922 and he was the son of the Greek immigrant from Tenedos Island in the Aegean, Ernest A. Ladas. Ernest came in the United States in 1907. His first wife was Nellie Clough Ladas and the couple had two daughters, Helen, Cynthia. Ernest married again with Adele Fiffick and had two more children, Anthony and Crysanthy. After his training and his promotion to 2nd Lt. Antony (O-810522) he was posted in England and served with the 9TH Air Force, 363rd Fighter (Bomber) Group, 382nd Fighter (Bomber) Squadron. He arrived in the squadron on February 5, 1944 and soon began flying escort and ground attack missions over Northwest Europe. He was killed in action on May 28, 1944. While flying an bomber escort mission to Frankfurt, Germany, Anthony’s fighter, a P-51B-10, #42-106486, had collided with the P-47D #42-26016 which was flown by Captain Juchheim , a well known ace of the 78th FG. More details were given in the Missing Air Crew Report 5138, specifically the statement of 1st Lt John R. Brown, Jr.,( O-795905) of the same flight, dated 30 May 1944:

“On May 28, 1944, Lt Ladas was flying #4 position in my flight. The mission was escort of heavy bombers to Frankfurt Germany. At 14:00, just west of Gardelgen, Germany, a flight of red nosed P-47s approached us from 2 o clock level. I pulled the flight about 200ft above this formation in a slight left turn. This cleared the entire flight, but I believe that one of the Thunderbolts pulled up also, causing the crash. Lt. Ladas ship hit one wing of the P-47, and spiraled down out of my sight. In my opinion Lt. Ladas chances of surviving this collision are nil. I continued with the remainder of my section on course.”

Years later for the purpose of the excellent book, Mission 376: Battle over the Reich, May 28, 1944 written by Ivo De Jong he recalled the incident:

“ i felt at least partially responsible for his demise and have suffered pangs of conscience ever since. Ladas was flying as number four in my flight. When i saw the returning flight of P-47s dead ahead, I did a quick calculation that we were more maneuverable than the) at that altitude and determined to climb to avoid ramming. For some unknown reason, Ladas was late in responding to my maneuver, and pulled up to join the flight just in time to hit the P-17 enroute. I might have called my maneuver on the radio, but it did not seem necessary until it was too late. The explosion was spectacular. Major McWhorter, leading our group, called out, “What happened back there?’ I replied, “Ladas had a head-on with one of the Jugs.”

A captured German record received from Interrogation Center at Dulag Luft Film # 11, Volume 12, pages 124112 through 124115, KU 2038, page 90, paragraph 27 (Vol. 2036 - 2700), KUJ 1261 and 1283 (J 1222-1300) reports that a Mustang bursted in mid air, the debris being scattered in the vicinity of Sichau, 11 km V. Gardelgen, Germany at 14:10 hours, 23 May I944-· Several of these records identified the serial number of the plane as AAF 42-106486, and stated that the pilot of this plane was found nearby in a small wood, void of all identification marks and he was buried at the local cemetery of Sichau, southeastern corner, third grave from left to right and a sign was to be put on the grave with the inscription: "Here rests an unknown American Flyer, killed in action on 28 May 1914". This P-51 crashed at the same time a P-47 crashed. The pilot Capt. Juchheim O-799574 bailed out safely and captured and he stated that the cause of his crash was a collision with a friendly P-51. Alwin Juchheim served as fighter pilot flying P-47D in 83rd Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group,. He was an ace with 9 kills to his credit and awarded with the Distinguished Service Cross, and six DFCs! His squadron mates’ reports that while descending with his parachute a Luftwaffe ME109 tried to strafe him although his wingmen Lt’s William Mc Dermott and Fred White shot it down claiming a share victory. According to Lawrence R. Casey:

Above: Anthony E. Ladas official Army Air Force portrait. He was only 22 years old when he was KIA over Europe (AFHRA). Below: Ladas flew approximately 15-20 missions with the 382nd FS, considering that he was awarded an Air Medal and three OLC. During his service with the squadron he was assigned a personal Mustang, specifically the one in which he was photographed in the cockpit. In the left side of the photo, the number 737 is visible on the edge. Searching the Mustang serials assigned to 382nd FS we find that there was a P-51B-10, #42-106737, C3- which is probably his fighter. After his death it was assigned to Lt. Proctor. (Unknown)

"I was flying White 2 on Cpt. Juchheim wing when the mid air collision between him and a P-51 occurred at 22.000 ft. The four P-51s were seen coming dead on for us but all believed a wide margin of safety was positive. At the last moment Capt. Juchheim pulled up into a left turn but then it was too late. The P-51 crashed into him and sheared the left wing from the 47. The 51 was a fiery mass of wreckage. One chute was observed and all three of us, second third and fourth man believe it belonged to Juchheim. Number three man remarked that immediately after the collision the 47s canopy was closed and the plane itself was in good condition with the exception of the left wing. Number four man reported that a few minutes later he observed the plane minus the canopy. We followed the chute down to about 12000 ft each striving to get close enough to recognize the person. This was practically impossible but still the man in the chute highly resembled Juchheim, his clothes, build, etc. At the above altitude we broke off observation and attacked a Me109."

After the war, in 1949, the American Graves Registration Service was able to find his grave and identify him, so as his remains to be buried to American Ardennes Cemetery. Anthony E. Ladas was awarded the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart.

Right: P-51B Virginia (#42-106486) 1LT Bob McGee and crew of the 363rd FG (Jack Cook Collection)
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This was the P-51B in which Anthony E. Ladas was killed in action during his air crash with the Thunderbolt of 78th FG, Alwin Juchheim, om May 28, 1944. The Mustang remains one of the most beautiful and iconic aircraft of the Second World War and one of the most celebrated canvasses for nose art. This P-51B Virginia (sn 42-106486) of the 382nd Fighter Squadron is likely named for its pilot’s girlfriend or maybe his birthplace, but the real showstopper is this happy, googly-eyed shark mouthed face. It was originally assigned to Robert McGee, who had one kill to his credit. The shape of the Mustang’s nose, like the P-40, offers a natural face to dress in the shark motif. There was also a second 382nd shark mouth Mustang called 'Big Mac' which can be seen on the background. (Copyright Gaetan Marie)
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Anthony E. Ladas Air Medal, wings and badges (left) and his final resting place, at American Ardennes Cemetery (right).
(Sofie Arvanitou & Anthony Ladas IDPF)

Sources:

 

Anthony E. Ladas OMPF

Anthony E. Ladas IDPF

MACR 5138

Mission 376: Battle over the Reich, May 28, 1944, Ivo De Jong, Hikoki Publishing, isbn:978190210939, 2003

The 363rd FG in WWII: In action over Germany with the P-51 Mustang, Kent Miller, Schiffer Publishing, isbn: 9780764316296

Aces of the 78th FG, Thomas McKelvey Cleaver, Osprey Publishing, 2013, isbn: 9781780967165

 

Special Thanks to AFHRA officer, Tammy Horton Civ. USAF AFHRA/RS R, Donald Mounts (Global Military Research, LLC), Johnny Signor and especially to Sophie Arvanitou.