USAAF P-40 WARHAWK & P-51 MUSTANG
Samuel Soulis was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1922, the son of Steve Soulis from Kalambaka, Trikala, and Katherine Arseniou Soulis. Later his family moved to Albany, New York. He graduated from Albany High School in 1940 and attended the College of St. Rose and Russell Sage. On July 28, 1942, he enlisted the US Army and entered the Gulf Coast Training Command with classification and preflight training in San Antonio Texas while his primary flight training took place in Coleman, Texas flying PT-19s with the 304th AAFFT. He continued his basic flight training in Waco Texas and advanced flying training in Eagle Pass, Texas. He graduated with Class 43-J as a Flight Officer and before his transfer overseas he completed his Operational Flight Training in Harris Neck, Georgia. While there he was attached to the 500th Fighter Bomber Squadron flying with AT-6 Harvards, P-40N Warhawks, and A-36 Apaches. According to the AAIR website, Samuel S. Soulis had an accident (LACSSP 5) in P-40N 43-24109 at Harris Neck AAF in Newport, Georgia, on March 27, 1944. LACSSP means Landing Accident, Stall/Spin, and 5 is the most serious category, which means the aircraft was destroyed. In the summer of 1944, he was posted overseas for combat duty. In August 1944 he was attached to CBI A.F.T.C for operational training. He flew six sorties two of which were an introduction to the P-51 Mustang predecessor, the A-36 Apache. On September 9, 1944, he was assigned to the 51st FG which operated in China, and specifically to the 25th FS, best known as the 'Assam Dragons' wearing a fearful snakehead nose art. He was promoted to 2nd Lt while in China during January 1945. During his six months of combat service as a fighter pilot, Samuel completed almost 30 missions flying both the P-40K and P-40N Warhawks as well P-51C and P-51K Mustangs while he was also qualified as a C-47 Pilot and Co-Pilot.
On October 1, 1944, the 51st Group flew a total of seven missions, four of which were against ground targets in the Mangshih area. The flight which the Greek American pilot flew with was tasked to destroy the bridge in the area with their bombs. Samuel flew the P-40N-05 42-106405, (231) and along with his squadron mates attacked the bridge however all bombs were missed. These targets usually were defended by anti-aircraft batteries one of which hit Soulis plane and set afire. The young pilot managed to stay in his aircraft enough to bail out over a friendly area. He landed safe and was seen walking towards a Chinese village. An L-5 was flown out to the point where he bailed out and dropped escape equipment and a map to Soulis who was seen to recover his parachute and carry it. Slightly injured he returned back to his base 3 days later, reporting for duty on October 4, 1944, according to the 25th FS and 51st FG reports. Soulis wrote to Carl Molesworth during the interviews taken by the famous author regarding his research on CBI USAAF squadrons:
"On October 1, 1944, I bailed out of a P-40 which was hit by ground fire while on a combat mission over Mangshih, Yunanyi, China. It required five days to walk back to my airbase (however the Squadron and Group reports write three days). On November 10, 1944, I bailed out of a C-47 between Yunanyi and Kunming. Walked all day and night and returned to my airbase the following day."
True to his words, Samuel was forced to take his parachute once more, this time while flying as a passenger in a C-47 Dakota 41-18547 with 2nd Lt. William Fountain at the controls. The Greek American pilot remembered that incident in an interview:
"l was a fighter pilot assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron at Yunnanyi, and on November 10, 1944, was one of 15 passengers on the C-47 which departed for Kunming at approximately 3:00 PM. Also on board was the crew consisting of the pilot, co-pilot, and radio operator for a total of 18 people. The right engine had been replaced by an engine change crew from Kunming and they were among the passengers. A fuel connection had worked loose and the engine caught fire and was spreading from the wing to the fuselage. The pilot turned back towards Yunnanyi, feathered the propellor on the burning engine, and kept losing altitude. Lt. Fountain asked us to put on a parachute in as much as we were losing altitude very quickly. I picked up the last parachute and strapped it on. A Chinese Colonel did not have a chute and was very frightened by the fire which was spreading rapidly along the fuselage. The pilot and co-pilot also did not have chutes but the radio operator had his own under the radio racks."
Samuel S. Soulis inside the cockpit of a P-51K most probably during April 1945. The Greek American pilot didn't fly the Mustang in combat according to his Individual Flying Record and he flew not only the C and K models but also the first-generation. Mustang, the A-36 Apache. (Carl Molesworth)
Samuel graduated from Class 43-J and both photographs were taken during his training for his class Yearbook. (USAF) The P-40K below misled us by thinking that this was his personal Warhawk because of the nose art 'ANNE'. We thought that he might write it on his plane because of his sweetheart and later wife, also Greek American, Anne Haggis. However, from his Individual Flight Record, we find that he flew only 4 sorties during his early service with the 25th Fighter Squadron. Assigning a plane to a new replacement pilot so early wasn't a common practice. However, Sam did have a personal Warhawk, probably an N-20 model which he nicknamed as 'Sweet Pappy' according to a letter he sent to Carl Molesworth. (USAF via 51st Fighter Group Facebook Page)
The P-40N-05 42-106405, (231) was the fighter in which Samuel S. Soulis shot down after an attack on a bridge in the Mangshih area. Regarding the bridge, the P-40s carried an even heavier load, specifically 1000 pound bombs. The conversion to such heavy load-out was pointed out in an article on the Air Force Journal of October 1943 written by Cpt Luther Davis. "..the P-40, standard American fighter plane in this theatre has been converted to the "B"-40. The news is not that peashooters carry bombs—all over the world they do that—but that single-engined fighters have been operated successfully for more than four months as medium bombers specializing in 1,100-pound payloads in addition to the weight of normal fighter armament. When the first "B"-40 raids occurred, the enemy radio at Rangoon broadcast that we had "a new type of dive bomber," but when the Japs lost ten Zeros in aerial combat with the -bombers" the whole subject was promptly dropped. The reason for this general disregard of almost all tech orders was the fact that the Japs were supplying forward activities in northern Burma over a single-track rail-way and a narrow road, both well-sprinkled with bridges. The P-40s, using 300 and 500-pound bombs, blasted away at the targets throughout last February but the Japs were ready with repair gangs and extra rails. Within 48 hours an officially “destroyed" bridge was usually bearing the weight of India-bound Japs, and the bombing had to be done all over again. Col. John E. Barr, executive officer of a P-40 group, took a good look at those 1,000-pounder and then spent an afternoon under his P-40 with his eye on the rivets and his conscience with his God. The next day a short and sober report came into 10th Air Force Headquarters: One P- 40 with another P-40 upstairs as top-cover had knocked out the bridge south of Mogaung. "Ordnance expended: 1,000-pound bomb." (Copyright Bertrand Brown aka Gaetan Marie, further info Cpt Luther Davis)
"Lt. Fountain lined everyone up towards the open door and as each person approached the door Lt. Fountain pushed him out. In as much as l was the only American officer on board as a passenger I remained last in line and as I approached the doorway and looked down I felt Lt. Fountain push me out. I pulled my ripcord immediately at 500 or less and hit the side of a mountain on the 3rd swing of my chute. After my chute opened I looked at the burning C-47 and watched as it cleared a mountain ridge but hit the next one and exploded in a ball of black smoke. Once on the ground I back-tracked and met up with approximately nine others who had bailed out. I recruited two volunteers and started walking out with several Chinese with torches and walked all night up and down mountains and reached the Burma Road early the next morning. As we walked along the road I saw a farmer's truck rumbling towards us with no intention of stopping. I had borrowed a .45 automatic from one of the men the night before and cocked it and standing in the middle of the road pointed it at the oncoming truck. It braked to a halt and I climbed in the truck cab and everyone else climbed onto the truck which was carrying fruits and vegetables to Yunnanyi Air Base. When we arrived at the field I pinpointed on a map where the C-47 went down and they dispatched a medical team to parachute out near the crash site in order to provide treatment to the injured. They also dispatched a ground rescue team which was led back by the Chinese natives which brought us out. When Harper Buzek was photographed with 11 other survivors, that accounted for 12 of those who bailed out. The other three were the two enlisted men who walked out with me accounting for a total of 15 survivors. The pilot, co-pilot, and Chinese Colonel were killed in the crash. The investigation which followed together with my report resulted in awards to the pilot who stayed at the controls and to the co-pilot, Lt. Fountain who got us out of a burning plane and saved our lives at the cost of their own lives".
He was awarded the Bronze Medal for bravery, the Purple Heart twice, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, three Battle Stars, the WW2 Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the China War Memorial Medal, and the New York Distinguished Service Medal. Soulis thought that the fliers in CBI never got the attention they deserved.
"We've never gotten much recognition, we've been overshadowed by Pearl Harbor, D-Day,
the Battle of the Bulge. A lot of people don't know anything about the CBI theater."
On January 27, 1951, he married the late Anne Haggis Soulis, of Manchester, New Hampshire, also of Greek heritage, and was blessed with two children Katherine and Stephen. He retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1965 with the rank of Major. He served for 33 years in Federal Service in the Department of Housing & Urban Development and retired in 1978 as Director of the Housing Management Division and later self-employed as a Real Estate Broker. Samuel S. Soulis passed away on December 31, 2011, at the age of 88 years old.
Two photos of 25th FS pilots posing above and in front of Squadron P-40N Warhawks. In the first Samuel is standing far right touching the canopy with his hand while on the second he is kneeling first from the right. (USAF via 51st Fighter Group Facebook Page)
THE ASSAM DRAGONS B-Forties
There’s a steamy river country,
Rimmed by mountains all around.
Where the world humps up its backbone
Full five miles above the ground.
Flying there with Assam’s Dragons
Into India’s mold’ring clime,
"Brereton’s Bhamo-Busting Bombers"
Were "B-Forties"—every time.
A P-40N, similar to the one flown by Samuel S. Soulis during his service in CBI. (SDAM Catalogue 00003347)
A page from Samuel S. Soulis Individual Flight Record, during his service in CBI with the 25th Fighter Squadron, 51st Fighter Group, specifically for October 1944. (AFHRA)
The Assam Dragons insignia was signed by the 25th Fighter Squadron pilots. On the tip of the "Draggin" nose, the Greek American pilot signed as Samuel S. Soulis, and under it, he wrote his nickname 'Parachute Sam', because of his two successful bailouts from a P-40 and a C-47. (51st Fighter Group Facebook Page)
Lloyd Howe’s illustration showing a 25th Fighter Squadron P-40 carrying a 1,000-pound bomb while taking off for a bridge-busting mission. (Copyright Lloyd Howe)
to a warrior and finally...
to a Veteran.
Special thankings to Nick Soulis, grandson of Samuel S. Soulis, Carl Molesworth for his invaluable help regarding the Soulis career, Jean Barbaud, moderator of the excellent 51st Fighter Group Facebook Page from which many photos used in this page, Donald Mounts of Global Military Research, LLC for retrieving Soulis Individual Flight Record and lastly to Mrs. Tammy Horton from Air Force Historical Agency.
1. Dimitris Vassilopoulos correspondence with Nick Soulis.
2. Carl Molesworth correspondence with Samuel Soulis.
3. Samuel Soulis Individual Flight Record
4. AIRFORCE The Official Service Journal of the US Army Air Forces - October 1943 issue
5. 25th Fighter Squadron War Diary Reel A0727 & A0728
6. Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) 10075
7. Samuel Steve Soulis Obituary
8. 51st Fighter Group in CBI Facebook Page