Lt. Colonel Thomas E. Margrave, ASN O-21616

10th Air Force / 7th Bombardment Group / 9th & 436th Bombardment Squadrons

Served April, 1942 - November, 1945

(Info Courtesy of Thomas E. Margrave, Jr.)

From Tom Margrave, Jr.:

    "He joined the Army Air Corps in 1935 as a pilot trainee. His training occurred at Randolph and Kelly airfields in Texas.  At one point he was stationed at Langley Field in Virginia, because that's where I entered the picture in 1938.  By 1940 he had made it to Captain's rank and was a B-17 pilot. 

    After Pearl Harbor he was promoted to Major and spent some time at Selfridge Field in Michigan and Barksdale Field in Louisiana.  By 1943 he had made Lt. Col. and was at Florence Army Air Field in South Carolina as the Air Inspector. By then he had completed training in the B-24 out in New Mexico I believe.

    By March 13, 1944 he was assigned to the Hqs. of the Tenth Air Force and detailed to duty in the office of the Ass't. Chief of Staff, A-3 in the CBI. On March 28, 1944 he was attached to the 436th Bomb Squadron (H) of the 7th Bomb Group (H) at Pandaveswar in India.

    On April 5, 1944 he took part in a B-24 attack on the Bangkok-Moulmein RR, which the Japanese were using to transport British POWs to internment (actually, death) camps in Burma. It was a very low-level attack and his plane got hit by antiaircraft fire from a camouflaged flatcar. He incurred a severe wound to his left arm which ended his career as a pilot. It's a miracle that his plane even made it back to Pandaveswar. He was evacuated to the States and spent a long time at the Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver. Even though the wound eventually healed, he only had partial use of his left arm. But I'm sure that he was just grateful to be alive.

    For the rest of his life he had a subscription to the Army-Navy Journal so that he could keep tabs on his former Air Corps buddies, one of whom later made Brigadier General (Horace M. Wade). Back in 1999 or so I corresponded with another 7th Bomb Group pilot named (Allan) Kass who had retired to Big Sky, Montana.  He gave me a vivid description, complete with maps, of the April 5 mission in which he also had participated.  I also recall correspondence at about the same time with a retired Air Force officer in California (Col. William R. Stark), who I believe had been the adjutant of the 7th BG. He said that my father was probably being groomed to become the CO of the 436th Bomb Squadron, but that never came to pass."

Of this mission, Lt. Allan Kass later recalled:

    "This was an extremely low-level attack on the so-called 'Death Railway' poularized by the movie 'Bridge On the River Kwai'.

    The canyon through which the railroad ran was so narrow that the B-24s flew over the tracks in tandem.

    I was piloting the airplane directly behind Maj. Robert Bailey who was our (493rd) squadron Commanding Officer and saw his craft hit by ground fire just as we broke off our run and pulled out to sea. Two engines were smoking and throwing oil. I flew alongside until darkness made it impossible to maintain visual contact and radioed the position at that time.

    Their B-24 eventually ditched in the Indian Ocean in total darkness and a search was mounted by planes from the 493rd the following day.

    I was on the search mission which was unsuccessful for our crews, however, a British Catalina sighted the two rafts and picked up the crew, all of whom survived excepting the tail gunner (SSgt. Warren B. Winkler) who was mortally wounded over the target.

    The search sortie, April 6, 1944 was to be my last combat mission and soon after I was transferred to Calcutta to wait reassignment back to the U.S.

    It will be of interest to (note) that (we) participated in one of the most daring missions of the entire war. It was a thirteen and a half hour journey with B-24s dropping spiked bombs just 50 feet above the tracks and only 10 feet of wing tip clearance from the cliff sides."

Col. Margrave's Find-A-Grave.comMemorial


7th BG Personnel