Millersburg pilot

Flight Officer Franklin D. Gallion, of Millersburg, was a hero in World War II.

MILLERSBURG -- Holmes County native Frank D. Gallion left home in 1941 to join the war in Europe, but didn't return home until 1996 -- 55 years later.

Gallion didn't want to wait for America to declare war -- if they ever would -- and in 1941 enlisted early with the Royal Canadian Air Force where he was assigned to the 334th Fighter Squadron.

In 1942, with America's entrance to the war following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Gallion was transferred to the United States Army Air Corps' 4th Fighter Group in Debden, England, and assigned the rank of Flight Officer.

Flight Officer Gallion, piloting a P-47 Thunderbolt, acted as a fighter escort for bombing raids over Occupied Europe. The bombing raids were dangerous, and October 1943 proved to be one of the most harrowing months for American pilots over Europe.

In November, the 8th Air Force planned a massive retaliation with the naval base at Wilhelmshaven, Germany designated the prime target. In total, 438 B-17 bombers and 117 B-24s along with an escort of 333 P-47 Thunderbolts and 45 P-38 fighter planes.

Gallion, along with 10 other Thunderbolts, took off from the forward air base at Halesworth. The group was set to rendezvous with the bomber formations over Holland before proceeding to the target.

Before reaching the rendezvous point, three waves of enemy fighter planes (24 in total) swept upon Gallion's unit. The resulting dogfight pushed both sides planes to the limit as they swirled and orbited over Mypolitushoef, Holland.

A P-47, piloted by Ivan Moon, was shot down in flames and crashed outside the village of Wieringen. Minutes later, Gallion's plane was hit and he spiraled out of control and disappeared into the bay at IJsselmeer.

Though the fighter group was ambushed, they took the brunt of the Luftwaffe's attack and allowed the bomber groups to proceed.

Of the 934 aircraft assigned to the mission only seven failed to return. Gallion was officially listed as MIA. In 1945, following the release of all prisoners of war, he was listed on the Walls of the Missing at the American Cemetery in Margraten, Holland.

But 52 years later, a boat in the bay hit something 10 feet below the surface. They reported the incident to officials, but it wasn't until 1995 that the government formally looked into the issue. Divers were sent down and quickly discovered a P-47 broken in two. In the cockpit sat Gallion, having never abandoned his post. He still bore his flight jacket and dog tags, which along with the markings on the aircraft allowed officials to identify the remains as Flight Officer Frank Gallion.

Gallion's remains were sent first to Hawaii for positive identification, and then to Fort Knox for a military memorial.

On Memorial Day in 1996 he returned home, to Holmes County, and received a hero's welcome as he was laid to rest in Millersburg. An asterisk is now etched beside his name on the Wall of the Missing, designating that he no longer is.

AP footage of the salvage and memorial can be found at this link.

More information on the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum can be found at this link.

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