|Ace back in a P-40|
|Written by David Siddall|
|Tuesday, 27 September 2011 11:31|
Second World War fighter ace Col James B. Morehead celebrated his 95th birthday with a flight in the back of Chris Prevost’s Curtiss P-40N-5, 42-105306, at Schellville Airport in California’s Sonoma Valley in the USA on August 16. During the 20min flight Morehead took a turn at the controls of the restored fighter, a type in which he gained seven of his eight victories while flying in the Pacific Theatre.
On April 25, 1942, just a year after leaving cadet school, Morehead led eight P-40Es of the 17th Provisional Pursuit Squadron, 24th Pursuit Group, in an attack on a formation of 31 Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bombers that had just bombed Darwin. He shot down two of them before dispatching one of the escorting Mitsubishi Zero fighters. Eleven enemy aircraft were shot down during the engagement without the loss of a single P-40, although Morehead’s aircraft suffered serious battle damage.
For that action 25-year-old Morehead was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross. He destroyed two more “Bettys” and Zeros before being posted back to the USA at the end of 1942, and subsequently went to Europe as operations officer with the 1st Fighter Group, serving a tour in Italy. On June 6, 1944, while leading a squadron of 16 Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109 while heading for the Ploesti oilfields in Romania.
Morehead, who now lives at Petaluma, near Schellville, developed his marksmanship skills as a boy, hunting wild game in rural Oklahoma to help feed his family during the Depression. He is still an avid hunter and fisherman, and after the P-40 ride was asked if he had seen any bucks during the flight. Morehead replied: “No, but I found a new pond to fish at!”