My new hero: World War II pilot Lt. Louis Curdes, who shot down an American plane

(lousy photography by James Ulvog)


Lt. Louis Curdes, USAAF, was an ace in WWII. He scored victories against the Germans, Italians, and Japanese.

His plane flouted his victories with 7 German flags painted on the fuselage, along with 1 Italian flag, 1 Rising Sun, and 1 American flag.

Wait just a second, I hear you say. An American flag?

Yes, an American flag.

Oh, he received a Distinguished Flying Cross. A DFC for shooting down one of our planes.

His plane, restored to beautiful condition, is on proud display at the Pima Air and Space Museum. You can see his plane and the full story here.

While attacking the Japanese island of Bataan, a wingman was shot down. While loitering to provide cover for the rescue, he saw an American C-47 transport approaching Bataan getting ready to land. He knew the crew and passengers would be captured when they landed and either be killed outright or tortured.

I’ll quote part of the story:

He tried to make radio contact, but without success. He maneuvered his Mustang in front of the big transport several times trying to wave it off. The C-47 kept to its landing target.

Lt. Curdes read the daily newspaper accounts of the war, including the viciousness of the Japanese soldiers toward their captives. He knew that whoever was in that American C-47 would be, upon landing, either dead or wish they were.  But what could he do?

Audaciously, he lined up his P-51 directly behind the transport, carefully sighted one of his .50 caliber machine guns and knocked out one of its two engines. Still the C-47 continued on toward the Bataan airfield. Curdes shifted his aim slightly and knocked out the remaining engine, leaving the baffled pilot no choice but to ditch in the ocean.

The plane ditched successfully, ending up near his wingman.

The next day, Lt. Curdes returned escorting a PBY which rescued the wingman along with the C-47’s 12 crew and passengers.

He married one of the two nurses he rescued by shooting down their plane.

Thus, he was honored to paint an American flag on his plane.

And earn a DFC for saving their lives.

And earned the life-long gratitude of his soon-to-be wife.

My newest hero!

(hat tip for the story to my son’s father-in-law, David.)

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