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Thu, May 28, 2009

Gone West: B-24 Pilot Tom Holmes, Jr.

90-year-old WWII Bomber Pilot Regains His Wings

"I didn't think any of us was ever going to finish the first few months (in Europe)." World War II Bomber Pilot Tom Holmes Jr. a businessman in Jasper, Texas died on Memorial day, a day his family called "appropriate."

The Beaumont, Texas "Enterprise" reports Homes was born in 1919 in Higgins, Texas, and joined the Army in 1941 immediately after graduating from North Texas State Teachers College in Denton, now the University of North Texas. Holmes was a B-24 pilot in World War II. He volunteered for a dangerous mission to bomb the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania, which provided fuel for German forces. Fifty-four B-24 bombers were lost and more than 500 men died in the run.

Because of a paperwork error, Holmes, a lieutenant colonel, received the Army's Silver Star, while most other leaders of the squadron received the Distinguished Service Cross. He finally received the proper medal on Feb. 2 - two days before his 90th birthday.

He flew bombing raids into Western Europe, facing off against ace fighter pilots. "I didn't think any of us was ever going to finish the first few months (in Europe)," he said from his Jasper home in January. Holmes continued flying into his 80's. He is survived by his wife his wife, Margueritte, whom he met at Barksdale Field in Shreveport, La., while in bomber training.

FMI: www.armyaircorps.us/

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