Colonel Lee Grosshuesch

Colonel Grosshuesch was born on 6 May 1920, in Menno, South Dakota, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Grosshuesch. A graduate of Yankton High School, Yankton, South Dakota, Colonel Grosshuesch attended the University of Maryland and Jackson State Teachers College. He is a graduate of the Air Command & Staff College and the Air War College.
Colonel Grosshuesch enlisted in the US Army on 9 January 1942 at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. Following graduation from Aviation Cadets on 28 July 1943, Craig Field, Selma, Alabama, he was commissioned a 2nd Lt. and reassigned to the 439th Fighter Squadron, Dale Mabry Field, Tallahassee, Florida, flying P-47s.

From November 1943 to July 1946, Colonel Grosshuesch was assigned to the 39th and 41st Fighter Squadrons, 35th Fighter Group, Southwest Pacific Theater of Operation. During this period, he served as an aircraft commander, operations officer, and finally commanding officer of the 39th, the 41st, and again the 39th Squadron in ranks of 1st Lt. and Captain. Colonel Grosshuesch completed 150 combat missions, 624 combat hours, and a total of 1,021 flying hours in P-47's and P-51's, while in theater. He is credited with eight aerial kills and the singlehanded destruction of a Japanese destroyer over Goto Retto near Kyushu, Japan, on 30 July 1945, for which he received the Silver Star.

In July 1944, Charles Lindberg spent two weeks with the 35th Group in New Guinea teaching cruise control to the P-47 pilots, as he had previously done for the P-38 pilots. In a matter of days he helped us extend our radius of our action from 350 miles to 500 miles. Colonel Grosshuesch continued to work on this procedure, finally extending the radius of action for his squadron to 800 miles. This proved to be a pivotal turning point in the war for the P-47s in the Southwest Pacific, allowing them to reach the more active areas of combat.

Following the formal ending of World War II Colonel Grosshuesch was assigned to Johnson Army Air Base, Japan, as a member of the initial US contingent occupying Japan.

Returning to the United States in August 1946, Colonel Grosshuesch was tendered a regular appointment in the US Army with the rank of Captain and reassigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron, 146th AAF Base, Selfridge Field, Michigan, flying P- 51's. In April 1947, Colonel Grosshuesch was transferred to the 335th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group, Andrews Field, Washington, DC, flying the P-80 and serving as Squadron Executive Officer.

From April 1949 to April 1951 Colonel Grosshuesch was assigned to the USAF Group, American Mission for Aid to Turkey, Ankara, Turkey, with duty as Detachment Commander at Bandimir and Balikecir. This tour was followed by an assignment to DCS/Operations, HQ USAF, Washington, DC, as a staff planning officer. In July 1954, he reported for duty as Commander, 452nd Day Fighter Squadron, Foster AFB, Texas.
Returning to the Pacific in June 1955, Colonel Grosshuesch served as Commander, 36th Fighter Bomber Squadron, Itazuke AB, Japan, until June 1958, flying the F-86F and F-100, being the first unit to be equipped with the F-100 in the theater. During this tour, he led a flight of F-100's to New Zealand to participate in "Operation Handclasp IV-11" with the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

In August 1959, upon graduation from Air Command & Staff College, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, Colonel Grosshuesch was assigned as the Senior Air Force Representative to the US Army Chemical Corps School, Fort McClellan, Alabama. He returned to Maxwell AFB in July 1963 and graduated from the Air War College the following year. In July 1964, he was transferred to the Air Force Section, US Mission Vietnam, Saigon and Nha Trang, Republic of Vietnam, where he served as Commander, Special Air Operations Group.

During his first tour of duty at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, August 1965 to July 1968, Colonel Grosshuesch was assigned to HQ PACAF/DO as Chief, Conventional Operations Branch, and subsequently Deputy Director, Operations Plans, where he was responsible for Operation ROLLING THUNDER.

Returning to the Pentagon in July 1968, Colonel Grosshuesch was assigned to DCS/Plans and Operations as Chief, Fighter Requirements Division. In July 1970, he was reassigned to Hickam AFB as Director, Operations Plans, HQ PACAF/DO.

Following his retirement from the Air Force in May 1973, Colonel Grosshuesch was employed by the Weyerhaeuser Paper Company, Honolulu, Hawaii, as Sales Manager, retiring from there in July 1992.

Colonel Grosshuesch's military decorations include: the Silver Star; the Legion of Merit (1 OLC); Distinguished Flying Cross (1 OLC); Air Medal (8 OLC); Air Force Commendation Medal (1 OLC). A command pilot with over 5,000 flying hours, he was qualified in the P-40, P-51, P-47, P-38, F-84, F-86, F-100, B-25, C-47, C-45, T- 33, and C-123 aircraft.

Colonel Grosshuesch is married to the former Alexandria (Andi) Meakin of Scottdale, Pennsylvania. He has three children: Linda Klaus of Fairfax, Virginia; Dr. Gail Van de Verg of Kailua, Hawaii; and Gary Grosshuesch of Kapaau, Hawaii; and seven grandchildren. Colonel Grosshuesch and his wife reside in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
Memories by Lee Grosshuesch


March 14, 1944, was to be a long and very sad day. The squadron's mission was over Wewak. We were based at Gusap in the interior of New Guinea. Our flight, one of four, was led by Gene Duncan. The two Querns brothers and I, all second lieutenants, made up his flight. Duncan, a wonderful guy and excellent pilot, was extremely well-liked by everybody in the 39th.

Right after take-off, after forming up, I pulled back my rpm to 300 less than Duncan's. Some short time back I had shown Hodge (Idon Hodge, my buddy) the chart in the Tech. Order for the P-47. It said that maximum endurance could be achieved by holding an rpm of 1400. This was hard to believe as we had been trained to fly at 2350 rpm. However, the two of us, on our own, experimented by first reducing our rpm from the leader's by 100 rpm. Then we tried 200 rpm less, and then 300 rpm less. We saved skads of fuel, so by the time we approached Wewak, I already had more fuel remaining than anybody in the squadron.
As we neared Wewak, Duncan radioed that his engine had quit. The three of us followed him down as he tried to restart, and then, watched him belly into the ocean a few miles off-shore from the mouth of the Sepic River. He got out of the plane and into his rubber dinghy. The P-47 sank almost immediately. Now the three of us were covering him. I was at about 200 feet, so that I could keep him in sight. The Querns brothers stacked up at 6,000 and 8,000 feet to watch for zeros from Wewak, which was not very far away.

We called for Gardenia, the Navy PBY flying boat rescue airplane. I remembered the Tech. Order and pulled the rpm back to 1400 rpm. It seemed awfully slow, but it worked. As time passed, first one Querns and then the other had to give it up and return. Jim Querns
had to land at Dumpu, a base on the coast across the mountains from Gusap to refuel.

The hours dragged on and on as I circled Duncan. He had drifted out of his dye marker so it was difficult to keep him in sight. He was suffering from the sun and had put a handkerchief over his face. I kept waiting for Gardenia to arrive. I had dropped my external fuel tank. I could not believe how well my fuel was holding out. Every so often, I would shut off the engine for a moment so that the fuel gauge would drop down to make sure it wasn't just stuck.

I was dismayed when Control called me and said that Gardenia had turned back when they found out that there was only one fighter in the rescue area. I pleaded with them to not do that. Finally control said that Gardenia was holding its position and that they were sending a relief flight from Dumpu. I was really worried that they wouldn't get there in time as I was getting very low on fuel. I learned that the guys back home did not believe that I could still be airborne and decided that I would finally have to belly-in next to Duncan. But Hodge knew what I was doing.

Finally, the relief flight arrived and, to my horror, we could not communicate with each other. They had trouble seeing me, but finally did. I would dip my wing at Duncan, and finally the flight leader waggled his wings, and I thought everything was OK. I headed for Dumpu and went straight in for the landing with the fuel gauge at zero. I had been airborne 6 hours and 15 minutes.

I quickly refueled and flew over the mountains to Gusap. When I taxied in Ben Widman was waiting for me. He wanted to know if I was up to flying back to Duncan? I said I was, and in about two minutes we were back on our way with Widman flying my wing. Gardenia had turned back again because the relief flight left the scene. Evidently the relief didn't know what they were supposed to do. We now asked Gardenia to try one more time.

After we arrived at the location I had another scare, because I could not find Duncan. We circled and circled, and then, finally, I spotted him. Ben found out how hard it was to keep him in sight. We would lose him, find him, lose him again. Finally we realized that Gardenia was not coming. It was getting very late, there was a tremedous storm approaching Gusap, and there were no landing lights on the runway, so, reluctantly, we left Duncan and headed for home. We slipped in through the clouds and landed just minutes before a furious storm hit and it was black night. The sad ending was revealed to us the next morning when a flight of us searched in vain for our friend and comrade.

(When the war ended, Duncan was not one of those who returned from the POW camps. The rest of this story involving the guys back at base, the excitement, and their worry is covered exceptionally well in Wayne Rothgeb's book: New Guinea Skies.)


In all of our flight training, we were taught before take-off to run up the engine, check each of the mags (magnetos), and only then go onto runway and take off.

We were on Morotai Island, flying missions over the Philippines and sometimes Borneo, and we were stretching our range to the limit. We would come back with only 15 minutes of fuel--sometimes less. So, every gallon of fuel was precious, and it bothered me that we used so much fuel in the mag check. Finally, we had a meeting of all the pilots and crew chiefs on a new and rather drastic rule. Starting the next morning the crew chiefs would be the only ones responsible for the run-up and mag check. They would then shut down and top off the tank. The pilots would not run-up, but would taxi out to the take-off position and apply full power as they accelerated down the runway. If the engine faltered, they had time to stop before the end of the runway.
There was no hesitation by either the pilots or the crew chiefs to accept this transfer of responsibility. I had no qualms about making this decision. It was a matter of trust and responsibility. I felt that we trusted our crews with every other vital procedure. We knew that the tanks were full. We knew that when we turned on the gun switch and pulled the trigger that all eight guns would fire. So, why shouldn't they be entrusted to check the mags? We were never let down. Our trust paid off big.

The runway on Morotai was on sand and the pierced planking tended to roll up in front of the wheels, so the take-off was touchy. During a one month period the other two squadrons lost a total of 25 airplanes, almost all on take-off. During that same period, we had no accidents; we never even had an engine falter. They had all new airplanes; we had the older razor-back model. But just as important, we felt very secure. And, we extended our range to targets 800 miles away, allowing ourselves only 15 minutes of combat fuel over the target.


It was July 30, 1945. In two weeks the war would be over, but we had no idea that this would happen. We were eagerly waiting for the invasion of Japan, anticipating many victories. We didn't know there was such a thing as the Atomic Bomb, but on August 6th the bomb was released on Hiroshima and on August 9th, Nagasaki was the target. Japan accepted the Allies terms of surrender on August 14th.

So, on this day four of us were on a "search and destroy" mission over Southern Japan. Normally, this was a great mission where we were free to search for targets of opportunity. However it was not a good day because we had a heavy overcast at 1000 to 1100 feet, so our ability to see ahead was quite limited.

We found some targets and attacked them, but wanted to find something more. I headed in a westerly direction and on the horizon saw an island, which was Goto Retto, a Japanese naval base, but we didn't know that. The mountain tops were up in the overcast, but there was a valley between two of the peaks which formed a "V" shaped opening through which we could see the water on the other side. As we approached, we were surprised to see a destroyer followed closely by another one sail across the space. Our P-51's had no bombs that day, just our six machine guns, but we decided to make a strafing pass, not expecting that we could do much damage except to the personnel. Because of the narrow opening, we had to go in in trail. We took them by surprise. I gave a burst on the destroyer in view,
and turned left because the harbor was not very wide and on the other side there was a range of mountains, their tops all in the cloud cover. It was a fateful turn! The other three turned right which was a stroke of luck because that let them exit the harbor. If all four of us had been inside the harbor, like I was, the destroyers would have surely shot down some of us.

As I turned to the left, I saw directly in front of me the naval base, and they started to unleash their anti-aircraft guns. I quickly turned right hugging the far side of the harbor, which was not far enough away to keep me out of the range of the two, now alerted, destroyers. I had seen ack-ack many times before, but nothing compared to this. The sky was filled with tracers and explosions, and they were all aimed at me. I don't know what was behind me, but it was awesome in front of me. They seemed to be shooting above me, so I couldn't pull up through all that flak into the clouds. I had to dive but there wasn't much space to do that. I decided if I was going to get "it" I would do as much damage as I could
before they hit me. I dived and turned into the rear destroyer. I let go a long burst aimed at the water line of the ship. I must have hit the ammo magazine because the destroyer exploded. It was a terrific explosion--a huge, gigantic ball of fire which I had to fly through because I was too close to avoid it. As I burst out of the fireball I was heading for the "V" under the clouds, so I exited the way I had come in.

One of the guys in the flight said: "What the hell was that?" Another voice said: "I think Lee dove into the destroyer." By then, my heart had gotten out of my throat so I told them that I was OK, but damaged. We got together and returned to Okinawa. I had sunk the destroyer, but my poor P-51 was so riddled with shrapnel and debris from the explosion that it had to be scrapped. I don't know what happened to the other destroyer, but it must have been severely damaged by the huge explosion so close to it.

At one of the reunions, one of the crew chiefs said: "I don't know what all he did, but I know one thing, he is one of the luckiest guys in the whole world." I couldn't disagree with that.


Suddenly, the war was over. On Sept. 10,1945, the Japanese Government asked for a conditional surrender. Hostilities, at least on our side, had ceased as we waited for the completion of the surrender. However, parts of the Japanese military did not agree with their government, and we were told about renegade pilots that were still flying and attacking our forces.

On Sept. 12th I was told to take two flights on a patrol mission. Dick Cella wanted to get in on this special, and maybe last mission, so I offered him the lead, which he accepted. I led the second flight. We were about 20,000 feet over Japan's Inland Sea when I spotted a flight of four Franks heading straight for us, but1,000 feet below us. I called them out, and I don't know why, but we ended up flying right over them, flying in opposite directions. I pulled out to the side so that I could get in position. The Franks immediately split S'd, and dived. I did too. I picked out one and went after him. We were diving at a steep angle at full throttle and our speed was around 500 mph. I closed in enough to get a burst into him, but I wanted to be sure that it was a kill. I was closing in rapidly now, and I took another good shot at him, and saw his plane erupt in flame. But, I overplayed it and got too close to him. His plane was out of control, and suddenly his wing flipped up directly in front of me. I knew I was going to plow through that wing and get destroyed also. I pulled back on the stick as hard as I could. I missed the wing, but because of the high speed, my plane started to snap-roll. It snapped-rolled about five or six times (I'm not sure). When I finally got it under control I searched for my adversary and watched him dive into the ground.

It was then that I became aware of a strange roaring sound and looked up to see a one inch gap on one side of the canopy. I realized that the fuselage had been severely twisted by the high speed snap-rolls. However, my wonderful P-51 got me home, although they had to cut the canopy off to get me out.

I thought for some time that I had got the last victory of the war, but it turns out that there were two more the next day, by two pilots from some other group.