We shall not forget

RUFUS ALEXANDER OLIPHANT, JR.

The Citadel Class of: 1940
Cadet Company: H, Sergeant (Source: Sphinx 1939); F (Sphinx 1937)
Age: 23
Born: 30-Jul-19 in Chester, South Carolina
Hometown: Chester, South Carolina
Family: Rufus A. Oliphant (father), Sarah R. Pryor Oliphant (mother)
Rank: First Lieutenant
Branch of Service: U.S. Army Air Forces
Servicenumber: O-397270
Entered the Service from: South Carolina
Function: Pilot
Squadron: 67th Bomber Squadron,
Group: 44th Bomber Group, Heavy
Plane data:
(Serialnumber, MACR, etc.)
B-24D 41-23794, “Boardwalk Flyer” aka “Railway Express”, MACR 16003 & R-712
Date of death: 15-Feb-43
Status: MIA / KIA
Place of death: Raid over Dunkirk, France
Spot: Not Available
Awards: Air Medal, Purple Heart
Gravenumber: Tablets of the Missing
Cemetery: Cambridge American Cemetery
Biography: Not Available
Other information: Business Administration major, Block C Club, Football team manager (Source: The Sphinx 1939)

S.C. Flier Lost On Bombing Mission
CHESTER, Mar. 11 – Mr. and Mrs. R.A. Oliphant have just received a message from War department stating:
“It is my distressing duty to inform you that all possible efforts have failed to locate your son, First Lt. Rufus
A. Oliphant, Jr., O-397270 Air corps who was officially reported missing in action on 15th of February, 1943,
following the failure of the plane of which he was a crew member to return from a combat mission over
Dunkirk, France. There were 11 men on this plane, all of whom were lost.
Oliphant was a member of 67th Bombing squadron 44th Bombing group and was pilot on a Liberator bomber.
Oliphant was graduated from The Citadel in August, 1940, joined the air service, took primary training at
Hicks Field, Fort Worth. His basic training was at Randolph Field, Tex. Received his wings on March 12, 1941
at Kelly Field.
Oliphant was then made instructor at Kelly Field until June, 1942. Following this he was stationed at Sebring,
Fla., where he received a pilot’s rating on a 4-motored bomber. He flew across to England in October, 1942
and remained in England until he was reported missing on February 15, 1943.
Source: Greenville News, 12 Mar. 1944, p.9B.

Plane and crew were on an altitude bombing mission to Dunkirk, France on 15 Feb 1943. Plane and crew did
not return to England and were not found.
Source: MACR R-712

The target for this hurried afternoon mission was a German Raider thought to be the Togo, which was found
on the morning reconnaissance flight. It was thought that the ship was ready to slip out at any time to raid
Allied shipping. Crews were hurriedly called and briefed, with 17 planes of the 44th BG soon airborne. They
rendezvoused with aircraft of the 329th Squadron, 93rd BG, and were led by the 67th Squadron’s Captain
Cullen and the C.O. of the 67th Squadron, Major Donald W. MacDonald, as the formation’s Command Pilot.
Two aircraft were lost. A third crash-landed on the beach south of Ramsgate.

The following comments were filed by Major H. M. Light, “The airplane that I was on did not get any major
flak damage and the pilot, Lt. John H. Diehl, spotted Lt. Oliphant and slowed up for him, as well as another
ship piloted by Capt. Thomas Cramer, who a few minutes later managed to crash-land his plane on the
British beach. Lt. Oliphant was slowly losing altitude when coming off the target. Then all of a sudden several
FW 190s came out of the sun and started in on us. The sun blinded and hindered our gunners from firing.
I operated my nose gun and only got about three bursts at them. My navigator, Lt. George Kelley, only got
off about the same number of shots with his side nose gun. The Jerries did a good job because they had us
completely bewildered. On the first pass they got one of Cramer’s engines; on the second pass they got
another of his engines and set fire to one of Oliphant’s. Then, on subsequent passes, the enemy fighters got
a third engine on Cramer’s and another on Oliphant’s. At about half way between France and England, while
still over the Channel, I noticed the engines afire on the left side of Oliphant’s aircraft, and I also saw the
nose of that ship filled with swirling flames. Then it looked like the fire swept back to the cockpit. Next thing
I saw was the ship going down towards the sea. I did not see the plane strike the water but our tail gunner,
Sgt. Milford Spears, stated over the interphone that the plane exploded as it hit the water. I did not see any
chutes.”
Source: 44th Bomb Group Roll of Honor and Casualties July 2005 edition

Photo of maintenance crew in front of nose art

Sources: American Battle Monuments Commission, The Citadel Archive & Museum, Mike Stannard ’65, Sphinx 1939, Find A Grave.com, 44th Bomb Group Roll of Honor and Casualties, Family Tree Maker.com, Greenville County Library South Carolina Room

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One response

  1. Pingback: Memorial Day Weekend 2012 in Belgium and The Netherlands – Part I « The Citadel Memorial Europe

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