Louis Edward Curdes
Louis Edward Curdes
|Born||November 2, 1919|
Fort Wayne, Indiana, US
|Died||February 5, 1995(aged 75)|
Lindenwood Cemetery, Fort Wayne, Indiana
|Service/||United States Army Air Forces|
United States Air Force
|Years of service||1942–1963|
|Unit||95th Fighter Squadron|
4th Fighter Squadron
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Distinguished Flying Cross (2)|
Svetlana Valeria Shostakovich Brownell
(m. after 1946)
Louis Edward Curdes (November 2, 1919 – February 5, 1995) was an American flying ace of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II who held the unusual distinction of scoring an official air-to-air kill against another American Aircraft. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice and a Purple Heart. He flew a North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft with the nickname "Bad Angel".
Curdes was one of only three American pilots to shoot down aircraft belonging to the German, Italian and Japanese air forces. He was also involved in a bizarre incident where he intentionally shot down an American cargo plane, and then later married one of the survivors. In total, Curdes shot down seven German Messerschmitt Bf 109s, an Italian Macchi C.202 fighter, a Japanese Mitsubishi Ki-46 reconnaissance aircraft and an American Douglas C-47 Skytrain.
Louis Curdes was born on November 2, 1919, to Esther (nee Kover) and Walter Curdes. He grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and enrolled at Purdue University. After nearly three years of study, Curdes joined the Army Reserve on March 12, 1942. He became a 2nd Lieutenant, and graduated from Flying School on December 3, 1942, at Luke Field, Arizona at the age of 22. Later he was sent to the Mediterranean theater to fight against the Germans in southern Europe.
World War II
North Africa and Italy
He joined the 329th Fighter Group, a unit of the United States Army Air Forces, but was transferred to the 82d Fighter Group, 95th Fighter Squadron, where he saw action in North Africa, Sardinia and Italy, flying a Lockheed P-38 Lightning. On April 29, 1943, he shot down three German Messerschmitt Bf 109 (Bf 109) aircraft and damaged a fourth near Cape Bon, in Tunisia. May 19th, he shot down two more Bf 109s near Villacidro, Sardinia. In less than a month of combat, Curdes was a flying ace.
On June 24, he shot down an Italian Macchi C.202 over Sardinia. He damaged a German Bf 109 on July 30 over Pratica di Mare, Italy. His last two victories in Europe were two Bf 109s over Benevento, Italy.
Capture and escape
On August 27, 1943, Curdes was shot down whilst in combat with German aircraft over Salerno, Italy. He was captured by the Italians and sent to a prison camp near Rome. Suitable candidate for his victor could be Luftwaffe Experte Oblt. Franz Schiess (63.) of 8./JG 53, P-38F 40 km. S. Capua: no height at 13.11 (Film C. 2031/II Anerk: Nr.-). A few days later, the Italians surrendered to the Allies. In response to the Italian armistice, Germany invaded its former ally. Curdes and some other pilots escaped before the Germans took control of the POW camp. They reached Allied territory on May 24, 1944.
Curdes was repatriated to the US and returned to his hometown in Fort Wayne. Curdes requested a return to active duty and joined the 4th Fighter Squadron and the 3rd Air Commando in the Pacific in August 1944, flying the P-51 Mustang.
Pacific Campaign and shooting down an American aircraft
By November 1944, parts of the Philippines were again under US control. His unit, the 3d Air Commando Group, had the task of bombing Japanese bases and providing support to ground troops. They also raided Japanese facilities along the coast of China and the island of Taiwan, providing escort duties to Allied ships, dropping supplies from the air, delivering mail, and evacuating the wounded.
On February 7, 1945, Curdes flew a P-51 about 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Taiwan, where he destroyed a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft Mitsubishi Ki-46-II. By doing so, he had now shot down aircraft from all of the three Axis Powers: Germany, Italy and Japan.
On February 10, Curdes, now a Lieutenant, formed a squadron of four aircraft that departed from Mangaldan Airfield in the Philippines. Their objective was to investigate if the Japanese were using a temporary air strip on the southern tip of Taiwan. No airfield could be found and Curdes returned to the Philippines. Flying over the island of Batan, the squadron split; Curdes and Lieutenant Schmidtke headed north, while Lieutenants Scalley and La Croix headed south.
Scalley and La Croix located a small Japanese airfield and attacked it and also called for reinforcements; Curdes and Schmidtke headed south to join them.
During the attack on the airfield, La Croix was shot down and made an emergency landing in the sea. As the squadron circled, Curdes could see that his companion had survived, and remained in the area to guide a rescue plane and protect the downed pilot. While covering La Croix, Curdes noticed a larger plane was preparing to land at the Batan airfield. He went to investigate and found the aircraft to be a Douglas C-47 transport with US insignia. Curdes tried to make contact by radio, but was not successful. He maneuvered his P-51 in front of the plane several times trying to get the C-47 to alter course, but the C-47 maintained its course.
Curdes lined up his P-51 directly behind the C-47 and fired his .50 caliber machine guns into one of the C-47's two engines, causing it to fail. The C-47 still maintained its course for the Batan airfield so Curdes then disabled the remaining engine forcing the pilot to ditch in the sea. The plane successfully ditched without breaking up, and the crew was able to evacuate into a lifeboat. La Croix approached and was brought on board the C-47's life raft, where he was informed about the situation. The plane had apparently been lost in poor weather and its radio had stopped working. As it was also running out of fuel, the pilot headed directly to the island's airstrip, unaware that it was under Japanese control.
At this point, the dusk and low level of fuel of the P-51 forced Curdes to return to base. The next morning, he accompanied the rescue PBY to pick up the downed C-47 pilot and 11 crew members, including two nurses, all of whom had survived the incident. To Curdes's surprise, he discovered that one of the nurses, named Svetlana Valeria Shostakovich Brownell, was a woman with whom he had had a date the night before the incident. Contrary to subsequent reports, Curdes did not receive a Distinguished Flying Cross for that event, although he did receive credit for the "Kill" and displayed it on his aircraft.
After the war
After World War II, he joined an Air National Guard unit at Baer Field and remained there until 1948. In Allen County, Indiana, April 2, 1946, he married Svetlana Valeria Curdes and returned to active duty, this time again with the United States Air Force. He participated in the Berlin airlift during the opening stages of the Cold War.
He was promoted to Major on September 1, 1951, and retired from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel in October 1963. After his retirement from the Air Force, he started a construction company under the name of Curdes Builders Company.
Louis Curdes died on February 5, 1995, at the age of 75, and was buried at Lindenwood Cemetery in Fort Wayne. His widow Valeria died on October 10, 2013, at the age of 87.
A replica of his aircraft, the P-51 named "Bad Angel" is currently in the Pima Air Museum in Tucson, Arizona.
- Russell, Shahan (23 August 2016). "The American WWII Ace Who Shot Down 7 German, 1 Italian, 1 Japanese, And 1 American Plane". WAR HISTORY ONLINE. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
- "Proceedings And Debates Of The 104th Congress, First Session" (PDF). Congressional Record. 28 February 1995. p. S 3293. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 February 2017. Retrieved 21 August 2018.