Local World War II pilot honored for service
By James Branch, 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 25, 2018
DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. --
Family, community leaders and Reserve Citizen Airmen honored 2nd Lt. Thomas W. Richardson, World War II B-17 pilot, during a posthumous presentation ceremony at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, Jan. 23, 2018.
Brig. Gen. Richard L. Kemble, 94th Airlift Wing commander, presented the pilot’s son Thomas W. Richardson, Jr. and his wife Susan with a letter of appreciation and coin on behalf of Gen. David L. Goldfein, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff.
“Today we enjoy a legacy that is fostered by the spirit of Lt. Richardson,” said Kemble. “On behalf of a grateful nation and Air Force, thank you for your father’s service.”
Richardson joined the Army Air Corps in 1943. After graduating as outstanding cadet of his class, he became one of the first B-17 pilots in 8th Air Force’s "Hell's Angels" in the 303rd Bomb Group, Molesworth, England.
Known as the “Lucky Pilot”, Richardson never lost a crew member in battle. On his 18th mission, his aircraft received enemy fire and the second engine was hit. He took a dive in order to extinguish the flames. While making efforts not to land in the streets, which could have caused civilian casualties, he crashed landed near a river in Poland. He and his crew were taken prisoner of war and released weeks later. He was honorably discharged in 1945.
“Flying can be inherently dangerous,” said Kemble. “The rate in which aircraft were built and pilots were trained during that era is amazing to me. It’s a true testament of Lt. Richardson’s sprit, service and integrity.”
Richardson was awarded the Air Medal with a bronze cluster, the Prisoner of War Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze stars, the World War II Victory Medal and the Army Good Conduct Medal.
“I met Richardson, Sr. (Tom) through Kelly Huff of the Marietta Daily Journal,” said Pam Younker, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Civic Leader. “He had such an intriguing story that I had to share it with General Goldfein. He wanted Richardson to be recognized and thanked for his service to our nation.”
Plans to honor Richardson in late 2017 were delayed when he feel ill shortly after his 95th birthday. He passed away January 10 in Kennesaw, Georgia.
“Tom told me that he felt that God was always with him, and protected him,” said Younker. “Now he has gone to be with the Lord.”
Younker presented a framed picture of the B-17G aircraft “Sweet Rosie O’Grady” which Richardson flew home from the war to Richardson, Jr. and Susan.
“Sweet Rosie O’Grady brought Tom home to his wife Adelyn, who was pregnant with Thomas Jr.,” said Younker. “Neither of them knew about the pregnancy when he left for the war.”
Richardson and Adelyn were married for 63 years until her death in 2008. They had three children.
He has been honored and recognized by veteran's organizations in the Marietta, Georgia, area.