Poignant USAAF DFC, Air Medal, Purple Heart Group
A somewhat unique trio as all three awards are numbered. And perhaps the saddest story of a soldier's death I have read in awhile. Captain Check was the only KIA on his final mission while his bride to be and a going home celebration awaited his return from the mission.
An officially engraved posthumously awarded Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart with unnamed earlier issue Air Medal with Oakleaf Clusters. Offered with a superb research file for Captain Raymond J. Check from North Dakota, Service #O-435856 who flew B-17's with the 423rd Bomber Squadron, 306th Heavy Bomb Group.
His medal trio includes his officially named posthumously awarded Purple Heart with numbered edge, officially named posthumously awarded Distinguished Flying Cross with numbered edge, and his Air Medal. The Air Medal is unnamed as it was previously awarded and numbered on the full wrap broach. Note that research verifies he earned a third, posthumous, Air Medal Oakleaf Cluster but only two are on his award. The third would have been sent with the PH and DFC and apparently never got placed on the drape.
Captain Check took off on his twenty-fifth mission on June 26, 1943, flying Chennault's Pappy III, on what was believed to be a milk-run mission over a German airfield in France. A big party was awaiting his return to the airfield.
During the final seconds of the bomb run a German fighter swooped down unnoticed from the sun. One 20mm cannon shell hit Cap. Check in the neck killing him. A fire started in the cockpit, badly burning the hands of temporary co-pilot, Lt. Col. James W. Wilson. A crewman put out the fire with an extinguisher. Still under attack, machine gun bullets set off flares stored behind the pilot's seat. Lt. William Cassedy, Check's normal co-pilot, was acting as a waist gunner and replaced Wilson in the co-pilot seat bringing 'Chennault's Pappy III' back to base. The radio was out and there were no flares to signal an emergency landing. Instead of landing the plane into the wind as normal, Cassedy landed the plane downwind against incoming traffic. He wanted to avoid the reception group waiting to celebrate Check's 25th mission that included an American nurse who was to wed Captain Check the next day. This group is accompanied by an excellent research file that includes a photocopy of the Bomb Groups unit history.