Captain Richard Burr "Hawkshaw" Prentiss O-789200
Memories of Richard B Prentiss
416th Bomb Group Pilot
Richard was born to Dr. Orlow Frederick and Marjorie Elms Prentiss on
February 22, 1916 in Burlington, Chittenden County, Vermont. He was the
middle of three children, brother Robert B. and sister Barbara J.
completed the family.
After graduating from Burlington High School, Richard attended Greene Mountain
Junior college, then Syracuse University. In his junior year in
1941, he received an appointment to West point. Upon graduation from West Point
in 1942, Prentiss received his commission and wings and joined the Army Air
Previous to joining the 416th Bomb Group, he served in the
anti-submarine Patrol off the east Coast of the United States and Cuba,
the Carribean Theater. His service there earned him the Air medal, but
it was not bestowed upon him until he was transferred to the 416th.
In a presentation which took place in his office in April, 1944, Colonel
Mace officially decorated Captain Richard B. Prentiss, Assistant
Squadron Operations Officer, with the Air Medal and Oak Leaf Cluster
awarded by authority contained in General Order 29, Headquarters,
Antilles Air Command, dated 13 July 1943. At a formal ceremony which
took place the 12th of April, on the occasion when the field was
officially transferred from RAF to AAF jurisdiction, Captain William
Battersby, Squadron Operations Officer, was presented with the
Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, awarded
by authority of General Order 82, Headquarters, War Department, dated 29
Capt Prentiss would be decorated with 8 more Oak Leaf Clusters before his life was
tragically taken from him.
Shortly thereafter, Captain Hiram F. Conant, also a veteran of the
Carribean Theater, became Squadron Operations Officer and Captain
Richard B. Prentiss became a Flight Commander.
Excerpts from the 668th Bomb Squadron Operational History written by Cpl.
Schier with help from Lt. Col. Chester C. Wysocki.
March 8, 1944 Station 170
As was expected, things cooled down somewhat here today, following our first
attack on a French airfield. Pilots and combat crews from this squadron
and another squadron were on the alert for a mission today, but by
mid-morning the alert had died down and our boys spent the remainder of
the day ironing out the sore spots, which other pilots had encountered
during yesterday’s run on the target.
A total of 15 pilots underwent cockpit checks on the A-20G modified and
the A-20B unmodified today, under the guidance of Captain Richard D. Prentiss,
He has been quite busy the past two days since Captain Battersby, operations
officer, is on pass.
Prentiss flew his first mission on March 18, 1944. The mission was
number 5 for the Bomb Group. SSgt Charles L. Hibbs and SSgt Lewis M.
Dougherty flew with him as gunners aboard A-20, serial number 43-9225.
March 24, 1944
"Americans are funny people," Captain Richard Prentiss stated today as he
did a strip tease with his flying togs. "All those guys out there (indicating
the pilots, bombardier-navigators, and gunners) are yelping because today’s mission
was called off. Here we get ready and now they’re disappointed because
nobody will be able to shoot at us."
March 24, 1944
Once again the combat crews were about to enter their ships, when red
flares from the control tower cancelled the tête-à-tête in a hurry.
Captain Prentiss stood by the window and said, "They say the weather’s
good over the target, but it’s lousy over here. It would be hard to fly
today, trying to get in formation in this stuff. It would be a rat race."
April 8, 1944
It can never be said that our squadron doesn’t try. We started off
early this morning with some practice gunnery mission s scheduled. Then the order
came from 31 higher up, to prepare for a briefing. So another combat mission was
planned. Everything proceeded well, and the planes took off in the
afternoon about one-half hour out, bad weather was encountered and the mission was left uncompleted.
All flights were ordered back. Fate again deemed that we are not to
throw our punch. Society News, laurels are again won by one of our
This time Capt. "Rick" Prentiss is the bearer of the prize. This
afternoon he was presented with the much-coveted Air Medal. This came as the
result of his fine work on flying anti-sub patrol, previous to his
coming to our squadron. Our congratulations to one fine pilot and
officer. Knowing our pilots ability, we predict that more Air Medals will come to this squadron. Sigh gals, he’s a dark, handsome New Englander. So the day was finished, and we look forward to
April 18, 1944
Very near all flying combat crews have the Air Medal now and the palm
with it. When ten missions are accomplished, the palm is given. Call him
"Hawkshaw" Prentiss now. Capt. Prentiss has left for a week’s schooling
in camouflage and mine detecting. We can picture him in "field conditions".
Things are rough in the ETO! (Quote a well-used verse here) The day was
climaxed by Nite Flying by Lt’s. Shaefer, and Meagher, with Capt.
Conant. Another interesting note today was an experimental flight by
Lt. Osborne. He took off on a practice-bombing mission with eight bombs
instead of the usual four . The extra four were carried on the wings.
The results were a cutting down of air speed and maneuverability. The
opinion being that the extra bombs hamper the ship to a goodly extent,
which is not advisable in combat. Osborne being a pilot, Operations
Officer when needed, now an experimentalist: Going up!
The mission returned in good shape, and very fatigued. Experienced sky-men like
Captains Prentiss, Conant, and others, showed and admitted their fatigue.
It is "rough" when these men show strain. We are working under the
strain of not having enough crew personnel. Many gunners have already
18 missions in the brief space of time we have been here. To fly two
missions a day is nothing now, and very frequent. Steel nerves are
needed, and these men have them.
May 20, 1944
"Rick" Prentiss was made to sweat also in this fracas. With him were:
2nd Lt. Lytle (B/N), and Gunners SSgt John Orr and SSgt Francis L. Flacks.
Their ship, and A-20J #640, was shot up very heavily, and no one
knows how they ever brought it back. It too is in the Sub Depot,
undergoing severe repairs. Again fate decreed that they were to go
unscathed, after such a beating. Our humble thanks to the unseen powers.
Prentiss was back in the air on the 22nd. His nerves of steel kept him
movitated. Between missions he enjoyed whittling as a favorite pass
time. His pocket knife saw little rest after missions. He whittled away
until sleep overtook him.
On the evening of the 6th of June, 1944 the Squadron received its most
hazardous assignment. The Marshaling Yard at Serqueux was in use by
three Panzer Divisions who were being hastily transported to the front
in an effort to stem the rising tide of Allied Invasion. It was vitally
necessary that the Yard be destroyed, and A-20's of our Group were given
the job. With a 10/10 cloud cover over the target and most of Normandy,
low-altitude flying was a necessity. Bombing from three-thousand feet,
the formation successfully attacked the target. Severe and accurate
German anti-aircraft was encountered during virtually the entire sortie
over enemy-held territory. Our aircraft suffered 100% battle damage.
Unable to reach Home Station, Second Lieutenant Charles C. Mish
crash-landed his battered aircraft on the Southern English coast. Faced
with a similar situation, Captain Richard B. Prentiss was forced to land
at an RAF field on a runway where Mosquito bombers were taking off on a
December 14, 1944
At last it has happened: word was verified today of an occasion we
never thought would occur. American girls lost a feather from their caps, when it was
learned that a "limey" gal snared Capt. "Rick" Prentiss. A London girl finally roped
that dark, suave, pilot. His present plans are to complete his tour over here, and then
return to the States with his bride in a little over three months when
he reached his 50 mission mark. With him will go our best wishes for a
happy future. And so, one more confirmed bachelor hits the dust.
Despite the snow, an air raid, and a minor aircraft accident, the days
only casualty was a wooden, hand-carved stove lifted, fashioned by
Captain Richard B. Prentiss (Burlington, Vt.), assistant operations
officer, who saw his work of art, completed in two days of arduous and
intensive whittling, go up in flames when Sgt. Arnold Marko witz
(Brooklyn, N.Y.,) inadvertently stuck his masterpiece in the fire.
Mission after mission he brought out his pocket knife. He flew many
missions per month when weather permitted and carved in his free time up
until Christmas day, serving his country with valor and bravery.
December 25, 1944
Merry Christmas -- in peacetime those words would carry a wonderful
feeling. Here, it marked the end of the trail for some of our best boys. Men,
who came all the way with us, were lost today, one of the blackest
days in the squadron’s history. They gave their lives on the very day
that signified "peace on earth". Their sacrifices must never be
forgotten, and never have to occur in the future generations
to come. Those who won't answer the roll tonite are; Captain Richard
B. Prentiss, Captain Richard V. Miracle, 1st Lt. Robert R. Svenson, 1st
Lt. Jack J. Burg, 1st Lt. Francis H. Bursiel, S/Sgt. D.M. Brown, S/Sgt. P.G. Fild, Sgt. A.O.
Wylie, S/Sgt. John H. Simmons, and S/Sgt. A.F. Galloway. The status of
these men is unknown; they may be dead or alive. In many cases,
witnesses doubt their chances of being alive. Time will tell, whom fate
smiled on. The twists of fate that cut deep. All will be solerly missed.
The mission was #177. The target was the defended village of Hillsheim,
Germany. Again, all of this bombing was done to put a crimp in Von
Runstedt’s drive. The flight over was quiet, till the target area was
reached. Then all hell broke loose, the effects — devastation. "Rick"
Prentiss rocked his plane all over the sky in evasive action, but to no
avail. The flak was heavy and intense and clawed at the planes in the
sky. Bursts of flak surrounded Prentiss’s plane, and also caught his
wingman and deputy. Both planes were seen going down, with no chutes
blossoming. They crashed, and no one escaped to the knowledge of the
eyewitnesses. "Rick" Prentiss was to be married in three months. He had
over 45 missions to his credit, holder of the Air Medal and
Distingished Flying Cross.
Aircraft A-20-J15 43-21717 was a total loss.
Captain Prentiss was first buried at the American Military Cemetery Foy,
Belgium. After the war, his body was moved to the American War Cemetery,
Because his life so abruptly taken at age 28, there are no wood carvings
or descendants to claim his name. He left his family and the English girl
to mourn his death. Thank you Captain Prentiss for all you and your crew
did for our country.