1st Lieutenant Thomas S. Ingham, Jr. (1920–1943)

Thomas Sheppard Ingham, Jr. (Courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives)
ResidencesCivilian Occupation
Born in Pennsylvania, moved to Delaware by age 9Student
BranchService Numbers
U.S. Army Air ForcesEnlisted 12046309 / Officer O-791442
TheaterUnit
China Burma India493rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy), U.S. Tenth Air Force
AwardsCampaigns/Battles
Distinguished Flying Cross, Air MedalApproximately 30 missions to Japanese-occupied Burma and vicinity

Early Life & Family

Thomas Sheppard Ingham, Jr. was born in Easton, Pennsylvania on April 25, 1920.  He was the son of Thomas Sheppard Ingham, Sr. (who served stateside in the U.S. Army during World War I, 1893–1944) and Marie Katherine Ingham (née Ritz, 1889–1945).  Shortly before his birth, his parents were recorded on the census on January 10, 1920, living at 913 Washington Street in Easton.  At the time, his father was an assistant manager at a ship supply company.  Two years later, the Inghams welcomed another son in Philadelphia: Frederick Lucius Ingham (1922–1979, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II and who attended Officer Candidate School with another of Newark’s fallen, James R. Anderson).

The Ingham family was recorded on the census on April 11, 1930 living at 77 Park Avenue in Newark, Delaware.  The home belonged to Ingham’s maternal grandmother, Catherine Ritz; his aunts Freda and Ann Ritz also lived there.  At the time, Ingham’s father was working as a salesman for a wholesale drug company.  The Ingham family was recorded again on the census on April 9–10, 1940, their address now listed as 77 West Park Place.  Though Catherine and Freda Ritz still lived there, the homeowner was recorded as Ingham’s uncle Walter Ritz; he lived there with his wife Sarah and two daughters.

Ingham was valedictorian in Newark High School’s Class of 1937.  The following academic year, Ingham attended the Moses Brown School, a preparatory school in Providence, Rhode Island, where he played varsity baseball and football.  He attended two years at Cornell University beginning in the fall of 1938 and then transferred to the University of Delaware for the 1940–1941 academic year.  When he registered for the draft on July 1, 1941, Ingham was described as standing six feet tall and weighing 160 lbs., with brown hair and hazel eyes.


Military Training

Ingham was an R.O.T.C. cadet at both Cornell and the University of Delaware.  After Pearl Harbor was attacked, he dropped out of college.  Ingham enlisted in New York City on December 29, 1941, becoming an aviation cadet in the U.S. Army Air Forces.  A July 25, 1942 article in Journal-Every Evening stated that Ingham “attended flying schools at Arcadia, Fla., and Greenville, Miss., before his graduation at the advanced flying school […] at the new Columbus Army Flying School near Columbus, Miss.”  At graduation, he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant.  By the following year, Ingham had been promoted to 1st lieutenant.  According to a 1949 letter written by Ingham’s aunt Freda E. Ritz to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission, he went overseas in March 1943. 

On April 27, 1943, 1st Lieutenant Ingham and his crew were assigned to the 493rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy), U.S. Tenth Air Force in Pandaveswar, India.  Equipped with B-24 bombers, the unit primarily flew against targets in Burma (now Myanmar), located to the southeast across the Bay of Bengal.  A British colony when war broke out, most of Burma had fallen to the Japanese in 1942, severing the main Allied supply route to China known as the Burma Road.


Combat Missions to Burma

493rd Bombardment Squadron records listed these men as members of Ingham’s crew as of April 27, 1943:

1st Lieutenant Thomas S. Ingham, Jr., O-791442

2nd Lieutenant John A. Neudorfer, O-730155

2nd Lieutenant Dan L. Flowers, O-662035

2nd Lieutenant Kenneth E. Kinney, O-727638

Technical Sergeant Melvin O. Harris, 17044643

Staff Sergeant John F. Jaeger, 16069170

Staff Sergeant Leo S. Malach, 18116499

Staff Sergeant Theodore L. Malacha, 36322751

I have only been able to obtain full crew lists for crew’s first six missions, as well as his last.  All four officers flew the crew’s first six missions.  Kinney was killed in action flying with another crew on November 14, 1943 and Neudorfer (1920–1995) did not fly with the crew on its final mission.  Technical Sergeant Sidney A. Nunez also flew with the crew during its first six missions and presumably others, since he also was on their last mission.

According to squadron records, 1st Lieutenant Ingham flew his combat orientation mission on May 3, 1943 as co-pilot aboard 1st Lieutenant Raymond C. Rote’s B-24D during an attack on the Pyinmana Railroad Yards, Burma.

Ingham’s next mission (the first with his regular crew) was on May 7, 1943 against the Toungoo Railroad Yards in Burma.  Ingham flew at least 19 additional missions during the following months, mostly against industrial and transportation targets (oil refineries, rail yards, ports, bridges, and shipping).  The raids were small in comparison with those in the European Theater or the later stages of the Pacific Theater; the 493rd typically dispatched six or seven B-24s on a mission, either alone or together with a few other squadrons.

Missions to Burma involved considerable flying time; Ingham’s fourth mission, for instance, took eleven hours.  The weather was another constant foe, especially with the arrival of the monsoon during the summer.  Japanese resistance was generally light, though Ingham’s B-24 sustained light damage after being attacked by an enemy fighter on a July 2, 1943 mission.

Thomas S. Ingham, Jr. Air Medal card (National Archives)

Lieutenant Ingham may have met Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, the top American ace of World War I, who visited Pandaveswar on May 24, 1943.  Ingham was awarded the Air Medal per General Orders No. 83, Headquarters Tenth Air Force (dated August 30, 1943).  A December 1, 1943 article in Journal-Every Evening reported that “In many of the letters Lieutenant Ingham described the territory of India in which he was located, and Burma.  On one leave he spent considerable time at the famous Vale of Kashmir.”

Although the 493rd Bombardment Squadron’s losses were light throughout most of 1943, they increased significantly in November.  Japanese aircraft shot down three of the squadron’s B-24s during a November 14, 1943 mission.  Among the dead was 1st Lieutenant Kenneth E. Kinney (1919–1943), Ingham’s original bombardier.


7th Bomb Group B-24s during a raid on Rangoon in 1943 (Official U.S. Army Air Forces photo via Fold3)

Final Mission

On the morning of Thanksgiving Day (November 25, 1943), Lieutenant Ingham and his crew took off from Pandaveswar in a B-24J (42-73070) for a raid on Mingaladon Airdrome (today the site of Yangon International Airport), located near Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar).  According to a statement by his aunt, it was Ingham’s 30th mission.

Mechanical difficulties were a frequent occurrence in combat aircraft of the era; on at least two previous occasions, Ingham had to abort missions for that reason.  On this mission, it happened again, at the worst possible time: deep in enemy territory, just prior to reaching the target.

The Missing Air Crew Report filed after Ingham’s plane failed to return included a statement by an unidentified pilot:

Lt Ingham lost his No. 1 engine when we were only about 15 minutes away from the target area.  He feathered the propeller and immediately started to drop behind the formation, losing altitude.  I dropped back with him and flew a position on his wing.

I couldn’t contact him on the radio; so I flew up along side of him and opened my [bomb bay] doors to indicate to him that he should salvo his bombs, in order that he might lighten his load and retain his altitude.  He did so and seemed to be holding 9,400 feet until we reached the [vicinity] just south and east of Akyab.  (Approximately 80 miles south and 15 miles east).

At this point he flew into a heavy layer of clouds, which he evidently hadn’t been able to climb over, and he was lost to my sight.  I thought I saw him flying through the tin portions of the clouds, on course, some 10 minutes later.  If might not have been his ship which re-appeared, however, because some of the other ships of the formation tacked on behind us, shortly before entering the clouds.  I was never able to identify his plane again.

The M.A.C.R. gave the last known position as 19° 30’ N, 94° 20’ E at 1300 hours.  That position is about 110 miles southeast of Akyab (now known as Sittwe, Myanmar). 

Similarly, the 493rd Bombardment Squadron history stated of the mission:

Lt. Tom Ingham’s plane was seen to lose #1 motor, which was feathered, and to turn back at 1200 hours from the target area.  He was last seen heading back over the Chin Hills, losing altitude and entering the tops of cumulus clouds.  It is thought he may have reached the shore line safely.

They were last seen beyond the highest of the Chin Hills under good control.  They had already salvoed their bombs.   There were no other losses during the mission.  Most bombs were returned to base.

Conceivably, the B-24 could have crashed in the jungle, but if the squadron history was correct that Ingham reached the shoreline, the B-24 presumably ditched or crashed in the Bay of Bengal.  To the best of my knowledge, no trace of the aircraft has ever been found.


Thomas S. Ingham, Jr. Distinguished Flying Cross card (National Archives

Aftermath & Posthumous Honors

Lieutenant Ingham was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross per General Orders No. 41, Headquarters Tenth Air Force (dated April 30, 1944).

Ingham is honored on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.  His name is also listed on memorials in Newark (at the Academy Building), the University of Delaware (in front of Mitchell Hall), and at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in New Castle, Delaware. 

As of May 28, 2021, Lieutenant Ingham is one of 104 Delawareans who went missing in action during World War II who are still unaccounted for according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Thomas Ingham, Sr. died on August 14, 1944 and Marie Ingham on May 23, 1945 without ever learning their son’s fate.  According to his aunt and American Battle Monument Commission records, Ingham was declared dead on February 11, 1946. 


Crew of B-24J 42-73070 on November 25, 1943

The following list was adopted from Missing Air Crew Report No. 1206 with name, service number (corrected in Flowers’s case), and position:

1st Lieutenant Thomas S. Ingham, Jr., O-791442 (pilot)

2nd Lieutenant Arthur J. Foley, Jr., O-806424 (co-pilot)

1st Lieutenant Dan L. Flowers, O-662035 (navigator)

2nd Lieutenant George A. Bond, O-734872 (bombardier)

Technical Sergeant Sidney A. Nunez, 14071026 (flight engineer)

Technical Sergeant Melvin O. Harris, 17044643 (radio operator)

Staff Sergeant John F. Jaeger, 16069170 (assistant flight engineer)

Staff Sergeant Leo S. Malach, 18116499 (assistant radio operator)

Staff Sergeant Theodore L. Malacha, 36322751 (armorer-gunner)

Corporal Edward W. Wolf, 37136294 (armorer-gunner)

According to squadron records, Foley, Bond, Nunez, and Wolf were not originally part of Ingham’s crew.  Lieutenant Foley was apparently on a combat orientation mission (having him fly a single mission with an experienced crew prior to rejoining his own).  It’s not clear if Bond or Wolf were regular members of the crew or just filling on for a mission; if they did join the crew, it was after the crew’s sixth mission.


Notes

College Career

Although he was in his fourth year of college in the fall of 1941, Ingham was listed on the University of Delaware’s World War II memorial as a member of the Class of 1944.  His aunt wrote that he was in U. of D.’s class of 1943.  That suggested that either his coursework didn’t transfer from Cornell University or that he changed majors.

Enlistment and Missing Air Crew Report

Ingham’s records on Fold3 have a few issues.  One is his enlistment record, digitized and translated from the original punch card.  For unknown reasons, Fold3’s enlistment data is sometimes different than the National Archives’ own, with puzzling discrepancies.  In my experience, the National Archives data is more accurate.  In this case, Fold3 showed him as joining the Medical Administrative Corps (something that would be impossible, since he was not an officer) rather than as an aviation cadet. 

Both sets of data listed his civilian occupation as “actors and actresses”.  Having gone through hundreds of these cards, I’ve seen quite a few listed with this job despite no corroborating evidence in other sources that any were in the business.  It may or may not be coincidental that actor is one of the first occupations on the list alphabetically.

The other issue on Fold3 is Ingham’s Missing Air Crew Report (M.A.C.R.).  One page is correct, but the following two pages seem to pertain to a fighter pilot who disappeared on a training mission on November 21, 1943.  Fortunately, another website (A Tribute to My Grandfather & The Men of the 7th & 308th Bombardment Groups) has two additional pages.

Number of Missions

Lieutenant Ingham’s aunt wrote that his 30th mission was his last.  Combing through unit records, I was able to confirm that he participated in at least 21 combat missions.  However, reports for the entire months of June, September, and October 1943 were unreadable because of poor original or microfilming.  It is entirely possible that he flew nine additional missions during those months.

Enemy Attack or Mechanical Failure?

Curiously, there is a somewhat different summary of the final mission on two websites: A Tribute to My Grandfather & The Men of the 7th & 308th Bombardment Groups and Find a Grave, so it’s unclear who the author is.  In this account, enemy fighters disabled the B-24’s engine, but Ingham managed to maintain course long enough to drop his bombs over the target.  Similarly, Ingham’s aunt wrote just after the war in his Individual Military Service Record that Ingham was “Missing in action – plane (B-24) was attacked by Japanese fighters and was forced down in Burma in November 1943”. 

This is contradicted by both the squadron history and M.A.C.R., neither of which mention any enemy fighters attacking the B-24s.  The unit’s history stated only that “Several unidentified planes were seen” but didn’t mention any attack.  Both accounts specifically mention that Ingham’s bombardier salvoed the bombs (jettisoned them all at once).  However, the rest of the aircraft did not bomb the target either, since “Most bombs were returned to base.”  It’s possible that someone from his squadron embellished the story when writing to Ingham’s family.

The author of the statement in the M.A.C.R. was not identified, but the report stated that 1st Lieutenant Roy M. Shaw, 1st Lieutenant Leo N. Nevi, and 2nd Lieutenant Russell E. Codington (presumably the other pilots from his element) were among the last men to see the stricken B-24. 

Errors in the Individual Military Service Record

The State of Delaware Individual Military Service Record submitted by his aunt circa September 1946 stated that he enlisted on December 1, 1940 (instead of December 29, 1941) and was promoted to 1st lieutenant in February 1942 (when he was still an aviation cadet).  It’s possible that he was actually promoted in February 1943, since he was a 1st lieutenant by the time he arrived at his unit on April 27, 1943.


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to the Delaware Public Archives for the use of their photograph of Lieutenant Ingham.


Bibliography

493rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) monthly histories, flight intelligence and operations reports.  Reel A0623, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Air Force Award Cards.  Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration.  National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri.  https://catalog.archives.gov/id/133391457, https://catalog.archives.gov/id/139469325

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Veteran’s Compensation Application for Thomas Sheppard Ingham, February 1934.  Record Group 19, Series 19.91, World War I Veterans Service and Compensation File, 1934–1948.  Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/60884/images/41744_2421401574_1110-00851

“Local Boys Finish OCS.”  The Newark Post, July 22, 1943.  Pg. 1.  https://udspace.udel.edu/bitstream/handle/19716/18885/np_034_24b.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

“Lt. Ingham Presumed to be Dead.”  The Newark Post, May 9, 1946.  Pg. 4.  https://udspace.udel.edu/bitstream/handle/19716/19033/np_037_12.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

“Missing Air Crew Report No. 1109.”  Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985.  The National Archives at College Park, Maryland.  https://catalog.archives.gov/id/90901363

“Missing Air Crew Report No. 1206.”  Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985.  The National Archives at College Park, Maryland   via A Tribute to My Grandfather & The Men of the 7th & 308th Bombardment Groups website.  http://dainthecbi.com/ingham.html

Mosaic 1938.  Ancestry.com. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1999https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1265/images/43134_b204100-00030

“NEUDORFER, John (Age 75).”  The Spokesman-Review, April 2, 1995.  Pg. B2.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/69903138/john-a-neudorfer-ingham-crew/

“Newark Officer Wins Air Medal.”  Journal-Every Evening, September 23, 1943.  Pg. 16.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/68942793/ingham-air-medal/

Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1968.  Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/5164/images/42410_1521003235_0521-02593

Ritz, Freda E.  Thomas Sheppard Ingham, Jr. Individual Military Service Record and related correspondence, circa 1946 to 1949.  RG 1325-003-053, Delaware Public Archives.  https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/19318/rec/1

“Thomas S. Ingham, Jr., Receives Army Wings.”  Journal-Every Evening, July 25, 1942.  Pg. 2.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/68949712/ingham-commissioned/

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920.  National Archives and Records Administration at Washington, D.C.    https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4385033_01041

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930.  National Archives and Records Administration at Washington, D.C.    https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531890_00822

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940.  National Archives and Records Administration at Washington, D.C.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00546-00252, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00546-00253

World War II Army Enlistment Records. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration.  National Archives at College Park, Maryland.  https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&q=12046309&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=516268

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947.  Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System.  National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_10_00004-00063


Last updated on May 30, 2021

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