A Name From the Past.
This is the story of an amazing coincidence involving one of our long gone comrades from the old 357th Fighter Group. By Merle Olmsted, Jan 1999. 357th FG Association Newsletter.
For many years I have been a collector of military memorabilia, primarily in two categories - aviation, and 19th century U.S. Army. Recently a friend, and fellow collector told me he had purchased a small batch of WW2 items and showed me some 8X10 photos from that collection. It was instantly obvious that the P-39s in the photos were from my own 362nd Squadron, during the Hayward days in that summer of 1943. When I told him this, he said "well, maybe you know the original owner of the medals." When he brought them out, the name "2nd Lt. Alvin F. Pyeatt III" leaped out at me from the back of an Air Medal. I was astounded that after 55 years these would return to a 362nd sqdn member.
Included, besides the named Air Medal, was an unnamed Purple Heart, 2 pilot wings, an officers cap badge, a bracelet made from a bent pilots wing, some odds and ends of insignia, and two bicycling medals, one named to Pyeatt as 6th place winner in a 25 mile race.
Perhaps the most interesting of all was Al's SHORT SNORTER, on a Canadian two dollar bill. There are about a dozen names I cannot decipher, but the following are clear: Leonard Carson, MSgt McGinnis, Joe Broadhead, Doc Snedden, Cal Williams, Fletcher Adams, Ken Hagan, Robt Becker, Brown (which one?), Hank Beal, K. Vogel, Al Lichter, Elmer Ryberg, Bob Wallen, Dave Perron, Don Rice, Fred Gilbreth, and 362nd Commander, Hubert Egenes. Except for McGinnis, Snedden (Flt Surgeon) and Gilbreth (Eng. Officer), all were part of the original pilot cadre of the squadron.
Of these, Adams, Ryberg, Perron and Egnes, were all killed in action. Of the rest, those still with us are: Al Lichter, Cal Williams, Doc Snedden, Fred Gilbreth, and Don Rice. McGinnis status in unknown.
How did these relics come on the collector's market? Usually they come out of estate sales when the wife, or parents are gone, or sometimes from the children who have no interest in the matter. These showed up in central California, but I have no other info. Pyeatt was from Bakersfield.
ON the 16th of March, 1944, Pyeatt was flying wing to John England on an escort mission to Lechfield, when they were attacked by three Me 109s. By the time England had extricated himself, he had lost sight of Pyeatt and was not able to raise him on the radio. The story that went around was that, having been shot down, he died in a German hospital. His Missing Aircrew Report does not confirm that since there are no German documents with it. Previous to this he had shot down two German planes.
The Air Medal and Purple Heart were probably awarded posthumously to his parents, or wife (I do not know if Pyeatt was married or not). Normally when medals are awarded posthumously, they were engraved by the army with the man's name on it. The Air Medal is so named, but for reasons unknown, the Purple Heart is not. I intend to have this engraved to match the Air Medal.
I have added some photographs of Al and intend to frame the collection as a small tribute to one of our own who died in the line of duty.