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Walter Jennings Ives
556th Bombardment Squadron, 387th Bombardment Group

Walter Jennings Ives

World War II pilot who flew missions against Germany was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart

By Frederick N. Rasmussen

December 16, 2009

Walter Jennings Ives, a decorated Army Air Forces pilot who flew 34 missions over Germany aboard Martin B-26 Marauder bombers during World War II, died Dec. 3 of complications from a stroke at Lorien Mays Chapel nursing home.

The longtime Riderwood resident was 93.

Mr. Ives was born in Baltimore and raised in a rowhouse in the 2800 block of N. Calvert St. He was a graduate of Polytechnic Institute, where he played lacrosse and football.

After studying mechanical engineering at Cornell University, Mr. Ives enlisted as a private in the Maryland National Guard 29th Infantry Division, 175th Regiment in 1935.

After being commissioned a lieutenant in 1940, Mr. Ives was assigned to the 175th Regiment, then commanded by his brother, Dudley Ives.

Mr. Ives decided to transfer out of the 29th Division in 1942 and enrolled at flight school at Randolph Field in Texas. He took additional aviation training at the Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Okla., and final flight training at Kelly Field in Texas.

In 1943, Mr. Ives commanded the 556th Bombardment Squadron, 387th Bombardment Group, composed of B-26s, which he escorted from MacDill Field in Tampa, Fla., across the Atlantic to Chipping Ongar, England.

Before leaving for England, Mr. Ives, with the help of Frank Onken, who headed The Baltimore Sun's art department, designed an embroidered squadron patch featuring an Indian dressed in full battle regalia running down a cloud at a 20-degree angle.

"It was one [of], if not the only, squadron-level insignia approved by the Army ... during World War II, and was proudly displayed underneath his pilot's window with the name of his assigned aircraft, the 'Gravel Agitator,' " said a son, Charles D. Ives II.

Promoted to major in September 1943, Mr. Ives received a commendation from the commanding general of the 8th Air Force for "outstanding performance of duty in action and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight," and "in support of a secret combined amphibious maneuver by the United States Armed Forces, and the destruction of vital enemy installations."

The commendation also praised Mr. Ives' flying abilities.

"In the most adverse flying weather, with ground visibility of less than one hundred yards, reduced to less than 50 yards for pilots sitting behind the wet, foggy windshield, these pilots, on 9 September 1943, took off in a heavily bomb-laden B-26 Marauder aircraft to fly a most important bombing mission against the German Air Force," it read.

While commander of a captured German airport in Mannheim, Mr. Ives renamed it Turnbull Field in honor of Jack Turnbull, a Johns Hopkins University lacrosse star, 1932 Olympian and Army Air Forces pilot.

Mr. Turnbull was killed when his B-24 bomber went down in a severe storm in 1944 near the Belgian border while returning from a bombing mission over Germany.

In October 1944, Mr. Ives was decorated with the Silver Star for "gallantry in action against the enemy" and a Purple Heart after he was wounded on a mission over Germany.

"While attacking a heavily defended enemy installation, his aircraft was hit by flak, which knocked out the airspeed indicators and severely injured his right arm," his son said. "He remained at his post and guided his element out of the flak area and ordered the bombardier to an alternate target on the route back to base in England."

Mr. Ives' other decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with four clusters.

Mr. Ives was discharged at war's end with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

"Walter regaled us with his experiences on many occasions, but they were always stories about his advocacy for his men and other exploits in which he 'worked the system' to improve his men's lives while in uniform, or in which he worked to be a more aggressive and effective member of our armed forces," said Henry Nipper, a former Riderwood neighbor who now lives in Omaha, Neb.

"He refused to accept expressions of gratitude about his service and did not participate in many of the usual VFW, American Legion and other types of organizations," Mr. Nipper said. "He did participate in several reunions of his old squadron - particularly with the enlisted men - but as time passed, these reunions became fewer and far between."

After the war, Mr. Ives worked selling Irish linens and then for 20 years was an insurance adjuster with Maryland Casualty Co. and Fireman's Fund. He was later associated with a wholesale produce company in Jessup and a fuel oil company in Bel Air before retiring in 1979.

He was an active communicant of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Ruxton.

After the death of his wife of 32 years in 1979 - the former Mary Anna "Cathie" Hutchinson, who was from Northern Ireland and whom he had met during the war - Mr. Ives began spending summers touring Europe and the British Isles on his 250 Honda scooter.

He was also a daffodil enthusiast and a member of the Maryland Daffodil Society. He also enjoyed feeding the wildlife and birds that lived around his Riderwood home.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete yesterday.

Also surviving are another son, Lawrence Hull Ives; a sister, Louise Ives; and four grandchildren.

Copyright 2009

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