LeRoy Pennysaver & News

LE ROY PENNYSAVER & NEWS - MAY 15, 2022 by Lynne Belluscio Two years ago, in October, 2020, I wrote an article about Milt Thompson. At that time, plans were being made to have his name engraved on the Korean War bench in front of the Soldiers’ monument on Trigon Park. The black granite bench was placed near the Soldiers’ monument through the generous contributions made in the name of Frank Elliott - a Korean War veteran. (His initials are engraved on the east side of the bench.) With the pandemic scare, that never happened, but plans are well underway this year for the American Legion to recognize this local hero. When we were making plans for the Koran War bench, a man stopped by theHistorical Society with a notebook of information about men from Genesee County who had died in service during the Korean War, and I remember him telling us about Milt Thompson who was not listed anywhere. Milt was in the Airforce National Guard based in Niagara Falls and had died in an airplane crash in Ohio, flying a P-47 back from Florida. And sure enough, in our clipping files was the newspaper article: Capt. Milton W. Thompson, 30 of 115 North St, often decorated hero of World War II, was killed Monday (Feb. 11, 1952) when his fighter plane crashed and burned near Mansfield , O., while on a flight from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla To Selfridge Air Force Base, Mt. Clemens, Mich. The LeRoyan was in a flight of four F-47 Thunderbolts of the 136th Fighter Interceptor Squadron stationed at Niagara Falls, when his plane developed engine trouble. Capt. Thompson attempted an emergency landing after his engine conked out at 8,000 feet. The plane exploded and crashed in flames. The pilot’s last message was: ‘I can’t see. Smoke and fire in the cockpit.’ Other members of the flight said they saw the LeRoyan jettison his cockpit canopy but that he apparently was too low to bail out. Flying with him were Capt. Arthur J. Roehling of Lancaster, the flight leader, who landed at Mansfield Airport and reported the crash, 1st Lt Robert E. Ross of East Aurora and 2n Lt. Robert Haron of Niagara Falls. The four planes were returning from gunnery practice in Florida. Capt. Thompson was recalled to active duty last March with the squadron based at Niagara Falls. A native of Irondeqoit, Capt. Thompson had resided in LeRoy for 30 years and was a graduate of LeRoy High School. (1938) Capt. Thompson received his wings at Napier Field, Dothan, Ala, on November 13, 1943 after entering the service in January of that year.” Milt Thompson’s name is engraved on the Korean monument in Washington D.C.. Milt was buried in Machpelah Cemetery, with military honors in 1952. Stores were closed and a military funeral procession came down Main Street. A service was held in the Machpelah Chapel. Until 2020, his gravesite had not been marked with a flag on Memorial Day. Milt was a World War II hero. He was a Thunderbolt pilot in Europe and his plane flew 91 missions against the Luftwaffe. He was sometimes referred to as the most decorated Genesee County serviceman, and in May, 1945, received his 14th decoration. Capt. Thompson received 13 Oak Leaf Clusters for his Air Medal and wore the Silver Star and Order of the Purple Heart. His P-47 - 30 Thunderbolt was known as “All Balls Out” and was painted with LeRoy NY when Milt was flying. He was shot down in 1945 and seriously wounded while dive bombing a target in Germany. His plane caught on fire but he managed to make a landing behind Allied lines. When he arrived at the hospital, they removed 21 pieces of flak from his right leg, arm and side. After the war he returned home to LeRoy and joined his father in the ornamental iron business on North Street. Capt. Thompson was a member of the BottsFiorito Post, the Percy Luttell Post VFW and the LeRoy Presbyterian Church. It should also be noted, that Milton’s brother, Robert was a private with a paratrooper division in Europe and was taken prisoner and for nearly a year before he made his escape. While returning to the American lines, he was killed by artillery fire on December 7, 1943. His name appears on the World War II monument on Trigon Park. It should be mentioned that Capt. Brian Duddy, Ret Air Force, formerly from LeRoy, was instrumental in gathering additional information about Milton Thompson. And through his generosity, Milton’s name will be engraved on the Korean War bench. As Brian reminds us, “On the Air Force Team, we take care of our own.” Please join us this Memorial Day, as this community and his family, remembers Milton Thompson. The parade assembles at the American Legion on West Main at 10 AM, and proceeds down Main Street to Trigon Park. “Fire and Smoke in the Cockpit”