1st Lt. Leonard and his radar observer Flight Officer Raymond Christensen, were night fighters for the 417th NFS, U. S. Army Air Force. Both were killed in action when their plane was engaging a Nazi night fighter over the Tyrrhenian sea. Their plane disappeared from radar and presumably crashed into the sea after being shot down. F/O Christensen was my great-uncle.
Much of the work of the 417th NFS was to protect boat convoys as they transported allied suppies and soldiers. As you can imagine, these convoys were prized targets of the Nazis. Also, the 417th were sent on missions to check out "bogies" that showed upon their radar, and if found to be an enemy plane, engage in combat.
These excerpts resume in Tafaraoui, Algeria. F/O Christensen was radar observer for all of these flights, so I have not mentioned him specifically. Other passengers are noted. The quotes are from the flight summaries of 1st. Lt. Leonard. Notes between brackets are mine. All crews from the 417th are named "Bishop 50, Bishop 51," etc. Note the crazy hours these guys fly!
Jan. 1, 1944.
Flight 1: Beau 940. Sgt. Gura also along. Night Fighter Training. 3:25 pm - 4:40 pm. "NFT with [Bishop] 70 who returned with a bad engine so I stooged around and flew single engine for awhile."
Flight 2: Beau 940. Practice interceptions with Woodlog [ground control]. 5:45 pm to 8:10 pm. "PI's with Woodlog and [Bishop] 59. Wizard control and a beautiful night. Ran three interceptions and the AI [airborne interceptor radar] was remarkably good. VHF [very high frequency transmission] and A/C [air craft] OK."
Jan. 4, 1944.
Flight 1: Beau 940. Night Fighter Training. 4:40 pm - 5:10 pm. "NFT with [Bishop] 59, my port transmitter went out and bismuth screwed the detail more than usual. A/C [air craft] and AI [airborne intercept radar] OK."
Flight 2: Beau 940. Practice interceptions (Woodlog and Perform were ground controls). 6:00 - 9:15 "PI with 53 on Woodlog - very good work on the part of Woodlog. They turned us over to Perform and we did convoy patrol with them until they vectored us in. A/C [air craft] and R/T [radio transmitter] OK."
Jan. 6, 1944.
Beau 177. Convoy Patrol (Woodlog and Perform ground controls) 10:30 pm to 2:30 am. "Convoy patrol with [Bishop] 53 on Woodlog who ran one PI [practice interception] and then turned me over to Perform who attempted to vector me on to a bogey which they had a plot on. He went home and so did I. Port receiver went out, otherwise OK."
Jan. 7, 1944. Beau 938. Practice Interception with Fishbone [ground control]. 06:10 am to 8:05 am. "PI with[Bishop] 53 controlled by Fishbone and was it ever lousy - 2 interceptions apiece. A/C [air craft], R/T [radio transmitter] and AI [airborne intercept radar] OK."
At this point, they moved to nearby La Senia, preparing for the big move to the island of Corsica.
Jan. 10, 1944.
Flight 1: Beau 167. Also joined by Bernie Brun. Convoy Patrol. 5:40 pm to 8:00 pm. Squadron history reports a Nazi Ju 88 plane damaged by 1st Lt. J. E. Leonard off the Coast of Spain. "Convoy patrol with Fishbone [ground control]. Chased two P-39's and then noticed some gunfire from "across" then Joe Long vectored me on a fighter. Engaged the enemy twice and got hits on his tail the first time and got two hits on stbd wing. Got another contact and followed it to the coast of Spain. One Ju88 damaged. Cannon all fired. Chris [F/O Christensen] was on the ball. A/C [air craft] was perfect. VHF [very high frequency transmission] good. Everyone is on the ball I Oh! What a beautiful morning."
Flight 2: Beau 941, Convoy Patrol. 7:00 am to 8:40 am. "Patrol on 'Links.' "C" Channel crystal went out. Beautiful morning. AI [airborne intercept radar] U/S."
Jan. 13, 1944. Beau 938. Pvt. Schoenberg along as well. Night Fighter Training. 2:30 - 3:20. "NFT with[Bishop] 53. Canary check OK. A/I [airborne intercept radar], U/S and rheostat in gunsight U/S."
Jan. 16, 1944.
Flight 1: Beau 938. Night Fighter Training. "NFT rather uneventful. Ship, AI [airborn intercept radar], R/T [radio transmitter] OK."
Flight 2: Beau 938. Don Barnhart also along. Convoy Patrol with Perform [ground control]. 5:45 pm - 8:00 pm. "Convoy patrol with Bishop 53 on Perform. 53 ran two PI [practice interceptions] whole damned thing was uneventful. Everything OK."
Jan. 19, 1944.
Flight 1: Beau 204. On patrol off Balearic Islands. 4:30 pm - 7:30 pm. "Patrol near the Balearic Islands which was rather fruitless but we learned a lot. Receiver went rather duff on the way out. AI [airborne intercept radar] and A/C [air craft] OK."
Flight 2: Beau 204. Sgt. Filipowics also along. Convoy patrol with Woodlog [ground control]. 12:55 am to 3:40 am. "Single plane patrol on "Nipper." Went to sleep three or four times; ears are still plugged up. A/C [air craft], R/T [radio transmitter] and ship OK."
Jan. 24, 1944.
Beau 941. Convoy Patrol (Woodlog ground control). 5:40 pm to 8:25 pm. "Convoy patrol with Bishop 70. My port receiver went out so came back on "C" for Charlie. Port engine rough."
Jan. 25, 1944.
Flight 1: Beau 961. Night Fighter Training. 2:20 pm - 3:05. "NFT. AI [airborne interceptor radar] ropey and then went out. A/C [air craft] and R/T [radar transmitter] OK."
Flight 2: Beau 961. From La Senia to La Passet. "Alert at Lapasset. Did a dawn patrol and PI [practice interceptions] with [Bishop] 70 and returned to base after having had breakfast at Lapasset. A/C [air craft] OK."
Flight 3: Beau 961. Practice Interceptions with Woodlog [ground control].
Flight 4: Beau 961. LaPasset to LaSenia.
Jan. 31, 1944. Beau 151. Duty: Tenacle. 4:00 pm - 7:50 pm. "Tenacle with no results, received Whitetooh, Bradshaw [Tafaraoui RAF Aerodrome control], Madbrain, and Oxter, landing ropey as usual, AI [airborne intercept radar] was out completely, A/C [air craft] was very good."