Thomas J. J. Christian Jr. graduated from West Point June 1939. He was the great grandson of the Confederate General Thomas J 'Stonewall' Jackson. He became a B-17 pilot flying from Guadalcanal in the Pacific theater where was shot down and posted as 'M.I.A.'. He managed to make it back to friendly lines after surviving a period in the jungle with the help of natives. After returning to the United States, he married Marjorie Lou Ashcroft on 2 January 1943. They had 1 daughter named Lou. On 10 Feb 43 the 361st Fighter Group was activated at Richmond Army Air Base in Virginia and equipped with the P-47. The group sailed to the UK onboard the Queen Mary on 23 Nov 43, arriving on the Clyde 6 days later. The unit acquired its P-51s from May 44 onwards.
The unit operated from Bottisham in Cambridgeshire from 30 Nov 43 till 26 Sep. 44. Col Christian was lost on operations on 12 Aug 1944, whilst attacking the railway marshalling yard at Boisleux au Mont, a few miles south of Arras. He was 28 years old. His P-51D, Lou IV, was named after his daughter, Lou Ellen, who was born in January 1944 and whom he never saw. Lou IV had another name, 'Athelene', emblazoned on the starboard cowling. It is believed to be the name of the wife or partner of the aircraft's crew chief, S/Sgt D Jameson. On 12 Aug 44, the US 8th Air Force launched 1330 aircraft (B-17, B-24, P-38, P-47 and P-51s) against targets in central, east and north-east France (8th Air Force Mission 545). 18 aircraft failed to return (including four P-51s from the 361st FG, including Lou IV). 6 enemy aircraft were claimed as destroyed in the air (1 by an escort P-47 and 5 by P-38s); 13 further enemy aircraft were claimed as destroyed on the ground by P-47s.
In Europe, Christian flew more than 70 combat missions and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart.
Report by 2nd Lt. Robert J. Bain, pilot in Colonel Christian's flight.
"I was flying position number three of a three ship flight, lead by Colonel Christian. We approached the railway marshalling yard at Arras France, from the north east direction at an altitude of 11,000 feet. We circled the target receiving instructions from Colonel Christian to make the bomb run from south to north, pulling up to the left after bombing. We were then in string formation, my position number two trailing our leader. Colonel Christian executed a half roll and split S, from an altitude of 11,000 feet. I watched his descent to at least 6,000 feet and then made my dive. Pulling out of my dive at 3,000 feet. I banked left and climbed to 6,000 feet and looked for the leader. Number three ship pulled up near to me, but neither he or I could find Colonel Christian. I observed a very good hit in the centre of the railway yard, not caused by number three man or myself and assumed it was the Colonel's bombs. I repeatedly called our leader over the radio but never received an answer. The attack took place 15.05 hrs. 12th August 1944."
Shortly before his death Col Christian was photographed in his P-51D Mustang 44-13410 leading a group of four P-51s from the 361st Fighter Group. At the beginning of August 1944 the squadron increased the size of it's yellow nose band identification colour, to include the whole of the engine cowling, it is therefore believed that these photos were taken just a few days before he was tragically killed in action on the 12th.
Colonel Christian appears Tablets of the Missing Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial Neuville-en-Condroz Liège, Belgium lost 12-Aug-44. He has several cenotaph memorials Texas State Cemetery Austin Travis County Texas also Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery Lexington Virginia his body was never recovered.