#10 in a series
Lt. Arthur Vincent Cole, Castle Rock Colorado
By Paul A. Roales & Others
In November, 2010 I acquired a small collection of material on World War II P-38 pilot Arthur Vincent Cole. The original material included his Separation Record, 2 letters notifying his parents that he was a POW, a newspaper clipping about his liberation from the POW camp, and a wedding photo of him in uniform (on the right). I also got copies (some original file copies) of his request for the POW medal, his AAF Officers Qualification Record (2 pages), and 3 additional Xerox pictures of him. In my research I discovered that there was a book published on his life. It was “King Cole” by Mary Montgomery (Publish America, 2006). The information that follows is extracted from that book and the files I have.
Arthur Vincent Cole was born in Castle Rock, CO on March 4, 1920. He completed 2 2/3 years at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO where he learned how to fly in the Government’s Civilian Pilot Training Program. He enlisted in the Army as an Aviation Cadet on Sept. 27, 1941. He took Primary Flight Training at King City , CA flying PT-17’s and PT-22’s. He took Basic Flight Training at Moffett Field, CA flying the BT-13. He completed Advanced Flight Training at Luke Field AZ flying the AT-6 and became a 2nd. Lieutenant on April 24, 1942 (O-724710). His gunnery instructor at Luke Field was Richard Bong who would become Americas top ace in the Pacific. He was assigned to the 48th. Fighter Squadron of the 14th. Fighter Group at March Field, CA. and began training in P-38’s. During a night training at March he crashed on takeoff and destroyed his first P-38.
In July, 1942 his Group flew to England via Greenland. And in November, 1942 they flew to Oran, Algeria via Gibraltar as part of Operation Torch. On Nov. 19 he flew his first combat mission. On November 23 he damaged his P-38 by colliding with a German command car on a strafing mission, he barely limped back to base (P-38 #2 destroyed). On Nov. 25 he was credited with an assist in shooting down a German JU-88. On Nov 27 he was forced to crash land his plane in Tunisia after he was hit by ground fire (P-38 #3 destroyed). Friendly natives helped him to get back to his base. On Nov. 30 (his 13th. Mission) he was shot down by ground fire and captured by the Germans (the 4th. P-38 he lost).
His application for the POW medal states: “I was shot down outside of Tunis Algeria; captured by the Afrika Corps, turned over to the Italians, and sent to temporary camp in Capua, Italy. Held for 9 months at Chieti, Italy (Camp Concentramento 21), and at Italy’s capitulation was entrained for Germany - escaped and was loose for six weeks, recaptured and sent to Barth, Germany [Stalag Luft 1] where I was liberated by the Russians on May 5, 1945.” The train ride where he escaped was immortalized by Davy Westheimer (another POW on the train) in the fictional book “Von Ryan’s Express”.
Upon liberation he was sent to Camp Lucky Strike in France then returned to the US aboard the General Whitney on July 7, 1945. He married in September, 1945 and remained in the service until January 12, 1947. He became a speech teacher at Westchester High School in CA and then at Reseda High School in CA before retiring.
Note that in the letters above the Catholic Church notified the family that Arthur was a POW over two weeks before our own government.
Of his military career he said: “After $250,000 worth of training and the loss of four $250,000 airplanes, I lasted twenty five days and thirteen missions, destroying some German vehicles, soldiers and a JU-88. Uncle Sam had lost his shirt on me.” He died November 14, 2010 in Los Osos, CA.
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