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An American Pilot with 578 Squadron:

1st Lt JL/Christenson


Much has been written about the American volunteer airmen who made up the three Eagle fighter Squadrons but what is less publicised is that some of the American volunteers flew with RAF bomber squadrons. By the time the USA entered the war in December 1941, 6,700 applications from Americans had been processed and approved to join the RCAF or RAF. Sadly, almost 1000 American citizens were killed while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve during World War II *

One individual was Lt Christenson. He volunteered through the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) and was posted to 578 squadron as a Pilot in early 1944. As an American he was transferred to the USAAF. He did however remain with 578 squadron rather than move to a USAAF squadron and completed his tour on Halifaxes. He must have stood out amongst the RAF uniforms and how many American Pilots could say they had done a tour of night bombing in the Halifax! On 4th December 1944 after completing his tour Lt Christenson received the British DFC from Air Vice Marshall Carr, at a ceremony at Burn Airfield.


This picture shows, left, Group Captain Warburton, Air Vice Marshall Carr, Wing Commander James, OC of 578 squadron. (The identity of the WAAF is not known).

W/O Charles "Chuck" Adams, a rear gunner on the squadron remembered: On December 4, 1944 the Air Officer Commanding No. 4 Group, Air Vice Marshal C.R. Carr CB CDE DFC AFC. came to the Station to present the Distinguished Flying Cross to 1st Lt JL/Christenson of the U.S.A.A.F. who had recently completed a tour of operations with 578 Squadron. The whole of the Station marched past as a guard of honour and marched past the A.O.C after the presentation. (Chuck remembered this officer who had been with the Royal Canadian Air Force and later joined the U.S.A.A.F. he being a U.S.A. citizen. When he transferred he continued to fly with his crew with the R.A.F. He remembers inspecting his clothing when he returned on joining and the puns he got with the two medals he returned with, he took it in good part as he naturally expected it. Medals are more easily come by in the U.S. Forces, I believe one medal was for being overseas theatre of operations which of course he was. He was able and did in fact wear the U S Pilots Brevet on left breast and the R.A.F. Brevet of Pilot on his right breast. In fact on occasions with U.S. troops flyers etc, we used to shoot the line for him that he had been with the "EAGLE SQUADRON".

What became of Lt Christenson after his time with 578 squadron is not known. He will have returned to America as part of the USAAF. The rumour mill has come up with a few possible leads including the fact that he may have become part of the U2 programme.

Some years ago Hugh Cawdron (Editor of the squadron association magazine) made enquiries from the American Embassy in London and was eventually directed to a department in Washington dealing with veteran affairs but again achieved no success, for the response was couched in officialese, which in effect made clear that further communication would be unwelcome.

Recently, Elsa Mearkle took up the challenge to establish the whereabouts of this elusive fellow and managed to locate a Lt. Christenson based in England but, unfortunately, it was not our man.

So the search goes on. No reward is offered for his location or contact save the satisfaction of solving a challenge which has eluded us for over 60 years.

578 Squadron (Including Lt Christenson; now DFC) march past Air Vice Marshal C.R. Carr at Burn 4th December 1944.

* Statistical data courtesy of Wally Fydenchuk. Author of "Immigrants of War" the story of the American volunteers in the RCAF. http://immigrantsofwar.blogspot.com/