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Paul Gregory Atkinson Jr

Military

Colonel, U.S. Air Force. Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1943. World War II and Korean War.

Paul Gregory Atkinson, Jr. was born in 1922 in Philadelphia, PA, the son of Dr. Paul Gregory Atkinson and Pauline Beckman Atkinson.

Atkinson received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, and graduated with the Class of 1943 in June of that year. Of the graduates who chose to be commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the U.S. Army Air Corps, sixteen men were assigned as pilots to the newly-activated (5 February 1943) 416th Bombardment Group, U.S. Army Air Forces at Lake Charles, LA, in September 1943. Atkinson was one of them.

During World War II, the 416th Bombardment Group (Light) was composed of 416th Headquarters and four Bombardment Squadrons (L), the 668th (5H), 669th (2A), 670th (F6) and 671st (5C); and was under the operational control of the IX Bomber Command, 97th Combat Bombardment Wing of the Ninth Air Force, U.S. Army Air Forces. The 416th went Operational on 3 March 1944 and stood down on 4 May 1945. During that time they flew 285 missions.

On 23 January 1945, Captain Paul Gregory Atkinson was serving with the 670th Bombardment Squadron, 416th Bombardment Group, Ninth Air Force in the European Theater of Operations.

On that day, CPT Atkinson was the pilot of an A-26 Invader Medium Bomber participating in a bombing mission against enemy ground targets in Europe. Just prior to starting a bomb run, CPT Atkinson's aircraft was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire. He was struck in the face and his bombardier's leg was almost severed. Despite these tremendous obstacles, he made the bombing run with excellent results. Then, since the bombardier was unable to bail out, he made a successful crash landing once he reached friendly territory. CPT Atkinson's courageous action and extraordinary heroism saved the life of the bombardier and earned him the U.S. Army's second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

The 416th Bombardment Group (Light) fought in seven Campaigns in World War II: Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe; and Air Combat European-African-Middle Eastern (EAME) Theater, and received many Letters of Commendation. On 25 July 1945, the 416th was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for their critical part in trapping German forces in the Falaise Gap between 6-9 August 1944.

Atkinson flew 62 missions during World War II.

After the war, Atkinson was a Student Officer at the California Institute of Technology and a Staff Officer, Aircraft Projects, Headquarters USAAF in Washington, DC. He was an Intelligence Officer, Headquarters U.S. Air Force Europe in 1950 and served as Squadron Commander, 7052 Air Intelligence Squadron, from 1951-52, where he directed the overt collection of information through interrogation of German POW's returned from the USSR.

Lieutenant Colonel Atkinson served as Chief, Rocket Engine Section, Propulsion Division, Headquarters Air Research and Development Command from 1953-56. He was responsible for staff direction of liquid rocket, solid rocket, and propellant technology programs of the Air Force. During 1956-60, Lt Col Atkinson was Chief, Propulsion Research Division, Air Force Office of Scientific Research and from 1960-65, he was Chief, Propulsion Division, Department Chief of Staff, R&D, Headquarters, USAF.

As a Colonel, Atkinson served as Deputy Commanding Officer and later, as Commanding Officer, Aero Research Laboratories, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, from 1965 to 1969. He managed a basic research laboratory complex consisting of a $29 million plant with a $13 million yearly budget, and over 300 personnel.

Colonel Atkinson's last assignment before retirement was Director of Technology Applications, Headquarters, Air Force Systems Command, from 1969-71. He was responsible for staff direction of 45 Advanced Development Programs, each with the objective of a new operational capability.

He retired from the Air Force in 1971.

Service

People

  • Dale Ackerson

    Military | First Lieutenant | Bombardier/Navigator | 416th Bomb Group

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Units served with

Aircraft

Associated Place

  • Wethersfield

    Military site : airfield
    Planned in 1942 as an Eighth Air Force bomber base, Wethersfield was then supposed to be loaned to the RAF in 1943, but was re-allocated to the Ninth Air Force by the time it was complete. Built during 1943-44, it had three concrete runways, 49 loop...

  • Laon/Athies

    Military site : airfield

  • Melun

    Military site : airfield

Events

Event Location Date
Born Philadelphia, PA 25 July 1922
Lived in Norristown, PA June 1940
Actions that resulted in the Distinguished Service Cross near Arzfeld, Germany 23 January 1945

Distinguished Service Cross Citation

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Captain (Air Corps) Paul Gregory Atkinson (ASN: 0-25973), United States Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of an A-26 Medium Bomber in the 670th Bombardment Squadron, 416th Bombardment Group, NINTH Air Force, while participating in a bombing mission on 23 January 1945, against enemy ground targets in Europe. Just prior to starting a bomb run, Captain Atkinson's aircraft was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire. He was struck in the face and his bombardier's leg was almost severed. Despite these tremendous obstacles, he made the bombing run with excellent results. Then, since the bombardier was not able to bail out, he successfully made a crash landing once he got over friendly territory. His extraordinary heroism saved the life of the bombardier. The personal courage and zealous devotion to duty displayed by Captain Atkinson on this occasion have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 9th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.

General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Strategic Forces in Europe, General Orders No. 55 (1945)

Died Normandy Farms, Pennsylvania 1 October 2002
Buried Valley Forge, PA 4 October 2002

Washington Memorial Chapel Churchyard
Valley Forge, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, USA

Graduated West Point, NY

United States Military Academy

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
19 February 2021 14:45:07 466thHistorian Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, suffix, nationality, service number, highest rank, role, biography, events, unit associations, place associations, aircraft associations and media associations
Sources

http://www.416th.com/missions/mission191.html
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/172038831/paul-gregory-atkinson
https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2345/images/40014_18211...
https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/631205131:61843?tid=&p...

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