GILBERT JOSEPH POHL
Branch: U. S. Army Air Force
Rank: Captain (posthumous)
Status: Died non-battle
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: Duluth
1. Gilbert Pohl 2. Gilbert Pohl (top row, center) with “Touch of Texas”
Gilbert Joseph Pohl was born February 12, 1916 in Stearns County, Minnesota to John A. and Blonda Smith Pohl. John Pohl had grown up in St. Cloud, and when he married Blonda they moved to Duluth where John got a job as a boilermaker in the shipyards. John and Blonda had eight children: Francis, Margaret, Gilbert, Artemis, Louise, Bernard, Lorraine and Donna Mae. The family lived on E. 8th Street for many years and the children attended Duluth public schools.
Gilbert attended Duluth Central High School through 11th grade, then went to work as a clerk in a Piggly-Wiggly for a short time. He soon found a more lucrative job as a press operator and worked at that until December of 1939, when he enlisted in the Army. He served in the mechanized division at Fort Randolph in the Panama Canal Zone for 18 months, then decided to transfer to the Army Air Force. He received his wings and his officer’s commission in January of 1942 and was sent to be part of the 566th Bomb Squadron, 389th Bomb Group, which was a B-24 (Heavy) bombardment group.
The 389th Bomb Group, familiarly known as the “Sky Scorpions,” received deployment orders to England in May of 1943 and was stationed at RAF Hethel. The 389th and its B-24 Liberators flew over 300 missions from Hethel between June of 1943 and May of 1945. During this period they also sent detachments to join bases in Libya, North Africa, where they carried out bombing raids over Crete, Sicily, Italy, Austria and Romania. Gilbert was the pilot of B-24 42-40751 “Touch of Texas.” He flew the “Touch of Texas” in the famed low-level attack against oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania on August 1, 1943, in which 53 aircraft and 660 aircrewmen were lost. The unit received a Distinguished Unit Citation for its participation.
The detachment returned to England later in August and the squadron flew several missions against airfields in France and Holland. These were very long-range strategic bombardment operations with targets that included industrial facilities, oil production facilities and refineries, rail and other transportation centers, enemy military airfields and garrisons. The squadron participated in the intensive air campaign against the German aircraft industry during Big Week (February 20 – 25, 1944) The “Touch of Texas” flew over 25 combat missions until it was damaged beyond repair in a landing accident at Hethel with another pilot at the helm.
On April 9, 1944, the much-experienced Lt. Pohl was co-piloting a flight aboard the “Might of the 8th,” with Lt. Glen Reese taking the pilot seat for his first time. The target was Tutow, Germany, where the German Air Force had a command center. They were flying at 7000’ when they collided mid-air with a plane from another bombing group. Gilbert was killed, along with 9 other crew members.
Gilbert’s body was temporarily buried in the Cambridge American Cemetery in Cambridgeshire, England. It was later disinterred and reinterred in Calvary Cemetery, St. Cloud, Minnesota with his parents. He had been promoted to captain but was killed before receiving his wings. His family received them posthumously. Gilbert Pohl was 28 years old.