The Shamrock Special

401st Squadron

sound5.gif (1201 bytes) Take The 'A' Train -

Serial #  42-29591 LL-Z

Back Row - Left to Right:

S/Sgt Forrest G. Seaver; Unknown; Unknown; Unknown;  Unknown; Unknown; 

Front Row - Left to Right:

Unknown; Unknown;Capt. James McPartin, Pilot; 1Lt. Julian M. Hexum, Bombardier

The Shamrock Special Factoid - This is the first crew of The Shamrock Special. Julian M. Hexum was lead bombardier on most of this crew's missions. Jack Gaffney painted a nude on the right vertical stabilizer ("call Hollywood 337") in October 1943. This aircraft had 3 art pictures. The nose art had a different girl painted on each side.According to Ron Hexum, the oldest of 5 offspring from Julian and Janet Hexum, his father (Julian) was considered the "old man" of his crew at 26 years old when the above photo was taken. Ron believes that his father was a 1st Lt. at the time of the photo. He returned from WWII as a Captain (battle promotions to officer rank as he started his tour of duty as a Sgt.). Julian also flew a mission on The Bad Penny and Old Bill during the time The Shamrock Special had the whole tail section replaced (lost after a collision on the ground - see Jack Gaffney's Tales of The Shamrock Special).

Julian downed two confirmed FW-190s using the nose guns of The Shamrock Specia

Before being transferred into the 91st on 16th June 1943, this camouflaged B 17F served with the 95th at Fram1ingham. When the 95th transferred its base to Horham in mid June several of their Fortresses were re-assigned to other groups.
The plane had been known at Framingham as Easy Aces but it only flew on two combat sorties with the 95th on 11 th and 13th June. On the latter of these, one of the 8th Air Force's 'ace' gunners, Donald Crossley, scored his 4th and 5th fighter kills. The plane was transferred just three days later and it is probable that the title Easy Aces was only bestowed on the ship briefly for publicity purposes surrounding that event.

Once in the 91 st, the plane was assigned to the care of crew chief M/Sgt Bob Dalton and his assistant Jack Gaffney. Jack recalled the plane well, "After losing Invasion No.2, Sergeant Dalton was assigned a new plane 42-29591 and I was responsible for naming it The Shamrock Special after my step-father's Irish ancestry. I painted both sides of the nose section, a different girl on each side. Then, in October of' 43, while it was in the Sub-Depot hangar for repairs, I painted the 'Hollywood 337' girl on the right vertical stabilizer". The number was part of his home telephone number. "As far as I can establish this was one of the very few war planes with three different pieces of artwork on it". It certainly seems to have been unique amongst the planes at Bassingbourn.

In November, The Shamrock Special was struck while parked by a battle damaged Fort called, ironically, The Careful Virgin. Jack continued the story "The Shamrock Special was parked outside the 401st hangar on the grassy area near the taxi strip. I was working on some oxygen lines in the tail section. A small voice told me to take a break; I put it off but I could hear it again so I decided to drop out of the tail door. At that moment a 323rd plane was landing on the short runway, returning from a mission with its brake hydraulics shot out. It could not slow down enough to make the turn at the end of the runway and it hit the tail section of The Shamrock Special just as I was dropping out. I was thrown clear uninjured but shook up. The 323rd plane hit our ship with its No.4 engine, sending the prop dome through the 'Hollywood girl's' stomach and tearing hell out of the tail section, not very far from where I had been working".

Back to the Sub-Depot it went, where the plane was taken apart at No.6 bulkhead at the rear of the radio room and rebolted to the rear section from another plane badly damaged in the front.
On 30th December The Shamrock Special was put back into combat and completed another 12 missions - a tribute to the incredible skill of the ground crew who rebuilt her. In mid April 1944, the plane was reassigned to Air Force Service Command, and left Bassingbourn with 26 combat sorties to its credit.  


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