Col. Thomas M. Seymour
Born in Dubuque on Sept. 27, 1916, Tom had
his early education at St. Anthony’s School and then attended Loras
Academy from where he graduated in 1934. Four years later he
completed his college course at Loras College and received his
Bachelor of Science degree with a mathematics major and a physics
minor. He attended CMTC Camp Des Moines, Ia., for four summers, and
was commissioned a second lieutenant in the reserve in 1936 just
after completing his second year of college. At Loras College,
Tom was a member of the vested choir for four years, on the staffs
of the Spokesman and The Loran, and played in the band.
On July 11, 1939, he enlisted in the
Army Air Forces at Des Moines, Ia., and was sent to Spartan
Aeronautical School, Tulsa, Okla., for a three months course.
Following completion of this, he was transferred to Randolph Field,
Tex., and from there to Kelly Field, Tex., where on March 23, 1940,
he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the regular Army and
awarded his fighter pilots wings.
For three months following his graduation,
Tom served as an instructor at Kelly Field, and then was sent to
Mitchell Field, FL. for two months instruction on the two motored
bomber school located there. In November 1940 he completed his
course as a bomber pilot, and was transferred to Langley Field, Va.
for four months further study.
An article in the Telegraph Herald
described one of Tom’s missions:
Dubuquer Aided Hunt
For Lost CAF Plane
Lieut. Seymour Flew One of 9 Bombers Sent to Canada
The dramatic search by U. S. Army bombers
for six Royal Canadian Air Force fliers, who bailed out of
their Atlantic Patrol plane just before it crashed in the
desolate bush country near East Lake, Quebec, Nov. 17, was
described in letters received here from Lieutenant Thomas M.
Seymour, of Dubuque, who aided in the hunt.
The son of Mr. and Mrs. Victor F, Seymour, of 1710 Asbury
Street, Lieutenant Seymour piloted one of nine U. S. Army
Douglas bombers that scoured the rugged terrain under
difficult flying conditions in search of the missing men.
Three Still Missing
Three were found and three are still missing.
It was the U. S. plane in which Major H.
L. George, commander of the American squadron, was riding,
that caught the first glimpse of the wreckage of the Canadian
plane just inside the United States. A member of the plane’s
crew saw the marked tail of the crashed plane, but so dense
was the forest and underbrush that the Americans could not
confirm the fact that the wreckage was below for another 20
“In order to obtain a sufficiently clear view of the terrain
it was necessary to fly very low so that the propellor blast
of the searching plane would blow aside the tree tops,
permitting a view of the ground,” according to a story of the
search received here from Lieutenant Seymour.
Long Flights Made
Lieutenant Seymour was one of 4 officers
and crew members who flew to Canada from Langley Field, Va.,
in nine bombers to join in the search at the request of the
The squadron was grounded the first day by low ceiling and
scattered snowfalls, but on the second day Lieutenant Seymour
covered 300 square miles in his plane. Similar long flights
were made during the next two days.
Canadian newspapers said one of the squadron narrowly averted
a crash Nov. 22, just before returning to the airport at
Montreal. Following a valley in the East Lake area, and flying
close to the ground, the man at the controls took a sharp turn
to the right. Suddenly the valley ended and a steep climb was
necessary to avoid hitting a hill.
One of the officers was quoted as saying: “For a moment, it
seemed that the hill was gaining altitude faster than the
The difficulty of spotting a parachute
was very great “With the snow on the tops of the fir trees, it
seems as if there are a million parachutes down there,” one of
the pilots remarked.
The Canadians were forced to jump from
their big Digby bomber when they ran out of gas and iced up
badly, just inside the Maine border. The crew jettisoned the
plane’s load of bombs over desolate woodlands before they
Lieutenant Seymour’s last letter from
Montreal said hope for the three men still missing had
virtually been abandoned.
In March 1941, Tom was sent to the Jackson, Miss., Army Air Base,
where he was stationed as an instructor and operations officer until
December, 1941, when he was transferred to San Francisco, Calif., to
go overseas. His orders were changed, however, and after three
months in California, he was transferred to Wright Field, Dayton,
Oh., where he served as test pilot on B-26’s for three months. From
Wright Field, he went to Barksdale Field, La., where until January
1943, he served as group operations officer. From Barksdale Field,
Tom was promoted to Major and sent to MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida.
There he joined the 387th Bombardment Group (M) with its four member
squadrons, the 556th, 557th, 558th and 559th as group S-3.
Col. Harry Dennis (Ret) was a
2nd Lt. Bombadier in the 387th and he offered this recollection:
“Met Maj. “Whip” Seymour early in January of 1942 at MacDill Army
Air Field, Tampa, FLA new Bomb Group was in the process of
activation to be designated as the 387th Bomb Grp (M) B-26 Martin
Maruader. The Group Commander, Col. Carl Storrie had appointed
Major Seymour Group Operation Officer and in the process challenged
him a low altitude skip Bombing Competition to take place on Avon
Park FL. Bombing and Gunnery range.
My role was bombardier for Col. Storrie while a
former Bombardier in the RAF (tranferred to AAF) was to fly with
Whip Seymour. Col Storrie and I emerged as winner with the lowest
CEP (circular error) out of ten practice bombs each and the winner
of a bottle of good whiskey as well. The scoring personnel on the
range reported they had never seen such spectacular flying by both
~~~ *** ~~~
The 387th was named the “Tiger Stripe Marauder Group” due to the
slanted yellow stripes painted on the vertical stabilizers of the
planes. The men and planes arrived in England in July 1943.
Some of the missions that Col. Tom was involved
in were described in a history of the 387th “Two noteworthy
missions were flown in November (1943) against a new type target -
“These objectives consisted of rocket guns and
‘pilotless’ aircraft installations in the Pas de Calais area of
France. The installations had a two-fold handicap for the
bombardiers: (1) Because of their comparatively small area and
expert camouflage, they were very difficult to spot from the air,
especially if the weather was hazy; (2) Because of the small area
covered, they were extremely hard to hit. They required excellent
‘pinpoint’ bombing. The first noball target hit by the 387th was
Vineyesques, France near Cape Gris Nes on November 5. The second was
against Martinvast in the Cherbourg area on November 11. Results
were fair to good. The ‘noballs’ offered a real challenge to
pilot-navigator-bombardier crews in teamwork and coordination.
Bombing accuracy steadily improved; and after the invasion forces
had landed on the continent, results could be evaluated. Mediums,
again, had proved the effectiveness of ‘pinpoint’ bombing technique.
“On November 3 the group achieved its best bombing results up to
that date. With good visibility and little flak, the formation, led
by Lieutenant Colonel Seymour and Lieutenant William Tuill, hit the
airdrome at St. Andre de L’Fure with excellent results. The aiming
point was a group of repair shops and living quarters. Of the
forty-five buildings in the area thirty-six were destroyed and
several more damaged by the concentration of bombs that fell in
perfect pattern. Four planes were damaged by flak. The aiming point
was a group of repair shops and living quarters. Of the forty-five
buildings in the area thirty-six were destroyed and several more
damaged by the concentration of bombs that fell in perfect pattern.
Three Group Commanders:
“With only fifteen operational days during April the group achieved
excellent bombing results. Targets included ‘noballs’,
marshalling yards, and for the first time since September, a number
of coastal defenses. The first of these occurred on April 10 when
Colonel Caldwell led a thirty-six ship formation over Le Harve. The
bombardiers had not lost their accuracy; for all strikes were seen
to hit the target area, and one scored a direct hit on a gun
emplacement. The same afternoon Lieutenant Colonel Seymour led the
attack on the Namur marshalling yards. Following a formation of
‘window’ ships, the 387th dropped incendiaries which started
“The joy crews felt after the two highly successful
missions of the 10th was short-lived. Two days later, leading a
formation over coastal defenses near Dunkerque, Colonel Caldwell and
his crew were shot down by enemy flak….
Colonel Caldwell was
succeeded as commanding officer by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas M.
Seymour, who had been with the 387th since MacDill Field.”
Bill Redmond kept a diary against regulations and here is one
“Mission #56 – May 24, 1944: In the
afternoon we went after 6 – 88mm naval guns north of Le Touquet. We
bombed in 6’s. 1st 6 hit military installations north of guns. 2nd
(our high flight) hit 2 guns and disabled 3rd gun. 3rd 6 poor and 2
other flights got fair results. Col. Seymour rode as our co-pilot.
the social side the various squadrons staged several enjoyable
parties. Accommodations at the field were being improved, and
the presence of English girls and American nurses continued to
be a welcome change. A decided uplift in the morale of the
combat crews at this time was felt by the return to the United
States of several veteran combat teams for well deserved
Lt. Col. Seymour (far right) at
the Officer's Club with some English Girls
(Col. Storrie is far left)
Col. Gayle L. Smith recalls
his association with Col. Tom and he shared them in a letter to me.
Smith was born on a farm near Arlington, Iowa and graduated from
Upper Iowa University where he majored in Math and participated in
baseball, basketball, football and band and orchestra.
“Our mission in combat was to attack missile
sites, coastal fortifications, military air fields, anti aircraft
installations, ammo and fuel supply points, transportation
facilities, research and manufacturing facilities and after the
invasion assist our army by denying access on escape by destroying
roads, bridges, and railheads. In other words prevent the enemy from
advancing as well as retreating to regroup.
|| “..Col. Thomas
Seymour. He was the Group Operations Officer for a B-26
training group at Barksdale Field, Shreveport, LA. when I
first met him. He was a Major then (Aug. 42) and was
responsible for establishing and monitoring combat crew
training in the B-26 Martin Marauder. In this position he had
already established himself as an excellent pilot in the B-26
and was highly regarded as an authority in its operation. My
contact with him, as a 1st Lt., was in the capacity of an
assistant Squadron Operations Officer and an instructor pilot.
I would have meetings with him a couple times a week until
late Jan. 43. At that time we both received orders to
report to the 387th Bomb Group-a unit that was in the early stages
of formation for overseas. His orders specified his assignment as
S-3, Group Operations Officer-my order specified as Asst. Group
Operations Officer. (I have often wondered as to whether he was
instrumental in selecting me or not. He never said and I never
asked) I don’t know if Tom knew I was from Iowa or not. He would
have access to my records when I would not have access to his. A
discussion of our backgrounds never took place.
“Now in our new jobs, I worked
directly for him from Feb. 43 until 17 April 44 at which time he
elevated to be Commander of the 387th.
“In his position of Group Operations
Officer he was responsible for organizing all of our combat
missions, ie. crew briefing, airplane formations, routes to target,
assembly procedures and emergency procedures. The two of us worked
together as one-catching sleep in the office. A typical day would
consist of receiving the next day’s targets from 10pm throughout the
night. We had to work with intelligence for route information;
material for aircraft availability; squadron operations for crew
availability; armament for loading of guns in the specific aircraft;
ordnance for bomb loads in these a/c; lead crew assignments;
specific position of each aircraft in the formation; plane takeoff
time to make a specific time over target; and brief the crews on
what to expect in the way of enemy action.
“In addition to working all night
Col. Tom would fly lead aircraft for the entire group
(periodically). That would normally consist of two 18 ship
formations and sometimes three 18 ship formations. He never asked
anyone to do anything that he wouldn’t do. Statistics as to the
number of mission that he flew; the targets etc. are unknown to me
but should be reflected in his personnel records…
“Col. Seymour developed the
confidence in my capabilities to the extent that he was instrumental
in my promotions to Capt. and Major, plus becoming the Group
Operations Officer when he took over command of the entire group.
“Col. Seymour was an outstanding
pilot. He knew the B-26 and the potential dangers involved. I really
don’t know the cause of his crash. I do know that he passed over the
airfield on single engine (the other engine was feathered-shut
down). He made a 180 degree turn to fly downwind parallel to the run
way and he crashed on that downwind leg. I don’t know why he didn’t
land instead of flying on single engine over the runway. I don’t
recall any radio transmission that indicated he was in trouble and
can only surmise that he flew over the field to alert the crash
crew-fire wagon to be on alert and to let the tower know that he
will be making an emergency landing.
“His death was a great loss to out group,
and to me personally, since we had worked together so long. I
experienced three of these tragedies during my tour, Col. Seymour
and two of my 4 man tent mates. You never forget having to pack up
the personal effects of your close buddies.”
Col. Robert Keller was a squadron C.O. (a Capt.) in
Col. Tom’s Bomb Group. He recalled:
“We first met when he (Tom) was assigned to
the 387th Bomb Group as Group Operations Officer, in charge of all
the flight training and operations of the group. He was a handsome
officer, always meticulously dressed, and a very capable and
demanding officer. He was later promoted to the position of Deputy
“On April 12, 1944 the Group Commander,
Col. Caldwell, was leading the Group on a mission to Dunkirk when he
was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and all hands were lost. Col.
Seymour was selected to be the new Group Commander.
“Not much is known about the accident on
the night of July 17 when about 1030 (pm) hours he (Tom) crashed
near the airfield while flying on one engine.”
The Telegraph Herald ran a front
page article on Tom’s death which in part read:
Col. Seymour Dies In Crash
27-Year-Old Dubuquer Killed In England
Col. Thomas Martin Seymour, 27, United
States Army Air Forces, son of Mr. and Mrs. V. (Victor) F.
Seymour, 1710 Asbury Street, a B-26 Martin Marauder pilot and
commanding officer of the Tiger Stripe Marauder Group
“Somewhere in England,” was killed July 17 while returning to
his base after an administrative flight to another airdrome,
when his plane developed engine trouble and went out of
control into a crash three miles from the field.
This news came Monday morning to Col.
Seymour’s parents from Brig. Gen. Samuel B. Anderson,
Headquarters, Ninth Bomber Command, who was Col. Seymour’s
commanding officer. The Seymours have not had official War
Department news of their son’s casualty.
Eulogized by General
Brig. Gen. Anderson’s letter read as follows: “The War
Department will have informed you by now of your son’s death
in an aircraft accident which occurred in England on the
evening of 17 July. I realize that nothing I can say will
alleviate your grief but I want you to know that your loss is
shared by myself and by all your son’s many friends in this
command. Ninth Bomber Command and the Army Air Force have lost
an excellent Group Commander and an outstanding leader.
“I am sure you would like to know how the accident occurred.
Tom was returning to base after an administrative flight to
another airdrome when he experienced engine trouble. He called
the control tower and reported he was going to pass over the
field, turn on his bad engine so as to take advantage of its
remaining power and make a normal two-engine landing. He did
pass over the field but lost control of the airplane shortly
thereafter and crashed about three miles from the field. He
was instantly killed in the crash.
“Since Tom joined our command a year ago,” the Dubuquer’s
commanding officer continued, “I have been in close and
continual association with him. As a great pilot for
aggressiveness in combat and gentlemanly qualities, Tom
commanded the warmest allegiance and regard of the men who
worked with him...”
“You have my deepest sympathy in you
loss. No one can replace Tom and I shall never forget him.”
In England 14 Months
He was last home in August, 1942. He was
a member of St. Anthony’s parish where a requiem high mass of
memoriam is being said next Saturday morning at 8 o’clock.
The last two letters Col. Seymour’s
parents received from him were dated July 16 and 17. In the
former one, he stated that he had just found out that he was
the youngest colonel in command of a B-26 group over there.
The letter of July 17, the day he was killed, arrived in
Dubuque five days after it had been written.
Surviving, other than his parents, are
his wife, a Women’s Army Corps corporal stationed “Somewhere
in Australia”, a Philadelphia girl to whom he was married
there on Dec. 31, 1942; three sisters, Pat and Mary at home,
and Mrs. James (Ann) Martin, Fort Belvoir, Va.; and several
aunts and uncles.
The Dubuque pilot was termed “one of the best B-26 pilots in
the business”, and Ninth Air Force headquarters had stated
that, under his tutelage, many Marauder pilots at his base
“learned to handle the fast medium bomber. He had been awarded
the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and the
Distinguished Flying Cross and had figured prominently in the
briefing of all medium bomber groups in the invasion of
A recent story about Col. Seymour in the
field paper. ‘The Bombay,’ applauded the Dubuquer for
maintenance of his high standard of skill and ability since
his transfer to the Ninth Air Force group in England.
tragic government snafu, Tom’s father learned of his death over the
radio. Victor sold subscriptions to the Dubuque Telegraph Herald to
farmers in the rural areas. He stopped alongside the road to eat his
paper sack lunch and listen to the noon news when he learned of his
Official Report of the accident provides
little information on Col. Tom’s crash:
Pilot’s Mission - Cross Country
Nature of accident – Crash into trees and open field.
Cause of accident – One engine feathered. Apparently
there was a loss of power in the good engine and the pilot was
unable to hold altitude to land on the airdome.
Description of accident – Pilot called in while still
several minutes from field stating that he was on single
engine. Eye witness report that the airplane passed over field
with one engine feathered and appeared to be going around for
a landing. On what would normally be a base leg, airplane lost
altitude and crashed. Cause of accident is undetermined. This
board has no further recommendation other than the memorandum
which states that a minimum crew of Pilot, co-pilot, Engineer
and Radio-operator be complied with on all flights.
Lt. Col. Wright’s father was shot down in “El Capitan” in
May 1944 but was told about Col. Tom’s crash from others when he
returned after the war. Col. Wright wrote me what he had heard about
Col. Tom’s crash: “this is unconfirmed; it is only from 50+ years’
memory: Col. Seymour took an aircraft up and was doing a demo flight
and made several low passes. The last pass was a bit low and the
props impacted the ground at approximately the 3000 foot marker and
the aircraft stopped at about the 5000 foot marker and burst into
After the war, Col. Tom’s remains were returned from Cambridge,
England and interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 12,
Grave 1242 on July 23, 1948.
During the war General Jimmy Doolittle said that the Group Commander
was the most important job in the Air Force.