Lieutenant Claude A. Diffenderffer, Jr. was born on May 28, 1921 in Baltimore, Maryland. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps at the age of 20. After extensive pilot training, he was commissioned a First Lieutenant and sent to the Pacific Theater. He was part of the 82nd Reconnaissance Squadron, 71st Reconnaissance Group. He flew a P-39Q.
Lieutenant Diffenderffer was shot down on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1944 while on a strafing mission. The plane he was piloting was hit by ack-ack fire over Ulingan Harbor in New Guinea. He was in formation with 3 other planes flying low when his group commander realized the ground fire was upon them and ordered his planes to get out. Lieutenant Diffenderffer's plane was hit by enemy fire and nothing further was seen or heard of the plane except debris and oil on the water surface. His remains were never recovered.
Lieutenant Diffenderffer was 22 years old at the time of his death and just six weeks shy of his 23rd birthday.
His commanding officer sent a letter to Lieutenant Diffenderffer's father following the loss which stated: ” Your son was very well liked by everyone who came in contact with him. His straightforwardness and unassuming courage and truthfulness couldn't help but build up a great amount of respect for him as a person. as a pilot and member of the team that goes to make up a flight and a squadron, he was a marvelous specimen of American youth. In plain words – he was great guy – whom I, as well as all this squadron, am proud to have known and to have flown with. This war has proven the quality of a great number of men and although I know he will never receive the acclaim he deserves; just between you and I, he is the kind of man that will never be forgotten by those who knew and flew with him.”
Lieutenant Diffenderffer was finally given a full military farewell on June 16, 1995 at Arlington National Cemetery, 51 years after his death. Prior to the Arlington service in 1995, nothing had been done to commemorate his short life or his heroic death given in supreme sacrifice and service to his country. His memorial headstone is in Section MH, Grave # 313 -B.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard