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Neal Hepner

Military

Neal Hepner in 1943 was an Air Force Cadet at Augusta Georgia. He vividly remembers being told to be in control of his aircraft rather than have the aircraft dictate terms to him. Nonetheless on a training flight his control stick jammed after a half-roll maneouver, but jerked free just in time to enable him to land. Apparently a microphone had snapped off and the cable wrapped itself around the pilot's control stick. His first 'near miss'.

In early March 1945 he arrived at RAF Duxford with 19 other rookie pilots. On being told that 20 new men were joining the Group the welcoming Major said 'Too bad, we lost 22 last month'. Hepner was only to complete 4 missions before the war in Europe was at an end. His first with the 84th Squadron to Pilzen in Czechoslovakia - and led by Colonel Landers- was ground strafing 'targets of opportunity'. Hepner claimed 5 planes damaged on the ground plus a Junkers 52 which blew up. A further mission was escorting RAF Lancasters of 617 Squadron on their way home after bombing Hitler's hideaway at Bertechsgarden.

He recalls his roommate's modus operandi for ridding himself of pursuing German fighters over low water; it required looking backwards to avoid ditching. In putting this into practise over the English countryside he managed to shear off the mast of a sailing vessel. He radioed a distress call and Hepner escorted him back to base, a section of the mast buried in the wing. Not the only mishap for this particular pilot, he was reduced to the ranks for a series of misdemeanors.

In his short time at Duxford Hepner was impressed by the Officers' Mess and living accommodation. In the RAF cloakroom each officer had his own coat peg with name, rank, decorations and degrees!. Although not there long enough to have his personal P-51 he appreciated the efforts of the ground crews and says they were like 'family', very concerned about the welfare of their particular pilots.

Post VE Day he signed up for India but was not posted and was stil at Duxford on VJ Day. At some stage he went briefly to Austria and by then had enough points to go home. Post war Hepner worked for the Ford Scientific Laboratory and was an expert witness on engineering failures. He flew his own Beechcraft aeroplane and was still airborne in 2003.

Service

Units served with

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
17 August 2018 14:05:01 general ira snapsorter Changes to biography
Sources

Biography completed by historian Helen Millgate. Information sourced from correspondence files and articles held in an IWM research collection related to the acquisition of various items and ephemera belonging to Neil Hepner.

Date Contributor Update
22 July 2015 13:00:44 general ira snapsorter Changes to highest rank and events
Sources

Merged with duplicate entry to include details from:
Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia;
Unit roster in the book DUXFORD DIARY by the Duxford Aviation Society, 1989 edition

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:20:28 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Ted Damick, VIII Fighter Command pilots list

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