Leroy Joseph "Joe" Morsheimer

RCAF   &   USAAF   Captain

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Joe Morsheimer

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Joe joined 611 Squadron on 27 February 1942 after training in Canada and at No 59 OTU at Crosby-on-Eden, Carlisle where he trained on Hurricanes prior to posting to a squadron.
He reached 611 Squadron (now based at Drem in Scotland for a rest) with a total of 121.0 solo flying hours in a mixture of Finch, Harvard Mk II, Master 3 and Hurricane Mk 1 & II aircraft but no Spitfire experience. Joe converted to Spits at Drem with his first flight in Spitfire Vb BL593 on 2 March for 20 minutes of circuits and bumps.

His first operational sortie was a scramble and patrol on 26 March. On 29 March, before a bombshell was dropped on 611 by HQ 13 Group, Fighter Command, telling them that 20 pilots were to be posted overseas with no information about where or why. Joe and the rest of the flight ended up in Gibraltar, embarking on the Cruiser HMS Charybdis and transferring to HMS Eagle at Gibraltar to fly Spitfires off the deck and take them to beleaguered Malta as part of Operation Bowery.

On 9 May 1942 he flew tropical-modified long-range Spitfire Vc BR169 off HMS Eagle and flew in a formation of eight aircraft to Malta, 700 miles with a flying time of 3.55 hours, landing at Luqa airfield. He notes that 16 [?] plus 16 Me109's intercepted the formation and two Spitfires were shot down in the circuit and another crashed on landing at Luqa. Joe was unscathed. He flew back to Gibraltar on 17 May in a BOAC CW-20 named St. Louis

Again he left Gibraltar on HMS Eagle and on 6 June, when west of Algiers, took off, this time in Spitfire Vc BR315 for another delivery to Malta. This ferry trip, of 750 miles, was flown in a formation of nine aircraft and took four hours. They were again intercepted and jumped by two Me109s west of Gozo. He notes F/S Foo McPherson was shot down and bailed out and Blue Section [?] and Red 2 were also shot down. He landed at Hal Far airfield and returned to Gibraltar on 6 June in an RAF Lockheed. The Squadron Diary for June states that Joe Morsheimer and Sgt Patterson returned to the Squadron on the 27th and it reports that they had returned to "Gib" due to their lack of operational experience.


From Gloversville, NY
Went to Canada to join the RCAF in 1941
Trained at
7 EFTS Windsor &
14 SFTS Aylmer
Graduated a Sgt/Pilot
Posted overseas & further trained at
No.59 OTU (course 12) at Crosby on Eden
Flew for the RCAF (w/ 611 Sqn RAF) then
Transferred to the USAAF


Training in Canada

Joe Morsheimer  
Joe Morsheimer & Nickolson
Joe Morsheimer & "Nickolson"

Joe in a Harvard  
Joe with a Harvard
Joe in & with a Harvard

Dick De Bourke, Joe & R.W. "Robbie" Robertson. The trio met while training in Canada & would become best of friends. Unfortunately, Dick was KIA but Joe & Robbie stayed friends after the war & would take turns visiting each other. One year in N.Y. & another in Ottawa were Robbie lived after the war.


Joe & Robbie


To Malta in Joe's Words

"In late December or early January 1942, my squadron was taken out of 11 Group and sent to Drem, Scotland for rest and acquiring new Spit Vc's. We had been there a short time when our Squadron Leader told 16 of us that we were going on a special mission of the utmost secrecy. We were to be ready to leave the base the next afternoon. We left by bus and were to talk to no one.
That evening, we (16 pilots) arrived at Liverpool and were placed in a building for the night. Next morning, we were told we were going on board a new cruiser that would be going on a shakedown cruise. As it developed, the name of the vessel was the Charybdis, which dropped us off at Gibraltar to a wing commander who briefed us on the mission to get 16 Spitfires to Malta, which was under siege. The carrier, HMS Eagle, could carry only 16 Spitfires to Malta as the wings could not be folded. We could only ground test our engines and controls in an old seaplane hanger. The planes to Malta, when I was involved, always came off the assembly line direct to Gibraltar cased up by boat and in a conservative group of numbers. There were also too many pilots on Malta to fly the few planes serviceable and the most experienced pilots, usually higher rank, (got them) as I was a Sgt. Pilot...
On my 1st trip, we lost 5 planes (1 of which was interned in North Africa) and on my 2nd trip 6 or 7 planes of a group (16 planes) failed to arrive at Malta. One or two I heard were vectored by Germans into Sicily. I also know we woke up before dawn and looked out a port hole and there was the USS Wasp with a load of Spitfires on deck (32 was the memory). They started taking off after us for Malta. Lost several over Pantelleria by 109s, I was told as they began to land after us. Probably I should have written a book but I'm 75 years old now and too late for those things."

L. Joseph Morsheimer (1918 - 2000) Gloversville, NY USA


611 squadron RAF
611 Squadron 1942 - Joe is standing in front, 2nd from the right


Joe in USAAC service
Joe, now in USAAC service, is seen here sporting his RCAF & USAAC wings


No Known Victories




Thanks to son Fred for the photos & infos !

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