Herbert Clayton Estep, Jr. never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.
He was born on February 18, 1918 in Maryland. His parents Herbert and Anna were also both born in Maryland. His father worked as a farmer and later as a lumber mill-wright. Still later he was a postmaster. Herbert had a younger brother and a younger sister. By 1940 Herbert Jr. had completed four years of high school and was working as a cable splitter while living with his parents.
He enlisted in the Army Air Forces on May 9, 1941. He became a first lieutenant and pilot in the 310th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 86th Fighter-Bomber Group, 12th Air Force. This unit started off in 1942 as a fighter group using A-24 Banshee and A-31 Vengeance aircraft. The results were not up to expectations so these were changed to A-36 Apaches (a P-51 modified as a dive-bomber) when they became available and the unit designation was changed to a fighter-bombardment group. The unit operated out of North Africa and provided close air support to ground units in Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy.
By late August 1943 the 86th FBG was stationed in Barcelona, Sicily. In September the focus of the unit was to disrupt German communications in Northern Italy. Lt. Estep's last mission was flown on September 12, 1943. Reports say his plane was hit by flak near Casalbuno or Legonegro, Italy. His plane failed to return to base and he was listed as missing in action. I don't know if his body was ever found. Lt. Estep was recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross. I don't know if it was awarded or not.
His grave is at Mount Zion United Methodist Church Cemetery in Lothian, Maryland.
Last year on this date I profiled Richard McMullen, 6th Armored Division, who died in the Battle of the Bulge. You can read about Richard here.
On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!
I created this video to explain why I started this project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY.
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