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Joe Byrd


Date and Place of Birth: January 9, 1918 Mooreville, TX
Date and Place of Death:    November 8, 1942 Tafaraoui airfield, Algeria
Baseball Experience: College
Position: Catcher
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Military Unit: 31st Fighter Group USAAF
Area Served: Mediterranean Theater of Operations

Joe C. Byrd, Jr., son of Joe and Pearl Byrd, was born in Mooreville, Texas in 1918. He attended Baylor University where he played on the varsity football and baseball teams. Two of his teammates at Baylor, Jack Lummus and Jack Casey, lost their lives in World War II.

Following graduation, Byrd entered military service in July 1941. He was one of eight Baylor graduates who earned their pilot's wings at Kelly Field, Texas, in February 1942. He went on to serve as a second lieutenant with the 31st Fighter Group, USAAF, arriving in Gibraltar in the Mediterranean in late October 1942. On November 8, 1942, flying desert camouflaged Spitfire Vs with specially designed air intakes for desert operations, the 31st Fighter Group left Gibraltar bound for Oran. With known Vichy French aircraft in the area, the first Spitfires of the 31st FG led by Colonel John R. Hawkins arrived over Tafaraoui airfield outside Oran for landings. Colonel Hawkins landed, however, Second Lieutenant Byrd, who was his wingman, was shot down and killed by a Dewotine 520 of the Vichy French airforce. The Dewotine had been misidentified as a British Hawker Hurricane and it attacked just as Byrd crossed the airfield boundary with his gear and flaps down. The remaining airborne Spitfires gave chase, destroying three of the four French airplanes.

Joe Byrd, who was posthumously awarded the Air Medal, is buried at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial at Carthage, Tunisia. On January 17, 1943, a memorial tribute was held for Lt. Byrd at the Mooreville Methodist Church.

Baylor baseball 1940

Baylor baseball team in 1940. Joe Byrd is back row, third from left

Baylor baseball 1941

Baylor baseball team in 1941. Joe Byrd is back row, third from right

Thanks to Astrid van Erp for help with this biography.

Date Added July 23, 2012 Updated August 8, 2017

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