Des Allemands writer’s book leads to museum
After penning his first nonfiction book about Louisiana pilot Capt. Fletcher E. Adams, who was shot down in German territory before being tortured and murdered by German civilians in 1944, Maddox has spent the last year setting the groundwork for a museum to honor his hero.
The museum, which will be located in Adams’ hometown of Ida, will be dedicated on July 24 by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Adams was a part of the 357th Fighting Group, which was the first P-51 Mustang outfit in the 8th Air Force. They were considered one of the best fighter groups ever produced by the United States. Known as the “Yoxford Boys,” a name given to them the day they arrived at their new base by German propagandist Lord Haw Haw in his daily radio address, the group would produce more aces than any other fighter group in the Air Force during World War II.
And while the group included several well-known pilots, such as Ted Conlin, Jesse Frey, Joe Shea, and Gen. Chuck Yeager, who became the first person to break the sound barrier, Adams was the leading ace of the group when he was shot down.
Maddox said that a museum to honor the 357th Fighting Group was actually an afterthought and that he was just focused on getting his book published. But while writing “Bleeding Sky: The story of Captain Fletcher E. Adams and the 357th Fighter Group.” Maddox received memorabilia and art related to the 357th from Merle Olmsted, who was a squadron mate of Adams and served as the official historian of the group.
“And on the day that Merle Olmsted passed away, I received a letter from his wife stating that Merle was leaving me his ‘375th Fighter Group stuff,’” Maddox said. “Later, Col. C.E. “Bud” Anderson of the 357th and his son, Jim, began sending me more and more autographed art, memorabilia, relics of Mustangs from the group and models.
“Other members of the group began doing the same.”
Maddox said that by the time the book was finished, he had received and catalogued enough exhibits to fill Ida’s existing museum several times over. When the idea to turn Ida’s museum into one honoring Adams was brought in front of the town council, they voted to rechristen the town’s museum and name it the Captain Fletcher E. Adams 357th Fighter Group Museum.
The museum will display original art, autographed art prints of the aircraft used by the group, uniforms of the pilots, autographed photographs and relics from the 357th Fighter Group Mustangs that crashed in Germany. Medals, wings and campaign medals from the group will also be housed at the museum.
“We even have an Army Air Force patch made by Native American crew chief Roger Stops’ mother in the Crow Agency in Montana during 1943,” Maddox said. “It is made of colored beads sewn onto deer skin and is probably the only such war relic in the world.”
Maddox said that even though he knew the museum would be a reality someday, he never expected to have the 357th Fighter Group pilots and crewmembers in Ida to dedicate it. Maddox is especially excited that Yeager will be at the museum’s dedication.
“He read my book and commented that he really enjoyed it, and soon after that, he and his wife Victoria agreed to join the other members of the 357th at the dedication ceremony,” Maddox said. “This will be the first 357th reunion that the Yeagers have attended in years.
“To me, the fact that we came up with an idea that became an excuse for the Yoxford Boys to come together one more time before they all ‘close the hanger doors’ is the most satisfying of all.”
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