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The Last Sortie

[Photo] Paris Hodge Fleming, Jr.

Paris Hodge Fleming, Jr., 777th

30 July 2009


   Paris Hodge Fleming, Jr. passed away 30 July 2009. He was born on 5 May 1923 to Paris Hodge Fleming, Sr. and Dovie Fielden Fleming. He graduated from Rule High School in 1941. He worked for the Alcoa Aluminum Company prior to enlisting in the Army Air Corps. He eventually retired from the Maremont Corp.
   Paris volunteered for service during World War II. He served as a gunner aboard a B-24 Liberator in the 15th Army Air Corps, in the 464th Bombardment Group's 777th Bomb Squadron. He was based with the Group in Pantanella, Italy. His military decorations include an air medal with 3 oak leaf clusters, a purple heart, the presidential unit citation, and the European - African - Middle Eastern Campaign medal with 7 battle stars.
   Paris was a member of the Wallace Memorial Baptist Church and the Katherine Fortner Sunday School Class, Powell Masonic Lodge #582 F&A.M., VFW, and the American Legion.
   Paris was preceded in death by his parents; his wife of 48 years, Kathleen Petty Fleming; sister, Anna Fleming; and brothers, Clyde and Ralph Fleming. He is survived by Jean Nichols Miller Fleming; daughter, Kathy Chambers (Julius) of St. Cloud, Fla.; sons, Michael Fleming (Brenda) of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Patrick Fleming (Marilyn) of Memphis, Tenn.; sister, Helen Brooks; brother, Claude Fleming; granddaughters, Karen Guererro and Suzanne Fleming both of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Mae Cordell and Anna Frazier of St. Cloud, Fla.; eight great grandchildren; 1 great-great granddaughter; several nieces and nephews and a host of friends.
   The family extends a special thanks to the staff at NHC Knoxville and Caris Hospice for the loving care provided to Paris. Memorial services were held at the Mynatt Funeral Home in Fountain City. Rev. Kent Williams and Rev. Earl Wilson officiated. Family and friends met at Highland Memorial Cemetery for interment. Honorary pallbearers were Mike Nichols, Patrick Nichols, Jeremy Frazier, Austin Cordell, Zachary Samples, and Gary Brooks.

   A few notes from Paris' eldest son, Michael
   My father was on the the last mission flown by the 15th AAF. He was also on an aircraft that crash-landed on 15 August 1944. On page 70, of the book The 464th Bomb Group During World War lI written by Michael Hill and Betty Karle, there is a photo of the plane crash Dad was in. The a/c serial number was 42-51082. They were part of Operation Dragoon (pages 76-77), the invasion of Southern France. I believe this was their third day mission to that specific target when they crashed.
   He saw Black-N go down. It bothered him that they were killed on their last mission. He said, "That mission was supposed to be a milk run." He always thought that there were no survivors - until he saw the 464th Bomb Group web site. [Ed. note: You may download the .pdf file of that event here.]
   He told me about another mission over Vienna. He said that the first wave of planes dropped their bombs. Anti-aircraft gun fire erupted from the ground. All of the first wave planes made it out. My dad was in the second wave. Sixteen of the 28 Liberators were shot down. Two crashed before getting back to base. My dad's plane was shot up so badly that they were directed to land at an abandoned air field. The crew counted over 300 holes in the plane.
   He also told me about a German fighter flying through a B-24 that was right next to Dad's. This happened on his very first mission. Talk about a baptism by fire. On 15 August 1944, his plane crashed shortly after take off. He was credited for pulling a fellow gunner to safety before the explosion. All survived with injuries.
   I proudly display his Purple Heart in my den.
   Like many veterans, my dad volunteered. Before the war, he was working at the Alcoa Aluminum Company. He was exempt from military service due to his job being essential to the war effort. My granny was so upset when he volunteered anyway.
   After all, Tennessee is the Volunteer State.
   When it was time to come back home, he chose to come back on a Liberty Ship. I guess he had enough flying. It was over fifty years before he flew again. I miss him terribly. He was a good man.
   Mike Fleming

Read more remarks from the Fleming family at Paris' memorial service.

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