Pottawattamie County

Lt. Thomas G. Downs


Special to The Nonpareil

CAMP MACKALL, N.C. –2nd Lt. Thomas Downs, son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas L. Downs of Underwood, is among the officers of the air force’s troop carrier command participating here this week in an entire division of airborne troops. He is assigned to a troop carrier groups as a pilot.

The battle exercises will involve movement of fully-equipped officers and men in troop carrying gliders and huge transport aircraft. A demonstration of procedure followed in evacuating wounded men from battlefields to base hospitals by air also is scheduled.

The troop carrier command is the branch of the army air forces charged with carrying men and equipment into battle areas through the world. The giant C-47 twin-engine planes used are a military version of the familiar Douglas airliner.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Thursday, December 09, 1943, Page 2



It’s another story of a reunion in England for men in service – Stephen Wurtz and Thomas Downs, both second lieutenants in the army air force.

Boyhood chums at their farm homes near Underwood, they resided in sweet peace for years, welcoming the coming seasons with the bountiful new experiences each held in store for them. In the spring, together they hunted the first wild geese and ducks, autumn brought the ever welcomed harvest season and wintertime, the sleigh rides, toboganning (sic) and other out-door sports.

After Dec. 7, 1941, and Pearl Harbor they promptly enlisted in the army to “do their bits for Uncle Sam.”

Both reported to an air base for pre-aviation cadet training with the hope of “going through together.” But here their hopes were shattered as the army saw fit to transfer them to different locations.

On May 20, 1943, Thomas was commissioned a second lieutenant at Marfa, Tex.; and two months later, July 15, “Steve” was commissioned at Childress, Tex.

Met Just Once

Save for a five-minute reunion at the Union Station in Omaha in July, the boys had not seen each other since their pre-aviation cadet training.

Credit for this reunion is granted Steve’s father. Stephen called from Council Bluffs, “I’m in town, Dad, but take your time about coming in as I think I’ll clean up a bit.” Dad had different ideas – hastily he sped into Council Bluffs and explained that Tom was at the Union Station waiting to catch a train back to his base.

“By showing a little lack of consideration for the speed limit” as Steve’s father described it, Steve “made it to Omaha about five minutes ahead of the train time.”

After the reunion there the boys did not see each other until March 16, 1944, when they met in or near London, England at which time they were granted a two-day leave together. “It was our most wonderful experience during the whole war,” Steve wrote in a letter to his parents.

The son of Mr. and Mrs. Joe Wurtz of Underwood, he has 13 bombing missions over Germany to his credit, wears an oak-leaf cluster to his air medal, and a bronze star to his ribbon designating the European theater of operations for having been a bombardier in one of the first bombing crews to Berlin.

Downs, a co-pilot on a DC-47, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Downs of Underwood. His wife, a native of Bentley, is now employed in the censor bureau in New York. He is on inactive duty at the present time.

Both were graduated from the Underwood high school in 1940.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Monday, May 01, 1944, Page 5


A NINTH AIR FORCE TROOP CARRIER BASE, EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS – 2nd Lt. Thomas G. Downs, of Underwood, was among the first pilots to fly a glider towing, paratrooper carrying C-47 plan over enemy territory on “D” day, taking part in the initial aerial assault upon the enemy. He has been awarded the Air Medal.

“Everything was S. O. P.’ said Lt. Downs, “and we got on our way for what we knew was ‘IT.’ The invasion was in progress, and I was more excited on the way than when we were in sight of the flak and tracers. Two searchlights caught us, and there was a sudden rattling like hail on a tin roof. We were hit, and nothing happened. A rainstorm on the way back caught us, and we had our closest call then. A few small holes and one large one in the left wing was our reward on this first trip. I really got quite a buzz out of it, and saw a good deal of what was happening.”

Lt. Downs is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Downs of Underwood. His wife, Mrs. Martha Mary Downs, lives in New York City. Before entering the service, he spent most of his time on his father’s farm.

The 9th Air Force, to which his organization has been assigned since arrival in the European theater of operation, figured prominently in the airborne invasion of the Cherboug  Peninsula and is now U. S. component of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force. Along with planes and gliders from his unit, more than 900 9th troop Carrier Command craft were in the formation which dropped the first allied troops on the Cherboug Peninsula. Newest of troop carrier organizations, the 9th Troop Carrier Command is commanded by Brig. Gen. Paul L. Williams, leader of the troop carrier flights in the airborne invasions of Africa, Sicily and Italy.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Sunday, August 27, 1944, Page 17

Underwood Pilot Is Killed In France
Special to The Nonpareil

UNDERWOOD – 1st Lt. Thomas G. Downs, 25, son of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Downs, was killed Aug. 27 in France, according to word received here.

Lt. Downs formerly served with the air force ferry command, but recently joined a combat unit. He was a pilot.

Before entering the service over two years ago, Downs farmed with his father. He was a graduate of the Underwood high school.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by his widow, living in New York City.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Friday, September 15, 1944, Page 7

Body of Underwood Pilot Is Returned

Special to The Nonpareil

UNDERWOOD – Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Downs of Underwood have been notified that the body of their son, 1st Lt. Thomas G. Downs, 25, is enroute to the United States for reburial aboard the army transport Barney Kirschbaum. The department of the army announced Thursday that 6,785 bodies were in the shipment, 72 of them from Iowa.

Thomas George Downs was born Oct. 16, 1919, a few miles south of Underwood. He lived there most of his life. He was a graduate of the Underwood high school. In 1942 he enlisted in the air force, received his wings at Marfa, Tex., May 20, 1943, and went overseas in January, 1944, with the 9th air force. He was a ferry command pilot, later became a combat pilot and was killed over Europe. He was married to Martha Schorsch of Bentley before going overseas.

Survivors are the parents; two brothers, John J. Downs of Lincoln, Neb., and William E. Downs of Council Bluffs; four sisters, Mrs. Leonard Hill, Mrs. Harold Anderson and Barbara Downs, all of Council Bluffs, and Mrs. Valeo Christensen of Neola; and a grandmother, Mrs. B. Graybill of Blencoe.

Also being returned in the shipment is Pvt. Gilbert W. Hansen, army, whose next of kin the army lists as Arnada L. Schraeder of Denison.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Thursday, March 10, 1949, Page 17 (photo included)



The body of 1st Lt. Thomas G. Downs, 24, Underwood, who was killed in combat in the European theater of war Aug. 27, 1944, will arrive in Council Bluffs Wednesday and be taken to Woodring funeral home pending arrangements for services.

He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Downs of Underwood. Neola American Legion post will be in charge of the military services. Burial will be at Underwood.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Council Bluffs, Iowa, Sunday, April 24, 1949, Page 20

NOTE: 1st Lt. Thomas George Downs was interred at Downsville Cemetery, Pottawattamie County, Iowa.