Lt. Col. Edward C. McSorley, flew in D-Day attack

April 18, 1994|By Karin Remesch | Karin Remesch,Contributing Writer

Lt. Col. Edward C. McSorley, a retired Air Force fighter pilot who flew the lead plane in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in World War II, died Wednesday of a heart attack after collapsing on a street near his Hampton home. He was 70.

He and his wife, the former Dorothy Brittingham-Cecil, had planned to attend the 50th anniversary of the invasion in June.

"I'm just thankful that we were able to go to Normandy 10 years ago for the 40th anniversary," said Mrs. McSorley. "We were standing there on the beach, and he was telling me of dropping the first bomb from the lead plane.

"It was a very solemn moment for him, remembering that first bomb and all those that followed and the many people that died."

The plane Colonel McSorley flew in the invasion is on exhibit in the Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, Mrs. McSorley said.

In addition to his World War II service, Colonel McSorley also fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

He was commissioned in 1942 and co-piloted his first Air Force flight with Gen. James Harold Doolittle.

As a major in the Korean conflict, Colonel McSorley flew Douglas B-26 bombers. When his plane was severely damaged during an attack on a heavily defended Communist position, he still continued the attack and dropped his bomb load on the target, knocking out five gun emplacements. For his achievement, he was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Other military awards included the Legion of Merit, Air Medal with five Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with one Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation.

Colonel McSorley served as a squadron commander in the 3345th Air Base Group at Chanute Air Force Base, in Rantoul, Ill., before being assigned as director of operations for the Technical Training Air Force, in Gulfport, Miss.

After graduating from the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Va., where he specialized in the Japanese language, he served from 1960 to 1963 as chief adviser for the Japanese Air Self Defense Force at the United States Embassy in Tokyo, Japan.

He returned to the United States in 1963 to serve as chief of the operations services division for the Technical Training Center, in Amarillo, Texas.

He was commander of the 37th Fighter-Bomber Squadron in Vietnam for a year before being assigned in 1966 as chief of the Plans Division at the Air Training Command, Randolph Air Force Base, near San Antonio.

Before retiring in 1967 from a 27-year career with the Air Force, Colonel McSorley was commander of the 3253rd Pilot Training Squadron at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Born in Atlantic City, N.J., Colonel McSorley came to Baltimore in 1940 to work for the Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River. He lived in Baltimore during his early military career. For the past 10 years, Colonel McSorley lived in the Towson area, where he owned and operated Valley Pet Service, an emergency animal transportation service.

Colonel McSorley was a graduate of the Maryland Institute, College of Art, and the University of Nebraska in Omaha, where )) he received a bachelor of science degree in business administration and management.

After retiring from the Air Force, Colonel McSorley spent 15 years the Cayman Islands as an administrative consultant and superintendent for Mariculture Ltd., a turtle farm. While in the British West Indies, he also was president and general manager of Harbour House Marina, a designated flight examiner for the Grand Cayman Island government, and director and chief pilot for Executive Air Services.

Throughout his military and civilian career, Colonel McSorley logged close to 15,500 flight hours.

His 16-year-old grandson, Alexander Mirot, shares his love of flying, said Whitney Garcia, Colonel McSorley's stepdaughter.

"His legacy will be carried on," added Ms. Garcia, "Just days before his death, dad was able to watch from the ground as Alex took his first flying lesson -- a Christmas present from grandpa."

Services were to be conducted at 1 p.m. today at Evans Chapel of Chimes, 2325 York Road, in Timonium. Interment with full military honor will be at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

In addition to his wife, stepdaughter and grandson, Colonel McSorley is also survived by his stepmother, Helen McSorley; a daughter, Sharon Masuda, and a stepsister, Anita Evans.

The family suggested contributions could be made to the Edward C. McSorley Legacy of Flight Fun, Maryland National Bank, 1301 York Road, Lutherville.

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