Richard W. Gilkey, flying officer in the royal air force, who worked for the state department for a year following his graduation from Oregon State college in 1940, has been reported missing in action. Word was received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J.S. Gilkey of route 1, Dayton. Mr. Gilkey is on the staff of the state tax commission. His sister, Dr. Helen Gilkey, is professor of botany at Oregon State college.
A letter from his wing command, H. Law-Wright, of the RAF stationed in North Africa, gave the details of his last mission, as far as they were known. His plane was delayed to flying duty over the northwest Mediterranean on December 28 and evidently was crippled by enemy fire and failed to make port. Wing Commander Law-Wright’s letter said:
“It is with great regret that I am now writing to tell you of the circumstances in which your son was posted missing at about midday on the 28th December 1943.
He was captain of an aeroplane which took off on a low level reconnaissance mission for enemy shipping in the northwest Mediterranean. Towards the end of his patrol a message was received from him stating that he was intending to make a landing on one engine at an aerodrome in Corsica. No further word was received from his aircraft and its precise situation was unknown. A very thorough search of the whole area in which he could have been was immediately carried out, both by fighters and by aircraft specially employed on air sea rescue operations. I am sorry to say that these failed to reveal any sign of your son or his crew, and I can therefore offer no hope of his having been picked up.
Dick was one of the most capable pilots that we have on the squadron, and I feel sure that if anything could have been to save his crew and himself, he would have done it. He was a leader in every sense of the word, and I expected great things of him in his operations against the enemy.
During the time that he was with us, he made himself very popular with everyone and he is now sadly missed by all of us.”
Gilkey, who graduated from Lincoln high, Portland, before attending OSC, enlisted in the RAF in 1941, He trained in Canada and later in England. In the winter of 1941-42 he ferried 21 planes across the Atlantic In the winter of 1942-43 he was assigned to patrol duty over the North sea and was sent to Africa in May, 1943. He had 500 hours of combat flying, had been awarded a medal and recommend for promotion to the rank of squadron leader, he reported in his last letter home.
A younger brother, Jim, is an air cadet at Yale university.
Source: Salem Statesman Journal, January 14, 1944.