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Urban Leonard “Ben” Drew

Urban Drew


Urban Leonard Ben Drew was born in Detroit, Michigan on March 21, 1924. He entered the U.S. Army Air Force in October, 1942 and graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant and received his pilot's wings in 1943. Lt. Drew arrived in England aboard the Queen Elizabeth in May of 1944 and was assigned to the 375th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group, based at Bottisham, Chambridgeshire. During his tour with the "Yellow Jackets," Drew completed 75 missions, the last of which on November 1, 1944. He rose to the command of "A" flight of the 375th Squadron and rotated to the U.S. in December of 1944.

Among his victories, most notable were the two Messerschmitt ME-262 jet aircraft shot down on October 7, 1944. This made Ben Drew the first allied airman to destroy two German jets in aerial combat. On September 18, 1944 Drew helped destroy, with the aid of two wingmen, the largest aircraft then in existence, a Luftwaffe Blohm & Voss BV-268 six-engine flying boat at Lake Schaal in Northern Germany.

After completion of his European tour, Drew served with the 413th Fighter Squadron, 414th Fighter Group, flying P-47N-5s from Iwo Jima in the Bonin Islands. After the war, Drew helped reconstitute the Michigan Air National Guard, serving with the 127th Fighter Group. He completed his military service as a Major with the following record: Six Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed, one damaged (air), one destroyed (ground). His decorations include the Air Force Cross, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 14 Air Medals.

In 1983, at a Pentagon ceremony, Mr. Vernon Orr, then Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, presented Major Drew the Air Force Cross 39 years after he downed two ME-262 jet fighters.
After 1953, Mr. Drew was heavily involved in commercial aviation. He was a principle with several air cargo and charter operations. He brokered aircraft internationally and provided the C-47 aircraft and flight crews for the filing of the movie "A Bridge Too Far."

Urban "Ben" Drew was enshrined in the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on September 25, 1999 for his long and dedicated aviation career as a pilot in war and in peace. He passed away April 3, 2013.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program