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mgc1961 Donating Member (874 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-04-11 08:50 AM
Original message
Jake's last letter
Edited on Sun Sep-04-11 09:02 AM by mgc1961
This is the last letter in the scrapbooks from Jake. The bomber group did fly the morning of this letter and lost two airplanes, Jake did not go on this raid. His next raid, the last one, he and his crew were on loan to fly for the 388th bomb group. He flew Cock 'O The Walk. They were the only casualties recorded for the 452nd that day. Jake and his co-pilot, Dick West, were killed by a flak burst inside the bomb bay. Gunners Andrew Saari and Johnnie Clayton were also killed on this mission. The remainder of the crew were captured including navigator Allen Johnson who wrote the Colvin's a letter after his release describing Jake's final hours. Mr. Johnson's letter is reposted at the bottom of this post.

This letter was written on 25 February 1944 and postmarked on 27 February 1944.


From 730th Bomber Squadron 452nd Bomber Group

Friday

Dearest Dad,

I just returned from a two day pass and I had a fine time. I didn't go to London but had just as much fun in Norwich on a lot less money. There were two days of complete rest. I needed it too.

I should start out on my fourth mission in the morning. The first three were full of events of which I'll tell you when that happy day comes for me to return home. (The group's next raid was not until the Brunswick mission on the 29th. Weather conditions on the 26th-28th probably didn't permit it.)

C. C. is ahead of me on missions. He should be up for an air medal now. I have been seeing a lot of him lately.

Tell Mayme that the visiting cards came today.

The paper stated today that summer is going to start on April the 2nd. This will a happy day. I'll be a year older and then maybe we'll have some good weather to do some bombing in.

Mayme asked me was I near Liverpool. No, I'm quite a way from there. In fact, I'm on the opposite side. (This question may be related to genealogy since Jake's home town has the same name as a town on the west coast of England and there's a newspaper clipping in one of the scrap books that outlines some of the Colvin family history.)

Not much news. Let me know if you see any thing about any of the fellows. Hugh Jameson went down on his first raid. (His airplane ran out of gas.) Don't say anything about it until it comes out in the paper.

Send me the pecans or cake or candy. Write soon. Love to all.

Your devoted son,

Jake Jr.

Jake's friend, C.C. was killed during another raid on Brunswick on 23 March 1944 when his airplane, Star Eyes, was shot down by enemy fighters. The airplane "blew up in a big fireball."

Thanks goes to Edward Hinrichs. Author of Missing Planes of the 452nd Bomb Group, 3rd Edition in preparing remarks about the last couple of letters.


Mr. Colvin's Clemson University Alumni page http://cualumni.clemson.edu/page.aspx?pid=1333

16 June '45

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Colvin:

The floor here in my room is littered with paper from the false starts I've made with this letter. I would rather take a day long whipping than write what I have to tell you, because no matter how I say it, it's going to hurt you folks. So please, Mrs. Colvin, make allowances for me - if the letter seems to be unnecessarily harsh it's because I know you folks want the whole story and I can think of no other way to word it. I would not intentionally wound Jake's people.

Perhaps I'd better start right from England and take you on that last mission. The messenger woke us - Jake, Dick West, Mel Glass and I all slept in the same hut - awoke us at 1:30 a.m. That's an unearthly hour but we were to travel by GI trucks to the 388th Gp. Field at (Knettishall, England, which was 25 miles away. (The 388th was a heavy bomber group of B-17s operating out of a field near Thetford, Suffolk). We had to go there and fly their ships since their own crews were almost all finished and relieved from combat, and replacements were scarce. Jake and I walked to the mess hall together and he kidded me about having to eat mush while he put away buttered toast and coffee - my mouth and teeth were still tender from a jeep accident I'd been involved in a few days previous.

We arrived at Knettishall ok, after getting lost in the blackout once or twice and after briefing, medical, etc., we took off at 7:00 a.m. -just before dawn. The ship was loggy and armor-heavy but Jake tooled her into formation nicely. We spent about 3 hours cruising around England getting the wing formed up and into place, finally crossing the channel at 10:00 a.m.

The fighter cover was excellent and our wing wasn't bothered by bandits at all. We detoured around a couple of flak hot spots. Meanwhile, because of abortions, we had worked up to number four spot in our squadron thus:

(Mr. Johnson drew a small diagram indicating their airplane's position in the formation. I'm unable to duplicate it here.)

We went in on the target at 25,000 feet.

It was Brunswick and crawling with flak. The bursts were so close together they seemed to be overlapping. There was nothing for it but to wade in and drop our bombs and hope for the best. The bomb run must be perfectly straight and level flight and during that time -which seems like all eternity - a ship is a sitting duck. And that time is a great deal longer for large formations than for single ship bombing.

They got us not 3 seconds after we had dropped our bombs. The bomb doors were still open. They laid a flak burst dead in the cockpit. The explosion was an ear shattering crush that seemed to come from behind me. A fragment clipped me on the head and dazed me for a while. When I got back to normal we were in a tight left turn and falling fast - almost a spin. I dimly remember Glass helping me strap on my chute and then he bailed out. I crawled back to the cockpit and found it full of smoke and two or three small fires.

Jake and Dick - I'm sorry Mrs. Colvin; I just can't make it easy for you. Jake and Dick were both slumped over the dual wheel. They must have died instantly and painlessly.

There's not much more to tell. I put out the fires and tried the throttle but the engines were done. Perhaps with pilot experience I might have been able to get back one or two engines and limped home on them. I can fly straight and level but have never had any emergency engine procedure. I tried to worm Jake out of the seat with the idea of crash landing the ship myself. Occasionally I had to quit that and haul back on the stick to keep the ship from spinning but just as soon as I released the wheel the boys' weights shoved it forward again.

We hit clouds and I took a look at the altimeter - 5,000 feet and dropping 4,000 per minute. I only had Jake halfway out of the seat and his shoulders had jammed between the seats. He was a big fellow, especially in the chest and shoulders. There just wasn't anything else to do so I gave up and bailed out.

That's all there is to tell, Mrs. Colvin. I would have given anything to have spared you this but I know you would never have been satisfied with anything less than the whole story. I've read your letters to Lillian and you've been swell to her.

I don't know why the erroneous report about our ditching was turned in. Perhaps no one saw us fall out of formation or, if they did see it, forgot to report it. Then the ship that pulled up into our spot in the formation could have developed trouble over the channel and quite naturally have been turned in as our ship. That's all pure guess, but I think it probably happened that way.

After Lillian's letters began reaching me - in August - I realized that you people were misinformed so I tried to get word back, but our own secret intelligence officers would not allow that kind of information to go through. Next I tried the Red Cross but evidently they couldn't work it either. Finally, the Red Cross .....(smudge) that you originated reached me and I filled it out under the guidance of our Allied intelligence. You should have received that long ago, but perhaps that too was stopped for security reasons.

I arrived home the night before last and all yesterday I planned this letter. Tonight I recopied it. Lillian is here reading it with me. Believe me, folks, I can't express my feelings.

Lillian and I are planning marriage next month and would like very much to have you come to the wedding. The date hasn't been set yet because Lil is recuperating from an operation but she'll write you well in advance so that we can all get our plans set up.

Sincerely,

Lt. Allan E. Johnson

I hope readers enjoyed these letters.

Over and out.


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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-04-11 09:15 AM
Response to Original message
1. Very sad, but thank you for sharing these letters.
My father, who also piloted B-17s, has talked about the high casualty rate on raids. So many young men lost flying and crewing those bombers...
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Historic NY Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-04-11 09:33 AM
Response to Original message
2. Sad...but interesting
its pretty tight on the flight deck so he had really not many choices.
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auntAgonist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-04-11 10:02 AM
Response to Original message
3. K&R thank you .
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MannyGoldstein Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-04-11 11:24 AM
Response to Original message
4. Thank you for sharing these. It's sadly true that
a single death is a tragedy but a million deaths is a statistic, if I recall Stalin's quote correctly. Perhaps it is only through remembering the individual deaths that we can remember the horror of war.
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lucca18 Donating Member (149 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-04-11 02:25 PM
Response to Original message
5. So sad....
Thank you for letting us get to know Jake.....a truly remarkable man.
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