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LT. WINTHROP A. JACKSON, Jr.
The Early Years
WAJ Jr was born December 9th, 1915 in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Part of his early years were spent in Waterbury, Connecticut. Early in his teen-age years, he devoted a lot of time to photography. He was even developing his own film as a teenager. Many of his early photos show a keen interest in aviation. The Pre-World War II photos on this web site were taken by him when he was 15 years old.
In 1936, when he was 20 years old, WAJ Jr enrolled in the New England Aircraft School in Boston, Massachusetts. There he learned the mysteries of airframe structures and reciprocating engines. In February, 1937, WAJ Jr graduated from this school with a Certificate in Basic Airplane and Engine Mechanics.
WAJ Jr then took a position with Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Corporation in East Hartford, Connecticut as an assistant sales engineer. Years later, WAJ Jr told me stories of watching Pratt and Whitney R-2800 engines under test in a small building. Sometimes, an internal failure would occur, and the engine would suddenly blow up. The lab techs had quite a job cleaning up and analyzing the resulting mess.
One time, he went by an open hanger where mechanics were applying a fresh coat of dope to a fabric covered airplane. Even though the hanger was open, the fumes were very strong. One mechanic high up on a ladder was overcome and fell off the ladder. WAJ Jr said the man hit the floor flat on his back and was killed.
The War Years
Winthrop A. Jackson Jr entered the Army in February, 1941. In December, 1941, the war came along and he discovered he was in for the duration (of the war).
WAJ Jr applied to the Aviation Cadet program, hoping to become a pilot. In November, 1942, he received orders to proceed to the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center, in San Antonio, Texas for evaluation and testing. In December, 1942, he was accepted for flight training.
That same month (Dec. 1942), he began primary flight training in Fairchild PT-19 Cornells at Jones Field, in Bonham, Texas. On January 4, 1943, WAJ Jr soloed in a PT-19 at Jones Field. In February, 1943, he completed primary flight training.
WAJ Jr then began basic flight training at Perrin Field, Sherman, Texas, flying in Consolidated-Vultee BT-13 Valiants, also known as the "Vultee Vibrator". Basic training was completed in April, 1943.
WAJ Jr then began Advanced (multi-engine) training at Lubbock Army Air Field, (Lubbock, Texas), flying in Cessna AT-17 Bobcats and Curtiss AT-9 Jeeps.
While at Lubbock, WAJ Jr met Dorothy Sebring Case at a USO show. It was love at first sight, he said.
WAJ Jr completed this training in June, 1943. Total logged flight time for primary, basic, and advanced training was 207 hours.
In July of 1943, he then went on to bomber transition training on the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Transition training took place at Dalhart Army Air Base, Dalhart, Texas. During the transition training, WAJ Jr was assigned to the 466th squadron of the 333rd Bomb Group.
He became part of a new 10-man B-17 crew simply known as "Crew 131" at Dalhart and later as the "Clayton crew" (Crew 143) in England.
The members of Crew 131 were as follows:
2nd Lt. John E. Clayton (Pilot)
2nd Lt. Winthrop A. Jackson Jr (Co-pilot, WIA 5/8/44)
2nd Lt. Richard M. (Dick) Dolf (Bombardier, WIA 01/30/44)
2nd Lt. Joseph K. (Murphy) Uniszkiewicz (Navigator, KIA 5/8/44)
T/Sgt. Jerome (Jerry) F. Watenpool (Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner)
S/Sgt. Francis (Frank) R. Cameron (Ball Turret Gunner)
S/Sgt. Elmer D. Boydston (Tail Turret Gunner)
S/Sgt. Thomas N. Lewandowski (Waist Gunner)
S/Sgt. Clyde A. Koscheski (Waist Gunner)
Sgt. Miles F. Lisenby (Radio Operator, grounded after non-Combat injury 02/44).
In the middle of all this training, WAJ Jr also managed to marry Dorothy at the Dalhart Army Air Base Chapel on September 8th, 1943. It was a double wedding. Dick Dolf, bombardier on WAJ Jr's crew married a girl named Ruby Nell Lockhart in the same ceremony.
Completing the B-17 training sometime in October of '43, the Clayton crew was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 544th squadron, then based at Grafton Underwood, England with the 8th Air Force.
On October 31, 1943, the Clayton crew hopped a train traveling from Dalhart Army Air Base to their port of embarkation (New York City). There, on Nov. 2, 1943, they boarded the ocean liner Queen Mary and arrived in England at the beginning of November 9, 1943.
In December, 1943, WAJ Jr turned 28 - older than the average pilot. WAJ Jr said he was sometimes called "gramps" by other pilots as a result of his age.
Reminices of Life in the European Theater of Operations (ETO)
By 18 May 1945, 1st Lt. Winthrop A. Jackson Jr. had accumulated a total of 395 hours of logged flight time in B-17s.
As a co-pilot, he logged 354 hours. As first pilot, he logged 41 hours.
Total logged combat flight time was 146 hours in 23 missions. As co-pilot, he logged 128 hours. As first pilot, he logged 18 hours.
WAJ Jr recorded the first 13 missions on the inside cover of a leather notebook
They correspond to 384th Bomb Group mission numbers 46, 47, 53, 55, 56, 65, 68, 77, 83, 84, 85, 86, and 88.
They are listed below along with his cryptic but illuminating comments:
1. CROISETTE, FRANCE 12/24/43 5 HRS. 40 MIN. VISUAL
2. LUDWIGSHAFEN, GERMANY 12/30/43 3 HRS. 20 MIN. DITCHED !
3. LE MEILLARD, FRANCE 1/14/'44 3 HRS. 30 MIN. VISUAL
4. FRANKFURT ON MAIN, GERMANY 1/29/44 6 HRS. 50 MIN PFF
5. BRUNSWICK, GERMANY 1/30/44 7 HRS. 15 MIN. PFF (ROUGH)
6. LINGEN, GERMANY 2/21/44 6 HRS. 30 MIN. VISUAL (ROUGH)
7. PREUSEVILLE, FRANCE 2/28/44 5 HRS. 20 MIN. MILK RUN
8. WIZERNES, FRANCE 3/19/44 4 HRS. 25 MIN. FLAK HAPPY
9. TOURS, FRANCE 3/27/44 5 HRS. 40 MIN. VISUAL MILK RUN
10. DIJON, FRANCE 3/28/44 7 HRS. 5 MIN. VISUAL MILK RUN
11. BRUNSWICK, GERMANY 3/29/44 7 HRS. 55 MIN. VISUAL NOT BAD
12. MARIENBURG, GERMANY 4/9/44 11 HRS. 30 MIN. VISUAL TOO LONG
13. SORAU, GERMANY 4/11/44 10 HRS. 10 MIN. VISUAL DITTO
Click here to see update information on some of WAJ Jr's later missions (info supplied by Dewayne Bennett, former pilot of the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Squadron - 04/15/02.)
WAJ Jr received the Air Medal on his 5th mission, a rough, Pathfinder-led mission to Brunswick, Germany. The Brunswick area of Germany was strongly protected by many flak guns and on-call fighter protection. On one of WAJ Jr's missions, his B-17 was so badly shot up, that it was salvaged (junked) after his return to England. This may have occurred on the 5th mission to Brunswick when the bombardier, Dick Dolf was wounded, or the next one, - to Aschersleben, Germany.
With 13 missions flown, WAJ Jr had a total of 85 combat hours logged. He would log 61 more hours of combat time in 10 additional missions.
The May 8th, 1944 mission (384th number 103) proved to be his last one. On this last mission, he was severely wounded. He spent 9 months convalescing in the Rehabilitation Center of the 307th Station hospital in England. A Purple Heart and permanently embedded shrapnel were just a few of the reminders of that mission.
Aircraft WAJ Jr flew on include:
"[No Name]", B-17G-1-VE, Ser. No. 42-39809, SO+M (02/05/44, Orleans/Bricy Air Field, France)
"Battle Wagon", B-17F-80-BO, Serial No. 42-30026, BK+J (02/04/44, Frankfurt, Germany)
"Hot Nuts", B-17G-10-BO, Serial No. 42-39888, SU+B (02/25/44, Augsburg, Germany)
"Little Barney", B-17G-10-DL, Serial No. 42-37785, SU+N (04/24/44, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany)
"Satan's Playmate" B-17G-15-VE, Ser. No. 42-97510, BK+A (05/08/44, Sottevast, France)
"Sea Hag", B-17G-10-BO, Serial No. 42-31274, SU+K (12/30/43, Ludwigshafen, Germany)
"Snuffy", B-17G-35-BO, Ser. No. 42-32106, JD+R (04/11/44, Sorau, Germany)
"Stella", B-17F-65-BO, Serial No. 42-29651, SU+G (02/21/44, Lingen, Germany)
"Sweetheart", B-17G-15-VE, Ser. No. 42-97449, SO+B (02/24/44, Schweinfurt, Germany)
"The Tremblin' Gremlin", B-17G-20-DL, Ser. No. 42-37982, SU+K (01/29/44, Frankfurt, Germany;
01/30/44, Brunswick, Germany; 04/09/44, Marienburg, Germany; 04/20/44, Sottevast, France)
"West End", B-17G-20-BO, Serial No. 42-31435, SU+S (04/22/44, Hamm, Germany)
Below are some of the stories WAJ Jr told me about his time as a bomber pilot in England. Most are very brief stories which, nevertheless, still echo through my mind as I remember him telling them to me years ago.
Although WAJ Jr flew regularly with the Clayton crew, on his second mission (12/30/43), WAJ Jr filled in as co-pilot with Lt. Randolph Jacobs and his regular crew. The aircraft was "Sea Hag", B-17G-10-BO, Serial No. 42-31274. The mission was to Ludwigshaven, Germany. WAJ Jr said this mission was part of his orientation to the ETO. The aircraft was ditched in the English Channel on the return flight.
Please note that an account of this incident may be found in the unofficial history of the 384th Bomb Group "As Briefed ", pages 69-71. A picture of WAJ Jr (co-pilot), Randolph Jacobs (pilot), and D.H. Davis (bombardier), all survivors of the ditching can be seen on page 177.
Below are some of WAJ Jr's observations of the ditching followed by other short stories.
WAJ Jr said that #4 engine was damaged by an 88mm flak burst from a solitary gun emplacement located near the coast of occupied France. They were unable to feather it due to oil loss in the prop governor.
Upon leaving the French coast on the return trip, Jacobs elected to dive out of the formation. Perhaps, it was now considered safe to leave the formation, and they were busy enough as it was in the "front office" with trim problems, to contend with formation flying, albeit, in a looser formation.
The #4 prop commenced to severely overspeed (in the dive) and induced such strains in the airframe that wing filler caps were vibrating off and even the wing fairing was breaking loose.
They now found themselves with no hope of reaching the English coast and could only set up for a barely controlled ditching.
Crew members in the rear of the aircraft pulled the cable release to the main access door just forward of the tail group on the right side and the door dropped away. They wanted to make sure the door did not jam if some chose to exit that way, instead of thru the radio compartment overhead hatch.
When Sea Hag hit the water, the tail group was ripped off due to the "scooping effect" of water impacting that open main access doorway. Sea Hag settled and filled rapidly. Co-pilot Win Jackson tried to open his side window to exit but found it would not slide back. He began frantically banging on the window panel as water rose up fast. In the process of banging on the window, he shattered the stone in his Cadet graduation ring. The stone did not fall out but was all cracked up.
[Years later, my father showed me this ring. Iin 1971, my stepmother, not knowing the story behind this ring with the shattered stone, decided to have the stone replaced and presented this repaired ring to him as a surprise birthday gift. He was not too happy about that.]
Returning to the story, the window refused to budge and Jacobs was extricating himself thru the pilot's side window (slowly in my father's view). My father said he strongly encouraged Jacobs to hurry, as he needed to follow him out the same way. Water was now chest high in the cockpit. My father said it was more like him swimming out then climbing out. One man in the back tried to get out thru the broken end aft, but got tangled up in snapped and snarled control cables. Sea Hag nosed down vertically, the unfortunate man disappeared back inside and then the B-17 went down.
My father obviously didn't stopwatch the float time, but he said it stayed afloat for about 45 seconds.
The survivors were picked up by a British AirSea Rescue boat. In one of my father's photo albums, is the headband ribbon of the British sailor who hauled him out of the water.
Just before a mission, the designated B-17 aircraft had been checked out and was ready to go except for final refueling. A fuel truck arrived and backed up to the front of the wing of the aircraft. The driver miscalculated and slightly bent the blade of one of the props. The aircraft was immediately declared unserviceable. WAJ Jr and crew were re-assigned to a backup ship. Upon return to Grafton Underwood, they noticed the flaming wreckage of an aircraft on the hardstand where their first ship was sited. Sometime during their mission, this aircraft caught fire and was destroyed. WAJ Jr did not go into more detail on this, but he says he was sure glad they did not take that ship.
During a bomb run, Win Jr noticed a nearby ship hit by flak and break in half right at the wing trailing edge (radio compartment). The B-17 commenced to zoom up and down as if on a gentle roller coaster. After a few seconds, it nosed straight down into a final dive.WAJ Jr did not think anyone got out of that ship.
A ball turret gunner who frequently flew with WAJ Jr's crew was assigned to another crew for a particular mission. Over the target at around 25,000 ft., this gunner evidently got very airsick and disoriented. He opened the exit hatch and fell out (without a parachute). When the turret was examined later back at Grafton Underwood, it was discovered that he had vomited all over the interior.
Over target in a tight combat box formation, WAJ Jr found he had his hands full fighting the prop wash of nearby B-17s. WAJ Jr seldom was looking straight ahead. His head was constantly rotating as he fought the controls to avoid drifting right, left, up or down into nearby B-17s. He also frequently scanned dashboard instruments. All of a sudden, the bombardier or navigator down in the nose compartment, yelled over the intercom, "Pull up! Pull up! Pull up!" WAJ Jr looked straight ahead in time to see a B-17 that had been low and in front, now enveloped in flames and climbing right in front of him. WAJ Jr pulled back on the control wheel as the flaming B-17 completed a half loop only to blow up under his B-17.
May 8, 1944 - WAJ Jr's 23rd (and last combat) mission. He was flying as pilot of Crew #40 on "Satan's Playmate", B-17G-15-VE, Ser. No. 42-97510, (BK+A). While over target, an 88mm flak shell detonated just outside the cockpit. Besides losing #4 engine, a lot of shrapnel came through the cockpit windows and fuselage and slammed into WAJ Jr's left thigh. WAJ Jr said it felt as if he had been slammed with a baseball bat. The shock knocked him unconscious. When he woke up about 5 seconds later, one of the crew members was working on him. WAJ Jr said this crewmember was somewhat hysterical. He prepared a morphine syrette for injection to deaden the pain. However, WAJ Jr said he didn't feel any pain. The leg was numb. But the crewmember kept insisting and so WAJ Jr finally relented and allowed him to administer the injection. There was so much blood in the groin area from obviously extensive wounds, that WAJ Jr's primary concern during his first waking moments after being wounded was whether he would be able to have any more kids (his war bride would deliver twins in June of that year).
WAJ Jr had lost a lot of blood and required urgent medical treatment and the aircraft was crippled by the loss of one engine. Therefore, instead of proceeding on to Grafton Underwood, "Satan's Playmate" was set down at a Royal Air Force Base (RAF Ford) at Winchester, on the south coast of England.
There was more than one tragedy that day. 2nd Lt. Joseph K. Uniszkiewicz, bombardier on WAJ Jr's original crew and Capt. Randolph Jacobs, pilot of Sea Hag on WAJ Jr's second mission were both killed in two other 384th BG losses for this day. It was supposed to be Lt. Uniszkiewicz's last mission.
WAJ Jr spent a long and painful nine months in the hospital in England. A number of operations were performed to remove shrapnel and repair tissue. The doctors did not remove all the metal. They told WAJ Jr that to do so, they would have to cut his leg to ribbons. He carried some shrapnel to his grave. One time during the hospital stay, WAJ Jr was wheeled out in a wheel chair to attend a USO show at the hospital. While there, the leg wound opened up and serious bleeding occurred. WAJ Jr was very disgusted with the whole thing. He was rushed to the operating room to have the wound closed back up again. Win's mother, after reading one of his letters from the hospital, and sensing that Win was feeling somewhat low, she replied, "Just think, you're the only kid on the block that has lead in his pants." WAJ Jr always chuckled when he told of this response. In a humorous way, his mom helped him to quit feeling sorry for himself.
During later stages of WAJ Jr's convalescence in England, he was assigned to "H" Company of the 307 Station Hospital, a U.S. Army Rehabilitation Center 'somewhere in England" (now identified as "Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, England"). He supervised the repair and modification of aircraft electronic equipment such as Automatic Direction Finder (ADF) systems. During this time, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant.
As WAJ Jr approached the end of his convalescence, he knew he must appear before a psych review board to be evaluated as to his future. WAJ Jr did not want to go back into bombers. He was tired of being shot at. He wanted to go into fighters, particularly P-51s. In fact, the former commander of the 384th, Col. Bud Peaslee was leading a P-51 Scout outfit based in England at this time. WAJ Jr pulled what levers he could to get into this unit.
When WAJ Jr went before the psych review board, he made his pitch for being transferred into fighters. The review board did not agree. In fact, they decided that WAJ Jr was a "borderline case" and therefore unfit for further combat. On January 18, 1945, WAJ Jr left the UK, arriving back in the USA on February 2. He had been overseas for 1 year, 3 months and 1 day. WAJ Jr spent the remainder of his time in service testing aircraft and equipment at Eglin Field, Florida. He resigned his commission July 31, 1945.
During his wartime service, 1st Lieutenant Winthrop A. Jackson Jr. was awarded the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart.
The European air war was costly. Although Lt. Winthrop A. Jackson Jr. survived
the war with wounds, one member of the original 10-man Clayton crew did not.
A replacement crewmember was also lost. Another crewmember was wounded. 36%
casualties in 5 and 1/2 months of combat.
From 1942 to 1945, the Eighth Air Force in England lost over 4,000 bombers and 2,000 fighters. Well over 40,000 airmen were killed or missing in action.
Years later, WAJ Jr received a physical evaluation and was judged to be 20%
disabled by his war wounds. As a result, he received a small government pension
for the remaining years of his life. He died in January, 1991 after a long
battle with cancer.
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