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A “Wing and a Prayer”


– Fighters, 12 O'clock High –


Update by Terry D. Janes


In a recent telephone conversation with former Staff Sergeant Carlton C. Jones, he told me that their original aircraft "Shack-Up", which had been in for repairs following their previous mission, was later shot down in September 1943 while being flown by another crew.



The "Shack-Up"



L-R Rear: 2nd Lt. Larry Bairstow-Navigator, 2nd Lt. D.B. Adams-Bombardier, 2nd Lt. Bill Tobin-Co-Pilot, 1st Lt. Frank Kelly-Pilot.  Front Row: T/Sgt. Harold Schwerdt-Engineer, T/Sgt. R. Ryals-Asst. Eng., S/Sgt. Alex Milligan-Tail Gunner, S/Sgt. Maske-Armor Gunner, S/Sgt. Marchivenski-Asst. Radio, T/Sgt. Carlton Jones-Radioman


Regarding the day he was shot down, he said that when the pilot of "Wing And A Prayer" ordered the crew to bail out, it was his job as radio operator to call in a "SOS" message.  When he finished sending out the SOS, he saw the door leading to the plane's cockpit was open, and the pilot & co-pilot seats were empty.  All he saw were papers flying around the cockpit from the wind inside the plane.  S/Sgt. Jones made his way back towards the tail to exit from the plane's rear door.  On the way back, he realized that he was the last man aboard the plane.  He said that the air pressure delayed his exit from the plane, but he finally managed to jump out, tumbling backwards into free space.  The last he saw of the plane, it was still flying straight and level.  He parachuted into a German forest, and landed in a big tree about 30 feet above the ground.  He stated that the trunk of the tree was so big that he couldn't reach his arms or legs around it.  While he was hanging there trying to figure out what to do, Germans came rushing up below him, and took him prisoner.  He said that at first, the Germans thought that he was a fighter pilot, because his parachute was all they had seen come down, and they had not seen the plane.  It took a bit of convincing before they realized he was part of a B-17 bomber crew.


Regarding his liberation, Mr. Jones said that around April of 1945, the German guards at the prison camp led the prisoners off on foot, on a 260 mile long trek in cold weather with whatever rags the prisoners wore, and precious little to eat or drink.  The guards wanted to prevent the prisoners from being liberated by advancing Russian troops.  The few guards remaining at that point were German Home Guard, and mostly old men.  The prisoners were eventually led to a wooded area, where they were liberated by Patton's Third Army troops.  After being shot down from the sky and spending 21 long months as a prisoner of war, you might expect Carlton Jones to be a bitter man, but you'd be wrong.


Mr. Jones is a very nice, modest and humble man.  He bears no grudges against the German people, for what he suffered as a POW.  In the course of my conversation with this brave American Veteran, I thanked him for his service to our country, and told him that men like him have my utmost respect and admiration.  Mr. Jones seemed pleasantly shocked, and thanked me, telling me that outside of his family, I was only the second person since the war to thank him for his service and sacrifice.  The first was a 12-year-old boy he had encountered on the street one day.  It really saddens me to think that a man such as this, who sacrificed so much for his country, has heard so little gratitude from the nation he served so nobly.  Dear Reader, the next time you encounter a man such as Mr. Jones, take the extra time to tell them "thanks".  It costs you nothing, and these brave men deserve so much more, for the Hell they went through.  The least we can do is to let them know that we care, and appreciate what they did for all of us.  Without men like Carlton C. Jones, the world would be an entirely different place today.  May God bless them all.


Former Bombardier – 2nd Lt. David B. Adams passed away five years after reuniting with the last two remaining crewmembers of the "Wing And A Prayer", Carlton Jones and Harold Schwerdt in Wilkes Barre, Pa. on July 30, 1995.  May he rest in peace.




Reuniting in 1995 for the 50th Anniversary of the end of World War Two, L-R: Radio Operator – T/Sgt. Carlton C. Jones, Bombardier – 2nd Lt. David B. Adams and Engineer – T/Sgt. Harold Schwerdt


In a recent letter from Carlton Jones, he states: "The 388th Bomb Group was activated at orven Field, Boise, Idaho.  Only 42 officers and 226 enlisted men were assigned to the group at that time.  On February 4, 1943, these men left for Wendover Field, Utah.


We started our training March 1943 at Wendover, and from there we went to Sioux City, Iowa for two months.  There we received a new B-17 for overseas duty. [In their case, this was the "Shack-Up"]


Lt. Kelly was the Flight Commander of Squadron 561.  We were the "Model Crew".  This remained all through basic training, but things changed overseas.  Kelly and Squadron Commander Chamberlain didn't get along and we lost the leading plane position.  However, we stayed in 561 Squadron for four missions.  After that we were transferred to 563, the tail-end group.  Also, we lost our Navigator and Bombardier in this change.  Dave Adams and Karl Alexander joined our crew.



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