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44th Bomb Group B-24 Black Jack The Crew And Their Legacy

Black Jack Vertical

On 1 October 1943 the 44th Bomb Groups mission was to bomb the Messerschmitt aircraft factory located at Wiener Neustadt, Austria.  B-24 serial number 41-23816, named Black Jack of the 68th squadron was hit by flak shortly after dropping their bomb load while turning away from the target.  The plane was on fire and crashed shortly after being hit.  Of the ten man crew five survived.  Here are the crew and their stories.  May we never forget.

 

 

 

 


 Pilot Coleman Scott Whitaker

ScottWhitaker1 Scott Whitaker  Scott Whitaker

Coleman was from Petersburg, TN and a graduate of Morgan School.  He volunteered for service with the RAF several months before Pearl Harbor; afterwards he transferred to the US Army Air Force.  On 3 August 1943, two days after the Ploesti raid, he wrote home finishing his letter by saying "Have had a good hand in what has happened in these parts".  Coleman was survived by three brothers and one sister.


Co-Pilot Ted Scarlett

Ted Scarlett  Ted Scarlett

After the war Ted started a career in accounting and later became a CPA.  He retired in 1982 and passed away in October 1985.  Today he is survived by two sons Roger and Ted, one daughter Lynn and nine grandchildren. 


Navigator Gene Vickary

GeneVickary1  Gene Vickary  Gene Vickary

 After the war Gene returned to his job at Arkell and Smith in Canajoharie as a press operator.  When the Korean War started he was reactivated and served two years one as a navigator.  After Korea he returned to Arkel and Smith as a foreman in the art department.  He remained there until 1958 when the company moved.  He and his wife decided to purchase the 5 & 10 store in town, naming it Vickary's Variety Store.  They operated the store until 1969 when they liquidated it.  He then went to work for the US Soil Conservation service in Fonda, NY.  He designed ponds, waterways and drainage systems for the agriculture community of the county.  He retired at the age of 67 due to his increasing disability due to the Parkinson's disease.  He lived independently until age 76 and then went into a nursing home until his death at 81 in February 1997.  His family believes he was very proud of his war service, especially the Ploesti raid.  He never considered himself a hero, but rather just another guy who did what was asked of him by his country.  He is survived by four children Dara Lee, Robin, Coleman and Maple Ann and three grandchildren Timothy, Regina, and Dominic.  Gene named his son Coleman after his friend, the pilot of Black Jack 


Bombardier George Guilford

George Guilford  George Guilford

After the war George worked for United Machine Shop and then went to the oil fields where he worked until he retired and settled in Florida.  George passed away on 28 May 2008 at the age of 89.  He is survived by his son Mike and daughter Pat. 


Engineer Ed Carlson

Ed Carlson  Ed Carlson

Ed graduated from McKeesport High School in 1941 where he played football and basketball.  He enlisted on 14 December 1941 in the Army Air Forces.  During his time as a POW he was on the camp baseball team and was known as "Cotton" Carlson.  After the war he married his wife Betty Jean on 9 May 1946.  They had three children a daughter Virginia "Ginny" and two sons Duane and Don.  He worked in shipping at Irvin Works of Carnegie Illinois Steel Corp and then for Bell Telephone Company working his way up to Test Center Foreman.  He enjoyed coaching little league baseball.   He passed away on 23 August 1964. 


Assistant Engineer Wilson Riche

Wilson Riche  Wilson Riche  Wilson Riche  Wilson Riche

Wilson was born near the village of Penn Yan, NY on 10 July 1915.  He graduated from Penn Yan Academy in 1934.  On 28 January 1942 he married his wife Clarice.  Before entering the service he was the manager of Baker-Stark Men's Clothing Store.  On 22 December 1942 Wilson completed his course for Airplane Mechanics at Keesler Field.  On 3 February 1943 he completed his B-24D familiarization course.  In July 1943 he able to return home and see his wife Clarice and their son Keith who was born in March.  Today he is survived by his son Keith.


Radio Operator Frank Bauman

Frank Bauman  Frank Bauman  Frank Bauman

Frank graduated from Jordan High School in Los Angeles County, CA in 1938.  Before the war he worked for Firestone Tire and Rubber.  He was one of seven brothers and sisters.  Today he is survived by one sister in California who cherishes her memories of her brother.  He was the one who always watched over her, taught her to drive, and was always there for her.  She remembers going to a ceremony at March Field towards the end of the war where her parents were presented with Franks medals.  He is buried in the Lorraine American Cemetery in France.


Waist Gunner Tony Damico

Tony Damico  Tony Damico

Tony was raised in Louisiana on a sugar cane farm.  He was one of eleven children.

Today he is survived by two sisters.


Waist Gunner Robert Smith

Robert Smith  Robert Smith

Robert graduated in 1936 from the West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Boys.  He made Master Sergeant at Barksdale Field on 1 July 1942.  He had one brother William who was in a tank destroyer unit in Europe.  Robert is buried in the American War Cemetery in Ardennes, Belgium.  Today he is survived by one nephew Bill and two nieces Dottie and Kathy.


Tail Gunner Bob Reasoner

Bob Reasoner  Bob Reasoner Bob Reasoner

After Black Jack was hit by flak and started burning, the flames were racing through the fuselage and into the tail gunner's compartment.  Bob crawled through those flames while the plane was going down until he reached the waist gunners position.  There, he found Tony, Robert, and Wilson lying on the floor.  Looking for signs of life he found that Tony was still alive and in spite of his own injuries he was able to pick him up to the waist window, pull the rip cord on his parachute and push him out before jumping from the plane himself.  A German soldier found Bob where he landed in a small park, seeing his injuries he helped Bob by removing him from his parachute.  Bob was taken to a German Luftwaffe hospital in the area for initial treatment.  While in that hospital he was told by his doctor that Tony had died as a result of his injuries.  Bob was moved to several different POW camps until being repatriated to the US in September 1944.  He spent the next 2 1/2 years undergoing treatments for his burns.  After being released from the hospital he attended the University of Florida, did landscaping for a while, and then went to work as an inspector for the US Department of Agriculture until he retired. Bob, the last surviving crew member of Black Jack, passed away on 26 June 2014.

Black Jack Display at Wings Remembered

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