Monona County

John O. Jacobs




John O. Jacobs was born 25 July 1920 on a farm in rural Iowa, Monona County. He was the fourth child of Otto and Emma (Wodtke) Jacobs. Both his parents were emigrates from Germany.

I was sworn into the Army Air Corps in 22 August 1942. On March 7, 1943 I left home for Des Moines, Iowa, rather tearful, leaving home but once on the way I never looked back. My first physical exam, stand naked with a couple hundred other fellows in an unheated room for hours, and line up to get shots.

Next thing I was on a train to Santa Ana Army Air Base, preflight school where we classified as pilots, navigators, bombardier or gunners. Mine came out pilot, gunner. We had 3 months of classes, as many as four a day and then some night classes and some really sharp instructors. I enjoyed close order drills, marching to classes, cadence and songs we use to sing when we marched and kept in step with.

So after good old Santa Ana, we were off to primary flight school, Santa Maria, California, the Hancock College of Aeronautics. It was a plush Country Club flying school with civilian instructors, and my first visit to the flight line. I saw all the yellow-winged Spearmen’s, to me it was a sight to behold. My first ride in an airplane was 25 June. My first ride was to show me the territory in which we were to fly, Yep, then he rung it out, everything in the book he did with that Spearman – slow rolls, snap rolls, spins, you name it. I got so sick that I tossed my cookies, I’ve never been that sick in my life. I had second thoughts about flying, believe me.

I graduated on 30 August, so on our way to basic flight school at Minter Field, Bakersfield, California.

August – September 1943
Basic flight training in a BT-13, we go from a cockpit in a Stearman needle ballair speed to a cockpit loaded with instruments and its procedure- procedure, believe me, night flying, instruments, radio communications: we had mixture control, prop setting, flap’s trim, tabs. One day on a routine flight with my instructor, as you would climb to altitude to do our practice, you would have to clear yourself before making a turn. This day as I cleared to go left, there was a DC-3 in front of us and I really dumped the stick and kicked hard rudder, almost lost the instructor- I believe I made some brownie points that paid off later.

November – December
Fort Sumner, New Mexico, Advanced Flight Training. Would you believe tar paper shacks, hard coal; heating stoves, called morning stoves. I believe nothing between here and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence. Never enough hot water for everybody to take showers. We were introduced to the AT-17, a Cessna UC-78, also named the Bamboo Bomber.

7 January 1944 I received my Silver Wings. A pilot: in the United States Army Air Corp.

I was scheduled to fly the first mission on Formosa off Samar. The first day was called off because of rain. Eight twenty was the latest we could take off and meet within our fighter escort and it did pour; so it was scrapped tell the next day, and the same thing- rain. The Colonel Robertson asked for clearance to take off, but the tower officer for the day said the field was closed, but the Colonel pulled rank, gave his SN and asked for the tower officer SN and he was cleared for the take off. Man, I was one scared farm boy, “I do not believe you could see much more than 3 city blocks”. When they would get to the tower, they would be able to see the end of the runway. All I could see of the plane was the tip of his props. I was on the taxi strip, parallel to the runway, my feet were shaking in the brakes- believe me- when he started his roll and then the huge explosion. I sat there for a second or so, turned to tell the copilot to turn off the engines, and I was the only one left in the plane. I Think I had to reach over and throw the switches. What was left of eleven men went into three body bags. The next day, a beautiful day, and a great mission.

I was also fortunate enough to be on the first mission to Clark Field in the Philippines from Angaur. We carried frags, and we bombed trees, we thought. Later when we moved to Clark Field, Goodman and I got a jeep and drove over to look at those trees. You would not believe all the Jap planes that were in the trees and they all had holes in them.

On one mission we had a Jap come head on, firing all guns. It went under us and shot up the plane below us.

On another mission over the target, I was checking instruments and I looked out the co-pilots window, Anti aircraft shells burst between the cockpit and no. 3 engine- how close can you get?

I spent 2 weeks in the base hospital with yellow jaundice, 2 vitamin shots a day. The ward that I was in had to have been 2 blocks long or more, then my orders from home came thru, so I and several others got our last ride in a B-24. I so not remember our ports of disembarkation or which type of ship. We were given Sates rooms meal for 2 and they put 4 of us in there, but the food was worth it. When we got to New Guinea, we picked up several wounded men, so they got our rooms- they earned it, so we went down to the hold, slept in theirs. If someone was in the one above you and you wanted to turn over, you had to get out and then turn over.

So midnight the 4th of July we go under the Golden Gate Bridge. What a great feeling. The good Lord brought me back home safe and sound.

My vision of flying started with C Lindberg flying solo across the Atlantic and the picture of him landing in France at night. I believe there was also a fellow by the name of Chamberin- not sure of the spelling- who planned the same trip, and then Col. Roscoe Turner, who held the world’s speed record. Then there was Wily Post one eyed pilot and so many more. Flying was in my blood until I did not get to attend high school, so my flying dreams went out the window, knowing that I would need all that education to get there. So WWII came along, and as you see, my dreams did come true—to come out of service and to be qualified to fly any aircraft that was being flown in the World. And now you would wonder why would anyone pass up an opportunity such as that? Good question …you were allowed only twenty hours a week flying time…free time... that bothered me being a farmer, we had no free time to speak of. There was nothing more boring than flying hours on end with nothing to look at. It was not boring on the way to the target but on the way to base---five hours of blue sky and water.
Since I was the youngest, it was expected of me to take care of my parents on the farm.

Source: Submitted by Connie Swearingen with the permission of John O Jacobs. This story is parts taken from the book he wrote “Farm Boys Dream”.