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Joseph M Mitzuk, 9th Air Force 322nd BG 450th BS.

My grandfather's name was Joseph M Mitzuk. He served in Europe as a crew chief on B-26 Maurader, 9th Air Force 322nd BG 450th BS. (https://www.americanairmuseum.com/aircraft/964)

Remembering Grandpa Joe today and all of his stories. He was a World War II vet who served as a crew chief of a B-26 Marauder. I mowed his lawn during the summer in high school and after I got done with yard work I could grab a Barq's Rootbeer from the fridge in the basement and we'd talk. He'd talk about his time on the railroad or growing up on the East Side of St. Paul, more often than not though his years overseas in the Air Force.

One such story was about the last crew of his plane nicknamed the "Fightin Cock". He called them the China-Burma crew. I believe that might be because they served in that theater earlier in the war; they were a wild bunch. He told me how they had been known to fly under bridges. Give a 20-something year old guy a fancy plane who's mind hasn't fully developed good decision making and such things seem bound to happen. Thinking back on stories I've read about other pilots it doesn't seem too far fetched. My grandfather didn't care for that. After all it was his plane, it was just on loan to them. They better bring it back in one piece. He always made sure it was ready for them. Joe received a service medal for not ever having a plane return to base due to mechanical failure.

One afternoon he told me about the last mission this particular plane flew in 1944. The planes in his group flew to bomb a target in France. When they came back to the field from the mission they watched the bombers come in. He saw his plane flying over head, there was a giant hole in one of the wings. Joe told me the CO ordered the enlisted men on the plane to bail out and the pilots were told to land the plane. Everyone on the ground was tense as the plane came in. Though it was heavily damaged the pilots were able to skillfully land the aircraft. After touching down the plane skidded off the runway and into the control tower. The two pilots, 2nd Lt. John R. Walker, Jr. - Pilot and 2nd Lt. Bruce Taylor - Co-Pilot died that day, August 12, 1944.

When I heard that story I didn't doubt it but it always sounded like something out of a movie. It wasn't until years later when my dad attended a B-26 reunion for my grandfathers unit that we received a little more history from one of the members of his bomb group. At war's end a company clerk had saved boxes of negatives from photographers that were assigned to the group. My dad had them scanned and in them one of the photos is dated "14 AUG 44, B-26 crash, control tower" — my grandfather's plane. I've attached that photo and some others below.

So here is to those who have given their all serving our country like John R. Walker and Bruce Taylor and to the stories that might sound too fantastic to believe but capture their heroism. I'm not sure why he shared that particular story that one Summer. Maybe it was August and he was remembering his crew. I'd like to think so. Thank you for your stories Grandpa Joe.


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