Joyce Johnson, B-17 Pilot

 
Joyce Johnson, B-17 Pilot, United States Army Air Forces, Eighth Air Force, 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squadron, 8 missions to April 25, 1945.
 
(The following summary is condensed from notes of a public presentation made by Mr. Joyce Johnson at the Scott Hosier WW II Roundtable in Rochester, MN on March 14, 2011. The Evening's Program (Short Rounds) and a Video DVD is available (MLT Group, Rochester, MN 55901.)
 
Joyce indicated that his cousin was killed during Primary training when another Aviation Cadet accidently chopped off the tail of his cousin's plane during a landing, destroying the control surfaces on the plane. Joyce had another cousin in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and they did not require two years of college, so he considered that option until the Army Air Forces changed the policy and said you did not need to have two years of college, if you could pass the Aviation Cadet exam. He passed the test and the physical and enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He was then told they didn't have facilities to train him and to go home and wait.
 
Basic training: Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri.
College Training Detachment: Arkadelphia, Arkansas. They said you did two years of college in 5 weeks so the joke was "If you dropped your pencil, you lost 6 weeks of work."
Classification: San Diego Aviation Cadet Center, Texas. tested eyes, coordination, etc. Passed for Pilot training.
Spartan School of Aeronautics, Tulsa, Oklahoma (a civilian school). He was reading about the power spin versus the stall spin and thought he would try a power spin. He said it was the most violent thing he ever did in an airplane. It was spinning like a top. He did it in an open cockpit PT-19. Another time he was flying a PT-19 and it started raining, so he flew it upside down. It didn't really help keep the rain off.
 
Winfield, Kansas He was flying when he heard on the radio from another plane that his instructor "hit the silk." The instructor was "hung over" from the night before and left the canopy open with his harness off. The cadet he was training did a slow roll and accidently dumped his instructor out of the plane!
 
Advanced training at Lubbock, Texas. While doing an instrument check where the student cannot see out but is watching the instruments, he was flying on a radio beam where a hum sound meant you were on course. Suddenly the instructor pushed down on the controls and they were barely missed by another plane. That was the end of his test as the instructor took out after the other airplane to get its number.
 
Transition training to the B-17 at Avon Park, FL after he got his "wings" (or commission).
At Boca Raton, FL they were put up at the Millionaires Club and had maid service in the rooms. The Millionaires thought it was the patriotic thing to do.The tail gunner had wanted to be a fighter pilot and urged him to do more aggressive flying. The B-17 was designed for straight and level flight, but it could do more.
Hunter Airfield, Georgia was their staging area where they waited for a plane to take to Europe. During this time the Navy offered them the chance to get Navy wings in addition to their AAF wings for a secret mission, but he turned it down wanting to get started with missions for the AAF. He didn't want to do more training but get going.
He was in a new program that trained lead crews. When they did a mission for their training to be a lead crew, it was never a milk run.Some missions had 1000, 2000, and even 2500 planes going in waves.
 
His last mission, to Pizen, Czechlosovakia on the 25th of April, 1945, was to the Skoda Ammunition Works. The AAF told the Czech people ahead of the mission to get out of the factory, which let the Germans know they were coming. They still flew a zigzag route to try to confuse the Germans.On this mission his Co-pilot who usually shared some of the flying was not staying in formation properly, so Joyce piloted the whole 10 hour mission. No enemy fighters were seen, but there was black smoke from flak all over the place. The plane was bouncing around. They were only supposed to bomb it visually and there was cloud cover so they went around twice and during a break in the cloud cover released the bombs which took out the factory. Many of their planes were shot down but only 6 people in the factory were killed due to the prior warning. Joyce said someone later went to the area after the war and looked at the reasons for the mission. It was that person's opinion that the AAF may have bombed the Skoda Works to keep it out of the hands of the advancing Soviet army.
 
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