Last Known Activity
John B. Bruce was born in Iowa in 1918, according to enlistment documents. The US Census 1940 shows him residing in Pasadena, California.
He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet program at March Field, California on April 22, 1941. His enlistment papers state he had completed 2 years of college (unnamed), and was working as a general office clerk.
After completing the course, he was commissioned, awarded wings, and sent to transitional training on multi-engined aircraft. Later, he was assigned to combat crew training before deploying to North Africa (via England) in 1942.
On November 28, 1942, the crew was assigned to bomb several targets in the Bizerte, Tunisia area. En route to the target, the aircraft was attacked by enemy fighters and shot down. It crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. There were no survivors, and no bodies were recovered.
According to records, this was the first 301st Bomb Group aircraft lost in combat action due to enemy fighters.
Captain Bruce is memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the North Africa American Cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia.
US Census 1940
NARA Enlistment Records
Captain John B. Bruce was the assigned pilot of B-17F # 41-24363, named "Bad Penny," assigned to the 32nd Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 16197 was issued. Mission loading lists show the crew as:
Cpt John B. Bruce p
2 Lt Robert Earl c-p
2 Lt Charles Tannehill nav
2 Lt Charles Knop bomb
SSgt Henry P. Hughes, Jr. eng/tt gun
Sgt Leonard McGriff r/o
SSgt Alpheus Backus wg
Sgt Samuel Scott wg
SSgt Merle Gilger tail gun
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
SSgt Gilger's name is recorded as "Merle" in the loading list: however, all other records reflect" Merril."
The only known photo of this crew is one in England where King George VI is congratulating the crew. Unfortunately, no crew identifications are available.
The name "Bad Penny" was selected by the crew because a "Bad Penny always comes back."