Last Known Activity
Jasper C. Pearson was born, according to records, in California on February 26, 1906. According to his NARA enlistment records, he enlisted at Fort MacArthur, California on March 12, 1942. The enlistment forms further state he had completed 3 years of high school, and was employed as a farm hand.
He was selected for flight duty, and trained as an aerial gunner. He was assigned overseas, probably in the first part of 1943 to a combat crew in North Africa.. Given his awards, he probably flew at least 20 missions, mostly over Sicily and the Italian mainland. (See note under crew listing for explanation of awards and combat tour lengths.)
On July 27, 1943, the crew was tasked with participating in a bombing raid at Capua, Italy, near Foggia. On the bomb run, everything was normal. The bomb bay doors opened, the bombs fell in trail, but observers noted that after the drop, the bay doors did not close. They also noted the absence of anyone in the top turret, a position usually occupied by the flight engineer. This led to speculation that a malfunction had occurred, and the engineer was attempting to clear it.
Suddenly, the ship nosed upward, almost colliding with another aircraft. The pilot immediately "dumped the nose," and the aircraft went into a steep dive, and plunged into the sea. Observers noted several parachutes out, but there was only one survivor.
No remains or personal effects were recovered, and one year later, a Finding of Death (FOD) was issued for the missing crew. Pearson is remembered on the Walls of the Missing in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy. One source (findagrave lists his burial in the San Joaquin National Cemetery in California, but that is a memory stone as the American Battlefield Monuments Commission still has a record of him on the Walls of the Missing. (No remains recovered.)
NARA Enlistment Records
SSgt Jasper C. Pearson was assigned as the ball turret gunner on B-17F # 42-3170, not named, assigned to the 353rd Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 339 was issued for this loss. Mission loading lists state the crew on board was:
1 Lt Denis G. Booker p
2 Lt Robert T. Dix c-p
2 Lt Harvey P. Harrington nav
2 Lt Bernard Turansky bomb
SSgt William L. Hayes eng/tt gun
SSgt Freeburn V. Rosheger r/o
SSgt Jasper C. Pearson btg
SSgt Eugene B. Fleming wg
SSgt Fred S. Luke tail gun
SSgt Charles A. Hurlbutt photo
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
Sgt Hayes was the only survivor.
Crew combat tours varied throughout the theater. Some units required 25 credited missions; other had limits extending up to 50. The awarding of Air Medals was generally set at one award for each 5 missions; however, some instances have been found of requirements of 7 to 10.