Last Known Activity
Not much has been located on John L. Ball's early life. It has been established that he was born in Rockcastle, Kentucky on September 16, 1921. His parents were George R. and Eva J. Ball. The US Census 1930 has the family in Livingston, Kentucky.
His NARA enlistment forms state he enlisted in the military on May 28, 1941 at Fort Thomas, Kentucky as a private. It further states he had completed 4 years of high school. His occupational group is given as "actor."
He was trained as an aerial gunner, and assigned to the combat crew led by Lt Stapleton. The crew arrived in Tunisia in July, 1943, and began flying missions against targets in North Africa and Italy.
On September 25, 1943, the crew was dispatched to bomb the Bolzana Railroad bridge in Italy. Enemy fighters were sighted, but did not attack the formation, but flak over the target was accurate and heavy.
Stapleton's aircraft dropped from the formation, streaming fuel from a ruptured fuel tank, evidently hit by flak. It went into a cloud bank, and no one sighted it afterward. It eventually crashed near Verona, Italy, killing all aboard.
The bodies were evidently recovered and buried locally, for after the war , the entire crew was returned to Missouri and buried in a common grave in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. The grave is in Section 82, Site 242.
US Census 1930
NARA Enlistment Records
Sgt John L. Ball was the assigned tail gunner on B-17F # 42-5949, not named, assigned to the 419th Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 767 was issued for this loss. Mission loading lists state the crew consisted of:
1 Lt Edward F. Stapleton p
2 Lt Robert G. Warner c-p
2 Lt James R. Fitzgerald nav
2 Lt Max E. Doyle bomb
SSgt Edward G. Gehrt eng/tt gun
Sgt Raymond D. Wagner r/o
Sgt Teddy E. Ray btg
Sgt John S. Dignan wg
Sgt Oscar J. R. Daniels wg
Sgt John L. Ball tail gun
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
Awards and decorations from 301st Bomb Group records.