Last Known Activity
John E. McCormick was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on August 21, 1921. He attended and graduated from Central High School.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on April 11, 1942, and was selected for pilot training. He never completed the course, having "washed out." He applied for bombardier or navigator training, but a surplus of selectees for that training made his selection unsuccessful. Instead, he was assigned to Aerial Gunnery school at Harlengen, Texas.
After completing gunnery school in April, 1943, he was sent to Gunnery Instructors School at Ft. Myers, Florida. Upon completion of that course, he returned to Harlengen where he served as a gunnery instructor until November, 1943.
In December, 1943, he was assigned to Langley Field, Virginia for combat training as part of an air crew. In July, 1944, his combat crew was assigned to the 392nd Bomb Group at Wendling Air Station, England in Norfolk. He was removed from the training crew, and assigned to the 578th Bomb Squadron as a waist gunner on the B-24 piloted by Lt. Walker.
His first combat mission came on August 11, 1944. In the conduct of that mission, he was wounded and did not fly for more than a month. However, he returned to flying duties, and on February 22, 1945, prepared for his 10th mission.
The assigned target was the marshalling yards at Nordhausen, Germany. The bombing altitude was set at 6,000 feet, not the normal 23,000 feet. Smoke and haze on the primary prevented a drop, so the 392nd Bomb Group diverted to secondary, a rail yard at Northeim. Another Group cut in front of the formation, and the aircraft were directed to an industrial complex north of town.
The attack was made through heavy flak. Turning off target, and heading for the Dutch coast, one of the engines of Walker's aircraft quit. Almost out of fuel due to the climb to altitude, the lower bomb run, and the climbing back to altitude, the B-24 was rapidly losing altitude. Everything possible was jettisoned to lighten the aircraft.
At this time, the second engine quit and the bomber was engaged by a number of enemy fighters. Walker lowered the wheels as a sign of surrender, and prepared to find a landing place. The aircraft crash-landed in an open place, and the impact ripped the landing gear off. The plane slid by a farmhouse, hit a dike, and stopped, with the nose broken off.
All of the crew were severely banged up by the crash, but the only injury was SSgt Lingle who suffered a broken ankle . The crew abandoned the aircraft, then split up to avoid capture. German soldiers reached the site approximately one-half hour after impact.
Hicks, Nagle, Shea, and Lingle were captured and were POWs until 29 April 1945.
Walker and Cassteven was hidden by the Dutch Resistance and spent the remainder of the war hiding near Rotterdam.
Duer, and Donohue were picked up by Dutch farmers, passed to the Resistance, evaded, and eventually returned to England.
McCormick went by himself. He hid in a haystack for three days, then went into hiding at a Dutch farm.
Several days later, Spitfires from the RAF strafed the aircraft wreck to destroy it. In the process, they killed and wounded a number of Dutch civilians. McCormick was passed to the Resistance where he helped print fake documents, such as passports, work permits, and ration cards. He also assisted the Resistance on night raids against German encampments.
On April 29, 1945, McCormick, six RAF crewmen from a downed bomber, and several Resistance fighters were hiding at a yacht club when a party of German soldiers appeared and demanded their surrender. The Resistance fighters opened fire, and a skirmish ensued. There are conflicting accunts as to McCormick's death. One states he covered the escape of the RAF crew; another states he helped the Resistance in firing upon the Germans; while another states he led the charge that broke up the German attack. No matter; two facts remain. The RAF crew escaped, and McCormick was dead.
He was buried by the Dutch in Zevenbuizen, and later re-buried (October 31, 1945) in the cemetery of the Dutch Reformed Church in Zoetermeer with three Dutch civilians killed in the fire-fight.
McCormick's father, when contacted after the war, repeatedly stated he wished his son to remain where he was. A street in the town is named for McCormick, the Dutch people have adopted his grave, and each year there is a celebration and commeration of his life that he gave to liberate Holland.
392nd Bomb Group history
Missing Air Crew Report #12658
The aircraft in this incident was B-24 #42-95241 from the 578th Bomb Squadron of the 392nd Bomb Group.
The crew consisted of:
1 Lt Joseph R. Walker p
2 Lt Ralph C. Cassteven c-p
1 Lt John J. Donohue bomb-nav
SSgt Harold A. Shea ng
Sgt Francis J. Nagle ro
SSgt Allen W. Hicks eng/ttg
SSgt John E. McCormick wg
SSgt John H.A. Lingle wg
SSgt Elmer E. Duer tg
There is conflicting reports as to whether the aircraft had a nickname. The Missing Air Crew Report (12658) states there was no nose art or name; several long-serving members of the squadron stated there was no name; and the only pictures of the aircraft show only decoration on nose was numerals "241." However, there are many reports and accounts that say the aircraft was named "The Jolly Duck." In fact, a memorial to the crew in Holland is known as the "Jolly Duck Monument."
Servive photo source: