398th Bomb Group

Jack Lee's Search for Miss X

Jack Lee

Salem Evening News
Salem, Massachusetts

Dear Sir:

I am writing to ask your assistance in piecing together the last pages of an interesting story about a lady I once knew. Your newspaper chronicled the story with quite a few articles from the summer of ‘45 to the winter of ‘47.

In her heyday, she was admired by many and feared by more.

She was born in Seattle and died in Salem. At birth she was reputed to have a worth of $200,000. She died a battered, disheartened lady, whose worth was set at $200.

In her prime, she shared exciting and memorable times with the men in her life. If you were with her, you indeed had good luck. She was beautiful. As graceful as a ballerina, as tough as a fullback, and had the instincts of a survivor.

In her waning days she was stripped and beaten. She had won all previous battles in life, but in the end she succumbed to malicious, uncaring vandals and vagrants.

She was known as Miss X.

I am writing to ask your assistance in helping the 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association to learn more about her final days. She was a B-17 Flying Fortress. She was in the demolition business during World War II. Her job was to assist in the demolition of factories, oil refineries, railroad marshalling yards, etc.

During the War, I was a Flying Fortress pilot in the 603rd Squadron 398th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, stationed in England. The plane I flew most often was named Miss X.

I was raised in Salem. After the war, the city wanted a plane as a war memorial to honor Salem veterans. Someone remembered I had flown a bomber and the city decided to buy the one I had flown the most.

The plane was purchased from the Army Air Corps and was flown to the Beverly airport. It arrived on December 17, 1945. [Editor's note: Jack Lee in Front of Miss X - 17 December 1945.].

It was moved to Salem in July 1946 and set up at the Block House Square at the corner of Fort Avenue and Almshouse Road.

Miss X was vandalized while in Beverly, and further mugged by vandals and vagrants while in Salem.

She became an eyesore, and in December 1947 she was sold as scrap for $200.

I had been one of those to greet her upon her arrival in Beverly, but I left Salem in February 1946 to attend the University of Southern California. I was not in Salem during her sojourn there.

My mom and dad kept me apprised of the saga of Miss X in letters with occasional clippings, as well as phone calls. The last I recalled about Miss X was the she had been significantly vandalized and her remains had been shoved into a nearby dump and buried. Both parents passed away several years ago.

After retiring in 1987 I joined the 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association. They put out a quarterly newsletter and have an annual reunion in different cities each year. A year ago they published a book concerning the life of the Bomb Group.

I attended my first reunion in September, 1990 at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. While talking with an old friend who is on the board of directors of the association, I mentioned that I thought my old plane, Miss X, might be buried in my home town and if so there was a long shot that we might be able to recover some parts of it for display at the renowned air museum in Oshkosh, in conjunction with a B-17 now on display there and painted with our bomb group’s colors and insignia.

Upon returning to my home I dug out old clippings and some from a more complete set my folks had kept, but which I had never studied in depth. Most of these were from the Salem Evening News. Some were from Boston papers. I found one that indicated it had been sold to a Harry Greenberg, owner of Greenberg’s Auto Wrecking Company in Ipswich. Via the telephone company, I found that Greenberg’s was still in business. I called, but the current owner knows nothing of the Greenberg’s or of the plane.

Members of our Association will visit Salem for the purpose of photographing the site where Miss X lived prior to her death, and to attempt to uncover more about her final days.

It would be greatly appreciated if my friends could have access to your archives to uncover any further articles, photographs or other information concerning her stay at Salem, especially her final days.

Some questions we have are as follows:

Was any part or parts buried at the Salem site? Was the plane cut up at Salem or was it trucked to Ipswich? Does anyone in Salem have information about Miss X that might be helpful? Would a brief article in the paper asking for information be possible? Does anyone by chance have a souvenir of the plane and be willing to part with it? Is there anyone in Ipswich who might have some knowledge of the plane, and if so, what?

Thank you for taking the time to read the above. Any assistance you could offer would be greatly appreciated.


Jack Lee

Transcribed in 2005 by Ruthanna Doerstler.

See also:

  1. The Amazing Story of Miss X by Wally Blackwell, Pilot, 601st Squadron
  2. It All Began With “Ole Blood & Guts” by Allen Ostrom
  3. Early Miss X in Action - Summer 1944
  4. Jack Lee in Front of Miss X - 17 December 1945

Printed in Flak News Volume 6, Number 1, Page(s) 6, January 1991

Search in Salem for Miss X - 200x
Viewers Left to Right:
  1. Wally Blackwell, 601st pilot, now serves as 398th president
  2. Ken Green, 603rd gunner on the Hastings crew, 398th member
  3. Ralph Hall of New Bedford, 601st tail gunner on the McCarty crew, now serves as 398th monument fund manager

The three visited this site in Salem, Massachusetts that is thought to contain the remains of Jack Lee's Miss X. The trio found no conclusive evidence that the Fort was buried here, following its brief and tormented life as a war memorial. The search continues.

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