The story of Jack Lees intriguing search for his beloved Miss X all began with another B-17 named Ole Blood & Guts, also a part of the 603rd Squadron inventory during the winter of 1944. Ole Blood & Guts had her own claim to fame, concluding her venturesome 398th career with a crash landing in Bruges, Belgium on Nov. 21, 1944.
However, Lee had flown Ole Blood & Guts on an earlier mission, the day the group photographer chose to take his crews picture as they returned home. It was the standard lineup for such an event, with the usual comments such as Take the stupid picture so we can get out of here. Posing for pictures after a 10-hour combat mission didnt make for a friendly atmosphere.
So the photo of the Lees crew eventually arrived at the newspaper office in Lees hometown of Salem, MA. And naturally, the photo editor spotted the name, Ole Blood & Guts on the planes nose. Coincidentally, the paper had just carried a story about Gen. George S. Patton having received a promotion to the rank of permanent major general. And Patton was leading the smashing motorized assault that may trap a stunned German army in western France.
Naturally, there had to be a connection made between the Patton Blood & Guts and the Blood & Guts piloted by 21-year-old Lee. As far as his father knows, the flight lieutenant and the general are not related, the story said. Although it is barely possible they met somewhere overseas.
It had to happen, of course, that the printed story with all its Blood & Guts verbiage about Lee and Gen. Patton was posted on the 603 Squadron bulletin board. Needless to say, life was made a bit miserable for the now famous Lee.
Lees love affair with Miss X began rather poorly.
Early in my tour, Lee recalled, I was ordered to the flight line to fly this B-17 to a large repair facility not too far from Nuthampstead.
She was on a Red X, meaning grounded. Non-flyable. Certainly not for combat, but supposedly OK for this short hop. She had been quite badly shot up and the damage was more than could be handled by the ground crew or at sub depot.
I dont recall the specifics of the damage other than some of the control cables were inoperable. It was a very short flight, possibly 10 to 15 minutes, but I recall I thought it might be my last. A member of the ground crew came along and he was soon sorry that he had asked for the ride.
From the moment we took off until we landed she shook violently as if she had the worlds greatest case of St. Vitus dance. I could not make turns to one side (I cant remember which side) and when I did turn, she could only manage an almost flat bank.
This repair facility was considered to be an elephant bone yard. If a B-17 could not survive this intensive care it was cannibalized.
Some time later I was told to go out to the line and test fly a plane and put some slow time on the engines. The plane turned out to be Miss X. What a difference from our last date! We flew through the sky like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. She was a beauty to behold and handle. I fell in love.
When I got back to 131 (Moorhen) I immediately went to operations and asked to have her assigned as my plane. From then on I flew Miss X on 14 missions, the last one being on December 24, 1944.
And thats the story of how boy met girl and fell in love.
Miss Xs crew chief, the man who kept the romance alive, was Uhro (Whitey) Kaskella.
Transcribed in 2005 by Ruthanna Doerstler.