My Friend Jack Bohn - Tail Gunner
By Wally Blackwell, Pilot, 601st Squadron
It was an interesting match up. I had just been shot down and my tail gunner was killed. He was just blown out of the tail. We had been lucky enough to just reach the Allied lines when the rest of us bailed out. We got back to Station 131 in a few days and we were soon scheduled to continue flying missions. And it so happened that in a day or so, a fellow named Jack Bohn showed up in the crews hut and said, Im your new tail gunner. It turned out that he was the odd man out and hadnt flown with his crew when they had been shot down. Jack said he just waited a number of weeks, expecting some one to tell him what to do next. But it didnt happen, so one day he went down to Squadron Headquarters and asked. They said who are you? When he told them who he was they said, Ye Gods, the record shows you got shot down with your crew. Then they said, we have a crew that needs a tail gunner since their tail gunner was killed, so you got the job. Ive thought about it, years after. It was an interesting proposition for Jack, your crew is either killed or maybe POW and you take the place of a guy that was killed. But, it was a good match up; we both needed each other if we were going to do our duty.
Jack Bohn was just nineteen at the time, and was fresh out of a small town in Colorado. He and his brother had been great hunters and fishermen before going into the service. So Jack knew all about guns and he wanted to be a tail gunner. It turned out that Jack was the best B-17 tail gunner you would ever want. He became a mainstay for me for the next thirty missions. He was always right there when I needed him to tell me what was going on outback. Jacks observations and reporting of what he saw were always steady, accurate and dependable. He became a valued member of the crew very quickly. They knew that Jack was back there and could be counted on.
But, when Jack wasnt flying it was sort of a different story. He seemed that he just liked to carry on as if he was still in Colorado. One time the Squadron Commanding Officer was driving his jeep around the airfield parameter and saw Jack, just walking along carrying a brown paper sack. The CO stopped and asked if we wanted a ride. After awhile the CO asked what he had in the paper bag. Jack said it was a rabbit that he had just shot and he was going to the mess hall to have it cooked for himself. Years later, I asked the CO about picking up someone walking on the edge of the field, and after a bit of thought he said, yes, the guy with the rabbit in the paper bag. It also seemed that Jack had the habit of sleeping a few days straight after a night in town. Occasionally, one of the crew would raise the blanket up that was over Jack, just to be sure he was still breathing. Let's face it, Jack had a habit of getting into scrapes, but I look back with a great deal of pride that I was there with him. I tell these stories with lots of respect and friendship for Jack. World War II, like all wars I guess, made everlasting comrades, no matter what followed in life.
The most important of all this is that we were pals right up to his last year. We had great moments of remembering how things had happened. It was amazing the way Jack could recall events down to almost the last detail. We spent many hours at different times reliving our experiences. I was so very fortunate to have a friend like Jack Bohn. He helped me keep my values of what we are and where we all came from. Jack wanted to do his duty but didnt care to be a soldier. He knew what was expected of life, no more no less. One time I said to Jack, I want to fly you to a reunion to be with us. He said, no way; the last airplane ride I took was as the tail gunner of a B-17.
- Wilson's Crew - 601st Squadron - May 1944
- The Day We Saw The Colored Flak by Wally Blackwell, Pilot and Jack Bohn, Tail Gunner
One of my favorite pictures of Jack! 1968 - 43 years old - He had just retired from his job and gone fishing. Shown here with 18 inch Brook Trout
Wally Blackwell - Feb 2004
Personal History Information
- Veteran: Jack Bohn
- Position: Tail Gunner
- Squadron: 601st
- Date of Personal History: February 2004
- Author: Wally Blackwell
- Submitted to 398th Web Pages by: Wally Blackwell