Veterans Voices: USAAF ‘Widowmaker’ pilot remembers time in the service with help from wartime notes

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Noble, Okla. (KFOR) – USAAF veteran, James DeLoach, pilot of the notorious ‘widowmaker,’ the B-26 twin-engined low-level bomber, recounts his time in the service in vivid detail with the help of intricate notes he took along the way.

At 21 years old, DeLoach made the decision to join the military after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

“I sat and worried about that on the job for about three or four months, and I couldn’t handle it anymore,” said DeLoach. “So I went and joined up.”

DeLoach, always fascinated with flying, luckily found a job as a pilot in the United States Army Air Forces.

DeLoach and his crew flew overseas, visiting several countries, including Africa and England, but most of his active duty was during the invasion of Normandy.

“I flew 27 missions,” said DeLoach. “And on the 27th mission I was shot down, taken prisoner.”

He was a prisoner of war in Germany for around 13 months, at two different camps.

“We ducked aircraft and bombs and fighting, just like the Germans did when they were moving us,” said DeLoach.

During that time, DeLoach began to take notes of his experience.

“I didn’t have anything to do it with. I had cigarettes,” said DeLoach. “I had a couple packs of cigarettes and I started with the empty pack on that.”

From jotting down poems written by other soldiers, to the music that was played. All of it, documented.

“That’s what kept most of the prisoners sane and functional, so to speak,” said DeLoach.

After many months as a prisoner of war, eventually the day came for freedom.

“The fighting stopped there,” said DeLoach. “They opened the gates and we walked out.”

DeLoach spent a few more years in the service. He was discharged in 1952 as a captain from the Air Force.

DeLoach’s cigarette notes have now been made into a book by his daughter. They are hoping to get it published.

This December, DeLoach will turn 99 years old.

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