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John Louis Jerstad

Military

Killed in action on 1 August 1943 during Operation Tidal wave onboard B-24 Liberator, 'Hell's Wench'

John Jerstad enlisted as an aviation cadet at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on July 12, 1941. He trained at Ontario, California, and Luke Field, Arizona. He was commissioned on February 6, 1942 and served with the 98th and 93rd Bomb Groups at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. In October 1942, he went to Europe with the 93rd and flew B-24s with the 328th Bomb Squadron, as a captain. He was promoted to major in April 1943, and was assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing headquarters a month later. He was picked by Colonel Edward L. Timberlake, former commander of the 376th Bombing Group, "Ted's Traveling Circus" to be Ted Timberlake's chief operations officer.

By August 1943, Jersad had completed more than his tour of missions and was no longer directly connected with the 93rd Bomb Group. He had conducted many of the missions in an aircraft nicknamed "Jerk's Natural"; "Jerk" was a reference to his own name, Jack Jerstad, and "Natural" referred to the fact the plane's serial numbers added to 7 and 11, a "natural" in dice games. When Jerstad heard of Operation Tidal Wave, the upcoming low-level bombing mission against the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, he volunteered to lead a formation of B-24s on the 18-hour, 2,400 mile round-trip mission to destroy the largest of the oil refineries at Ploesti, 30 miles north of Bucharest, Romania. This mission on August 1, 1943, ended with five U.S. Air Force airmen, including Maj. Jerstad, earning the Medal of Honor, three, including Jerstad, posthumously. Sixty aircraft were lost on the mission.

Three miles from the target, Jerstad's bomber, nicknamed "Hell's Wench", was badly damaged and set aflame by enemy ground fire. More than 230 anti-aircraft guns, supported by many barrage balloons and smoke pots, surrounded the refineries, with more than 400 fighters in the area. Ignoring the fact he was flying above a field suitable for a forced landing, Maj. Jerstad and his Group Commander Col. Addison Baker kept on course in order to lead their group to their target. After the bombs were released on the target, the fire in his aircraft became so intense that it made further progress impossible, and their B-24D, 'Hell's Wench' crashed into the target area. Col. Baker, John Jerstad, and their crew were killed, and listed as missing in action. For these actions, Major Jerstad was awarded the Medal of Honor on October 28, 1943. His family accepted the medal on his behalf during a presentation ceremony at Holy Communion Church in Racine.

Service

People

  • George Allen

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Gunner | 93rd Bomb Group
    Killed in action on 1 August 1943 during Operation Tidal wave onboard B-24 Liberator, 'Hell's Wench' (#42-40994). ...

  • Addison Baker

    Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Commanding Officer | 93rd Bomb Group
    Lieutenant Colonel Addison Baker was the Commanding Officer of the 93rd Bomb Group from May 17, 1943, he was killed in Action over Ploesti during Operation Tidal Wave on 1 August, 1943. ...

  • Charles Bennett

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Top Turret Gunner | 93rd Bomb Group
    Killed in action on 1 August 1943 during Operation Tidal wave onboard B-24 Liberator, 'Hell's Wench' (#42-40994). ...

  • John Carroll

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Radio Operator | 93rd Bomb Group
    Killed in action on 1 August 1943 during Operation Tidal wave onboard B-24 Liberator, 'Hell's Wench' (#42-40994). ...

  • Edgar Faith

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Waist Gunner | 93rd Bomb Group
    Killed in action on 1 August 1943 during Operation Tidal wave onboard B-24 Liberator, 'Hell's Wench' (#42-40994). ...

  • Alfred Pezzella

    Military | First Lieutenant | Bombardier | 93rd Bomb Group
    Killed in action on 1 August 1943 during Operation Tidal wave onboard B-24 Liberator, 'Hell's Wench' (#42-40994). ...

  • George Reuter

    Military | First Lieutenant | Navigator | 93rd Bomb Group
    KIA over Ploesti, Romania Aug 1 1943: I grew up knowing him as "Uncle Bud". He was known as "Bud" to his family. He had two sisters, and twin brothers. He was the second oldest child of my great grandparents. ...

  • Morton Stafford

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Gunner | 93rd Bomb Group
    Killed in action on 1 August 1943 during Operation Tidal wave onboard B-24 Liberator, 'Hell's Wench' (#42-40994). ...

  • Edward Timberlake

    Military | Brigadier General | Commanding General | 453rd Bomb Group
    From FindAGrave: ...

  • William Wood

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 93rd Bomb Group
    Killed in action on 1 August 1943 during Operation Tidal wave onboard B-24 Liberator, 'Hell's Wench' (#42-40994). ...

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Units served with

  • 376th Bomb Group

    376th Bomb Group

    Group
    Constituted as 376th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 19 Oct 1942 and activated in Palestine on 31 Oct. Began combat immediately, using B-24 aircraft. Operated with Ninth AF from bases in the Middle East, Nov 1942-Sep 1943, and with Twelfth AF from Tunisia...

  • 93rd Bomb Group

    93rd Bomb Group

    Group
    93rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated 1-March-1942 at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. On 15-May-1942 the Group moved to Ft. Myers, Florida to continue advanced flight training and also to fly anti-submarine patrols over the Gulf of Mexico; they...

  • 98th Bomb Group

    98th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 98th trained for bombardment missions with B-24 Liberators during the first half of 1942. ...

  • 328th Bomb Squadron
  • Headquarters (2nd Combat Bomb Wing)

Aircraft

  • 41-23711 'Jerks Natural'

    B-24 Liberator
    Assigned to 328th BS, 93rd BG, 8th AF, TDY 9th Benghazi, Libya. This aircraft flew the Aug. 1, 1943, Ploesti mission, diverting safely to Sicily. A/C was damaged over Austria on mission to Wiener Neustadt Bf 109 factory and crashed in Yugoslavia on...

  • 42-40994 Hell's Wench

    B-24 Liberator
    Crashed on 1 August 1943 during Operation Tidal wave. ...

Missions

  • Operation Tidal Wave

    1 August 1943
    Operation TIDAL WAVE. B24D Liberators attack the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. The bombers flew low to avoid radar detection and dropped time delayed bombs. Out of the 177 B-24s that took part in the raid 167 managed to attack their targets. 57 B...

Events

Event Location Date
Born Racine, Wisconsin 12 February 1918
Died 1 August 1943
Buried

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
27 August 2019 15:30:02 Emily Changes to nickname, biography, events, person associations, unit associations, place associations and aircraft associations
Sources

Ploesti Sortie Report, 93rd Bomb Group

Removed associations to people who did not fly as a part of Jerstad's crew during his service or on board his aircraft Operation Tidal Wave.

Date Contributor Update
17 July 2019 20:09:22 Kickapoo Changes to nickname, biography, person associations, unit associations, place associations and aircraft associations
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- Into the Fire - Duane Schultz ---- Wikipedia - Major John L. Jerstad

Date Contributor Update
28 November 2018 10:13:39 Kickapoo Changes to media associations
Sources

personal collection

Date Contributor Update
28 November 2018 10:11:33 Kickapoo Changes to media associations
Sources

personal collection

Date Contributor Update
12 February 2018 10:59:39 Lucy May Changes to unit associations and aircraft associations
Sources

https://www.fold3.com/image/38291530

Date Contributor Update
24 December 2016 18:42:52 millebr Changes to middlename, service number and awards
Sources

TogetherWeServed.com; Headstone and Interment Records for U.S. Cemeteries on Foreign Soil; Ancestry.com (Family Trees); fieldsofhonor-database.com

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:16:23 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / Freeman, MOH Citation

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