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John C Egan

Military

Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 42-30830 "M'lle Zig Zag", Prisoner of War.

John Clarence 'Bucky 'Egan was everybody's idea of the devil-may-care wartime bomber pilot. Pictures of him hat askew, often with a moustache, he was the role model for for the newly arrived air crews joining the 100th Bomber Group at Thorpe Abbots. It all began for Egan in March 1940 as a Flying Cadet at Randolph Field Texas as it did for Gale Cleven who was to go with him all the way. In November of that year he was promoted 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve and in April 1942 made it to 1st Lieutenant and to the 29th Bombardment Group as an Instructor. That August he was promoted to Captain and posted to Gowan Army Air Field as Operations Officer for the 100th BG. In May 1943 - by then a Major - he flew with the advance party to England, flew two missions with the 305th Bomb Group at Chelveston and in June took over command of the 418th Bomber Squadron at Thorpe Abbotts.

Egan in his trademark sheepskin jacket flew on some dozen combat missions with the 100th, usually in the co-pilot's seat. As written up by navigator Harry Crosby in 'A Wing and a Prayer' he and Gale Cleven were 'Air Corps raunch, their hats cocked on the back of their heads, ...both wearing white scarves, the souls of romanticism....hated discipline'. In 'Splasher Six the newsletter of the Group Egan is described as 'a lean dark young man with a wisp of a
27 but looked older'. He could turn on the charm and turn it off whenever he liked'. He frequented the local pub in Dickleburgh sometimes rolling up in a jeep, then singing songs in the bar with the locals. The nickname' Bucky' was aquired when as a cadet he reminded a team-mate of someone known as Bucky - 3 of the cadets would henceforth be known by that soubriquet, one of them being Gale Cleven.

Egan was present on the ill-famed Regensburg raid of August 17th 1943 when nine B-17's in the Group went down. He described the experience later 'We were under fighter attack for three and a half hours and saw three Fortresses immediately around us shot down between the German border and the target. No one turned back , although some of us thought we were as good as dead'. The survivors landed as planned in North Africa 'I never saw such a feeling of fraternity as when we landed.

Everyone shook hands and slapped each other on the back , then stamped on the good solid earth'. It was not long after that that the Group became known as the 'Bloody Hundreth' In the first two weeks of October the Group was again decimated, in three operations the Group lost almost one hundred men, only three of the 140 officers who had arrived four months earlier were still operational. On The Munster raid of October 10th Egan was Command Pilot -sitting in the right hand seat - on John Brady's lead crew in 'Mlle Zigzag' when they were attacked by over two hundred FW 190's which harried them for 45 minutes; Pilot Lt Robert Rosenthal in 'Rosie's Riveters' was the only plane that got back to base be it on two engines and with two badly wounded crewmen on board. Two days earlier Cleven had gone down on a raid over Bremen and - according to Crosby - Egan had the following day badgered their commanding officer demanding to lead the next mission and avenge his buddy

The Group had lost 20 bombers and two hundred men missing or killed in the space of one week (Roger Freeman) Egan his wish being one of that number. When he eventually arrived at Stalag Luft III Cleven reputedly greeted him with the words 'What the Hell took you so long?' The two buddies were to spend the next eighteen months as POWs in each other's company.

Stalag Luft III, located some hundred miles south east of Berlin, had been the home of downed RAF airmen since 1942 and the aim of one occupant - Squadron Leader Roger Bushell- was to tie up as many Germans as possible in hunting escaped POW's. He had initially escaped in October 1942 but was re-captured. He put the experience to good use and was the instigator for the long term planning of tunnels Tom, Dick and Harry which were eventually to be used in the 'great' escape of March 1944. Three men got away, of the 76 captured as they emerged from the tunnel fifty were shot on Hitler's personal orders.

There were some USAAF airmen in the camp by December 1942, initially living in the East compound, as numbers grew the camp was enlarged, Americans mostly in the South and West compounds. Following the mass escape attempt controls tightened, the Lutwaffe camp commandant Colonel Friedric von Lindeiner-Wildau was dismissed and the SS became more involved with the running of the camp. Post D-Day escape attempts were rare, the senior Allied officers in the compounds tightly controlled all covert activities and supplies.

During the winter months 1944/45 nobody knew what to expect as the Allies were advancing from the west and the Russians closing in from the east. Red Cross parcels were few and far between, the weather was particularly severe and the prisoners saved rations and made preparations for all eventualities. On 17th January 1945 the Germans broadcast news of the Russian advances, the men stepped up preparations and on the evening of January 27th the order came to evacuate. An estimated 10,000 men marched out of Sagan in a line fifteen miles long.

The horrors of that journey in freezing temperatures are well documented as the roads west became jammed up with fleeing German civilians as well as the vast numbers of POWs. There was often nowhere to shelter at night, frostbite and dysentery rampant and the guards trigger happy.
Some men did get away, many more died. The men from Sagan were on the road for five days and nights - Egan recalled one night spent in a 'building so infested with bugs that the bunks and straw matresses were moving by themselves' before being entrained for Mooseburg. Somewhere along the way Gale Cleven got away.

Egan got back to the USA and stayed on in the Air Force. Late in 1945 he married Josephine Pitz who had been a pilot with WASP assigned to New Castle AFB ferrying B-17's, PT-19's and C-47's. and they were to have two daughters. Egan later served in Korea and following duties in the Far East attended the National War College in Washington DC.

In July 1958 he was assigned duties in the Policy Division, Directorate of Plans. Colonel Egan died in 1961 at the age of 45 of a heart attack and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honours on 19 April 1961.

A comprehensive history of the 100th Bomb Group, and John Egan's role, can be found in
"Eighth Air Force", by Donald L. Miller.

Further service details and biographical information can be found at the '100th Bomb Group Foundation' website:
http://100thbg.com/index.php?option=com_bombgrp&view=personnel&id=1466&I...

Service

People

  • Adolf Blum

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Top Turret Gunner | 100th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #42-30830 "M'lle Zig Zag". Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • John Brady

    Military | Captain | Pilot | 100th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #42-30830 M'lle Zig Zag. As a Prisoner of War (POW), played saxophone in a dance band made up of other Prisoner of War (POW)s with instruments furnished by the Red Cross, in Stalag Luft III. ...

  • Harold Clanton

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Right Waist Gunner, Waist Gunner | 100th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #42-30830 M'lle Zig Zag. Killed in Action (KIA).

  • Gale Cleven

    Military | Major | Command Pilot, Pilot, Mission | 100th Bomb Group
    Shot down 8 October 1943 in B-17 42-3233 'Our Baby', Prisoner of War. ...

  • Roland Gangwer

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Ball Turret Gunner | 100th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #42-30830 M'lle Zig Zag. Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • Joseph Hafer

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Radio Operator | 100th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #42-30830 M'lle Zig Zag. Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • Howard Hamilton

    Military | Colonel | Bombardier | 100th Bomb Group
    Original 100th in Boise, Idaho. Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #42-30830 M'lle Zig Zag on 19th mission while lead Bombardier to Munster. Retired Col. Combat Engineers ...

  • John Hoerr

    Military | Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 100th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 #42-30830 M'lle Zig Zag. Prisoner of War (POW). POW, Silver Star Mentioned in "Eighth Air Force", By Donald L. Miller.

  • James McCusker

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 100th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 42-30830 'Mlle Zig Zag. Prisoner of War.

  • George Petrohelos

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Waist Gunner | 100th Bomb Group
    Shot down 10 October 1943 in B-17 42-30830 "Mlle Zig Zag". Prisoner of War (POW). George was one of 418 Squadron's original crew members. His death from leukemia was reported in the Summer 1991 edition of 'Splasher Six'

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Units served with

  • 100th Bomb Group

    100th Bomb Group

    Group
    "The Bloody Hundredth", so-called because of a reputation for losing a high number aircraft and crews, flew B-17s from Thorpe Abbotts, Norfolk. Their losses were not the highest of any Eighth Air Force Group but on several occasions the Group lost many...

  • 418th Bomb Squadron

Aircraft

  • 42-30061 Just-a-Snappin, Wolff Pack

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 6/4/43; Kearney 15/4/43; Wendover 2/5/43; Kearney 22/5/434; Dow Fd 30/5/43; Assigned 418BS/100BG [LD-Q] Thorpe Abbotts 9/6/43 WOLFF PACK; Returned to the USA Homestead 12/7/44; 1 BU Wright 17/7/44; 328 BU Gulfport 26/1/45; with Alvin...

  • 42-30066 'Mugwump' aka 'Rum Boogie II'

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 6/4/43; Gore 14/4/43; Kearney 16/4/43; Wendover 2/5/43; Hill 16/5/43; Kearney 22/5/43; Dow Fd 30/5/43; Assigned 413BS/96BG [MZ-X] Andrews Fd 2/6/43; RUM BOOGIE II; transferred 418BS/100BG [LD-U] Thorpe Abbotts 9/6/43; as war weary F...

  • 42-30830 "M'LLE ZIG ZAG"

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 4/8/43; Gr Isle 14/8/43; Assigned 418BS/100BG [LD-U] Thorpe Abbotts 28/8/43; Missing in Action Munster 10/10/43 with Capt John Brady, Co-pilot: John Hoerr, Navigator: Dave Solomon, Bombardier: Howard Hamilton Wounded in Action,...

  • 42-3237 Stymie

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 5/4/43; Dow Fd 30/5/43; Assigned 418BS/100BG [LD-R] Podington 31/5/43; Thorpe Abbotts 9/6/43; Missing in Action Munster 10/10/43 with John Stephens, Co-pilot: Hoyt Smith, Navigator: Rudi Grum, Bombardier: Bill Moore, Flight engineer...

  • 42-3393 "DID YOU SAY TEN CENTS?", "BLAKELY’S PROVISIONAL GROUP", "JUST-A-SNAPPIN'"

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Denver 1/6/43; Dow Fd 1/7/43; Assigned 418BS/100BG [LD-Y] Thorpe Abbotts 5/7/43; battle damaged Bremen 8/10/43 with Capt Everett Blakely, Co-pilot: Chas Via wia-shot down two enemy aircraft, Navigator: Harry Crosby, Bombardier: Jim Douglas,...

Missions

  • VIII Bomber Command 59

    19 May 1943
    The German naval bases at Kiel and Flensburg, Germany are the two primary targets for this mission. A force of 123 B-17s is despatched from: 91BG (19); 92BG (10); 303BG (27); 305BG (22); 306BG (24) and 351BG (21) to bomb the naval facilities at Kiel,...

  • VIII Bomber Command 60

    21 May 1943
    The German naval and port facilities at Wilhelmshaven and Emden, Germany are the two primary targets for this mission. Once again, there is a two-fold strategic objective: entice the Luftwaffe to commit its fighter forces; and further degrade the naval...

  • VIII Bomber Command 71

    4 July 1943
    The aircraft factories at Le Mans and Nantes, France and the lock gates and harbour facilities at La Pallice, France are the primary targets for this mission. The mission is comprised of three elements: ...

  • VIII Bomber Command 72

    10 July 1943
    German airfields at Caen, Abbeville, and Le Bourget at Paris, France are the primary targets for this mission. 112 B-17s form a combined force from 91BG; 92BG; 305BG; 306BG; 351BG and 381BG to bomb the German airfield (Carpiquet) at Caen, France. Cloud...

  • VIII Bomber Command 76

    25 July 1943
    This mission was composed of three elements. The primary targets were the diesel engine works at Hamburg, Germany; the shipyards at Kiel, Germany and the aircraft industries at Warnemude, Germany, but weather frustrated the effort. The first element...

  • VIII Bomber Command 82

    15 August 1943
    German airfields in Holland and France are the targets for this mission. All of the attacks were made late in the afternoon just prior to sunset. The mission is composed of two elements. The first element is a combined force of 180 B-17s from: 91BG (20...

  • VIII Bomber Command 84

    17 August 1943
    The mission flown on 17-Aug-43, the 1st anniversary of the 1st mission flown by the 8th Air Force, is probably the most written about mission of the war. This is the famous Schweinfurt/Regensburg mission on which 60 B-17s are lost. It has been dubbed ...

  • VIII Bomber Command 88

    31 August 1943
    This mission is composed of two elements. The first element is composed of 170 B-17s from: 91BG (16); 92BG (19); 303BG (20); 305BG (18); 306BG (18); 351BG (21); 379BG (21); 381BG (19); and 384BG (18). The primary target for this element is German...

  • VIII Bomber Command 91

    6 September 1943
    This mission was planned as massive attack of 338 B-17s on the industrial areas of Stuttgart, Germany and would be supported by a formation of 69 B-24s flying a diversion. This would be the first action from the UK for the B-24 Groups that had recently...

  • VIII Bomber Command 94 OPERATION STARKEY

    9 September 1943
    This mission has been named OPERATION STARKEY. It is planned as a coordinated attack of multiple bomber elements upon multiple targets and incorporates fighter escort as a rehearsal of what may be required to support an invasion of the Continent. It is...

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Associated Place

  • Thorpe Abbotts

    Military site : airfield
    Home of the 'Bloody Hundredth’, a Bomb Group with a reputation for high casualty rates, Thorpe Abbotts was under USAAF control from June 1943 to the end of the war. Some of the airfield survives today, and the control tower houses the 100th Bomb Group...

  • Stalag Luft III

    Other location

Events

Event Location Date
Born Manitowac, Wisconsin, USA 9 September 1915
Training 29 March 1940 – 30 August 1940

Flying Cadet Randolph Field TX - (with Gale Cleven and Ollen Turner)

Training 9 September 1940 – 14 November 1940

Flying Cadet, Kelly Field TX - (with Gale Cleven and Ollen Turner)

Promotion 15 November 1940

At Kelly Field, promoted from Flying Cadet to 2nd Lieutenant ACR ( Air Corp Reserve) - (with Egan, Cleven and Ollen Turner)

Promotion 25 April 1942

Promoted to 1st Lieutenant, AC (Gale Cleven, John Egan and William Veal) .

Assigned 25 May 1942

McDill AAF, 29th Bombardment Group, Lt John Egan, Lt Gale Cleven Lt William Veal, Instructors.

Promotion August 1942

Promoted to Captain.

Assigned October 1942

Gowan Field Army Air Field , Boise Idaho, Operations Officer for 100th Bomb Group (H)

Assigned November 1942

Walla Walla AAF, WA.

Assigned December 1942

1942- Wendover AAF

Promoted January 1943

Promoted to Major.

Assigned May 1943

Flies with advance party to Podington, England to prepare base for 100th BG.

Prisoner of War Zagan, Poland 10 October 1943 – April 1945

Shot down while leading the mission to Munster.

Stalag Luft 3 Sagan-Silesia Bavaria (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser) 49-11

Died Anacostia, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA 16 April 1961

Died from a heart attack.

Buried Arlington National Cemetery 19 April 1961

Sec: 8, Site: 6437-A

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
06 April 2021 10:50:32 general ira snapsorter Changes to biography
Sources

Compiled by Helen Millgate from information in 'Splasher Six' ,100th Bomb Group Foundation at https://www.100thbg.com.

Date Contributor Update
01 March 2021 12:59:06 general ira snapsorter Changes to biography and events
Sources

"Eighth Air Force", by Donald L. Miller

Date Contributor Update
01 March 2021 11:26:24 general ira snapsorter Changes to biography and events
Sources

http://100thbg.com/index.php?option=com_bombgrp&view=personnel&id=1466&I...
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/49177681/john-c-egan#source

Date Contributor Update
22 August 2020 17:18:15 jmoore43 Changes to place associations
Sources

Added a connection to Stalag Luft III per WW2 POW records at the National Archives (NARA).

Date Contributor Update
30 March 2020 19:37:19 jmoore43 Changes to nickname
Sources

Added a nickname - see pg. 175 in the book"Flying Fortress" by Edward Jablonski.

Date Contributor Update
30 March 2020 18:34:19 jmoore43 Changes to unit associations
Sources

Added a connection to the 100th BG - referenced in the book"Flying Fortress" (pg. 173) by Edward Jablonski.

Date Contributor Update
30 March 2020 18:31:32 jmoore43 Changes to biography
Sources

Added a "#" to the A/C serial number in the "Summary biography" to aid clarity & consistency.

Date Contributor Update
18 January 2020 23:04:11 jmoore43 Changes to service number and events
Sources

Added S/N and POW camp information from WW2 POW records at the National Archives (NARA).

Date Contributor Update
18 January 2020 23:01:19 jmoore43 Changes to biography
Sources

Added a "-" to the A/C serial # in the "Summary biography" for clarity.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:15:46 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / MACR 1029 / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database

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