10 February 1945 — Tinian, Mariana Islands
James L. Gist (back row standing, first from the left) enlisted as an Aviation Cadet in the Army Air Corps on 9 February 1941 at Fort Leavenworth near Kansas City, Kansas. Graduated from flight training class 41-G at Goodfellow Field near San Angelo, Texas.
Subsequently assigned to the Central Pacific Theatre of Operations, 20th Air Force, XXI Bomber Command, 313th Bomb Wing, 504th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy), 398th Bomb Squadron stationed at North Field on Tinian in the Mariana Islands.
On 10 February 1945, he flew as the Airplane Command Pilot aboard a Boeing B-29 Superfortress (tail code Circle E, serial #42-24790). It was one of 120 aircraft launched in a multi-wing group formation to bombard the Nakajima Aircraft Assembly Plant at Ota on the northwest side of Tokyo, Japan.
While over the target area, the group was attacked by a band of Nakajima Ki-44 single-engine "Tojo" fighter planes. His B-29 aircraft suffered heavy damage to one of the wings, and on the return route home was forced to ditch approximately 275 miles north of Tinian near Pagan Island, resulting in the loss of the aircrew.