Lt Roland Jackson; Roland Bruce Jackson was born some time in 1924. I believe the specifics dates were that he was born on May 11, 1924 in Ashland, New Hampshire. He joined the Army Air Forces in approximately late 1942.
Then 2nd Lt. Roland Jackson was assigned (approximately Nov 11, 1944) to the 12th Air Force, 57 Bomb Wing (M), 321st Bombardment Group (M), 446th BS. This unit was typically comprised of about 95 officers and 350 enlisted. It was assigned to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations and outfitted with B-25's.
Around April 1945, 2nd Lt. Jackson became 1st Lt. Jackson and was assigned "Pilot" of his own aircraft. On Sunday, April 1, 1945, 1st Lt. Jackson is listed as the pilot of "Darlene" (an aircraft previously named "Tiny" with A/C No. 43-4097). The plane ran into some trouble during a mission on Sunday, April 8, 1945 so the crew was transferred to "Stormy Weather." (A/C No. 43-4077, Tail No. 43). "Darlene" returned on April 18, 1945. And, not to forget about some of the others that served with Roland, the following is a list of "Darlene"'s crew members (not included April 25, 1945 list below):
2nd Lt. John C. Rooker, CO-PILOT (later 2nd Lt. Glenn W. Huntsley and 2nd Lt. Ralph L. Sykes)
Sgt. John J. Reda, BOMBARDIER
S/Sgt. Harold W. Freeman, ENGINEER-GUNNER
Sgt. James M. Taylor, RADIO-GUNNER
S/Sgt. Alex E. Slezak, GUNNER (later S/Sgt. Chester S. Anderson and Sgt. George W. Darnielle)
According to the 446th BS, Roland received the following valor decorations for his service:
Distinguished Service Cross - April 25, 1945 (GO #60)
Distinguished Flying Cross - May 1945 (GO #94)
Air Medal - Jan 1945 (GO #5)
Roland served with the squadron until June 1, 1945 when he was transferred to 515th Air Service Group. He returned to the United States in late 1945, just in time to get married on December 8, 1945.
Roland remained in the United State Air Force through the 1960s where he flew a variety of planes. He retired as a Lt. Colonel from the Maine Air National Guard some time in the late 1960s. I believe he passed away from heart failure on September 19, 1986 in Augusta, Maine.
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS ACTION - APRIL 25, 1945.
The following is a typed version of the Distinguished Service Cross citation. It is a brief recitation of a very scary ordeal for all involved. (Please see more detailed explanation following citation.)
First Lieutenant (Air Corps) Roland B. Jackson, United States Army Air Forces, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy in aerial combat against enemy forces on 25 April 1945, in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. First Lieutenant Jackson's unquestionable valor in aerial combat is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself and the United States Army Air Forces.
General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army Air Forces-Mediterranean Theater of Operations, General Orders No. 60 (1945)
Action Date: 25-Apr-45
Service: Army Air Forces
Rank: First Lieutenant
Again, this is only a synopsis of what occurred that day. The squadron history tells more.
April 25, 1945 was a scheduled mission over Cavarzere, Italy. The specific target was Cavarzere Road Bridge (Squadron Mission 609). The scheduled payload would be 500 pound bombs. According to log books, it was not considered to be one of the "important missions" for the month. It was merely suppose to be an uneventful bombing run to support the British Eighth Army and other allied forces pushing through the region.
That day Roland is listed as the Pilot for A/C No. 43-4074 (Tail #37) that was adorned with the airwork of a seated lady (name unknown). I believe it was aircraft 2 in the formation of 9.
Here is what plane #43-4074 looked like and the artwork that the bomber art was modeled after. This picture was taken by Rockey Milano and is on the 57th Bomb Group website. The picture was taken while it was flow by Capt. Ingram circa March 1945. Capt. Ingram flew 43-4074 in February and March 1945. Roland took command of the plane in April.
The crew list that day was the following:
PILOT: 2ndLt Roland B. Jackson
BOMBARDIER: Sgt. Robert M. Lattin
ENGINEER-GUNNER: S/Sgt. Joseph N. Dalpos
RADIO-GUNNER: S/Sgt. Henry J. Nichols III
GUNNER: Sgt. George W. Darnielle
The first flight was led by Captain Kendall. This pass netted only bombs on the west side of the bridge. The Germans on the ground apparently realized the target and the fact the first pass missed. By the time the second pass came around, the deadly flak was ready.
Roland and the second flight pushed further and further through "intense flak." It was described as some of the most intense they had experienced in months. Heading towards the target, Roland's plane took a direct hit. Then again and again. To the shock of neighboring airmen, Roland continued flying. The massive amount of flak eventually caused the bombing run to be called off. Roland then turned his crippled plane towards friendly skies.
Smoke bellowed out. It was believed by fellow airmen (both in neighboring planes and apparently on Roland's plane) that the plane was going to explode mid-air - or at least go down prior to the return home. One account indicates that Roland told crew he would stay with the plane and get them home. The logs record 3 airmen, including gunner Sgt. George William "Bill" Darnielle of Scotland, Missouri (ASN 17136486) lept out. Fellow airmen watch in horror as Sgt. Darnielle's parachute failed to open. The 20 year old gunner fell to his death.
Roland's plane limped for what seemed like an eternity back to friendly skies. Suddenly they spotted a friendly air base. Airmen at the base could hear the bomber sputtering down, as Roland attempted to maintain control of the plane for landing. Sparks flying, flames bellowing, Roland's plane touches down with a loud, fiery boom. Ground crew rushed to the plane to pull Roland and the remaining airmen from the wreckage. Just moments after they were removed, the plane exploded.
Lucky to be alive, the remaining crew returned to their squadron. Sgts. Dalpos, Nichols, and Lattin all received the Purple Heart for their injuries (listed as "minor"). And the pilot, 1st Lt. Roland B. Jackson was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross.
CONGRATULATIONS to USMCRaiderGirl for assembling the facts in order, that is a lot of great work!
NOTE: A special thanks to the 57thBombWing (http://www.57thbombwing.com) and its members for providing all the great documentation. (From RaiderGirl)