The 900th Greenville Flyer to be identified is Captain Jack Marsh Holmes. Capt Holmes was born 22 Sep 1915 to Clarence Henry Holmes and Julia Katherine (Marsh) Holnes in Nunda, New York. The youngest of three children, Jack answered the call of the 15th draft board of Southern Livingston County, New York, on 24 Jul 1941.
While the locations where Holmes attended Primary and Advanced Flying Training are unknown, he completed Basic Flying Training at Greenville Army Flying School in May 1942. Following completion of flying training, Holmes went on to fly the Consolidated B-24 Liberator.
In Aug 1943, 1st Lt Holmes commanded his B-24, the "Tokyo Express", during the third assault of the Bombing of Wewak, New Guinea. During the mission, Staff Sgt Allen Hadley of Huntington, IN, shot down a twin engine Japanese fighter. This was the fifteenth enemy fighter aircraft shot down by the "Tokyo Express".
After accumulating 200 hours of operational flight time in the Pacific Theater, Capt Holmes was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for demonstrating "outstanding ability, courage, and devotion to duty." The award was presented by Lt Gen George C. Kenney, commander of the Allied Air Forces in the Southwest Pacific.
Captain Jack Marsh Holmes passed away on 26 Oct 2001 and is interred at the Oakwood Cemetery, Nunda, NY.
On 5 Aug 1942, a bus bound for Greenville, MS, stopped at a railroad crossing in Crystal Springs, MS, for a passing freight train. The crossing included two sets of tracks. While waiting for the freight train to pass, the bus driver crept ahead onto the open track. Due to the crowded load of passengers and associated noise they were making, the bus driver was unaware of an approaching special troop train.
When the driver noticed the approaching train, he attempted to clear the track. It was too late. The train impacted the right side of the bus sending it into the air and tearing off the roof of the bus in the process. Of the 52 passengers onboard, 15 were killed. An additional 3 passengers were in critical condition and described as "near death", but ultimately survived.
The above photo courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives & History, the Hamilton Collection.
Of the 15 deceased, 4 were Aviation Cadets bound for Greenville Army Flying School. The deceased cadets were;
Richard H. M. Shinebarger's wife, the former Wilma Betty Hutcheson, was also killed in the accident.
Howard E. Redding states in a Veteran's History Project video interview that he and his friend Steve were also on the bus that was hit. They both survived relatively uninjured and proceeded to Greenville. Interestingly, they are not listed in the referenced newspaper articles on the matter. This may be due to Redding's account of a store owner taking them in and cleaning them up, then getting on their way to Greenville. During basic flying training Redding recalls that Steve didn't pass a check ride, thus washed out of pilot training and went on to navigator training.
Morgan T. Smith (Yankton, SD) was roommates with Geddie Roy Smathers at Dorr Field. Rather than taking the bus to Greenville, Smith drove by automobile. A decision that allowed him to go on to complete 96 missions over the hump in the China-Burma-India Theater and serve SD communities for the rest of his life following the war.
On Sunday, 19 Jul 1942, Aviation Cadet Eugene R. Bowler became the second Greenville Flyer to join the Caterpillar Club after he successfully bailed out of his BT-13. Both Cadet Bowler and his BT-13 landed in the Mississippi River at Miller's Bend near Greenville. With the aid of a cushion from the aircraft, he swam three-quarters of a mile to the river bank.
The Caterpillar Club was formed by Leslie Leroy Irvin as a club to honor "those whose lives had been saved a parachute". Mr. Irvin made the world's first parachute descent using a parachute via a ripcord and went on to found the Irvin Air Chute Company in Buffalo, NY (present day Airborne Systems).
Cadet Bowler went on to complete pilot training and earned his commission at Columbus Army Flying School, Columbus, MS. Following training, he became an instructor and spent time at McKellar Field, Jackson, TN.