Less than six months after training operations began at Greenville Army Flying School and with the war effort increasing, it was seemingly inevitable that training operations would claim the lives of those preparing to fight the war. The first to lose his life in pilot training at Greenville was Aviation Cadet Joseph Dixon Molloy.
Cadet Molloy was killed the morning of 21 May 1942 when he lost control of his BT-13 while returning from a cross country flight. His aircraft crashed one mile east of Boyle, MS. He perished on his 24th birthday and left behind his wife, Jeanne Alda (Curran) Molloy (later Jeanne Alda Fogler).
*Approximate location of crash site
Born 21 May 1918, in Ansonia, CT, Joseph was the second oldest of eight siblings born to David John Molloy and Catherine Cecilia (Lucas) Comerford. Three of Joseph's brothers also served in the military during WWII.
Youngest brother William enlisted in the Army in 1950 at the age of 16. He was discharged at the age of 17 after his actual age became known. After turning 18 years old, he reenlisted in the Army with intentions of joining the airborne infantry.
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.
The Greenville Army Flying School at Greenville, MS, became an operational Air Corps training base in December 1941, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. U.S. Army Air Forces operations continued through March 1945 when it was closed during the late war draw down. During this operational period, thousands of men and women made their way through Greenville to assist with the war effort.
The primary goal of this project is to identify as many of these men and women as possible who flew at Greenville during the war. At the time of writing this post, more than 830 men and women have been identified as having been a pilot assigned to Greenville Army Airfield (GAAF). Men were flying either as instructors or aviation cadets. Women were flying at Greenville performing work such as engineering test pilots or administrative flights. Pilots identified as having flown at Greenville will be listed on the "Greenville Flyers" page;
In addition to providing publicly available information through this website, my intent is to compile a book with detailed information on a number of selected pilots. The book will focus on pilots of all duties who contributed to victory. Aviation Cadets who washed out of training. Pilots who became instructors and never left the states. Pilots who were killed in training. Pilots who went overseas and never experienced battle. Pilots who witnessed their friends perish in battle. Pilots who themselves perished in battle or otherwise. Their life prior to, during, and (if applicable) after war will be documented.
In the meantime, this blog will be periodically updated with posts discussing either GAAF itself, or a particular pilot. Primary focus will be on the pilots since this project aims to document the lives and legacies of those Greenville Flyers.