My Life in the service: John J Beddingfield Jr.

My Life in the service: John J Beddingfield Jr.
My Life in the Service
The Diary of John J Beddingfield Jr. (22-23 years old)
8th/9th Air Force
344 B.G. 495 sq.
January 7, 1943-45

Beddingfield Portrait new ColorizedNo date:
I was inducted at Camp Shelby, Miss.  I took basic training at Keesler Field, Miss., and went to a.m. school there.  I then went to gunnery school at Laredo, Texas.  From there I went to Salt Lake City for a few weeks, where I was assigned to a combat crew.  I was then sent to Tucson Arizona and was changed to another crew.  The one that I’m on now.  We took three months combat training there, and went to Kansas for our staging.  From there we went to Marrison Field at West Palm Beach Florida.  We stayed there two nights.  We left there on March the 16th, and went to Trinidad, and from there to Berlin Brazil, and from there to Allaze Brazil.  We stayed there one night and the following night we took off and landed at Dekar (Dakar) Africa the next morning at sun up.  We stayed there one night and left the next morning and landed in Merikash (Marrakesh) Morocco.
(John had always wanted a pet monkey and while he was there arranged to purchase one, while also arranging a way to sneak it on the plane, from a local but the deal fell through because the native wanted $10 up front.)
We stayed there for three or four days.  We took off from there just at dark.  Just as we were air borne our number one supercharger caught on fire.  There was a blaze running way past the tail of the ship.  That was my first real scare.  We all put our ‘schutes (parachutes) on.  I was sitting in the window ready to roll out.  We got it out after a little while or the pilot did.  I was a little nervous for a while, but I finally settled down and went to sleep.  It was plenty cold up there.  I knew we were going close to enemy territory, but we weren’t worried about that for they attacked very few ships that far out at night.  We landed at NewQue (Newquay) England at dawn the next morning.  That was a pretty sight.  All the country side was lined off just so.  We stayed for four days.  We were supposed to go on to Prestwick Scotland, but we came to Salisbury England, where we are fixing to start our operations.  We fly a (B-24 H) The members are

Abell- Pilot
Hereau- Copilot
Holf- Navigator
Dugan – Bombardier
Baird- Engineer
Sitna- Radio man
James- (Jesse James nephew of all people) Armist
Ross- Tail gunner
Mullaney- Waist gunner
Me- Assistant engineer and waist gunner

We have been practicing for over a month and on the first of March (1943), we went operational!

6th of April 1944
We made our first mission.  It sure came as a surprise to all of us.  We were woken at three o’clock in the morning to go eat and brief.  I can tell you that I was a little scared at first.  The mission was cancelled for the morning, but we took off that afternoon.  We were loaded with twelve five hundred lb. bombs.  I had to act as a first engineer for the engineer was was grounded for that day.  We had our first target over Leigue (Liege) Belgium.  We were to bomb the rail road yards there.  It was so cloudy that we didn’t drop our bombs but some of the Groups did, and they killed a bunch of civilians, and the 8th Air Force really chewed us out for it.  I was pretty calm on the raid, until we hit the enemy coast line.  I begin to get a little nervous then.  It seemed like we were only in enemy for a short time, when I saw my first flak.  It didn’t seem to bother me at all.  It didn’t get close enough to hear, although it it did look as though it was bursting right off our tail.  There was some of the ships that were hit in the back group, but none went down.  I had a good bit of trouble with my oxygen mask, for it was too loose on my face.  I sure felt good when we hit the English coast line again
(He always told me that taking off and landing were the parts that scared him the most because he felt, once he was in the air, that it was out of his hands and that he counted the mission as a success the minute he saw the Cliffs of Dover.)
When we landed and was taxing to our hard stand, everyone on the base was lined up along the run-way cheering us.  It sure did make me feel good, but I had a guilty conscience knowing that we had a bomb-bay load of bombs.  We had P-47 and P-51 escort.  They sure did look good to me over there too.

7th of April 1944?
We were awaken again the following morning at 1:30 the following morning to eat and brief for another mission.  We were all set to go, and the mission was cancelled.  We had to go back that afternoon, l and we got as far as the coast line and had to turn back.  One engine went out on us, and another started throwing oil.  We just did make it back.  All that work for nothing.  We didn’t have to fly the next day, but we were awakened again the following morning for a mission (8th of April?).  They told us that we wouldn’t see any known flak at briefing.  We took off about 10:50.  We were to bomb a railroad yard in France.  Just as we hit the coast line in France we ran into light flak.  The 487th Group was leading this time.  We flew on for I guess 30 minutes and then we really did run into some flak.  We weren’t flying but twelve thousand ft. that day, and the flak was plenty accurate.  Toni and I were busy as hell throwing out tin-foil, when I heard three loud bursts of flak all at once, it seemed.  I looked out and it looked just as though it had burst just under our right wing.  The navigator had made an error and we were off course.  I looked out the window and saw one of our planes on the ground burning.  I began realizing then that we were catching hell.  I really got busy throwing out tin-foil.  I then saw the 487th ships turn, split up and come back by us like a bunch of scared rabbits.  That is a very serious and foolish thing to do in a case like that.  I looked down and saw that we were over an enemy air field and there were about ten or twelve enemy pursuit planes taking off, and some of our P-47s right on top of them.  We went on for about ten minutes and then turned back, for one group is not allowed to go in on a target alone.  When we reached the field there were a bunch of our ships full of flak, and one navigator slightly hurt.  That is the last mission we made to now.  My crew made one day before yesterday.  I was grounded, and in the hospital.  That morning there was two of our ships that cracked up on takeoff.  It was a foggy morning.  One of the crew that crashed was the crew I was first assigned to.  There were 7 of the fellows that didn’t get killed, but I don’t know who they are.  I do know that one is Shanks.  I just found out two more are Watkins and Miller.  Tom Newfold, Paul Nance, Dalis Oneal, and wolf I’m sure were killed.  Tom Newfold was one of my best buddies over here.  I’m sure going to miss him.
My brother in law Jimmie came to see me yesterday.  He is the only of my relatives that are over here that, I’ve seen.  He’s stationed at a B-26 air base about 30 miles from here.

(Some time later)
I have been in the hospital for 6 weeks with my eye (he had a severe case of conjunctivitis and it almost had to be removed).  I was (D.N.I.Y(J?).) for two weeks, and then was transferred to B-17s.  We finished our transition training and was sent to the 493 Bomb Group, back on B-24s.  There was a man taken off every crew, and me being the one with the less missions, I had to go.  I was sent to the 344th Bomb Gp.  496th Bomb Sqd.  I am going to fly as an engineer on B-26’s and that brings me up to date August 10th

August 15th 1944
I made my first flight in a B-26 this afternoon.  It was just a practice bombing mission, and didn’t last over 2 hours.  I think I’ll like the ship fine.

August 25th 1944
We took off on a cross country hop yesterday evening, and landed at “Matching Garden” of the (391) Bomb Gp.  I didn’t know where I was at first, but I recognized the place as where Jimmie (his brother in law) was stationed.  I found his airfield, but he was in London on a pass.  The weather got real bad and we had to stay there for the night.  While I was waiting in operations a buzz bomb came over head and landed about two miles from there.  The explosion made my britches legs come up to my knees.  I slept in Jimmie’s bed that night.  He came in at midnight and tool another one.  We had breakfast that morning and I took off for home.  When I got here the group was taking off for a mission.  One of the planes crashed and killed all of the fellows.  There was nothing left but their trunks.  I don’t know the Pilot’s name I flew with.

August 25th 1944
I made my first mission in a B-26 this evening.  It was around Lemonde (not legible) France.  The target was a fuel dump.  We had to make two runs over the target for it was pretty cloudy.  The flak was plenty heavy and accurate.  Believe me I was plenty scared.  We had Spitfire escorts.  Our compass was shot out and us being the leading ship, we got off course and ran into some more flak, and that really was accurate.  We hit the target though.
Captain Bowers- Pilot
Lt Col “G”- Copilot
Penfield- Operator
The name of the ship was “Mary Joe” it’s the C.O.’s ship. #42-95876

September 1st 1944
We went to Brest, France this morning to bomb some big gun emplacements.  It was a long cold ride but we saw no flack.  After making two runs on it, we hit the target, I think.  I saw some P-47’s dive bombing something on the shore, I don’t know what it was.  My pilot’s name was 1st Lt Shepherd the name of the ship was “Nick’s Chick”. #42-95918

September 3rd 1944
We made two missions over Brest, France.  Our target was some big gun implacements.  Gen. Eisenhower was supposed to be over to view it.  They really ment to knock that place out today.  They need it to get fuel in for the ground forces.  I saw a bridge blow up and an ammunition dump.  It really was a pretty sight.  There was a bunch of P-47’s dive bombing too, and those was 300 lb. heavies that hit it.  I like to froze on the way over.  We didn’t see any flack either.  This evening we made three runs on the target.  The last run we had to let down to 4,500 ft.  I really got a good look at the damage we did this morning.  The town was a wreck.  We hit the bridge in the center.  I don’t think we was supposed to knock out that bridge either.  I saw a bunch of wrecked boats too.  We hit a storm when we reached the English coast coming in.  it was really rough too.  We had to fly just above the tree tops all the way in.  Believe me I was really glad to get to hit the ground.  We were in the air about 9 hrs.  My pilots name was 1st Lt Brubaker.  He was pretty good to.  He flew a little close for me though.  It was a new ship with no name.

September 6th 1944
We made a mission over Brest, France again this morning.  We were to hit an ammunition dump.  After making four runs on the target, I think we missed it.  We had to be careful, for our ground forces were just a mile and a half from it.  We made a pretty cloud of smoke though.  That town is really plastered.  I like to froze on the way over.  I thought we would run out of gas before we got back after spending so much time over the target.  Three ships had to land in France for fuel.  We made it back home but I was really sweating it out.  I believe I get more scared to fly in these B-26’s every day.  I saw two crews get killed with in two weeks.  If one engine cuts out on takeoff, you are done for.  Too low to jump.  I’m really scared to fly in these ships.  I was called to take a fellows place on a propergander (propaganda) mission.  We were to fly over different towns and drop leaflets.  The guy showed up in time, and I didn’t have to go.  My pilot this morning was 1st Lt Johnson.  The ships name was “Sexy Sal” #42-95919.  There are two ships in this outfit by that name, one is Sexy Sal II. #42-107607

September 27th 1944
I landed in France today.  This is sure a wild looking place compared to England.  The nearest town is 6 kilometers which is about four miles.  The name of it is “Pontoise”.  We are about twenty five miles from Paris.  You can see the Eiffel Tower from here.  I flew over with Fleming as my pilot.  The name of the ship was ‘Shopworn Angel”. #42-95917
We found a lot of underground passages, but there was nothing in them.

October 27th 1944
I made another mission today it was a fairly easy one to.  I thought it would be a really rough one for there were 60 guns at the target.  The target was a bridge in Bremen Holland.  We hit it right on the nose.  The bomb load was four, one thousand pound bombs.  We lost a ship over the same target yesterday.  A friend of mine was in it too.  This was our third try at it.  This bridge was a very important target.  It connects Holland and Germany, and they need it for counter-attacks.
Name of ship: Y5-K
Pilot: Lt Fleming

October 11th 1944
I went out to a German camp today to get some lumber.  They sure had a nice one hid in the hills.  I went to the underground factory the other day.  It sure was a large thing.  There was another entrance to it at the other camp too.  I found a bunch of chestnuts out there.
(John and Dumas also did some experimenting with German explosives and blasting caps while they were there.  They detonated a blasting cap with a pair of hammers and the resulting explosion blew the hammers out of their hands and threw them into the air.  Later that day they came across a crate of TNT which they lit and started throwing into the German bunkers.  When they were running out they bundled the last five or so together and rigged an extended fuse in an attempt to blow up one of the bunkers.  They lit it and were running away when they noticed the company’s CO walking into the bunker at which point they tackled him and drug him away before it went off.  John said that was the closest he ever came to being court-martialed.)

October 13th 1944
I made another mission this morning.  I was a little superstitious about it being Friday the 13th.  We were to hit a big bridge in Germany but for some reason we got off course and didn’t drop our bombs.  We caught a little flak all along the route but nothing serious.  My hands went to sleep and when they started to thaw out my fingers hurt so bad I cried.  I was really in pain for awhile.  My Pilot was Lt Fryer and my Copilot was Converse.  The name of the ship was “Vagabomber”picture 2 We were carrying four one thousand lb. bombs.
Pilot- Fryer
Copilot- Brewer (replaced Converse)
Bombardier- Bressler
Tail gunner-James K. Dumas
Waist gunner- Lionel Bernstein
Turret gunner/Engineer- John J Beddingfield
(This was the crew he made most of his missions with)

Friar/Beddingfield in position 1-2-5

February 3rd 1945
I have been neglecting this book for quite a while.  I have made ten missions since I wrote anything about my missions.  I don’t recall them all, but I made one on Armistice Day, and one on Christmas Eve.  We were dropping everything from one hundred lb. bombs to 2000 lbs.  We also dropped component B’s.  Some of the places we went were Metz, Danzig, Luxemburg and a bunch of other places up and down the Rhine.  We have flown nearly every plane in the squad.  The mission I made before the last one we got twenty one holes in our ship, and the last one we got three.  I liked to got it on this last one which was today.  The flack came through the turret right over my left ear and went right in front to my left side.  The Plexiglass liked to have put my eye out.  It cut all around it.  If it had happened an instant sooner it would have put both my eyes out, for I was watching for bombs away when I heard the first burst.  I turned my head to cover up and it came through just as I turned my head.  It wasn’t so much flack over the target, but what was there was right in on us.  We have a new Copilot now.  His name is Brewer and he seems to be real good at formation flying.  I took some pictures of the ships in our flight coming home from the target today for him.  I hope they turn out good for I want some myself.  I also made a mission New Year’s Day.  I have 23 altogether so far.  They are really coming slow now.  I’ll sure be glad when they are all over.
(John received the Purple Heart for this mission.  He said it was so cold that he could not even feel the gash the shrapnel left along his forehead and that the only reason he found out was when he went to check on Dumas, he said “God damnit! What happened to your face?”)

February 7th 1945
I got some pictures of my baby today.  They were precious.  I just can’t realize she is my baby.  I would give anything to get to go home to her and her mother now.

February 8th 1945 (24th mission)
I made another mission today in Rhinebeck Holland.  We were supporting the British ground forces.  We made three passed on the target and bombed by “G”.  There was no flack.  The bomb load was 260 lb. frags (Comp. “B”).  The cloud coverage over the target was 10/10.  I took two roles of film on the way over and back.  The name of the ship was “Vagabomber”, the one I got hit in the other day.  I also got another picture of Tomi (his wife) and Jean (his daughter) today.  It sure was a good one.  They both are beautiful.  Oh yes! A P-47 crashed just off our runway just before we landed.  He was coming in for a landing and it just nosed in the ground and exploded.  The pilot was burned to a crisp.  Hook took a picture of him.  Stuff like that is all in the game.

February 9th 1945
I made another mission today over Viersen Germany.  It was just in the Ruhr Valley (happy valley).  The target was a marshaling yard.  The bomb load was 500 lb. Comp. B.  Some were delayed action fuses, with booby traps.  We were briefed on 90 guns going in and 67 coming out, but we didn’t catch any flack at all.  It surprised all of us.  There were P-47’s dive-bombing flack gun positions though.  The name of the ship was “Sexy Sal” No. 1. (Another story about this plane)

February 21st 1945
I just got back from Belgium today.  We made a mission over North Germany on the 14th and had to land in Belgium for gas.  We made three runs on the target and finally got it.  It was a highway bridge.  When we landed we hit the runway that was just being finished by the English Engineers and it gave in, so we had to stay there till it was fixed.  We was the first ones to ever take off the strip in a bomber.  I was kind of sweating it out.  We really gave them a good buzz.  I enjoyed my stay pretty much.  We stayed with two British sergeants in a civilian home.  Both the Sgts and the Civilians were really nice to us.  I have some pictures of the civilians.  Our bomb load on that mission was 4 by 1000 lb.  The ships name was “Invictus”. #42-95908
(During his time in Belgium John, although he did not know it at the time, made lifelong friends with the Schrijvers’ family.  They were the ones that took James Dumas, Lionel Bernstein and himself into their bakery and provided for them during their stay.  Their son Peter, a renowned author and professor of history dedicated a book to these men, The Crash of Ruin.  John and Dumas remained close with this family and correspond frequently.)

February 23rd 1945
I made another mission today up around Duren.  We used Peer, Belgium as a L.P. (launch point).  It is the same town we stayed in a week ago.  There was plenty of flack over the target.  We lost one ship.  They think two chutes came out, but that is all.  We have been losing ships regularly here lately.  We were using a toggle, instead of a bombardier.  His name is “Treauno” (?).  We were using 500 lb. bombs.  The name of the ship was “Nick’s Chick II”. #42-95918    No. 1 was shot down.

February 24th 1945
I went to Paris today for a few hours and when I came back they told me that we lost another ship on today’s mission.  No one got out either.  What made it bad was that the fellow that sleeps, or slept, just across from me went down with it.  His name was Brooker, and he was a very good friend of mine.  We sure have lost a lot of ships over the target his month.  Three in this sqd alone.

February 25th 1945
I made another mission up around Koln (Cologne).  There was more flack than I’ve seen in a long time.  I sure was scared.  It lasted for a long time.  There was several ships hit but none went down.  One of the fellows was hit in the neck, but nothing serious.  We were using 380 lb. bombs.  The target was a defended town, and we missed it clean.  I sure hate that, and all for nothing.  The name of the ship was (Nick’s Chick II).

March 1st 1945
I made another mission today.  It was a pretty rough one.  We were a long ways in Germany.  We had to stop at another field.  It was at Reims.  I like to froze last night.  I was sure glad to get back to our own base.  We hit a marshaling yard with 500 lb. Comp. B. bombs.  The name of our ship was “Lak-A-Nookie”. *43-34181

March 3rd 1945
I made another mission over Germany again today.  It was a milk run.  I’d like to get 35 more just like that one.  We were using 500 lb. Comp. B.  The name of our ship was “Nick’s Chick II”.

March 7th 1945
We made another mission over Germany again today.  It was a pretty rough one.  We caught flack two different times.  We were briefed on a hundred and something guns over the target.  I was really sweating too. Ship “Nick’s Chick II”.

March 11th 1945
We made another mission over Germany again today, and didn’t get any flack.  The cloud cover was 10/10.  I was really glad to see it too.  We were using 250 lb. bombs.  The target was a cross roads and a troop concentration.  The name of the ship was “Nick’s Chick II”.

March 12th 1945
I made another mission today over Germany.  It was another milk run too.  We didn’t catch any flack.  I was sure glad of that too.  We were briefed on ten guns at the L.P.  We were using 500 lb. bombs.  The name of our ship was “Nick’s Chick II”.

March 14th 1945
I made another mission in Germany today.  It was a fighter base up around Frankfurt.  It was a really messed up mission.  The “G” box was jammed and we got lost and flew around over there for almost an hour with our bomb-bay doors open.  We ran into flack six different times.  A couple of times it was real close too.  Some of the ships were hit pretty bad.  We were all split up and ships were bombing all different things.  We missed some town and hit a field.  We were carrying 28, 100 lb. bombs.  The name of our ship was “Barracuda” #42-107666 (illustration).  It is assigned to us now.  We flew right over Coblenz coming out.  I think the second box bombed it.

March 21st 1945
I made another mission over Northern Germany today.  It was just north of Munster.  I saw a goof bit of flack and a few rockets.  We could see the heavies over Munster, and there was a solid wall of flack over there.  When we were coming out the second box caught plenty of flack.  We were in the first box.  A tail gunner was killed in the second box.  Our bomb load was four 1000 lb. bombs.  I was flying engineer for another crew.  It was the pilot’s last mission.  His name was
Pilot- Akin
Copilot- Neville
Togileer- Rose
Tail gunner- Fitzgerald
Radio operator- Murphy
The name of the ship was “Wheels Incorporated”. *44-68098  It was a brand new one.

March 22nd 1945
I made another mission over Northern Germany today.  I saw a few bursts of close flack, but not many.  We were up around the same area we was yesterday.  The ground was covered with smoke.  They are trying to flatten this area for a big drive.  Our bomb load was 25, 150 lb. bombs.  I was flying with another crew today.  The name of the pilot was 1st Lt. Carter.  I don’t know the rest of their names.  The name of the ship was “Nick’s Chick”.

March 24th 1945
I made another mission over Northern Germany yesterday, March 23rd.  It was in the same area we have been bombing all week.  I started on one in the morning but our engine started cutting out on us and we had to abort twenty minutes from the target.  There were 120 guns in that area too.  Our sqd was to go in and bomb some flack gun emplacements.  We were carrying 260 lb. frags and the rest of the group were carrying 4, 1000 lb. bombs.  They didn’t catch too much flack either, but the ship that took over our position came back with 17 flack holes in it.  I made the afternoon mission around Holland.  We could see the Zuider Sea (Zuiderzee).  I never saw very much flack myself.  We were carrying 500 lb. incendiary bombs.  I was flying with another crew.  The pilots name was Lt. Nolon.  I don’t know the rest of the crew.  We were flying “Vagabomber”.  I have had a time writing this, this morning for every time I get started there will be a wave of C-47’s pulling gliders, come over.  I mean there were a lot of them too.  The big push is on.  They are heading up in that sector where we have been bombing all week.  I knew it was coming.

March 31st 1945
I made another mission over Germany today.  It was a long one and we had to set down for gas.  We landed at Freair (?) Germany, a place we use to not dare go near if we could help it.  It was a heavily defended place, and by mistake our group has gone over it and got the hell shot out of them.  The place is a wreck now though.  There isn’t a building that hasn’t been hit.  It is right in a valley on the Mosel River.  We had our new togglier with us.  His name is Grear.  The name of the ship was “Sexy Sal”.  Bomb load was two, 2000 lb. bombs.

This was John’s last entry.  He completed 43 missions in total before shipping back to the US and returning to his home of Meridian MS.

John Beddingfield and family after the war: (as per family friend Jay Edwards)

John Jefferson  Beddingfield , Jr and his wife, Tommie, had two children.
  John Jefferson Beddingfield, lll, born 1958,  who is a psychiatrist at the VA in Jackson, MS since 1990. He is married with 2 children. His eldest son Jeff, graduated from Mississippi State and married recently– he is an accountant in the Jackson, MS area. His youngest son is in college.
   Genie Beddingfield Smoak , who is referred to in J. Beddingfield’s diary, born around 1943 lives in LA. She had two children — her daughter Courtney Smoak was killed by a drunk driver on the Mounds on the LSU campus when she was a freshman, back in Nov 1984. It was a devastating event for the Beddingfield’s. She was only 18. I had last seen her just a few months earlier at John’s wedding to Catherine Evans in Vicksburg, MS in July of 1984.
Their son, Sonny Smoak played OL at LSU– he was one of the top recruits in the South coming out of high school.Injury ended his playing career, however.
Mr Beddingfield was from the Meridian, MS area. His wife, Tommie, was from Kosciusko, MS.
Mr Beddingfield developed Alzheimer’s around 2005 and was at the VA Hospital in Jackson until he passed in early 2011.  Mrs Bedfingfield had been in an assisted living facility-she passed in Sept of 2010.They were both in late 80s.
Mr Bedfingfield, his wife and son, John were very close–
Mr Bedfingfield liked to cook– especially desserts. Boy that homemade fudge tasted great ! it was a sight to see Mr B, who was about 6 4 or 6 5 and about 240-250 wearing that kitchen apron making desserts !
He was an architect
Jay H Edwards

The following is a collection of his pictures from wartime;

John Kolthoff, John Beddingfield

Beddingfield in Vagabomber

Take off in the snow.

Dumas and Beddingfield in Belgium

B-26 in flight

Beddingfield, Friar, Brewer, Dumas

Unknown and Fryer (Friar)

Rosie O’Brady

Smith, Holthoff, Dule,, Stuart by quonset hut


Squatting: Winstead and Maddy
Standing: Lt. Bruebaker, Todras (?), Lt. Brady, Kolthoff

Shopworn Angel Y5-J

Squadron Area from the sky.


I believe this was his B-24 crew

Unknown B-26 crew

Beddingfield (post war) Captain

Stouh (KIA), Guerrero, Berner

Beddingfield in front of “Hard To Get”

Standing: Brewer, Beddingfield, Friar
On prop: Dumas

Beddingfield far left

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