Lt. Col. John M. Bennett - Second Tour

 

 

 
100th Bomb Group C.O. (Temporary Command 29 Apr 44 - 6 May 44)
Note: Lt. Col. Bennett served two tours as temporary commander. This was his second tour.
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 John M. Bennett, Jr.

LT COL JOHN M. BENNETT JR. was assigned to the 3rd Air Division of the 8th Air Force in the summer of 1943. Not satisfied with a "desk job", then Major Bennett requested and was granted active combat status.

On November 1, 1943 Major John Bennett was assigned to the 349th Squadron of the 100th Bomb Group at Thorpe Abbotts. John was given his arrival "Pep talk" by none other than Capt. Sammy Barr. John would later say "Whatever success I may claim as Squadron CO was due too the excellent work of the Barr Crew. They taught me how to play the game".

Sometime in late 1943 Major Bennett assumed command of the 349th Squadron when Maj. William Veal moved to Wing HQ. On Feb 9, 1944 he was promoted to Lt Colonel and on March 5, 1944 was asked by Col Neil "Chick" Harding (Group C. O. ) to be his Air Executive which made him second in command. 24 hours later, Col Harding ended up in the Hospital with gallstones and Lt Col. John Bennett assumed command of the 100th Bomb Group. The date, March 6, 1944 a black day for the group, the target that day was BERLIN and the 100th BG lost 15 aircraft that day.

Having assumed command, Lt Col Bennett took his cue from Col Harding and decided to fly the next mission to instill confidence in his crews. What he did not count on was a return trip to BERLIN. On March 8, 1944, the 100th BG was sent back to the target that had just cost them half the group two days earlier.

When Maj John "Jack" Kidd (operations officer) heard that BERLIN was the target, he was overheard to say "What are those fools trying to do, Kill all of us". Bennett called 13th Combat Wing HQ and requested that the 100th BG lead the Wing on the 8th. He was granted this request and the 100th BG put up 15 B-17's that day and only lost 1 plane after the bomb run. Lt Col Bennett stays in temporary command from March 5, 1944 through April 19, 1944. During this time, Maj Harry Crosby credits Bennett with getting the 100th BG in shape both in the air and on the ground. "After Bennett implemented a shakeup with two new squadron commanders, a new Air Exec, Ground Exec, S-2 and a new adjutant, you knew this guy meant business.

The group flew better formations; we flew, flew and flew. More of us survived and got to go home. For that, I give a great deal of credit to one many, Lt Col John Bennett". On April 19, 1944, the 100th received a new C0 in Col Robert Kelly. Eleven days later he would be killed on his first mission and John Bennett would again assume temporary command of the 100th Bomb Group until May 8, 1944 when Lt Col Tom Jeffrey assumed command of the Group.

John Bennett would assume temporary command one last time from June 21, 1944-July 5, 1944 while the Group was on the 1st Russian Shuttle Mission. On July 30, 1944, Lt Col Bennett was assigned to Elveden Hall, Headquarters, 3rd Air Division as Director of Operational Analysis and Training. CO was Maj Gen Curtis LeMay and Chief of Staff was Brig. General A. W. Kissner. His duties entailed planning missions, study mission reports and prepare tactical analysis for LeMay and the training of Crews (new, old and Lead). It was Lt Col Bennett who gave the OK for Maj Robert Rosenthal to lead the 3rd Air Division to BERLIN on Feb 3, 1945.

During his time in the ETO he was awarded the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star, Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Croix de Guerre with Palm. Service ribbons are American Defense, American Theater, and ETO with six battle stars.

MISSIONS OF LT COL. JOHN BENNETT (not complete) mpf 2001

NBR DATE TARGET POSITION AND PILOT
1 05/11/43 GELSENKIRCHEN DEPUTY LEAD w/MAJ. OLLIE TURNER ("SKIPPER")
2 16/11/43 RJUKAN GROUP LEAD w/LT OWEN "COWBOY" ROANE (LADEN MAIDEN) CAPTAIN JOSEPH "BUBBLES" PAYNE-NAV. CAPTAIN ROBERT PEEL-BOMB
3 30/11/43 SOLIGEN GROUP LEAD w/CAPT. SAMMY BARR
4 05/01/44 NEUSS(ST) 13TH CBW LEAD w/CAPT. SAMMY BARR
5 25/02/44 REGENSBURG GROUP LEAD
6 08/03/44 BERLIN 13TH CBW LEAD w/CAPT. JACK SWARTOUT LT LEONARD BULL-NAV LT CHARLIE STAPELTON-FORMATION OFFICER
7 25/04/44 DIJON GROUP LEAD
8 25/05/44 BRUSSELS GROUP LEAD
9 14/07/44 MAQUIS SUPPLY DROP GROUP LEAD

Obituary: Houston Chronicle Monday, May 17, 1993

Decorated World War II bomber pilot Bennett dies

John M. Bennett, Jr. , reputedly a model for the forceful Gen. Savage the character Gregory Peck portrayed in the film Twelve O’clock High, died Sunday at the Family ranch in South Texas. He was 84. A native and longtime resident of San Antonio, Bennett was a decorated bomber pilot during World War II.

In 1943, a raid he lead on a nuclear facility in Norway was credited with slowing German efforts to develop an atomic bomb. Bennett received the Silver Star for heroism in leading a daring daylight raid on Berlin in 1944.

A banker and rancher, he served as chairman of San Antonio’s Chamber of Commerce and City Public Service Board, as a director of the University of Texas Development Board and as a member of the Texas Historical Commission.

Private services were scheduled at The Garcitas, a ranch at La Salie, near Victoria, where Bennett lived in his later years. He is survived by two daughters, a son and a sister.

Was once 349th Commanding Officer.

Return to Thorpe Abbotts (from Second Issue 1994 Splasher Six)

On Saturday, 2 July 1994, a lone T-6/Harvard, the plane in which MAJOR-GENERAL JOHN M. BENNETT, JR. trained, flew over the Control Tower of Station 139 where veterans of the 100th, family members, and British friends gathered to remember the Group Commander and the men whose lives changed and were changed by the course of war fifty years ago. From the plane the General's ashes were scattered over the base where there is now a Museum, thanks in large part to his efforts.

Nine members of the Bennett clan were able to participate in the occasion, including daughter MISSY MARLOW, daughter-in-law WENDY BENNETT JACKSON, and grandsons CHRIS MARLOW and BENITO BENNETT, and granddaughter SHANNON WOOD BUSH and her husband CHRIS BUSH. The General's son, JOHN S. BENNETT, who was there with his wife JANIE and young daughter ELEANOR, addressed the group on Saturday on behalf of the family.

In the lovely Anglican church of Thorpe Abbotts last July, Reverend Paddison addressed members of the 100th: "Who knows what the future holds? Time is a very peculiar thing sometimes. Yet to have a future and a hope is very important. "

REVEREND MICHAEL PADDISON, Rector of All Saints' Anglican Church in Thorpe Abbotts, led the on ground memorial service for General Bennett. PAPPY DAIGER offered the eulogy.

RON BATLEY of the British Committee explained that long before most of the 100th veterans were involved with the Museum John Bennett visited and assisted the project in moral and financial ways. For those who may not know it, the General made the Control Tower Museum the beneficiary of his Gl Insurance, which provided a sizable legacy.

According to Missy, "When Pop (as we all called him) said, 'ashes - Thorpe Abbotts, ' he meant at some point in time if a family member went to England, perhaps he/she could swing by and sneakily 'sprinkle' his request. Little did he know how elaborate and grand the actual event would be.

"Being a modest man, he would have cringed at the extensive planning and fanfare execution of his wish. Being a Southern Gentleman, he would have been embarrassed ("mortified" is more accurate) that two British ladies, JEAN HARVEY and JEAN TIMEWELL, actually hand-swept the airstrip prior to the ceremony.

"Being totally devoted to the 100th BG in general and Thorpe Abbotts in particular, he would have thrilled to the actual event: the aerial release of his ashes from the Harvard (flown by UK Association members MAURICE HAMMOND and MIKE NICE) was precisely timed and right on target. Pop 'landed' at Thorpe Abbotts at precisely 1500, exactly after the last words of eulogy were spoken. It was perfect. He loved it! And now, he is at peace in England. "