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Owen Roane: To John Justice

Memorial Letter from Owen Roane to John Justice

Valley View, Texas
Memorial Day, 1995
John K. Justice

Dear Old Friend,

Yesterday I heard the report that you were again missing from the formation. It saddened me greatly, but not so much as when I heard the report of your missing in action on the tenth of October, 1943. This time I will not be worried about your future. On this Memorial Day the memories come flooding back, and how great they are.

It was in March of 1943 that I met you and liked you immediately. It was in Walla Walla, Washington where we were both in training as pilots of combat air crews. It is so appropriate that I come by California on my way to join in commemoration of the old air base. I will be a representative of our dear 100th Bombardment Group. It was mean of me when we finally left there for trip across, to cause you to have to fly the Big Boss over to England as an unwelcome addition to your crew.

When I persuaded you to go with me back to the 100th Bombardment Group to fly our combat tour, I didn’t have any warning about what we were getting into. I flew by the side of you on your first mission which was to Kiel, Germany. That certainly was a baptism by fire. We were together on the Regensburg – Bordeaux shuttle where only five of twenty- one of our group made the round trip successfully. We were together on the third of September when my original pilot, King, and our close friend Hennington went down with four others of our group. Three days later on the mission to Stuttgart you saw me leave the formation on fire and going down. You shared your joy when the Lord’s mighty hand saw me safely home. I went to the hospital and worried about you and my crew for a month.

I returned on October the eighth to fly with you to Bremen, Germany where eight of our planes failed to return. I didn’t go on the next trip to Munster, Germany just two days later when you failed to return to the base. I thought our friendship had come to an end, but thanks to the Lord, we would have many years yet. When you did return from walking out of Europe, I was happy in turn. We both went our own ways and supposed again that our time together had ended.

We were recalled to the service in 1948 to train in Great Falls, Montana for flying the Berlin Airlift, and as fate would have it we were sent to Germany on the same orders. We both stayed in the Air Force until retirement and went our own way until the group reunion at Dayton, Ohio in 1985. I was looking forward to meeting again this year as we had so often done in past reunions.

I have just received the report that you are again missing from the formation and will not rejoin us. You did a wonderful job while you were with us. I never told you that I thought you were the greatest of the bunch, but that will be taken care of when we meet again. I know you are having a wonderful life at your new station and enjoying the peace you so richly deserve. I would imagine you are again flying the Boss around. I will miss you sorely.

Your friend forever.
Cowboy Roane

P. S. : Tell the Boss to save a place on the flight roster for me.
O. R.