1LT Gerald Winston Johnston, B-17 Pilot
8th Air Force, 390th Bomb Group, 568th Bomb Squadron
KIA 14 January 1945; crashed at Garlitz, Germany
Buried at National Military Cemetery, Mobile, Alabama
-- Wayne C. Johnston, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Son of 1LT Gerald W. Johnston --
My Dad was 1st. Lt. Gerald W. Johnston, born May 3, 1923, Mobile, Alabama. He was the middle son of Cecil & Iris Johnston and the husband of Virginia Frith Johnston. His home town was Summit, Mississippi. After
graduating from Southwest Mississippi Junior College he joined the Army Air Corps. He had taken flying lessons in college and had his private pilot license.
He and my mother were married on July 5, 1942. I was born on September 14, 1943.
In the Air Corps my Dad was trained to be a B-17 Pilot. After completing his training he received his wings at Columbus AFB in Columbus, Mississippi. He was then sent to a base in Tampa, Fl. where he was assigned
his air crew and a new B-17 G Flying Fortress. They let the pilot name the plane and he named his B-17 "The Mississippi Mission."
They were assigned to the 390th. Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force stationed in Framlingham, England. They arrived at their base in England in late July of 1944 and were assigned to the 568th Bomber Squadron. If they
could complete 35 missions they could come home. However, their 33rd. mission was their final mission. This 33rd mission was named the Durbin/Berlin Mission and was flown on January 14, 1945. This was supposed to be
a Milk Run because it was near the end of the War and it was thought that the German Air Force was about finished.
January 14, 1945 was a clear, cold Sunday morning. There were three Squadrons in their bomb group that day. The first was the High Squadron, the second was the Middle Squadron and the third was the Low Squadron. My
Dad's plane was in the third Squadron. There were 12 planes in each Squadron. Shortly after their Squadron took off two of the planes developed engine trouble and had to turn back.
They took the northern route to Germany and shortly after they made their turn toward Germany the lead plane developed a mechanical problem and they had to drop further back and behind the other two Squadrons and
their Fighter Cover. This left 10 planes flying low, slow and alone without fighter protection.
I was told that after they got into Germany they were suddenly attacked by German Fighters, FW-190's. They came in from the rear and were very aggressive and flew straight through their formation and shot down the
lead B-17 on their first pass. They kept coming back around through the formation shooting down one plane after the other. Shortly after my Dad's plane took the lead it was hit in the rear and the tail gunner, James
Lawman was killed instantly. They were hit again in the mid section and the bomb bay caught on fire. My Dad gave the order to Bail Out. He was able to hold the plane in the air while 5 of his crew were able to bail
out. They were captured by the Germans and spent the balance of the war in a German prison camp.
My Dad was apparently trapped in the cockpit and died in the crash. He was only 22 years old at the time of his death and I was 16 months old.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart posthumously.
This information about my Dad's final mission was told to me by his bombardier, Dr. Frank O'Neil, who was a retired Dentist in San Diego, California who sought me out in 1990 and gave me a lot of information about
the missions they flew together. I will be forever grateful to Dr. O'Neil for this information.
My Dad's body was returned to the United States following the war and is buried in the National Military Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama.
My mother remarried when I was 6 years old and moved to Louisiana and started a new family. I remained in Summit, MS. with my grandparents who basically raised me. I am very fortunate to have had two sets of very
fine and loving grandparents who saw that I was raised properly and received a college education.
Although I never knew my Dad, he was a true American War Hero and I am very proud to be his son.