B24J-1-FO Liberator 42-50535 “Joplin Jalopy.” 506BS 44BG. July 1944 – April 1945
This January marks the 10th anniversary of my first serious foray into the blogosphere when I launched the blog “Joplin’s Bomber” on the Google Blogger/Blogspot platform. I’d discovered that the town of Joplin, Missouri, 30-odd miles from here, had exhibited a combat veteran B-24 as a war memorial in the immediate post war era. Not only that, but this specific B-24 was named by the city, and was one of a number of items of equipment which had been purchased from War Bond drives.
B-24J-1-FO 42-50535 was built on either May 5th or 6th 1944 at the massive Ford plant at Willow Run, Michigan. It arrived at Shipdham, Norfolk with the 506th Bomb Squardon, 44th Bomb Group in July 1944. The aircraft carried the Codes GJ-Bar C – (later GJ-Bar O) and was named “Joplin Jalopy.” She flew 66 (not the 63 often quoted) combat missions with 29 different crews up to the end of April 1945. She was flown home on May 31/June 1 1945. Her next public appearance was in August 1946, when a crew from the Joplin Civil Air Patrol flew the aircraft back to Joplin from Altus, OK where it was scheduled (like the B-17F Memphis Belle, another Altus resident) to be smelted.
“Joplin Jalopy” Arrives in Joplin. 11 August 1946. Photograph by Mary Day, passed to me in 2006.
Note the feathered propellers, the lack of armament, and the small boys already clambering on top of the cockpit and top turret.
Joplin Jalopy and Memphis Belle shared a similar story for a few years. Both suffered the attention of vandals and souvenir hunters. There was no money to build a covered memorial in Joplin. Memphis Belle stood on a plinth at the National Guard Armory in Memphis. The Jalopy sat forlorn on the east side the airport, and her condition deteriorated to the point where she became a dangerous eyesore. She was taken away to be scrapped sometime in the early 1950s.
In 2006 I interviewed some of the surviving crew members by email, and journalist from the Joplin Globe called a couple of them up. With the assistance of the 44th Bomb Group Veteran’s Association, I managed to compile a list of all the missions the Jalopy flew, and with which crews. I think that list is complete. At some time I should resuscitate that blog or put my research findings into a more comprehensive site. I would like to acknowledge publicly the assistance I’ve received over the years from Roger Fenton, one of the historians of the 44th BGVA. Roger is the son of a 44th BG Navigator and his dad coincidentally flew one mission with his crew on board the Jalopy. Thanks Roger.
There is much to wrote and much which I haven’t yet found, but I should record the fact that while the project may be dormant, it isn’t forgotten.