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May 7, 2010

"Some Gave All”
Oroville Mercury Register, March 24, 1950

Chico Airman, 11 Others Killed
A Chico man was one of 12 crewmen killed yesterday when a giant B-50 Superfortress exploded “like a bomb in the sky” near Hyder, Ariz. Listed among the dead was Corp. James L. Jones of South Broadway, Chico, a gunner on the huge ship. Meanwhile, air force officials worked beneath a blazing Arizona sun today, probing the twisted wreckage that is scattered over a two-mile-square area of the cactus-studded desert, the United Press reported. Two men, the co-pilot and a bombardier, parachuted to safety when the superfort exploded, but neither could offer a clue to the air tragedy, except that one engine caught fire and another quit. The plane was on a routine training flight. The co-pilot, First Lt. W. T. Gentry, 26, of Kokomo, Ind., said, “I just had my chute on and dropped through the hatch” Capt. J. N. Lee, 29, of Gaestra, Mich., the bombardier, said the blast blew him out of the fuselage. After a long fall he managed to open his chute. Neither man was injured seriously. Mrs. Fred L. Blackketter witnessed the crash from the ground. She saw one of the plane’s engines begin to smoke and: Then Boom! – It exploded like a bomb.” The 12 dead included four other Californians besides the Chico man.

Oroville Mercury Register September 8, 1944

Meeker Hitching To His Old Home Town
Staff Sgt. Harry Meeker, who recently escaped after having been shot down over enemy territory in France, was scheduled to hitchhike into Oroville this afternoon. Meeker arrived at Hamilton Field this morning and from there notified his mother, Mrs. Ina Meeker of Center Street, of his intention to travel here today.

Oroville Mercury Register September 8, 1944

In The Fight Casualty Ships Repaired
By Sgt. Bruno Giovannoni
Sgt. Bruno Giovannoni of Oroville is one of Uncle Sam’s service squadron specialists of the Ninth Air Force Service Command. He helps repair the bombers that, according to a report from the air force headquarters in England, “are pounding the guts out of Hitler’s robots with everything but the kitchen sink. The 22 year old Giovannoni was a sheet metal worker at Sacramento before going into the army. He knows sheet metal work. “The ship looked like a tin can riddled with a shotgun” said Giovannoni of one casualty bomber. “The flak shot were scattered in the fuselage, wings, nacelle and empennage. At the junction where the wing meets the fuselage were two flak holes big enough to stick your arm through.” Giovannoni tackled the job and went right through it with care and precision. Tipping the scales at well over the 200-pound mark, the service squadron man got into some tight spots. The shock struts of the landing gear made his quarters close and uncomfortable. Parts were salvaged from the “bone yard” to help complete the job. When Giovannoni got through another bomber was ready to resume operations against enemy installations. One of the many hundreds of such specialists in the Ninth Air Force Command, Giovannoni entered the service at Monterey. He is a graduate of Oroville high school class of ’40. His wife, the former Alma Roflo, lives with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Carlo Giovannoni in Oroville

Stu’s Notes: I was looking in my room of thousands of Oroville Mercury’s and reached down and picked up the one with the above story of Corp. James L. Jones, I had read it long ago but back then our Memorial was just for the Oroville High School District. Now of course it is for all of Butte County and we will put young hero Corp James L. Jones name in stone.( The Oroville Mercury did say Corp. not Airman) We hope to find more of his story. He died in the Cold War, two months before the Korean War. Sgt. Harry Meeker, Oroville and America’s hero and he had to hitchhike home. I recently wrote about his amazing story. Sadly later in the Vietnam era they quit hitch hiking. Anyway I was going from Reno to Tulelake in the winter of 1968 to see my kids and in the middle of nowhere was a young sailor with his thumb out. It was about 1AM on a cold morning. He was going home to Klamath Falls 30 miles past Tulelake. What could I do but take him home. Then heading to where my kids, Rick and Debbie were, I ran out of gas. It was pitch dark and wolves were howling all around, well maybe a coyote or two but they sounded like wolves, bears to maybe Mt. Lions. But by golly I got that Sailor home to a warm bed. In the Mercury today there was a story of a Chico hero that passed away. His name was Mervin W. “Bud” French Jr. He was in the Chico National Guard when WWII started. They went to war; more will come soon, as I talked to his son Gregg. We do know that at least 12 of those young Chico National Guard men died in WWII, they will be honored on our Memorial.