John M. Balason

Picture of John Balason JOHN M. BALASON, born October 18, 1923 in San Diego, California. Graduated from San Diego High School and immediately entered Aviation Cadet training one month after the Pearl Harbor attack.

Balason holds the distinction of being the first Aviation Cadet in USAAF history to receive his commission and pilots wings while 18 years of age, graduating with class 42.H August 27,1942. His first assignment was with the 326th Fighter Squadron at Hamilton Field, California flying P.39's.

Following a number of rapid reassignments, Balason ended up serving one year in the Aleutian Islands with the 18th Fighter Squadron flying P-40's. He participated in dive bombing and strafing missions against Japanese installations on the Island of Kiska. Shortly after being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross he was awarded the Air Medal for volunteering to flying additional sorties over and above normal mission requirements.

After rotational transfer back to the Z.I. he requested reassignment to combat duty in Europe. Having relatives in Nazi occupied Greece, Balason felt a strong compulsion to serve in that theater of operations. He arrived in England October 1944 and was assigned to the 353rd Fighter Group which had just transitioned from P-47's to P.51's.

While leading a flight on his 36th mission over Germany, Balason spotted and pursued a German F. W. 262 jet fighter on a chase that led all the way across to Berlin. Losing the jet in a thick haze layer over Berlin, he took up a heading back to England. To relieve the boredom, Balason went down on the deck and blew up a locomotive he had observed at altitude. A few seconds after making his strafing pass he received a hit in his left wing tank and a fire started immediately in the cockpit. The paralyzing effect of the intense heat made climbing out of the cockpit impossible.

After resigning himself to having "bought the farm" and with great misgivings about not being able to meet his date that night for the dance at the officers club, Balason was somehow thrown clear of the aircraft. The chute opened just a few seconds before hitting the ground. So February 22, 1945 was day one as a German POW.

Six weeks after his internment in Dulag Luft III, General Patton's Third Armored Division liberated his POW Camp.

Returning to the Z.I., Balason was billeted in a plush resort hotel on Santa Monica Beach for repatriated prisoners. Following this pleasant two month interlude, it was back to business with an assignment to Indian Springs Air Base, flying P-63 King Cobras.

With the surrender of Japan, he requested occupation duty in Europe and was transferred to the 79th Fighter Group in Linz, Austria flying P-47s. This assignment was cut short due to an Air Force wide reduction in forces Captain Balason was discharged from active duty March 1947.

List of all p51 Pilots:
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Pilot Name Biography Summary
Asa A. Adair He returned to the States in August of 1944 after participating in the invasion "D" Day. He flew P-63's, P-51's, F-80's, T-33's, F-84's, T-38's, P-47's in numerous assignments during the following twenty years in in, Japan, U.S.A. and Europe before retiring after twenty-six years of Active Duty.
John C. Anderson After P-47 transition he was assigned to the 406th Fighter Group, 512th Fighter Squadron. (E.T .0.) He flew 56 missions through January, 1945 destroying supply routes, bridges, and railroads; he also flew close support missions with the ground forces, with attacks on tanks, artillery and enemy positions.
W.B. 'Tex' Badger Eight and Ninth Air Force in WWII. B-l7's, P-51's and P-47's. Fifth Air Force in Korea, F80's and F86's. WWII and Korea, Flew 156 missions. Tactical units served in with the USAAF and USAF were: 305th BG , 368th Fighter Group, 4th Fighter Group, 49th Fighter Group, 12th Fighter Wing, 506th Fighter Wing.
Robert T. (Bob) Bagby He trained in P47's at Cross City and Dale Mabry Fields, Florida and then joined the 341st FS Black Jack Squadron), 348th FG of the 5th AF in Brisbane, Australia in June 1943. Bob flew 78 combat missions in New Guinea (Port Moresby, Finchafen, Sador, Wakde and Biak) primarily as wingman to squadron CO's John Campbell and John Moore. Also privileged to fly wing to Neil Kirby on several occasions.
Frank Baker After brief stops at Stone and Atcham, England he joined the 313th Fighter Squadron of the 50th Fighter Group in France. He flew 90 missions through V.E. Day. Most of the missions were close support attacks on various ground targets with a few B-26 escort missions thrown in. All of the missions took place in eastern France and southern Germany. He was awarded the Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters.
John M. Balason To relieve the boredom, Balason went down on the deck and blew up a locomotive he had observed at altitude. A few seconds after making his strafing pass he received a hit in his left wing tank and a fire started immediately in the cockpit. The paralyzing effect of the intense heat made climbing out of the cockpit impossible.
Albert W. Barlow, Jr. He flew 69 escort and ground support missions. Destroyed one E/A (ME-I09). Was shot down on Sept. 8, 1944, and evaded enemy ground forces for 8 days. Was picked up by an American Recon. Unit behind the German lines. Was hospitalized until Feb. 1948, when he was medically retired with the rank of Capt. Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, and Purple Heart.
William T. Beckler In July, 1944 Beckler exchanged his P-40 for a P-47N Thunderbolt. Missions in the Jug covered Northern Italy and Southern France. These included escorting medium bombers. The Bombers, based in Southern Italy, would be escorted to France by Thunderbolts based on Corsica. Shortly before target the Jugs would pull ahead of the bombers and bomb the enemy gun positions. Beckler's activities while participation in three major campaigns earned him the DFC, two Air Medals and two Presidential citations.
Herbert R. Benson After training in P-47 Thunderbolts at bases in North Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware, he was assigned to the European Theatre of operations and joined the 48th Fighter Group 493rd Fighter Squadron at St. Trond, Belgium. After flying 44 combat missions, he was awarded the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf clusters.
Marvin C. Bigelow Training in the Southeast Training Command with the class of 44C, he graduated and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant single engine pilot at Marianna, Florida with the class of 44D. After checking out in the P-40 at Marianna, he transitioned in the P-47 in the Northeast Defense Command and after gunnery at Dover, Delaware was shipped on the Queen Mary to England.
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