From Obscurity to Oblivion
Jewel C. Maddox
The true story of a young man's journey
into the unknown
-and no return.
Rexford C. Alexander
This book is dedicated to
TSgt Jewel C. Maddox
World War II -US Army Air Corp
June 30, 1922 –March 29, 1944
All historic photos are available in public domain;
All private photos and text are property of author.
Special acknowledgement to the Pentagon
for all declassified
German and American documents
pertaining to their recovery efforts.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form
without the written permission of the author.
All rights reserved by author.
Rexford C. Alexander
Jewel C. (Johnnie) Maddox
My story begins in 1942 in the rural community
Mark D. Alexander, J C's 2nd cousin, was also a
young man whose home was also in Sale Creek. He
lived next door to the Maddox family then
purchased their house after JC left. He was
drafted into the military in December 1943; June
1944 found him as a Corporal in the Army/Air
Force at Bovington Air Force
In 2007, my father told me about the surprise of
seeing his cousin's name that day sixty-three
years previously. When I pressed for more
information he knew none. J C's father died
before JC entered the military service; Aunt
Mary, his mother, died while he was in training,
and Wilma, his only sister, had married and
JEWEL C. MADDOX
The obscure town of
John Maddox, of the Maddox family of Virginia
had moved to the Marion County, TN coal mining
industry, from there they found their way
northward to Sale Creek, TN. Annie Keith came
with her family along with their Alexander kin;
they who were farmers from Concord, a town near
Knoxville, TN . Annie Keith married John Maddox
about 1921; Jewel C. (JC) Maddox was born on
June 30, 1922. Daughter, Wilma, was born
They lived in a two-room wood frame house with a
very small kitchen on one acre of land that was
nothing more than an ancient river bed of sand
rocks. The old house had been built for the
miners when coal was king; you may have heard
the song, "Sixteen Ton's." In 1940, John Maddox
sold the wood frame house to my father for the
sum of $150.00; he died on
Rural life with no education or skills gave JC
the incentive to loaf; it was boring but it gave
idle minds a chance to daydream and wonder about
things. In 1942, JC and a neighbor forcibly
broke the lock to investigate the contents of a
railroad car on the side track. Apparently
witnesses observed their wrong-doing and
reported it to law enforcement of Hamilton
County, TN. They were soon apprehended, jailed,
and ultimately appeared before a Criminal Court
judge. He gave JC two choices-go to jail or join
the military. World War II had been declared 9
months previously; it did not take him long to
make a decision. The other young man only had
one arm so he was not eligible for the military;
11 months and 29 days of incarceration would
provide him three decent meals each day. JC knew
there was no future in jail and he had seen
everything around Sale Creek; he chose to join
I began by acquiring his military records; as the only next of kin I was able to obtain three military medals he earned; the European-Middle East Campaign Medal, an Air Medal with one oak leaf cluster, and a WW II Victory Medal. He was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation Medal, and the Purple Heart which I did not receive. The records revealed a couple of important dates but I was felt there must be more available.
Through my knowledge of the military unit
structure I went on the internet and contacted
his old Bomb Squadron which was a great help.
They provided me with his crew assignment on the
day of his death; I gained more information on
various WWII web sites. Still, I wanted more. I
knew of the current MIA/KIA Recovery efforts by
teams around the globe; I made a formal inquiry
to the Pentagon on
On August 27, I received a package (1 ˝” thick) from the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense. I was overwhelmed; there were copies of all declassified, original German and American records pertaining to Jewel C. Maddox. Each page revealed something about my cousin's hidden history. Perhaps I could finally tell his complete story; putting the pieces of the puzzle together was emotional and satisfying.
Special Order 166, Para 3, dated October
23, 1943, JC and ten other men were assigned to
the Mighty 8th Air Force, 1st Bomb Wing, 91st
Bombardment Group (H)
Ragged Irregulars." It consisted of four
bomb squadrons, the 322nd, 323rd, 324th, and
He became a crew member of the 401st at
Station 121 in Cambridgeshire,
Apparently JC and the Air Corp were a good match; in just 16 months of military service he was promoted to the rank of Technical Sergeant on December 15, 1943. His base pay was $114.00; he received $57.00 flight pay, totaling $171.00 monthly. I'm sure this country boy never dreamed of earning that much at any point in his life time.
The 401st ID code was "LL" and painted on each
side of the fuselage; the Radio call sign was
"MUTTER." Their missions were to bomb designated
targets in Adolph Hitler's mainland
Each of these giants had a wing span of 103 feet 9 inches; a length of 74 feet 4 inches, and a wartime gross weight of 65,500 lbs. This weight was borne by three wheels and tires while on the ground; they retracted when airborne to reduce drag. It was powered by four 9-cylinder, 1,200 hp Wright or Studebaker engines which achieved a cruising speed of over 200 mph at an altitude of 25,000 feet.
Armament consisted of thirteen 50 caliber machine guns. In order to accommodate heavier bomb loads, no machine gun carried more than one minute's supply of ammunition-roughly 780 rounds each. The bomb bay had the capacity to carry 12,800 pounds of bombs ranging from 100 lbs to 1000 lbs. making the gross loaded weight (including the crew of 10) approximately 42 tons.
The B-17-G carried a crew of ten men; their stations were: 1. Pilot 2. Co-pilot, 3. Bombardier, 4. Navigator, 5. Radio Operator, 6. Top Turret Gunner & Engineer, 7. Ball Turret Gunner, 8. Left waist gunner, 9. Right waist gunner, and 10. Tail gunner. Crew members usually flew together as the "(Pilot's last name) Crew"; however, it was frequently necessary to substitute due to illness or death of a regular member.
The crews did not always fly the same plane.
Flak from enemy guns and bullet damage from
attacking fighters required crews to fly
different ships while damage was repaired.
Ground crews labored long, hard hours to keep
all birds flyable; still, some encountered
problems at or just after takeoff.
Physical size dictated some gunner stations-especially the ball turret on the bottom of the airship was designed for a small man-and one with a lot of courage. To man his station, he slid downward and forward into the ball. A safety belt was adjusted and latched; he donned a chest style parachute then closed and latched the access door handle. Once in the air, he could not see the ground therefore could not determine what direction the plane was traveling; the circular ball track had markings like hands on a clock. If a crew member shouted over the intercom, "Bandits at ", he rotated the electrically operated turret to the corresponding 2'oclock position. The ball turret had stops to prevent the gunner from shooting the four propellers of the bird. If the order was given to "bail out" the gunner unlatched the access door, kicked out backwards, and opened his parachute. If the ship's landing gear was damaged in battle, the surviving crew members did everything possible to extract him prior to landing or crashing. Without their assistance, his name would appear on the Roll of Honor. No one in their right mind wanted that distinction.
When flying as a crew member of the B-17, it did not take long to realize the meaning of "dangerous missions." They lived with the probability of death each and every mission; but still, they did their jobs. Many days, only 50% of the hundreds of the bombardment armada returned to base. Some limped back-only to crash upon attempted landing. They helped remove their dead or wounded fellow crew members from their ship.
After each mission the crew members were
debriefed. They reported everything they saw;
the vital information was recorded and
preserved. Much of it proved beneficial even
after the war to confirm events and aid in
recovery efforts. They watched their comrade's
planes fall from the sky with wings or tail shot
off, engines on fire, and explosions (some due
to mid-air collisions with German planes).
In-flight damage inflicted by bombs from sister
ships flying at a higher altitude and slightly
forward in the formation was a reality. Flak and
Nazi fighters sent many Fortresses and crews
flaming earthward. Some crashed and burned on
foreign soil or ditched into the sea or the
These great bombers were vulnerable to the Nazi fighters although our pursuit and fighter planes provided some protection for them. The old Curtis P-40 “Warhawk” had fuel limitations; the Lockheed P-38 “Lightning” was more effective but still did not provide the needed coverage. The newly developed North American P-51 “Mustang”, patterned after the British “Spitfire”, proved to be the answer. It was superior to the enemy in handling, speed, maneuverability, and flew a much longer range. The P-51 and their pilots saved many bombers and crews-often at the cost of their lives.
The first mission flown by the 91st Bomb Group
The crews had mandatory training between
missions. Navigation and bombing technique
sorties were flown over
The 91st averaged a mission every two days. Planes of the four squadrons flew alternately or together, depending upon the location and size of the target. It was the goal of most men to fly 25 missions then go home; many volunteered to fly even more. Each squadron published a "Daily Bulletin," it listed the mission, target, aircraft number and each crewmember's name with Service Number.
By March of '44, JC, known as "Johnnie",
(apparently he preferred to be called by his
father's name) had at least 17 missions. On Jan
27, he was aboard AC 447 with Lt. Beasley on a
bombing mission to
The aiming point was the sub-assembly plant, the
center of the target area. A last resort target
was "any military installation position
positively identified-and in
The 322nd would provide six aircraft, the 323rd ten, the 424th ten, and the 401st seven. They would fly at altitudes between 23,000 and 26,000 feet. Each aircraft would carry ten 100 lb demolition bombs and 32 M47 incendiary munitions. In addition, the 324th had one aircraft and the 401st supplied two ships that were loaded identically except they only carried nine 100 lb bombs, 32 M-47 munitions, and one sky marker; I can only assume they dropped the forward mark on the target.
Lt. Anderson’s aircraft was designated as 246 in
the formation with normal munitions and low in
the forward part of the formation. On this
mission JC joined Lt. Julius Anderson and 8
other crew members on aircraft number 42-97246.
It had no nose art like the famous “
Crew Members Name Station Approximate # Missions Flown
2/Lt Frank J. Gubernat, Jr. Co-Pilot 0
TSgt Jewel C. Maddox
1/Lt Joe Grant Stewart Navigator ?
1/Lt James Anthony Graham
Sgt Martin Goldberg Right WG 0
S/Sgt Aldrich A. Seeley Tail Gunner 21
T/Sgt Joseph Bernard Brennan
T/Sgt Andrew Beluschak Radio Operator ?
S/Sgt Charles Edward
The 91st planes departed from Bassingbourn and
joined in a pre-designated formation for the
long, dangerous journey of approximately 500
miles to the target deep in
Low visibility of the primary target dictated an alternate target-Bremen. At an altitude of 23,000 to 25,000 feet the armada completed its “bombs away.” The formation was making a sweeping left turn when they encountered as many as 50 ME-109’s and FW-190’s coming from the east. At 1325 hours, they attacked; our fighters engaged the German craft and dog fights covered the skies. They swarmed over the big bombers like angry bees.
Just prior to the target, three determined Luftwaffe fighters looking for a kill lined their sights straight ahead on approaching B-17's. Crew reports after the mission revealed the attacking aircraft were the newest models of FW-190's and ME-109's. Moreover, they were painted silver with red noses and cowlings; they were striped to simulate our P-51 markings.
The German pilots knew which area of the plane offered the least resistance- straight ahead facing the bombers. They attacked at a downward angle toward the B-17's nose; facing the minimum number of the bomber's 50 caliber machine guns. They pressed the triggers of their 20mm cannons and their guns belched death and destruction to their foe.
Baboon McGoon", AC # 42-3506, piloted by
2/LT Edgar Downing, was hit. It fell behind with
a smoking engine; the pilot managed to "crash"
Debriefing reports from the returning crews were basically consistent. A formation is stacked and flying at different altitudes so everyone could not have seen the same action. They had to remain on course or mass casualties would ensue due to mid-air collisions. Each ship was defending itself and the formation; a lot was going on. Sister ships reports would be invaluable later. Should you became a survivor of a bird going down your memory of the events would paint painful pictures. Statements of surviving crew members provided the chilling details of 246.
Lt Graham, the bombardier, 1/Lt Stewart, navigator, T/Sgt Brennan, ball (bottom) turret gunner, and S/Sgt Clark, the left waist gunner, parachuted out of the burning plane; T/Sgt Beluschak, radio operator, managed to bail out also. He was severely injured; his parachute did not open soon enough and his back was broken. He was paralyzed from the waist down; his personal report stated he had bailed out at 500 feet. All five men were soon captured and became POW's (Prisoners of War).
The cockpit was a bloody death scene; smoke
filled the aircraft; the ship first went into a
flat spin- then a spiral. Jewel C. Maddox of
Fellow crew reports at debriefing: Crew #1: 246 was at altitude 24,000 feet. Crew #2: At 20,000 feet, Anderson taking violent evasive actions but under control. Four parachutes were seen. Crew #3: At 19,000 feet, 246 seen spinning through the clouds. Crew #4: At 19,000 feet, three parachutes seen; aircraft, went into a spin and blew up. Crew # 5: At 19,000 feet the ship was on fire; went into spiral and blew up; only two chutes seen. Here is a quote from Marion Havelaar’s book entitled, "The Ragged Irregulars of Bassinbourn.” “Hit at the beginning of the attacks was the Fortress flown by Lt. Julius Anderson of the 401st Bomb Squadron. The pilot, Lt. Anderson, was apparently killed while at the controls. The ship went down under heavy fighter assaults; one-half the crew parachuted out only to join the captured (POW) rolls.”
Ten families were notified by telegram or
military representative that their loved one was
"Missing in Action"; five of them would soon
have their worries turned to joy. The other five
would spend years wondering and waiting-four of
these would never have "closure." JC had listed
Pauline W. Maddox as his “wife.”
ever heard of her; Wilma, his sister, had no
knowledge of her. The
While on a weekend pass to
German records place the crash in a swamp area
On April 15, the remains presumed to be of
The captives were questioned and processed;
Beluschak was taken to a hospital, Brennan and
Clark were taken to an enlisted POW camp, and
officer's Graham and Stuart were housed in an
officers POW camp. Two days after their ship was
shot down, Brennan, Clark, Stuart, and Graham
were transported from
The remains of Lt Gubernat in Grave #1, TSgt
Maddox in Grave #2, and SSgt Seeley in Grave # 3
In November 1945, the American
Based upon a written certification by Mr.
German records were full of discrepancies which
made quick and accurate identity of remains
impossible or questionable. A British
The original report given the
In 1951 the Army continued to gather more
information about each MIA. JC's
crew member, Clark, complicated matters when he
wrote that Maddox had been wearing a blue, Royal
Air Force-issue heated flying suit and RAF issue
boots. When contacted, former crew member, LT
Stuart, did not remember any of the crew wearing
any clothing other than
The AGRC decided to review JC's burial records; they compared the estimated values used in 1945 with his personnel file.
AGE HEIGHT WEIGHT HAIR SHOE SIZE
Maddox (estimate) approx 28 5-4 7/8 approx140 UDT (undetermined)
Maddox (file) 21yrs9mos 5-9 129 black 7 ˝ C
After AGRC's review of the confusing records, it
determined that the remains in
Row 8, Grave 196 were
those of T/Sgt Jewel C. Maddox. That grave was
subsequently designated as
X-8018. The final determination was and
"the remains of TSGT
Jewel C. Maddox
were declared non-recoverable."
the same determination was made for 2/LT
Frank J. Gubernat, JR, S/Sgt Aldrich A. Seeley,
and Sgt Martin Goldberg. Only 1/Lt
The 91st Bomb Group's records are impressive.
During WWII it was assigned over 400 B-17
bombers, flew 340 missions, and lost 197 planes
1010 valiant men died; 887 were confirmed
killed (KIA) and 123 are listed as "Missing in
Action." 960 of the airmen became POW's. The
gunnery training of the crews paid off, too;
there were 420 "confirmed" kills and 238
"possible" kills of German aircraft. One more
notable achievement was B-17-G "Nine-O-Nine"
flew 124 missions without aborting; the ground
crews were awesome, too. The 91st flew its last
J C's name appears on the "Tablets of the
Missing in Holland; he is also listed as KIA
in the American Battle Monument
Commission, MACR #3474, the 8th Air Force "Roll
of Honor," and the "Honor Roll of Tennesseans
Who Gave Up Their Life." The 401st
has a memorial in
The last recovery document was recorded in 1951;
the widow, Pauline Maddox, was never found and
that case was closed. In 2006, copies of every
document were provided to me;
I am indebted to and proud of our military
system- it has not forgotten any MIA/POW.
The details of JC's loss have been added to the
case-tracking system maintained by analysis at
both the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office
(DC) and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (
I doubt if anyone alive remembers JC Maddox; if
so, they probably only remember that "he was
that boy who got put in jail." I want T/Sgt
Jewel C. Maddox to be remembered. I am proud
that he is a part of my family; his mother was
Annie Keith, a niece of my great-grandmother,
Susan Jane (Keith) Alexander.
I want him to be remembered in the town
he called home-Sale Creek,
From a petty criminal with only a 6th
grade education who exercised poor judgment
once, JC became a patriot and warrior. On the
8th Air Force's B-17
T/Sgt Maddox earned the following decorations and awards: (1) Air Medal with one oak leaf cluster, (2) Presidential Unit Citation, (3) European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one bronze service star, (4) World War II Victory Medal, (5) Air Crew Member Badge, (6) the World War II Lapel Button, and (7) the Purple Heart Medal. Sadly, he never got to wear all of them.
When the Air Force Memorial in
After writing this book, I contacted the
At the funeral of my father, Mark Alexander, on
Rexford C. Alexander
The Family Connection
Gabriel Pinckney Keith
m. Eliza Jane Fuller
Samuel Robert Keith Susan Jane Keith
m. Mary Bishop m. James T. Alexander
Annie Keith Samuel L. Alexander
m. John Maddox m. Anna M. Carroll
Jewel C. Maddox Mark D. Alexander
KIA WW II m. Roselyn G. Alexander
Rexford C. Alexander