James Aaron Swindle and the “Sarah E” B-26 Marauder

James A. Swindle, Sept 3, 1942, Ft McPherson, GA

James A. Swindle, Sept 3, 1942, Ft McPherson, GA

Captain James Aaron Swindle

James Aaron Swindle was born January 1, 1920, a son of  Sarah Ellen “Stell” Daniel and James H. Swindle of Ray City, GA.  His father was a farmer and merchant of Ray City who served as a City Councilman, Mayor, Chairman of the County Board of Education, and Georgia State Assemblyman (see James Henry Swindle). James A. Swindle graduated from Ray City High School in 1936.  He attended two years of college and was afterwards employed by the U.S. Engineers at Florence, S.C. He enlisted as an Aviation Cadet on Jan 2, 1942 at Turner Field, Albany, GA. It appears that James attended basic training at Ft. McPherson, East Point, GA. He attended  advanced flight training at the Columbus Army Flying School in Mississippi where he learned to fly the B-26 Martin Marauder. This aircraft, while eventually becoming one of the chief bombardment weapons in the European Theater, was regarded as challenging to fly.  James Swindle graduated September 6, 1942 commissioned a Second Lieutenant,  and received the silver wings of a flying officer in the  U.S. Army Air Force.

James A. Swindle graduated from Advanced Flight School, September 3, 1942.

James A. Swindle graduated from Advanced Flight School, September 3, 1942.

The Atlanta Constitution September 3, 1942  The Army and Navy in Georgia       Two Atlantans and five Georgians are members of a class of flying cadets which graduated from the new Columbus Army Flying School near Columbus, Miss. September 6.  They received the silver wings of a flying officer and commissions as second lieutenants in the Army Air Forces.      They are Mario M. Hulsey, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Monroe Hulsey, of 701 Elkmont drive, Guy Blalock Harris, son of Mr. and Mrs. Covert Durham Harris, of 792 Cumberland road; Edward D. Gillespie, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Gillespie, of Savannah; Richard L. Lang, son of Mrs. E. M. Lang, of Calhoun; James A. Swindle, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Swindle, of Ray City; Richard A. Young, of Savannah, and Berton Hugh Ramsey Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Berton Hugh Ramsey, of Statesboro.

James A. Swindle was a pilot  of the B-26 Marauder “Sarah E”.  The plane may have been named after his mother, Sarah Ellen Swindle. His Crew Chief was Tech Sergeant D.H. Snyder, the Assistant Crew Chief  was Cpl. Vincent J. Mosca, and Sgt. Chief McCarry was Grease Monkey. Other members of the crew have not been identified.

The "Sarah E"  B-26 Marauder, flown by James A. Swindle during WWII. Image Source: Vincent Mosca http://www.b26.com/marauderman/vincent_j_mosca.htm

The “Sarah E” B-26 Marauder, flown by James A. Swindle during WWII. Image Source: Vincent Mosca http://www.b26.com/marauderman/vincent_j_mosca.htm

James and his crew were assigned to the 451st Squadron, 322d Bombardment Group, Eighth Air Force.  Part of the 322d Bombardment Group moved overseas to RAF Bury St Edmunds, England,  through November and December of 1942 with planes and crews following  March through April of 1943.  Swindle departed for overseas in early 1943.  Ongoing construction at Bury St. Edmunds forced two of the group’s squadrons to locate at RAF Rattlesden, and the group’s aircraft did not arrive until late in March 1943.

James A. Swindle (far right, kneeling) with his crew in front of the "Sarah E".  The names of Lt. J.A. Swindle, Pilot, and Tech Sgt. D.H. Snyder are visible on the fuselage below the cockpit. Image Source: Ron O'Neal.

James A. Swindle (far right, kneeling) with his crew in front of the “Sarah E”. The names of Lt. J.A. Swindle, Pilot, and Tech Sgt. D.H. Snyder are visible on the fuselage below the cockpit. Image Source: Ron O’Neal.

James Swindle, pilot of the "Sarah E"  B-26 Marauder, flew 74 missions in WWII.

James Swindle, pilot of the “Sarah E” B-26 Marauder, flew 74 missions in WWII. Corporal Vincent J. Mosca served as Assistant Crew Chief, and Sgt. Chief McCarry was Grease Monkey. Source: Vincent Mosca http://www.b26.com/marauderman/vincent_j_mosca.htm

Once operational, the 322d flew two low-level bombing operations from Bury St. Edmunds. The first, on May 14, 1943 put up 12 planes for a minimum-level attack on an electrical generating plant near Ijtnuiden, a port city in North Holland. This was the first operational combat mission flown by B-26s in Europe. The second was a disastrous return mission to Holland.  On May 17, 1943, 11 B-26 Marauders of the 322nd Bombardment Group (BG) took off for a low altitude bombing mission against the Ijmuiden and Haarlem Power Stations in Holland. With the exception of one aborting aircraft, all were shot down in German occupied territory.  Sixty crewmen were lost to flak and interceptors. Group morale was not improved when, on 29 May, a B-26 crashed onto the airfield, killing the crew and damaging a hangar. After these missions, the group was re-equipped and trained for medium-altitude operations for several weeks before returning to combat operations. On 13 June, the 322d moved to RAF Andrews Field in Essex.

B-26 of the 322d Medium Bomb Group at RAF Andrews Field, on the perimeter track prior to takeoff - Spring 1944. (World War II)

B-26 of the 451st Squadron 322nd Medium Bomb Group at RAF Andrews Field, on the perimeter track prior to takeoff – Spring 1944. (World War II)

The 322nd Bomber Group and other aircraft stationed in England were carrying out daylight bombing raids on German targets. The most direct bombing route to took the planes within reach of German interceptors at the Amsterdam/Schiphol airfield in Nazi occupied Holland. The Germans stationed dayfighters (mainly Me 109’s and some Fw 190’s) at Amsterdam/Schiphol airfield to attack the American bomber formations on their way to Germany. The strategic importance of the airfield and the growing threat to the success of attacks against Germany meant Amsterdam/Schiphol airfield had to be bombed.

James A. Swindle at the controls of the B-26 Marauder.

James A. Swindle at the controls of the B-26 Marauder.

On the 29th of July, 1943 B-26 bombers of 323 Bombardment Group tried to attack Amsterdam/Schiphol airfield for the first time, but the mission failed due to problems with the flight navigation. The mission was repeated on October 3, 1943, this time with Swindle’s squadron participating. The heavily defended target was bombed – but the airfield was only slightly damaged. All aircraft returned, despite the attacks by German fighters and heavy flak fire. A third strike on Amsterdam/Schiphol was planned for October 16, but this mission was canceled. Along with other Marauder units of the 3rd Bomb Wing, the 322d was transferred to Ninth Air Force on October 16, 1943. The group continued to attack enemy targets in France, Belgium, and Holland attacking the principal targets but the group also attacked secondary targets such as power stations, shipyards, construction works, and marshalling yards. On the afternoon of November 3, 1943, eighteen B-26’s from the 322, 323, 386 and 387 Bomber Groups again took off to attack the heavily defended Nazi airfield at Amsterdam/Schiphol. The American B-26 bombers reached the target in the late afternoon and began their bomb run at about 3:50 PM. The Germans threw up heavy defenses with intense flak cover over the field. Swindle’s group, the 322nd Bomber Group, were the first to attack, followed by the 387th and the 323rd Bomber Groups. One B-26 was shot down on this mission, the first of Swindle’s squadron mates to be lost. On December 11, 1943 Andrews Field was attacked by the Luftwaffe but little damage was done. Two days later on December 13, 1943 Swindle’s squadron, the 451st Bomber Squadron, struck back returning for the third time to Amsterdam/Schiphol. This attack was successful – the airfield was inundated by water pouring through broken dikes as result of bombing. By January of 1944, James A. Swindle and the “Sarah E”  had flown 25  combat missions. James was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross  for “outstanding Achievement while serving as pilot of a B-26 Marauder in hazardous bombing missions over enemy-occupied continental Europe.”

The January 13, 1944 Valdosta Times reported that James A. Swindle had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross after flying twenty-five combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe.

The January 13, 1944 Valdosta Times reported that James A. Swindle had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross after flying twenty-five combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe. B-26 of the 322d Medium Bomb Group at RAF Andrews Field, on the perimeter track prior to takeoff – Spring 1944. (World War II)

Beginning in March 1944 the 322nd bombed railway and highway bridges, oil tanks, and missile sites in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. A later newspaper article gave an update after James had completed 40 combat missions.

Lt. Swindle has piloted a Marauder in 40 attacks against Nazi installations in enemy-occupied Holland, Belgium and France thus far. In addition to the D.F.C. he also wears the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters. He rates as his most interesting mission a recent attack against the Luftwaffe base at Amsterdam Schipol, in Holland, when flak fragments hit the windshield of his aircraft and spattered glass all over his lap. ” It was the most concentrated flak that I have ever seen,” he said upon return from the mission.

Maintenance on the "Sarah E", B-26 Marauder flown by James A. Swindle, of Ray City, GA

Maintenance on the “Sarah E”, B-26 Marauder flown by James A. Swindle, of Ray City, GA Source: Vincent Mosca http://www.b26.com/marauderman/vincent_j_mosca.htm

On D-Day, 6 June 1944 the 322d Bomb Group attacked coastal defenses and gun batteries. Afterwards, during the Normandy campaign, the 322d pounded fuel and ammunition dumps, bridges, and road junctions, supporting the Allied offensive.

B-26 Maruder of the 322d Bomb Group at on a bomb run during World War II. Source: National Archives via the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB Alabama

B-26 Marauder of the 322d Bomb Group on a bomb run during World War II. Source: National Archives via the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB Alabama

On June 25th, 1944 a German Buzz bomb hit near the end of the runway where the 451st squadron was stationed. That day,  the “Sarah E” completed her 100th mission.

From Andrews Field the 322d received a Distinguished Unit Citation for the period 14 May 1943 – 24 July 1944. The group moved during September 1944, transferring to Beauvais (A-61) Airfield in northern France, and aiding the drive of Third Army across France.

After D-Day Swindle’s group deployed to Advanced Landing Grounds in France and later Belgium. The 322nd Bomber Group Provided tactical air support and bombardment of enemy strong points and military targets to disrupt resistance to Allied ground forces advancing from the French invasion beaches and the ensuing offensives on the continent; 1944-1945.  They attacked enemy forces as part of the Western Allied invasion of Germany in 1945 and continued offensive tactical operations in support of ground forces until German surrender in May 1945. T

he 322nd flew its last mission on 24 April 1945. After V-E Day, the group was assigned to occupation duty in Germany beginning in June 1945, engaging in inventorying and disassembling German Air Force equipment and facilities.  The 322nd returned to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey in December 1945, and was deactivated on 15 December.

In all, James Aaron Swindle was decorated with the Air Medal with 12 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the African-European Campaign Medal, Caribbean Campaign Medal, and a Presidential Group Citation. He flew 74 combat missions between July 1943 and November 1944. The B-26 Marauder “Sarah E” that was “his” plane was flown by other pilots. According to Marauder historian Trevor Allen, at www.b26.com, “Sarah E”  completed 140 combat missions before running out of fuel and crashing into a cow pasture in France November 1944.

Other Ray City AAF men included B-24 Liberator pilot Max Maurice Johnson, and flying officer Jim Paulk. Charles Shaw  entered the Army Air Force and was trained as a mechanic for the B-17 Flying Fortress.    Sgt. Mitchell Moore was assigned  to the 854 AAF Bomber Squadron, 491st Bomber Group, flying as a crewman on a B-24 Liberator. Howell Shaw served at Sedalia Army Air Field and William C. Webb served in the Medical Corps of the Army Air Force. Lt. Jamie Connell, of Nashville, served as a  navigator-bombardier. Saunto Sollami served in the Army Air Corp and came to the area after the war. Sergeant Dillard Markham was stationed at Moody Army Air Base when he married Ray City girl Ruth Boyette.

After the war,  James A. Swindle returned to his home town, Ray City, GA.  He became a cattle rancher with land on Possum Creek Road near Ray City, a spread he called “Rolling Green Farm”. He married Betty Ann Patten from Lakeland, GA, a UGA Class of 1943 graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Heath Education.

James A. Swindle was killed on September 10, 1993 when he was gored by one of his bulls. He was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

James Aaron Swindle (1920-1993), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

James Aaron Swindle (1920-1993), Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA

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5 Comments

  1. James River said,

    December 9, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Wonderful reporting about James Aaron! Thank you!

  2. Ron Mosca said,

    April 19, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    My dad is Vincent Mosca, the assistant crew chief. He was injured by shrapnel at some point, however, he never talked about his experiences with the Sarah E., although he faithfully attended 451st bomb squadron reunions when I was a kid. I’d love to talk with anyone who has any more info on the history of the Sarah E. My mom is still alive and will be 91 in September of 2013.
    ronvmosca@hotmail.com
    914-204-0545

  3. John Young said,

    May 20, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    My Dad, Richard A. Young who was a pilot in WWII flying the B-26 is mentioned in the article in the Atlanta Constitution above, announcing the graduation of James Swindle and my Dad from the Columbus Army Flying School. My Dad survived the war and retired from the Air Force with 23 years service. He went in the Army Air Corps from Georgia Tech (who he also played football for) after the war started. He has passed away and I have been trying unsuccessfully to find the name of his plane. I was able to get the history of the squadron. It is mentioned in the history that he may have become a Pathfinder but I’m unsure of that. I would love to hear from anyone that may have known him or could shed some light on his experience. Thank you.

  4. micheal wright, and harold david allen said,

    September 25, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    my great grandpa Harold david allan was the one who flew the sarah e when it ran out of fuel and crash landed he was in the 322nd 451st bomb squadron when he noticed he was low on fuel he looked for a field to land at when he looked for a field all he could find is a hillside in a farmers pasture behind his house he was 3500 feet in the air when he decided to bail out his crew his co pilot jimmy said hed ride it down with him they flew a little longer until their gas got too low they then headed into the best area he could see they hit the ground and bounced once then they came to a stop the next time they hit the ground they opened the hatches and got out as quick as possible the farmer practically met them he was out near his home when the farmer came down he came out to the co pilot and kissed him on both cheeks after that my grandpa and his co pilot made a call to the base and got a ride back. and that’s the story of the final flight of the sarah e.

  5. Charles L. Dubelier said,

    May 13, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    My father piloted the Sarah E too. His Name was Morton A. Dubelier. He hated talking about his experiences. I was told he flew 63 sorties. Crashed landed twice and was involved in an incident where he was assigned second seat to a Major so the Major could get another combat mission and be promoted. My father took control of the plane and got it home but that was one of the crash landings and my father lost 2 of his crew. He was livid. The Major got his silver cluster and retired a General. My father got his RR tracks and a trip to the hospital with a dislocated shoulder. My father was still recovering from his injury when they came for him to fly on D-day. He said the paint was still wet when he took off.
    What bothered my father most was when a flak shell went through the cockpit and killed his co-pilot. It could just as easily killed him. He flew the rest of the mission without a wind screen. He kept asking his engineer to come to the cockpit to help him bend the flight suit sleeves at the elbow. All the blood in the cockpit froze and he could not bend his arms. He and his crew were very close. When he got home he threw away all his uniforms. He kept his DSC with 11 clusters.
    Once I asked him who flew cover for his bombers. He said it was the RAF. He told me the fighters had squared off wings. I knew the Spitfire and Hurricane has rounder wing tips. I finally figured out that the British were flying P 51 Mustangs.
    Engines on the B-26 were to be pulled and replaced at 500 Hours. One of the engines on Sarah E lasted almost 800 Hours and was pulled as a precaution. Mechanics felt the engine could have gone much longer.


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