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James W.Tolbert Sr.
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James W.Tolbert Sr.

This page is dedicated to James William Tolbert Sr.
who served his country during WWII with distinction yet remained humble throughout his life.

September 2nd 1943 Telegraph

August 17th, 1943.  The "Dear Mom" , a B-17 fighter of the 94th BG,  146 planes were in formation on a mission from England to bomb an airplane factory in Regensburg , Germany.
Above the town of Lummen Belgium, the formation came under attack from the ground.
The "Dear Mom" was blown in half, killing all front crew members instantly.  The rear half began to float to the ground with only Arthur Macdonell, a Navigator of MA. and James W. Tolbert, of PA. a tail-gunner,  inside. 
Macdonell and James W. Tolbert jumped from the plane around the same time  German fighter planes began to arrive in the area.
As told by James W. Tolbert: "A fighter made a turn for me as I was hanging in my chute, and flew by me and dipped his wings.  The dip is a sign of respect, or a salute."
When asked how he knew this for sure, he explained:  "The pilot came to see me in the hospital. He shook my hand, and saluted me"
When James Tolbert landed, he had a broken jaw, and injured ankle.  The town was occupied by Germans, and the locals hated them.  The towns people quickly picked up James Tolbert, carrying him into a nearby tavern.  The blood from the crash brought a priest who read him his last rights.  The priest was then given James Tolbert's survival kit, which included chocolate, rather than let it go to a German soldier.
Soon, he was found by the German soldiers  and put on a haywagon, where he discovered Macdonell.
They were carted to a nearby hospital, and then to various P.O.W. camps.

Oak-leaf cluster Air Medal letter

Article from Pittsburgh Press

Telegraph of Dad's release

Flight crew of the "Dear Mom" B-17
Army Air Corps flight training

Claire Tolbert, James W. Tolbert's sister kept all records of his military life while he was away from home.  All copies are from her war album .

Staff Sergeant James W. Tolbert
Army Air Corps

Left, his mom at a young age
Right, both parents