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John Adams Brooks III


Led 17 B-24s on the low level attack at Ploesti whilst with the 389th Bomb Group.

Founded and commanded 2nd Scouting Force. 1 B-24 tour, 2 P-51 tours.

Flew P-51D 44-14309 YF-X "Calamity Jane" (L) "Punkin" (R). See Little Friends website for a photograph:

Destroyed 2 Me 109s SE of Magdeburg on 9 February 1945.

Awards: DSC, SS, DFC (2OLC), LOM (OLC), AM (5OLC), WWII Victory, EAME.

John A. Brooks III

Lead Pilot, 2nd Scouting Force, Steeple Morden, England

Late in WWII, the 8th Air Force realized that it would be beneficial to have a reconnaissance force precede a bomber strike. There were many reasons for this, including weather changes, changes in the position/number of flak batteries, and visibility at the target which was sometimes cloaked by smoke from fires set for that purpose. Of these, weather was the most important.

What was briefed in England often didn’t match what was present over the continent. At times, the bomber groups would suffer heavy loses fighting their way to a target that they couldn’t bomb.

The 8th Air Force Scouting Force was primarily composed of lead bomber pilots who had volunteered for a second tour in fighters. For many, it had to have been a dream-come-true to fly the fast, agile P-51 Mustang after 25 or 30 missions in bombers. Eventually, each of the 8th Air Force’s three Air Divisions would have its own Scouting Force.

Although the Scouting Force’s P-51s were armed with their usual compliment of six, fifty caliber machine guns, attacking German fighters was not their mission. However, on occasions they would jump into that role when the opportunity presented itself.

On February 9, 1945 Lt. Col John A. Brooks, commander of the 2nd Air Division Scouting Force, was leading a flight of eight P-51s on a mission near Magdeburg, Germany. He spotted a formation of an estimated 100 German fighters in two large “Vs” heading for the bomber stream.

One would have to question the wisdom of attacking such a huge force with a handful of P-51s. Lt. Col. Brooks took a calculated risk. He knew that the attrition among German pilots over their years of war and the extreme shortage of fuel caused by Allied bombing meant that many of the German fighter pilots were inexperienced and had very little training in their Me-109 fighters. The veterans would be at the head of the formation in the lead element. In a daring move, John, taking only his wingman, Lt. Whalen, flew up the “V” of German fighters and shot down most of the front element where their leaders would be.

The German formation was immediately thrown into chaos. Multiple mid-air collisions were observed and some of the panicked German pilots appeared to be dogfighting each other. John and Lt. Whalen escaped the melee unscathed. They were credited with five confirmed victories, and likely accounted for several times that number. Meanwhile, the B-24 formation slipped by with only a few enemy fighters getting through to press their attack.

We’ll never know how many American lives were saved that day, surely a force that size could have inflicted significant losses on the 2nd Air Division bombers. John was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on 9, February 1945.

Sources: I met and spoke with John at two Scouting Force reunions, but most of the facts here were gleaned from Dick Atkins’ definitive book on the subject “Fighting Scouts of the Eighth Air Force 1944-1945” Taylor Publishing Company 1996.



  • Philip Ardery

    Military | Major General | Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
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  • Kenneth Caldwell

    Military | Major | B-24D Co-Pilot - Command Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
    Lt. Kenneth M. Caldwell from the 8th Air Force, the 389th Bombardment Group, and the 565th Bomb Squadron took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti with Col. Jack W. Wood, observing, on 1-Aug-43, flying the B-24D, 42-40629, named, THE...

  • Adelbert Cross

    Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Command Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
    Took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti on 1 August 1943, flying B-24 Liberator 42-40733.

  • Edward Timberlake

    Military | Brigadier General | Commanding General | 453rd Bomb Group
    From FindAGrave: ...

  • Jack Wood

    Military | Major General | Chief of the British-American Air Component, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces Mission to Franc | 389th Bomb Group
    Born in Fairbault, Minn., in 1907, we won his wings by 1929. He rose swiftly through the ranks achieving the rank of Colonel and took command of the 20th Combat Bomb Wing of the Eighth Air Force. The following November he was named executive of the...

  • William Yaeger

    Military | Major | Pilot; Commanding Officer | 389th Bomb Group
    William Yaeger was the Commanding Officer of the 567th BS, 389th BG, 8AF USAAF. ...

Show more

Units served with

  • 355th Fighter Group

    355th Fighter Group

    Where the 353rd Fighter Group had pioneered ground strafing techniques, it was the 355th Fighter Group who destroyed more enemy aircraft by ground strafing than any other Eighth Air Force Group. Based at Steeple Morden from July 1943 to July 1945, the...

  • 389th Bomb Group

    389th Bomb Group

    The 389th Bomb Group, known in more familiar terms as "the Sky Scorpions", flew strategic bombing missions in B-24 Liberators from Hethel, England. They also sent detachments to join bases in North Africa at Benghazi No. 10, Libya, between 3 July 1943...

  • 2nd Scouting Force
  • 567th Bomb Squadron

    567th Bomb Squadron

    567th Bombardment Squadron, 24 December 1942 - 13 September 1945 ...


  • 42-40619 - 619

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D-80-CO Liberator Bomber, 42-40619, named 619, was in the 566th Bomb Squadron, the 389th Bomb Group, the "Sky Scorpions", and the 8th Air Force, flown by Capt. Emery Ward and Maj. John Brooks, and participated in the low level Ploesti, Romania...

  • 44-14309 'Calamity Jane' 'Punkin'

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 2nd Scouting Force, 8AF USAAF.


  • Operation Tidal Wave

    1 August 1943
    Operation TIDAL WAVE. B-24D Liberators attack the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. The bombers flew low to avoid radar detection and dropped time delayed bombs. Out of the 177 B-24s that took part in the raid 167 managed to attack their targets. 57...

Associated Place

  • Hethel

    Military site : airfield
    Construction of Hethel airfield began in 1941, and was finished in late 1942. The number of hardstandings was increased from the planned 36 to 50 in 1942, in order to accommodate a full heavy bomb group. The 320th Bomb Group occupied the base for ten...

  • Honington

    Military site : airfield
    Honington was in use by Eighth Air Force units for a longer period than any other air base in England. The air base, built in the mid 1930s as part of the RAF's expansion programme had seen plenty of action as an RAF base before it was handed over to...

  • Berca

    Military site : airfield


Event Location Date
Born Rumson, New Jersey 20 May 1917

Son of John Adams and Irma Ordelia [Richey] Brooks.

Graduated West Point, NY, USA June 1941

Graduated West Point Jun-41.

Flight training August 1941

Completed pilot training.

Lived in Greenville, OH 45331, USA 1942
Based Hethel 1943

Assigned to 389BG, 8AF. 25 missions in B-24's.

Based Honington 1944

Transferred to 2nd Scout Force, 8AF.

E/A Destroyed [2] Magdeburg, Germany 9 February 1945

Destroyed 2 x Me109's SE of Magdeburg on 9-Feb-45

Died Newaygo County, MI, USA 7 September 2001
Buried Newaygo Cemetery Newaygo Newaygo County MI 11 September 2001

Newaygo Cemetery
Newaygo County
Michigan, USA


Date Contributor Update
29 November 2021 20:06:17 Al_Skiff Changes to biography and events

Date Contributor Update
29 November 2019 13:32:28 general ira snapsorter Changes to unit associations and aircraft associations

Ploesti Sortie Reports, 389th Bomb Group

Date Contributor Update
24 January 2019 02:16:37 Dieterle Changes to biography

Richard Dieterle, formatting.

Date Contributor Update
24 January 2019 02:12:10 Dieterle Changes to person associations, place associations and mission associations

Philip Ardery, Bomber Pilot: A Memoir of World War II (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky: 1978) 99.

Date Contributor Update
24 January 2019 01:57:02 Dieterle Changes to person associations

Philip Ardery, Bomber Pilot: A Memoir of World War II (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky: 1978) 99.

Date Contributor Update
10 May 2017 12:01:49 Al_Skiff Changes to middlename, nickname, biography, awards, events, unit associations and place associations

Date Contributor Update
22 March 2016 15:51:15 Changes to biography

lda 3/22/16

Date Contributor Update
23 October 2014 15:52:35 Lucy May Changes to service number, biography and unit associations

Combined several duplicate entries. This one is now drawn from a combination of sources:
1996 355TH FG Assoc. Directory / Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia

Ted Damick, VIII Fighter Command pilots list

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:15:33 AAM AAM ingest

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / self & SECOND AIR DIVISION by Turner Publishing Company, D790.A2S45, 1998, page 218