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John Paul Chopelas


Assigned to 728BS, 452BG, 8AF USAAF. 33 x combat missions. Ended Tour Duty (ETD).

Awards: DFC, AM (2OLC), PH, WWII Victory, EAME (3 battle stars).



  • Edward Skurka

    Military | Major | Pilot | 452nd Bomb Group
    Assigned to 728BS, 452BG, 8AF USAAF. Awards: WWII Victory, EAME. Post war: Remained in USAF serving in Korean conflict rising to rank of Major.

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Units served with

  • 8th Air Force

    8th Air Force

    Eighth Air Force Bomber Command became the Eighth Air Force on February 1944, it oversaw bombardment of strategic targets in Europe until 1945. ...

  • 452nd Bomb Group

    452nd Bomb Group

    The 452nd Bomb Group flew B-17 Flying Fortresses from Deopham Green, Norfolk, from January 1944. The air crews hit strategic sites in Germany but also supported the movement of ground forces across Europe after D-Day. On 6 June 1944 itself, the Group...

  • 728th Bomb Squadron


  • 42-102615 Forbidden Fruit II

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 18/3/44; Kearney 13/4/44; Dow Fd 29/4/44; Assigned 728BS/452BG Deopham Green 30/4/44; 729BS; force landed RAF Woodbridge with John Clifford 18/12/44; damaged over Augsburg 15/1/45 with Walter Green, Co-pilot: Walter Waite, Navigator:...

  • 42-107091 Forbidden Fruit

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Tulsa 17/2/44; Grenier 7/3/44; Assigned 728BS/452BG Deopham Green [9Z-D] 12/3/44; battle damaged Leige & Brussels 20/5/44 with Capt Ed Skurka, Co-pilot: H.S. Kronowski, Navigator: D.E. Newton, Bombardier: H.F. Martin, Flight engineer/top...

  • 42-97345 Ramblin' Wreck

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 20/2/44; Rapid City 9/3/44; Grenier 13/4/44; Assigned 398BG Nuthampstead 22/4/44; no ops, transferred 728BS/452BS Deopham Green 3/5/44; Returned to the USA Bradley 3/7/45; 4168 Base Unit, South Plains, Texas 5/7/45; Reconstruction...

Associated Place

  • Deopham Green

    Military site : airfield
    Deopham Green was another air base constructed after America's entry into the war to Class A standards for use by the B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber. When the 452nd Bomb Group arrived in January 1943 they found a main runway of 2,000 yards, two...

  • Pyote Army Airfield

    Military site : airfield


Event Location Date
Born Dallas, TX, USA 10 October 1923

Son of Pete and Olga [Vastures] Chopelas.

Lived in Hockley County, TX, USA 1942
Training 1810 J Ave, Sheppard AFB, TX 76311, USA 1942

Basic training - Sheppard Field, Wichita Falls, TX.

Training 763 Seibert Rd, Scott AFB, IL 62225, USA 1942

Radio-operator school - Scott Field, IL. 6 month duration.

Enlisted Lubbock, TX, USA 1 January 1942
Pilot training Kelly St, Montgomery, AL 36112, USA 1943

Pre-flight Pilot Cadet training - Maxwell Field, AL.

Pilot training Union City, TN 38261, USA 1943

Primary Flight training at Union City, TN. - Soloed in PT-17 prior to 'washing out'.

Gunnery training Las Vegas, NV, USA 1943

Gunnery school in Las Vegas, NV.

Joined crew Salt Lake City, UT, USA 1943

Crewed up - Salt Lake City, UT.

Combat training Pyote AFB, TX, USA 1943

Combat phase training -
Rattlesnake Field, Pyote, TX.

Based Deopham Green 1944 – August 1944

Assigned to 728BS, 452BG, 8AF USAAF.

Combat Mission/Battle Damage/Crash Landing Deopham Green, Wymondham, Norfolk NR18, UK 8 May 1944

On May 8th we had flown as a spare on the Berlin mission, but at the English coast we turned back because no other aircraft dropped out. I was looking forward to a day of leisure, but as soon as we landed we were alerted for a rare afternoon mission. AT briefing we were told it should be a "milk run." It was a short flight to northern France to bomb a "crossbow" target at La Glacerie.
All was going along fine until we got near the target at which time the tail gunner called on the intercom and said "flak at 6 o'clock level." A few seconds later he reported "flak at 6 o'clock level and tracking." Those were the last words he spoke. There was a sudden explosion in the tail section. I bent down to look aft and all I saw was smoke and debris. I barely had time to think about this when the Fort shuddered again; this time from a flak burst in the bomb bay behind me. We started losing oxygen so the pilot dove to a lower altitude. After we leveled out, we assessed the damage and learned that the tail gunner had been killed and the co-pilot and I had been wounded. Structural damage consisted of severed rudder controls and loss of hydraulic fluid. Skurka (the pilot) passed the work that any of us could bail out that wanted but he was going to try to make it back to base. We all chose to stick with him. We made it back to base late that evening. Skurka was able to line up the B-17 with the runway , but as soon as we landed, with no brakes or rudder control, we began skidding and then collided with a crash truck, killing the driver.
The so called "milk run" turned out to be a rather traumatic mission.. The B-17 was salvaged, parts of it being used to patch up other damaged aircraft. - John Chopelas

Returned ZI New Jersey, USA September 1944

Returned to USA Sep-44, aboard the Queen Mary.

Discharged USAAF San Antonio, TX 78234, USA 30 September 1945

Honourably discharged 30-Sep-45,Fort Sam Houston, TX.

Lived in Killeen, TX, USA 1997
Died Dallas, Texas 14 February 2019
Buried Immanuel Lutheran Church Cemetery Killeen, Bell County, TX 17 February 2019

Immanuel Lutheran Church Cemetery
Killeen, Bell County, Texas


Date Contributor Update
27 February 2021 15:38:51 Al_Skiff Changes to middlename, biography and events

Date Contributor Update
04 October 2019 10:16:14 general ira snapsorter Changes to events

8th AF NEWS - Vol 19 No. 3 - September 2019.

Date Contributor Update
22 March 2018 06:03:30 TennyBelle Changes to place associations

added connection to Pyote AAF

Date Contributor Update
02 March 2018 18:08:47 Al_Skiff Changes to nickname and events
The Lucky Ones: Airmen of the Mighty Eighth By Erik Dyreborg

Date Contributor Update
02 March 2018 18:06:02 Al_Skiff Changes to events
The Lucky Ones: Airmen of the Mighty Eighth By Erik Dyreborg

Date Contributor Update
02 March 2018 18:03:52 Al_Skiff Changes to biography, awards, events, unit associations and aircraft associations
The Lucky Ones: Airmen of the Mighty Eighth By Erik Dyreborg

Date Contributor Update
31 May 2016 01:37:30 466thHistorian Changes to service number, highest rank, role, events, place associations and aircraft associations

Letter from John Chopelas to Chris Brassfield - 18 June 1997

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:16:30 AAM AAM ingest

1999 Unit Roster / Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia