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John W McKewen Jr


Shot down by fighters on mission to Oscherleben on 11 January 1944 in B-17F 42-29487 'Ritzy Blitz', Killed in Action (KIA).

He was born on July 9, 1918 in Mississippi. His parents John and Libblie were also both born in Mississippi. By 1940 John Jr. had completed two years of college at Mississippi Southern College and was a gifted baritone who gave recitals announced in the local paper. He graduated in 1941 with a degree in music.

He enlisted in the army on July 30, 1941. He was accepted to flight school and was selected to train as a bombardier. He married Virginia Woodall in May 1942, but it appears the marriage did not last. He married Marjorie Landes in June 1943, a fellow music student from high school and college.

He became a second lieutenant in the 324th Bombardment Squadron, 91st Bombardment Group, Eighth Air Force, which was equipped with B-17 Flying Fortresses.

On January 11, 1944 Lt. McKewen was the bombardier on 'Ritzy Blitz' on a mission to Oscherleben, Germany. It was his first or second mission. The Americans were attacked by 400 German fighter planes that day. Nearly 20 of these attacked 'Ritzy Blitz'. Cannon fire took out engine #1 and killed the radioman. Other hits damaged control cables and instruments, sending the bomber to spin out of the formation. Only some of the crew were able to fight the centrifugal force and bail out of the plane. Lt. McKewen was one of those who got out.

Lt. McKewen was first listed as missing in action but his death was confirmed a few months later. The Germans reported finding him dead in the plane which was not possible since he jumped. He was probably killed by angry civilians and his body was taken to the wreckage to coverup the murder. Four of the crew survived the war as prisoners.

His grave is at Lakewood Memorial Park in Jackson, Mississippi.


Units served with

  • 91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars

    91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars

    The 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated at Harding Field, Louisiana on 15-April-1942 and went to MacDill Field, Florida for the first phase of training from 16-May-1942 to 25-June-1942. The Group was then assigned to 2nd Air Force at Walla...

  • 324th Bomb Squadron

    324th Bomb Squadron

    Home of the Memphis Belle


  • 42-29487 Ritzy Blitz

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 22/12/42; Salina 2/2/43; Duncan 23/2/43; Assigned 324BS/91BG [DF-K] Bassingbourn 9/3/43; 48m Missing in Action Oschersleben 11/1/44 with Wayne Hedglin, Co-pilot: Don Jones, Navigator: Carey Goodwin, Waist gunner: Bill Francisco,...


Event Location Date
Born Jackson, Mississippi
Killed in action 11 January 1944
Buried Mississippi


Date Contributor Update
14 December 2020 18:21:49 jmoore43 Changes to nickname and biography

Flagged as a "Possible DUPLICATE" in the Nickname field so an Admin can check out this person.
Added punctuation to the "Summary biography" to aid clarity.

Date Contributor Update
09 July 2018 20:33:45 RayWells Changes to biography

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:16:49 AAM AAM ingest

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / MACR 1915, 8th AF Losses