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John Bull Stirling


Maj. Stirling served as a B-26 Marauder pilot with the 456th Bomb Squadron, 323rd Bomb Group, and 9th Air Force during the Second World War. He was part of the original Myrtle Beach, South Carolina group that first comprised the 456th Bomb Squadron. The original Stirling crew included Stirling-Pilot and Hutchins-Bombardier.

Stirling was born John Bull Oldendorf in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of Navy Admiral Jessee Barret Oldendorf; he took his step-father's last name after his parents' divorce. He attended Anapolis High School before joing the Maryland Naitonal Guard in 1937. He was released in 1941 to join the Royal Canadian Air Force where he served as a flying instructor in Ontario. When the United States enetered World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps.

Stirling flew in the Flight and Box Lead aircraft in many of his combat missions with the 456th Bomb Squadron. He was the second highest ranking officer in the 456th BS and second in commad after Lt. Col. Robert O. Barker. In that capacity, he often flew in WT-O "Buckeye Battle Cry."

Lt. Frank Burgmeier, a Lead Navigator with the 456th, flew with Stirling on the first mission of the day on June 6, 1944 in a Flight Lead to a coastal dfefense battery on Utah Beach. For an account of that mission, see the book by Louis S. and Carlton R. Rehr, the first chapter of which regarding the D-Day mission was written by Burgmeier. Burgmeier was interviewed by a Syracuse, New York new station regarding this D-Day mission on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.

In post-war comments, Lt. Burgmeier recalled one mission that he and Stirling had flown to a target (probably a bridge or marshalling yard) just outside of Paris. Burgmeier recalled that it was a hot target and that "it was incredibly tense" in the aircraft due to the amount of well-directed heavy flak exploding around them. Burgmeier said, "Noboy ever ate their [rationed chocolate] candy bars on missions. We were either too tense or too busy to even think about it. I was sitting next to JB in the Co-Pilot's seat when I happened to glance over and saw him sitting there casually eating his chocolate bar completely unphased by what was going on around us." Burgmeoier said it was such an absurd sight, he burst into laughter, at which point Stirling did the same.

On August 6, 1944, Maj. Stirling, flying with Capt. Chief Collins-Co-P, Lt. Al Allison-Navigator, and Lt. Walt Foster-Bombardier flew one of the 323rd's draded mandatory five night missions in WT-O "Buckeye Battle Cry" to the Ile de Cezzembre Coastal Defenses near St. Lo with good results. In a letter printed in Ross Harlan's book, Strikes, Col. Stirling recalls this mission, which all returning air crew described as "creepy." The mission was illuminated by a full moon. It mus thave been quite a ride for Allison and Foster --- nothing seemed to phase either Stirling or Collins, both excellent pilots who exemplified the "devil may care" attitude shared in varying defrees by all combat crewmembers of the 456th; they were all just a ttile bit crazy because they had to be to do what they did day in and day out during their tours of duty.

Maj. Stirling flew his last combat mission with the 456th on September 23, 1944 from Chartes to the Venlo Railroad Bridge in WT-W "Georgia Miss" with Lt. Allison-Navigator and Lt. Walt Foster as bombardier in the Box I, Flight 3 lead aircraft. The mission was eventually aborted due to bad weather over the target. This was also Lt. Allison's last combat mission with the 456th.

Maj. Stirling shared a tent with Lt. Col. Barker when the two were stationed at Lessay and Chartes. Following Stirling's final mission, according to Burgmeier's war diary, the two "got into quite a brawl" outside of their tent as Bugmeier and Foster, who had to flown a lot of missions with both of them. Discreiton being the better part of valor, Burgmeier and Foster watched the two men resolve their difference from a few yards away outside of their own tent. Barker and Striling had been through a lot together and were about to part ways after having been "family" since the arriving at Myrtle Beach for training. The transition back into civiliam life was approached with trepidation by combat aircrew about to return to the States.

Following the Second World War, Stirling earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Mayland and a master's degree in International Studies from George Washington University.

Stirling also served in the Korean War and the Southeast Asian War. During the Korean War, he brought cargo from Japan to Korea and wounded soliers back from Korea to Japan. In 1966 and 1967, he was a photo reconnaissance pilot and squadron commander, flying 101 combat sorties over North Vietnam from Thailand. Following the Vietnam War, Stirling served in a wapons systems group at the Pentagon, retiring from the USAF in 1970 with the rank of Colonel. On Nov. 14, 1988, he drowned athe age of 68 after his one-man racing skull cptcized in the tidal pool of the Potomac River near the Frances Scott Keyes Bridge. Col Stirling was laid to rest at Arlington Naitonal Cemetary.



  • Robert Barker

    Military | Colonel | Pilot - B-26 Marauder | 323rd Bomb Group
    Born on October 9, 1919 in London, Ohio, Lt. Col. Barker was graduated from Ohio State University ("OSU"). He earned his "wings" at "The West Point of the Air" at Randolph Field, Texas. He was part of the original Myrtle Beach, SC group that comprised...

  • Frank Burgmeier

    Military | First Lieutenant | Navigator - B-26 Marauder | 323rd Bomb Group
    Lt. Burgmeier grew up in Upstate New York. He married his wife, Tedi, in July 1943, just days before he left for his tour of duty as a navigator for the 323rd Bombardment Group. He kept a diary, which has been invaluable to historians studying the...

  • William Collins

    Military | B-26 Marauder Pilot | 323rd Bomb Group
    Mentioning Chief Collins to any member of the 456th BS elicited an immediate smile and chuckles. "He was a character!" according to, it seems, everyone. Hands down, Chief Collins is one of the most endearing members of the 456th. He combined a sense...

  • Walter Foster

    Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Bombardier | 323rd Bomb Group
    Lt. Walt Foster was a navigator and bombardier from Upstate New York who served with the 456th BS during the Second World War. His first combat mission was flown from Earls Colne Airfield on February 3, 1944 to the Ruisseville "No Balls” secret weapon...

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Units served with

  • 323rd Bomb Group

    323rd Bomb Group

    The 323rd Bombardment Group operated with B-26 Marauders, American medium bombers. They were the first Eighth Air Force Group to fly a medium level bombing mission with this aircraft on 16 July 1943. After flying a total of 33 missions with the Eighth,...

  • 456th Bomb Squadron

    456th Bomb Squadron

    Selected Bibliography of Publications: ...

Associated Place

  • Earls Colne

    Military site : airfield
    Earls Colne was built in 1941 as an airfield for No.3 Group, RAF Bomber Command, although never used as such. Assigned to the US Eighth Air Force (as Station 358) in 1942, its 36 hardstands were increased to 50, bringing the airfield up to Air Ministry...

  • Marks Hall

    Military site : non-airfield
    Marks Hall's estate was requisitioned in 1941 for the construction of Earls Colne airfield (USAAF Station 358). ...


Event Location Date


Date Contributor Update
13 May 2016 21:38:35 JMF Changes to biography


Date Contributor Update
13 May 2016 21:16:30 JMF Changes to biography


Date Contributor Update
13 May 2016 21:14:43 JMF Changes to person associations


Date Contributor Update
13 May 2016 21:12:51 JMF Changes to highest rank, role, biography, awards, person associations and place associations


Date Contributor Update
07 April 2016 08:12:27 JMF Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nickname, nationality, role, person associations, unit associations and media associations