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John David Helton

Military

JD Helton was from the Waco, Texas area and served as a B-26 Marauder pilot during the Second World War. He was part of the original Myrtle Beach contingent that comprised the 456th BS.

On May 29, 1944, Lt. Helton flew with Lt. Paul Watson-N, Lt. Walt Foster-B and crew to the Beauvoir Highway Bridge in the Lead Window Aircraft. They preceded the group of 36 323rd BG aircraft into the heavily defended target area, dropping either narrow strips of metal or nickels (5 cent coins) to interfered with the Luftwaffe's radar assisted 88-MM heavy flak gun batteries defending the Bevoir HW bridge. They were in "The Gremlin II" and sustained Class A battle damage from heavy flak thrown up by the Germans.

The Helton crew flew to Caen Road Junctions C-1 and C-2 over the Orne River on the last mission of the day on D-Day; this appears to have been Helton's 71st mission based on informaiton in Marauder Men. Critical Past footage shows the Helton crew flying in WT-B "The Gremlin II" on that mission as they are about to make landfall on the French Coast; just before they are depicted in the footage, the Battle ship Texas fires a broadside at the Normandy cliffs. The silhouettes of Helton and Foster can be seen in the stills, one of which is in the group of photos above.

On June 10, the same crew flew a flight lead to the secondary target of Viaduc de Clecy where their flight so six aircraft scored at least two direct hits on the RR bridge and numerous direct hits on the highway underpass, thereby frustrating the movement of German reinforcements and supplies to the battlefront. THis appears to have been Helton's 73rd mission. Footage of the bombs of Helton crew's flight of six aircraft scoring direct hits on the railroad bridge over the viaduct near Clecy and the underpass is part of the Critical Past Collection Footage of one of the 323rd's other flight of six that preceeded the Helton led six breaking away from the target is also featured twice in the History Channel's Battle Stations episode on the B-26 Marauder. On the mission to Clecy, the Helton crew were in WT-A "Ole 33 Gal" (a Critical Past still captures them mid-flight) in which their good friend, Dale Rush, and the Tailgunner on Dale's crew had been killed over Dieppe three weeks earlier on May 20.

On June 13, 1844, Lt. Helton raised his hand and asked the visiting Generals Marshall, Arnold and Anderson how many missions he had to fly before he could go back to the States. Gen. Marshall had been prepared to announce during the visit that the B-26 tour of duty would have no limit. According to Moench, Lt. Helton informed the Generals that he had flown 75 missions as of that date and presented the case for a limited tour of duty, and his argument carried the day. The Generals were so impressed by Lt. Helton's composure, they requested a photograph with him. For his advocacy and leadership, Lt. Helton earned the respect and appreciation of his colleagues. Most Marauder combat crews understood that an unlimited tour of duty meant they likely would be killed in action. Morale was suffering under the threat. As a high mission airman, no doubt Lt. Helton knew as well as anyone that survival was largely a numbers game. The Marauder Men who were able to return to the States after completing the 65-mission tour of duty had Lt. Helton and luck or divine grace to thank.

On June 15, the Helton crew flew to the Valognes Fuel Dump. This was considered to be a "hot target". "The Gremlin II", having to penetrate the heavy defenses with the rest of the formation, sustained Class A battle damage. Following this mission, Lt. Helton was able to go home with what appears to have been 76 missions to his credit.

On October 8, Lt. Helton had returned from his much-deserved furlough to the 456th, which was then stationed at Chartes, and was on the loading list to fly with Lt. Smith - Co-P, Lt. Burgmeier-N, and Lt. Foster -B, with each of whom he had flown many missions.

Lt. Helton married and had one son following the war. He passed away in the late 1990's, at about 80 years of age, in the area near Waco, Texas.

Service

People

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • Robert Smith

    Military | Pilot | 323rd Bomb Group
    Lt. Smith flew as Co-Pilot in "The Gremlin II" WT-B with Capt. JD Helton -Pilot (who had returned from leave), Lt. Frank Burgmeier - N, Lt. Walt Foster - B from Chartes on October 8, 1944 to the Eskirchen Supply Depot, Holland.

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Units served with

  • 323rd Bomb Group

    323rd Bomb Group

    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

    Squadron
    Selected Bibliography of Publications: ...

Aircraft

  • 41-31708 "The Gremlin II"

    B-26 Marauder
    The Gremlin II took part in a D-Day Mission to Caen Road Junctions with crew Lt. John D. " JD" Helton - Pilot, Lt. Watson - Navigator and Lt. Walt Foster - Bombardier. ...

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
28 April 2016 05:18:06 JMF Changes to biography
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Date Contributor Update
28 April 2016 00:07:01 JMF Changes to biography
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Date Contributor Update
19 April 2016 21:10:20 JMF Changes to biography
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Date Contributor Update
19 April 2016 07:05:22 JMF Changes to biography and person associations
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19 April 2016 06:59:34 JMF Changes to nationality and biography
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Date Contributor Update
19 April 2016 06:52:13 JMF Changes to biography
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Date Contributor Update
07 April 2016 20:01:24 JMF Changes to media associations
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Date Contributor Update
07 April 2016 19:52:34 JMF Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nickname, highest rank, role, biography, unit associations and aircraft associations
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