|Lt. John McKewen was a bombardier on the Ritzy Blitz in the 91st Bombardment Group.|
Hattiesburg American, May 25, 1943
John W. McKewen, Jr. never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.
He was born on July 9, 1918 in Mississippi. His parents John and Libblie were also both born in Mississippi. His father earned a CPA and worked as a lumber mill accountant and later as an auditor for the state of Mississippi. John had one younger sister. By 1940 John junior 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. Lit. 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. I don't know what happened to his widow.
Last year on this date I profiled Lyle Brainerd, 77th Infantry Division. You can read about Lyle here.
On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!
I created this video to explain why I started this project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXt8QA481lY.
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