Staff Sergeant James A. Glaxner Jr. (1921 – 1943)
8th Army Air Force, WWII – Europe, B17 Gunner, Air Medal, Purple Heart, KIA
Remembering – Staff Sergeant James A. Glaxner Jr. – MZHS “Hero of Air Power”
James A. Glaxner Jr., oldest son of James and Nellie Hallowell Glaxner of Benezette, grew up with airplanes on his mind. He built model airplanes out of balsa wood as a youngster. Jim’s big thrill came when a small airplane made an emergency landing on the Glaxner farm in Benezette. Jim, about 15 years old, befriended the pilot, and got his first plane ride that next day. Aviation was now in his blood. After Benezette High School, Jim and friends moved to Buffalo and worked at the Bell Aircraft Company- expanding his aviation interest. So in September, 1942, Jim enlisted in the AAF. He trained as a B17 crewman, made staff sergeant, and arrived in July, 1943, at the Great Ashfield airbase in England with his new 549th B17 bomb squadron, 385th Bomb Group, 8th AAF. Jim, the left waist gunner, had flown about four missions (July 17, 25, 26, August 12) when his disastrous August, 1943, mission occurred.
On Sunday August 15, 1943, America’s Eighth Army Air Force Bomber Command began its 82nd mission in Europe. Their target was the strategic bombing of selected German Luftwaffe airfields in France and the Netherlands. The 385th Bombardment Group and its bomber squadrons played a key role in this strategic bombing campaign. Of the 147 B-17s that were dispatched to bomb various airfields in France, 143 B-17s successfully hit their airfield targets destroying many German aircraft. Two B-17s were lost and 11 damaged with casualties including 1 killed in action, 3 wounded in action, and 20 missing in action.
This is the kind of news during World War 2 that stressed the nerves of all American families, especially those having sons serving in Europe and especially in the Army Air Forces. And this was the reality faced by Jim and Nellie Glaxner when news came that their son S/Sgt James A. Glaxner Jr. was one of those 20 MIA crewmen of the two B-17s.
Apparently the two B-17s (Jim’s B17F which did not have a name was piloted by Lt Ed Stone), in flight to their target of Vitry en Artois in France, were hit by an enemy fighter that flew through their formation. Both B-17s fell out of formation at 1958 hours, ten miles northwest of Dunkirk. Again the B17s were attacked by enemy fighters and flak, and as Jim’s plane prepared to ditch in the English Channel, the left wing came off. His B17 nosed into the water and exploded. Sadly, Jim and as his crew mates would be later classified as killed in action, and they were never found, and assumed buried at sea.
For his meritorious service on his final mission and B-17 flight, S/Sgt Jim Glaxner was awarded the Air Medal and for his personal ultimate sacrifice, the Purple Heart. He is honored in the WW2 Honor Roll and memorialized in the “Tablets of the Missing” at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium.
To further honor his service as a B17 aviator and hero, the Mt. Zion Historical Society has selected S/Sgt James Glaxner, Jr as one of its chosen “Heroes of Air Power.”
“Lest We Forget…”