John and Mai met in the Summer of
1941 and were Married May 6, 1942. John was drafted into the Air Force
in September 1942. Subsequently, he spent seven months at Keesler Air
Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. He completed basic training and
Gunnery School at Keesler AFB. John was sent for brief periods to an
air base near Burbank, CA, one near Las Vegas and another near Salt
Lake City, Utah. John joined up with B-17 crewmembers in Ephrata, WA.
After training together in Ephrata and Spokane, WA they were sent to
Bassingborne, England in November 1943. John and the other nine
members of the crew (four officers and 6 enlisted men) were assigned
to a B-17 aircraft which they named "Ramblin Wreck".
They flew twelve missions over flak–filled
skies in Germany. The Ramblin Wreck was badly damaged by flak on
February 20, 1944. On February 21, 1944 they flew Lightning Strikes
and were shot down over a village near Hanover, Germany. They were
taken prisoners almost immediately.
After interrogation at Dulag Luft
near Frankfurt, Germany, John and the other enlisted crewmembers were
taken to Stalag Luft VI near Konigsberg in Luthiwania near the Baltic
Sea. The officers were taken to Stalag Luft I near Barth, Germany.
John was interred here until July 1944 when they were transferred to
Stalag Luft IV. During this transfer John endured the infamous
Hydekrug Run. Stalag Luft IV was located near Groty-Chow, Poland. In
January 1945, John and other prisoners deemed too ill to march, were
taken by train to Nuremberg, Germany. Upon arriving in Nuremberg they
were locked in boxcars while allied planes literally destroyed the
rail yards. John was briefly interred in a makeshift POW camp in
Nuremberg. In February, John and other surviving POW’s started
walking south. No food or lodging was provided during this forced
march for the prisoners or the guards. They stayed in barns and
survived by eating flower bulbs, potatoes from pig lots or whatever
they could find. They reached Moosberg, Germany in late April 1945 and
on April 29, Patton’s 3rd Army liberated them from the
Germans. John was flown back to Camp Lucky Strike in France and
arrived back in the United States by boat.
John arrived back in Lafayette, Indiana in early
May, 1945. He was discharged in November 1945 and entered
Indiana Business College. He was later employed by General
John and Mai had a son, John Randolph Parsons in
November 21, 1947. They purchased a new home using John's GI
Bill entitlements. As an economic measure, John decided to
join the Reserve Program. In 1951 the Korean War broke out and
John was recalled to active duty. He was assigned to the 434th
Troop Carrier Command and was stationed for a few months at Bakalar
AFB near Columbus, Indiana. Later John was stationed at Lawson
AFB near Columbus, Georgia. John’s wife, Mai and small
son Randy joined him.
He was discharged from service again in 1953. He took a
position as Manager of Seaboard Finance Company, in Clearwater, FL.
He was later offered a position as Vice President of National Homes
Acceptance Corporation which he accepted and moved with his family
back to Lafayette, Indiana. After 17 years with the National
Homes Company, John took a position as Vice President of Hometown
Federal Savings & Loan.
In 1993 at Mayo Clinic in Rochester,
MN, John was diagnosed with kidney ailments. He was put on
dialysis in December 1993 and continued as a dialysis patient at St.
Elizabeth Medical Center in Lafayette, Indiana until his death on
August 2, 1998. John had started to write his memoirs in 1994
and completed the manuscript just before his death. The title of
John’s book is The Best Seat In The House. John writes about
his experiences as a top-turret gunner on a B-17 (hence the title The
Best Seat In The House) and the months that he spent in different
Prisoner of War camps in Germany. John’s book reflects the
triumph of the human spirit over extreme adversity.
Another interesting self written story from the ."The Greatest
"Best Seat In The House"
is available through
3504 S. 9th Street
Lafayette, Indiana 47905-3543.
Phone (765) 474-4208.
Book Price: $25.00 US, includes shipping.
Or you may e-mail the Parsons at