my grandfather

Jack R.

SSgt Jack R. Perz was a tail gunner on a B-24.  He was in the 766th Bomb Squadron of the 461st Bomb Group, 15th AAF, and a member of the ‘Sobieski Crew.’

My Grandfather, Jack Perz, died 7 years before I was born.  I heard the phrase “Grandpa Jack” many times growing up, but I had no reference to who the man behind the title was. 

I often asked…How can one grieve that which they’ve never known, a voice they’ve never heard, and a hand they’ve never held.  All I know is that it’s possible.

The journey of researching my Grandpa Jack has been rewarding intellectually and spiritually, I’ll leave it at that. 

By researching the records behind his service I have found out more than anyone in my family knew about my grandfather’s military service.  I feel like I’ve filled that void of curiosity, and I am incredibly proud of the grandpa that I never knew.

On 12 April 2024 something indescribable happened.  To me, it was a God thing.  I woke up to the following email from a complete stranger, half-way around the world, a fellow researcher; it changed my life.  The film mentioned is below this text, and my Grandfather is the one on the left who smiles right at the camera……

Dear Beth,
My name is Bertrand, I’m a french professional pilot, also an air trafic controller at my local airport in Saint-Etienne, France.
While doing some research about a B-24 (named “STEW BUM” from 484BG) that crash landed here on September 13, 1944, I discover the supply missions from the 451st, 461st and 484th Bombardment Group from Torretta, Iatly, during September 1944.
They provided gasoline, oil and ammunitions for the 7th Tactical Air Force after they reach Provence (Marseille).
My search are going well, I went to NARA, Washington D.C. on January, where Chuck Parsonson help me to find information about the crew that washed-out the plane here, I am still working on it… and on the supply missions to Lyon from Italy.

By chance, William Wyler was also in Lyon Bron Airport on September 1944, with high quality camera in technicolor… and I am pretty sure that I did recognize your Grandfather. He was with the B-24 crew Sobieski or Philips :

From the following footage :
at 0:36 secondes, you will see him! It was 80 years ago, very emotional video, look like yesterday…

I reach you via a google search leading me to the page :

The 461st will have a meeting at Tucson, AZ in October… I read that you went fishing in the mountains of Arizona, maybe you are not too far from Tucson.

I hope I’ve brightened your day!
I will go to Lyon next month to find more video and pictures.
My search about STEW BUM, it’s in french sorry, but you can maybe use a translator:

Warmest regards,

Bertrand PEYRON
42340 RIVAS

That is my Grandpa Jack on the left, smiling as if he knew someone would be watching.

Bertrand, you did not just brighten my day – you’ve changed my life.  I never saw my Grandpa alive until you sent me this precious gift.  The fact that you somehow picked Jack Perz out of a video archive in a museum in France without even knowing me – I don’t have the words, but I will be forever grateful.

Let's get to the records now

When I started, I had my grandpa’s ‘Report of Separation.’  I asked my Mom, Grandma and Uncle what they knew.  I was told he was a ball turret gunner – and maybe in Italy. 

After a google search, I found a website dedicated to preserving the history of the 461st Bomb Group at . The group historian at the time, Chuck Parsonson guided me in this research and supplied me with so many tools along the way.  Chuck is a Jedi Master of Air Force research!  He is also a Vietnam Veteran and son of an officer from the 461st.

When it comes to record sets - the more the merrier

My Uncle, who is also named Jack Perz, is a Vietnam Veteran, a Seabee – CAN DO!  Uncle Jack helped tremendously by sending me my grandpa’s Individual Flight Records.  With the flight records and the historical mission reports on the 461st’s website – I was able to build the history of each of my grandpa’s missions.

So let’s look at all the record sets – then I will show you how they tie together.

I requested my grandfather’s Official Military Personnel File, and was told that it was a part of the 1973 fire at the National Archives in St. Louis.  However, it was still packed with 50-60 pages! 

AND it had information that we never knew about my tail gunner grandpa; he started off in a college training program in Nebraska and trained to be a pilot!  However he washed out at the end – he was 1.5 inches too short to be a pilot.

We have multiple photographs of him that were clues to this… but never knew to look closer.

Jack at University of Nebraska while in the 348th College Training Detachment

The one page also lists low test scores, however, the notes from his instructors seem quite positive.  I think it was the height.  Per his draft card, Jack was 5’3″ and weighed 124 lbs.

This ended his ‘short’ career as a pilot.

Pages from reduced size Jack R Perz Personnel File from NPRC-8

now a tail gunner

2Pages from reduced size Jack R Perz Personnel File from NPRC-9