39th Bomb Group (VH)

[Search Tip: Use " " for better search results ex. "John Q. Doe"; "City of ..."]
1st Lt Joseph E. Courtney

Joe was born on February 26th, 1921, in Worcester Massachusetts, to a typical middle class Irish-Catholic family. He was the fourth of five children. His father died from complications from anesthesia on the operating table during an appendectomy when he was only 5. At 10 he started working before and after school to help pay the bills. A typical existing for many families in america during this time.

Joe, like many of this generation, joined the Army immediately after Pearl Harbor. His enlistment record shows that he enlisted on January 26, 1942, just one month before his 21st birthday. Fort Devens, Massachusetts was his starting point. On August 22, 1943 he obtained the rank of Sergeant, per SO#234, Kessler, Field, Mississippi. He graduated from Gunnery School, LVAAF, Las Vegas Nevada, April 16, 1944 and he received an Honorabe Discharged from the Army of the United States, from 3035th AAF Base Unit, VAAF, Victorville, California on 1 September 1944, to accept commission.

He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and accepted appointment on 2 September 1944. 20 days later on the 22nd of September he was tranferred to Smoky Hill Army Air Field, Salina, KS.

He started his B-29 Combat Crew Training on 1 Nov 1944 - completing it on 1 Feb 1945. He and the rest of his crew were then transfered to Herington AAF, on 9 March to pick up their B-29 then on 16 March the crew were ordered to Overseas duty.

Joe’s two brothers would also join the war in the Pacific. Fred, was older and joined the army and served as a staff sergeant. Bob, the youngest, would join the Marines and fight in the Pacific.

Bob even had the opportunity to visit Joe on Guam. Bob recalls one
incident: Bob was able to stay a few days when visiting Joe on Guam. As luck would have it on the first day, Joe’s Plane was down for repairs and would not make that days’ run. Joe and Bob were free to watch a movie and do some other “activities” that night. On Bob’s last day he was invited up to the tower to watch Joe’s plane takeoff. The planes' engines were still giving them trouble though and they returned to the hardstand to see about fixing the problem. It happened a second time and they went back again. What Bob thought was their third try - watched in horror as a B29 caught fire, exploded and dropped abruptly immediately after takeoff from North Field. Bob would not find out for several hours when planes started returning that Joe and his crew were indeed safe. That is the moment both brothers would never forget!

10 April 1945 - Joe earned his first Air Medal the order reads as follows:

"For meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight on 10 April 1945 as Bombardier of a B-29 aircraft during a practice bombing mission over the Marianas Islands. The propeller broke from one of the engines, and, turning at a high rate of speed, struck the plane and penetrated the fuselage almost cutting it in two. As a result of the accident practically all flying controls were severed and al communications lines were cut. There was no interphone contact with the members of the crew in the aft section and Lieutenant Courtney volunteered to undertake the extreme hazardous task of going through the tunnel to the rear of the plane to verify that all men there had bailed out as previously ordered and had parachuted safely from the aircraft. At that time the almost severed plane was struggling to along at low altitude, in adverse weather and there was no assurance that it would not go completely out of control and crash at any moment. Disregarding his own safety, Lieutenant Courtney, negotiated the dangerous passage through the tunnel, found that all men were out of the rear of the rear section of the plane and returned through the tunnel to inform the pilot. He then parachuted safely into the water where he was picked up by a friendly convoy. Lieutenant Courtney’s courageous action in placing the safety of fellow crew members above his own reflects great credit on himself and the Army Air Forces".

Below is Joseph E. Courtney's Sea Squatter's card
click on each image to enlage
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
**Signatures blurred for security**

2nd Lt Joseph E. Courtney went on to fly 12 combat missions.

Their last missions being 7 July 1945. Per GO 159, dated 12 Jul 1945, Joseph Courtney and his crew were orderd to Lead Crew School for 30 days training at Muroc AAF, CA (Now Edwards, AFB). It was during this time he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant per SO 196, issued by Army Air Forces, Pacific Ocean Area (Admin) dated 15 July 1945.

With Japan's surrender, He never returned to Guam. Per SO 252 Courney was assigned to Reception Station #2 - Ft Dix, NJ. as was Capt Gray, 1st Lt. Edward V, Hughes, and F/O Demchock from his crew for further disposition - duration was 45 days.

He was discharged from Army Air Forces on 4 December 1945 from the AAF Overseas Replacement Depot, Greensboro, NC.

Transcripts of Joe Courtney's Letters sent home
The above Bio and images and orders are courtesy of Joseph E. Courtney's son, Joe. He can be contacted via email at:
Crew 4 Main Page
60th Squadron Crew Index
Source: Joe Courtney, Son; AAF Orders and Records of Joseph E. Courtney.