Thank you to contributor Chris Stout (#48289027) for the following:
It has been said that if one has a choice between skill and luck, one opts for luck. It has also been said that timing is everything. In the case of John Mason, his death was unlucky and his timing was tragic in every sense.
Born July 5, 1921, he lived at 287 Gardner Road with his brother and parents. John went through the entire Ridgewood school system. In High school he ran track and played football. He also played bass violin in the high school orchestra and was selected for both the county and state orchestras. He was also a member of the senior cabinet, was active in the Ridgewood YMCA and was participated in the youth groups at West Side Presbyterian where he was confirmed on April 28, 1935. He was also a master scout.
After graduating from the high school in 1939 he went to Cornell to study Chemical Engineering and again was active in track and football. He was 5'9" tall and weighed 160 lbs with brown hair and blue eyes. He was a member of R.O.T.C. and Kappa Sigma Fraternity but didn't graduate because he joined the service Feb. 1, 1942 as an enlisted man.
He did his pre-flight training at Maxwell Field, Ala. in the summer of 1943, at Fletcher Field in Clarksdale, Miss. in the fall and in Greenville, Miss. in the winter. From February to May 1944 he was at George Field in Lawrenceville, Ill., getting his commission on March 12, 1944. For a time thereafter he was a flight leader and lead 65 cadets. He went to Malden Airfield in Malden, Mo. in March 1945 for transition school to learn how to fly the C-47 "Gooney Bird" and gliders. The C-47 Douglas transport was the military version of the DC-3 passenger plane.
Then he went overseas to Karachi, the city in which he was born when his father was working there for the Standard Oil Company. He proceeded to fly the perilous "Hump" in the China-Burma-India route. More than 400 supply planes crashed flying the Hump – either shot down by the enemy or forced down by bad weather.
Mason flew his first combat mission into Imphal, India and then moved on to Myitkyina, Burma June 3, 1945 at the northernmost terminus of the Ledo Road and switched from the C-47 to the C-46 because it had a greater range and could carry a bigger load.
In a letter written in June 1945 he said: "We've gotten to see lots of Burma and one corner of China has been well covered - from the air anyway. We are a combat cargo squadron and up until last month all of our work was concerned with supplying the Chinese, Americans and Indians that were driving the bloody Japs southward. We dropped to them, and landed supplies at small airstrips, and had quite a busy time of it. We have been over Jap lines often but there are so few Japs left in Burma now, and those that are left keep pretty well hidden during the day so the "dramatic adventure" of offering yourself as an easy target never proved any more unusual than a bus ride to Paterson. We missed most of the serious fighting along the Ledo Road so things have been pretty soft for us. We are now primarily concerned with flying stuff into China which is also a lot easier than I had expected after hearing of all the "dangers" of Hump flying. I guess it used to be rough, but now it's pretty much routine."
One month later, August 15, 1945 - the day U.S. forces were ordered to cease-fire to end World War II - after 144 missions, 560 hours and with the Air Medal with one Cluster on his chest and shortly after being promoted to 1st. Lt., this skilled pilot was killed when his C-46D landed short on an instrument flight plan, crashed and burned on return approach from Ledo to Myitkyina, transporting empty 55 gallon gas drums. He tried to let down below minimum altitude for instrument flight conditions, trying to fly contact and partial instruments. He lost radio contact and went down, tearing down communications lines, hitting railroad tracks, cartwheeling across rice fields and through bushes, about three miles from the airstrip. The crew of three perished.
Aside from the Purple Heart and the Air Medal, with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, he was awarded the WWII Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously). John Mason was buried in Myitkyina, moved to the American Military Cemetery in Kalaikunda, India in 1947 and finally repatriated to the Honolulu Memorial National Cemetery of the Pacific in 1949 and buried in Section A, Grave 79. At death he was 24 years old.
Entered the service from New Jersey.
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