Jefferson Coles Thomas
U. S. Army Air Forces
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 12/21/1942 - 12/08/1945
B-29 mechanic, 881st Bombardment Squadron

"I went to cutting yards at nine years old and I've worked all my life until I retired," J.C. says. Born in Pine Bluff, his family came to Shreveport in 1926. He graduated from Fair Park High School on June 3, 1938, and then went to work at Shreveport Police Department on August 26, 1941. He soon entered the service, was trained as a B-29 mechanic, and was assigned to the 500th Bombardment Group. He sailed overseas on the Alcoa Polaris and arrived on September 18, 1944 at Saipan. He recalls Japanese suicide planes bombing and strafing their positions. That first night he climbed atop a crate to sleep. He awoke to gunfire, and the next morning saw "several Japs around that box." J.C. witnessed the stunning growth of American air power. He recalls the scores of planes ready to bomb Japan. "You can just see them lined up on Saipan to take off. There were hundreds of them," he says of B-29s. Mail arrived on C-54s. "If we saw a C-54, coming, we knew mail was arriving," he says. Mail came mail three or four times a week, he says. Men also were rationed one can of beer a week. J.C. left Saipan for America on November 14, 1945. He was discharged at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Mississippi on December 8, 1945. J.C. returned to the police force where he rose in the ranks to assistant chief in charge of special investigations. He retired after twenty years, and then worked another twenty-two years for Universal Oil Products as chief of security. He retired from that position in 1983.