of Hickory, North Carolina
John Josiah Miller (Joe) came to the museum one day with his wife Charlotte, daughter Helen and grandsons Ben and Owen. He had a book of photographs and was wearing a “Flying Horsemen” ball cap. It had a B-24 on it. I asked what he did in the Liberator and he said, “I was a pilot”!! We looked at his photos and they contained many family pictures as well as some of his wartime exploits. Joe was with the 47th Wing of the15th AF. He was assigned to the 717th BS, 449th BG and flew out of Grottaglie, Italy. Joe completed 44 missions before the 50 mission tour requirement was reduced to 35 missions. They included some very harrowing targets like Ploesti. He is from Virginia and his accent is just spectacular. I will share a couple of Joe’s wonderful stories here. His best friend was named Ludke, and Joe tells me he was quite the character. On a maintenance hop in an old B-24D, he was flying co-pilot with Ludke. At altitude they saw a RAF Lancaster beneath them. Ludke just told Joe “watch this”!! He proceeded to dive the old “Lib” down toward the “Lanc”. Building up oodles of airspeed, the B-24 was shaking and moaning. As they reached the Lancaster’s altitude and were slightly behind it, Ludke feathered the outboard props!!! Joe says they went by the Lanc about 100mph faster on two engines!!!!!!! I wish you could hear him horse laugh on that story..priceless!! Of note, Ludke never learned to swim and was lost on his last mission when he parachuted into a swamp and drowned after being hit by flak. Joe also lost an engine on takeoff in Italy. This was one of a pilot’s worst nightmares!! He ran the turbos up to maximum manifold pressure on the remaining three engines. I think it was 44 or 47 inches!! The manuals said to only do it for 5 or 10 minutes max. Joe kept them there for 30 minutes!!! It took him that long to reach 1000 feet!!! After releasing their bombload he made it back to base. Everyone was there to greet them including the CO. He said, “nice job Mil ler, there’s another B-24 over there ready to go”!!! His bombadier Herman V. McAdams slammed his hat on the ground and proceeded to give his opinion of the new orders. Joe calmly convinced him to mount up and they flew the mission!!! By the way, for all of you guys and gals out there that like to feud over the B-17 vs. the B-24, Joe has his own opinion. He said the B-24 had four things better than the B-17…..Pratt & Whitney…Pratt & Whitney…Pratt& Whitney….Pratt & Whitney!!! Joe’s personal B-24 was named Kayo and to give testament to his abilities, he never lost a single crewman and had two B-24s shot out from under him!!! He is an incredible example of our great veterans and a joy to be around!!!