Capt. John H. “Lucky” Luckadoo
John Luckadoo was born March 16, 1922 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. For John, the climate made it a depressing area to be raised as a boy and he longed to leave one day. Set on the bend of the Tennessee River and surrounded by mountains, the weather would frequently include clouds, rain, and fog. Little did Luckadoo realize, years later, he would experience the same weather in England while in combat as a B-17 pilot.
A sophomore in college when Pearl Harbor was attacked, John yearned to be a pilot and joined the Army Air Corp after acceptance as an Aviation Cadet. Initially on a two-month furlough with so many others in the pipeline, he was finally called early in 1942 to Montgomery, Alabama for six-weeks of pre-flight training and selected as wing adjutant of 4,000 cadets. From there, they were transferred to the base in Avon Park, FL for primary training where he flew the old Steerman Yellow Peril, a PT-17 built by Boeing.
During initial flight training in Florida, Luckadoo was Captain of his Cadet class through Primary, as well as Basic and Advanced. Sent to Shaw Field, SC for Basic training, they received a much more powerful low-wing airplane, the Vultee BT-13, with 450 horsepower in which they learned both night and formation flying.
Luckadoo and his fellow advanced graduate students, less than 30 days out from flight school, were to be assigned as Co-Pilots in the new B-17s for overseas duty. The aircraft was an enormous plane and a quantum leap from the small twin-engine AT-10s flown during advanced training, so it was a pretty rude awakening The huge 4-engine plane with a 10-man crew was mounted with thirteen 50-caliber machine guns and described as a war machine. The flying fortress would protect itself very adequately at high altitude and particularly in mass formation. Nevertheless, it was an overwhelming experience with no prior introduction to the aircraft at all.
At the behest of his pilot who became his instructor, John more quickly learned the operation of the plane and was extremely impressed with the B-17’s capability of flight and its handling characteristics.
2nd Lt. Luckadoo was with the original 100th Bomb Group cadre to arrive in England and the 351st Bomb Squadron based at Thorpe Abbotts. He initially flew 21 missions with the 351st and the Lt. Glenn Dye Crew aboard the “SUNNY,” which was later lost on Sept 03, 1943 when shot down with the crew of Lt Richard King.
Following his 21 missions, Luckadoo was then checked out as a First Pilot and became Operations Officer first for the 351st Squadron and later for the 350th, as well. He would then complete his tour as Captain with Bill DeSanders on 13 February, 1944.
Losses had begun to mount in groups already operational with the newly commissioned Eighth Air Force in England. As the urgency for bomber crews escalated and, with scarcely 80 days in the B-17s, these newly integrated co-pilots of the 100th BG were released and found themselves spanning the North Atlantic, combat bound. With many having precious little time at the controls of the aircraft and sorely lacking in vital information techniques and emergency procedures, formidable risks were inherent. As a consequence, of the nearly 40 members of the class of 43-B who replaced the original co-pilots of the 100th, only 4 completed their combat tours.
In all, this class of pilots actually sustained approximately a 90% loss factor within the first four months the group was operational.
This B-17 F “Sunny II” of the 100th Bomb Group and 351st Bomb Squadron, with its full crew led by Capt. Glenn Dye, presented its freshly painted nose-art. The photo was taken at Thorpe Abbotts, England, in October 1943. The plane would later be lost in crash landing safely with another crew on 30th December, 1943.
In serving as operations officer for both the 351st and later 350th Bomb Squadrons, Luckadoo would become the only Operations Officer of two 100th Bomb Group Squadrons. Following completion of his additional missions with the 35oth on 13 Feb 1944, Capt Luckadoo was offered Command of the 350th but decided instead on returning to the States with a record of 25 missions flown.
The 100 Bomb Group flew its last combat mission of World War II on 10 April 1945. In December 1945, the group returned to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. Capt Luckadoo, as one of the 100th’s most respected officers, continued passing on his knowledge stateside in the Training Command of the 3rd Army Air Force.
John Luckadoo is a frequent speaker in accepting requests from schools, churches, organizations and the media to convey his remarkable experience of service during WWII.
In Gratitude for your Service and All who Serve