COL Jack T. Bradley, P-51 Ace with 15 Kills in ETO

Jack Bradley was my wife's great uncle.  He flew a P-51B "Mustang" with the 354th Fighter Group of the 9th Air Force.  They were called the Pioneer Mustang Group because they were the first to receive the P-51.  His squadron was the 353rd Fighter Squadron.  The Group flew its first combat mission in ETO on 1 December 1943 and ranked 1st in the war with 701 confirmed kills in aerial combat.  Jack Bradley was 3rd overall in the Fighter Group with 15 confirmed kills.  I met him several times at family get togethers and unfortunately, he died several years ago. 

Interview of Jack Bradley after flying missions on D-Day.  Also has gun footage of some of his kills. 

1/72 Scale Model of Jack Bradley's last P-51 of the war.  He kept the name "Margie Maru" on all his planes.  I was able to present this model to his daughter at a family reunion in Brownwood, Texas a few years back.. 

"Flying Cobra" Insignia from the 353rd Fighter Squadron

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Initial 353 Fighter Squadron

Tonopah - 353rd FS July 29, 1943 (L to R) Front Row: Major Owen M. Seaman, Lt. Col. Jack T. Bradley Middle Row: James Cannon, Willie Y. Anderson, J.J. Baird, Grant Logan, Carl C. Carrason, Robert G. Silva, David B. O'Hara, Don M. Beerbower, Wao Kao Kong, F. Mike Rogers, W. Frank Alford, John D. Hattlie, Ridley E. Donnell, Carl Lind Back Row: Buford M. Eaves, Carl Frantz, Richard H. Klein, Thomas S. Varney, Carl G. Bickel, Don McDowell, James J. Parsons, Wallace M. Emmer, Glenn E. Eagleston, Donald W. Stretz, Edward R. Regis, Charles L. Uhlenberg, Edward E. Hunt Not Pictured: Arthur W. Owen, Charles W. Koenig, James W. Kerley, James P. Keane

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Jack Bradley (R)  and LTC Glenn Eagleston (L) brief new pilots in the squadron on their mission.  Eagleston's plane was named the "Feeble Eagle" was tail # 44-63607 is famous and available in numerous model kits. 

Early war picture of Jack Bradley in front of his P-51B.  This plane was OD and you can tell by the crosses in the background that he had not yet reached his 15 confirmed kills.

 

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A late war photo of LTC Jack Bradley, commander of the 354th Fighter Group, in front of his new P-51D.  This was a later model plane but the "FT" 353rd squadron markings are present and it is most likely the "B" plane..  The Group was issued P-47s from Dec 44 to Feb 45 and then got the new Mustangs.  There are 16 crosses on the plane, but two must have been ground kills and only counted as 1.

A P-47 version of the Feeble Eagle with 353rd markings of a skull and crossbones with a yellow cowling.   

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LTC Bradley 2nd from right.

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Jack Bradley (L) in front of the Feeble Eagle.  LTC Eagleston is far right.

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These are all of the aces from 354th FG.  Bradley is at 6:00.

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353FS at the airfield.  The letters "FT" indicate the 353rd FS.  Jack Bradley's original P-51B had the markings "FT-B."  

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Jack Bradley at the chow hall.

Here is a newsclip from 1999:

Friday, October 1, 1999

Retired area aviator to be honored
By JOHN STARBUCK
Staff Writer

A Brownwood man who shot down 15 enemy aircraft during World War II will be recognized today by the Confederate Air Force.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Jack T. Bradley is among eight individuals and a squadron scheduled to be inducted into the American Combat Airman Hall of Fame at the CAF Headquarters in Midland.

Bradley was attending Howard Payne University when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps.

After graduating in 1941 from flying school in California, he joined the 9th Air Force’s 354th Fighter Group as a second lieutenant after it was formed in San Francisco.

Based in Portland, Ore., the 354th was deployed in the fall of 1943 to Europe.

He flew the P-51 Mustang, which saw its first combat during WWII, and was part of a group of pilots who recorded 701 aerial victories against the Germans and another 300 wins on the ground.

“That fighter group destroyed more enemy aircraft in the air than any organization in the entire military,” Bradley, 81, said.

Besides claiming his share of enemy planes, Bradley also had nine probable kills and damaged 12 additional aircraft. Two planes were destroyed in a 10-second span.

He later became commander of the 354th. When the war ended in Europe in May 1945, the fighter group was deactivated.

“My best memory was when the war was over. It was pretty costly,” said Bradley, born and raised in Brownwood.

Although a majority of Bradley’s service was with the 354th, he also took brief charge of another fighter group during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 after its senior officers had been killed in action.

His decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross.

He returned to California and took command of the 1st Fighter Group, which flew the first P-80 and F-86 jets in the Air Force. He also saw time with the Royal Air Force in England.

Retiring from the Air Force in 1962, Bradley worked in the aircraft industry for several years.

He later owned an international marketing consulting firm, and was a cattle rancher and construction engineer.

Signing up for the military, Bradley knew that America had a job to do and he wanted to be a part of it.

“I was very patriotic,” he said. “Our main concern was winning the war.”

 


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