STAFF SERGEANT JOHN C. McLAUGHLIN of Haddon Heights NJ was born in Pennsylvania in 1924 to Henry and Jane McLaughlin. He was the youngest of three children, coming after Jane and Edward. The family had moved to Haddon Heights, New Jersey by April of 1924. John C. McLAughlin attended Haddon Heights High School for two years, leaving in 1940 to work as an apprentice at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
McLaughlin enlisted in the Army on February 12, 1942 at
Philadelphia PA. After qualifying for flight duty, he trained at the aerial gunnery school
at Kingman AZ. He completed the course and was promoted to Sergeant in
September of 1943. He was then sent to Salt Lake City UT to receive
further training before being sent overseas. Sergeant McLaughlin served
as a tail-gunner aboard a B-17G bomber, # 42-38124, nicknamed THE PASSIONATE WITCH. The
First Lieutenant Robert M. Cook, named his plane after the 1941
Passionate Witch" authored by Thorne Smith. This novel was
about a meek businessman marrying a beautiful witch, and inspired he
film I Married
A Witch, starring Frederic March and Veronica Lake. In the 1960's
the popular TV show "Bewitched"
was based upon this novel.
Staff Sergeant McLaughlin was named by the 8th Air Force as having been the first American bomber gunner to shoot down an enemy fighter over Berlin, during the raid that took place on March 6, 1944. He was credited with shooting down a Focke-Wolfe FW-190, and also for shooting down another German fighter on the same mission.
Staff Sergeant McLaughlin was wounded on a mission to bomb Frankfurt, Germany on March 20, 1944, and returned to action after only three days. Returning from the Frankfurt mission, THE PASSIONATE WITCH landed at the emergency landing field at Dunsfold, England with severe battle damage. The bomber was repaired and was ready to return when a damaged RAF Lancaster with battle damage skidded on landing and collided with THE PASSIONATE WITCH. The Lancaster had been attacked by German fighters, during which RAF Sergeant Ronald Thomas was mortally wounded. Another B-17G, # 42-32082, was subsequently nicknamed THE PASSIONATE WITCH II.
On March 28, 1944 THE PASSIONATE WITCH II was shot down, and Staff Sergeant McLaughlin was listed as missing. This took place on the 24th mission undertaken by the 452nd Bomb Group. The target was the airfield at Chateudun, about 50 km west-northwest of Orleans, France.
PASSIONATE WITCH II received a direct hit from German anti-aircraft fire in the #4 fuel tank and exploded in mid-air. The right wing broke off, causing the plan to go into a downward spin. PASSIONATE WITCH II crashed 2 km south of the target.
Five members of the ten-man crew were killed in the crash. They were co-pilot Second Lieutenant Ronald J. Casey, navigator Second Lieutenant John F. Oswalt, bombardier Second Lieutenant John A. Rowland; flight engineer Technical Sergeant Gerald H. Poplett; and gunners Staff Sergeant Fremont H. Granade and Staff Sergeant Carl A. Blichmann. Different accounts place Grandae in the ball turret and at the left and right waist positions, and place Blichmann in the ball turret and at the right waist. Five bodies were discovered shortly after the crash and in time were re-interred at the U.S. military cemetery at Solers in Melun, France.
The pilot, First Lieutenant Robert M. Cook, radioman George A. Silva, waist gunner Richard L. Thayer and Staff Sergeant McLaughlin managed to bail out of the aircraft before it crashed, and were quickly taken prisoner.
Margie Thayer Bolanger wrote in May of 2012:
John McLaughlin was with my father, Richard L. Thayer, on the Passionate Witch II during WWII
who was one of three airmen that survived the crash over France at high noon on March 28, 1944. Dad spoke often of the war, his time in Stalag 17B, and the crash of their B17.
Staff Sergeant McLaughlin died of wounds on March 29, 1944 in the hospital at Orleans, France. He had broken an arm and a leg, and was spitting blood, so it is likely that he died of internal injuries. Staff Sergeant McLaughlin was initially buried in the cemetery at Orleans and later re-interred in Solers.
First Lieutenant Cook was taken to Stalag Luft 1 at Barth-Vogelsang, Prussia 54-12. Staff Sergeant Silva and Staff Sergeant Thayer were sent to Stalag 17B at Braunau Gneikendorf, near the town of Krems, Austria. All three survived the war and returned to the United States.
Word of Staff Sergeant McLaughlin's death came in August 1944. Surviving him were his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. McLaughlin of 1714 West High Street, Haddon Heights NJ, and a brother Edward J. McLaughlin, then serving overseas in the Navy. His death was reported in the August 24, 1944 edition of the Camden Courier-Post.
Photographs of the Passionate Witch - March 23, 1944
Witch was completely wrecked after being struck
on the runway by the British Lancaster bomber at right.
Passionate Witch II falls from the skies after being hit by ant-aircraft fire near Chateaudun airfield, France on March 28, 1944. Note the bombs are already falling to the target.
|Crew Photograph of the Passionate Witch II - Christmas, 1943|
Sgt Dick Thayer, Right Waist Gunner/Assistant Armourer
Sgt Hubert Roughton, Left Waist Gunner/Assistant Engineer
Sgt Gerald Poplett, Top Turret Gunner, Engineer
SSgt Carl (Herbie) Blichmann, Ball Turret Gunner, Assistant Radio
Sgt John McLaughlin, Tail Gunner/Armourer
Kneeling L-R: First Lt. Robert M. Cook, Pilot
Second Lt Ronald J. Casey, Co-Pilot
Second Lt John Rowland, Bombadier/Chin Turret Gunner
Second Lt John Oswalt, Navigator/Nose Gunner
Not in Picture: Fremont Granade (Roughton's replacement)
George Silva, Radio
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Prior to the crash, Sergeant Roughton was replaced by Staff Sergeant Granade, who is not pictured above. It appears that Granade may have been assigned to the ball turret, Staff Sergeant Blichmann moved to the right waist position and Sergeant Thayer shifted to the left waist.
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