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Jesse J. Craddock, Jr.

January 2, 1921 April 22, 2019
Jesse J. Craddock, Jr.
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Obituary for Jesse J. Craddock, Jr.

Life story of Jesse "Jay " Craddock Jr. - Lt. Col. Retired -

Jesse J. Craddock (Jay) was born in Auburn, Ill. on Jan. 2,1921 to Jesse J Craddock and Ellen Gerbin Craddock. They moved to Waukegan, Ill. in 1923 where he grew up playing baseball, swimming and going out on the lake with friends on rafts or boats and any other stuff kids did. They walked everywhere. He had an airplane peddle car when he was four which would be a sign to his future. He enjoyed being around his dad because he seemed to be the guy to go to in the neighborhood when there was trouble. 

He entered the Boy Scouts at the appropriate age and acquired the rank of Eagle Scout. His father died in 1935 so he didn't get to see him get the award.  He was also a Sea Scout and got out just before becoming their highest rank. He took R.O.T.C. in High School and also was active on the swim team winning many medals during his competitions. He was a good student. The principal became a friend somehow, Mr. Hardy, and he kept in touch with him into the 1960's. After he married in 1945 he and his family would go down to Pasadena, Ca. and visit him. They would go to the Rose Parade then go over to the Hardys and have dinner in the 1950's and 1960's. After High School he went to Purdue Anniversary. He studied Engineering and got his pilots license. He would get a flight in a glider any chance he could . In 1941 his widowed mother moved he and his brother to Seattle, Wash. to live. He worked there in the shipyard as an electrician.

In April 1942 he joined the Army Air Corps. He trained at Mather AFB in California where he met his future wife, Beatrice Wadsworth. After training he went to Santa Ana for flight school graduating as a member go Class 43-A.He graduated from flight school in 1943.

He went on to Yuma, Arizona where he served as advanced flight instructor until Sept. 1944 when he volunteered to go overseas. He had been training pilots for almost 18 months and logged over 1000 hours flying B-25 Mitchell bombers. At Mather one day he was training pilots when a Capt. stuck his head out of a second story window and yelled, ' Hey Craddock, want to go to combat?" He said, " Oh sure, I'd been trying to go to combat for more than a year." He went back to his locker to stow his parachute and a Sgt. was there to tell him to report to a Lt. Col. seeking pilots for overseas duty. He and Ed Phillips, who had flown missions in N. Africa and Sicily and was also instructing at Mather volunteered too go overseas. Phillips got the Captains Spot.

The two officers left Mather by train to Greensboro, N.C. where they stayed for about 45 days waiting before boarding a Liberty ship convoy headed to the South Atlantic. The Germans were running subs in those waters. Right off the Azores Jay said that the ship broke down and they sat dead in the water for about eight hours while the rest of the convoy steamed on. He told his buddy that he didn't know what to do so “ I am going sit myself down under the biggest life raft up on deck until this thing starts to move.” He then noticed that almost everyone else did the same thing. Meanwhile, two whales surfaced 400 yards next to the ship sending the Navy gun crews to station. They spouted. That saved their lives. The ship caught up with the convoy and landed at Sicily, Italy.

They were then unloaded at Bari, Italy on the East coast instead of disembarking in Naples. This meant that they would be living in an unheated tent in the cold dampness of November. They didn't have  anything to do so they went into town every day to the USO for doughnuts or to a movie. Then, they ran out of money. They went to the paymaster and he asked why the two B-25 pilots were there . They told him, " Because this is where they sent us. We would like to get paid. " By radio, the Paymaster found out B-25 units were stationed on Corsica. off Italy's western coast. The next day a pair of C-47 rides got them to Naples and then to Corsica and dropped them on a little airstrip about ten miles south of Bastia, the Capitol of Corsica at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon only cutting one engine and throwing their baggage out the door and saying, " We're outta here." They needed to get back to Naples before dark because there is still a war on and they shoot anything after dark. Nothing was out there. no people, no buildings no pierced steel runways. Just a dirt airstrip. As Jay walked across the field he noticed telephone wires that lead to a field telephone. He cranked it up and said, " This is Lt. Craddock." The voice on the other end asked if they were armed because there might be snipers. They waited a couple of hours before a truck came down to pick them up. Phillips was delivered to the 310th Bomb Group and Lt. Craddock was delivered to the 447th Bomb Squadron, 321st Bomb Group. Lt Craddock never saw his friend, Capt. Phillips again. Less than 2 months later in Jan 1945 Lt Craddock had time off and decided to look for his buddy. Phillips had been on a mission the day before. His plane was shot down and he was killed. In later years he tried to get answers on when and where and how he died. He never did get all the answers.

While in the 321st Bomb Group his mission was to bomb Brenner Pass in Northern Italy which was a 155 mile passageway through 11,000 foot peaks in the Italian Alps. Being the German's main supply route they were to bomb all bridges, rail lines, roads and rivers. 650 to 700 antiaircraft guns were placed along the 150 mile corridor. During all his missions he flew the B-25 Mitchell Bomber. With 7 months left he never saw the Luftwaffe because the were protected by the Tuskegee Airmen, U.S. P-47's, and the British Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mosquitos. The Germans didn't dare come out. Lt Craddock didn't even remember any of his gunners using their machine guns. Lt. Craddock flew 47 combat missions with most of them in the Brenner Pass.

In July 1945 Lt. Craddock and his crew flew the B-25 Mitchell from Corsica back to the United States via N. Africa, Ascension Islands, S. America, Puerto Rico, and Savanna, Georgia.

He received many awards while in combat. The Distinguished Flying Cross. 26 May 1945, Air Medal 16 Feb 1945, 3 Battle Stars, 2 Presidential Citations awarded his unit, The 321st Bomber Group. He left active duty as a Captain in 1945. There are many stories of his adventures that will come later.

The Air Force started in 1947. In 1948 he joined the newly formed 61st Fighter Wing flying from the Alameda Naval Air Station. ( from Jay Craddock).” In the early years there were no planes, and a lot of qualified pilots and nothing to do except sit around and tell war stories. There was soon a move to the Oakland Airport and we received one AT-6 and 2 F-51 fighters.. Some years later the A-26, a medium bomber came on the scene. I was the only pilot with twin- engine qualifications. Mostly, I had my own plane. In 1954-55 we moved to Hayward, Ca. and formed the 129th Rescue wing, a resupply group using the C-46 and C-47 aircrafts. (Stories to Follow). In 1963 the 129th unit changed to an Air Commando Group and used the SA-16 Albatross Seaplane. (Story) . Later, the unit changed to the C119 Flying Boxcar having the same mission as the SA-16. We carried the name Special Operations Group. (Story). I became the Group Commander as Lt. Col. Craddock. I commanded the Squadron until my retirement in 1965. “ In his career he flew the B-25 Mitchell, AT-6, P-51,F-51,C-46, C-47, SA-16, C-119, HU-16 and probably many more.

After the war he married his sweetheart, Beatrice Wadsworth, on July 19, 1945. He met her at Mather Field in California while training to be a pilot. They lived in Oakland and rented from a couple that they became good friends with. He started working on some real estate deals and the money was good but it wasn’t consistent. He then got a job working for Equitable Life Insurance Co. Eventually he made enough money to buy the house they were living in. On January 30, 1947, a son, Douglas was born. Bea’s brother, Carlton moved in to help pay bills and to have a place to live. After living there for six to seven years they moved to San Leandro where they would live from 1952 to 1959. They lived across the street from Bea’s sister and husband. The houses were new so he had a lot of jobs to do in the landscaping. He still worked for Equitable Life until the late 1950’s. About 1958-1960 he became an insurance agent. He commuted to Mt. View, Ca. during part of that time until he bought a house in Los Altos, Ca. He opened an office in Mt. View downtown then relocated to another spot downtown then finally ended up at 80B El Camino Real in Mt. View. He continued to work for Farmer’s Insurance Group until he became a broker. He retired from the insurance business in 1988. In 1962 he won a trip from Farmer’s insurance Group to Hawaii. Pan Am. Flight for a week.

In 1961 he joined the Elks Club in Washington. After 6 years he changed his main lodge to Palo Alto. During his entire life after the war he loved to do photography.. He took a lot of slides in the early days then later started making his own pictures with chemicals. He was an Elk for over 40 years. He was on many committees and loved working with the pool any way he could. He was also a member of the Optimist Club and held rank with them and received an award for service. Also, while living in Los Altos he became a very active person having many hobbies and interests in belonging to clubs and being a leader in them. In 1971 he pursued a black belt in karate and received it in 5-6 years. In the 1980’s he joined the Los Altos Master Swim program. He and his buddies won many first place medals in the tournaments around the country. He also set some world records. He continued swimming Masters until the mid-1990’s even though he said he would enter more tournaments when he was older. He would still swim as much as he could until he was just too tired to do it any more. He was still swimming in his mid 80’s. He also served on committees while with the Masters Swim Program. He joined the Fly Casters Club in the 1980’s and continued on committees into the 1990’s. He tied his own flies and used them and caught lots of fish. After and maybe at the end of his Masters swimming and fly tying, he got back to being more involved expanding on his past enjoyment of photography. He started going out to Moffett Field and volunteering to help in the 129th ANG Photo Lab. Eventually, he met Andrew Hughan and became good friends. This was in 1996. They shared a lot of information and Andrew taught him a lot. He taught him about photo shop and how to use things from the computer making pictures, printing etc. He was also an active flyer. He would take a private plane with friends or family and go on trips around California and occasionally to other states on vacation or he would just fly around the area. (Many stories)

He bought a Cabin in 1968-1969 when the snowfall was the worst in many many years. In 1969 the snow was 20-30 feet on the side of the roads. They had to dig out the chair lifts at Bear Valley. He enjoyed the Cabin. Jay, Bea, and Doug enjoyed fishing and traveling around the area in the summer and skiing and enjoying the snow in the winter. Having family and friends up for visits was also enjoyable. He also participated on various committees involved the development. Bea’s sister and husband had the cabin next door. They turned them on to buying the lot to build their cabin on. They went to Ann and Dicks cabin for many years before buying their own. In later years he needed to be involved in something. He was always ambitious and wanted to be involved. He joined MOAA , a military organization. He was active in MOAA from his 80’s until he was 98. He served as President in 2004-2005. As Vice President and Program Chairman during many years. He also belonged to other Military organizations. The Retired Officers Association in which he was deeply involved. President of the 129th Alumni and Heritage Association for 4 terms. Involved in the 57tth Bomb Wing Reunions.

In his 80’s and 90’s he spent time with his hobbies, going to the cabin with family and friends, participating in his clubs, enjoying his computer, traveling, and enjoying his family. He was still active at 96. He had his 96th birthday at The Jan. 2017 MOAA luncheon and enjoyed the event. As alzheimers started to set in he became weaker but he still knew what was going on. Eating and other behaviors started to slow down. He had a 98th birthday party at home and he enjoyed it. He died peacefully on April 22,2019 at 12:30 at breakfast.

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11:00 AM 5/10/2019 11:00:00 AM
Cusimano Family Colonial Mortuary

96 West El Camino Real
Mountain View, CA 94040

Cusimano Family Colonial Mortuary
96 West El Camino Real Mountain View 94040 CA
United States

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