MCELROY, JAMES EDWARD, First Lieutenant, # 0-1549327, USAAF

 

James E. McElroy was born in 1917 in Providence, Rhode Island, New York, New York, to James E. McElroy Jr. (1890-1960) and Mary A. (Hamilton) McElroy (1893-1941). Siblings included Eileen McElroy (1919-1997), Claire McElroy (1921-2002), Richard Patrick McElroy (1925-1989), and two more brothers and two more sisters.

 

He enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard on 24 February 1941 and was subsequently transferred to the USAAF. After enlisting, he completed flight instruction through advanced schools and was multi-engine rated. He earned his commission and pilot wings. He was sent overseas to India. The PT-17A was a Boeing-Stearman Model 75 biplane, known as a “Kaydet,” built as a training aircraft. Stearman Aircraft became a subsidiary of Boeing in 1934. It was a trainer for the USAAF, USN, and the Royal Canadian Air Force. After WW II, thousands were sold as civilian aircraft and used as cropdusters. On 23 October 1944, a PT-17A, # 16499, “Bouncing Betsy,” assigned to 10th Air Force, 80th Fighter Group, 88th Fighter Squadron, at Shingbwiyang, Burma, departed the airfield at Tingawk Sakan, Burma, for a training flight to Shingbwiyang. It was last contacted by radio over Maingkwan, Burma, at about 1100 hours local. It was last seen by Capt. Brooks S. Emrick, 0-728618, and 1stLt James L. Bush, 0-1553231. Capt. Emrick reported that he was flying Lt. Bush to “Hardtack” on a routine flight when he passed a PT-17A he recognized as one belonging to 88th Fighter Squadron. This was in the vicinity of Maingkwan and the PT-17A was on course for Shingbwiyang. 1stLt Bush reported the same. Capt. Benjamin G. McClintock, 90th Fighter Squadron reported that he spoke with Lt. Wunder, 88th Fighter Squadron, in the Operations Building of the 90th F.S. Lt. Bush said he was flying back to Shingbwiyang in a PT-17A. Capt. McClintock asked Lt. Bush to pass a message to Major Becker for him. Lt. Wunder left Operations. Capt. McClintock next saw the PT-17A with the engine running on the airstrip. Upon hearing the Lt. Wunder was missing, he found out the PT-17A departed at 1045 hours. Maj. Robert J. Becker reported that he first learned of the missing PT-17A when it did not land at the airfield at Shingbwiyang. He called the 90th F.S. and spoke with Capt. McClintock, the 90th F.S. Operations Officer. He told Maj. Becker the above. Maj. Becker checked with Fighter Control at Myitkyina, Tingkawk-Sakan, and Kanjikoah, with no results. Capt. Emrick, who flew an A-24, passed on his information to Maj. Becker. The morning of 24 Oct. 1944, Maj. Becker made his first search flight flying an A-24 with an observer, departing Shingbwiyang at 0705 hours. They searched possible emergency landing openings and found nothing. The Air Jungle Rescue Detachment at Tingkawk-Sakan, commanded by Lt. Kelly, was notified of the missing PT-17A on 23 Oct. 1944. The crashed PT-17A was found and 2ndLt Wunder’s body was recovered, mistaken for that of 1stLt McElroy. He is remembered on the wall of the missing in the Manila American Cemetery & Memorial, Philippines.