SOPTICK, JAMES J., Staff Sergeant, # 37239830, USAAF
James J. Soptick was born in 1914 in Kansas to Paul Joseph Soptick (1884-1936) (Austria) and Eva (Ladesich) Soptick (1888-1978) (Yugoslavia) (narried 1905). Siblings included Mathew Soptick (1908-1973), Anna Soptick (1910-1993), Paul Richard Soptick (1917-2011).
He registered for the WW II draft on 16 October 1940 and described himself as 5’10”, 150 lbs, with black hair and brown eyes. After enlisting, he was trained as an armorer and gunner, responsible for the maintenance and function of the weapons (except the bombs) on the B-24 Liberator and earned his crewman wings. He was sent overseas to India in May 1944. On 22 October 1944, a flight of B-24Js, including # 44-40588, # 44-40992, and # 44-70414, assigned to 10th Air Force, 7th Bomb Group, 493rd Bomb Squadron, departed the airfield at Pandaveswar, India, on a bombing mission over Moulmein, Burma. The bombers were hit by anti-aircraft fire, collided, and crashed, exploding. Five minutes after bombing the target at about 1202 hours, the formation was attacked by eight to twelve enemy fighters. He saw Oscars. Lt. Blair was in the # 2 position on the wing of Lt. Young. Maj. Jack Bradford, 0-424404 (OK), was in the # 4 position behind Lt. Young. 1stLt. Bodmer was in the # 3 position and Lt. Hill was in the # 5 position. When the enemy fighters were sighted, the formation closed. On the 3rd or 4th pass by the enemy, Lt. Blair’s # 2 engine caught on fire. He pulled out slightly left and feathered the engine. The fire went out and Lt. Blair made a diving left turn into clouds. He was not seen afterwards. Five minutes later, Maj. Bradford appeared to be looking back to see what happened to the other bombers. He was flying a rough formation but none of his bomber’s movements were violent. His bomber descended slightly to the left. He pulled up just under Lt. Bodmer, who was flying to the front and left of him. As he pulled up, Lt. Bodmer climbed up and out. After Maj. Bradford moved back into position, Lt. Bodmer took his own position. Almost immediately, Maj. Bradford climbed under Lt. Bodmer, his left vertical stabilizer went into Lt. Bodmer’s bomb bay doors. It seemed the # 3 and # 4 propellars of Lt. Bodmer’s B-24 cut off the tail of Maj. Bradford’s B-24 at a point just behind the waist windows. Maj. Bradford’s B-24 climbed violently and fell into a spin. Lt. Bodmer’s B-24 lost a bomb bay door and fell off onto the right wing, did a half-turn-spin, then spiraled down. Both B-24s hit the water about 200 yards apart and exploded. No parachutes were seen. It was near Bilugynn Island, Bay of Martaban. He is remembered on the memorial wall of the missing in the Manila Cemetery & Memorial, Philippines. He was awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.