Many years ago, I read an article in the British aviation history magazine FlyPast about some British air cadets from East Anglia who made their annual summer camp beside an American airfield during the Second World War. Some of the cadets managed to get rides on a few of the B-24s that were stationed there. Shipdham, in Norfolk (also known to the USAAF as Base 115) was home to the four squadrons of the 44th Bomb Group, Second Air Division, United States Eighth Air Force.
One the cadets listed an eventful flight in his flying log simply as a test flight in number 535. Elsewhere in the article 535 was identified as Joplin Jalopy. A small photograph showed an unidentified airman standing next to a B-24 The caption said that B-24J 42-50535 Joplin Jalopy survived the war and was displayed at the Joplin Municipal Airport until the late 1950s when she was scrapped.
Joplin? I live 30 miles from Joplin, and worked in Joplin when I first came to the United States. I am an aviation enthusiast of long standing (also known as a dyed in the wool airplane nut) with a great interest in military aviation history. The thought that there was (or had been) a combat veteran B-24 standing on an airfield a short drive from where I now live was tantalizing in the extreme.
What was the story of the Joplin Jalopy? How did she end up in Joplin? How did she get her name, and what ultimately happened to her? Were there any written records of her time in the 44th Bomb Group and her time in Joplin?
In January 2006 I started a blog documenting my efforts to research the aircraft and its history. Sadly all that remains of that blog are a couple of pages in the Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive. Recently, however I was inspired to get some of the information I’d gathered over the years back into some kind of order. 11 years after I started the original blog, the opportunity arose to start again – and here we are.
It’s a long story. This is more than just the 10-month combat career of a single aircraft. I want to find out where the Jalopy had been from the time of her assembly in Michigan to her less than glorious removal from the town after which she was named.
There is a lot of information. Some of it has been lost with the passing of numerous individuals who were directly connected with her. Some of it is buried in archives and is theoretically retrievable. Putting it together will at least give a picture, and capture a slice of American life, the like of which we are unlikely to see again.