What I think I know

A very rapid summary of the history of Joplin Jalopy

Joplin’s War Bond drives will be the subject of another blog post but raised sufficient money to “purchase” at least 50 jeeps, a P-51 Mustang which was named after the Joplin School District, and at least four heavy bombers.

The first Series E bond was sold to President Franklin D. Roosevelt by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau on May 1, 1941.These were marketed first as “defense bonds”, then later as “war bonds”. In total, the overall campaign raised $185.7 billion from 85 million Americans, more than in any other country during the war.  (Wikipedia)

Consolidated (Convair) B-24J-1-FO AAF Serial 42-50535 was completed on May 5th or May 6th 1944 at the large B-24 production facility built by the Ford Motor Company at Willow Run, Michigan. This B-24 became Joplin Jalopy – I don’t know how or when Joplin Jalopy got her name.

42-50535 Joplin Jalopy would have been ferried across the Atlantic by a new crew who would have just completed their training.  She would have probably landed at the very large Burtonwood Base Area Depot just outside Liverpool, or may have landed at one of the other depot facilities in the North-West of England.   She joined the 506th Bomb Squadron, 44th Bomb Group at Shipdham in mid July 1944 and flew her first combat mission at the end of July. She went on to fly 66 (not 63 as quoted nearly everywhere else) missions with the 506th BS between July 1944 and April 1945.

In late 1944 the City of Joplin announced the news that a surplus bomber would be made available to the City for display as a war memorial at an appropriate time.  It’s fair to assume that neither the Jalopy nor any of the other bombers obtained in the War Bond Drives would necessarily be the machine allocated to Joplin.

Joplin Jalopy flew back across the Atlantic on May 31st / June 1st 1945 and may have landed at Bradley AAF in Connecticut. She was flown to Altus AAF in Oklahoma where her fate would have been to be smelted into aluminum ingots for the booming post-war American economy.

Clearly someone from Joplin became aware that the bomber it had “purchased”  had survived the war and was awaiting the smelter at Altus.  Plans were made to fly the Jalopy back to Joplin and use her as the centerpiece of the proposed War Memorial. An appeal was started by the Joplin War Dads for this purpose.

mday1-adjusted
“Joplin Jalopy”  At the Joplin Municipal Airport. 11 August 1946. Photograph by Mary Day of Joplin, passed to me in 2006.
Note the feathered propellers, the lack of armament and the small boys already clambering on top of the cockpit and top turret.

On August 11th 1946 a crew drawn mainly from the Joplin Civil Air Patrol flew the veteran plane from Altus back to Joplin. Capt. Frank C. Wallower Jr., an experienced veteran B-24/C-87 pilot from the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations, was the pilot for the trip. Weather conditions for the flight were not ideal. According to contemporary news reports,  the aircraft  was at least 30 minutes late gusty winds caused Wallower to make a sufficiently heavy landing to burst one of the mainwheel tires.

The Jalopy remained at the Municipal Airport in Joplin. The Joplin War Dads’  attempt to raise money for the memorial or museum failed. Joplin Jalopy eventually fell victim to souvenir hunters and farmers seeking parts for farm machinery. Ultimately the Jalopy became such an embarrassment that the hulk was dismantled and taken to a salvage yard in Webb City, Missouri, before eventually being taken to Kansas City, Missouri. where it was broken up.

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