Remembering Jack Warren

Captain Jack R. "Walrus Jack" Warren, first Ace in the 357th FG

Jack R. Warren, 18 Mar 44, MIA Vanished in bad weather. Tail number 43-12124

    That’s all there is.  Let me explain…

    Mr. Bud Anderson is one of my heroes.  I don’t know Mr. Anderson personally, but I know quite a bit about him from my studies of World War II.  Mr. Anderson and Mr. Warren both flew with the 357th Fighter Group out of England during World War II.  I keep up with Mr. Anderson through his website, www.cebudanderson.com, and a year or so ago during a visit there, I saw an advertisement for a, “Free P-51 Screensaver.”  I love World War II aviation, so I jumped all over the offer. 

    After downloading and installing the screensaver, I was excited to find picture after picture of the 357th’s finest.  My computer is set to launch the screensaver after four minutes of inactivity.  If I don’t touch the mouse or a key for four minutes, the men and machines of the 357th begin to flash by on my desktop. 

    Hold on.  This is where this story gets a little strange.  I hate to say that, because I think it immediately causes people to put up a defensive front.  We don’t like strange in our lives.  We like things to be steady, predictable, and unchanging on the major points.  

    See, here’s the thing…whenever I quit looking at my computer screen for any length of time, or I walk into the room after having been absent for a bit, the picture of Jack R. Warren would almost inevitably be the picture displayed on the screen upon my return to the room where I keep my computer.  It happened this morning, twice.  You should also know that I put the 357th screensaver on my computer at work.  The same thing happens there too.  I’ve pointed it out to my friends in the office, “Hey Eddie!  Remember what I was telling you?  There’s the guy, Jack Warren—there’s his picture!  That’s the second time today I’ve walked out of the office, came back in and saw his picture on the screen,” I’d say while pointing at the monitor. 

    Here it is, March 12, 2004—almost sixty years to the day since Jack R. Warren flew out of the lives of his family and squadron mates.

    I bet I know what you are thinking, “Who the hell is this fool that thinks Jack Warren is trying to talk to him through a screensaver?”  I don’t think Jack is trying to talk to me, and I have no real explanation other than the fact that I’m a writer and an avid World War II buff.  For months I fought the urge to write about him.  It’s just that I keep seeing his image over and over—too often to be a coincidence in my book.  This doesn’t occur every single time I leave and then come back to my computer, but more often than not, it is the case.  It’s as if a reminder to write about Jack keeps popping onto my screen, complete with Jack’s haunting picture. 

    Staring out from the cockpit of his Mustang, Jack looks to me like a friendly person.  I can’t help but get the feeling when I stare into his eyes that he looks…overwhelmed.  I may be completely wrong on this; it’s just a gut feeling.  Please don’t anyone think I’m implying that he isn’t brave or something like that.  He’s in the cockpit of a Mustang during the largest conflict this planet has ever seen.  How much proof does one need?  He’s brave all right. 

    I often ask myself if I’m just imagining this need to write about Jack.  I wonder if this is just some trick my brain is playing on me.  It seems odd that my subconscious would pick Jack’s picture to wrap itself around, especially since one of the other pictures on the screensaver is one of my all time favorite World War II photographs.  That would be the one where Pete Peterson, Kit Carson, Bud Anderson, and John England are all standing on the flight line with a Mustang as their backdrop.  So, as I said, I have no explanation.  You can believe whatever you want.  I just know that I’m supposed to write about Mr. Warren.

    Then I ask myself, what right do I have to write about men such as Jack Warren?  I’ve never met him, don’t know him, and have been unable to find out any information about him beyond the fact that he is from my home state of California.  I’ve never been in combat and don’t know anything about it.  The way I see it, I’m not worthy of carrying the flying boots of men like Jack Warren.  These men put everything on the line.  Absolutely everything. 

    They went overseas knowing that they were going to face some of the best pilots in the world in aerial combat.  You know something?  They didn’t use little bullets back then.  The Germans used 20mm and 30mm cannons, and machine guns that were roughly equivalent to our .50 caliber weapons.  You want to know fear?  Try thinking that you are going to go fly over an unfamiliar continent (bad enough) to be chased around the sky by some of the best pilots in the world, pilots that just can’t wait to perforate you and your machine with their large caliber weapons.  But they went anyway.  Chew on that for a bit. 

    In spite of not being worthy to write about Jack, and fearing that if I do my words won’t be eloquent or adequate for the task, I must.  

    Jack and I do have a little in common.  As I said, we’re both from California, and both of us left home to serve our country.  My military career was nothing like Jack’s, but I did my time. 

    I tried to find out a bit more about Jack by doing web searches.  I wasn’t able to find out anything other than his home state.  I wrote to Jim Anderson, Bud’s son, hoping that he could give me a little more to work with.  Jim wrote and said that he’d forward my request to a Mr. Merle Olmstead who, I’m told, is the 357th Fighter Group historian.  I never heard anything again from Jim and I never heard from Merle.  Jim or Merle probably thought me a crackpot, or they just got busy with the stuff of life and forgot.  No matter.  I vowed to write about Jack prior to the 60th anniversary of his loss no matter what I knew.  Here I am.

    Now what?  I guess I just want to say that I’ll never forget Jack.  I see his face on my screen every day.  I’ve wondered for hours on end about what happened to him.  “Lost in bad weather,” that seems so unjust.  I’ve wondered if he was terrified when he was lost, and I inevitably conclude that he probably was—who wouldn’t be?  Most of all, I wonder where Jack Warren is and why can’t we find him?  He deserves a proper burial and grave marker. 

    If Jack had made it through the war, I wonder what he would have done with the rest of his life?  When one man dies, it disturbs so many different possibilities, the fabric of future time wrinkled and distorted forever.  What of the possibility of children, for example?  Maybe Jack or his progeny would have puzzled out the cure for cancer.  We’ll never know—that’s what I mean.  So many lost possibilities.   

    The loss of an individual like Jack, loaded with negatives as it is, is also full of positives.  Jack, no matter how it came about, gave his life for our country.  Jack gave his all in a supreme example of unselfish love for his country and its people.  It’s up to us to see that he is never forgotten. 

    Jack R. Warren, there are lots of people that remember you.  You’ve reached across sixty years of time and touched me.  I don’t know why.  I can’t figure it out, and I guess I never will completely get it.  Some people are going to read this and think I’m a nut, but I don’t care.  It’s been sixty long years since you disappeared, Jack.  You’re still on that last mission in my mind.  If you are still on that last mission, and if you can somehow see this, please land, Jack.  You can rest.  I’m not worthy of you or your sacrifice, but I guarantee you that you’ll not be forgotten as long as I live and breath.   

 

WRITTEN BY JOHN P. DEFFES, MARCH 12, 2004

www.johndeffes.com

357th FG  Members Killed in Action

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