A “gift” from ancestry.com

I decided to renew my subscription to ancestry.com after a few year hiatus. I had done a lot of work on the family tree and realized that there was no good way to capture it without paying ancestry.com to print a book for me. I guess, the fact that I was paying hundreds a year to do their research for them stuck in my croup, so I let my subscription lapse.

My cousin Darrell struck up a conversation last weekend about the family tree, and I found myself drawn back in. The process is tedious, but every little “hint” beckons and you get endorphins from each layer of the puzzle you complete. Seeing an image of a draft card signed by your relative, or the ships passenger lists for transatlantic travel is just a rush.

So I renewed. This time I bought access to military databases and newspapers.com which broadened my search results tremendously. While I was whittling away at the family mysteries, I thought I’d run a newspaper search for Uncle Jimmy. Then I found this article which has changed my opinion on the manner of his death profoundly. There was an eyewitness account, which had not been part of the military report. After reading this article and looking at the sharp photo (much crisper and better focused than the military photos) it is my belief that he had engine trouble and he tried to land the plane.

I wish his family learned this when they were alive, it may have brought them comfort.

original newspaper article
News article on page 5 of the April 9, 1943 edition of the Oakland Tribune

Click on the article for a full sized edition.

Now, back to the family tree.

P-39 Airacobra, Memorial Day thoughts…


My Uncle Jim lost his life in the P-39. I’ve read about this particular aircraft. Apparently it did not live up to expectations and the US sold a lot of the planes to Russia. The Russians liked them. These planes were very fast, and performed best at low altitudes which left the pilot vulnerable to ground fire. Higher altitudes were more of a problem for them, as performance declined as they climbed.

The engine was located mid-plane and the placement allowed heavy armaments to be installed up front. A 37mm cannon was placed in the nose with barrel sticking through the propeller.

My Uncle Bob was a B-24 bomber pilot and he used to say the P-39 was a bad plane, he did not like them. He sneered and shook his head as he said it. He was interviewed by his son, Scott Palmer, here: uncle bob – WW II.pdf

Unsent letter from Eleen

Jim A. Jago's Death

Hello Darling,

Your lovely letters are welcome as ever.

I had a nice surprise yesterday. Tommy Enright came to see me. He stayed all afternoon. He has six days leave. He is going to the office to see Dad he says.

Tom is still the same nice kid, his face is burned to a very ruddy hue, and he looks heavier, but he said he has lost weight. His hair is beginning to recede, much to his alarm. I could see such was the case, but I didn’t say so. He has also won his first lieutenancy. He sent you a message, I quote: “Why don’t you write? You big bum!!” He said he would have given much to see you. He helped himself to some of your “snaps” and tucked them away carefully in his billfold.

He was astonished to see Jocie – still being a good son of old Erin, he said she has grown to be very pretty. I told him his Irish ancestry will always stand him in good stead – he knows what to say to make the ladies love him!! He also said to tell you he met your old St T. English teacher down town, I think he said “Conners” was the name. He is a sergeant stationed at Fort Snelling. Tom said “I really felt embarrassed when he saluted me!”

Dear old Dad came home last night, tired out to find our happy home still in wild confusion. Our paper hanger will be here on Saturday morn, also Sunday. Dad misses his own bed. Our room will be nice when finished, I have chosen a lovely paper.

We are going to the Ice Follies to night. Jocie is struggling to get her home work done.

I can’t get help anywhere – there just isn’t any! Betty offered to come here on Sun. I think I’ll ask Mrs. D if she will work one Sunday. Right now I am at a stand still I can’t do anything. Tomorrow our rugs go to the cleaners!

No news old honey – Dad will add a few lines. On Sunday my baby will be 20 years old. I’ll never forget my introduction to my little son. Dr. Mayland holding you up for me to see and saying you were the youngest man in Mpls. He called me “mother” and said “How does that sound?” You looked at me with wide, dark eyes as if you knew what it was all about! I thought you were beautiful and I haven’t changed my opinion. I hope you have a happy day darling. I love you very much.

Your affectionate Mom Eleen.

Certificate #2



I certify that I, the undersigned, authorized the flight on April 8, 1943, of 2nd Lt. James A. Jago, 0-739297, which was involved in an airplane crash approximately five miles southwest of Dublin, California, at approximately 14:10 PWT. The plane was a P-39-N-0-BE, Air Force Serial No. 42-8863. Airplane was completely demolished and crash was fatal to the pilot.

Charles W. Hoffman,

Captain, Air Corps,

Operations Officer

Certificate #1



I certify that on April 8, 1943, at approximately 14:00 PWT I was flying four (4) ship formation as Lt. Cook’s wing man. While flying in trail as fourth man, I saw Lt. Jago around the side of a large cumulus cloud at 9,000 ft. When I last saw him, he was in a gentle turn going around the side of this cloud. As I came around the cloud Lt. Jago was not in position. After circling the area for about 10 minutes, looking for him, I returned to my home base, because my gas was running low.

Edward F. Janesic

2nd Lt., Air Corps.

Accident Statement #2



I certify that on April 8, 1943, at approximately 14:50 PWT, I was flying in a four (4) ship formation as leader of the second element. While flying in trail, behind Lieut. Jago, at 9000 feet, I saw him go around one side of a cloud as I went over on the other side. When I last saw him he was flying straight and level. As I came around the cloud, I looked for Lieut. Jago but I never saw him anymore. Captain Hoffman and I circled the area for 15 minutes looking for the ship, but we could not find it anywhere. We then returned to our home base.

Bryan J. Cook

2nd Lt., Air Corps.

Accident Statement #1



I certify that I was Flight leader of a four ship formation flight, taking off from Oakland Airport at 1320, April 8, 1943. Lieut. Jago was my wing man and Lieut. Cook was leader of the second element. Approximately 45 minutes after take-off, we were flying a string formation about 9000 feet, at which altitude there were vertical risers of cumulus clouds. I lead the flight around one of these clouds with Lieut. Jago following behind about two hundred yards. After I had passed the cloud, I looked back and saw Lieut. Jago following me; and coming around the other side of the cloud I saw my element leader, Lieut. Cook. I looked forward again for a few seconds and then looked back to see if my flight was following me, and the only ones I saw were my element leader and his wing man following. I circled the area for 15 minutes, and couldn’t find Lieut. Jago, so proceeded to home base. At our altitude, the visibility was unlimited except for a few cumulus risers from a broken cloud layer about 5000 feet, the base of the broken layer was approximately 3500 to 4000 feet.

Charles W. Hoffman

Captain, Air Corps,

Flight Leader &

Operations Officer

Jim Jago, accident report


Accident nature: Collision in full flight with mountain.

Specific nature: undetermined

Underlying nature: undetermined

Cause group: undetermined

Specific cause: No information available

Underlying cause: undetermined

Description of accident:

2nd Lt. James A. Jago was flying in a string formation in position number two on April 8, 1943. He was at approximately 9000 feet following the flight leader at two hundred yards flying over a broken cloud layer which rested at 5000 feet. The flight leader did not see Lt. Jago leave the formation.

The cause of this accident is unknown. A possible cause for the accident could have been the failure of the pilot to change the gas tank selector. Lt. Jago was in the air approximately 45 minutes which would have been just enough time to run one tank dry. If this happened he would have dropped altitude very fast and might have entered a cloud at a lower level, thus, not realizing his position as to the ground level until it was too late. The altitude between the point Lt. Jago crashed and the cloud base was approximately 1800 feet to 2000 feet. It is further possible that Lt. Jago recovered satisfactorily beneath the clouds; then attempted a turn in the canyon. The canyon was quite narrow and he may have crashed into the side while attempting to complete the turn.

The responsibility for the accident is undetermined.

There are no recommendations.

F.L. Nims

Captain, Air Corps

Aircraft Accident Officer

Jim Jago accident Report 430408-4

“There is one of my students!”



Your son certainly has fluffed off on his letter writing hasn’t he. I will try to do better darlings but, they really are flying us now since all the older boys have gone.

I had a wonderful day yesterday. We took a short cross country to Chico yesterday. Boy! You should’ve seen Antonucci’s face. He was so happy to see one of his students flying a plane he wished he could fly. I had him sit in my plane-gosh! It certainly seemed weird to have Antonucci asking Jago questions. I also let a poor cadet climb in the cockpit-he was thrilled to pieces the poor kid. “Gosh! Sir, do you ever think I could fly one of these ships?”

I knew how much I wished I could’ve sat in the cockpit of the fast pursuit ship when I was a cadet.

Poor old Antonucci certainly was thrilled-when I took off, I was told later on by one of the boys who waited to get refueled that he shouted to all the instructors “There is one of my students!”

Say, Mom, have you received that 20 spot I sent by mail. It worries me a bit when I send cash.

Well, darlings, must go to bed now. Remember Mom-take in those shows every week now-you deserve it if anyone does.

Your loving son,


Slightest movement is tricky


Your fine letter arrived today-thanks darlings-glad to hear Dad arrived home safely. Dad-you work so darn hard-I hope I can compare to my swell dad someday-Yes sir! I am so proud of my family. My friends never seem to speak of their families at all-maybe I bore them to tears-I don’t think so though. Everybody knows my Mom and Dad were born in England. They also know about my grandfather too! They always ask “Do they have an English accent?”

“Certainly,” I say, “but, it isn’t the way you think.” They always think the English people drop their H’s. I hope we go to England when we go over-it will be so much fun. We have 27 older pilots leaving for some war zone in a few days. They think it will be England but, nobody knows anything for sure. They are a swell bunch of fellows. They fly with us and teach us all the tricks they have learned.

I flew formation yesterday for the first time. It certainly is a lot harder in this P-39 Airacobra-we are always traveling about 300 mph so the slightest movement is tricky. It certainly is a honey of a ship. I have had one climb at the rate of 6000 feet a minute, and keep it up too! Boy! That’s really getting up there in a hurry.

Well, darlings, your son will try to write more often-they have us doing something all the time here but, it’s a lot of fun.



Dad-I had the reclining chairs but, the cars were so crowded it still wasn’t comfortable.