Patriot, Chapter 1919
Air Corps, WWII, Europe) Article December 1996
John suffered a grievous wound in the air
over occupied France that put him out of the war. Over 50 years later he
and his wife became the subject of a personal interest story in the Air
Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. This is his story.
graduated from Harlandale High School in San Antonio in May 1940, and so did
his girlfriend, Ruth Byrom.
John went into the Army shortly after Pearl
Harbor, and was quickly accepted for flight training. He spent almost all of
1942 successfully completing training courses at Waco Army Airfield at Waco,
Texas. Finally, on January 13, 1943, John was commissioned as an Army
Aviator. Johnís parents drove up from San Antonio to Waco for the ceremony,
and they brought Ruth along with them. A Signal Corps photographer took
their picture as Ruth pinned on John Bryantís wings.
John was immediately assigned to the 552nd
Squadron, 386th Bomb Group (Medium) in training at Lake Charles, Louisiana.
In May 1943 the 386th Group (known as the "Crusaders") deployed to England
and were based on a newly built airfield near Little Easton in County Essex.
John Bryant and the crew of "Hot Pistol" soon began bombing German military
targets in France. During heavy action throughout the following year, the
386th Group amassed an enviable record of Battle Honors and unit awards; and
among the individual awards that he received, John was awarded the
Distinguished Flying Cross.
John received his first Purple Heart
following a bombing mission Jan 14, 1944, when he sustained a leg wound from
shell fragments from a FLAK burst. On April 8, 1944, John was again wounded
by a FLAK shell fragment on another mission over France. During the bombing
run, he was struck in the upper left arm, the bone was shattered and the arm
nearly severed. Hospitalized immediately upon completion of the mission, the
war was over for John Bryant. He would spend the next three years in
hospitals undergoing reconstructive surgery and physical therapy.
In December 1944 John was given a pass from
the Lackland Army Airfield Hospital in San Antonio and he and Ruth were
married. John was discharged into civilian life in September 1947 and he
immediately enrolled in college. With a professional degree in Chemistry,
John Bryant enjoyed a long career working in Environmental Health and in
Occupational Safety and Health.
After he had retired in
Austin, Texas, John and Ruth Bryant attended a reunion of the 386th
Bomb Group in Dayton, Ohio in 1995. A visit to the Air Force Museum at
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was one of the scheduled activities and John
and Ruth went along for the tour. In the aviation training gallery, they
were pleasantly surprised to find their photo, taken over 50 years earlier
at Waco, was part of the permanent display.