Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

JOHN M. BRYANT

386th Bomb Group (Crusaders) patch 552nd Bomb Squadron patch

JOHN M. BRYANT

Patriot, Chapter 1919

 (Army 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. 

John Bryant 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.

 

This is John with his picture in the Air Force Museum
B-26 on bombing mission over occupied France.  This aircraft was from a
sister squadron of John Bryant's 552nd Sqdn.
Group Photo of all the Engineering Personnel of the 552nd Squadron - the
men who kept the planes flying.

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