Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

JAMES M. INKS
1921 - 2004

 

JAMES M. INKS

Patriot, Chapter 1919

 (AIR FORCE, WWII, Europe) Article June 1999

 

This B-24 Navigator, shot down over German occupied Yugoslavia when returning from a bombing raid to Ploesti, Romania joined up with General Mihailovich’s “Chetniks” and kept detailed notes on the experience.  When he published his book in 1954, EIGHT BAILED OUT, it made the “best seller list”, the “book of the month club”, and sent Jim all over the nation on book signings and guest appearances on the talk shows, including an interview on the Dave Garroway show.

 

James M. Inks was born in Llano, Texas in 1921.  His father, Roy Banford Inks was the Ford Dealer and the Mayor of Llano.  As the Mayor he devoted much time in helping to create the Lower Colorado River Authority.  His father died in 1935 and his mother moved the family to Austin.  James was attending Austin High School and working in a grocery store at the time the LCRA completed the dam creating Inks Lake and named it in honor of his father.  His mother came from an old Texas family named Moss.  Her grandfather Moss had received a “League and a Labor” of land following the Battle of San Jacinto which eventually became a very large ranch holding which continues to the present day in Llano County.  Three of her uncles, defending the frontier county, led the fight in an epic battle with the Indians known as the “Fight on Packsaddle Mountain” that can still be found today in books that document the history of the Texas frontier.

 

After graduation from High School, Jim Inks went to Roswell, New Mexico and  graduated there from New Mexico Military Institute (a Junior College).  He then returned to Austin and enrolled in the University of Texas, majoring in Geology.  But, after Pearl Harbor, he volunteered for the Air Force.  He received an appointment as an Aviation Cadet, and graduated as a navigator from Selman Field in Monroe, Louisiana in 1943.  He then was assigned to the 464th Bomb Group in Pocatello, Idaho.

 

The Group flew their B-24’s to North Africa in early 1944 and were based near Tunis.  Subsequently, they moved up into Italy.  On his 43rd combat mission, Lieutenant Jim Inks’ B-24 was hit over the target when bombing the oil installations in Ploesti, Rumania.  Two of the crew were observed to bail out as they were leaving the target area, but the others remained with the plane as it slowly lost altitude and gradually dropped behind until the others in the formation lost sight of the plane as they made their way back toward Italy. The eight remaining crewmembers finally had to bail out over German occupied Yugoslavia where they were soon picked up by anticommunist “Chetniks” (Yugoslav royalists fighting to restore the monarchy).  They lived constantly on the run at first, James Inks was in pain from his wounds and they all suffered greatly from lack of food and the bitter cold.  Eventually they began to fit in with the local fighters, and could actually pass themselves off as Chetniks.  They were always at war with the communist partisans, but; while doing so were sometimes fighting against and sometimes having to blend in with the Germans without them discovering that these eight “Chetniks” were really American flyers.  Jim personally traveled with the Chetnik leader, General Draja Mihailovich (executed after the war by Marshall Tito) and he kept a detailed diary, recording long entries in it every day about all the chetniks actions and their General’s relationships with the many different factions in that volatile period.  After ten and one-half months, the liberation came in 1945 and Jim’s debriefing resulted in his diary being confiscated and classified “Top Secret”.   The State Department then used the document in developing America’s post-war Balkan policy.

 

After eight years, Jim’s diary was declassified and he quickly rewrote it into a book that was published by Norton (press) in 1954.  EIGHT BAILED OUT became an instant success.  It was selected for “book of the month” and it enjoyed a long run on the “best seller list”.  Jim did a lot of book-signings, and appeared on nationwide talk shows of the day, including the Dave Garroway show.

 

Meanwhile, during the post-war years James Inks had been accepted for pilot training in 1947 and upon graduation had served several assignments in Troop Carrier units when the Korean War broke out.  He was sent to Korea almost immediately and flew as a Troop Carrier pilot in all of the Airborne Operations, the Inchon Invasion and the Marine evacuation from the Chosin Reservoir.  When he retired with honors as an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel in 1962, his Service Record reflected 43 combat missions in WWII and 92 combat missions in Korea.  He returned home to the family ranch in Llano County.  He has been active in Llano civic affairs and owns a realty company located on the square in Llano that specializes in ranching properties, up to the present time.

 

James M. Inks hosted PATRIOT BULLETIN's reporter to a luncheon in Llano and then provided this story for publication in June 1997.  Jim Inks passed away in January 2001.

B-24

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