CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY
CAPTAIN JOHN R. WHITE
John R. White was born John Wojtkowiak in Camden, NJ on July 18, 1920. He was named after his father's brother, Private John Wojtkowiak, who was killed in battle in Argonne, France during World War I. His parents were Stanley Wojtkowiak and Eleanor Mickiewicz-Wojtkowiak of 1306 Thurman Street, Camden, NJ. Growing up in Camden's predominantly Polish Whitman Park neighborhood, he was friends with John H. Moses, who lived a few doors away from John White's paternal grandparents, John L. and Hedwig Wojtkowiak, on Chestnut Street near Louis Street. After attending Cooper B. Hatch Junior High School, John White graduated from the Camden County Vocational School on Browning Road in Pennsauken NJ in 1938. He subsequently attended Temple University, Philadelphia, Pa. majoring in Air Conditioning Engineering, but did not complete his course of studies, as his involvement grew in his father's business, the Stanley Heat & Fuel Company.
By February of 1943 John R. Wojtkowiak had shortened his name to John R. White, a practice not uncommon during the years between World War I and World War II among the American-born children of immigrant parents. On February 8, of 1943, both John R. White and his boyhood friend John H. Moses entered the United States Army, both qualifying for flight duty. While John H. Moses trained as a bombardier, John White as an aviation cadet was trained as a fighter pilot. John White received his pre-flight training diploma from Lodwick School of Aeronautics, 60th Army Air Forces Flying Detachment, Lakeland Florida under the supervision of the Southeast Army Air Forces Training Center. He then did his Advance Training at Napier Field, Dothan, Alabama. After completing flight and gunnery training, he received his wings and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on November 3, 1943. During his time in service he was promoted twice, reaching the rank of Captain.
Second Lieutenant White received a brief leave. He came home and married at St. Joseph's Church, 10th and Mechanic St., on November 8, 1943. The wedding reception was held at his in-laws house at 1030 Mechanic Street.
Captain John R. White served as a pilot of P47 Thunderbolt aircraft in the 9th Air Force in Europe during World War II. As a member of the 494th Fighter Squadron, 48th Fighter Group, he flew 88 combat missions during which he logged a total of 645 flying hours, of which 180 were in combat, with 4 squadron leads in the European Theatre. He was also a flight commander for 4 months. He participated in combat missions over Paris, Normandy, Ardennes, Aachen and Julich. Captain White and his unit specialized in dive bombing, strafing, close air ground support, engaged enemy strong points, bridges, tanks, rail, communications, and other targets of opportunity. Captain White also Communications Liaison Officer for 3 months.
After serving briefly at Waterboro SC John R. White went overseas with the 494th Fighter Squadron in March of 1944. Assigned to 9th Air Force, the 494th received operational training in P-47 Thunderbolt fighters. As part of the what became the 48th Fighter Group the 494th began combat operations on April 20, 1944 by making a fighter sweep over the coast of France. The 494th flew escort and dive-bombing missions to help prepare for the invasion of Normandy. On D-Day, June 6, 1944 the squadron bombed bridges and gun positions, attacked rail lines and trains, motor transports, bridges, fuel dumps, and gun positions the rest of the Normandy campaign.
The 494th Fighter Squadron moved with the 48th Fighter Group to Strip 4 near Longueville, Normandy in June of 1944. They helped Allied forces break through the German lines at St Lo in July of 1944, and supported the Allied drive across France in August and September, and assisted the airborne attack on Holland in September.
Following the advance of allied troops, the 494th moved to Airstrip A-12, Paris early in September 1944 and to Airstrip A-74, Cambrai, France later that same month. Another move took them to Airstrip A-92, Sint-Truiden (St Trond), Belgium early Oct 1944.
While based at Sint-Truiden, Captain White participated in a mission against a ground target in Germany on October 8, 1944. For his actions that day he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Captain White's Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads: "For extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight against the enemy on 8 October 1944. Upon being notified that friendly advance troops were being subjected to heavy enemy fire outside a German town, Lt. White distinguished himself by leading his flight with courage, skill, and a calm disregard for personal danger through a hail of enemy fire to drop his bombs in the center of the town. As a result of this action the town and an ammunition dump located therein were completely destroyed, and the enemy artillery silenced to such an extent that ground forces were able to advance and take positions without loss. The brilliant and forceful leadership exhibited by Lt. White reflects great credit to himself and was in keeping with the finest traditions of the Army Air Forces."
The 48th Fighter Group received the Distinguished Unit Citation for action on December 6, 1944: when, facing intense enemy fire while flying below heavy overcast, the group struck buildings, entrenchments, and troop concentrations to assist the advance of ground forces against an enemy stronghold north of Julich, Germany. Later in the month of December Captain White's unit supported ground operations during the Battle of the Bulge and received a third citation from the Belgian government-in-exile for relentless assaults against the enemy during that battle. The unit continued tactical air operations from bases on the Continent, supporting ground forces until the end of the war.
Regarding Capt. White's efforts during the Battle of the Bulge, a family friend had this recollection:
"I remember talking to him [John White] about his flying. During the Battle of the Bulge there was heavy overcast. My recollection is that he and another pilot did take off - and [I believe] it was against orders. Again, my recollection was that they bombed some things and when they got back to base someone wanted to put [Captain White] in for a Silver Star decoration, but it was shot down because he went up against orders."
The 48th Fighter group moved to Airstrip Y-54 at Kelz, Germany late in March of 1945, to Airstrip R-12, Kassel, Germany late in April 1945 and to Airstrip R-10, Illesheim, Germany the same month. During this time combat missions were flown, as well as patrol, escort, weather reconnaissance, and leaflet missions, On one occasion the 48th Fighter Group carried blood plasma that was dropped in belly tanks to ground troops. The men of the 48th Fighter Group returned to the United States during August and September 1945. The 48th Fighter group was inactivated 7 Nov 1945.
Captain White received numerous decorations besides the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was a recipient of the Air Medal with 15 Oak Leaf Clusters, European Theatre Ribbon with 7 Battle Stars, and Distinguished Unit Citation. His campaign stars were for the Normandy Campaign, the Northern France Campaign, Campaign Rhineland, and the Germany Campaign.
One week after his unit was inactivated, John R. White received his separation from service, on November 14, 1945. He then returned to Camden and assumed responsibility for running the family business, Stanley Heat and Fuel Co., at 1306 Thurman St., Camden, NJ with his brother Leonard Wojtkowiak. John and family lived on Lansdowne Avenue before John built, almost entirely by himself, a house in Westmont, NJ.
In February of 1967 John White moved the Stanley Heat and Fuel Co. to a new location at 1198 Lansdowne Avenue, in Camden. John White died unexpectedly at home in Westmont on February 8, 1968, exactly 25 years to the day from when he entered cadet flying school. Only 47 at the time of his passing, he was survived by his wife, Rita, and three children. Captain White is buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery in the Chews Landing section of Gloucester Township NJ. .
1210 Chestnut Street
house was home to
Fighter Squadron Officers
October 1944 at St. Trond. Belgium
photo credit to 'Kup' Kupersmith, 494th Fighter Squadron, WWII
Fighter Squadron Officers
May 1945 at Illsheim. Germany
photo credit to Sandy White Grear
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