GEORGE R. JANSEN|
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from letter to Will Lundy)
DOUGLAS DIRECTOR OF FLIGHT OPERATIONS
BOASTS COLORFUL CAREER
George R. Jansen, Douglas' director of Flight Operations, has visited Kiel. But when he first heard the town's name during combat briefings at Shipdham, England, during World War II, not one word mentioned a resort town, fishing village or overnight ferry trip to Sweden.
Jansen and the other Americans making the trip to Kiel were going after submarine pens. The U.S. B-24 Liberator bombers were being sent to strike at the U-boat menace of Nazi Germany.
The raid was made in May 1943. Jansen's battered aircraft would barely make it back to England after unloading its bombs over the target. The mission was the deepest unescorted daylight penetration to that date against the Germans.
The Margaret Ann, with Jansen at the controls, returned to England with 750 bullet and flak holes in it. One crewman was dead and another wounded. The aircraft had come through the airborne holocaust badly mauled, as 88-flak and Goering's fighters turned the proud airplane into a flying, bloody sponge.
"There was a lot of flak and fighters," Jansen recalls from his third-floor office in Building 41. "Most of our damage was from the fighters. Every raid was tough on somebody. On those raids all you could do was hope and pray."
Jansen, who joined Douglas in 1945 as an engineering test pilot, spent 18 months flying combat missions deep into Europe with the 68th Bombardment Squadron of the 44th Bombardment Group.
Twice, his unit would be transferred form England to North Africa. Jansen and his fellow crewmen would take part in the attacks on the oil refineries at Ploesti, and would support the allied landing in Sicily.
Much has been written about the Ploesti raid, many tales have been told.
"We flew out of Benghazi on August 1, 1943. We flew over Corfu and then northeast to the Danube Valley, along the Transylvania Alps and attacked the Romanian oil fields at low level in a southeasterly direction for better accuracy. Overall, we made quite a dent in petroleum production for quite a time. I think we lost 68 planes," Jansen said.
By November, 1943, Jansen was promoted to major and was commander of the 68th, had earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses for combat missions, and was only 22 years old.
In 1944, Jansen had completed 27 combat missions and had earned a third DFC as well as five Air Medals. Not bad for a young man from Willows, Calif., who gained an interest in flying when he was five years old. He returned to the United States and was assigned to the 202nd Instructors Indoctrination Unit, as a combat returnee instructor in B-17s and B-24s.
With the end of the war imminent, and many squadron buddies leaving for the airlines, he decided to look into the possibilities of test flying. He joined the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1945 and was assigned to the B-17 ROC test. With the end of the war, the program was canceled and he transferred to performance and stability and control testing on the BT2D (A1) and the DC-4.
Jansen took part in other tests including the B-42A, C-74, and C-124. He checked out the P-80 in 1946 before test work on the XB-43, the first jet bomber, and the XF-3D.
"I can't remember when I didn't want to fly," Jansen said. "When I was a child, a school teacher lived at our house and dated a local mechanic who had acquired a Jenny. On weekends, he would come by and pick up the teacher, and they would let me tag along to the airport. While he was drumming up rides, he would put me in the rear cockpit and let me play with the controls.
Later, he would work after school and on weekends for the Willows Flying Service. The 35 cents an hour he earned was used to pay for flying lessons. Jansen soloed when he was 16 and earned his pilot's license a year later.
In 1951, he graduated form the Air Force Test Pilot's School at Edwards Air Force Base, and from 1954 to 1961 he was Flight Operations Manager of Douglas, Edwards Location. At one time during this period, Douglas was testing 24 aircraft of seven different types at Edwards, making its test force the second largest Air Force in the United States.
I had to bail out of two aircraft during my testing career," he said. "The first time it involved a C-74, and the date was August 5, 1946. The aircraft had had a structural failure. The second time was also on August 5. But the year was 1954, when the Skyshark I was flying had its engine fail."
Jansen has conducted first flight tests in the XA-2D, SZ-3D, the RB-66, the DC-9 Series 10 and the DC-10 Series 20.
"Douglas aircraft are the finest in the world. I think that our philosophy of design is excellent and the people who design and build 'em to have the highest integrity for their product. I've flown few, if any, Douglas airplanes that were not considered pilot's airplanes."