John D. (Poka) Egan

Old Friends Meet in Mediterranean Theater of War
Pictured here are Second Lieutenant Robert F. Kolstad, left, and Staff Sergeant John Egan of Eau Claire, WI, meeting for the first time since their high school days together. They attended St. Patrick's High School and were members of the band.

Lieutenant Kolstad is a United States Army Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress pilot and has been awarded the Air Medal with three Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters.

Sergeant Egan is a radio operator-gunner.

Both are members of the "Red Devil" Flying Fortress Squadron in the Mediterranean Theater.

They recently had a surprise visit from First Lieutenant Jack Chartier, a pilot in the Troop Carrier Command and an old friend of high school and college days at Eau Claire State Teachers College. Lieutenant Chartier recently visited friends here.

Lieutennat Chartier and Lieutenant Kolstad left Eau Claire together in 1940 with the National Guard.

T/Sgt. John D. Egan Gets Nazi Plane Over Balkans
15TH ARMY AIR FORCE—Technical Sergeant John D. Egan, 23-year-old Army Air Forces B-17 radio-operator-gunner of 215 Second Avenue, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, recently marked up his first enemy fighter victory, a German Me-109, while on a bombing mission over the Balkans. 

Sergeant Egan is a member of one of the veteran Army Air Force Flying Fortress Units of the Fifteenth Army Air Force. 

"Returning from a mission over Vrattsa, Bulgaria on January 24," remarked Sergeant Egan, "we dropped down to an altitude where the air was warmer, and we could remove our oxygen masks. The electrically heated flying suit of our ball-turret man wasn't working, so I volunteered to take his position, not dreaming what was to follow. 

"I had no sooner seated myself, when over the inter-phones came, 'enemy fighters—8 o'clock,' and then I was 'off to the races.'  Soon, an Me-109 came in and made a pass at us. When he was some distance out, I started firing, but he kept coming in, guns blazing at us. When he was about 350 yards away, he suddenly burst into flames and headed earthward. 

"The enemy fighters were very aggressive that day, but our boys proved themselves by knocking down four of them." 

Sergeant Egan joined the Army on September 24, 1942 and was awarded his gunner's wings on May 23, 1943 at Laredo, Texas. He entered foreign service in September. He flew his first combat mission over Marseille, France on November 18. He has been awarded the Air Medal with four Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters. 

Sergeant Egan was graduated from St. Patrick's High School in 1938.

Given Air Medal, Oak Leaf Clusters
FIFTEENTH ARMY AIR FORCE — Technical Sergeant John D. Egan, 23-year-old B-17 radio-operator-gunner of 215 Second Avenue, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, completed his fiftieth combat mission on an Army Air Force Flying Fortress of the Fifteenth Air Force on May 10, 1944 over Wiener Neustadt, Austria. 

"Of my fifty combat missions, the most exciting one was over Sofia, Bulgaria on January 24, 1944," remarked Sergeant Egan. "When we reached our target, we found it completely covered by overcast, so we headed for an alternate target. We found that covered over also, so we started for home, because our fuel supply was getting low. 

"Just before reaching the coast of Yugoslavia, we were attacked by approximately thirty enemy fighters, and a hot battle ensued. Our crew knocked down four of them and, it wasn't long after that, before they decided they had enough and left us.

"Coming out across the Adriatic, we realized we couldn't make it back to our base because of lack of fuel. We threw overboard everything we could--in order to lighten the plane--and prepared to ditch in the water. The pilot set the plane down perfectly, and we all got out safely. 

"After floating around in our dinghy for a couple of hours, we were picked up by a British Air-Sea Rescue Launch. All in all, we had a very busy day, and one which I shall never forget."

Sergeant Egan joined the Army on September 24, 1942 and was awarded his gunner's wings at Laredo, Texas on May 25, 1943. He left for overseas in September 1943 and flew his first combat mission on November 18, 1943 over Marseilles, France. He has been awarded the Air Medal with nine Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters. 

He was graduated from St. Patrick's High School in 1938.

Mr. and Mrs. F.P. Egan have received word that their son, Technical Sergeant John B. Egan, has successfully completed 51 combat missions in the Italian War Theater and will arrive home some time in June. Sergeant Egan went overseas last September. He took part in his first combat mission on December 10.

T/Sgt. J.D. Egan, of the 15th Air Force, Home on Furlough
Technical Sergeant John D. ("Poka") Egan, radio-operator-gunner on an Army Air Force Flying Fortress of the Fifteenth Air Force in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, is home from the war, visiting his parents, Mr. and Mrs. F.P. Egan, 215 Second Avenue. 

He is spending a well-deserved 30-day furlough here, after nine months of overseas service, during which he engaged in 51 bombing missions over France, Austria, Greece, and the Balkan countries and, in one, he and other crew members of the bomber were forced down into the Adriatic and floated about two hours on a dinghy, before being picked up by a British Air-Sea. Rescue Launch. 

Sergeant Egan will report for duty again at the end of his furlough at Atlantic City, NJ but does not know what his next assignment will be. 

Air Medal and Citation
Because of censorship restrictions, Sergeant Egan could not tell much of his experiences, which naturally were more or less exciting. He has been awarded the Air Medal with nine Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters and has, with the other members of the crew, a Presidential Citation. This was for a bombing raid over Sofia, Bulgaria on February 24, the time they were forced down at sea. It was in this raid that he succeeded in shooting down an enemy fighter with his .50-calibre machine gun. 

Based in Italy
Sergeant Egan has been in the service since September 24, 1942. He left for overseas in September 1943 and, since that time, has been based in Italy. The first of the 51 combat missions, in which he took part, was made over Marseilles, France, where the target was an airdrome, which was plentifully "plastered." Asked what were his sensations in making this first combat flight, during which plenty of anti-aircraft flak and fighter opposition was encountered, he replied,  "A lot of things pass before your mind. It seemed that everything I had done during my life passed before me, and it was a great relief to come out of the mess. However, it was very exciting." 

Last Mission Tough One
His fiftieth—and one of the toughest missions the bomber was engaged in—was over Austria, where an aircraft factory was the target. "The flak was terrible," he said, "and we also ran into a flock of enemy fighter planes, which gave us plenty of trouble. We reached our target, however, dumped our bomb load, and succeeded in returning safely to our base but, for a time, we never expected to get back. No one was hurt; the bomber was hit a number of times but none of the vital parts were damaged." 

At Island of Capri 
After their Sofia mission, during which they were forced down into the Adriatic and then rescued, the members of the bomber crew were given a ten-day vacation on the famous Island of Capri, where they relaxed and enjoyed  themselves. There was an Italian orchestra at the villa where they were quartered, and the snare drummer became sick. Sergeant Egan, who used to play the snare drum in St. Patrick's High School Band here, volunteered his services and had a lot of fun, he said, beating the drum, while his buddies were on the floor dancing.

Charles Richards' book
The Second Was First

Written by Harold (Diz) Kronenberg

After the war, John Egan managed the veterans housing area on Birch Street for a brief period of time.  This was a development of two-family, inexpensive dwellings with stucco tar paper on the outside. The walls were paper-thin. Several of these structures were also built on the university campus for returning GIs.

John moved to Kansas City, Kansas, where he operated a doughnut shop for a few years and then he moved to New Orleans, where he operated another doughnut shop.

John died in 1972.