PRYOR, OK —
Historical moments always beg the question “Where were you?”
For 91-year-old James Quentin Ogden, the answer came easily when asked about hearing the news that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
“I was on a date and on the way home I heard it on the radio,” he said.
Home then was Rogers, Ark., and it left the 19-year-old thinking one thing.
“I wondered how soon I could enlist,” Ogden said.
He didn’t waste time signing up for the Air Corps and was sworn in on Jan. 1, 1942.
He entered aircraft maintenance school following basic training, which he described as “learning how to drill and salute officers and all that.”
After completing his training, learning how to maintain P-39s, he was to be stationed in Nome, Ala., for the duration of the war, but fate intervened.
“There was too much weight on the plane, so they bumped two of us to stay and I was one of them,” Ogden said, adding with a grin “I was never so happy.”
He decided to apply for the Flying Cadets.
“Instead of maintaining them, I learned how to fly the things,” he said.
After extensive training, Ogden ended up flying the B-24 Liberator Bomber, a four-engine bird that commanded a crew of 10.
He was eventually sent to England in the 8th Air Force.
“We staged from there, flying our missions into Germany,” he said.
Ogden said he’d been enlisted for about three years before he dropped his first bomb.
The 8th Air Force was part of the 446 Bomb Group which led the first heavy bomber mission of D-Day.
His 20th mission would prove to be a game changer. On June 8, 1944, his plane was shot down by a German ME 109 fighter plane off the coast of France.
“I had five more missions to go before I got to come back to the United States,” he said.
The plane was shot down over the ocean near the Isle of Chausey. Half the crew survived, only to be taken as prisoners of war.
“I was in the plane when it broke apart,” Ogden said. “As soon as I hit the water and got rid of my parachute, I looked around me and started swimming for the biggest island.”
Eventually, he gave up reaching the large island and, seeing a rock emerge because of the tide, he crawled upon the rock.
“I was picked up by a Frenchman in a fishing boat,” Ogden said. “We were on that island for a month before the Germans came and got us.”
Ogden was held for a year, along with 9,000 other POWs, at a camp in Barth, Germany.
“If you didn’t cause any trouble, they didn’t treat us harshly,” he said. “They just forgot to feed us for several months.”
A number of prisoners died of starvation during that time.
Ogden said they did receive news regularly.
“We had a great underground radio,” he said. “Every night someone would bring news to the barracks.”
Ogden and other POWs were liberated by the 1st Ukranian Army.
Upon his return to the states, Ogden settled in Mayes County, where his father had begun a lime-crushing business in Chouteau.
Though Pearl Harbor is often thought of as the catalyst of U.S. involvement in WWII, Ogden has other ideas.
“Knowing what I know now about Hitler and his persecution of the Jews, I believe we would have ended up there anyway,” he said.
Ogden is proud of his service and the service of other veterans, including his son and grandson. He is a man with no regrets.
“What do I have to regret? I lived through it,” he said, then added that he did regret the loss of some of his crew.
A memorial now stands on the Isle of Chausey in France as a reminder of that fateful June day. Listed on the stone are the ten member crew of the Daisy Mae Scraggs piloted by Ogden.
He was there for its dedication.