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  • Writer's pictureLinda Simpson

Writer Profile - Joanne King

Fighter Pilots, Paratroopers and Bomber Crews, Oh My!

Joanne King is one of the most prolific writers for the STBS project, having just completed her 400th story. Her personal connection to the U.S. military spans many generations and several wars.  Her family has fought in every U.S. war since the American Revolution. More recently, three of her children have served collectively for over 40 years in the military and have been deployed numerous times. Her father trained to be a fighter pilot in WWII, but did not end up serving due to the war coming to an end. Because of their influence in her life, Joanne began to tell the stories of the soldiers who never made it home.

She has no plans to stop any time soon. “Everybody has a story in life. Everyone has a right to have their story told. The best way for me to honor my dad and children is to tell the stories of all those who didn’t have a chance to come home.”

The focus of Joanne’s research for SBTS is on fighter pilots, paratroopers, and bomber crews, specifically the 100th Bomb Group, which was recently the subject of the television show “Masters of the Air.” This emphasis on pilots has personal meaning for Joanne, since her father trained as a pilot and two of her children were paratroopers. She began researching the pilots in the bomb groups, but quickly found that it made sense to also write the stories of the entire crew. Joanne chose the 100th Bomb Group to focus on because their death rates were so high. When Joanne retired 14 years ago, she heard about SBTS and began researching and writing the stories of WWII fallen. “I have the time and desire to do it. We could not do this type of work 30 years ago pre-internet, but it is something that I can do now.”

History has always played an important role in Joanne’s life. She taught history for 37 years and has a strong belief in the importance of understanding the historical context of the battles and missions she researches. She reads widely about WWII and the men who fought. She has also been a professional genealogist since 1985.

One of the pilots about whom Joanne has written is Grant Marion Turley, from Snowflake, Arizona. Grant went to high school in Snowflake, where he was valedictorian and captain of the football team. He lived the life of a cowboy with his favorite horse, Comet. Grant learned to fly at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, graduating first in his class. After enlisting on 21 May 1942, Grant was assigned to the 82nd Fighter Squadron-78th Fighter Group, stationed at Duxford, England.

Grant went on to become a World War II US Army Air Corps ace. He flew over 50 missions and shot down 6 enemy aircraft. He was credited with a 7th after his wingman confirmed the kill on the day he went missing. Grant Marion Turley was killed when the German plane he had been pursuing shot him down. He was at first declared Missing in Action and later confirmed Killed in Action.

Lt Grant Marion Turley was awarded the following commendations: Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, United States Aviator Badge, Air Medal, Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Army Presidential Unit Citation, Army Good Conduct Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.

Stories like these have motivated and inspired Joanne to research as many men as possible in order to keep their stories alive. One of Joanne’s research tips for other writers is to spend time researching the historical background of the regiment or group you are researching. As she is researching, she likes to have a tab on her computer open to a map in order to locate exactly where events took place.  Joanne advises other researchers to know the importance of each mission, where it took place, and any other historical information that might be helpful. If the person she is researching has a sibling who also died while serving in WWII, Joanne will also complete the sibling’s story.

Another helpful tool that Joanne uses is spreadsheet software (she uses Excel) to keep track of each soldier she has completed a story for. Her spreadsheet includes columns for information on each soldier she has researched such as their rank, age, plane name, how they died, where they are buried, and whether they were married or single. This allows her to refer back to all the stories she has completed for quick reference.

The impact of the SBTS project on Joanne personally is difficult to overstate: “They have taken over my life in a positive way. For those I have pictures of, I see their faces when I go to bed at night. I have three sons who were in the military. I can’t imagine what the parents of these boys went through. It makes me want to write more. I don’t want people’s stories to be forgotten. I am keeping these people’s memories alive and actually bringing them to life.”

Soon Joanne will be able to see the impact of her work in a different, close up way. She will be traveling to England with her husband to visit some of the military bases and resting places of the soldiers she has written stories about. She is looking forward to having another touch point with the extraordinary men she has gotten to know through her research. It will be a full circle moment for Joanne to honor the men who served and died so valiantly.

Written by Elizabeth Smith who has a degree in International Relations and a minor in Communications from Brigham Young University. She lives in Alpine, Utah with her husband, four kids and their Chihuahua, Ginger.


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