John Shott was born on July 4, 1922 in Aliquippa, PA a rural steel mill town.
He completed high school before the war and was single.
Shott was drafted on January 21, 1943 and enrolled in the U. S. Army at Pittsburgh, PA as a private with serial number 33421756 and was initially assigned to the infantry and sent to Camp Robinson in Arkansas before being sent to Fort Meade, Maryland where the 76th Infantry Division was being formed. Instead, a call was made for Air Corps personnel and Shott went to Baltimore passed a test.
Assigned to the Air Corps, he went to Greensburo, North Carolina for basic training then a two year course at course at Lynchburg College, then to Nashville, Tennessee as a radio operator. Afterwards, to Scottsdale for training and Yuma, Arizona for gunnery training. Shott was to be assigned to a B-17 Flying Fortress crew, but he told his instructor he did not want to be aboard a heavy bomber and was instead assigned to the B-25 Mitchell crew.
Sent to Columbia, South Carolina where he had additional training and was assigned to an air crew and was considered the best radio operator in the squadron, and was picked to join an air crew bound for the South Pacific. Assigned to a B-25 crew, Shott went to Birmingham, Alabama and was assigned to a brand new B-25 Mitchell and ferried it across the United States to Mather Field, California. The crew worked to install an extra fuel tank in the bomb bay for the flight across the Pacific and removed all the armament to save weight.
Departing Mather Field, his B-25 flew to Hickham Field on Oahu and remained there for several days before departing across the Pacific Ocean flying via Christmas Island Airfield, Johnson Airfield, Tarawa Airfield then to Guadalcanal before arriving at Finschafen Airfield and was there for a couple days before continuing to Biak Island.
At Biak, the crew was assigned to another B-25J Mitchell and went to Nadzab Airfield for combat training, flying at low level and practicing skip bombing the first time. Shott recalled, "I remember seeing reeds [kunai grass] out the waist window, that is how low we were! Stateside, all Shott's training was medium altitude bombing.
Afterwards, flown northward to San Marcelio Airfield on Luzon in the Philippines where he was assigned to the 345th Bombardment Group "Air Apaches", 500th Bombardment Squadron "Rough Raiders". He flew his first combat missions in the Philippines over the mountains before transferring with the unit to Clark Field and began flying combat missions over Formosa (Taiwan) and Indochina (Vietnam). All missions were flown low level.
Over Formosa, the B-25s flew with a reduced crew, without a navigator or extra gunners, with only a navigator in the lead plane. Flying at low level, the mission would drop 500 pound bombs or parafrag bombs or napalm and perform strafing. As radio operator and gunner, Shott usually shot right behind the bomb bay and would operate the waist guns or tail gun position as required. Usually, he was not required to serve as backup radio operator and would wear headphones an listen to the formation's radio traffic.
On May 17, 1945 one of five B-25s that took off from Clark Field (Borax Strip) on Luzon in the Philippines during the early morning on a low level bombing and strafing mission against rail road targets near Taihoku (Taipei) on Formosa (Taiwan). The weather was overcast with visibility of five miles.
John Shott recalled:
"Our B-25J had a solid nose, with eight machine guns plus two package guns on each side for a total of twelve guns the pilot could fire. Plus, a waist gun at each waist position and two in the top turret and tail turret. We were flying at tree-top level in a valley, I could see muzzle flashes and they must have hit us because we crashed. During the mission, my usual position was right behind the bomb bay, but could go to the waist or climb into the tail gunner position. During mission, the lead plane’s radio operator would do all the communications. In combat, I’d go in the tail and put on the headphones and listen. I did not say much, just listened. I could hear the cockpit conversation and the formation’s communication. I would hear 'approaching target' and that meant it was time to put on my helmet/ Mostly my job was to be an aerial gunner. Returning, all the shell cases would drop on the waist floor and were sometimes piled up to my ankles! On the way back I was slipping on all the shell casings."
Over the target, near Taihoku in the northern portion of the island, this B-25 was flying at low level down a valley east of Komo and was hit by anti-aircraft fire from cliffs on the edge of the valley. At roughly 9:20am, this B-25 crashed roughly 4 miles east of Komo in northwestern Formosa. Last seen by Captain Richard J. Lewis and 2nd Lt. William G. Paukovich.
During the mission, Shott was in the tail gunner position and was knocked unconscious but survived the crash. The rest of the crew died in the cockpit section of the aircraft. When this B-25 failed to return, the crew was officially declared Missing In Action (MIA).
Shott recalls: "When we were shot down, I was flying in a valley. I could see caves, there were four of them out to the left, i could see muzzle flashes, higher than us! We were probably hit. I was strafing, aiming at the caves. A couple people along the rail road track with a water buffalo, I dont know if soldiers or civilians, strafed them, I dont known i hit them or not. It was a single rail road track.
We were flying along, making evasive moves, then the next thing I knew… I woke up from being unconcious. I remember it was cloudy. I came to…. I didnt even know I went down! During the crash, the tail section broke off behind me. Rest of plane was 1/4 mile or 1/3 mile away in a field. I got up, went over to crashed plane. I didn’t see any bodies, but knew they were all dead. I was sure they were all dead. If you were in there, no way to get out, it was just a big pile of junk. No fire or smoke, but it was drizzling, so maybe the rain put it out.
i had four broken ribs, cut on my right rear where helmet slit and cut my ear - I’ve still go a piece of my ear missing. I had one kidney damaged I was later learned. I had no medical attention, it all healed naturally.
I was scared… all the airmen I heard about were killed. Our supply man, Silverman would say “if your ever shot down, before your taken POW, save a bullet for yourself - in other words, commit suicide before being taken prisoner. I was scared to commit suicide. I was really scared.
They captured me 2nd day, i was naked. They wanted me to draw pictures, i drew a runway and airplanes, like Kindergarten would draw of San Marcelino. 2nd day marched me out into courtyard. When i came out the door, there were 4 soldiers with rifles, marched me to brick wall, put blindfold on my eyes. I thought that was it! I saw scared, moaning and growing. Anyone who told you they werent scared is full of baloney. I heard officer say something in Japanese,e heard click of rifle bolts being cocked, he hollered again. They did pull the trigger, but no bullet. It was to scare me!
Questioned me again. Put me on a train, it was crowded. I had to stand up. Civilians were poking me, they were not friendly. They put me in solitary confinement. I was taken to main camp in the capital of Taipei (Taihoku) and taken to the city jail, it took a week to get there. It was near a big rail yard, I could hear train noises nearby.
They were interrogating me, a little Japanese officer, who would hit me. I was naked, he would hit me with a bamboo stick with whisks on it with a handle, looked like a whisk broom. It was really sharp, made my back. They just interrogated me in the early weeks.
The rail road yard was bombs, it was loud! During the bombing, the roof caved in. Afterwards, the Japanese officer beat me with the broom. I heard later there was a British guy across from me. He escaped and tried to swim off the island but was caught and executed.
Another radio operator was captured, put in cell near me. It was from 345th BG Kelvin Beck from Louisville, KY. We would tap on the door with Morse code. He was shot down a few weeks later.
Warpath Across the Pacific - I have the first edition! In the back, you’ll find my name. I talked to Larry Hickey, he called me for 3-4 hours to interview me. I’ve got his autograph.
I never saw Beck, there were heavy wooden doors, with little windows and bars. I never saw him until the end of the war. The cell was 8x10’, had a bucket as a toilet. They would tie you up, sat there on the floor. I had lice, i was itching so bad, sit against the wall, it was rough and would use it to itch. I could not itch my face.
I had one rice ball, about the size of a tennis ball and a cup of hot tea. In a way, we were lucky with the hot tea, because it was boiled and not polluted. I do not begrudge the Japanese, they did not have much food either. Conditions were very very rough for them too, they were cut off.
When I was in solitary, no more interrogations. When I took the bucket out, one Japanese guy was nice to me, he gave me a cigarette and would ask me English words. He treated me good. He talk me some Japanese words, he was good. There were some younger guys that were guards, they would hit you when you walked by.
They didn’t tell us anything. One day, taken by truck to main camp, went to main camp, that is where i saw a lot of POW, from Bataan Death March, British from Singapore, We were there for a month. I really got angry at the Japanese seeing those guys. They got it far worse than me,
I will never own a Japanese car to this day. Maybe it is wrong of me, I still have a little hatred for the Japanese.
If we had to invade, a lot would have died. If they had invaded Formosa or Japan, all POW will be killed.
I was also worried about being killed by US bombs! They sounded like a freight train. I was most scared of that I didnt want to be killed by Americans!
Later we were joined by crew members from B-25J "Apache Princess" 43-28152 crashed May 27, 1945
Main camp - I got beriberi from lack of protein, from just eating rice… sometimes sweet potatoes. There was an English Col, a doctor who had me lay down, elevate my legs and rest.
They were going to put me on British carrier to go to the Philippines. I told one of the Americans, 1st. Lt. - I told him I didn’t want to go on British. They put me on Destroyer Escort to PI, there for a week and a transport to San Francisco, hospital there for a week, then to Greenbrier Resort where we would eat for free. I had a room for two, the sign said it was $1,200 per day in 1945! I learned to play golf there, play basketball.
Family - I dont know when they knew. They got a telegram that i was MIA. I dont know when they told her, they didnt have a phone. They didnt know anything, they thought i was MIA. They didnt know I was POW! Very happy i was back.
Father died when i was 17, mother and three brothers, I was the oldest. Everyone was happy.
postwar - 3 NCO - if anything happened, I would see their families. I was discharged, Ft. Meade, MD. I was going to re-enlisted, but took a train to Phily, got there 2-3am, went to top gunner’s wife, knocked on door, i should have waited.
Kozak’s wife, Helen was in the U. S. Coast Guard herself. I saw her night before we left and she came to see us off before we went overseas, they had only been married two weeks. She came down, told her what happened. I guess i’ll go catch a train to home, she let me stay at her house for the night, 2 days. Went back to Pittsburgh, back to Phily, to drafting school.
Went to drafting school 4 months, looked for a job, only wanted someone with 2-3 years of experience, I could not get a job! Fell in love in Helen, we got married. I married Kozak’s wife. We have 4 kids.
My wife, Helen C. "Kit" Shott passes away in 2000.
Job American Airlines in Syracuse, air freight, ticketing, supervisor, retired 1983.
B-25 flight… only think, i was behind cockpit, i would rather fly in the waist, to see out the windows. When it started, that was a thrill! I love to hear those engines start - crackle and pop. I felt safe in that plane, it was a good airplane! When they started engine they were loud! I put on headphone! Today, it is small, i thought it was big back then, but it is small!
My daughter was scared I would not want to go cause of the crash, but I wanted to go! The flight brought back alot of memory.
Escaped.. 3 days they didnt catch me. I had a little backpack. On it was written something in Chinese writing, Chinese money. Said to head east to the mountains, where the aboriginals lived. I would travel at night eastward. I would hide in the daytime in bushes or a ditch. I got so hungry. It was a dark day, went to a garden with cabbage. I walked away - eating cabbage. Next thing I knew, three soldiers with bayonets fixes.
I had clothing but it was ragged after the crash. After they took me POW, they took my clothing, I was naked, to humiliate me. If you had something, you could not hide it. But my clothing was ragged anyway.
Remembering back, Shott said, "I consider myself lucky."
Shott and his family lived in Syracuse, NY. He worked for American Airlines until he retired in 1983. His wife Helen passed away during 2000. He lives in retirement in
North Syracuse. During June 2016, Shott was given a complementary ride aboard B-25 "Panchito" at the Syracuse International Airshow.
Missing Air Crew Report 14447 (MACR 14447)
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - John Shott
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - John Shott
Warpath Across the Pacific pages 321-323, 378, 396
FindAGrave - Helen Carol "Kit" Shott (grave photo)
Helen C. "Kit" Shott, 80, of North Syracuse died Saturday at Community-General Hospital. Born in Scranton, Pa., she lived 47 years in North Syracuse. She was a member of Pitcher Hill Community Church, where she taught Sunday school. She was a Coast Guard veteran of World War II. Survivors: Her husband of 52 years, John; two daughters, Lois Burns of Otisco and Linda Dunlap of Syracuse; a son, Michael C. of Durham, N.C.; a sister, Ann Dushlek of Pensacola, Fla.; four grandchildren. Services: 10 a.m. Wednesday at Fergerson Funeral Home. Burial, Sunset Chapel Mausoleum, Woodlawn Cemetery
Syracuse.com "WWII vet, 93, flies in B-25 over Syracuse 71 years after Japanese shot him down" June 11, 2016
Syracuse.com "Story of WWII vet who flew in B-25 at Syracuse airshow draws attention" June 13, 2016
Pacific Wrecks interview with John Shott, June 13, 2016
Thanks to John Shott for additional information