MC History Spotlight: John Quinn, war vet, father, husband, civic leader.
Editor’s Note: MC History Spotlight is a weekly history column brought to you by Ludington Woods Living and Memory Care. Each week this column features a story from our county’s past. Today, we feature one of our World War II heroes, John J. Quinn. John is a resident of Ludington Woods and sat down with me last week to talk about his family, his service to our country, and to our county.
By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.
LUDINGTON — John J. Quinn, 94, has led a life of hard work, service to his country and his community. A veteran of World War II, John served his country as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a bombardier on a B-17 bomber, one of the most dangerous jobs during the war. One of his scariest moments didn’t occur during a bombing raid but during a relief effort. Towards the end of the war, the Army started dropping food supplies over occupied countries.
“Ten days before the war ended, we were flying over The Netherlands dropping food,” he says. “One of the bags of food got caught on a hook and blocked the bomb bay. I had to clear the bay in order for us to land, so I had to crawl out over the open bay door, at 400 feet in the air, and clear it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to land.”
John was born on Aug. 1, 1924 and lived in Scottville the first two years of his life. His parents then moved to Rath Avenue in Ludington. He graduated from Ludington High School in 1942 and joined the Army in 1943.
“I had two brothers who had already joined the military (Tim and Ernest) and they were telling me I needed to join the service. I had been attending Lawrence Tech but knew that if I didn’t join they would draft me. Everyone in those days wanted to be in the Air Corps, so went down to the air field near Detroit and signed up.”
Before John shipped out, his sweetheart, Lorraine Johnson, drove down to Texas to marry him.
“She needed to bring a note from my parents allowing me to get married,” John says. “I was 20-years-old and you needed consent from your parents if you were under 21. She was 19.”
They were married 69 years and raised three children: Kaye (Flickinger), John, and Jim. Lorraine died in December 2014.
John served in the Eighth Air Force, which was the Army’s combat air force in the European Theater in World War II, engaging in operations primarily in northern Europe, France, the low countries, and Germany. John said each B-17 carried 10 men. “We had the most casualties because one bomber going down was 10 men going down. On average, we would lose 10 planes per mission.”
After the war, John and Lorraine settled back in Ludington where John got a job as a switchman for the next 40 on the C&0 Railroad (later Chessie System).
John retired in 1985 and got involved in local parks. He and Lorraine had moved from the City of Ludington to Juniper Hills in Pere Marquette Township. He took care of Memorial Tree Park for many years and also was the manager of the Mason County Campground on Chauvez Road in Pere Marquette Township. His 20 years at the county campground were so appreciated that a pavilion bears his name.
“I liked working in the parks because you were pretty much on your own,” he says.
John has been blessed with six grandchildren and over a dozen great-grandchildren. He says the bad part of his life was when he lost Lorraine, just a month before their 70th wedding anniversary.
Sharing life’s journeys at Ludington Woods Living and Memory Care, 502 N. Sherman St., Ludington, MI 49431; 231-845-6100; www.ludingtonwoods.com.
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