Oakland native’s World War II flight may have inspired song

The Garrett County Republican

OAKLAND — An Oakland native who passed away in November at the age of 100 was once involved in a World War II flight that may have inspired the song “Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer.”

J.C. O’Donnell was a 22-year-old Army lieutenant when he flew a twin-engine warplane, a B-26 Marauder, in an intense dogfight in New Guinea on May 28, 1942.

He ended up flying the plane on one engine for four hours, arriving late back to the airstrip at Port Moresby.

News accounts stated that several planes flew over the mountains in New Guinea, and the Americans ended up under attack by more than a dozen Japanese Zero fighter planes.

The battle lasted 35 minutes, and the Marauder’s right engine was destroyed in machine gun fire. The tail was also hit and the fuselage acquired large holes.

O’Donnell took a long route home and was chased by the Japanese planes for about an hour. By the time he got the plane and his crew of six back to the airstrip, it had been declared missing.

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