Ottawa, 13 July 13 1941
Ottawa, 18 July 1941
Ottawa, 21 July 1941
Montreal, 22 July 1941
Fyffes hine, 24 July 1941
55 OTU, 26 August 1941
55 OTU, 2 September 1941
55 OTU, 10 September 1941
55 OTU, 22 September 1941
England, 6 October 1941
England, 8 October 1941
England, 23 October 1941
|Boarded ship and sailed for Gibraltar on 27 Feb. 1942
Made Gibraltar on 11 March 1942
Flew a Spit to Malta from HMS Eagle, 21 March 1942
(Code named Operation Picket 1)
Subsequently posted to 126 Squadron,
... where the fun begins!
28 March 1942 - Two Nazi flyers and their late model Messerschmitt pursuit planes were knocked out of the skies over Malta last week by a Berkeley boy, James Peck, of 1342 Carlotta Street, and his RAF buddy, D. W. McLeod, of Boston, an Associated Press Cairo dispatch revealed yesterday.
Peck, only 20 years old, and McLeod were flying British Spitfire pursuits. They are among six members of the Second American Eagle Squadron helping to protect the British Mediterranean island from Nazi air onslaughts.
Three years ago Peck's parents, Mr. and Mrs. James E. Peck, gave the boy permission to take flying lessons at Oakland Municipal Airport, they said last night. He obtained a private flyer's license there, and in June of last year, volunteered as a pilot with the RAF.
He received his preliminary training in Burbank and advanced training in Canada. Since his arrival in England late last year, he has taken part in many RAF raids over France.
But this was the first word Peck's family had that he is now in Malta — the much besieged base on the sea route supply line between Sicily and Nazi operations in North Africa.
Young Peck graduated from Berkeley High School and spent a year at the San Francisco Junior College. His father is superintendent of steel construction at the Bethlehem plant in Alameda.
By HAL JOHNSON
He craved action — this Berkeley boy — and now he is getting it, knocking Nazi Messerschmitt pursuit planes out of the skies over Malta, where much of the Axis aerial might has been felt during the last few weeks.
Jimmie Peck, son of Mr. and Mrs. James E. Peck of 1342 Carlotta St., is only 20, but he already is a war veteran, a seasoned fighting flier who has the makings of a second Eddie Rickenbacker. Press reports from Cairo confirm this.
It was only last week that Jimmie — Flight Lieutenant James Peck, Second American Eagle Squadron — and his Boston buddy, Lt. D. W. McLeod, sent two Nazi planes plunging seaward in flames into the blue Mediterranean, now turning purple with the blood of brave men.
Jimmie Peck was air-minded when he attended Berkeley High three years ago. He was more proud of his private flyer's license than he was of his high school diploma. After one year at San Francisco Junior College, he insisted upon going all out for aviation.
Jimmie Peck wanted to join the U. S. Army Air Corps, but he couldn't get in as a cadet, because he didn't have at least two years of college work. That disappointed him greatly. Then Great Britain started seeking airmen without asking how far recruits had gone in college.
"I've just got to get into this war," Jimmie told his father and James Sr. knew that his boy meant it. He made an application for the RAF and was overjoyed when he received orders to report to Burbank for preliminary training.
Last June he went to Canada for advanced training. The next word his parents heard from him told of his arrival in England. They made Jimmie Peck an instructor, but that was too tame for him. He asked for action and then he got it — in RAF raids over France and Germany. That was late in November.
Then as a reward for his bravery he was given a "breathing spell" — more work as an instructor, but that was no way for the British to show appreciation of this Berkeley boy. He craved action and more action. And he got his wish.
The much besieged island of Malta, the British base which ever threatens Axis sea route supply lines between Sicily and North Africa, has an air garrison of the best British airmen. They have to meet the best of Nazi flyers. That's where this American Eagle from Berkeley makes his nest and goes forth to fight. And he's happy.
CITE BERKELEY ACE IN MALTA DEFENSE
21 April 1942 - Praise for James E. Peck, 20-year-old Berkeley pilot officer with the RAF, as an "excellent fighter" in the British defense of Malta came today in a United Press dispatch from London. Quoting reports to the RAF command at Cairo, the dispatch said young Peck was one of two American fighters "who almost daily go up to battle axis planes that have been trying for months to knock Malta out of the war."
Peck - Praised by British
20 May 1942 - James Elvidge Peck, the Berkeley youngster the U. S. Army Air Corps turned down because he didn't have a college education, was awarded Great Britain's Distinguished Flying Cross for gallantry in action over Malta, a United Press dispatch from Cairo reported today.
Pilot Officer Peck is the son of Mr. and Mrs. James E. Peck of 1342 Carlotta St. He joined the Royal Air Force after he was rejected by the United States Army Air Corps last year.
The Berkeley High School graduate who learned to fly at Oakland Airport was decorated with the other five pilots with whom he had "teamed up" to destroy 33 enemy planes in air battles over Malta. His citation said that he "frequently led his squadron in action, always displaying courage and resourcefulness in aerial combat."
Peck, the United Press said, personally has shot down three planes and is the first American decorated for fighting at Malta.
But like other American members of the RAF, Jimmy Peck longs to come into the U.S. Army Service. Not long ago he wrote his mother that "I hope I can transfer to the U.S. Air Corps by summer. It's swell flying and fighting for the British but now that my own country is in the war, I want to be in an American uniform. So do the other fellows."
Dear Wynne and Family,
I received your letter and pictures of the baby a couple of days ago. I must say he looks like a first class job. I got your cable in "Gib" telling of the "Blessed Event" and was surely surprised and very happy and proud to have him named after me.
As you probably know by now I have been promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant, pronounced leftenant, which corresponds to the rank of Captain in the Army. Being as I haven't been in the R.A.F. a year yet, I am not doing too badly.
It really isn't so bad out here now. In fact it is very quiet. We have a small boat, so we get lots of swimming and sun bathing.
I don't know whether you remember McLeod or not, he was the big tall blonde, anyway he is out here with me. He was shot down a couple of months ago but is O.K. now and flying again.
I want you and George to look up a couple whom Frosty and I met on the train East last year. They are about the same ages as you are and I am sure you would like them.
Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Ephlin 11217 Dilling St. North Hollywood.
I haven't heard from Frosty since he left and haven't the slightest idea where he is.
In case you are interested, my official score is: Five destroyed, two probably destroyed, and eight damaged. However I know for a fact that I have at least three more destroyed but could not get confirmed.
Address all future letters and cables to:
Flt.Lt J. E. Peck. DFC
American Eagle Club
28 Charing Cross Road,
London, W C 2.
That's about all I guess, say hello to Bill and Karol for me and give Jimmy an extra feeding.
LONDON, 17 July 1942 - (UP) - Of eleven American pilots in the Royal Air Force who went to Malta, the most bombed spot on earth, four are dead. Five, with a number of Canadians, Australians and other Britons, continued to take off from Malta's scarred air fields to fight the Italians and Germans.
Those still fighting are: Reade Tilley, twenty-four years old, of Clearwater, Fla., who has been decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and has five enemy aircraft to his credit; Ripley Ogden Jones, twenty-seven, of Cooperstown, N. Y., credited with one and a half enemy planes; Douglas Booth, twenty-three, of Brooklyn; Bruce Downs, twenty-six, of San Antonio, Tex., and Richard E. "Sunday" McHan twenty-two, of Pocatello, Idaho.
Two others, James E. Peck, twenty-one, of Berkeley, Calif., and Donald W. McLeod twenty-eight, of Norwich, Conn. returned to the British Isles recently.
These seven flyers arrived in Malta with the first Americans in March, when the Axis was beginning its biggest attacks. Ten days after he arrived, McLeod was shot down. With cannon fragments in his left arm and leg, he parachuted 800 feet and broke his neck. Two months later, he was flying again.
Peck and Tilley received the first decorations awarded to Americans in Malta. Peck shot down five German planes without getting a scratch or a bullet hole in his Spitfire.
By the time this letter gets to you I'll be well on my way to "someplace.” It's all happened very suddenly but for the last month things have been very unsettled and that's the main reason I haven't written you for such a long time. Just received your fourth letter since I have last wrote to anybody at home. It sure seems good to hear from home, especially lately, as I haven't been getting many answers to the letters I haven't written. I'm going to send a wire to Betty before I leave dear old England and I'11 try to keep you posted by wire whenever I can. I'm going to address this letter to 3435 and hope that you will be there.
I just got back from a week's leave on the bank of the Thames river just east of London. Of course we were there on business but I managed to run into a couple of times(?)(guys?) for the first time in about three months. The old city has really changed since my first time there, there seems to be almost as many American troops on the streets as British and it is so crowded it must look like Pacific and Rosencrans at quitting time in San Diego. It makes me feel pretty envious to talk with U.S.N.C.O's who are making more money than I yet I can't get into the service of my own country. I guess that's all knocked in the head now that I'm shoving off. We all tried so hard to get some definite information about the transfer but to no avail. It almost seems like our country doesn't give a dam what happens to us. Of course, there might be perfectly logical reasons why they haven't done something about it, but when I stop to think about it, it seems like a dirty deal. I don't know what I'm going to do with my motor bike but think I'll let a friend in London keep it for me until I return.
I kind of hate to leave the county now that we're having fine weather but things are getting a bit dull and I think we'll be doing bigger and better things where we are going. I don't think I ever told you that Jim Peck, who went over with us and went out to Malta with Don McLeod, he's been given the D.F.C. and promoted to Flight Lieut. (Captain). I haven't heard from either he or Mac but once in a while, I talk to someone who has just returned from there. Mac was shot down and spent some time in a hospital in Cairo. The last I heard however, he was back in Malta and up and at 'em again. All the fellows I've talked to that knew Peck out there have an awful lot of respect for him as I did. If you ever happen to run across his sister again, I wish you would tell her that.
As I think I told you before, I'm deputy Flight Commander now and I'm due for a promotion which will make me a Flying Officer but since this big shake-up, I don't know how long it'll take. I'll try to send you a better address as soon as I can. Kinda' pass the word around why I'm not going to be able to write many letters in the near future, will you? Give my regards and love to all.
Your old comrade,
31 July 1942 - You can readily imagine what a thrill the parents of two Berkeley boys, now members of air squadrons, received when their sons spoke to them from London. Flight Lieutenant James E. Peck, son of Mr. and Mrs. James E. Peck of 1342 Carlotta St. and First Lieut. John Clayton Robertson, son of Mrs. Charles A. Robertson of 2461 Hilgard Ave., were on the Eagle Squadron Hour broadcast shortwave last Saturday at 5 p.m.
The Mutual network is the outlet for this unique program, but it is not heard on KFRC. Pacific Coast listeners hear it over KHJ of Los Angeles, but this station is rarely audible here at that time of day. The Pecks and Robertsons received a radiogram from their sons, telling that they were going to broadcast.
Mel Ventor of KFRC invited the parents to be the studio's guests for the broadcast and while previous program commitments made it impossible for the San Francisco station to broadcast it, the London program came into KFRC via telephone. The Pecks and the Robertsons had the thrill of a lifetime listening to their boys.
"Hello, Mother and Dad," began Flight Lieutenant Jimmie Peck. "Got all your packages and they came O.K. I would like to come home, but I have a few things to do before I return to the States."
Jimmie Peck has already done "a few things" while stationed at Malta. He is having a brief rest before going after Nazi planes again. Lieutenant Robertson only recently arrived in London. He may have seen action in the recent bombing of Hamburg. Robertson spoke to his mother about the same way Peck did to his. Every word was golden to the parents.
Jimmie Peck and Lieut. Robertson are both members of Trinity M. E. Church. Their talks from London were recorded in New York and the "platter" is on its way to San Francisco. KFRC is planning to run it Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. and there will be lots of the local friends of the boys listening in.
KFRC has promised to present the platter to Mrs. Peck after the rebroadcast. She probably will be playing that disc over and over, night after night at home. Well, can you blame her?
I seem to be getting worse and worse at this letter writing business instead of better - just can't seem to make myself sit down and write a letter. Probably for the same reason I can't sit down and read a book. It's a funny thing with all the spare time I have I could read some books
a week but instead I consider myself really studious if I completely read the daily paper. Of course, I find other things to do when I'm not on readiness, or flying - such as snooping around the hangers to see what they're tearing one of our Spitfires apart for, or searching around for new dope in the intelligence office or just sitting around in the ante room twiddling my thumbs.
However, this month has been a little busier than any other month and best of all we really had a war this month. The Dieppe show was really the first large scale combined operation I'd ever been on and it certainly seemed good to be cooperating with the boys on the ground. It kind of made us feel that we were really doing some good by keeping air opposition away from the landing parties. It was certainly a spectacular sight to see that time of day. I don't think any other event of this war has done so much to uplift the morale of the British army, and believe me they needed an uplift too. I think that now that there are so many American troops here, we'll be making (or breaking) more and more Dieppes.
Talking about American troops, I just hot back from a 48 hour leave which I spent in London and it seems like there's more American troops there than British and civilians together, they literally swarm over the sidewalks.
There's still talk of transferring us into the U.S. Air Force but we can't seem to find out a thing.
By the way I've been promoted, I'm a Flying Officer now, the equivalent of 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
I wonder if Art is by this time in Kaki, I'd like to see him get a commission and get in a branch that would do both him and the country some good. If he's there with you apologize for me for not writing to him but he's been jumping around the country so much I didn't know where to write.
My friend Lynch has left me and gone to Malta so I don't have any of the old gang with me anymore. McLeod and Jim Peck are on a "rest" as instructors at an Operational Training Unit over on the west coast. I'm going to fly over to see then one of these days. I get a big kick out of talking over old times with Jim and Mack. It doesn't seem possible that in a short year our original gang could be reduced to number only four but then when we'd come down to hard facts there isn't one of us four that isn't just lucky to be still living. So if in the next year my luck doesn't hold out I'll at least have had my money's worth.
Well, Mary, say hello to the rest of the tribe for me, tell 'em to keep the letters rolling even if they don't get an answer very often. As I've said before and as I'll say again, I'll try to send some pictures. Don't be surprised if you DO get some pretty soon.
(Bob was killed on 29 November 1942, shortly after transferring to the 4th FG)
I am very sorry that I have not written more often but I have been awfully busy lately. I just haven’t had a minute to myself, answering all my fan mail, etc. I must think of my public you know.
I have been getting letters from dear old ladies telling me what a wonderful boy I am and lovely young girls that are just counting the minutes until they can hear from me. (It makes you think doesn't it?)
Mac and I darn near got home in July. We had our seats reserved and everything but couldn't raise the dough so we are still here.
I remember getting a letter from you sometime back and you seemed excited about meeting one (S.F.hero) of the Eagle Squadron who said he thought he knew me. Every time I think of that I get madder and madder. He is supposed to be home on leave is he! Well, well!! In the first place, he ought to remember me as I sat in on his first courtmartial, he has had a couple since then. He was finally kicked out of the R.A.F. for raping a WAAF and in so doing breaking said WAAF's arm. It makes some of the fellows out here damn mad when they hear about a thing like that, I mean the good time he is having over there while some of the boys who really deserve something like that are still sitting here at 80 bucks a month.
We are supposed to transfer to the U.S. Air Corps soon but I heard that last Feb. So far, no one that I know has transferred but I suppose eventually they might let us in, darn nice of them. If I do make the grade I hope to come home for a couple of weeks and then on to China or New Guinea. I would like to shoot at the old Japs for a change. I think I could really put my heart into that.
LONDON, 16 Sept. 1942 — The sharp-shooting, fast-flying pilots of the American Eagle Squadrons became Yanks in name as well as fact today.
Their last sortie under the British colors just a memory, the Eagles were transferred, bag and baggage, plane and propeller, to the United States Army Air Force. London tailors were rushing several score officers' uniforms for the Eagles, who are itching to parade in the khaki of the United States Army. That doesn't mean they intend to throw away their blue RAF uniforms, shiny from long, hard wear. They'll be taken home as souvenirs.
Approximately 100 Americans, many of whom paid their own way to Britain, died fighting over the Continent while flying under the banners of the three Eagle Squadrons. An estimated 30 or 40 are prisoners in Germany. And another 100 were killed in operational training accidents.
3 Oct. 1942 - It's Capt. James E. Peck jr., U.S. Army Air Corps now. And thereby hangs the story of a Berkeley boy who hitched his wagon to a star — a shooting star.
If we know Jimmie Peck, as we think we do, those two silver bars on his shoulders and the insignia of the U. S. Army Air Corps mean more to him than the British Distinguished Flying Cross he won for his combat service at Malta.
His citation read in part: "Outnumbered five to one, Pilot James E. Peck destroyed one enemy plane and damaged another, and drove off the other three." For that feat Jimmie Peek, who was 21 on June 14, last, was promoted to Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps, a rank comparable with Captain in the U.S. Air Corps.
There was the afternoon that he brought down two Nazi bombers in 60 seconds, another day when he piloted one of the six British planes that battled 33 Nazi bombers and fighters.
There was the letter which he wrote from England to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. James E. Peck of 1342 Carlotta St. in which he, boy-like, spoke of encounters with the enemy as if he were telling of how many runs he had made in a baseball game. It read something like this: "And now, ma, perhaps you would like to know my record to date.”
“I am officially credited with destroying five enemy planes, probably destroying two others and damaging eight others. However, I know I brought down three more, for I saw them fall into the sea, but you don't get credit for destroying a plane unless it's an official credit.”
When Jimmie Peck left for Ontario in June 1941, he was the youngest American airman to enlist for foreign service. He started flying at the age of 17 during his senior year at Berkeley High School. Then, a week after graduation, he received his student's flying license in Oakland.
While attending San Francisco Junior College, and subsequently at Polytechnic College of Engineering, he continued working at the Moreau Flying School in exchange for additional flying instruction. In April 1941, he received his private pilot's license.
Jimmie Peck tried his Best to get his wings in the U.S. Army Air Force in 1940, but at that time the Army wasn't accepting flying cadets without college degrees. "I'll get my commission as an American Army pilot one of these days; you wait and see,” he told his father.
Jimmie Peck craved action, so in August 1940, he volunteered for the Canadian Air Force. He waited, but the reply came back that he was too young. Then last spring word came from Canada that if he wanted to become a Canadian flyer he could appear at the Polaris Flight Academy and take Royal Air Force training down at Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale.
Early last June he was graduated from the Academy and received his commission as flight pilot. At the time he started for Canada we wrote in this column: "Probably before the end of the summer he will see action over the channel and there should be reports about young Flight Pilot Jimmie Peck bringing down a couple of Nazi ships.” That was prophecy on a small scale.
A few weeks after advanced training in Canada Jimmie Peck was sent to England. He was assigned to a British squadron as an instructor, but that wasn't what he wanted to do. He craved action and he begged and begged until he got a chance to have action, flying over Occupied France with the American Eagle Squadron.
Last February he put in for a transfer for Malta, where the going was really tough. From then on came cabled news dispatches of the Berkeley boy in action.
Just last week Jimmie’s parents received a letter saying that he was having a rest in England, but he was tired of it and wanted to get into action again. That "resting" consisted of instructing new recruits and commanding a large ground force.
"I've put in for the U.S. Army Air Corps," wrote Jimmie Peek, "and I shall be darn disappointed if I am not allowed to fight in an American uniform, although these British flyers are fine fellows and I like them very much."
Well, Jimmie Peck isn't disappointed. Perhaps right now he is piloting one of those big American bombers that are pouring some of the scrap metal that may have come out of your cellar on Nazi installations in France,
Let's make another prophecy — you'll be hearing through the United Press dispatches from abroad very soon about Capt. James E. Peck, U.S. Army Air Corps. Yes, he got there — not with a college degree — but with a British Distinguished Flying Cross. And he has hitched his aerial wagon to another comet — he wants to follow in the footsteps of Brig. Gen. James Doolittle, who has done so much.
Dear Mother and Dad,
10 November 1942 - Jimmy Peck, the Berkeley kid who wasn't good enough to get into the U. S. Army Air Force, yesterday was roaring through the skies over North African beachheads wearing the uniform of a U. S. Army flyer.
Captain James Peck of Berkeley, the dispatches said, was kicking the Axis around in the new African front.
Until two months ago, he was an officer in the RAF—one of the bunch of miracle men from Malta who helped save that little island from incessant Nazi attacks.
The word from Africa was the first news in his two months that had reached his parents, Mr. and Mrs. James Peck of 1342 Carlotta Avenue, Berkeley.
"We can understand now," they said, "why he wasn't giving us any details."
In April 1941, young Peck enlisted in the RAF at the age of 18 after he had been turned down by the USAF because of age and educational shortages.
In May of this year, the British Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded to Flying Officer Peck of the 2nd American Eagle Squadron for his part in destroying 33 Axis planes over Malta.
Two months ago, his family heard, he had been "inducted" as a Captain in the USAF.
According to war correspondents at the new Allied headquarters in Algeria, Captain Peck with a fighter plane squadron covering landings of American troops on African soil.
"The Mediterranean," they said, "is an old story to Captain Peck."
So is knocking down Nazis.
by Wes Gallagher. An advanced American fighter base in TUNISIA
18 Dec. 1942 (Delayed) — (AP) — American Spitfire pilots in this most advanced United 8tates fighter field are operating against the Axis on a working day that starts at 5 a.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m.
In three weeks this fighter group, led by Lieut. Col. G. W. West of Portland, Ore., has put in more operational time than it did during six months in England. Many of the group are transfers from the RAF such as Captain James E. Peck of Berkeley, Calif., who won the Distinguished Flying Cross for shooting down five enemy planes over Malta.
Almost overnight the American pilots sped from the comfortable barracks and well-equipped fields of England to this muddy, crowded strip harassed by enemy planes. One of the Luftwaffe's pride and joy, a Junkers 88 dive bomber, lies in scattered wreckage a few yards from where this is being written. Before dawn the pilots are brought out to the field from their hotel. American ground crews warm up the Spitfires and the first patrols take off.
The briefing for the day’s work is done in a camp tent, with wooden ration boxes for tables, by Major F.W. Schaub, who in peace-time is a newspaper publisher at Decatur, Ill., and by Lieutenant Paul F. Coe of Washington D.C.
A Handful of pilots stay on the alert each day to make at least one sweep over the lines. Between times they stand around and have “bull sessions,” waiting for a call to take to the air.
Even being shot down doesn’t stop some of them. There is Lieutenant Fred Short, Detroit, Mich., a former student, who was shot down between the British and German lines near Djedeida.
“I was chasing a Messerschmitt 109 when I was jumped from behind,” he related. “I never saw what hit me. The motor conked out and I bailed out between the two lines. A British patrol picked me up and took me back to the camp. Now it’s my turn to shoot someone else down.”
Not all the shooting down is done on the German side however. Both Captain James Coward of Natchitoches, La., and Captain Arnold E. Vinson of Monticello, Miss. Have confirmed victories to their credit and there is a general sprinkling of “probables” in the group.
After a lunch and dinner out of cans at the field, the pilots return to their hotel for the night. I asked John Aitken of Elberton, Ga., how it felt to be out of the air and underneath the Nazi night bombers.
“They scare the hell out of us,” was his reply.
Among the other pilots fighting from this field is Lieut. John F. Pope, Montgomery Ala.
4 January 1943 - Three weeks ago Capt. James E, Peck, jr., wrote to his parents Mr. and Mrs. James H. Peck of 1342 Carlotta Ave. that he thought he would have to quit strafing Nazi planes and take up knitting. But from Allied Headquarters, North Africa, comes word today that Jimmy Peck brought down his sixth enemy plane which added to the damaging of eight others, is a fair score.
In his letter to his parents, Peck wrote: "I had a wonderful aerial battle the other day. Fought an enemy bomber with everything in the book, but couldn't bring him down. Think I'll take up knitting."
Today’s report from Africa told of Maj. Gen. James H. Doolittle's 12th Air Force making a single day's bag of 23 enemy planes. Jimmy Peck destroyed a Focke-Wulf. British colleagues — some with whom Capt. Peck flew before he was transferred to the U.S. Army Air Force, shot down five more.
Although only 21 years of age, Capt. Peck has made quite a record for himself. He was the youngest American pilot in the British RAF and received the British Distinguished Flying Cross for his excellent work over Malta.
Peck was rejected by the U. S. Air Force in 1940 because of his youth and the fact that he didn't have a college degree. He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, balked at being an instructor because it was "too tame" and talked his way into the American Second Eagle Squadron.
Flying with the RAF over Malta, he was officially credited with downing five Nazi planes. He thinks he got at least three more. Of the group of nine Americans who enlisted in the Canadian forces with Peck only three others are left. Peck was commissioned in the U. S. Air Force last September.
Dear Belle and Spouse:
I received your two letters, one dated Nov. 8, and the other Nov. 18th. You need not worry about me for awhile as my squadron is on rest after two months at the front. I was very unlucky in a way, the last two months, as I just couldn't seem to get a decent shot at anybody. However, on the second of January I sent my sixth victim to a watery grave, eh, eh, eh. Had my seventh all lined up and it was promptly, but nearly, shot down by Ground guns. It made me very mad as they did not seem to appreciate my little war effort.
One day not long ago I took it upon myself to chase three enemy fighters all by my lonesome. After chasing about sixty miles I finally caught them and shot one, for some reason the other two seemed to take an exceedingly dim view of my little effort and proceeded to make very unfriendly, I might say hostile, passes at me all the way home. I tried to tell them that I wasn't mad but they just didn't seem to understand, or else they were plain mean.
Mack is now off flying and in Gen. Doolittle’s Advs. Staff and seems to think that he will be home soon. I don't know what will happen to me, but I have heard rumors to the effect that I am going to be stuck with some more instructing. "One never knows, does one”.
I just made my 127th operational flight not long ago and now have 600 hours.
Love and kisses,
9 February 1943 - A 21 year old Berkeley high school graduate, Captain James E. Peck, United States Army flyer, returned home yesterday from two of the world's hottest fighting spots, casually admitted he officially has twenty-one destroyed or damaged enemy craft to his credit — and just as casually expressed the hope his next assignment will be the Pacific — and a lot of Japs.
Back in 1940 Captain Peck tried to join the RCAF and couldn't.
Next he tried the RAF and succeeded. In ten days he was heading for England, where, for seven months, "it was very dry, with no action”
He asked for assignment to Malta, most bombed spot in the world. He arrived there, and in twenty-four hours had damaged his first enemy, a Junkers 88. In the four months that followed, he officially destroyed or damaged eighteen enemy planes. "I was in the air forty-five times," he explained. "The thing I most remember is my first Nazi plane.”
In June, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and was made acting squadron Leader. Then he was sent back to England as an instructor. But he wanted to fight under the Stars and Stripes. He asked for a transfer to the American Air Forces. His request was granted. He arrived in Africa just time to "do some fighting" in the Big Push there, and was in the thick of it from December 1 to January 5. While there, he added three more Nazi planes to his "destroyed or damaged" total.
He's home on leave, and now hopes for assignment in the Pacific.
Captain Peck was met at the train on his arrival from Los Angeles by his father, James E. Peek, 1342 Carlotta Street Berkeley, an engineer with the Bethlehem company in Alameda and a sister, Mrs. Bernard Shapiro, 2433-E Warring Street, Berkeley.
BERKELEY, 9 Feb. 1943 — The fighting kid, Capt. Jimmy Peck jr., who at 21 has bagged six German planes without suffering a scratch, came home yesterday to take a breather.
"Fighting's fun," he said. 'It's like a game, something like skeet shooting. I just want to rest a while, and then go back, with a good American plane under me."
Looking like any high school or college boy, Jimmy, rejected by the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1941, arrived yesterday on his first visit home in 20 months.
He had stopped in Los Angeles to visit his mother, Mrs. James E. Peck, who is ill there, and a sister, Mrs. George Uhl, wife of the Los Angeles city health director.
But on hand to meet him were his father, who is chief field engineer for Bethlehem Alameda Shipyards, and a sister, Mrs. Bernard Shapiro, 2433 B Waring Street.
9 Feb. 1943 - The Berkeley boy without nerves, who battled with 20 Nazis single-handed and then came down, washed up and went into his quarters to write a letter to his mother, shuddered with fright before a battery of newspaper cameras when he alighted from a Santa Fe train at University Ave. and West St. shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday, "That was worse than fighting with a flock of '109s' (Messerschmitt fighters)" he told us last night.
He read cautiously from his log book of his RAF service, omitting what he had done personally in fighting over Malta. "Well, here's one entry I can tell you about," he said. "It was made the next day after we had reached Malta. Put a Junkers 88 out of commission.
"Then, the day after that, Capt. Donald W. McLeod and I shot down a couple of '109s' and it was a busy afternoon. And another day I got tangled up with 20 of them at about 18,000 feet and it got rather exciting. The other entries are about like that and of no special interest to the public."
Capt. Peck put aside the log book, thought a second and said, "I might tell you of one of the weirdest sights I saw around Malta. One of our gang, Flight Lieutenant Johnny Johnson had a funny one.
BLOWN SKY HIGH
LANDED IN CRATER
Smiles abound as Capt. Peck greets his sister Belle Shapiro at the Sante Fe train station
By CALIFORNIA BAKER, 17 Feb. 1943
Capt. James E. Peck, youngest captain in the U.S. Army, and one of the most honored flying aces of World War II, has today visited his alma mater, Berkeley High School, while on leave after two years of fighting overseas.
Graduated from Berkeley High in June, 1938, Capt. Peck wears the British Distinguish Flying Cross and is credited with 22 enemy aircraft damaged or destroyed.
Captain Peck was greeted by a group of high school students and the principal, Elwin LeTendre. While walking along the halls, many students stopped to look at him with admiration and surprise. It wasn't often that a captain visited the school and such a young one at that.
In answer to questions, the 21-year-old captain said that he intended to go to Los Angeles today or tomorrow to visit his mother in the hospital. After his leave is up, he thinks that he may be assigned to active duty.
Spending four months at Malta shooting German planes nearly every day, Capt. Peck has fought Nazi airmen in England and also in Africa. In his first flight he bagged a Nazi plane, but he was disappointed. He said he didn't feel the thrill he had expected. He thought the plane would burst into flames. Instead, the plane just dived uncontrollably to earth.
When asked if he knew any teachers at Berkeley High, he thought a while, and finally replied: "Wasn't there a teacher here by the name of Noble? Taught English, I think." On being assured that he was right, he added, "Well, I've always remembered her. She taught me how to spell a word that I used to have a lot of trouble with — I always spelled it with two L’s."
Captain Peck was introduced to many of the teachers who upon seeing their faces, he recognized them. Afterwards he was shown the new science building and the Commando training course. His voice may be transcribed to be used on one of the "Jacket on the Air" programs.
During his visit, he told students about a cable his mother sent him. "I was in Malta fighting the Germans when I received a cable from my mother. It read, ‘All America is flying with you.' My pals read it too. Some time later, a bunch of us were sent on an assignment. We ran into a large number of Nazi planes and went to work. While we were fighting one of the fellows yelled, 'Hey Peck, I wish all America was flying with us now'."
29 March 1943 - Twenty-eight northern Californians were among 579 officers and enlisted men of the Army Air Forces recently decorated for outstanding action in Europe and North Africa, dispatches disclosed yesterday.
Amongst the recipients was Capt. James E. Peck of Berkeley who won the Distinguished Flying Cross for destroying one enemy aircraft on January 2, 1943 and participation in forty sorties.
18 May 1943 - It's an all-star cast that is being assembled at Hamilton Field — a cast that, so far, has spelled trouble for Axis air birds.
First headliner to arrive at the Marin county air base was Captain James E. Peck of Berkeley, former RAF Eagle Squadron Flight Lieutenant, now serving with the U.S. Army Air Forces.
Second to join Peck's squadron was Lieutenant James Reed of Pasadena, who enlisted in the RAF in July of 1940 and spent two years with the group until he and Peck were transferred to the Army Air Corps.
Third veteran is Lieutenant William H. Working of Nashville, who recently returned from active service in Africa.
Capt. James E. Peck, Berkeley ace now stationed at Hamilton Field, shows Lt. James "Jack" Reed of Pasadena, his combat career watch. Both Capt. Peck and Lt. Reed piloted RAF planes and were assigned to the same squadron in North Africa
AN "OLD MAN"
DINNER WITH PASHA
22 May 1943 - With never more than four planes in operation at one time, Malta took on the German Air Force that was attempting to blow it off the map. The Germans came over in waves of anywhere from 60 to 120 bombers with about 50 fighter planes for escort, according to James E. Peck of Berkeley, former RAF Eagle Squadron Flight Lieutenant now serving as a captain in the U.S. Army Air Forces at Hamilton Field.
Peck has been awarded the English Distinguished Flying Cross for his participation in the Battle of Malta. He was to have personally been decorated by the King of England but was transferred before he could claim this honor.
"The Germans came over about three times a day at Malta. The atmosphere on the island was tense. There was hardly any sleeping because of the raids. There was no way of getting help to the island, because at that lime the United Nations didn't have the control over North Africa that they have now. To make the situation worse, there was a terrible shortage of food," Captain Peck commented on his stay of four months on Malta.
HAVE NO SENSE
"I don't know where this idea about the Italians has grown up. Italian pilots have a lot of guts, but no sense. Perhaps they are quite frequently the losers because they haven't the best type of ships to fly. This is not my opinion altogether. Ask any pilot who has flown combat over the Mediterranean,” said Captain Peck.
All in all Peck has put in a total of 14 months of combat flying with the RAF. A member of the Second Eagle Squadron he has six confirmed air victories, three probables and 13 damaged. He has 137 combat operations to his credit and his log book shows 180 combat hours in the air.
When asked his opinion of Focke-Wulf, he said it was one of the best fighter planes of the war. As a day bomber Capt. Peck chose the B-17, and his choice for night bombing is the English Lancaster.
"Combat flying is pretty grueling," Peck disclosed, "after about 20 or 30 minutes of such activity you are through for the day"
Peck, whose home is in Berkeley, was at first rejected by the American Air Forces because he was too young at the time. He is now 21.
NORTH AFRICA FLIGHTS
"Peck" discusses tactics with fellow ex-Eagle, Jim Reed
7 August 1943 - Captain James E. Peck, Berkeley war hero, received the Distinguished Flying Cross of England today at the British Embassy in Washington D.C., from British Ambassador Lord Halifax, as the representative of King George VI.
Capt. Peck, 3142 Carlotta Street, Berkeley, won his wings as a member of the American Eagle Squadron flying with Britain's Royal Air force. His citation yesterday read "While serving with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve this officer was a courageous and resourceful leader and always pressed home his attacks with the greatest determination. He destroyed at least three and damaged many more enemy aircraft."
Later the Berkeley boy's list of "confirmeds" mounted. A year ago he wrote to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. James Peck:
'In case you are interested, my official score is five destroyed, two probably destroyed and eight damaged, but I couldn't get them confirmed."
Capt. Peck is the Berkeley kid who couldn't get into the U.S. Army Air Force because of age and educational shortages. In April, 1941, at the age of 18, he enlisted in the RAF and just a year later was awarded the DFC for his part in destroying 33 Axis planes over Malta. Then he was "inducted" as captain into the USAF.
Peck's father is field engineer for the Bethlehem Steel Corporation shipyards in Alameda.
Other decorations from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force were presented by Lord Halifax today to 14 officers and men of the U.S. Marine Corps, the Army Air Force and former members of the American Volunteer Group.
Geri & Jimmy
20 September 1943 - Making his latest and happiest landing, Captain "Jimmy" Peck, Berkeley's hero of the skies, was married yesterday afternoon at four o'clock in St. Jarleth's Church, Oakland. The new Mrs. Peck was the former Geraldine Coughlan, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harry P. Coughlan of 3127 Texas St., Oakland.
Dinner Reception. Pictured are, left to right: unk, unk, unk (may be Geri's sister & her date along with best man Jack Reed's date) Peck's Mom, Mary, new bride Geri, Jimmy with his father behing him, Geri's Mom & Dad & Jim's sister Belle & her husband Bernard Shapiro.
21 October 1943 - Capt. James E. Peck, who started bagging Nazi planes while wearing a British Air Force uniform and continued to get them after transferring to the U.S. Air Corps, visited his parents, Mr. and Mrs. James Peck, 1342 Carlotta St. today with new decorations on his young chest. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters at Hamilton Field Monday for action in North Africa.
Twenty-two-year-old Peck joined the RAF on July 21, 1941, flew against the Luftwaffe in the hopeless Battle of Malta and received the English Distinguished Flying Cross for his action in this theater. A time tried veteran of 137 combat missions at 21, Peck is now stationed at Santa Rosa Army Airdrome, as commanding officer of a fighter squadron.
His aerial box score reads: six confirmed air victories, three probables and 13 damaged.
After serving with the English through the hectic months of 1941, Peck changed his blue RAF uniform for the olive drab of the U.S. Army Air Forces in September of 1942 and served under Major General Jimmy Doolittle with the Twelfth Air Force in Africa. Here he participated in 40 sorties and bagged a Stuka (a 109 –jf) before returning to the United States in February of 1943, for a well earned rest, followed by teaching new pilots the tricks he had learned in combat.
Big. Gen. Ned Schramm & Peck,
Hamilton Field, Cal. 18 October 1943
24 February 1944 - Major John J. Lynch and Capt. James E. Peck, who as members of the British Royal Air Force and then in the United States Air Corps, made outstanding records for fighting over Malta, were feted Saturday evening by the Maltese Club of San Francisco. The Club membership is made up of native born of the most bombed island.
Major Lynch & Captain Peck
Captain James E. "Jimmy" Peck, Berkeley's youthful fighter ace who shot his way unscathed through 137 combat missions in the European theater, has been killed in a routine test flight in England.
He is well known in Woodland as the brother of Mrs. George Uhl of Los Angeles. Mrs. Uhl, a former Woodland resident, is the wife of Dr. Uhl public health director for the city of Los Angeles, and one-time assistant to Dr. W. J. Blevins, Sr., at the county hospital.
His parents, Mr. and Mrs. James E. Peck Sr., of 1342 Carlotta Street, Berkeley, revealed yesterday the receipt of four letters from members of their son's squadron, telling of his crash while testing a P-38 and of his funeral rites. One motor of the swift fighter ship failed and the Lightning dived into the ground.
"Something terrible must have gone wrong or he would have brought it out all right," said the grief-stricken Mrs. Peck.
They have not yet, they said, been notified by the War Department. The fatal crash happened on the evening of April 12.
One of the letters was to his parents, the other three to his widow, the former Geraldine Coughlan, 3127 Texas Street, Oakland. They were married in Oakland last September, when the 22-year-old Captain was serving as an instructor of a fighter squadron at the Santa Rosa airdrome.
Holder of the British Distinguished Flying Cross, the American DFC and air medal with three oak leaf clusters, Captain Peck was credited with six confirmed air victories, three probables and 13 damaged in missions over France, Germany and Malta, with the RAF, and over North Africa with the U. S. Air Forces.
Young Peck graduated from Berkeley high and attended San Francisco junior college. At 15 he took flying lessons with the Moreau Flying school in Oakland, and when war first broke over Europe, he tried to enlist in the army air force, but was rejected because of his age and lack of education. He went to Canada, tried the RCAF, but didn't have his birth certificate along. He came back, was signed up in May of 1941 by Clyde Pangborn for the RAF, was trained in Canada and sent to England as an instructor. But he craved action and went into combat. He later transferred to the USAAF as a Captain.
Although odds at Malta were 100 to 1, he never cracked up, never suffered a scratch in all his combat hours.
Besides his parents and widow, Captain Peck is survived by two sisters, Mrs. Uhl and Mrs. Bernard Shapiro with her husband at Camp Shelby, Miss.
My dear Mr. and Mrs. Peck,
I am writing this because I know you will want to know about Jimmy, there isn’t much I can say to fill the emptiness I know you must feel but I just want you to know that he was my closest friend and it couldn't be much worse had it been my own brother. I was there when it happened so I'll tell you all I can. Jim was up testing his ship and was coming in to land when an engine failed. He was very calm and there just wasn't anything he could do. He fought it all the way to the ground but he could never regain control. He crashed on the field very close to us. He was thrown clear of the ship and Dr. Bleich, who was standing almost on the spot where the accident occurred, reached him immediately. He was put into the ambulance but passed away about twenty minutes later on the way to the hospital. He sustained a serious head injury and never regained consciousness. Had it not been for this he would have lived. Dr. Bleich is one of the finest men in his profession so I know everything humanly possible was done. Jimmy was not disfigured in any way and there was no pain. At least we have that to be thankful for. The accident occurred at 8:30 last night. Memorial services were held tonight on the base with Chaplain Bell officiating. They were quite simple but very beautiful and I know it was what you would have wanted. Jimmy shall never be forgotten by his group. Every man, whether enlisted man or officer, has felt a loss in his passing on. You can be proud of your son because he was someone to be proud of. I shall never forget the things that Jimmy Peck stood for as long as I live. His personal effects are being cared for through military channels and as soon as final arrangements are made I will write again. Please feel free to call on me for anything at anytime. With my deepest sympathies,
J. L. Reed, Captain (This is the same Reed that was Best Man at the wedding -jf)
393rd Fighter Squadron, 367th Fighter Group
New York City, New York
I hardly know where to begin for this is the most difficult thing I've ever had to do in all my life. Surely by this time you have received official notification from the War Department concerning Jimmy. He crashed last night on a routine test flight.
It was a terrific shock to everyone in the squadron. Jimmy was really our boy. The pilots idolized him. They thought he was wonderful - and he was. From the time I joined the 394th, immediately after Jim had come in as CO, I always felt that he was my closest friend in the outfit. Apparently, all the boys felt the same way, for they all admired him tremendously and really loved him. As far as they were concerned, he was king of the skies. He was perfect.
There was a memorial service for Jim tonight and one of the things the chaplain said was "now Jimmy Peck is gone, there will be a blank space in the skies”. Jim is to be buried in a military cemetery near London. Burial probably will take place Saturday and it will be with full military honors.
Dear Geri, my heart really goes out to you. Any words of sympathy or condolence would be inadequate.
I am getting together all his belongings to send to you. It will go out in a few days but it will probably take a long time in arriving since it has to travel so far.
I know that right now you won’t want to go into finances and business so I’ll write you soon giving you some of the details of what you’ll need to do concerning pay and other business.
I wish there was something I could say, Geri, to make you feel better but I know that is impossible. I miss him and his playfulness and so do the other fellows. Jim is one boy this outfit will never forget.
Lt. Herb. Berman 0-562521
394th Fighter Sqdn. 367th Fighter Group
c/o Postmaster, New York City
I have intentionally waited to write to you in order that "time" may have a little action to corrode the sharpness of the pain which our news had to give you. I think you are aware of the affection which the entire group felt for Jimmy and our sense of loss is second only to that which was experienced by you of closer relationship. We still hear his expressions and phrases used unconsciously by those who knew him well and we still feel his presence keenly.
I wanted you to know of his final resting place and of some of the details of the funeral. I hope they give you some solace, they made a profound impression on me.
The day following the accident, I took him to the American Military Cemetery at Poking about 20 miles west of London. There he was prepared for burial and was inspected by Capt. Buck and myself. We had taken a complete uniform for him and he presented a very natural appearance. His injuries were not of a nature that made it difficult to prepare him as it is in the case of so many of these accidents.
The chaplain held a Memorial Service in the men's mess and it was attended, I believe, by almost everyone in the group. The chaplain gave a very nice talk and it helped us a lot. I feel that it would also have been a help to you. The next day the chaplain and some of the boys from A Flight and myself went to the funeral.
There were about a dozen other men being buried at the same time so they had one service for them all in which both the Catholic and Protestant services were given. Each casket was draped with the flag and before taps were sounded, a soldier marched to each casket and stood at salute while the name was read so that those in attendance knew at which grave their friend reposed.
Woking has a large necropolis for the London area and in it are those various military cemeteries. In the immediate vicinity are the Canadian, Belgium and Polish cemeteries. This is one that was started during the last war and the older area is of a permanent nature. The crosses are of stone. there is a beautiful chapel in which are the names of all engraved on the wall and in the middle of the grounds the American Flag flies perpetually in half mast. The newer larger area is laid out with the same mathematical precision, the crosses are of wood until such time when it will be known whether this is to be the final resting place or not. Name, rank and organization is painted on the cross and the dog tags are placed in the middle of it.
After the funeral services the chaplain went to the grave and took a little yellow flower which he intended to send to you. You see we men get pretty sentimental also. However before he had an opportunity to write he was called into group headquarters and told that he was not supposed to write and I know he felt bad about it and felt that he was not fulfilling an obligation. I told him to go ahead and write anyway, but I don't know what he decided to do.
I don't recall having ever been anyplace where dignity and peacefulness was so prevalent as it was at Woking. Should you decide to visit here after the war I know you will feel the same way.
I hope you wanted to know these details for I only want to give you consolation. I wish to join the others in extending to you most sincere sympathy and I fully know that it will take a long time to bring you the peace of mind to which you are entitled.
James A. Ellery 1st Lt. M. C.
394th P. Sq., 367th F.G.
A VERY YOUNG ACE
Just nineteen brief years since that rose-hued dawn
Nephew Jim Uhl, Geri & Jimmy
Victories Include :
* 2 whole and 2 half shares. Total = 6 / 3 / 13
In a letter home written 21 June 1942 he writes -
"In case you are interested, my official score is: Five destroyed, two probably destroyed and eight damaged. However, I know for a fact that I have three more destroyed but could not get confirmed."
--- Eagle Squadron Aces ---
--- American Aces ---
Thanks go out to Jim's Nephew Jim Uhl for the great collection of photos & infos !
On these pages I use Hugh Halliday's extensive research which includes info from numerous sources; newspaper articles via the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC); the Google News Archives; the London Gazette Archives and other sources both published and private.
Some content on this site is probably the property of acesofww2.com unless otherwise noted.