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Airman 1st Class James Oliver Trosclair
US Air Force

Airman First Class JAMES OLIVER TROSCLAIR, born April 24, 1930, of McKinney, service number AF18378964, was a member of the 307th Heavy Bomb Group of the 371st Bomber Squadron based out of Kadena Air Force Base on the island of Okinawa. Before enlisting in the Air Force, James graduated from McKinney High School in the class of 1949. He was a very popular student, having been chosen as class favorite and Duke of the Valentine Court, and was a member of the McKinney Lions football team. That was at a time when the players wore leather helmets with no face guards.

James was a crewman on a B29-A Superfortress of World War II vintage. Their missions were primarily designed to slow down the North Korean advance in the beginning of the war. Targets included bridges, highways, staging areas for troops and supplies, trains and railroads, anything to help take the pressure off of the ground forces. As the war wore on and the fighting moved further north they would bomb industrial and military installations and cities including Pyonyang, the capitol city of North Korea. While not on missions, back in Okinawa, the crewmen would spend time making belts of fifty-caliber machine gun ammunition for the mounted guns and helping the armament guys fuse the bombs for the next mission.

On September 13, 1952, an attack was conducted by twenty-five B-29s on the generator building at the huge Sui-ho Hydroelectric Plant in North Korea. Air Force B-26s and US Navy planes bombarded the area before and during the raid with low level fragmentation bombs in order to suppress enemy searchlights. They were able to knock out only eight of approximately thirty in operation. Meanwhile four B-29s were orbiting to the east with the mission of jamming the enemy radar. The overall operation was successful in destroying the power plant and rendering it unserviceable. During the raid the enemy retaliated with massive anti-aircraft fire and fighter planes. Only one American plane was lost that night. It was a B-29, tail number 44-86343, James Trosclair’s plane. It was reported to have been hit by fire from an enemy fighter jet and exploded in mid-air over the hydroelectric plant. The plane carried a crew of twelve men and all but one perished in the crash. That man was later returned in a prisoner for prisoner exchange in September of 1953 called the 'Big Switch'. One year and almost five months after his plane was shot down, James Trosclair was declared dead while missing on February 28, 1954.

Medals Awarded:

James O. Trosclair

James O. Trosclair


Reprinted from The Lion Still Roars
McKinney Ex-Students Association Newsletter

Long, Lost War Hero’s Story Comes Home
Robert Hankins. Reprinted with permission from
The Orange Leader.

It would have been his last mission before going home. But it was just his last mission.
The mother of McKinney native, James Trosclair, crewman of a B-29 bomber called Razorback, never lived to know what happened to him over "MIG Alley" in Korea. Until a few weeks ago, all Bob Couser, of Orange, Texas, knew, was that Trosclair, his childhood friend, had been missing for 50 years. But he recently learned that someone had survived to tell the story of the mission that killed Trosclair and 10 other crewmen.
It’s time the memory of this Texan comes home," says Bruce Lockett, Assistant Orange County Veteran’s Service Officer.
The Razorback crashed about 12:30 a.m. Sept. 13, 1952, on a mission to bomb a hydroelectric plant at Shiho, near the Yalu River. Trosclair’s crew made many such missions over the Yalu, where the USS Orleck, now docked at a downtown park in Orange, frequently patrolled. Trosclair was the radioman that night, a job he had been trained for at Keesler Air Force Base. Had he survived, he would have moved to Orange, where his mother worked at the state welfare office.
"The plane was hit by ground fire," Lockett says. "It took a direct hit in the belly and just literally exploded."
The only man who survived is Fred Parker Jr., originally from Hall County, Texas, and now of Nashville, Arkansas. He was sitting across from Trosclair when it happened.
"We were tracing down a radar beam when we were caught in the spotlight," says Parker, a gunner that night. "It was really bright. They had us lit up like daylight. The flak was so close, I felt like I could reach out of the window and grab a piece."
A fire broke out and the crew hit it with extinguishers. Parker believes it must have burned out a cable and the plane went spiraling. "It was like a leaf falling from a tree," he says.
Parker was knocked unconscious, and when he came to, he was hanging out of the plane by his feet. He pulled himself loose, jumped, counted to 10, and pulled his ripcord. He lived in the mountains 11 days before being captured by civilians, who turned him over to a prison camp. He was released later in a trade-off dubbed "The Big Switch."
Lockett and Couser discovered that Chinese and Russian authorities had found the aircraft in 1992 with five unidentified bodies in the nose section, probably the flight crew.
Parker will visit Orange Nov. 9 to receive the Heritage Freedom Award from the Veteran’s Service Office. Trosclair will receive one as well, to be accepted by either a family member or Couser. Parker will also accept an award on behalf of the entire crew.
Couser grew up with Trosclair in McKinney, attended Boyd High with him and later, North Texas State University. "He was a very popular guy, especially with the girls, with his looks," Couser says. "Everybody liked him."
When the war came along, Couser and friends Bob Allen and Lynn Scott, also from McKinney, joined the Marines. Lois Trosclair, thinking her son faced certain death as a Marine, convinced him to join the Air Force. Although Trosclair was an only child, it was before the rule that gave only children a combat option. "In May of 1952, we were already out (of the service), getting ready to go back to college, and he was home on leave," Couser says. "We had dinner at his house and he made the statement to Lois, ‘See mom, if you’d let me go in the Marines, I’d be out by now.’ And the next thing we heard on him, he was missing."
Couser later spoke to another McKinney friend, Rodrick Parr, who was stationed with Trosclair and talked to him the day before the fatal mission. Trosclair showed Parr aerial photographs of the "MIG Alley" area in which he would eventually be killed.
Couser graduated in 1955 and moved to Southeast Texas. By then, Lois Trosclair was living in Orange. "She lived at No. 4 Bruce Lane," he says. "I used to come over and visit with her; and she really took his death hard—she moved to Jennings (La.) in 1964 and died before knowing what we know now.
Parker says that after he returned home, he remembered that Trosclair had been from McKinney. But Lois had moved by then, and the Trosclairs he called in the phone book weren’t related.
Couser recently located a Trosclair cousin, Gerry Shannon of Lakewood, Colorado, who said Lois was still alive when James was awarded the Purple Heart.
Before his death, Trosclair had earned other honors including the Air Medal and Korean Combat Ribbon. He told Parr he had been shot down once before, bailed out over China and made it to friendly forces on Okinawa. That could be verified if Shannon, the only known relative, requests his military records.
A mystery remains as to why the Air Force, knowing of Parker’s survival, didn’t fill Lois Trosclair in on the story.
"Maybe they tried and couldn’t find her," Couser says. "Bob Allen, now of San Antonio, has been working with us on this and was told by one general that a fire in St. Louis destroyed a lot of military records, but we know that not to be true. Another general told him that the information was probably classified, which it very well may have been until the plane wreckage was found in 1992."
Couser still has some letters to remember his friend by. In one, dated simply "Thur. nite," Sgt. Trosclair wrote to Couser’s parents upon learning Couser had been wounded. "I have been thinking of you both, and of Bob, since I received word," he wrote. "I know, of course, that you both are waiting and praying, as are many, many other friends of Bob. And I know also that God has heard our word. He just wouldn’t let someone like Bob be seriously hurt."
When he signed the words, "Until later, James," he never knew the "later" would be 50 years, Lockett says.
"I feel like I have closure now," Couser says. "I know he didn’t go to a prison camp. We just never knew that one guy escaped."

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