Toni TerzianWellhausen has been in touch with the very sad news that her father, Jack Terzian, passed away June 18, 2013. Jack “Jake” Terzian was an original member of the 351st and was proud of his association with the Squadron – referring to his fellows as the “greatest group of men I have ever known.”
The story of his wartime career is one to really bring home the sacrifices and service made by some during the war. Jake quit his job as a photographer and enlisted in the Army Air Corp in March 1941 eventually joining the 351st on March 28, 1943. Flying his aircraft named “Marty” for his fiancee, Martha Tait, he claimed a shared Fw190 destroyed in the air and a number of aircraft destroyed on dangerous strafing missions.
In the Spring of 1944 the Group were really pushing to the furthest limits of penetration on missions and on April 9 Jake’s aircraft ran out of fuel over the North Sea. He was forced to bail out and struck his ankle on the aircraft before landing in the freezing water. Luckily, Bill Maguire and his flight were able to locate him before he bailed and directed the Air Sea Rescue service to the scene. His ankle was badly strained and when he returned to base he was grounded for three weeks while he recovered. During this time Eighth Fighter Command raised the mission requirements from 200 to 300 hours meaning Jake now had a further 120 hours to complete his tour of duty.
On May 22, 1944, while flying some of these “extra” combat hours, Jake was brought down by ground fire on a strafing mission. He made contact with the Resistance who helped him to evade, but was eventually captured by the Gestapo. He was then incarcerated in St. Gilles prison where he faced many hardships. Jake was able to escape when German forces attempted to move the prisoners by rail as the Allies advanced into Belgium and he was liberated September 3, 1944.
After a brief return visit to Raydon Jake was flown home to the United States and married Marty (who had spent the painful intervening months with little information on Jake’s fate) on October 15, 1944.
This brief post cannot do justice to Jake’s life, career and service and there is a much fuller obituary HERE.
The above is written with sincere condolences to Marty, Toni and the rest of Jake’s family and in fond memory of Jake Terzian – Fighter Pilot.