John J. O'Neil

U.S. 8th Army Air Force Staff Sergeant John J. O’Neil was the waist gunner on the first B-17 to release its bombs on Berlin on March 4, 1944. It was John, who after reconnecting with Marshall and George at an 8th Army air Force reunion, became involved in their project. He completed "Bombs Away by Pathfinders of the Eighth Air Force" in their memory and published it with his family-owned publishing company.

John was born in Malden, Massachusetts on February 13, 1923. He entered the service on July 3, 1941, and was assigned to Grenier Field, Manchester, NH. He arrived in Scotland on January 12, 1943 and was sent to the 4th Fighter Group.

old, black and white picture of John Oneil outdoors in his Air Force uniform.
Staff. Sgt. O’Neil Alconbury, England

He trained to be an aerial gunner at RAF Kirkham, Lancashire. In August, 1943, he joined the 482nd Bomb Group (Pathfinder) at Alconbury and completed his first mission on December 20, 1943 to Bremen. On March 4, 1944, he flew with the 95th Bomb Group to Berlin, and was credited with being the first USAAF heavy bomber to bomb Berlin. Also during March of 1944, the 482nd BG (P) became a radar training station for navigators and bombardiers.

John was discharged on August 19, 1945. He flew 14 missions and received two Air Medals, Presidential Unit Citation, European Theater of Operations and four Battle Stars, American Defense Medal, and Victory Medal. He attended Boston University and received a BA degree in 1952 and a MA degree in 1953. He attended MIT and received a MS in 1956. He spent ten years in food R & D, and entered publishing in 1966. In 1976, he started his own publishing company, and expanded the company to include a military division in its later years. FNP Military has remained a family owned business dedicated to John’s memory. He married Lillian Mildred Bechan in 1954 and they had six children. John passed away on April 22, 2006 after a brief illness. John was the founder of FNP Military Press and his spirit lives on in everything we do.

color picture of an elderly man and a younger woman standing inside a large aircraft
Staff Sergeant John O’Neil back in the right waist gun position that he manned on the first U.S. 8th Air Force Mission to Berlin on March 4, 1944. On the left is John’s daughter Monica wearing the 56th Fighter group hat.