A Little Personal – James Sharp -A tribute

I recently went to Detroit to participate in the memorial service for my Uncle, Jim. He was the last of three siblings and died suddenly at the age of ninety-four after a life that included lots of love, some heartbreak, and mostly good health. This post is not about his passing but rather a reminder of the kind of people that his generation represented.

Uncle Jim was a pilot in World War II. He joined the army after Pearl Harbor even though he had a wife and little boy at home. When asked why he joined his response was simple, “I have some talent that should be useful.” He was also only twenty years old. This first photo is Uncle Jim in high school. The dedication on the photo is to his sister, my mother.

Uncle Jim

He was a swimmer, football player, and played a pretty mean game of golf. He married his high school sweetheart and then the war came along. Here is a photo of him, his wife, Maxine and their son Jimmy taken after he finished flight and air combat school.

Uncle Jim

He was transferred to the European theater. Here is a photo of him overseas.

Uncle Jim

Uncle Jim flew thirty missions in support of the war in Europe. He was certified to fly the B25 bomber, the P51 Mustang, and the P38 Lightning. His favorite was the P38 lightning since it was so fast and maneuverable.

Here is a photo montage of all three.


B25 Bomber



P51 Mustang







P38 Lightning

His assignment on these thirty-three missions was to fly an unarmed airplane (Called the F-5 version of the P38) and take pictures of the enemy locations for later targeting. He often laughed about how he posed a real danger to enemy aircraft and ground gunners with his cameras and his .45 caliber sidearm. He was fortunate to be able to out maneuver various threats and still return with the photos needed.  I always wondered about the courage it took completing these missions knowing there would be no way to protect himself. He did say that he relied on his training and the speed of his airplane to keep him safe.

Here is a picture of Uncle Jim’s Photo Reconnaissance Unit patch (The 34th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron)

Uncles patch

Here are the medals he earned during his service (He also received the Good Conduct Medal but he felt everyone got one of those.)

Air medal

Air Medal

American Campaign Service Medal

American Campaign Service Medal

European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal

European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal

WWII Victory Medal

WWII Victory Medal








Also, a poem written by  Tom McGuire about the “Recon Joes” as people like my Uncle were named.

To: Photo-Recon Joe
By: Tom McGuire

Of all the Air Force pilots that I most deeply admire,
I give my top-notch vote to Photo-Recon Joe
Who goes it alone, unarmed, and braves the enemy’s fire
By taking crucial photos which spell doom to the Axis foe.

Ahead of his Lightning’s sound, his F‑5 zips in at tree-top level;
Too late they hear him coming, now he’s already gone past
A flashing form, a blast of wind, the Fork-Tail Devil,
His photos taken, speeds home, no higher than a mast.

On lists of fighter aces, his name is never placed,
And sadly, he’s soon forgotten after the war has ended,
But war historians know that priceless F‑5 photos based
The Normandy invasion so air, sea, and land attacks all blended.

“Unescorted, unarmed, and unafraid” Joe wings his gutsy way
Into the lethal Axis Reich, where death waits in that murky air.
But he presses on, he shoots his films, and dearly earns his pay
By these “dicing,” flack-filled missions that only he would dare.

So now I raise a grateful toast to Photo-Recon Joe,
And, Joe, I also bow to you-and believe me, I bow low.

Here is a photo of my uncle taken after his eighty-fifth birthday.

My Uncle

Thank you for all you’ve done, Uncle. You did more than required.



  1. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Another wonderful piece of living history from John Howell this morning in a tribute to his uncle who recently died aged 92.. Jimmy served in the Second World War as a pilot and flew 33 missions.. please head over and read and share the story of a courageous man.

    1. Thank you, Sally. Lovely reblog.

  2. Oh… so that’s why you were in Detroit. I’m so very sorry, John. This is a touching and interesting, balanced tribute for a clearly amazing person. I’m certain Uncle Jimmy is proud of it. It was interesting to learn about the Recon Joes. I didn’t know they were unarmed.
    Have a thriving Thursday. Mega hugs.

    1. Thank you, Teagan. My uncle used to joke about being a threat with his camera. I can’t imagine how he survived especially over Germany. Hugs

  3. Gwen Plano · ·

    Beautiful, John. Thank you for sharing your uncle’s journey and for honoring his and his generation’s courage.

    1. They were the greatest generation and now are fading away. I felt the story should be told. Thanks, Gwen. 🙂 (Safe travels)

  4. What a great story, thanks for sharing it.

    1. Thanks, Craig. They were truly the greatest generation.

  5. I’m sorry for your loss, John. What a lovely tribute to your uncle. I loved the photographs.

    1. Thank you, Jill. These men and women did so much during that time that we should all know about their deeds. The funny thing is they never told us. 🙂

  6. Amazing role in history. Love his thought on the Good Conduct medal.

    1. He actually was a bit of a rebel. Thanks, Charles.

  7. A wonderful tribute to your uncle Jim. 👍

    1. Thank you, Tracy. 🙂

  8. Wow. An amazing man. Please accept my heartfelt condolence, John. I had no idea Pictures were taken in unarmed planes. A brave man indeed. 🙂 ❤

    1. Thanks, Tess. We are all grateful for men like my Uncle. 🙂

  9. Wow! What a great tribute to a larger-than-life man. Well done, John.

    1. Thank you, Jan. He was that for sure and after went on to a very normal life. 🙂

  10. I’m sorry for your loss, John. Thank you so much for sharing this piece of history with us along with the pictures and some of your uncle’s story. You’re right – uncommon bravery. Flying into a dangerous area when your plane is well-armed is one thing; flying into a war zone armed with only your skill, courage, and your fast plane – that’s amazing!

    1. Thanks, John. I can’t imagine the courage. 🙂

      1. Nor I. I often wonder if that kind of courage is more common among people in their early adult years. Would those same people do the same acts of courage in their mid-thirties or later? I say this because as I got older, I felt my own mortality more and more – I took fewer risks as I aged.

      2. My dad went into the navy and served as a navel aviator and participated in the bombing of Japan and the battle of Iwo Jima. He was 34 years old at the time. He said there were times when he was plenty scared so you may be right.

      3. I realize we’ll never know, but I wonder if your uncle would have felt differently about those photo missions if he was in his mid-thirties. Regardless, all of the men and women in these combat roles displayed great courage!

  11. What a wonderful tribute to your Uncle. I hope his stories of bravery & courage continue to be told for generations to come. My condolences John.

    1. Thanks Lynn. He was a father , grandfather and great grandfather and so I think the stories will go on.:-)

  12. We are so sorry for your loss, John, Thanks for sharing this, making this a wonderful tribute to your very brave Uncle.
    Our condolences,
    Dina x

    1. Thank you, Dina. He is here in memory. 🙂

  13. What a beautiful tribute to your Uncle and his life.

    I didn’t know about Photo-Joe’s. Thank you for the History!

    1. Yes they were quite a crew. Thanks. 🙂

  14. I love this tribute to your late uncle! Yes, his generation was brave, unselfish, and patriotic (would that we had more like them today!). I had several relatives in various branches of the military, too. Wouldn’t it be interesting to learn if they knew of each other — guess we’ll never find out in our lifetimes, but maybe one day…. Sending you condolences, John.

    1. Thanks, Debbie. I have many rich memories which live on.

  15. Very sorry not only for your loss, John, but our country’s loss of another true hero. Great tribute.

    1. Thanks, Phillip. So many were like him and unfortunately never were able to live their lives.

  16. Sorry for your loss, John, but what a wonderful tribute. Sounds like he had a long and happy life.

    1. Yes he did. Thanks, Teri

  17. Touching tribute to a wonderful man (part of a generation of heroes). Makes you proud, I’m sure!

    1. Sure does. Thanks.

  18. jhawker1969 · ·

    Wonderful tribute to a great guy. That was a special generation and thank God for that. Unselfish and above all, patriotic. Traits that I see too little of today–men and women in uniform excluded.

    1. They were pretty special. Thanks, Ron.

  19. A lovely tribute. So sorry for your loss. He’s really a shining example of all that was right in the world, once upon a time. True heroes never die.

    1. Thanks Susan. 🙂

  20. Oh, John, this was lovely. My condolences to you and your family. Joe sounds completely amazing. What an honor to have called him Uncle. ♡

    1. Thank you , Audrey. He was of a special generation.

  21. So sorry for your loss, John. A wonderful tribute. Your uncle was an amazing man with steadfast courage to do his job. 💛 Christine

    1. Thank you, Christine. He was like many of his generation. Truly the greatest.

  22. Yes, that “greatest generation” is dying off. thanks for reminding us of another one.

    1. Thank you, Jo. 🙂

  23. What a lovely tribute and a great piece of nostalgia John. I’m sorry for your loss. It seems your uncle lived a very full life. 🙂

    1. he did. Thank you, Debby. 🙂

  24. Lovely tribute for your Uncle Jim, a true hero, John. My sympathy. You have every right to be proud such a man was part of your family. He deserved a long life filled withlove. I feel blessed to have been part of a generation that had such men as examples. 🙂 — Suzanne

    1. Thank you, Suzanne. He was a special person and you are right, the generation was also special. 🙂

  25. Reblogged this on No Facilities and commented:
    I don’t often reblog posts, but there aren’t many of this generation left, and I really liked reading about this man. If you have a few minutes, give a look, you won’t be disappointed.

    1. Thank you, Dan. So nice.

  26. A fitting tribute to a true hero. I am always so passionate to read about people who serve the nation selflessly so that we can enjoy our lives in all the comfort. As a kid, I wanted to be in the Indian Navy and I tried my best to enroll myself, but couldn’t clear the physical. Just a thought, heroes like him risk their lives to take pictures of the enemy area so that his brothers can complete the mission safely. On the other hand, here we are so obsessed with those darn selfies ensuring people Like it on Facebook and Instagram.

    1. The generation who fought in WWII made it possible for all the frivolous human behavior could continue. Thank you for the comment and the visit. 🙂

  27. I’m visiting via Dan Antion.

    Men like your uncle came from a very special generation. Your lovely tribute to him was a great history lesson for the rest of us. My condolences to you and your family.

    1. Thank you so much for coming by. Thank you so much for your kind words. I just love Dan’s blog. 🙂

  28. He was a great American, John, and we’re losing the heroes of that generation. My condolences.

    1. They are fading away. My uncle was only 20 at the time. Think of those who were older. We may be around to see the last veteran go.

  29. I’m here visiting from ‘No Facilites’ and am touched by your tribute to your uncle. I had three uncles serve in WWII and two made the ultimate sacrifice. One was a gunner and was lost in the sea of Burma when his plane went down. He is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing in the Philippines. My other uncle was killed in Trier when Patton was marching in. He is buried in the American cemetery in Luxembourg. We made a trip there last year to see his grave. My hat is off to your uncle for his brave service, and it is wonderful that he had the opportunity to come home live such a wonderful life. That was a very special generation of Americans. I don’t think we’ll see that level of unselfish dedication again. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Judy. He did return unlike your two uncles and yet now shares the common bond. He was fortunate to be able to live a full life and I’m sorry your two did not. I think he felt he owed those not returning to live an honest and gracious existence in their memory. My uncle flew missions to take pictures for Patton’s army. Thanks, again.

      1. It may be a big global world but in some instances it is small. We both had special uncles who gave of themselves for others. I think we can count ourselves lucky for having family heroes to look up to. 🙂

      2. i agree. Thank you. 🙂

  30. I am very sorry for your loss. Your story had me covered in goosebumps. What a hero!!!! ❤

    1. Thank you so much, AmyRose. The entire generation fostered those heroes. There were plenty of them

      1. We who still have breath need to heed their example and incorporate that into our own lives. At least that is how I see it. ❤

      2. You see well. 🙂

  31. That was a lovely tribute. My uncle passed this past spring and this summer, my mother brought me all of his military awards and many historically significant pieces. I don’t know how to write about him, but your post reminds me I want to, and you’ve given me some ideas. Thank you.

    1. I encourage you to do so. This current generation needs to know more about that generation. In the curriculum of public education there is a lack of education about WWII and the sacrifices made by those born between 1900 and 1925. Thanks, Joey. I’ll look for your post.

  32. That’s quite a life.
    He reminds me slightly of a young Elvis in the second photo.

    1. Interesting. His second son looked like Elvis and he used to have fun with that appearance.

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