Photos Jason Huynh
Captain Jim McCubbin, a Veteran of the U.S. Air Force, holds 97 years of memories in his mind—a spectacle only few can say they have tucked away. That’s 97 years of indescribable moments… a story so compelling, it seems as if it has leapt from the pages of a best-selling novel.
This is Jim McCubbin’s story.
Jim McCubbin is currently a resident at Renaissance Marquis (3126 Cedartown Hwy, Rome, GA) and has lived there for around eight years.
McCubbin was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, and later moved to Columbia, Missouri to attend college at the University of Missouri. For as long as he could remember, his dream was to fly airplanes, which perhaps encouraged his career choices throughout the rest of his life.
Little did he know, his chance to serve his country would see his dream realized.
“I was actually in my very last semester of college at the University of Missouri when I was drafted. That was in February… I would have graduated that following June,” recalls McCubbin.
“After they drafted me, I was then sent over to a base in San Antonio, Texas where I went through training. I was put into pilot training fairly quickly, as I already had my pilot license as a student,” says McCubbin.
During World War II, he was a P51 Mustang fighter pilot and Prisoner of War (POW) in Frankfurt, Germany.
When asked what his most vivid memory of his time in uniform was, Jim quickly spit out perhaps one of the most interesting stories I had ever heard in my life.
“The thing I remember the most is flying a P51 in combat. That was very interesting,” chuckles McCubbin.
“A P51 is a mustang single engine fighter plane, which was very popular during WWII,” explains McCubbin. “I flew the P51 for about eight months in Europe until I made a mistake and was hit by ground fire during a mission. The bullet put a large hole in my right wing. Fortunately, the large caliber bullet that hit the wing went right on through, not exploding the entire plane. I wouldn’t be here if it had done what it was supposed to do.
“After that, my airplane wouldn’t fly. I had to jump out at a low altitude, but I hit the ground with no broken bones,” continues McCubbin.
“There I was, in the middle of Germany. No one was around. I eventually found a farm house, so I went over, knocked on the door and a young lady answered. I asked her for food and she handed something through the crack. I then asked her if I could stay in her barn for the night, which she obliged.
“I wandered all over Germany for around two weeks before, finally, the Germans caught up with me. Then, I was taken to a prison camp in Frankfurt with hundreds of other prisoners, a lot of whom were from the Air Force as well,” says McCubbin.
Here is an account written by Mr. McCubbin on April 5, 1995 about his POW experience:
“We entered the POW camp on March 5, my 24th birthday. The good news was that the soup had more peas. The bad news was that over half of the peas had worms in them. We slept in groups on the floor to conserve body heat and to share the one five-by-five blanket they had provided us. We became so weak that we rationed trips to the latrine. I remember that you had to be careful when you stood up to avoid blacking out. This was the place for the best and most unusual war stories. After hearing one, I promised myself to keep a journal.”
Just imagine, he saved us from the rest of the gory details, but one can only fathom some of the things he went through during his time in internment.
“I remember meeting several men who had been in the prison for six years. Fortunately, I was only held for four months. I don’t remember how I got out, but I did.”
World War II ended in June of 1945. McCubbin left Europe and went back to the University of Missouri to finish his degree in Mechanical Engineering. Once finishing his degree, he and his family spent the next 12 years in Mexico. The war hero went to work for a company that built cooling towers.
He married the love of his life, Bettye, in 1947. Bettye was a writer who used her craft to build a career throughout their 70 years together. Bettye wasn’t the only one who loved to write, however, as Jim has an entire binder full of written accounts from his time during the war.
One section written on April 15, 1995 reads: “On this typical damp English morning of September 23, 1944, as I sat in the cockpit of my beautiful “D” model P51 waiting for the start engines command, I could hardly believe that I was finally going on my first combat mission. I think this dream, which was about to be fulfilled, started at the age of 12, a long time to wait.
“Then came the long-awaited radio call, ‘Gentleman, start your engines!’ The memory of the emotions at that particular moment, even after these 50 years, is still strong enough to bring tears to my eyes. The thrill of 50 Rolls Royce, 12 cylinder, 1600 horse power engines coughing and struggling to catch enough fuel to start. These feelings never diminished, even after 44 missions that equated to almost 200 combat hours.”
This is one small section of a book full of interesting stories and recounts of history, all witnessed and lived through by one man. Rome and Renaissance Marquis is very lucky to have Mr. McCubbin call it home, and anyone you ask would most likely agree. Grand is honored to have been able to retell these cherished memories for him, and to personally thank him for his service.