As a track and field star at North Texas from 1938 to 1940, Jim K. Bone was a teammate of the famous twin twins, the Rideouts and Browns, who set a world record at Madison Square Garden in the mile and seven-eighths relay. The track team traveled so much they were dubbed “The Flying Eagles,” and Jim was a sensation in the pole vault. A rancher’s son from Cresson, southwest of Fort Worth, he started training in the sport with his father when he was 11 years old.
Jim was following in the footsteps of his father’s brother, J.Y. Bone — almost literally, since according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (March 28, 1934), 18-year-old Jim won the Southwestern Exposition pole vault and high jump events in the high school division wearing his uncle’s shoes.
Jim majored in physical education at North Texas and was a member of the T-Club for lettermen, the Talons, Alpha Phi Omega and the Physical Education Professional Club. In March 1938, the star pole vaulter broke the North Texas and meet record at the Southwestern Exposition in the college division with a vault of 13 feet, 1 inch. His school record stood for 20 years — sadly long outliving him.
After earning his degree in the summer of 1940, Jim headed for the Valley to teach and coach track in San Benito. He took flying lessons in Brownsville and then took a leave of absence from his school to enlist in the Army Air Corps in July 1941. He trained at Randolph Field near San Antonio, dubbed the “West Point of the Air,” and received advanced flight training at Foster Field near Victoria. That's where he married Susan Embrey in January 1942, and he earned his commission and wings the next month.
He was stationed in Florida before heading to England in July 1942 with the 97th Bomb Group. While there he was part of an October raid on the U-boat pens in Lorient over occupied France. His fellow crew members in the B-17 Flying Fortress “Hellzapoppin” reported that they fought off a dozen attacks by German Focke-Wulf 190s, including five at one time. They downed one and shared in downing another before returning to base without a scratch.
It was just a month later when Jim and all but one of the crew were killed at their new post in Algeria. They were with their plane on the ground when the Luftwaffe came in on a bombing raid the night of Nov. 20, 1942. Jim was 26.
News reports said that his widow received the notice of his death in January, on their first wedding anniversary. She would soon join the Army Nurse Corps. On May 26, 1943, at a ceremony at the Fort Worth Army Air Field, she accepted two posthumous awards on Jim's behalf — the Purple Heart and an Air Medal for exceptionally meritorious achievement on the combat mission over enemy-occupied Europe.
Eighty years later, we remember and honor our flying Eagle.