Palmer, John Higbie, LTJG

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Last Rank
Lieutenant Junior Grade
Last Primary NEC
131X-Unrestricted Line Officer - Pilot
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1943-1945, 131X, Prisoner of War
Service Years
1942 - 1945
Lieutenant Junior Grade
Lieutenant Junior Grade

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Home State
Not Specified
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Donald Losey (Fallhiker), MM1 to remember Palmer, John Higbie, LTJG.

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Home Town
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Last Address
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Date of Passing
May 29, 2007
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
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Last Known Activity

May 18, 2001-
A special event on May 18 was the dedication of a permanent plaque in honor of AMM1c Reginald H. (Buddy) Miller and ART1c Joseph L. Zalom at Fagervika. These two air crewmen were killed when the TBF Avenger (4-T-4), piloted by Lt (jg) John H. Palmer was shot down by German anti-aircraft fire on October 4, 1943. As one of the pilots on the strike, I saw Palmer's plane explode and start a gradual spiral toward the sea. Only one parachute was visible after the AA hit. The sole survivor, Palmer, was captured and taken prisoner by the Germans, eventually being moved to Stalag Luft Three.


OPERATION LEADERThe next engagement of Air Group 4 against the Germans was OPERATION LEADER. This involved strikes on German shipping along the Coast of Norway, mostly north of the Arctic Circle.


  SBDs over Norwegian Fjords  

SBD Dauntless Dive-Bombers over the Norwegian Fjords


OPERATION LEADER cost the lives of four airmen, with three left as POWs. The airmen captured during these strikes were Lt(jg) John Higbie Palmer and Lt(jg) Sumner R. Davis and his gunner D. W. McCarley ARM2c.

Lt(jg) John H. Palmer, VT-4Lt(jg) John H. Palmer's TBF Avenger was shot down by German AA fire on October 4, 1943 in the North Atlantic near the village of Fagervika, Norway. One parachute was observed to open after the plane was hit. Those of us on this strike knew that Palmer's two crewmen, Joseph L. Zalom ART1c and Reginald H. Miller AMM1c went down with the plane.


As the unofficial historian for Torpedo Four after the war, I tried to locate John Palmer to obtain his version of the strike and his capture by the Germans who were occupying Norway. Finally, in 1988, I learned that a former P-51 pilot, Richard Lucas, had been in the same German prison camp and he knew John's current address. Lucas gave me a phone number, which led to a reunion after 46 years. At this meeting with John and his wife, I presented a plaque to John that contained parts of his plane salvaged by the Norwegians. The salvage of Palmer's TBM was initiated by Steinbjorn Mentzoni, then a 9 year old boy, who observed the crash (see Norway: A Grateful Nation Remembers).

John Palmer's comments on the crash and POW experience follow.

I must have caught a shell right through the back of the plane; it went right under me and into the engine, because it caught fire. I think it must have killed Zalom and Miller. I called them on the intercom trying to get them to get out, but received no answer, so I jumped.

After I hit the water and got loose from my parachute, I swam to shore and waded right into this antiaircraft station. I had hailed some fishermen, hoping to get picked up, but had no luck.

The Germans took me as a prisoner and moved me to Oslo, Norway. After a week in Oslo, the Germans transferred me to Frankfurt for a week of interrogation on bread and water, and then took me to Staleg Luft Three.

I was the only Navy guy in this camp, and I found the other prisoners ignored me completely for about 2 weeks, they thought I was a German plant. They showed me a German newspaper, which said the Ranger had been sunk in September. Of course, I told them that I was off the Ranger, and they didn't believe me. They believed the newspaper.


Other Comments:

Several other comments by John Palmer are worthy of note:

We were flying at 1500 feet. The flight flew right over this AA battery which was not mentioned during the preflight briefings.

I became well acquainted with John Dunn, the first American prisoner in the camp. Dunn was a graduate from the Naval Academy, but he made a navigation error on a return flight to Scapa Flow and ended up in Norway. I roomed with Dunn and we learned a British Code (like a Boy Scout Code) and we interrogated every new prisoner who came into the camp.

The Germans let the Red Cross send in clothes, books and games, and the YMCA sent us some musical instruments. We were allowed to write 2 letters and 3 post cards per month. The Germans seemed to have more respect for the Navy guys than the other POWs.

We were liberated by the Russians and spent 2 to 3 months living off the country before an American unit took us in. I was sent back to Pensacola for a refresher and then the atomic bomb ended the war. I got out of the Navy in September 1945. Somehow, my log book was returned to me with comments by Lee Hamrick and Felix Ward (See Memories for an account of how PalmerĀ“s log book was preserved).

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