P-51 MUSTANG PILOT
343rd Fighter Squadron - 55th Fighter Group
Jordan Eliades was born in East Ely, NV. He was the eldest son of Greek immigrants, Georgιos and Mary Eliades from Asia Minor. He grew up with five siblings, with six additional, that never made it to adulthood. His family moved to the Kennecott Copper Company town, of McGill, Nevada at the age of five to start school at McGill Elementary. His first language was Greek and he learned English at school to share with his family at home. Every day after school he attended Greek School, at St Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, McGill, NV. In his high school years, he would ride the company train 13 miles each way to attend White Pine High School, in Ely, NV, where he was a standout athletically as well as academically, graduating in 1940. He was honored in the first White Pine Hall of Fame induction group in 1993. After his graduation, he stayed home a year to work and financially assist his family. His Freshman year began at the University of Nevada, Reno, in 1941. His father died in a mining accident in 1942 leaving his mother and five siblings.
Eliades accepted a football scholarship to the University of Nevada in Reno and was a freshman when Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. His nickname 'Turk' was given to him by his childhood friends in McGill, Nev., because of his heritage from Asia Minor, which was occupied completely by Turks in 1922.
"All the kids had nicknames. I have a book with the nicknames for every kid in that town. A bunch of us kids were playing in the back yard. My mom and dad are talking, and they were talking Turkish. That's where it came from. My mom really used to get upset about that! We had just finished our last game when we declared war on Japan. I knew I'd have to go in (the service) one way or another."
Eliades was among a group of students who headed to Sacramento.
"The Air Force sounded good to me so I applied.I signed up in 1943 in Sacramento and I was called in the service in January of 1943 I think it was Jan. 2, 1943. I had to report to Salt Lake City. Τhey sent me to Fresno California for what we call boot camp everyone had to do that you spent 30 days there then from there I went to Santa Ana California that was what we call pre-flight."
Eliades was assigned to Tucson, Ariz., where he learned to fly. Then he was sent to Bakersfield where according to his statement he learned more about flying there than at any other time. He was eventually went to Luke Field in Phoenix where he graduated and commissioned for duty. Eliades was sent to San Antonio, Texas, to be an instructor, a testament to his flying skills and then sent back to Bakersfield and assigned to Minter Field in Shafter where he spent several months instructing cadets. Eventually, Eliades and some of his fellow instructors signed up to go overseas. He was assigned to the 55th FG and specifically to the 343rd FS, however, he was trained first on the P-51 Mustang in Goxhill with the 496th Fighter Training Group (FTG).
"We trained in P40s all the time I was in the States. When we got to England, we got checked out in a P51. When I hit that accelerator, the difference between that P40 and that P51 was night and day. … It was just a superior airplane. Most of what we did was strafing. We'd strafe airfields. We'd meet the bombers at a certain point, escort them to the target and come back with them until they were in friendly territory. Then we'd go and look for airfields to strafe."
Eliades recalled only one time when he went against German fighters on 2 November 1944, where he has credited with a half kill along with 1st Lt. Bartlett.
"All of a sudden we got involved with a bunch of them and I got on the tail of one of them and I shot him down. German fighters preferred not to take on the American fighters. They didn't make any attempt to fight with us at all. They just zoomed down to get back to the airfields…. The moment you decided you wanted to do something, they just took off."
Above and Middle: Various photos of Jordan 'Turk' Eliades during his service in WW2 as a P-51 pilot and after the war as a very successful coach and teacher. A patriot who rushed to enlist to USAAF with the outbreak of WW2, Eliades will always be remembered for his peaceful work. Turk had dual interests in his 32 years at The North High-his football team and his mathematics classes. He felt like he had the best of both worlds as a high school teacher, bringing math’s accuracy to the football field, and, football’s passion for the classroom. His ex-football players and students remember him as both emotional and inspirational. He taught them about football and math, but even more about life. He taught them to believe in themselves and the value of family and friends most of all. (Jeff Evans - https://www.bakersfield.com)
Below: Capt. Robert L Buttke. 343rd Fighter Squadron. P-51D 44-15025 CY-F "Beautiful Lovenia". Although the serial cannot be seen properly in this shot, this is most likely Lt. Buttke's a/c which was lost on 17 April 1945 with Lt. Philip A Erby being Killed in action whilst flying it. Lovenia was the crew chief's wife. ( Frank Birtciel via Peter Randall - http://www.littlefriends.co.uk)
On 20 November 1944, whilst Greek American Jordan Eliades flying a fighter escort mission for the USAAF bombing operation against Bonn, the P-51D-5-NA 44-14535 was hit by Flak near Tilburg (Noord-Brabant), Netherland and crashed. Eliades joined the 55th FG and 343rd FS on 1 October 1944 and didn't have an assigned fighter to himself. The 44-14535 was the personal mount of Lt. John Courtney who often flew as a wingman to the squadron's ground ace, Cpt. Frank E. Birtciel. 55th Fighter Group aircraft noses received green-yellow checkerboards for better mid-air recognition. The same colors appeared on the propeller spinners. Typical for this unit was the coloration of its Mustangs fuselages when the olive drab antiglare panel was extended to the rear fuselage, however, this practice didn't last long and the mustang removed the olive drab from the fuselage soon. The yellow rudder was the 343rd FS recognition marking. (Copyright Gaetan Marie)
Eliades' aircraft had a mechanical problem, during a mission in November 1944. He was able to put the plane down on a plowed field and was uninjured.
"Here comes the farmers and everything else, I was in France and nobody could speak English. I was very fortunate."
Eliades was quickly reunited with his squadron. He wasn't as fortunate in a subsequent mission on 20 November, which according to his statement was led by an inexperienced officer. It was an overcast day and Eliades brought his plane below the cloud cover.
"I remember calling him specifically: 'Are you sure we're in friendly territory? He said yeah. All of a sudden, I fly right over a flak battery. I got a jolt on the airplane. At first, I wasn't sure anything was wrong. But then I could see the tracers coming and I knew I wasn't in friendly territory."
Eliades knew he was in trouble. He was able to climb to about 1,000 feet so he could bail out safely. He ended up in a ditch.
"The next thing I know there's a German soldier pointing his gun at me from the top of the bank. I'm getting my hands up in the air. So that was the end of it."
Eliades was brought to a prisoner of war camp near the German town of Barth, where he'd remain for about six months until the camp was liberated. Eliades spoke to many high school students about that experience.
"The first thing they want to know: Did they beat you?. That was not the case at all."
But he was interrogated.
"The guy's asking you a lot of questions about the 8th Air Force. He knew more about the 8th Air Force than I did. … I told them all I had to do was give my name, rank, and serial number."
During his time in the POW camp, Eliades said the worst thing he saw was an American prisoner shot to death.
"But it wasn't the fault of the Germans. It was the fault of the individual. It happened to be that there was an air raid. The moment you had an air raid the siren would go on and you had to get back into the barracks. On this day, the prisoner stayed outside waving his arms at the planes flying overhead. And we're screaming at him, 'Get the hell back in the barracks' and he wouldn't go. They turned the guys on him and they shot him right there. They were making every effort to get everyone back in those barracks."
According to Eliades, the prisoners in his compound were able to keep abreast of what was happening with the war because one of the men had put together a makeshift radio. One day he saw Americans in the guard towers. The Germans had pulled out the previous night and the Russians liberated the camp later that day. One more tragedy remained. Eliades and one of his buddies left the camp and walked toward a nearby town. A group surrounded the bodies of a German family.
"This guy had a youngster, maybe a 4- to 5-year old with his wife. The guy took a gun and killed everybody, killed himself and everyone in the family. He had such a fear, I guess, of what the Russians were going to do."
When Eliades and his buddy reached the town, it was a rat race. The Russians were going crazy. They were bringing stuff out, burning it, chasing the women, stuff like that.
"Matter of fact, it got so bad the German people came to the camp and asked us for protection from the Russians. What happened afterward, I don't know."
Eliades and the other liberated American POWs were sent to Camp Lucky Strike in France, then to England before returning to the US.
"We had a two-week leave, and then we were to report back to Santa Ana. That's where we were going to be reassigned to the Asiatic theater."
The war ended before Eliades was sent to the Far East. For his actions, he was awarded the Air Medal, the Purple Heart, and POW Medal. He returned to the United States continuing his education, graduating in 1948. During this time he met his future wife, Frances Cook 'Cookie' and his daughter was born. He was president of his fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, and a member of the famous University of Nevada Salad Bowl Team of 1947. They moved to Los Angeles, California, where he completed his Master's Degree at USC. They then followed his White Pine High School coach, Dan Bledsoe, to Shafter High School, where he taught and coached 1950-53. At that time they were one of the many families living in Kern Homes. In 1953, he was hired as an original staff member opening North High School. He taught Advanced Algebra, Head Varsity Football Coach, and golf coach until his retirement in 1985. The football field was dedicated and named in his honor, 1992. He is a local inductee in the Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame, 1991. In 2013, he was a member of the first induction into the North High School Athletics Hall of Fame. In 1987, he was recognized for countless officiating hours and inducted into the Kern County Official Association Hall of Fame. He always had a summer job, which included Minter Field recreation director, Kern County Agriculture inspector and table grape growers, Kovacevich Farms, Arvin, CA, 1959-2002, retiring at 80 years old. In his retirement, he was a devoted family man, gardener, hunter and fisherman, world traveler, sports enthusiast, mathematics tutor, avid LA Lakers fan, March Madness follower, cigar aficionado, champion of all things North High School and Oildale, a friend to many, and a lifelong golfer. A highlight he was proud of was scoring a hole-in-one and taking home a Lincoln Continental Mark IV. He achieved the milestone of shooting his age in golf multiple times. He and Cookie traveled all over the United States attending 55th Fighter Group Reunions, where they made many new and lasting friendships. They always extended the trip seeing the sights and making visits to numerous family and friends. Jordan Eliades, died with his children, in his home of 61 years, late evening, December 15, 2016, five days short of his 94th birthday.
Above: Lt. Bartlett and Lt. Eliades combat report regarding their engagement with a Luftwaffe Me109 which they shot down and credited half kill each. (AFHRA 55th FG History - Reel B170)
Middle: Stalag Luft I was the prisoner of war (POW) camp in which the Greek American pilot transferred after he was captured by German troops following his successful bailout from his Mustang. It was located near Barth, Western Pomerania, Germany, for captured Allied airmen. The presence of the prison camp is said to have shielded the town of Barth from Allied bombing. About 9,000 airmen – 7.588 American and 1.351 British and Canadian – were imprisoned there when it was liberated on the night of 30 April 1945 by Russian troops. Between 13–15 May, the camp was evacuated by American aircraft in "Operation Revival". The British POWs were returned directly to Great Britain, while the Americans were sent to Camp Lucky Strike north-east of Le Havre, France, before being shipped back to the United States (Wikipedia)
Below: Jordan 'Turk' Eliades with a P-51 model, made by fellow coach Harvel Pollard which Pollard named "Cookie," after Eliades' wife. (https://www.bakersfield.com/)
55th Fighter Group Archives from AFHRA (Air Force History Research Agency)
Air Force vet Eliades still an institution at North 31 years after retiring, by Jeff Evans - https://www.bakersfield.com/sports/air-force-vet-eliades-still-an-institution-at-north-31-years-after-retiring/article_81e5fe31-30f1-5888-bf3b-102779fdb656.html
Special Thanks to AFHRA officer, Tammy Horton Civ. USAF AFHRA/RSR, Peter Randall and Donald Mounts (Global Military Research, LLC)