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James Vranna and the Rose

7/22/2015:

James Vranna was born on April 4th 1921. He graduated from High School in Taylor, North Dakota and attended collage for 2 years. Jim joined the Army Air Force in 1942, trained as a pilot and ended up getting his wings as a 2nd Lieutenant, flying the B-17 Flying Fortress.

In the summer of 1944, Jim flew to England and was assigned to a Bomb Group at Grafton Underwood.

The evening of August 4th 1944, Jim volunteered to copilot a B-17. They were to try out a new engine that just had been installed.

James took off with Lieutenant Howard Jung as pilot, and 3 additional crew members.

Lieutenant Jung gained altitude while James was making performance checks on the new engine.

Before they realized it, a thick fog had rolled in and before they had a chance to land, the ground was totally obscured. To make matters worse, it was also getting dark.

Tower Flying Control tried using flares to guide the aircraft in. Jung made two passes over the field but could not land. On his third pass the aircraft’s wing tip struck a tree and the B-17 crashed and caught fire.

All on board were killed except for James, who suffered major multiple injuries and third degree burns. Jim’s injuries were so bad that the first accident report listed him as a fatality.

Jim was sent back to the states and spent the next three years recovering in hospitals. One day when Jim was at a hospital in Phoenixville Pennsylvania, and feeling down, a kind nurse laid a beautiful rose on the table next to his bed. Jim concentrated on the beauty of that rose and it encouraged him to look forward to the future. That rose strengthened his faith and awakened in him his lifelong interest in gardening.

Upon recovering, Jim returned home to North Dakota and completed his degree at Dickinson State College. On December 26, 1948, Jim married Viola Boschee. The couple spent the next decade in Taylor, where they both taught. Jim also served as principal, coach and athletic director.

The Vrannas moved to Washburn in 1958, where he continued to teach and serve as principal. Jim directed many plays and coached student speakers, he also served as Superintendent of Schools.

Jim and Vi raised three sons. He passed away on July 22nd 2012 at the age of 91.

Dakota Datebook written by Scott Nelson

Sources: Jim’s son, Greg Vranna. 384th Bomb Group records and accident report.