James R. Lykens Jr. was born in 1923. He was one of 4 children, including sisters Eva, Ruth and Ella. James was raised from the age of 10 by his Uncle, A. Victor Lykens, who lived in Caln, Pennsylvania (between Coatesville and Downingtown).
James R., Jr. Lykens
James attended schools in Caln where he received the Legion award for his good work. He then attended Coatesville High School where he graduated in 1941. The school yearbook says. “academic…quiet…witty around those he knows best…favorite sport: baseball…Favorite dish: ham and eggs…looking forward to being an aviation mechanic.”
After graduation, James went to school in Williamsport, Pennsylvania for aviation mechanics, after which he obtained employment at the Middletown airport in Harrisburg.
James enlisted in the Army Air Corps on January 7, 1943. After basic training, he received advance training as radio operator/gunner on a B-24 Liberator bomber, in Florida, Nebraska, New Mexico and California. He was sent overseas to the Pacific Theater of operations in January 1944.
James was assigned to the 372nd Bomber Squadron, of the 307th Bomb Group, Heavy.
In a letter to his Uncle, James said he was stationed in the Admiralty Islands, (in the Bismarck Sea just north of New Guinea).
On a mission to bomb Yap Islands (North of New Guinea below Guam) James’s bomber was shot down. Sergeant James Lykens Jr. was Killed In Action on June 25, 1944.
James is honored at the Manila American Cemetery in Fort Bonifacio, Philippines. He received the Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, as well as the Purple Heart.
Ironically, James yearbook photo was printed next to hero Fred Manship, a close friend. Both were Radio Operator/Gunners, and died on missions, but half a world apart.
Source of copy and picture: Chester County Hall of Heroes
We continue to find little pieces of history to help us remember the Coleman crew. The granddaughter of Sgt. Gilbert C. Romero sent me this picture of him, S/Sgt. James R., Jr. Lykens (Ass't Engineer) and T/Sgt. Robert P. Wagoner (Engineer). The three men were part of the original Coleman crew that was put together in Pueblo, CO in November 1943. Although we do not have a lot of details about the location or the timing of this picture, it was likely taken between November 1943 and February 1944 in the states before the crew shipped out to the Pacific. For some reason, Sgt. Romero was replaced in the Pacific and he ended up surviving the war while T/Sgt. Wagoner and S/Sgt. Lykens went down with the Coleman B-24 crew over Yap on June 25, 1944.
Comparing Original Coleman Crew Members vs. Crew Members Shot Down on June 25, 1944 over Yap Island:
The Coleman Crew—Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) #10023:
I’m sure other photos and documents regarding the Coleman crew are still waiting to be discovered and shared. As we continue to search for the plane, it’s so interesting to continue to find pieces of the history. Left to right: Lykens, Romero, Wagoner.