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Archives at The Museum of Flight

John W. Allen World War II Collection

Identifier: 2022-04-29-2
The John W. Allen World War II Collection consists of visual, textual and audiovisual materials documenting Allen's military service as a navigator during the war. Photographic slides documenting the 401st Bomb Squadron's missions from England make up the majority of the collection.

The bulk of the collection consists of 185 35mm color photographic slides taken, for the most part, by Allen during his military service. Twelve slides are informal portraits of Allen during his training in the U.S. The remaining 173 slides primarily depict missions with the 401st Bomb Squadron from Bassingbourn, England over Europe. Images include in-flight shots taken of other aircraft, bombing targets, flak, and aerial views. There are also images of men that Allen served with, including group portraits taken with their B-17, #42-102504 "Time's A-Wastin," as well as images taken from inside the plane of individuals. There are several informal portraits of unidentified servicemen; one image shows Lt. Randall H. Archer holding a Nazi flag. A few slides depict buildings and sites in England. Nose art on the B-17s "Time's A-Wastin," "Qualified Quail" and "Little Patches" is also pictured. A very small number of images depict scenes in the South Pacific from when Allen was serving with the Air Transport Command.

Many of the slides (114) are identified with numerical indexes or notes for slide presentations. However, most of the descriptions are not extensive and images are not dated so cannot be matched to particular missions. Some of the indexes also list slides that are not present in the collection. The 59 slides not identified with indexes are grouped by subject, such as aircraft, aerial views, buildings and people. The majority of slides are originals but some duplicate copies are present. Ten images that were used in the book Serenade to the Big Bird by Bert Stiles were reproduced as 3.5x5-inch prints and also have written descriptions. A roll of black-and-white 35mm film with 26 frames is also present and primarily includes images of soldiers at leisure exploring London. A 5x7-inch color group portrait of the 401st Squadron at a reunion in 2002 is also present.

In addition to the photographic materials, there are three videocassettes documenting the 91st Bomb Group. There is also a typescript draft of an article submitted to World War II Magazine that gives first-hand accounts of the missions of the 401st Squadron. Two small posters produced after the war describe the 91st Bomb Group at Bassingbourn with text and graphics.


  • 1942-1945, 1976-1978, 1996-2002


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. For more information contact us.

Conditions Governing Use

The Museum of Flight (TMOF) Archives is the owner of the physical materials in the archives and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from TMOF archives before any publication use. TMOF does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.


.7 Cubic Feet (1 half-width legal size document box, 3 videocassettes)


John W. Allen was a B-17 navigator during World War II. The collection consists of visual, audiovisual, and textual materials documenting Allen's missions in Europe with the 91st Bomb Group (H), 401st Bomb Squadron.

Biographical Note: John W. Allen

John W. Allen was a B-17 navigator during World War II and later a forester in Washington state.

John William Allen was born August 26, 1923 in Seattle, Washington to Frank Arthur and Hildur E.A. (Peterson) Allen. He grew up in the Queen Anne neighborhod of Seattle, attending John Hay Elementary School. His mother died in 1926 due to complications from an operation, and after that he and his brother Frank went to live with their Aunt Alma and Uncle Art Anderson in Minneapolis, Minnesota for a time. Then they went to Hibbing, Minnesota where they stayed with their Aunt Emma and Uncle Dote Murphy. Their father was a gold miner and when he remarried around 1928 the family returned to Seattle. Allen and his brother then attended Coe Elementary School, completed some high school in Arlington, and then they both graduated from Queen Anne High School in 1940. As a teenager Allen earned money by delivering newspapers and mowing lawns. His father and step-mother divorced in the 1930s. In 1940-1943 Allen attended college, after meeting a forest service employee during a fishing trip who recommended he study forestry at the University of Washington.

On October 26, 1942 he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He trained with the Army Air Corps Navigation School in Hondo, Texas graduating April 8, 1944. He then was assigned to H.E. Garner's B-17 crew in Alexandria, Louisiana. From there he was sent to the North Platte, Nebraska staging area and then Camp Kilmer, New Jersey from which point he was transferred to England. He was assigned to the 91st Bomb Group, 401st Bomb Squadron in Bassingbourn, England, flying on the B-17 "Times A-Wastin." He flew his first mission on August 3, 1944, flew a total of 35 missions, and flew his last one on January 6, 1945. He returned to the U.S. and then reported to the Air Transport Command at Santa Ana, California. He completed more training on navigation and then ferried planes to the Solomon Islands, New Guinea and other places in the Pacific. Because radio silence was observed, all navigation was by celestial observations.

Allen was discharged in September 1945 but remained in the Reserves. He returned to his studies at the University of Washington College of Forestry, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1947 and master's in 1949. Allen then had a career in the forestry industry, working with Nettleton Timber Company in 1947-1949, with the State of Washington Institute of Forest Products as Director of Field Operations from 1949 to 1950, and then with Bloedel Timberland Development Inc. starting in 1951 as a forester. He remained with Bloedel, rising to Forest Manager and then President by 1974. He retired in December 1993 but continued to serve on the Board of Directors and did consulting work.

Allen married a classmate from the University of Washington, Rosemary Bond, in 1947. They had two daughters and one son. He died on October 30, 2011 at his home in Bremerton, Washington.

Biographical sketch derived from donor information.


Materials were grouped by format. Original order was retained where possible when slides were matched to numbered indexes. Slides that could not be matched to indexes were grouped by subject.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by the creator's children.


No further accruals are expected.

Existence and Location of Copies

Materials from this collection have been digitized and are available at The Museum of Flight Digital Collections.

Related Materials at The Museum of Flight

The Museum also has the Dorothy Elizabeth (Baker) Bond World War I Poster Collection which was created by John W. Allen's mother-in-law.
Related Materials at Other Institutions The American Air Museum in Britain (part of the Imperial War Museums) has duplicated copies of many of these photographs in addition to other materials related to bombardier Paul Chryst in their Roger Freeman Collection. An oral history with Paul Chryst is available from Sam Houston State University.

Separated Materials

The following books have been separated from the archival component of this collection and is kept in the Library:
  • How the Gun Works: Caliber .50, M2 Browning Machine Gun
  • Navigator's Information File
Please contact us for more details.

Processing Information

About half of the slides arrived in metal boxes, numbered, and with corresponding numerical indexes, though many of the slides relating to those indexes were not present. Those slides were kept in order and housed together with the indexes. The remaining slides were in no particular order housed in small plastic slide boxes. Slides were removed from all the boxes for preservation purposes and sleeved. As much as possible, the archivist matched duplicates with originals and matched unorganized slides to the numerical indexes when possible. Unmatched slides were placed in folders by subject. Many of these slides have numbers on them, but corresponding indexes have apparently been lost. Eight slides were re-mounted because of broken glass on original mounts or because the film was falling out of the original mount. The roll of black-and-white 35mm film was uncut originally but was cut into strips to fit into sleeves for preservation purposes.
Guide to the John W. Allen World War II Collection
Completed - Level 3
Nicole Davis
2022; 2023
Description rules
Language of description
Edition statement
2nd edition

Revision Statements

  • 2023 April: Addendum added to the collection.

Repository Details

Part of the The Museum of Flight Archives Repository

9404 East Marginal Way South
Seattle Washington 98108-4097

The Museum of Flight | 9404 E. Marginal Way South | Seattle WA 98108-4097 | 206-764-5874
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