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Two WWII Pilots are Heroes from Rose, Wayne County

Updated: Apr 29

Researcher Matt Osborne shares stories of two classmates - View Video of Presentation on YouTube.


In May of 2023, the town of Rose was honored with the return of Army Air Forces 1st Lt. John B. Thomas, a local Rose resident turned World War II pilot who was declared missing in action in 1943. His remains were identified in 2022. Matt Osborne, a military historian and distant relative to Thomas, will come to the Rose Community Building on April 18 at 6pm to talk about the research he has done since then regarding the mission which took Thomas’ life.

Osborne is a former US Army signals intelligence and electronic warfare specialist. Now a military historian, his renewed interest occurred when Thomas’ remains were finally brought home to North Rose in 2023. Osborne will share further research on another local hero, Melvin Donald Putnam, who was also killed while serving as a member of the Army Air Force in 1944. Putnam and Thomas were classmates at Rose High School in 1938, which was in the same building where this presentation will be given. Their class photos are still hanging in the hallway.

In addition to Osborne’s research and presentation, Mark DeCracker of Mural Mania will discuss the production of a recent Wayne County Mural honoring these two WWII heroes. The mural was painted inside, over the winter, and will be displayed on stage at the April 18th event. The mural will be hung at the Rose Cemetery with a dedication ceremony on Memorial Day this year. Mural Mania, whose mission is to preserve history through community art, has been involved in painting murals in Wayne County since 2007. There are now over 50 murals in Wayne County. 

This latest mural is called the Heroes of Rose. “The history here was almost forgotten,” DeCracker said.  “When I saw the news of John Thomas coming home, 80 years after he was shot down, chills immediate went down my spine. A few days later I found out that John’s classmate Melvin Donald Putnam, was also shot down later in 1944.” Putnam was involved in Operation Crossbow supporting a B-17 on bombing missions in Southern France. The Army Air Corp required pilots to fly 25 missions before they could come home.  Both Thomas and Putnam flew more. Thanks to the efforts of the Thomas family, the diligence of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency who identified Thomas, and local military historians, these two North Rose heroes will forever be remembered in this mural. Putnam and Thomas are both buried in the Rose Cemetery.


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