Jim Conlan - Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Jim Conlan

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat

 

Date and Place of Birth: December 7, 1916 Toledo, OH
Date and Place of Death:    April 2, 2009 Lake Ridge, VA
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Outfield
Rank: Captain
Military Unit:  95th Bomb Squadron of the 17th Bomb Group US Army Air Force
Area Served: Mediterranean Theater of Operations

James E. Conlan, son of Edward and Anna Conlan, was born on December 7, 1916, in Toledo, Ohio. The family later moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Edward worked as a deputy clerk in the County Clerk's Office. James attended the University of Detroit, which had no baseball team, but he played for local independent teams, and played tackle on the university football team. He graduated in 1937. He played professional baseball in 1938, playing 103 games as an outfielder with the Salisbury Indians of the Class D Eastern Shore League, batting .312 and hitting 28 home runs. He also played 12 games with the Spartanburg Spartans of the Class B South Atlantic League, and batted .214. In 1939, he joined the Oswego Netherlands of the Class C Canadian-American League, and batted .335 in 118 games with 18 home runs.

On September 8, 1939, Conlan was purchased by the New York Yankees for a cash sum and three players. His baseball career appeared to have a promising future, but the 23-year-old decided to retire from baseball and returned to Detroit where he worked as a salesman. In 1941, Conlan briefly reappeared in organized baseball, playing six games with the Utica Braves of the Canadian-American League, before entering military service. Conlan served 10 months as a private first-class in the Coastal Artillery in California, where he was a sound locater directing searchlights. Conlan later transferred to aviation and earned his pilot's wings at Williams Field, Arizona, in June 1942, being commissioned a lieutenant. He then went to Shreveport, Louisiana, to train for six weeks as a bomber pilot.

First Lieutenant Conlan served with the 95th Bomb Squadron of the 17th Bomb Group in North Africa. He flew 47 missions, piloting the North American B-25 Mitchell and the Martin B-26 Marauder, earning the Air Medal with seven clusters and the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. He also flew the Douglas C-47 Skytrain cargo plane, dropping paratroopers and supplies throughout the Mediterranean Theater.

Attaining the rank of captain, Conlan returned home to Detroit in 1945, and enjoyed a long career in sales and marketing with the General Motors Corporation, retiring in 1981. A Eucharistic Minister in the Catholic Church, Conlan volunteered extensively in his hometown, and was a director and multi-term president of the board of the St. Francis Home for Boys.

Jim Conlan passed away on April 2, 2009, at Westminster Retirement Community in Lake Ridge, Virginia. He was 92 years old and is buried at Fairfax Memorial Park in Fairfax, Virginia.

Date Added February 1, 2018

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