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A yardbird is post-Second World War African American slang for "prisoner", from the notion of prison yards. During the Second World War, in the armed forces it meant "basic trainee", as they spent most of their time in the yards.
In the Deep South of the United States, the word also means chicken. In one explanation for American saxophonist Charlie Parker's nickname being "Yardbird", jazz trombonist and blues singer Clyde E. B. Berhardt in his autobiography I Remember: Eighty Years of Black Entertainment, Big Bands, states:
[Parker] told me he got the name Yardbird because he was crazy about eating chicken: fried, baked, boiled, stewed, anything. He liked it. Down there in the South, all chickens are called yardbirds. Every house has some.
Jazz pianist Jay McShann backs up the story in an interview in 1999:
Yardbird was the nickname given to two United States Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress bombers which flew combat missions over Europe during the Second World War. Both bombers were based at RAF Molesworth in England, as part of the 303d Bombardment Group (Heavy). Yardbird (41-24602), piloted by captain John W. Farrar (360th Bombardment Squadron), was shot down by flak and German fighter aircraft on 29 May 1943, near Pleubian, France.
Yardbird II (42-5620), piloted by 1st Lt. Paul S. Tippet (360th Bombardment Squadron), was shot down by two German fighter aircraft over the North Sea, returning from an aborted raid over Embden, on 2 October 1943, with all eleven aboard killed in action. It was one of the group's most successful bombers having completed over 43 missions.
- The Yardbirds, an English rock band
- Railyard, sections of parallel train tracks, where many rail cars are
- Conrad, John P. (March 1985). "Charting a Course for Imprisonment Policy". Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (American Academy of Political and Social Science) 478: 126. doi:10.1177/0002716285478001011. JSTOR 1045954.
- "Army & Navy: In the Rough". Time (Time Publications): 5. July 1943.
- Berhardt, Clyde E. B. (1986). I Remember: Eighty Years of Black Entertainment, Big Bands. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-8122-8018-0. OCLC 12805260.
- Jazzjester (2007). "Jay McShann Biography". Bandleaders of the Great Band Era. Swingmusic.net. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
- Miller, Donald L (2006). Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys who Fought the Air War against Nazi Germany. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. p. 303. ISBN 978-0-7432-3545-7. OCLC 153578358.
- "303rd BG (H) Combat Mission No. 40". Mission Reports. 303rdbg.com. 2001. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
- Astor, Gerald (2003). The Mighty Eighth: the Air War in Europe as Told by the Men Who Fought It. London: Greenhill. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-440-22648-2. OCLC 59528908.
- "303rd BG (H) Combat Mission No. 73". Mission Reports. valerosos.com. 2001. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
- O'Neill, Brian D (1999). Half a Wing, Three Engines and a Prayer: B-17s over Germany. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-07-134145-5. OCLC 40890943.
- O'Neill, Brian D (2003). 303rd Bombardment Group. Oxford: Osprey. p. 115. ISBN 978-1-84176-537-2. OCLC 51779489.