On January 8, 1945, the 345th Bomb Group’s 498th and 499th Squadrons were sent to hit Fabrica Airdrome on the Negros Islands. Between the two squadrons, two B-25s were fatally damaged, but they destroyed three Japanese fighters on the ground. One of the two B-25s, PLANE LONESOME, sustained a hit to the right wing tank by machine gun fire. It burst into flame and crashed in a forest, killing all aboard.
As the rest of the planes left the target area and headed home, one of 1/Lt. John B. Boyd’s wingmen noticed a parafrag was caught on the bomb bay doors of Boyd’s brand new B-25J, #44-29352. When Boyd opened the doors, two parafrags drifted away. A third, caught by its chute, exploded after it struck the fuselage of the plane. S/Sgt. William J. McGrath, the crew’s tail gunner, at first thought they had been hit by flak. When he turned around, he saw a three foot hole in the floor between himself and the radio operator, T/Sgt. Robert C. Dusenberry, blown out windows, a four foot gash in the plane’s ceiling, and a small fire that was soon extinguished by the air rushing through the fuselage. McGrath immediately went to the slumped Dusenberry, who had gone into shock due to his injuries from the blast.
McGrath heard the B-25’s engines change pitch as the aircraft started climbing. He thought the pilot was preparing to order the crew to bail out, but he knew Dusenberry would not be able to do so. He quickly hurried to the cockpit to talk with Boyd and convinced him otherwise, then went back to Dusenberry. Within a few minutes McGrath felt the plane descending and once again went forward to voice his concern about he tail breaking off if they ditched in the water. Boyd agreed to keep the plane flying as long as possible.
After a tense hour, the crew sighted Tacloban, though they knew the landing was going to be rough. The tires on the main wheels were torn to pieces by the explosion and they weren’t sure if the fuselage would hold together. Fortunately, Boyd brought the plane down safely. Once the crew was back on the ground and Dusenberry was on his way to being treated for his injuries, another parafrag was discovered hanging in the bomb bay. It was promptly disarmed by the explosive ordnance demolition squad. The formerly new #352 was salvaged.
You can find this and many other stories about the 345th Bomb Group in Warpath Across the Pacific.