Buzzing the Rivals

By the time March 1945 arrived, the 22nd Bomb Group was packing up for their move to Clark Field around the middle of the month. Their move from the muddy base of Guiuan to dry, dusty Clark Field was welcome, but problematic. The dust got into everything and considerably lowered pilots’ visibility on takeoff. Clark Field wasn’t completely ready to accept a full bomb group, with tents and other buildings still needing to be built.

For a short while, the men slept in the cold night air under the stars, ready to spring into action if any Japanese wandered through camp. This happened on a couple of occasions: once, to blow the tails off C-47s and another night to set a pressurized fuel transfer line on fire.

Soon, a new campsite was designed by Lt. Col. Nicholson and the Group hired Filipinos to do the work. Well-built tents and buildings sprung up and the men happily settled into their new home. They still had to deal with Japanese sneaking in, but that was less of an issue now that they were sleeping in tents again.

The move to Clark Field didn’t stop the rivalry between the 33rd and 408th Squadrons, who continually tried to outdo each other to show which squadron had the best planes and crews.  At the end of a mission, for example, each squadron would make a pass over the landing field in perfect formation. At Clark Field, the campsite was a little ways away from the airstrip. Incoming supply planes would buzz the tents to let the truck drivers know it was time to meet the B-24s at the strip. This inspired a contest between the squadrons.

(Imagine this as a B-24 instead of a B-25.)

408th and 33rd men decided to see which Squadron could do the most exciting buzz job over the camp. The 33rd started the contest by making a low pass a few feet above the tents, generating cheers from the men below. The next day, the 33rd’s fly-by was mentioned by 408th Capt. Bill Goodman to his former co-pilot, 2/Lt. Jake Jacobs, who had delivered a load of supplies. Goodman tried to convince Jacobs to outdo the 33rd on his way back to Guiuan. At first, Jacobs objected to the idea, but then decided otherwise, due to the fact that the weather was perfect and he’d have a lighter aircraft that was easier to maneuver.

Jacobs took off, circled around, then dropped down and flew across the tent rows. He flew low enough that the fuselage was below the tent tops, causing men to dive for the ground when the B-24 came through. As he zipped through a row, he noticed a radio antenna had been added since his last flight. He immediately pulled back on the yoke to gain enough altitude and narrowly avoided hitting the pole.

After headquarters found out about the stunt, future campsite fly-bys were banned. The 408th, though, remained the holder of the best buzz job.

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