Looking Back at Our Top Posts of 2016

It’s that time of year again. Time for us to list our most popular posts published this year as determined by the number of views. Did your favorite post make the list?

This year has been our best year yet and it’s all thanks to you, our readers. Thank you for your continued support by subscribing, reading and sharing our work, and buying our books. If there’s anything you’d like to see more of, let us know in the comments. We’ll be back next year with more great content.

 
Marauder at Midway by Jack Fellows1. Marauder at Midway An amazing painting done by Jack Fellows illustrating a B-26 speeding over the deck of the Akagi during the Battle of Midway.

 
THE "STEAK & EGG" SPECIAL's new fuselage2. Building the Steak and Egg Special How a group of 3rd Bomb Group mechanics built their own plane from two scrapped A-20s.

 

IHRA screen shot of work in progress 3 and 4. Behind the Scenes at IHRA and From a Layout to a Book: Behind the Scenes at IHRA We took you backstage for a look at how we compile our research and turn everything into a book.

5. Surprise over Gusap A member of the 38th Bomb Group writes about a terrifying experience on a raid.

Corregidor Island Then and Now6. The Same Places, 70+ Years Apart—Six WWII Bases Then and Now We took some of our photos from the Pacific Theater and compared them with recent satellite images to see what has changed in 70+ years.

Ken's Men Against the Empire, Volume I7. Announcing the release of Ken’s Men Against the Empire Vol. I We were thrilled to tell you the news of the publishing of a new book in March. We have received excellent feedback on our newest addition to the EOP series, the first part of the 43rd Bomb Group’s history.

Advertisements

Big Nimbo

We are highlighting one of the 22nd Bomb Group’s B-24s this week. Its profile history, as well as those of 47 other aircraft from the unit, can be found in Appendix V of Revenge of the Red Raiders.

BIG NIMBO, named after a character from the Lil’ Abner comic strip, was flown to the Southwest Pacific out of Hamilton Field, California on orders dated January 12, 1944, with a destination of the Fifth Air Force Replacement Center at Amberley Field. It was part of a batch of 14 Liberators that had been assigned to newly trained crews at Herington and Topeka, Kansas during December 1943. BIG NIMBO’s ferry crew, led by 2/Lt. George H. Bailey, is believed to have named the aircraft and had the nose art applied before it left the States. While several of the ferry crews were forwarded to other units as replacements, all 14 of the planes in this detachment ended up forming part of the initial complement of B-24s that equipped the 22nd Bomb Group. Seven went to the 33rd, four to the 19th, two to the 2nd and one to the 408th.

The bomber initially went through theater modification before being assigned during February to the 19th Squadron at Charters Towers, Queensland, where it was undergoing transition training. It thus became one of the 13 Liberators assigned to the unit during January and February 1944,with whom it returned to combat operations out of Nadzab in March. The new B-24 was assigned to a ground maintenance crew led by T/Sgt. Jesse G. Smith, a veteran crew chief who had served with the unit from its inception.

Sometime just before the plane was flown to Nadzab, it received its new aircraft designator, a large black “P” that was AV-37 centered on the white patch on the outboard side of both vertical stabilizers. The prominent nickname and nose art appeared only on the right side of the nose. No scoreboard or mission symbols were ever applied. As was typical at the time, the prop hubs were painted in white, the Squadron color. Our profile painting represents the aircraft in these markings as it would have appeared at Nadzab about July 1944.

22BG B-24 Big Nimbo nose art

The artwork for BIG NIMBO was almost certainly put on the aircraft back in the States by the crew that ferried it overseas. The cartoon character was from the Lil’ Abner comic series in the newspapers of the time. This plane was one of the original B-24Js assigned to the 19th Squadron at Charters Towers, Queensland, during February, 1944, and was one of the few in that unit to carry nose art. It was written off in a landing accident at Owi Island on July 25, 1944, with 2/Lt. James H. Shipler at the controls. (Claude V. Burnett Collection)

The 19th Squadron’s Air Echelon, including BIG NIMBO, moved from Charters Towers to the new Squadron base at Nadzab, New Guinea, on February 28th, and within a few days was ready to get back into action. Captain George I. Moleski piloted the Liberator on the Group’s first B-24 combat mission on March 10th, a strike against Lugos Plantation on Manus Island. A few days later on March 16th, Capt. Jesse G. Homan was at the controls over Wewak when a burst of flak exploded between the number one and two engines. One of the shrapnel fragments penetrated the fuselage and damaged the hydraulic system, which began leaking badly. After using all the spare hydraulic fluid aboard, the engineer collected urine from the crewmembers and added it to the fluid reservoir. This kept the hydraulic system working until Homan could bring it down to an emergency landing at the forward fighter base at Gusap. During the next three weeks a maintenance crew repaired the plane and the B-24 was flown back to Nadzab, where it returned to combat on April 8th. The crew never mentioned having added urine to the reservoir.

The plane served with the Squadron throughout the Nadzab era, but as was the general practice at the time, it had no specific crew assigned. During the 23 combat missions completed and two more from which it aborted, this B-24 it was piloted by crews led by 16 different pilots; only one flew it more than twice. That crew, led by Capt. Ferdinand R. Schmidt, put six of the last 14 missions on the bomber.

BIG NIMBO’s last combat mission was on July 1, 1944, when Capt. Schmidt flew the plane on a strike against personnel and supply dumps at Kamiri Village on Noemfoor Island. Because of the lack of suitable targets within range, and preparations for a move to Owi Island, the unit flew few missions during the month of July. During this time the B-24s were heavily committed to shuttling equipment and supplies to the new base. The 19th’s Air Echelon moved to Owi on July 24th, but BIG NIMBO, carrying a large amount of equipment and a full load of frag bombs, experienced a partial brake failure while taxiing for departure. The pilot, 2/Lt. James H. Shipler, brought the plane back to its hardstand and a corroded valve in the hydraulic system was replaced. The next day, Shipler took off and had an uneventful flight to Owi. However, when the plane touched down, he had trouble with the left brake. The pilot immediately applied full throttle to the number four engine to compensate, but the right wing of the Liberator hit and badly damaged the nose and cockpit of a B-25 parked along the runway, tearing away several feet of its own wing in the process. Upon inspection it was found that the entire hydraulic system on BIG NIMBO had been badly corroded, undoubtedly as a result of the acidic urine put in it back on March 16th. The aircraft was deemed unfit for repair, and both it and the B-25 were subsequently salvaged for parts. Four months later the Liberator was officially removed from the Government’s inventory on December 8th.

BIG NIMBO flew the following combat missions, all from Nadzab: Lugos Plantation, 3/10 (Moleski); Boram Airdrome, 3/12 (Dorfler) and 3/13 (Parker); Hansa Bay, 3/14 (Clarey); Wewak, 3/15 (Moleski) and 3/16 (Homen); Hollandia and Marienburg, 4/8 (Nicholson); Dagua, 4/9 (Paffenroth); Hansa Bay, 4/10 and 4/11 (Smith); Boram Airdrome (abort), 4/23 (Thunander); Sarmi, 5/7 (Schmidt); Wadke, 5/11 (Harvey); Sawar, 5/13 (Schmidt); Wakde, 5/16 (Schmidt); Biak, 5/22 (Schmidt); Hansa Bay, 5/23 (Clarey); Biak (weather abort), 5/27 (Homen); Kamiri Airdrome, 5/28 (Finley); Biak, 5/29 (Almon); Peleliu Airdrome (takeoff abort), 6/13 (Shipler); Kamiri Airdrome, 6/20 (Haines) and 6/25 (Schmidt); Cape Kornasoren, 6/26 (Markey); and Kamiri, 7/1 (Schmidt).

Pearl Harbor II: Attack on Clark Field

A few days prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Maj. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, commander of the U.S. air forces in the Philippines, was closely watching the deterioration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Japan. A 500 mile gap that stood between the 35 B-17s under his command at Clark Field and Japanese air forces at Formosa, which was well within flying range of Japanese fighters. Concerned, Brereton requested permission to move the B-17s 500 miles south to the airfield on Del Monte, which was still under construction. On December 4th, permission was granted to move eight planes each from the 14th and 93rd Bomb Squadrons of the 19th Bomb Group.

Four days later (since they were on the other side of the International Date Line), word of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor quickly spread around Clark Field and the men stationed there knew that it was only a matter of time before their base was attacked. Three times, Brereton requested permission to attack Formosa, which, owing to the chaos in Hawaii, was denied. Still, at 0830 15 B-17s took off to patrol the area. Brereton received a call from MacArthur himself a couple of hours later, granting him permission for the strike.

As crews prepared for the attack, a radar station on the west coast of Luzon at Iba Airfield picked up incoming Japanese aircraft before communications were cut off as the airfield was attacked. They would arrive over Clark Field within an hour. When the raid on Clark Field began, only the P-40s had been able to take off and they had been diverted from protecting Clark Field. Just like the scene at Pearl Harbor, B-17s were lined up on the runway, easy targets for the 53 “Betty” bombers above. The Japanese had expected a fierce fight from the Americans instead of a repeat of what happened hours earlier in Hawaii. Men could only watch helplessly from foxholes as their planes were bombed and strafed. In the end, most of the B-17s and about a third of the P-40s were destroyed.

In the days following the Clark Field attack, most of the 19th Bomb Group air and ground crews were moved to Del Monte. The few that stayed behind tried to repair some of the B-17s that had been damaged and to stage missions. Between combat and reconnaissance missions and being on the receiving end of several Japanese strikes, the number of operational B-17s dwindled. Allied forces had to withdraw to Java by the end of December 1941 and on February 26, 1942, all forces were ordered to withdraw from Java to Australia. By this point, the 19th Bomb Group’s replacement, the 43rd Bomb Group was sailing toward Australia on the Queen Mary.

Housing, Hygiene, Laundry, and Food

This excerpt comes from a memoir written by 1/Lt. Robert Mosely of the 89th Squadron, 3rd Bomb Group. Given the mention of the Philippines, the events below would have taken place in late 1944 or 1945.

 

As described earlier, our tent, up on a wooden floor, was a great improvement over out “housing” in New Guinea. I mentioned it earlier but when I got that air mattress in the Philippines it made a world of difference in my sleeping routine. Those Army cots, where I hung over at each end, made sleeping very tough. I must say, as stated earlier though, that I never had trouble sleeping the night before a mission, even on those Army cots; it was uncomfortable but I slept. I do not quite know how to explain it because I do not think of myself as being all that brave but that was the way it was in that war … You would think that knowing you might get killed the next day would make your heart beat a little faster.

While on the subject of housing, we had a happening one night in our area that was quite exciting. It involved centipedes; lots of them. It happened about 3 am one morning. I was awakened almost simultaneously with a sharp pain in my head and the noise of the other guys howling and lamps coming on throughout the area (we had lamps, no electric lights). It was raining and it was the first real hard rain at the start of the monsoon season and it probably flooded those big 4-inch long centipedes out of their ground nests. They then crawled the foundations of our wooden floored tents and into out bunks. They then started stinging the first thing that disturbed them. That was a real live nightmare. It was strange that it happened to all of us at almost exactly the same time. There must have been at least six of us that got stung. There was not much sleep the remainder of the night and there were all sorts of centipede stories the next day.

With regard to hygiene, in the Philippines, we showered in a makeshift thing that was made out of an old 50-gallon oil drum. It was mounted up on a scaffold like thing a little higher than our heads. A spout came out of the bottom of it. Somehow water was pumped up and into the barrel and stored there. You then would simply open the spout to take you shower. It sounds crude but I am almost ashamed to mention it when I think about those poor Army ground guys fighting those Japs in those nearby islands. I remember one period we were giving close air support to them when they were fighting on the island of Negros. They were all dug in there in their trenches which we could plainly see as we flew over. They would even wave at us. They would shoot artillery shells over into the area where the Japs were, to show us where they wanted us to attack. We would then set up sort of a traffic pattern going in at tree top level over them and then on over to the area they marked for us to attack. We would shoot and bomb anything that moved and if it did not move we bombed and strafed anyhow … after one of these missions I would go back to my tent and could have a drink of combat whiskey they would give us to steady our nerves if we thought we needed it (which I didn’t), take a shower, eat some kind of a meal, and then sleep on my air mattress with a clean sheet. Then the next day we might go back to the same target to help them out again and there would be those same guys down there in that trench waving at us again but you can only imagine what had happened to them in the meantime. You can bet that they had no whiskey, shower, food served on a plate, or a bed to sleep in. Additionally they were probably scared stiff that they might be overrun by Japs that night or that one might sneak into their area under cover of darkness and cut a few throats.

Squadron Shower

Dated February 1943, this photo shows the shower area that was built for one of the 3rd Bomb Group’s squadrons while they were in New Guinea.

 

With regard to laundry, we could get little Filipino girls, that were always around where there were troops, to do the laundry for a very small charge. (The native girls in New Guinea had done the same thing for us while we were in New Guinea). It was cute to watch the little Filipino girls doing the laundry. They would take the clothes down to a nearby stream and they would beat the bejeazers out of them over the rocks at the edge of the stream. I guess the rock was the equivalent of the old washboard. I do not think that they had any soap but the clothes always felt better when you put them back on than they did when you took them off.

With regard to food — It was always bad to awful and it got worse in the Philippines than it had been in New Guinea. But, it was likely a lot better than what that Army guy was getting in that trench down on the island of Negros. He was probably getting some of those K-rations that I saw the mountains of on the beach the day we landed on Leyte back in November. I often wondered why we never got any of those things because they would have been better than some of the stuff they were feeding us. They only time we ever got a decent meal was when our cooks would get some whiskey and go down to the docks, there by the airstrip, and exchange the whiskey and some of our bad food for some of that good Navy food. I cannot impress on you enough just how much better the Navy food was than ours. The deal on this whiskey swap thing (I was told) was that the Navy cooks could sluff off some of our bad food on their guys every so often and end up with a bunch of booze (that seemingly the Navy couldn’t get otherwise) and we would get one good meal every now and then, thanks to the cooks coming up with the booze for the swap.

One time the food not only got worse; there was hardly any of it (even bad food). Something must have gone wrong because we were basically out of food and that is not supposed to happen to us Air Corps guys. One day during this period I was down at the flight line and a Sailor walked into our area and said he would sure like to take a ride in one of our airplanes. In so many words I told him I would take him for a ride if he could get us some food. He said that was a deal and told me that if we would come down to his ship at a certain time that night we could come aboard and take all of the food, from down in the hold of his ship, that we wanted. Now, he was going to get his airplane ride but I had no guarantee that I was going to get any food. In fact it sounded like a fishy deal but we needed food so I put him up in that area where you could lay down behind the pilot in a A-20 and gave him a ride he probably never forgot and sent him happily on his way. That night Morgan, Smith and I got a Jeep and went down to the docks and found his ship and so help me there was no one around. It is hard to believe that in wartime such a thing was possible but that was the way it was. We went aboard and I went down in the hold of the ship and there were boxes and boxes of food. I started throwing boxes up out of the hold to Morgan who was on the deck and Smith was taking them off of the ship down to the jeep. I must have tossed 6 or more boxes to Morgan but suddenly Morgan was no longer there. I called for him and there was no answer.

After a bit I decided that something must have happened so I climbed out of the hold and found that I was the only person around; there was no Morgan, no Smith, and no Jeep. It was kind of like a bad dream. I was wondering what I was doing there. I knew what I went there for but suddenly being all alone I was beginning to wonder if what appeared to be happening was in fact really happening. I just stood there for awhile not knowing what to do. I had no transportation (and certainly had no business being on that boat) and wondered how I could get back to my camp, which was several miles away. So I just sat down on the barrier like thing, around the hold, and tried to think how to get out of that bad dream. I must have sat there for 5 or 10 minutes (still no one around) when I saw the lights of a vehicle approaching the dock. I could soon tell that it was a Jeep and shortly I could tell that it was Morgan and Smith. I hurried off of the ship and ran down to meet them and immediately started giving them hell for running off and leaving me.

They did have a half ass excuse, when Smith explained that on one of his trips to the Jeep, with a box of food, he saw the Shore Patrol coming. He in turn told Morgan and, without saying a word to me, they panicked and jumped in the Jeep and headed out down the road. The Shore Patrol saw them and started chasing them. They tried to turn off on a little side road and turning their lights off but the Shore Patorl was not fooled and caught them. The funny part was that the Shore Patrol somehow had the idea that they had whiskey in those boxes. When they found out it was just food they let them go without asking any further questions. So once they were free, they came back to pick up their old buddy who they had left down in the hold of that ship without so much as a word of warning. Well, I certainly got a glimpse of the true character of those two “buddies”. But I might have done the same thing (I really don’t think I would have) so I forgave them. For about a week we did not go near the mess hall. We ate off of our loot.

That completes Housing, Hygiene, and Food.