We Swoop at Dawn

We came across another poem in our archives that you may or may not have already seen elsewhere. The writer, a Capt. John Carpenter, recounts the events of a typical bombing mission out in the Pacific Theater.

We Swoop at Dawn-Capt John Carpenter p 1

 

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One Minute in Hell

A painting of a 38th Bomb Group B-25 over a Japanese ship during WWII

On November 2, 1943, the Fifth Air Force launched a massive low-level attack by B-25 strafer-bombers against harbor installations and shipping at the major Japanese fleet anchorage and base at Rabaul, New Britian. In the vanguard of the 71st Squadron’s strike, 1/Lt. James A. Hungerpiller flying SLEEPY TIME GAL and 1/Lt. J. E. Orr can be seen engaging their targets at mast-top heights. In the face of the hundreds of antiaircraft guns, Lt. Hungerpiller opened fire on two destroyers, scoring a direct hit with one of his bombs. Meanwhile, Lt. Orr opened fire on a harbor merchant ship while Lt. Hungerpiller’s aircraft quickly began to lose altitude because of severe AA damage. Recognizing the plight of this aircraft, he made a sharp right turn toward to heavy cruisers anchored just off the western shore of the harbor.

This painting depicts Lt. Hungerpiller’s SLEEPY TIME GAL, trailing a plume of fire and smoke, crossing beyond the bow of the heavy cruiser Haguro. In the background, Lt. Orr is opening fire on the Japanese merchant ship. With his left engine on fire and the aircraft severely damaged from a fuel tank explosion, Lt. Hungerpiller soon lost control his aircraft and plunged into the sea.

 

This painting, part of a limited edition series by Steve Ferguson, can be purchased on our website.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day

National POW/MIA Recognition Day began in 1998 to remind us of our service members who are still missing and recognize those who were prisoners of war. This day lands on the third Friday of September each year. Currently, there are more than 82,000 missing Americans, most of whom were lost during World War II.

From DPAA: As this map shows, at present, more than 82,000 Americans remain missing from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and the Gulf Wars/other conflicts. Out of the 82,000 missing, 75% of the losses are located in the Asia-Pacific, and over 41,000 of the missing are presumed lost at sea (i.e. ship losses, known aircraft water losses, etc.). *Reflects actual number still unaccounted-for. PMKOR database count is slightly higher due to several entries pending administrative review. *As part of DPAA’s data consolidation effort we have validated the number of missing from WWII. This new figure reflects the elimination of duplicative records, erroneous entries, and information that demonstrates the individual was properly accounted for by the appropriate authorities before our Agency inherited those responsibilities. (Click on the image to visit the DPAA’s page with this graphic in a larger format.)

The U.S. Government’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency is working to find and identify the remains of missing Americans all around the globe. So far, 146 missing personnel have been accounted for this year. Privately, organizations such as Pacific Wrecks and The Bent Prop Project are also working towards the same goal.

Take some time to remember those who are still missing or were POWs and reread some of their stories. They will not be forgotten.

How to Make a Volcano Explode (or not)

In late March 1943, Rabaul was (unsurprisingly) still the top target of Allied raids. For two days, March 20th and 21st, the 65th Squadron was on alert to fly a mission to Vunakanau Airdrome, and the mission was cancelled each day because of less than optimal weather. All four of the 43rd’s squadrons were put on alert on the 22nd for another Rabaul raid, and they were able to take off from Seven Mile on the night of the 22nd, which would have them arriving over Rabaul on the 23rd.

The B-17s made their appearance known by dropping bombs on Rabaul before sunrise. Since there was no daylight, the crews could not observe their results, but searchlights were following the B-17s everywhere. While several planes were holed by antiaircraft fire, none were seriously damaged and all returned to base without issue.

Rabaul was the proverbial thorn in Fifth Air Force’s side and it’s possible that more than a few men were wishing for a quick way to shut down this Japanese stronghold. Several of them came up with a theory to test out: using Matupi Volcano to their advantage, specifically by using bombs to make it explode, thereby wiping out Rabaul. Major Carl A. Hustad took off with his bombardier on the 23rd to carry out this mission. The two 2000-pound bombs were dropped into the crater with no results. Afterwards, personnel realized how silly the idea was in the first place.

 

Rabaul Volcanos

Taken in 1941, this photo shows the topography of the Rabaul area. Matupi Volcano can be seen in the background.

This story can be found in our book Ken’s Men Against the Empire.