We’re always glad to see how much video footage from World War II is so easily accessible to us more than 70 years after it was first taken. This film is no exception. It was meant to introduce life in the Pacific Theater to the men who were transferring over from the European Theater. The film focuses on a familiar bomb group: the 345th. After covering some of the basics in the Pacific, there’s some great footage taken from bombing missions that you won’t want to miss.
Throughout the campaign to drive the Japanese back to Japan during World War II, bomb groups would be ordered to fly ground support missions. This typically meant targeting ammo dumps, Japanese troops and supplies, antiaircraft gun locations and flying night harassment missions.The A-20 was an effective tool for these missions due to its ability to pack a punch and its light, maneuverable design.
At the beginning of April 1945, the 312th Bomb Group carried out missions to support Filipino guerrillas as well as the 33rd and 37th Infantry Divisions. In Formosa, the list of prime targets included rail yards and alcohol plants, which produced some dramatic photography. Compared to the earlier missions flown by the 312th, there was relatively little interception from Japanese pilots. As a result, the American pilots attacked various targets with gusto, destroying warehouses, repair facilities and other buildings, and damaging rail yards and alcohol plants. They used 250-pound parafrags and 100-pound napalm bombs, which started large fires that were still smoking when the 312th was 20 miles out from the target area.
Their results caught the eye of General Kenney, who awarded the 312th with a Distinguished Unit Citation for an “outstanding performance” over the cities of Kyoshito, Eiko, Saiatau, Shinei, Banshiden, Tamazato and Suan Tau. Long distance missions like these pushed the A-20 fuel range to its limits and Kenney praised all those involved in the preparation and execution of the missions. He also commended the pilots and gunners for their target accuracy “at roof-top level with a suddenness and fierceness that prevented the Japanese from offering more than feeble opposition to the devastation bombing and strafing runs…”
This week, we’re listing our most popular posts published this year as determined by the number of views. Did your favorite post make the list?
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. And now, without further ado, our most popular posts of 2018.
1. Remember the 15 The 65th Squadron suffers a terrible loss on a mission to Tainan Airdrome.
3. How Phosphorus was Used in the Pacific Theater During World War II After writing this post, we wanted to dive into the use of phosphorus and how it impacted air missions.
4. Lady Luck’s Unlucky Day LADY LUCK‘s pilots were having an inexplicably hard time taking off from Lipa Airdrome.
5. Your Army in the Making: The Carolina Maneuvers 1941 This video goes into some of the Stateside training done in 1941.
6. Working With the Low Altitude Bombsight This technology was used by a few heavy bomber squadrons to attack shipping targets at night.
We’re heading back to the blog archives once again to bring you a story we first posted in January 2016 about the disabling of a Japanese ship, the Amatsukaze.
On April 5, 1945, Allied intelligence detected a small convoy of Japanese ships sailing up the China coast, from Hong Kong to Amoy (now Xiamen). The short hop, only about 350 miles by ship, was being attempted by two cargo ships, protected by several frigates and a destroyer, the Amatsukaze. These ships were the remnants of the last convoy to attempt the 3000 mile journey from Singapore, off the southern tip of the Malay, to the Japan home islands, through waters patrolled by Allied submarines and aircraft. Already, they had lost a third of their number to bombing attacks. Now that they had set sail, the 345th Bomb Group could get their shot at sinking the convoy ships.
Twenty-four B-25 strafers were sent up to intercept the convoy, and discovered two frigates, Escorts #1 and #134, at 11:30, right where intelligence briefings had predicted. Captain George Musket led the 501st Squadron on a skip-bombing attack against one of the frigates. Musket dropped a bomb which bounced off the water and onto the ship’s deck, where it exploded. Another bomb opened a hole on the frigate’s side, causing it to sink within minutes. The 499th Squadron continued on to the second frigate. Lt. Lester Morton dropped a bomb that exploded just below the waterline, in the ships center. It blew a large hole in the starboard side of the frigate, and it rolled over soon after.
The 498th Squadron, seeing that both ships had already been sunk, decided to circle the second frigate and strafe the Japanese survivors in the water. One of them took this picture as he circled the capsized ship. Crewmen can be seen clinging to the side or bobbing in the water.
The 500th Squadron missed the action entirely. They continued along the coastline, looking for more ships, and after a 10-minute hunt, spotted another promising shape in the water. 1/Lt. George R. Schmidt led his six B-25s on a low-altitude run. The ship was the Amatsukaze, which the B-25 pilots had mistaken for a merchant vessel, perhaps because of its small stature. The Amatsukaze had lost its bow and front stack to a torpedo attack by a U.S. submarine in January 1944. After it was towed to base, the ship’s aft end was patched up and fitted with a makeshift bow. Though the destroyer was only half as long as it had once been, it was still bristling with weaponry.
The B-25 pilots saw their target begin to flash, and suddenly the sky was filled with ack-ack. The formation bore on, undeterred. Schmidt and his wingmen, F/O Van Scoyk and Lt. Joe Herick, began firing on the ship, hoping to suppress the gunners on its deck. Herick’s plane took a direct hit from a 40mm round. It pitched forward and smashed into the water, upside down. Schmidt dropped his bombs, catching two direct hits on the Amatsukaze. The other three B-25s made their run, catching this photograph of the ship afire.
As the 500th Squadron B-25s headed back to base, the 498th Squadron plans came upon the burning destroyer. It was still moving at full speed, even as dark smoke billowed up from its hull. The B-25s broke into two flights of three, with one, led by Lt. James Manners, planning to use the smoke cloud as cover, and the other, led by Capt. Albin V. Johnson, arcing around the cloud. The Amatsukaze directed all of its fire on the latter flight. Johnson landed a direct hit on the stern, but was heavily damaged by flak, causing him to ditch as he pulled away. A search for survivors the next day turned up empty-handed.
Manners’ flight, coming from behind the destroyer, swept over the ship, strafing it from stern to bow. They bracketed the ship with their bombs, leaving it burning, dead in the water. The American pilots immediately headed out of the area. After dodging a brief fighter interception, they returned to Laoag, Luzon, out of fuel. The Amatsukaze was towed to Amoy, run aground, and designated as target practice.
Find this story and much more in Warpath Across the Pacific.
After the atomic bombs were dropped, but before a Japanese surrender had been negotiated, V Bomber Command was busy moving troops and equipment to Okinawa. The 22nd and 43rd bomb groups were also enlisted to ferry troops, as all the C-46s and C-47s were already in use. While the B-24’s potential as a troop carrier may have looked good on paper, the logistics behind turning these bombers into transport aircraft subjected passengers to a potentially deadly situation. The ideal location for extra passengers would have been closer to the tail of the aircraft, but that would make the plane much more difficult to fly. Instead, passengers had to ride on precarious wooden seats installed in the bomb bay.
The 11th Airborne Division was selected to drop onto Atsugi Airdrome as part of the Army of Occupation if the Japanese were to surrender. First, though, they had to be moved from Luzon to Okinawa. Ten B-24s from the 22nd Bomb Group were sent down to Luzon for the move. The 11th Airborne Division was spread out among four airfields, and the 22nd would transport the 511th Regiment waiting at Lipa, located south of Manila. Each of the B-24s were loaded with 20 paratroopers and their equipment and rumbled down the runway one at a time. The first dozen took off without incident. LADY LUCK did not.
Captain Jack L. Cook didn’t notice any issues with the aircraft as he taxied to the runway. The #1 engine took longer to reach full power, which was unusual. Still, LADY LUCK reached takeoff speed and Cook attempted to lift the nose off the runway, only to feel a huge amount of drag that kept the nose on the ground. He was very quickly running out of runway and still couldn’t lift off. After hitting a small tree at the end of the runway, Cook noticed the airplane gaining speed and hoped once again that he could take off.
In a split second, that hope was dashed to pieces when the right wheel struck a ramp 100 feet beyond the official end of the runway. The landing gear was driven through the wing and fuel line, subsequently setting LADY LUCK on fire. What remained of the fuselage was broken into pieces. None of the men in the cockpit had serious injuries and all were able to climb out of it. The fire in the fuselage would kill 11 of the paratroopers on board. Three more would have died if not for the heroic efforts of Lt. Hoadly G. Ryan, who ran into the burning plane twice to rescue whoever he could. Others followed his example and saved a few more lives.
As for the cause of the crash, Cook first suspected the runway was too short. The day after the accident, he and his co-pilot went back to the scene and noticed two parallel black lines going down the runway. Both of them immediately knew that the brakes must have locked on and kept LADY LUCK from gaining sufficient speed to take off. How or why that happened remains a mystery.
Read this story in our book Revenge of the Red Raiders.
May 18, 1945 was an all too eventful day for the 65th Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group. Seven of its B-24s were sent to make up a third of a 21-plane raid with the 403rd and 64th Squadrons on Tainan Airdrome, located on Formosa (now Taiwan). Antiaircraft fire was heavy and accurate, and coming from both Tainan and the nearby Okayama Airdrome. Aircrews noticed two strange types of antiaircraft bursts. One looked like a gasoline fire bursting in midair, the other appeared to be a stream of fire trailed by smoke.
As the crews made their runs, 1/Lt. James J. Franklin’s B-24 took a direct hit and exploded. All ten members of the crew as well as an observer were killed. To the right of Franklin was 1/Lt. Rudolph J. Cherkauer in B-24 #373, which felt the brunt of the explosion and ended up leaving Tainan with two hundred new holes and three wounded men aboard. The bombardier was knocked unconscious by the blast. Both port engines were smoking heavily, but the #2 was still capable of running at reduced power. It was enough to get them to the emergency field at Lingayen, Luzon. The three wounded crewmen were brought to the hospital and eventually recovered.
First Lieutenant Charles H. Wilt, another 65th Squadron pilot, finished his run and was hit in the #4 engine. To make matters worse, the #3 engine was running away and the smell of gas permeated the fuselage. Everyone on board knew they needed to bail out before their B-24 exploded, but they were warned against it by PBY crews standing by for rescues. By that point, Wilt’s B-24 was 6000 feet above rough seas with 25-foot waves, which would make it harder for rescue crews to find the downed airmen. Still, the crew felt like everyone would have a better chance of survival if the men bailed out.
Unfortunately, they were also short on life jackets. Four of the 11 crewmen had to go without, including 2/Lt. Norbert C. Straeck, who volunteered because he was a strong swimmer. The other B-24 crews watched 11 parachutes open and only the men with the Mae Wests were rescued. Two men went under before they were fished out and two more disappeared. It was a tough day for the 65th Squadron, losing 15 men and two B-24s. A funeral for the 15 men, 1/Lt. James J. Franklin, 2/Lt. Frances J. Smith, 2/Lt. Darrell F. Hoffman, 2/Lt. John R. Duff, Cpl. Walter J. McKay, Jr., T/Sgt. Henry A. Cichy, T/Sgt. Francis J. Dougherty, S/Sgt. Lloyd B. Arie, S/Sgt. Frank D. Byrd, S/Sgt. Donald C. Gayle, S/Sgt. Sigmund J. Magiera, 2/Lt. Norbert C. Straeck, 2/Lt. Gabriel R. Levinson, Cpl. Walter J. Christensen and Cpl. Lehland Stauffer, was held on May 23rd at the 43rd’s chapel. Below is reproduced the order of service for the event:
Choral Prelude Choir
Call to Worship
Leader: Renewed this day be all noble memories
People: All high and holy traditions of the past
Leader: Let us remember all those who went over the sea
to share the perils of oppressed peoples
People: Who suffer torment from fire and smoke
Leader: Who took food to the starving in strange lands
People: Who went down to the sea in ships and into the
air like eagles.
Hymn #99 “BLEST BE THE TIE THAT BINDS”
Call to prayer
Leader: The great and brave who have gone before us and
blazed the trail, gave freely of their talents, their strength,
their lives. We who would remember them to-day unite
our prayers in memory of their noble giving. Let us pray
O God, here in the memory of death we pause in thy sight
for life is precious to thee. Even as the life of those we know
and care for is dear to us so dost thou care for each of thy
children. And because we know this we have no fear for
those we know who leave us to return to thee. Their release
from the limitations of the flesh is a greater freedom than
ever they have known before. Lift us above the shadow of
mortality into the light of hope.
HOT SHOT CHARLIE’s Final Flight
Back in March 1944, A-20G #43-9480 joined the 387th Squadron. A year and two months later, it had been designated the oldest A-20 in the squadron with 600 hours put on the original engines. By that time, it was a difficult aircraft to fly, as it was extremely unstable (possibly due to a bomb blast or hard landing damaging the frame) and black smoke would pour out of the right engine.
On the 5th, 2/Lt. Warren H. Phillips had been assigned HOT SHOT CHARLIE on a mission to Solano. He reported smoke coming from his engine after coming off the target, which wasn’t surprising. The engine, however, finally reached its end life and stopped running. As Phillips continued home on the single working engine, the dead engine burst into flames and Phillips and his gunner, Cpl. Douglas Shafer, were forced to bail out of the A-20.
Shafer landed with cuts and bruises, and Phillips with a broken leg after he slammed into the vertical stabilizer when he bailed out. The pilot was sent to a hospital at Lingayen, then went home. His gunner returned to the 387th.
Most Memorable War Experience
In early May 1945, pilot Charles W. Stricker and gunner Ernest R. Reisinger were aboard an A-20 on an especially cloudy day. They were diverted from both their primary and their secondary target due to the bad weather. They flew on to the tertiary target, then headed home to Floridablanca on this much longer flight. As they flew back, Stricker tried to talk to Reisinger over the radio, but his gunner wouldn’t respond. Other pilots told Stricker that Reisinger was hunched over, leading the pilot to believe that his gunner was either severely wounded or dead. Upon landing, Stricker checked on Reisinger and discovered he was fast asleep. “He was astonished that I could sleep through all that,” said Reisinger.
Bringing Home a Souvenir
At the end of May 1945, the 387th and 389th were sent to strike Echague Airdrome. Edward L. Rust, a relatively new pilot in the 389th, used most of his ammunition over the target area. As he flew over a meadow, he saw muzzle flashes coming from a tree at his right. He headed for the tree, using his only working gun, which sounded a lot like a typewriter when he fired it. After he returned to base, his crew chief pulled a sapling half an inch in diameter from a wing. That was when they also noticed that the last eight inches of the propeller blades had been stained green by cut grass. Rust had been so focused on his target that he didn’t realize how low he was flying, nor did he see the tree he hit.
Find these stories in our book Rampage of the Roarin’ 20’s.
Delivered to the AAF on July 8, 1944, this “H” model went into service with the 389th Squadron in March 1945. The pilot was Maj. James M. Wylie, the 389th Squadron C.O., and he named the aircraft MICKEY, after his wife’s nickname. When S/Sgt. Orian E. Hackler, the crew chief, asked about a tail identifier, Wylie replied that it would be nice to have “X,” for “X marks the spot.”
Wylie claimed this aircraft was a “pilot’s dream,”, and he flew most of his missions in it. On one, he almost lost control of it over Nichols Field on February 6, 1945. An unexploded 20mm shell tore through one wing and the plane swooped towards the ground before Wylie regained control and returned his damaged mount to Mangaldan. Afterwards, the aircraft received only occasional small arms hits. The profile painting shows MICKEY at Mangaldan during April 1945, with 67 missions arranged around the large spade scoreboard. This aircraft carried a skull and crossbones on the nose, and the crew ID panel, done as a scroll, stated: PILOT ~ MAJ. J.M.WYLIE; on a second line: c.c. T/SGT HACKLER.
In June 1945, Wylie transferred to Headquarters, Far East Air Forces. Seventy-five of his 77 combat missions were flown in MICKEY. The aircraft was assigned next to 1/Lt. Lloyd A. Wilson, but details are lacking. Yet a third pilot also flew the plane before the war ended, and it is his name, “PILOT ~ CAPT. BEARDSLEE” that now appeared on the ID panel, reversed to white lettering on a black background that was on the plane when it was used as a backdrop for Squadron photos taken in late July 1945. By this time, the scoreboard from Maj. Wylie’s service had been removed from inside the spade design, and the name MICKEY had been replaced by LITA~BONITA. The port machine gun also was enhanced with a black background, with the forward half of the area decorated in white. It is this version that is shown on the port insert profile. Probably at this time, but perhaps earlier, a large spade was painted in a similar position on the other side of the plane, incorporating a pin-up girl from a Gil Elvgren work entitled “Fun House.” This is the image on the second profile insert. After the war ended, LITA~BONITA was flown with the rest of the Squadron’s aircraft to Biak, where it was scrapped several years later.
Some of Wiley’s significant missions in MICKEY, all in 1945, were: Tuguegarao, 2/14; Corregidor, 2/16; San Fernando, 3/11; Eiko, 3/29; Saiatau, 3/31; Ipo Dam, 4/25; Mt. Ayaas, 5/13; and Tuguegarao, 6/13.
View the color profile on page 208 of our book Rampage of the Roarin’ 20’s.
After a three-day break from combat missions, the 345th sent six planes each from the 498th and 500th Squadrons on March 10, 1945 to patrol the east coast of French Indochina. It promised to be an eventful patrol when the 500th Squadron encountered two Japanese ships, one of which was the 5239-ton tanker Seishin Maru. This, along with a 10,000-ton freighter, were attacked and strafed. The Seishin Maru was sunk and the freighter was severely damaged.
A little further south, the 498th spotted a 2500-ton tanker anchored near the Qui Nhon shoreline, which was promptly attacked by the B-25 pilots. Second Lieutenant Benjamin F. Chambers skipped a 500-pound bomb into the ship, which, instead of exploding a few seconds after hitting the ship, exploded right as Chambers’ B-25 passed overhead. Bauduy Grier, the radio operator, likened the bomb blast to being hit on the bottom of one’s feet with a baseball bat. After checking over everything, it seemed like the aircraft was just fine, and Chambers began the 700-mile journey back to base. Trouble began about halfway through the trip when the plane started vibrating severely.
When Grier looked out a window, he saw smoke coming out of the back of the left engine. Apparently, a fragment from that bomb holed the oil line and the engine was beginning to overheat. Chambers shut down the engine to buy the crew some time, but the propeller started windmilling and dramatically reduced the aircraft’s speed. Equipment was tossed overboard to lighten the B-25 as much as possible, then the crew braced for impact before the plane hit the water.
Grier, who was knocked unconscious by the crash, woke up to water rushing into his compartment. He and the tail gunner, Sgt. James L. Lane, escaped the sinking plane and yelled the names of their fellow crewmen in hopes of locating them. Unfortunately, no one answered their calls. After grabbing a one-man life raft, Grier swam out and away from the plane with Lane. It took all of 90 seconds from when it first crashed for the B-25 to sink beneath the waves.
High above them, two B-25s circled for a few minutes before they were forced to head home. Before leaving, they radioed the coordinates of the downed airmen to a ground station. Back in the sea, the main life raft had inflated before the plane sank and began drifting away from Grier and Lane, the latter of whom was holding tightly to an oxygen bottle that popped up to avoid drowning. Grier knew they needed both rafts and told Lane to stick with him while he swam after the raft. Lane refused and Grier swam off, catching the raft after about five minutes.
He then climbed aboard and, calling for Lane, tried to fight the 12-foot waves to get back to his friend. After ten minutes of rowing, Grier realized it was hopeless. He broke down in tears, feeling frustrated and scared, not knowing how long it would be until he was rescued—if he ever was. Unbeknownst to him, the search for his crew had already started and continued into the next day. No sign of life was seen from the air and the 345th assumed all had been lost at sea.
Twenty-three days later, on April 2, 1945, Grier was still alive. He was badly sunburned, dehydrated, lost a third of his weight and had developed several salt water ulcers on his body, but he was alive. At this point, he was napping in the raft when a loud him woke him. Jumping up, he scanned the sky for aircraft, but the sky was empty. On the horizon, Grier saw a submarine heading his way. He found a whistle on the raft and started blowing an S.O.S. call. It was the U.S.S. Sealion, which was on its way to a rendezvous with the U.S.S. Guavina. The watch spotted Grier’s raft, and even though no one saw any signs of life, they decided to check it out anyway.
A rope with a weighted ball was thrown to the raft. The downed airman caught it and the raft was brought in. For the first time in more than three weeks, Grier got out of that raft. He was given a small amount of food and water, pills to help him sleep and some morphine for the pain. Soon after, he was back on dry land and in a hospital for treatment. It wasn’t long before he was out of the hospital and heading home to the United States.
Note: Due to space constraints, this story has been abbreviated from its original form in Warpath Across the Pacific.
This week, we’re listing our most popular posts published this year as determined by the number of views. Did your favorite post make the list?
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. And now, without further ado, our most popular posts of 2017.
1. The Fight for Mindoro As a result of some great comments from a prior post (see #4 on this list), we delved into further detail about a harrowing mission on December 24, 1944.
2. A B-24’s Forced Retirement After the B-24 TEMPERMENTAL LADY was hit on a mission, landing the plane wasn’t going to be easy…
3. Book Review: They Did It for Honor: Stories of American World War II Veterans We review the second book of veteran stories as told to Kayleen Reusser.
(tie) Beyond the Bomb Group What happened to the B-17s that transferred out of the 43rd Bomb Group? We follow the story of one of their old Flying Fortresses, CAP’N & THE KIDS.
4. Night Action Off Mindoro This dramatic painting by artist Jack Fellows illustrates a B-24 coming off an attack on a Japanese destroyer near Mindoro.
5. Major Tom Gerrity’s One Plane War Against the Japanese A pilot scheduled to go home wanted one more crack at the Japanese before he left the Pacific Theater.
6. 9 Photos of Dogs in the Pacific Theater During World War II It’s all in the title. Go meet some of the dogs of Fifth Air Force.
7. One Minute in Hell Steve Ferguson illustrates some of the final moments of 1/Lt. James A. Hungerpiller and his crew over Simpson Harbor on November 2, 1943.