Napalm Experimentation

As the war progressed, the military had been hard at work on new technology for its soldiers. Among the inventions was a substance that would gain notoriety about 20 years later during the Vietnam War: napalm. This sticky gel was highly flammable and typically used for burning away jungle foliage. In June 1945, however, the 22nd and 43rd Bomb Groups were chosen to conduct tests regarding how well a drum of napalm would burn if it was dropped next to wooden surfaces in the water (i.e. boats) and whether a phosphorus or sodium igniter would work better.

This was not the type of mission crews looked forward to. They hated dealing with the napalm-filled drums which were difficult to load, leaked (thereby raising the risk of a catastrophic explosion on board), hung up in the bomb bay and sometimes detonated right after being dropped instead of a few seconds afterward.

On the 12th of June, 34 22nd Bomb Group B-24s joined up with 28 from the 43rd to conduct their tests in the Hong Kong area. Prior to the arrival of these planes, the chosen target had caused some controversy, as Causeway Bay was known to be home to many civilian families. A fair number of them lived aboard boats that the military had been eyeing as napalm targets. In the end, it was decided to still target the area, but make sure families had been evacuated before the strike happened.

As the 22nd’s B-24s flew to the target on the day of the the test, two napalm barrels were jettisoned from one of the planes because they were leaking badly. Another jettisoned all of its barrels because engine trouble forced the pilots to return to base. A third aircraft had one napalm barrel leak, but that was fixed with chewing gum and caramel candy. The run over the target area was somewhat of a letdown. Although most of the barrels exploded on the water as they hoped, cloud cover made it hard to see the targets and crews missed the two high-speed motorized Japanese boats that crews were hoping to destroy.

22nd crews were sent out again on the 13th to target boats in Takao’s harbor. Once again, on the way to the target, a couple of napalm drums were jettisoned because of bad leaking. As the pilots began their runs, the crew of B-24 #241 experienced a close call when the igniter on one of the barrels exploded as it was being dropped. Both the engineer and radio operator were burned as smoke and flames filled the fuselage. Quickly, the engineer sprayed the radio operator with the fire extinguisher and probably saved his life. Fifty feet below the B-24, the troublesome barrel detonated, launching the plane about 75 feet. Two other aircrews were affected by one premature detonation each, although neither aircraft was damaged by the explosion.

Fortunately for the men, no antiaircraft fire was unleashed over Takao, partially thanks to equipment that jammed Japanese guns that relied on radar-aiming technology. Mission results were undetermined, as Formosa was socked in and the experiment was successful, insofar as napalm burned on the water as expected. Aiming, on the other hand, was impossible.

 

 


Read more about these missions in our book Revenge of the Red Raiders.

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The Fight for Mindoro

Expanding a little more on last week’s post…

As 1944 was wrapping up in the Pacific Theater, units continued their march northward with the invasion and seizure of the island of Mindoro and continuing attacks on Clark Field, Luzon. Mindoro was considered a strategic asset for continued attacks and the eventual push towards reclaiming Luzon from the Japanese. The Japanese knew this, and even though they were driven off Mindoro on December 15th, they weren’t going to give up easily.

Two airfields were constructed on Mindoro within 13 days of the Allied takeover in preparation for the invasion of Luzon. Admiral Masatomi Kumura did not want to see these airfields become usable by the Americans and he assembled eight ships to sail from Vietnam on December 24th to Mindoro in hopes of disrupting the building efforts. It wasn’t until the 26th that their presence was detected some hours south of San Jose and U.S. ship crews hurried to vacate the harbor before the arrival of the Japanese. Men at Mindoro’s airfield sent a message to Tacloban asking for any help they could get to defend their new airbase.

Unknowingly, the Japanese had picked the perfect moment to strike. The two airfields were almost out of resources, with only a couple dozen bombs and anemic fuel stocks. The air units present on Mindoro (the 8th and 58th Fighter Groups, and the 110th and 17th Reconnaissance Squadrons), were flying fighter aircraft, except for the 17th, which had B-25s. None of these aircraft were capable of tangling with a cruiser safely, and even if they were, none of the crews were trained for night-flying operations. And the U.S. Navy, which had previously been in charge of protecting this advance base, were a day’s voyage away.

The worst-case scenario was invasion. If the Japanese force successfully landed infantry, San Jose would certainly have been overrun. Therefore, every available plane was mobilized, despite the lack of ordnance, the mismatched combat capabilities and the darkness. (There were no landing troops aboard these ships, but the Allies didn’t know that.) Since the fields on Mindoro had to stay under blackout conditions, the aircrews were told to land at Tacloban, almost 300 miles to the east. At 2100 hours, the Japanese ships were in range, and over 100 American aircraft scrambled.

Among them were two aircraft that had responded to the distress call: B-24 snoopers of the 63rd Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group. The 63rd was a night operations group, and two of their aircrews, headed by 1/Lts. Dickinson and Samuel L. Flinner, happened to be in Tacloban when the distress call was received. They had been ordered to make multiple passes from 6000 feet and drop one bomb at a time in order to make it sound like multiple B-24s were overhead.

Instead, Flinner dove down to 1000 feet while strafing the light cruiser Oyodo to drop his bomb more accurately. It looked like his bomb knocked out a couple of the heavy guns aboard, and Flinner went to pull away for another run. Except he couldn’t. PUG’s rudder cables were completely severed by antiaircraft shells and Flinner’s tail gunner was wounded. The B-24 began to descend, nearly hitting the water before Flinner regained control of the plane. He salvoed his remaining bombs and turned for Tacloban. Dickinson, meanwhile, made his runs and damaged the destroyer Kiyoshimo with two direct hits.

Once the crew was away from the fighting, they set about administering first aid to the tail gunner and the engineer, T/Sgt. Bill Schlereth, tackled the rudder cables. He found the two ends of the severed cables in the large mass of wires overhead, then enlisted Sgt. Don Tuley to help him isolate them. Schlereth spent the remainder of the flight clamping and reweaving spare wire to the rudder cables to the point that Flinner was finally able to control the rudders for landing. They waited out an additional five hours by circling Tacloban in order to burn off fuel and make a daylight landing for safety’s sake.

In the end, PUG landed safely with more than 200 new holes than she took off with. The groups at Mindoro had suffered severely: three B-25s, 10 P-47s, six P-40s, and seven P-38s had been lost during the battle. The Japanese withdrew from the area around midnight after doing little damage to the airstrip and harbor with one less ship, the Kiyoshimo, which had been severely damaged by Dickinson’s crew.

 

If you want to read about the battle from the ground perspective, check out Rocky Boyer’s War.

Night Action off Mindoro

A 63rd Squadron B-24 attacks a Japanese ship near Mindoro during WWII

Limited Edition of 199 Giclee prints

Signed and numbered by the artist

Image Size: 16″x21″

Paper Size: 24″x26.5″

On the night of December 26, 1944, this radar-equipped B-24M night intruder, piloted by Lt. Samuel L. Flinner of the 63rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group attacked and immobilized the Imperial Japanese Navy Yugumo-class destroyer, Kiyoshimo, off the Philippine island of Mindoro, where it was left behind and sunk by a PT boat. Leaving Tacloban, they had been informed that a Japanese task force might try to retake the area so orders were given to try to locate it. After departure, they skirted a squall line only to find that Mindoro’s night sky was being lit up by shelling and flares. Scouts for ships with radar produced several targets. While being showered with heavy tracers and antiaircraft fire, a low altitude bomb run at 1000 feet was made on a vessel that was three miles off shore. All three of their bombs produced large explosions. After the run on the ship, the B-24 became the center of attention for the Japanese as it dove to the deck in a hard turn. Two shells hit the plane, one in the tail turret, injuring the tail gunner, and another exploded in the midsection behind the waist gunner, cutting the rudder cables. Splicing the cables together, they flew back through the squall line to Tacloban and circled until daylight to land. A ground inspection revealed over 200 holes. Lieutenant Flinner accumulated 24 missions and 412 combat hours. He and his crew were given credit for the kill. This artwork will be published in our next book Ken’s Men Against the Empire Volume II.

Buy your copy of this dramatic artwork by aviation artist Jack Fellows on our website.

A B-24’s Forced Retirement

Tainan, Formosa was to be the target for the 408th and 33rd Squadrons of the 22nd Bomb Group on April 14, 1945. The crews hoped to destroy Japanese kamikaze aircraft as well as their runways. After taking off, the 408th Squadron joined up with the 2nd Squadron, thinking the B-24s belonged to the 33rd Squadron. It wasn’t until the 2nd passed Tainan on its way to Taichu that 2/Lt. Richard S. Cohen, the lead navigator of the 408th figured out something was amiss. He went up to his pilot and suggested that they make a 180 degree turn if they wanted to attack Tainan. As the aircraft arrived over Tainan and lined up for bombing runs, they were targeted by the gunners below, who hit five of the six 408th B-24s.

Still, none of the planes were brought down by the antiaircraft fire. The bombing runs were a little more challenging, as the pilots had to perform evasive maneuvers, but both the 33rd and 408th Squadrons were satisfied by the amount of damage caused: several fires were started in a revetment area, buildings, as well as three oil and gas fires. It wasn’t long before the squadrons formed up and headed back to their base at Clark Field. Second Lieutenant Rudolph L. Riccio was having a hard time keeping up with the 408th formation in his B-24 TEMPERMENTAL LADY, which had a cylinder head shot off during the raid, two feathered engines, and a damaged hydraulic accumulator. First Lieutenant John K. Mires noticed the slow B-24 and hung back with Riccio’s plane just in case they were jumped by enemy fighters.

Upon approach to Clark Field, Riccio and his crew assessed their situation. TEMPERMENTAL LADY was going to be facing a tough landing without brakes or hydraulic power on two fully functioning engines, with a third sort of functioning. He asked his crew if they preferred to bail out or wanted to sit through the landing. All chose the latter. To help the plane stop, parachutes were tied to the waist gun mounts and opened immediately after the B-24 landed. Further complicating the landing and taxiing was a strong crosswind that was blowing the plane to the right. Riccio was forced to apply power to the #4 engine to counteract the wind, which didn’t help slow the aircraft. He was faced with two choices: either go off the end of the runway and hit a bunch of crates and vehicle or cut the power and let TEMPERMENTAL LADY drift into a ditch. Riccio chose the second option and the B-24 rolled to a stop in the ditch.

Wreckage of B-24 Tempermental Lady

Lieutenant Greenburg is shown here on top of THE TEMPERMENTAL LADY’S fuselage. (Raymond W. Freece Collection)

Everyone got out safely and without injury. Later, crews were trying to pull the aircraft out of the ditch and broke its back. Once the plane was finally being towed away, the cockpit area was destroyed when the plane caught fire after electrical sparks hit the still-connected batteries. Thus was the sudden and sad end of TEMPERMENTAL LADY, the oldest B-24 in the 408th Squadron.

 


Find this story on pages 399 and 400 of our book Revenge of the Red Raiders.

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).

Repost: Friendship After Bombing Davao

This story is one of our favorites and we thought it was time to reblog it. Without further ado, here is the tale of an unlikely friendship between two veteran World War II pilots.

 

Two 63rd Squadron B-24 Snoopers took off from Owi Island on the night of September 4, 1944 to bomb Matina Airdome at Davao, Mindinao. One of the B-24s soon turned back due to radar failure. Captain Roland T. Fisher, pilot of the other B-24, “MISS LIBERTY,” continued on alone. Fisher had flown night missions with the Royal Air Force in 1941 and would soon be needing every ounce of skill he had acquired over the last few years.

Twenty-one years after this mission, Fisher recounted his experience: “I could see again the bright moon in the clear night sky and the green shadow of Cape San Agustin below. I had entered Davao Gulf by crossing from the Pacific over the peninsula into the head of the gulf and made nearly a straight-on approach over Samal Isle to Matina air strip. I remember thinking perhaps this would allow me to enter the gulf undetected. On previous occasions I had entered the gulf at the mouth and flew north, and it seemed like [Japanese] defenses always spotted me.

Miss Liberty's Nose Art

“But this evening my plan didn’t work…I recall vividly being in the searchlights and how, just after I had made the bomb run over the air base, I made a sharp turn to the left with the intent of flying south out of the bay.” Back on the Japanese-held base, a man who had been ordered to reconnoiter the area in his Irving night fighter spotted the interloper. That man was Yoshimasa Nakagawa. “Some minutes after my plane took off,” wrote Nakagawa, “I found that the bomb which had fallen off [the B-24] seemed to have been exploded somewhere in the air-base. My plane had caught sight of [the B-24] which was flying about 1500 meters high above mine…my plane had been kept waiting for [him] to start on [his] way home. My plane was drawing nearer and nearer to [his] B-24 which was circling over the little island in Davao Bay.”

While Fisher was still in the middle of his turn out of the bay, Nakagawa flew straight at “MISS LIBERTY” with guns blazing. A collision between the two planes was imminent and Fisher pulled up a wing, narrowly avoiding the Japanese fighter. Nakagawa turned again to make another attack on Fisher’s B-24, this time for the death. “My plane could not help colliding with [the B-24] owing to the disorder of the machine gun. I hope you can understand we Japanese pilots of those days felt as if their heart were broken when we were forced by the General Headquarters to do such a thing as collision,” he later wrote. As Nakagawa rammed his plane into the B-24, his fighter’s propellers severely damaged the belly of the B-24.

When the planes broke apart, Nakagawa watched Fisher’s plane plunge towards the sea and flew to base thinking about the skill of the American pilot, who probably wouldn’t make it home. Fortunately, Fisher was able to limp back to Owi after a long, tense 7 hour flight. Years later, Nakagawa contributed to a book called The Divine Wind, which is about experiences of kamikaze pilots. In that book was the story of his encounter with that B-24. Fisher received a copy of the book from a former tentmate, telling him to look on page 29, where he found the mission described above. He then composed the following letter:

Letter to Yoshimasa Nakagawa

Even though Nakagawa had tried to kill Fisher and his crew years ago, the two men put the past behind them and struck up a friendship 20 years after their first encounter. The men met in 1972, both of them thankful that the other was still alive, and appeared on the Dick Cavett television show together. “Imagining how bravely you could survive the World War 2 that had made the horrible marks in the history of the slaughter of human race,” Nakagawa wrote to Fisher. “I am inclined to heartily express my joy that you are still living all right. I am very grateful to you, who hope I am in good health and fortune, for the fact that you have no antipathy against me, who had once been an enemy of you. I am also very much delighted to be able to exchange correspondence with you. I hope you are in good health and happy for ever.”

In his response to Nakagawa, Fisher wrote, “Then you and I were young and conducted ourselves as young men should for our countries. Now we are older an wiser and our countries are wiser and I feel that we have attained a lasting friendship between our countries that is not only honorable but sensible and good for their futures. Still those dark moments we spent as young men in the night tropic skies of twenty years ago, I am sure, always will be glistening memories no matter how old we grow.”

A Zombie that Almost Lived up to its Name

For a short time in November 1943, the 43rd Bomb Group was flying missions to Ring Ring, a coconut plantation near Gasmata. Although these weren’t the most exciting missions, the area was being prepared for a December ground invasion, which made the mission necessary. It was observed in the 43rd’s Group History that, “Our combat crews don’t seem to think much of this type of target, preferring to hit something that will blow up with a loud noise and a satisfactory amount of flame and smoke, but the Army seems quite pleased with the results of our bombing and apparently considers the destruction of these targets essential.”

Flying from Port Moresby to Ring Ring on November 24th was 1/Lt. Henry J. Domagalski and his crew in their B-24 nicknamed ZOMBIE. Their mission was an armed reconnaissance to the area, with the crew running into no trouble as ZOMBIE’s bombs were unloaded over Garove Island. As the B-24 flew over the Dampier Strait, the crew encountered a formation of nine Japanese “Lily” bombers accompanied by 12 “Oscar” fighters returning to Wewak from a mission to Finschhafen.

43rd Bomb Group B-24 Zombie

The 64th Squadron struck the Ring Ring coconut plantation near Gasmata, New Britain on November 24, 1943. On the way home, Henry J. Domagalski and crew, in the B-24D #42-40913, ZOMBIE, were attacked over the Dampier Strait by 12 Japanese Zeros.

While most of the Japanese planes continued on their way, seven Oscars attacked the lone B-24. An intense fight began as Domagalski performed evasive maneuvers while his crewmen did their best to fend off the attacking fighters. ZOMBIE’s hydraulic system was shot out, as well as trim tab wires and six cables that controlled the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. The fighter pilots also started two fires: one in the emergency radio compartment and the other in the cockpit. Both were extinguished by Lt. Cletus A. Bunsen and 2/Lt. Herbert J. Maxwell, respectively.

By this time, the Oscars broke off their attack and turned for Wewak. ZOMBIE was in bad shape and the pilot was unsure whether or not they would even make it back to base. After an examination of the parachutes, three were determined to be unusable and it was decided that instead of ditching the plane, they would try to make an emergency landing at Lae.

Somehow, the B-24 appeared over Lae and circled five times as the crew manually lowered the landing gear. It touched down, going 160mph, and without hydraulic breaks that worked, the crew hurried to stop the plane before it crashed into the trees at the end of the runway. While Domagalski used the auxiliary hand pump to work fluid into the brakes, the rest of the crew was piled in the back of the plane to keep the tail down. ZOMBIE stopped and the crew tumbled out to assess the damage. Fifty holes were counted and two crewmembers were injured. The next day, ZOMBIE was flown home to Port Moresby. This story quickly spread across the United States and each crew member was awarded the Air Medal for their actions during the mission.

A Night at Sea

Shortly after half of the 22nd Bomb Group finished moving to Owi Island, the Group began flying missions to the Vogelkop Peninsula. For reasons unknown, the 2nd and 33rd Squadron were flying from Wakde Island instead. Crowded revetment and parking spaces on Owi may have been a factor in this decision. On July 26, 1944, the 33rd and 2nd were sent on a mission to Ransiki, an airfield on the eastern side of the peninsula. While releasing their bombs, crews faced moderate antiaircraft fire over the target area. The B-24 flown by 1/Lt. Amos was hit once in the #1 engine and once in the #4 engine right after the bombs were dropped on Ransiki, starting a fire in the #1 engine.

While most of the crew escaped injury during the explosions, bombardier, 2/Lt. James K. Bishop was mortally wounded after flak tore open his abdominal area. The co-pilot treated Bishop as best as he could, then returned to help fly the damaged plane. With 200 miles to go on two functioning engines and an inability to maintain altitude, Amos knew that he and his crew would have to ditch the plane soon. After throwing extra equipment overboard and making distress calls, the two working engines, which had been at full power, began to overheat. It wasn’t long before the #2 engine quit and the plane subsequently landed in the water.

The B-24, which was notorious for breaking apart upon ditching, did not fare well in this landing. After the tail sheered off, the plane cracked in half from the nose to the fuselage. Amos, who was on the left side of the plane, was under water when the plane stopped and hurriedly surfaced, only to find his co-pilot still sitting in his seat with a cigar still in his mouth. He went to release the raft and was soon joined by the radio operator and co-pilot. They picked up the navigator, bombardier and engineer, who were in the water.

As they got the raft situated, the plane sank, taking the assistant engineer, two gunners and assistant radio operator with it. The remaining men fished a “Gibson Girl” radio  and a parachute pack out of the water and did their best to reach someone who might be searching for them. Bishop, who had by then regained consciousness, spoke of his wife who was soon to give birth. Just after the crews took off for their mission that day, a message was received that his wife had a baby girl and they were both doing well. Unfortunately, Bishop would never receive this message. He died in the raft that afternoon and was buried at sea by his crew mates.

While the men floated, a storm blew through during the afternoon, thoroughly soaking the raft’s occupants. Amos and the co-pilot, 2/Lt. William A. Rush, decided to try some purple fish they saw swimming around. The other two men refused to try them. Some hours later, daylight faded and the men spent an uncomfortable night at sea. They huddled under a parachute to shelter them from passing storms as well as the rain in the morning.

Later that morning, they saw a B-25 flying a search pattern and waved a parachute in hopes of catching someone’s eye. Unfortunately, no one on the plane saw them. Determined to be rescued, the men in the raft broke out the dye markers for the next aircrew to hopefully spot. Three hours later, a PBY Catalina began flying a search pattern and the men watched the plane, hoping it would see them. An hour later, the again men waved parachutes, as it looked like the Catalina would probably pass close by the raft. The plane flew overhead, circled, and landed nearby. One man aboard the flying boat poked his head out and yelled, “Hey, you guys! Wanna ride?” Rush, Amos, 2/Lt. Louis Moore (navigator), S/Sgt. Harold W. Talley (engineer), and S/Sgt. Benjamin M. Gonzales (radio operator) were finally rescued.

This story can be found on p. 261 of Revenge of the Red Raiders.

Going Home

A reflection on the process of going home after World War II ended, written by Richard Golze of the 65th Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group.

The war had ended. Rotation points were totaled. The Blanchard/Golze crew had enough points to fly a B-24 home rather than go by boat. Ten man crews were assembled based on points. For some unknown reason, crews were set at 10 men. A B-24 without bomb load and armament could easily transport 20-25 men.

We were flown to Clark Field from Ie Shima. When we landed, we noted the field was covered with brand new B- 24, B-25, A-26 and fighter aircraft. These were the reserves for the planned invasion. We were assigned a new B-24M. It is interesting to note that most of the 65th aircraft were “J” models I many of which had in excess of 100 missions. It is also a matter of interest to note that these line combat aircraft had fewer deviations than the stateside training command B-24’s thanks to the competant dedicated ground crews. The aircraft we drew smelled new. We were cautioned that the aircraft had to be complete when it took off for home. It seems that military personnel were stealing the Plexiglas waist windows, cutting them into strips and fashioning transparent grips for the Colt M1911 service pistol. Many had pictures of nude women under the transparent grip panel. To avoid this potential problem, we had one crew man stay with the aircraft at all times, including sleeping in the waist overnight.

The first leg of OPERATION SUNSET was a flight from Clark Field to Guam. Guam was stateside civilization. They had flush toilets and cold drinks in the officers club. While we were flying to Guam I reasoned that we could gain air speed and also eliminate the hazard of the pilots being trapped in their seats by the top turrets in the event of a ditching. The center of gravity of the top Martin turret was well below the top skin of the aircraft. The weight was centered in the armor plated seat and caliber 50 ammunition containers. When a B-24 was ditched, the bomb bay doors were torn off by the water which exposed the vertical bulkhead at the rear of the bomb bay. This bulkhead acted as a very effective water brake. The catwalk or keel of the aircraft usually broke and the tail section rotated upward. This rapid deceleration provided enough “G” forces acting through the top turret center of gravity (at a long moment arm) to tear it from its mounts. When the turret was free, it flew forward to wedge itself against the two vertical structural members behind the pilots seats and the control pedestal thus trapping the pilots. Many B-24’s had small metal framed windows on the side of the cockpit. The one window that slid open was not large enough for a man to slide through. Wise pilots carried hand fire axes so this metal framing could be chopped out if there were time before a ditching. An escape route would then be available for the pilots.

When we landed at Guam I located the base Engineering Officer. I told him I wanted to remove the turret and crate it for return to the USA. He said there was no interest in the return of the turret. He also said NO to removal since it would change the basic load index for weight and balance. I convinced him I could make the mathematical correction. He then said OK but with two conditions. One was that we could not delay our scheduled departure. The second was that he would ground our aircraft if we damaged the skin in the process of removal. After a discussion with the crew we started. We were able to remove the light weight Plexiglas top, guns and part of the seat. We then unbolted the remaining assembly from the bronze trunion ring. This ring had internal gear teeth. It was about 48″ in diameter. The whole assembly, including the electro/hydraulic drive and armor plated seat had to be removed out of the top of the fuselage. All hands set to the job and we worked it to the top of the left wing where we set it on the cloth engine covers to prevent damage to the skin by sharp edge. The turret assembly was carefully moved to a position between the number one and two engines. Four lines were attached to the turret assembly and it was moved foreward to clear the leading edge of the wing. Holding this assembly in suspension was the most difficult part of the removal process. When it was clear, it was lowered to the ground — with no damage to the plane! The Engineering Officer came along at this time. He was satisfied we had done a good job. He told us to dispose of the turret by placing it in the lush tropical vegetation at the edge of the ramp.

Now we had a 4 foot hole in the top of the aircraft and evening was approaching. A trip to the repair hanger netted a 4’x4′ piece of aluminum skin. We needed some means of cutting the aluminum into a circular plug. There were no tin snips available but Sam Dante, our engineer located a single hack saw blade. We circumscribed a circle of proper size by placing a nail hole in the center of the panel. A string with a scriber was attached at the proper radius and the line was scribed. We then took turns hand holding the hack saw’ blade to cut the circle – some 12′ of lineal length. The plug fit perfectly. Sam tried to borrow a speed drill and bit with no success. I went to the hanger and left my watch and sun glasses as hostage but did borrow the band speed drill and a bit . Screws, lock washers and nuts were also obtained. It seems as if Second Lieutenants of the 5th Air Force were not trusted by Sargents of the 20th Air Force. We used the turret mounting holes as locators, drilled the holes) inserted and secured the fasteners and then reclaimed my watch and sun glasses.

The next leg of OPERATION SUNSET was from Guam to Kwajalein. Take off was at 3-5 minute intervals. We were in the middle of the flight. The reduced drag from the removal of the turret gave us a 7-10 MPH increase in speed at cruise power. We were first in at Kwajalein! The tower was contacted about 10 miles out. We were cleared for landing on a brilliant clear tropical day. Wind was from the west so we entered the down wind leg of the pattern. The tower was contacted on final. As we came over the shore, a Navy SBD cut in front of us at a distance of about 20 feet. The pilot and passenger was clearly visible. We went around but spoke harsh words to the tower operator. There was no response– we were on a Navy island.

A high noise was generated from a standing vibration wave on our 4′ plug. However, no one complained because of the speed increase, the removal of the ditching hazard and the wide open space on the flight deck. The vibration wave was eliminated at Kwajalein by screwing a l” x l” x 48″ wood strip across the panel. This stiffner eliminated the vibration/noise problem.

Kawajalein to Oahu was the longest flight we made in the B-24. Our increased air s peed along with the extra flight deck space made the long flight pleasant. We lead the flight from Oahu to Camp Stoneman, California. A scare marked our take off. The runway was just above high tide sea level. We planned a typical flight take off which used the full runway and then retract the gear as we passed over the sea. This avoided a climb at max load. While we were rolling down the runway some GI’s in a 6×6 stopped their truck on the end of the runway and proceeded to get out and sit on the hood and the top of the cab in order to watch the take offs. We were approaching the critical three engine speed of 136 MPH when this event happened so Blanchard opted to lift the aircraft over them rather than try to abort. We made it but the subsequent conversation with the tower was quite directed.

When we were about 2/3 of the way to California, Mel Shroeder our radio operator made contact. We were told the Bay area was in heavy fog and we were to change direction and land at Edwards Air Force Base. The course change was relayed to the aircraft behind us. When we approached Edwards we were unable to contact the tower for landing instructions. We called on all four VHF channels with no answer. The field was circled and then the tower was buzzed. Still no contact. By then other B-24s had entered the pattern so we picked a runway and landed. We taxied to a ramp and parked with the other B-24s following. After a while a staff car appeared. A WAC captain came out demanding to know what we were doing on her field and also why we were out of uniform since we were in kahki. We explained but she said we were lying about out trip from Hawaii. A trip to operations resolved the matter. We got a meal of sorts and fuel for a flight to our original destination since the fog had lifted.

We cleared customs at Camp Stonemam and got a barracks assignment. It was about 2200 hours. We then went to the mess hall where we got our return home meal of a steak dinner with a tossed salad.

The next day saw more processing. During a physical examination we were treated for the “crud”. Crud was a fungus growth in your arm pits and crotch. It manifested itself as a raw red rash. We were sprayed with an engine oil like liquid and told to wait for 30 minutes before a shower. After 15 minutes the spray took effect. The raw rash areas felt as if they were on fire. We took cold showers to try to put out the hot torment. Crud came about as a result of the lack of sanitary conditions on IE Shima. There was no natural water on the solid coral is land. The natives built large 10′ x 10′ catch basins to trap rain water. This water flowed into 6′ x 6′ x 8′ deep holding basins. This was the natives only source of fresh water. Army health officers found malaria mosquito larva in some of the basins so they either pumped them dry or poured oil in the basin. These basins were used by some as air raid shelters during the nightly Jap raids. All of the water we had came from Okinawa by Navy boat. If the sea was up, the Navy did not come. The wearing of unwashed clothes and unwashed bodies resulted in the crud. Our flight surgeon tried Silver Nitrate, Iodine and Methiolate with no results. Bathing in the sea felt good while you were in the water but the sticky feeling after you dried off made this action less than desirable. The cure was daily bathing and clean clothing. It cleared itself once we got home.