By Charles G. Chauncey
first airplane ride in a Ford Tri-motor passenger plane back in the 30’s
at Chanute, KS, was a hoot, I was in my early teens. Admittedly, I am
a dreamer and was an avid doodler drawing my concepts for faster and more
streamlined aircraft. As I pressed on in school it was my desire to become
an aeronautical engineer.
my engineering studies at Kansas University when I, along with twenty
two other fraternity brothers, went to Kansas City and enlisted in the
Army Air Corp. I was called into the service in January 1943, and was
ordered to report to Jefferson Barracks Army Base, close to St. Louis,
MO, for Basic Training.
a permanent army base but with only temporary, make-shift, wooden, ten
man huts for we “private” pre- cadets. What a blast to come from college
into a realm of poverty conditions. Because of its position close to the
Mississippi river and the extreme winter cold, damp air, it had acquired
the correct name “pneumonia gulch”. It was close to twelve days before
we received our issue of military clothing Everyone had assumed we would
get government issue when we arrived. Some fellows arrived with only long
sleeves shirts and no coats so they wouldn’t need to ship them back home.
We actually had some deaths while out on the drill field dressed in our
civies. If we were sick we were confined to our quarters unless our temperature
got above 103 degrees then we could get into the hospital. I sure hadn’t
expected combat conditions in the middle of good ole USA. Every night
before retiring, I took newspapers and put them under the thin mattress
and piled all of my other clothes on top of the covers to stay warm. How
I kept from coming down with pneumonia I’ll never know. The bed, sulfa
drugs, and a large water pitcher seemed to be their treatment for the
huts had been built by the first cadets to arrived there, as the base
wasn’t prepared to receive them and now us. The eight windows were just
screens with a hinged wooden flap to cover them when closed. The front
door was screened with the opaque plastic covering. The floor planks did
not butt together, and the dirt fell through the gaps before you could
sweep them out the door. The heating system was a small pot belly stove…
you know where you burnt one side while the other side is still cold.
The fire wouldn’t burn all night so consequently the mop would always
freeze in the mop bucket. We had to walk close to a block to get to the
combination shower and restroom facilities. The only safe time to have
any warm water was at night after everyone was in bed.
hall was a large facility wherein at each meal they served some twenty-five
hundred men. I don’t recall any of the meals other then they were eatable,
if one wasn’t to finicky. When on mess hall duty, we were awakened at
2:30 am, marched over to the mess hall and were assigned various duties
for the three meals served. After each meal was finished and all areas
cleaned, ready for the next meal, they wouldn’t let us sit down and rest.
We were sent out to police the grounds, pick up all the trash, butts,
and etc. Getting back to the barracks about nine-ish at night, and if
you were lucky some kind soul got your mail as no one was permitted to
leave KP for mail call.
several introduction classes we had to attend a class on sex education
which was very disturbing to many fellows. It was held in a tent the size
of a three ring circus tent with seating in the middle, bleachers on the
sides, with a platform at one end. I remember a doctor speaking who had
a medical practice down in the South . . .Louisiana I think. He showed
us from his collection of 35mm slides taken concerning gonorrhea and syphilis
patients. A naked patient was set on a bar stool with their body parts
exposed and were vividly shown what the diseases were doing to that individual
– open boils, pus sacs, etc. There were guys running for the outdoors
puking on the run, even some fellows had passed out in their seats. I
never knew whether it was from weak stomachs or a guilty conscious. It
sure impressed me. If you didn’t know how to bitch, cuss, and complain
before arriving there – you soon became adept at it. We should all have
received diplomas for attainment in Bitch-itis.
training was completed I was shipped to a College Training Detachment
at St. Johns University, St. Johns, MN, a mens college. When we arrived
the medical doctor began checking us over and filled their small infirmary
facilities, then confined the rest of the group to their beds in their
dormitory. No less than three of the commanders at Jefferson Barracks
were relieved of their commands as several other detachments were in the
same physical condition. Because Preflight at Santa Ana Army Air Base,
Santa Ana, CA, was so over booked with future cadets, the Air Corp established
these college training schools as an interim measure.
we were back in school again with regular college classes. There were
three hundred of us there. In my half were fellows coming out of colleges
from the midsection USA, while the other half were made up with fellows
from California that were mostly out of school but working at jobs rather
than in school. It was there that I met Jack Webb, a future movie star.
While taking a physics course (I sent home for my slide rule), I helped
the teacher teach the slide rule to the fellows that purchased them and
I spent several hours with Jack. When I walked into physics class one
day, Jack had drawn a large cartoon of me on the blackboard. I had a big,
long pencil over my ear, monstrous glasses, a big slide rule under one
arm while carrying a bundle of books under the other arm. It was cute
and funny. Since Jack, after the war, became a movie star, I now savor
that moment in time and wished that I had a camera picture of it. He was
a such a whiz at cartoons and kept us in stitches while passing them around
there, Jack wrote a musical production script that included all the cadets
as participants. The only outside persons were a leading lady and a drummer
with drums for the band. The program was run for three night in St. Cloud,
MN, and we presented a check for $1,000 to the local USO (the last two
nights were sellouts).
We did receive
a strong emphasis in world history while there. Especially so, on the
axis countries we were fighting that were our enemies. After parading
on the drill field each Saturday for the CO we were dismissed to go to
town for the weekend. It was a real pleasure
being at this Catholic College. I don’t believe there were any civilian
students there with us.
We were put
on a troop train headed for California via Kansas City. I phoned my parents
and told them when we would be arriving in KC so they met me there and
brought with them my future wife, Jayne Elliott. That was a real surprise.
We went to visit at the home of some close friends that had formerly lived
it was back to the troop train. Several of the fellows were shooting craps
on the train so I thought I would give it a try. When I got the dice I
rolled boxcars right off the bat then crapped out. Keeping the dice I
must have rolled snake-eyes three or four times in succession which broke
me and I had to pass the dice. Lesson having been learned, I never participated
in a crap game again.
tenure of Preflight at Santa Ana Air Base, Santa Ana, CA, we were tested
many, many ways, both mentally and physically. I thought that I would
conserve more of my engineering by being a navigator, but luckily for
me they were full and I was scheduled into pilot training. Later I learned
that the navigators basically just used charts, addition and subtraction
which wouldn’t have conserved any of my engineering. There were always
many training films wherever we went and there was no different. We spent
a lot of free time there, especially on weekends, watching the P-38’s
play follow-the-leader. Just spread a blanket on the ground and lay there
watching and dreaming of your day to be flying.
I hadn’t played the trombone since high school, I joined their band so
that I wouldn’t have any KP duties to perform. I can’t say I was a good
addition to the band as my lips weren’t in shape.
Much to my
dismay I passed out once in the high altitude chamber, evidently from
nerves, the second time I didn’t and I got to witness one fellow in our
group, as a volunteer, go to almost 30,000 ft. before passing out. The
rest of us put our oxygen masks on at 18,000 ft. They started him out
writing on a blackboard “Mary had a little lamb.” He never once complained
or even noticed that as the altitude became higher the less he could write
on the blackboard… but still everything was great. The higher we went
the larger he wrote. By the time he had almost reached his limit his writing
was so large he couldn’t get all of “Mary” written on the blackboard…
but still he was feeling great. When he did pass out he was immediately
revived with his oxygen mask. That would be a nice, pleasant way to go.
Later on, I had a friend in P-38 training whose oxygen mask hose came
loose while flying formation above 25,000 ft. They said he must have slumped
over on the controls and went straight down and crashed.
us to all types of weaponry from the 45 cal hand gun to the 30 cal machine
guns. I couldn’t hit anything with the 45 cal pistol for which I needed
to qualify on and would carry as pilot later. As a matter of fact I only
hit one qualification score and that was about a couple of weeks before
leaving for overseas.
Some of our
emergency training was when they took us down to the wharf area where
we had to jump off the fifteen foot wharf into the water in full dress.
While in the water, take off our shoes and pants, tie the pant legs and
splash air into them to make water wings for survival – and not drop your
We were surprised
by a couple of friends from home who visited us while there at Santa Ana.
Bobby Phillips was a Marine corsair pilot who died later while landing
on a carrier over in the Pacific – he undershot the carrier deck. Bill
Slane was a B-17 Army pilot and was shot down and died in Europe. Bobby
had the biggest shiner on his right eye from trying to bail out of his
corsair while firing on a tow target run. His planes’ controls locked
up while making a turn away from the target. When he tried to propel his
self out of the plane off the control stick, the controls broke loose.
He only got half way out of the cockpit with his head hitting the side
of the cockpit. Luckily he was able to get his feet under the seat and
pulled his self back in and landed safely. They couldn’t find any problem
with the plane.
I was transferred
to Primary Flight Training at Tulare, CA, at the Tex Rankin Aeronautical
Academy. This school was owned by Tex Rankin, a former acrobatic stunt
pilot of world renown. One of his early stunts was to fly through an open
ended hanger, upside down, and pick up a handkerchief off the hanger floor…
he did fly his little biplane for us on graduation day, but this stunt
was not included(outlawed). We had civilian instructor pilots but were
tested by Army Air Corp check pilots. We flew Stearman PT-17 biplanes
which I truly fell in love with… an acrobatic delight. My instructor,
at the beginning, gave me one of the wildest rides I have ever had. I
swear he did every acrobatic maneuver that bird would do and then some.
I think he was trying to make me sick but not that day. I did get a black
eye from hitting the side of the cockpit during an inverted half-snap-roll.
I seemed to get the most kick out doing inverted acrobatics where you
are just hanging by your safety belt. We also began receiving Link Trainer
instruction for future instrument work. They, too, had a good physical
training program. For me, running the timed course in sand was the toughest.
Training, I was sent on to Gardner Field Army Air Base, Taft, CA. where
we flew the Vultee BT-13 trainer. It was easy to fly and land because
of the wide landing gear but not great for acrobatics. Secondary spins
were very difficult to get out of so we stayed away from them. We had
one student and an instructor that were killed doing one. Evidently the
student wouldn’t bailout and the instructor didn’t get out in time for
his chute to open fully. Night flying was kind of tough and spooky because
there weren’t many lights from homes for ground reference as it was a
pretty sparse region. I recall one pitch black night we were to be making
night takeoffs and landings. Some of those fellows were so freaked out
they would land and shut off their lights and just sit. They had us stacked
up three tiers high in four different quadrants. When the guy in the mobile
tower called your position he expected you to get right down quickly so
he could squeeze in as many landings as possible. I remember him calling
me once so I racked it over into a near vertical diving turn. He yelled
out to me “That’s the way to do it.” I was half out of my wits as I had
lost the night horizon and couldn’t see any ground lights. Fortunately
I didn’t freeze on the stick and let the plane continue its turn and momentarily
(it seemed like minutes) some ground lights came into view and I was able
to enter the pattern and land. You can bet that I never did a repeat on
that. Again we had more Link Trainer work and also an began our instrument
training found me in the boonies of Texas, Marfa, TX, at Marfa Army Air
Base. Here we flew the Cessna twin-engine UC-78 Bobcat. It was fun. Sometimes
we flew with a buddy. One time we were out flying, it was a warm day and
we were both were just about asleep when a dark shadow flashed across
the cockpit… had we been flying 20 ft higher it would have been a midair
collision and four less cadets. They must have been like us, half awake
or as they used to say, “head up (your ass) and locked.” As we went through
the various phases of training there were continually fellows that were
being washed out for one reason or another. One good friend couldn’t pass
his instrument flying test. It was there that I received my Army Air Corp
Wings and was Commissioned a 2nd Lt., April 15, 1944, Class 44-D. We received
a little time off to go home, strut our stuff, and hopefully get our nose
back down out of the clouds before reporting back for duty… I was to
report to Roswell, NM.
Oh Boy! The
Flying Fortress! The big B-17 bombers! It was all that I expected it to
be. I really liked the way we were taught in ground school. They had a
cutaway engine so when you turned the prop you could see all the associated
parts moving. The fuel transfer system was laid out the same way. They
made many of the principals of physics so simple that any of us could
freely learn. Of course when you weren’t in class you were up flying…
sometimes it would be daylight other times at night. It got boring though
just flying around doing nothing but accumulating flight time. Like the
night we flew into the practice bombing range and didn’t notice it till
we happened to see bombs exploding on the ground and looked up to see
the planes in single file above.
the time my partner and I were to navigate for a nine ship formation flying
to Des Moines, IA. We were given an assembly point for the formation but
later not told that a change had been made and that we would be assembling
the formation en route. Timing the distance between two small towns on
the map we quickly computed our ground speed and course. Fortunately we
new where we were so we gave a heading and a guesstimated time of arrival.
Crossing over into Kansas we had a cloud layer beneath us and a strong
thunder head out West so our radio compass just homed in on it rather
then the needed radio stations. We tried doing some triangulation but
static and interference was too great. To make a long story short, we
lucked out and were able to put us close enough to De Moines, that when
we let down through the overcast we could see the airport. I learned that
ignorance is bliss just don’t freak out when reality hits you.
early in training, I was to fly with only a flight engineer as copilot.
I don’t remember what detained me, but I was late getting to the flight
line. I asked the mechanic if everything was in order and he replied that
it was. In my hurried haste of ground inspection I didn’t notice that
my left tire was down to the tread in one spot. Had I blown it on a landing,
that would have been grounds to wash me out of pilot training. The mechanic
was nice enough to tell me… but not till we were airborne. I sweated
blood over that landing. There was a crosswind and twice I aborted the
landing and went around. The third time was a charm, as I had all the
drift canceled, and I made such a smooth landing that had it not been
for the screech of the tires I wouldn’t have known it was touchdown on
the runway. Luck was with me again or just maybe it was my over worked
the B-17 training at Roswell, NM, I was included in the top 10% of my
class and was 3 ordered to report to McCook Army Air Base, McCook, NE,
to the 9th Bomb Group, 5th Squadron in the 20th Air Force. This was a
new combat group being formed and we were to train in the new long range
B-29 Boeing Superfortresses.
there I was assigned to Aircraft Commander 1st Lt. John Fleming in the
crew of eleven people. Our crew was comprised of 1st Lt. John “Stud” Fleming,
Airplane Commander (1st Pilot); 2nd Lt. Charles “Chuck” Chauncey, Pilot
(Copilot); 2nd Lt. John “Jack” Cramer, Navigator; 2nd Lt. Julius “Chip”
Chilipka, Bombardier; S/Sgt. Francis Prushko, Flight Engineer; Cpl. Charles
“Charlie” Rice, Radar Navigator; Cpl. Enrico “Rick” Roncace, Radio Operator;
Cpl. John Goldman, Central Fire Control Gunner; Cpl. James “Jim” Brandt,
Right Gunner; Cpl. Robert “Bob” Waldron, Left Gunner; and Cpl. Donald
“Don” Scribner, Tail Gunner.
was a fighter pilot instructor who was transferred into bombers when they
started closing down fighter schools. He was put in as a copilot on B-24’s
but raised so much cane he was shifted to B-29’s. In as much as B-29 production
was lagging behind, we had to start by training in B-17’s. That was alright
but I had to teach John how to fly it. He didn’t have any trouble learning
to fly it, but was a stump when it came to fulfilling the copilot duties
– he was still a fighter pilot. John’s biggest problem was that he was
an alcoholic. As a sober ( I’m using that term loosely) pilot he was just
great, smooth on the controls, and could grease those landings.
navigator we were given failed. We were to make a 1000 mi trip to check
him out. We left for Minneapolis, MN, that included our Squadron Navigator,
too. We were flying a B-17 for this trip. Shortly after leaving McCook
we got into a massive, unscheduled weather front and was blown close to
100 mi off our intended course. We had been calling for a heading to Minneapolis
and the trainee said he didn’t know where we were while our Squadron Navigator
kept telling us we were right on course. Eventually we got out of the
soup in North Dakota. By now, I was doing some radio fixes, triangulation,
and I spotted exactly where we were when we passed over a city that had
a large river running through it and with railroads from four directions.
We got our new heading in short time. This put us there after dark and
John dropped it in from 4- 6ft. – the worst landing I ever saw him make.
Walking up to the terminal a fellow said to us “You must really have a
heavy load in your plane.” I told him “Yes” and we hurried on before I
busted out laughing. Not unusual but there was a WAC in the tower with
a heavy Southern accent. John answered with his normal, heavy Tennessee
accent, too, but not following the regular nomenclature for talking to
the tower. Honey chile, etc., doesn’t catch it. So we were called up to
the tower and received a thorough tongue lashing before being released.
It was a normal ride home and we received a new navigator, Jack Cramer.
He was just great.
as an good navigator really shone when we flew to Havana, Cuba, for him
to get actual night celestial navigation training over water. This one
night we flew to two points, one on Florida and Louisiana, before coming
back to Havana. Jack had hit both of those places zero-zero (time and
distance) which was lucky, lucky, lucky. He new it and we new it. On the
way back to Havana though, which was very late at night, Jack called me
quite mad and exasperated with the navigational instructor, a Major. It
seems the Major would sleep, then wake up, shoot the stars, and tell Jack
he was off course when he wasn’t.
So Jack called
to get the Major off his back. In no uncertain terms and not using the
language my mother taught me, he was told to get away from Jack and not
to speak to him the rest of the trip. After landing (Jack was zero-one
mile off) the Major was really mad and was going to turn me in for insubordination.
It was my pleasure as a 2nd Lt to advise him that as pilots-in-command
he best not make an ass of himself the second time. He didn’t.
were blessed with a lot of recurring engine problems, so training in them
really kept you on your toes. We never lost over one engine on a training
mission but several crews sometimes lost two. While it would fly on two
OK, it would have been a problem with a bomb load. Probably the most violent
happening we had on a training mission was while we were pressurized and
flying at 23,000 ft. The top CFC gunner’s blister blew out! Luckily CFC
Goldman had left his position on the barber chair (it was up on a pedestal
and swivelled 360 degrees) and had gone back into RN Charlie’s radar room
when it happened. Again, luckily both side gunners, RG Jim and LG Bob,
were in their respective positions with their safety belts fastened. Decompression
is fast with that large a hole open – whomp, and it’s over. Everyone aboard
experienced a hard blow to the stomach, but really what happened was our
stomach gases expanding. The rush of the outgoing compressed cabin air
cleaned the gunners room completely of all loose articles, sack meals,
books, coats, and drinks. The scariest thing was that it lifted both fellows
up into their safety belts and they lost their seat cushions as well as
their head gear. It is claimed that the air in the front compartment gets
up to 200 mph passing through the crawl tube back to the rear section,
and visa versa. We had everyone get their oxygen masks on and we returned
back to the base.
we lost an engine at Kansas City while on a high altitude training mission
to KC, Omaha, and home. We wanted the stopover so landed there. I already
had visions of catching a bus to Chanute, my home, and come back the next
day. Well, low and behold, when we called McCook the CO went ballistic.
He told us, in no printable lingo, to stay right there on the airport
and that another B-17 would pick us up very soon. Well my visions of grandeur
went by the wayside zip. Naturally after we returned and landed back at
McCook, the tower politely told us to report to Headquarters. Well, John
and I stood at attention while being dressed down for not returning the
B-17 back to McCook. When we finally were able to break into the one way
conversation, we cited the handbook which stated… at the loss of one
engine you were to land at the nearest airport, but if you lost two engines
and not close to an airport you were to bail out the crew. The CO smiled
and dismissed us. Another lesson learned, it does pay to read the rule
I played a lot of chess. We were an even match for each other. Chip, a
great guy, just wasn’t a good gambler. Chip and Jack would get into the
damnedest arguments and if Chip said it was white (and it was) Jack would
argue it was black. Jack was already practicing the double life of an
training at McCook was completed everyone received a short leave to go
home for a visit before making the long journey across the waters. I only
shipped over in my foot locker all the fifths of liquor (excellent barter)
it would hold. These had been purchased while in Havana, Cuba for Jack’s
navigational celestial training session. These were all wrapped in towels
and not a bottle was broken. I carried all I needed in the duffel bag
on our plane. The ground personnel left early and went by ship, while
the flying crews received their aircraft and flew to Tinian. Some of the
Staff came along as passengers, but we didn’t have any.
received our new Wichita built Superfortress at Herrington, KS, a modification
base. From there we flew it to Albuquerque, NM, where we stayed all night.
We waxed all four of those 4-blade 17 ft. propellers while there (that
added 4-5 mph to our airspeed) then flew on to Mather AAB, San Francisco,
CA. We knew that we were headed for the Pacific Theater, but of course
we didn’t know our exact destination until opening our secret orders about
four hours out en route to Hawaii… the first leg of our journey.
flight to Hickam Field, Honolulu we lost an engine and had to replace
it with the spare engine we were taking over to Tinian. They said they
didn’t have any experienced mechanics to work on it. Arriving at Tinian
we were welcomed, like a lot of the rest of the crews, by Toyko-Rose who
was broadcasting from Tokyo, Japan. How did she get all this secret information?
Our group compliment of personnel was over 2,500 people and I suppose
she had their names too.
the extra speed our B-29 had, and being our pride and joy, the crew named
her “GOIN’ JESSIE”… you know going like a bat out of hell! Hence our
CFC gunner John Goldman, an art student at the Chicago School of Arts,
painted this mean lookin’, fast movin’ rabbit nose art.
out fine for John and I to split the mission time into quarters. Being
roughly 1,500 miles from Japan, I would pilot to Iwo Jima, John would
pilot on to Japan, we both flew the target, I would pilot back to Iwo
Jima and John on home. Our missions averaged just under 14.8 hours. When
flying daylight formation, John would fly on the lead plane to his left
and I would fly on the lead plane if to my right. Our position in the
formation was always preassigned.
We were based
at the largest bomber base in the world, Tinian North Field, which had
four 8,500 ft. runways plus all the taxiways and parking revetments for
each plane (approximately 400 B-29’s). Launching just sixty aircraft off
each runway at sixty second intervals required an hour not counting taxi
time. They made weather a no factor for takeoffs, it was at the other
end over the target that was important. We took off in rain squalls where
one couldn’t see beyond the next runway light. We were always overloaded.
I think they always computed our fuel needs first, then the bombays were
loaded to complete the maximum tonnage of bombs they thought we could
carry and still get off the ground. One night we didn’t get airborne until
we ran off of the built up end of the runway D. Our ground crew told us
that we took out the middle two clearance lights at the end of the runway.
We estimated that we flew out to sea some 45 – 50 miles before gaining
enough airspeed to start the climb. No way was I going to turn on the
landing light to check our clearance from the waves.
For the first
missions that we flew, beginning in February, 1945, they were all high
altitude missions around 5 30,000 ft. Not only us but all the other groups
were having poor bombing results. The Norden Bomb Sight could not handle
the fierce, newly found, winds called the Jet Stream — unknown till then.
From the high altitude formation bombing we were ordered to the low altitude
(below 10,000 ft) bombing. These were to be night incendiary bombing raids
by individual planes. Everyone thought they were trying to make suicide
kamikaze pilots out of us. I don’t mind telling you that all religious
services, no matter what faith, that were held before each mission were
attended by an overflowing group of airmen. Each bombardier was instructed
to lay their incendiary load along side a patch of fire already in the
city. These first five initial incendiary raids to Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka,
Kobe were called the Fire Blitz Missions. Results! The first low altitude
fire bomb mission to Tokyo resulted in burning close to 16 sq. miles with
deaths estimated up to 140,000 people with similar results happening in
the other cities. These fires would generate temperatures over 900 + deg
F and after about 20 minutes the smoke cloud would have risen to over
30,000 ft. and still be ascending upwards to over 50,000 ft.
fire storm clouds were violent vertical shear planes (updrafts and downdrafts)
that could tear an aircraft apart. On one occasion, which was Kobe, we
ran into one while flying at 7,500 ft. The smoke smelled to me like a
burning, musty attic fire with burned chicken feathers mixed in a very
acrid, tart odor. The shear planes were very violent alternating updrafts
an downdrafts. When we were into the heart of it our airspeeds would vary
from 160 mph to 330 mph, changing in the blink of an eye. We were flying
on autopilot and I was handling the elevators (which is to raise or lower
the nose of the plane) and John controlled our course. While in either
the updraft or downdraft I could turn the elevator knob from up-stop to
down-stop and it never effected our attitude or airspeed… we were free
climbing or falling. Poor ole Chip, our bombardier, couldn’t wear his
safety belt while operating the Norden Bomb Sight so when we hit a down
draft he hit the ceiling and was crammed back into his seat during the
updraft. When we finally and literally came out of it we had maintained
our altitude but were in a very steep 60 degree drive. Not wishing to
shed her overloaded wings, we tenderly pulled Goin’ Jessie out into level
flight as we were nearing the wharf area of Kobe and looking at a sea
of fires. Chip salvoed our bomb load and only the front bombay emptied
so we made a sharp bank to the left and hit the salvo button again and
the rear bombay emptied. I remember observing a very large warehouse with
flames coming out its windows and doors, and all at once the whole roof
caved in. It was just a large conflagration of fires everywhere.
that night I learned that some of our fellows had really gotten sick going
to the target no doubt due to the stench and stress and strain of the
rough ride. Later that morning John and I were awakened from a deep, drugged
sleep to report to headquarters where we were told that we had cracked
one of the four wing bolts (2-3/8″ Dia.). Their conclusion was that planes
were breaking up inside these fire storm clouds and were not being shot
down by night fighters. Because of the distortion that occurred our Goin’
Jessie was never to be as fast as she once was and it didn’t need to hang
its head in shame, but held high with honor as it carried us home in spite
if it internal wounds.
later found us in a night bombing raid on Nagoya. This time it was a different
kind of problem as we flew this mission with only three engines churning.
A couple hours after take off from Tinian the engine swallowed a valve.
Since there was no signs of an oil leak we had our FE Francis, richen
the fuel mixture and reduce power on the engine. This enabled us to continue
on. When we arrived about an hour from the target the oil pressure began
to drop and Francis immediately feathered the prop. In order to get credit
for a mission we had to hit the primary target. John and I briefly talked
it over and were in agreement to continue the mission so I polled everyone
aboard. Not a one of these brave men hesitated in going on to the target.
It was no problem finding Nagoya. Just by following the fires from the
sea on into the city where other crews had sown there load and headed
for home. We were immediately picked up by their searchlights. Where we
normally boosted our airspeed up to 275 mph on the bomb run we could only
reach 235 mph. Not only could we read a newspaper in those bright lights
but we must have confused them by being so slow. Navigator Jack said that
he even observed small arms fire go between the engine nacelles. How we
were never physically hit anyplace I’ll never know but will always give
praise to my guardian angle rather than their poor marksmanship.
A very good
artist friend, R. T. Foster of Oklahoma City, painted a picture “Night
Over Nagoya” depicting this story and it always brings reality home to
me how fortunate I am to be here at all.
One of the
things that I hated about those single ship night missions, where we were
all bombing the same target, was there could be several B-29’s all going
down the bomb run at the same time. I have counted on the bomb run more
than 20 planes during a full moonlight night in close proximity, some
a little higher, or lower, or moving across your path. Then comes that
pitch dark night where you can only see the exhausts of a plane near to
you. Just try too put that moonlight event out of your head. We flew some
night missions without any ammunition for our guns because to many planes
came home with 50 cal bullet holes in them. The Japanese only used 30
cal bullets. There was always enough pressure hitting the target without
the additional worry whether you were going to get rammed or shot down
by your own people.
did mining for the Navy. At night we dropped 1,000 lb and 2,000 lb mines
by parachute into Japans straights, harbors, and approaches. Each crew
was assigned an individual mine run. We were briefed by the Navy and they
furnished the mines. I thought they were pretty sophisticated in as much
as they could differentiate not only the size ships they were set to explode,
but could also be set so that the same tonnage ship could pass over several
times before going off. This was very successful as Japans’ shipping was
cut some 85% by the time the war was over. Not having the raw materials
for their war machine as well as not being able to feed all their people
they were in deep trouble.
was selected to drop the 2,000,000 ton of bombs for the Air Forces. This
we did on July 9th of