I checked the bags in at the depot and the two girls and I went up to the cafe on the corner of Eighth and Phillips Avenue for a cup of coffee. It tasted like varnish and there were a lot of bums hanging around in there drinking beer but it was the last few moments with some of the things a guy holds dear and so it held fond memories. We went to the depot and I boarded the train. The porter took me to my berth #10 and I had just time to raise the shade as we pulled out and see Deane and Peggy standing by the little Dodge. I'll still be able to see that sight till the day I die.
I went to bed immediately - having a hard time going to sleep as there was too much on my mind - I felt just like I'd lost something very precious to me. I don't believe I got any sleep until we were through Mankato, Minnesota and then it seemed like a very brief time before the porter called that we were pulling into St. Paul. I got up and went to the men's room, shaved and when we pulled into Minneapolis I was ready to leave the train. I took a taxi to the Curtis Hotel as the Home Office had informed me previously that there would be room reservations arranged at that hotel. However, there wasn't but there was a note there from Paul Hatlestad to be up at the plant at 8:00 AM.
It was 7:30 AM so I checked in my bags and got some breakfast, shoes shined and then went out to Fourth Avenue to catch a street car to the plant. Who should I meet first as I stepped out of the elevator on the 6th floor of Aero Division but the man who was to be my boss - Mr. Claude Smith. "Hello Herb, glad you're here - looks like they are going to get us out on the noon plane for Frisco - Hatlestad and Dave McDonald are talking with priority board now." We walked down to Hatlestad's office and I was greeted with, "Christ I'm glad your here - we really have been sweating you out boy - too bad we had to call you in so soon."
I secured my clearance, army orders and a hundred other things. I didn't have my uniform on so Claude Smith gave me his room key at the Nicollet and I grabbed a taxi at the plant - dropped off at the Nicollet after picking up my bags at the Curtis. I had a good bath and then Hatlestad called that I could relax a bit as the priorities came thru and we'd leave on the 9:00 PM plane. I remember I sat down in my shorts and smoked a cigarette. Smith came all in a hurry and when I told him we'd be leaving on the 9:00 PM plane instead of at noon. He was very happy. "Herb, I'm going to wash up a bit and then you and I are going downstairs to the Jolly Miller bar and have us a damn good drink." It was the first moment in a very hectic time that I really felt somewhat relaxed. Also, it was the first time I'd worn my uniform in public and I naturally felt very conspicuous.
We went back to the plant briefly in the afternoon to get our tickets on the airlines to Frisco, last minute instructions, and to say goodbye to the fellows. I remember Smith said, "Well fellows, if I can get plenty of whiskey and cigars I'll get along. I don't give a damn where they send me." So amid the farewell comments of the men and the whistles of the office girls, Smith and I walked down the hall from the home offices to the elevator and were off to the wars.
It was 2:30 PM so we went down to Smith's room in the Nicollet - packed our bags and had the hotel porter bring up a scale and weigh them. Our excess baggage cost $85 a piece for us from Minneapolis to Frisco. We then went up to town to do some shopping - I bought a good jack knife, sewing kit and other incidentals. About 5:00 PM we ran into "Swannie" Peterson in the Nicollet. Both Smith and I knew him as he was chief design engineer of the Chicago plant. We had a good drink in the bar on Swannie then at 6:00 PM we went into the Minnesota Terrace for dinner. We saw part of the floor show then had to leave as we were to catch the taxi for Wold Chamberlain airport at 8:30 PM.
We arrived there about 9:00 PM and weighed in and checked our tickets. Smith and I went outside for a few minutes to watch the activity on the airport. I looked over at the Minneapolis Honeywell hanger where I'd had six weeks of schooling - thought I sure never realized then that a little over a year later I'd be heading for the Pacific. The gal announced "Passengers on flight 9 board plane - check your passage with hostess." "This is it - goodbye Minneapolis", said Smith. We filed into the plane found our seats, and then took off on the northeast runway heading out over the city.
The air was bumpy and it was raining. We were in a two engine C-47 commercial of Midcontinent Airlines. Cute little brunette hostess in gray uniform. We arrived in Sioux Falls airport at about 10:45 PM and there was a 15 minute stop. I got out even though it was raining and I looked up toward Chester where my loved ones were. I tried to send some kind of a message to Peggy by mental telepathy. Funny - I was still worried about how Peggy & Deane had got home in the rain the night before with that bum windshield wiper.
We took off from Sioux Falls about 11:00 PM and landed at Sioux City 40 minutes later. I wasn't much inclined to do any sleeping & neither was Smith as the air was quite rough that night. Smith sat telling me his life history. We landed in Omaha about 12:30 AM and there we had a 2 1/2 hour wait for the west bound United Airline plane. We checked in our bags and tickets at the desk and there we saw a sign over the door stating that there was a Red Cross canteen across from the terminal for all service men. Smith said, "that sure as hell includes us", so over we went.
There were three ladies and they served us a very delicious lunch - coffee, hamburgers, potato salad, and pie alamode. Smith said to the ladies, "That's the first time in my life I've ever received anything from the Red Cross and I sure do thank you ladies." They said we could lay down in the lounge and sleep if we wanted to and they would call us at 2:30 AM but as exhausted as I was I had no inclination to sleep and neither did Smith. Smith had flown from Wright Field to Minneapolis on the day before I'd arrived in Minneapolis so he was tired as me.
Finally the west bound airliner that we were to ride from Omaha to San Francisco arrived and we "bumped" off a couple of civilians by having higher priorities. We boarded a C-47 commercial plane same type as we'd flown to Omaha from Minneapolis. The hostess was a blond and wore a blue uniform.
As we boarded the plane we both noticed there were a lot of foreign looking people aboard. I imagined they were heading for the United Nations conference in Frisco and I was right in my assumption. I sat next to the window and Smith next to the aisle. He called my attention to the couple sitting across from us - the lights were dim but we noticed that they were sort of dark skinned and quite nicely dressed. The lady was very pretty I thought but she was jabbering in a foreign tongue and was giving the man hell constantly about something.
The air was very smooth and those lovely adjustable seats in commercial airplanes surely were conducive to sleep. I really went to sleep in earnest. As we neared the mountains, my sleep was interrupted occasionally by the rough air. We let down at about 4:30 AM to the airport near Cheyenne, Wyoming. Smith knew this airfield quite well as he'd spent a three month assignment there in '43 with the Modification Center. We left Cheyenne after about a 20 minute stop. I went to sleep in earnest and didn't wake up until the hostess started putting my safety belt on. We were coming into Salt Lake City. It was day light and we had a beautiful view of the lake, salt flats and the mighty mountains surrounding it. Having been asleep, my ears were all plugged up and I did a lot of yawning and swallowing to open them again.
We set down at about 6:15 AM for a 20 minute stop. Smith being an ardent cigar smoker would light up a stogie as soon as he'd get out of the plane and then cut the fire off with his knife before boarding the plane as cigar smoking is not permitted in flight. We were sitting on a davenport in the Salt Lake City terminal waiting to be called back to the plane and Smith was sitting beside a cute blond. Suddenly he turned to her and said, "Lady, does my cigar bother you? - you know lady that you can't be particular about cigars these days."
After leaving Salt Lake the hostess served us a very delicious breakfast. We were over mountainous country constantly from here on. Our next stop was Reno, Nev. As we boarded the plane here again Smith asked the hostess who the couple was sitting across from us. We found out to our surprise that they were the King Farouk and Queen of Egypt. Here we had been sitting across from royalty.
We were soon over the most beautiful country I've ever seen - the Sierra Nevada Mountains with those beautiful snow capped peaks - then beautiful Lake Tahoe. That is positively the most beautiful and marvelous scenery I've ever seen from the air.
We landed at Sacramento Air Field and then headed for Frisco. I looked out the window for my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean but there was a very heavy fog bank out from Frisco as we came in and I could only see the shore. We flew directly over the southern part of the city - it was pretty as most of Frisco's houses are of a white and light color and hilly and close together. I could see both of the bridges, Alcatraz, Treasure Island. We let down and came directly over the bay (the Frisco airport bordered right on the bay). We landed and were astonished to see a large group of newspaper photographers - not for us - but they made the Egyptians stand by the plane while they snapped pictures.
We finally located a taxi and then set out for the Sir Francis Drake Hotel where we had reservations. The taxi driver cussed - grunted and groaned when he lifted our luggage. He commented to Smith that he must have a case of whiskey in his B-4 bag and Smith said, "Cabby, I sure as hell wish it was." Much to our delight Mr. Elton Richardson the Honeywell Western Divisional Manager was at the hotel to meet us, together with Toby Tuthill and Irving Sanderson - who were going overseas with us.
We showered, shaved and cleaned up and then the five of us went down to a restaurant where we had a lovely dinner - I had shrimp cocktail and lobster and it was very delicious. There were lots of foreign looking people in the hotel lobby. They wore badges signifying they were delegates to the United Nations conference. God I was tired. We, Smith and I, went up to the room and slept from about 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM. Then Elton Richardson called us saying that he could get tickets for the stage show "Desert Song" for the evening performance. We took him up on it and went to it even though both of us were so tired we didn't enjoy it so much. John Boles played the lead and Sterling Halloway held the comedian role. We didn't get up until noon the following day - Saturday June 9th. We were to report in to Hamilton Field. Smith called them by telephone and we were to report out there at 9:00 AM on June 10th.
On Saturday night we went out to see some of the high spots of Frisco. Of the numerous places we visited I liked the "Top of the Mark" and "International Settlement" the best. Top of the Mark is a bar on the top of Mark Hopkins Hotel situated on Knob Hill. It is entirely enclosed with glass and one gets a breath taking view of the city and bay in all directions. "International Settlement" is the remaining part of Barberry Coast of old historical notoriety. Most of it is made up of amusement establishments. At the Top of the Mark bar I sat beside a 3 star General and on the other side of me was a buck Private. One saw just millions of men in uniform in all branches of service and in all ranks. Of course we had to experience a ride on the famous cable cars for which that city is noted.
On Sunday morning we went to the down town office of ATC where we secured army transportation to Hamilton Field. We rode in an army "recon" car down along the docks and then over across the golden gate bridge - gosh what a sight. Words just can't begin to describe it. A small cruiser was sailing under the bridge as we went over it. Then we went past some of the ship yards, through San Raphael, and then finally arrived at Hamilton Field. Here I saw for the first time some of the camouflage work done on our western defense areas. The buildings, etc. were painted in green, brown, yellow, and gray in irregular shapes and patterns. I noticed a lot more security being kept then at some of our air bases I'd been on in the central US. We were taken directly to the Port of Embarkation office where our papers, orders etc. were examined. We were given our instructions and then continued over to the medical department where we received medical examinations during the remainder of the forenoon.
In the afternoon we were given two briefings: overseas rules regarding censorship, security etc. and a briefing on tropical diseases. We were to report back to the port officer for further instructions and here we were issued musette bags, canteen, bayonet, etc., also a steel helmet. All of our baggage and equipment was stored and we were permitted to take toiletries and a few clean shirts along in our musette bags.
Much to our delight we were informed by ATC officer that there would be no space available for a few days and that if the port officer would give us permission we could go back to our hotels in Frisco. The port officer OK'd it but we were to report to the ATC officer in the ATC office in San Francisco twice daily for alerts – 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. I also went over to Hamilton Field commissary and purchased sun tan trousers and another pair of shoes. We hitched a ride in an army car back to San Francisco. We were happy - it meant a day or two more in the good old USA. And Elton Richardson had held our room just in case this were to happen and so we still had a room - otherwise we'd have stayed at the BOQ for transient officers on Hamilton Field.
That night we really pitched a good one. Smith told one story after another - something that was very entertaining in days to come. That man was wonderful to be around because he was very humorous and could always bring out the very best of people he was around. He always had a witty comment and answer for anything and everyone. He was about six foot, had his hair cut short in a crew cut, he wore a mustache and there was always a cigar in his mouth which he rolled around in his mouth when he talked. That night I heard the famous "Grafters" story for the first time.
The following two days: June 11th and 12th were spent reporting for alerts at 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM and then going shopping for small incidentals we didn't have and thought we needed. There were many things later on I'd wished I'd purchased and many things I had along with me that I had no use for but of course we didn't know that then. One thing I purchased in Frisco that I'll save the rest of my life was a summer garrison cap which I called my "hot rocker". It was on my head in some very trying moments later on in the Pacific.
Our Wright Field orders specified that we were permitted to carry 165 lbs of luggage and normally one was permitted only 65 lbs. The extra hundred was for tools and technical data. Then we were permitted to carry our belts, canteen, bayonet, steel helmet and raincoats on our person plus one musette bag, into which I loaded all my toilet articles. I had my B-4 bag and small brown leather Honeywell bag which I had carried throughout my travels in the states. I had about 55 lbs short of my allowed weight so that night we visited several liquor stores and I picked up 12 quarts of good whiskey to take along - later finding out that they were worth their weight in gold.
This Irving Sanderson - one of the men going out with us had brought his typewriter along - God knows what for, as we knew that the army would furnish typewriters for us if we needed them - also he hadn't left his tools in Minneapolis like the rest of us had and so his weight was about 50 lbs over the limit. Toby Tuthill felt sorry for him finally and unloaded some of the things he was taking along - shipped them home and carried Irv's typewriter for him. I packed my dress uniform, pinks, and heavy shirt in a box and had them stored at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel wardroom. On Tuesday afternoon Smith and I were in the bookstore just off the hotel and I happened to run into Hal Kurtz - a man I met at Dyersberg, Tennessee the preceding winter.
That evening we were all set to go but were not alerted at the 5 o'clock meeting at the ATC office. The following morning we were up bright and early - had breakfast in the hotel coffee shop then walked over to the ATC office. Toby Tuthill's name was called and he left for Hamilton Field about a half hour later. Amid goodbyes, "see you in Kuuminy, China" (that's where we'd heard we were going strictly through rumor), we saw Toby on the recon car.
Smith and I went back to the hotel knowing full well that it was likely we'd be called on the 5:00 o'clock alert. We had a good dinner and sat around most of the afternoon in the hotel room. Finally it drew close to 5:00 PM and being sure our few things were ready to take along out to Hamilton, we walked over to the ATC office which was about three blocks from the hotel. At 5:00 PM the announcer came on: "The following people will report back here in one hour for transportation to Hamilton Field. Bach, Smith, Sanderson, etc., etc." This was it and we would be going out. We went back to the hotel and we all wired our folks the telegrams. I sent the following one to Peggy, "Putting Uncle Charlie on plane tonight. Hope he arrives soon." Charlie standing for China according to our prearranged code. All of us were certain that was our destination.
We rode out to Hamilton in the same army recon car going out over the Golden Gate Bridge and catching our last look at the bay and city of San Francisco from the ground. We were taken directly to the ATC terminal where an officer sent us into a room where a motion picture was shown "Survival at Sea" in case of being forced down in flight. We were then taken up to the transient officer’s quarters with the orders that our names would be called over the public address system one hour before we were report down to the ATC office. We were given a blanket, towel, pillow case, and sheets, and taken over to some barracks where there were a lot of double-decker beds. We found one that wasn't being occupied and Smith and I flipped for it - I lost and took over the top bunk. We hung up our musette bags, helmets, canteens, etc. over the bed posts, washed up, then went up to the transient officer's mess where we had a very delicious supper.
Over across from the mess hall was the transient officer's club where we found out that we could get a good cold beer. We found Toby Tuthill here sipping a cool one and playing a slot machine. We were glad to see him. He was to report down to the ATC terminal at midnight and was leaving at 3:00 AM so he wasn't going to bed. Smith and I drank about three bottles of beer and then went down to our quarters and went to bed. Men were coming in and going out all night long but at 9:00 AM Irving Sanderson rushed in, woke us up, and said that our names were called over the PA system and that a truck was waiting outside for us. We hurriedly jumped into our clothes, washed and rushed into the truck. There was no time for breakfast and they'd told us that we were to fill our canteens and also drink a quart of water before going on an over water flight. We didn't get around to doing any of these.
At the ATC terminal we first lined up to have ourselves and baggage inspected, then our baggage and ourselves were weighed - from here we went into a room where for two hours we were lectured to by an officer on how to conduct ourselves on an overseas flight. We were issued "Mae West" jackets - shown how to use them, etc. Our plane was called and with our paraphernalia on we filed out of the briefing room and out of the building toward a Douglas, four engine C-54 waiting out on the line for us. I was both thirsty and hungry and cussed myself for not having filled my canteen the night before. The dispatcher had previously collected 50 cents from each of us for a box lunch which would be served aboard plane during flight. We stood around the portable steps waiting to board the plane and we admired the plane - a Douglas C-54 transport. I could see through the door that it had nice cushion seats and we were happy about this as we'd heard all about these "bucket" seat planes which were mainly used by the ATC in transporting personnel. The flight clerk came to the door and started calling names and as our names were called we filed up the steps into the plane. I can vividly recall the feeling I had as I stepped on to that first step - wondering when and if I'd set foot on the USA again.
There were 44 passengers. Smith, Sanderson, and myself plus a large number of P-38 pilots who were going out to Biak Island. We stowed our gear - musette bags etc. up on a shelf. Put on our Mae West jackets and settled down in our seats preparatory to taking off. The flight clerk - a sergeant takes similar duties as the hostess does in commercial airlines, stepped up to the front of the cabin and gave us instructions as to how we would conduct ourselves during the flight and what the procedure would be in case the plane was forced down and had to ditch in the ocean.
Smith and I sat in the two rear seats on the left hand side. Sanderson sat across from us. Soon we could feel them starting the engines and then the flight clerk closed the door and walked through the cabin with an insect aerosol spray bomb. We taxied out to the end of the runway and they made their engine run ups and power checks preparatory to takeoff. Suddenly they turned around and taxied back to the line. Smith and I thought that perhaps an engine wasn't functioning properly. The flight clerk told us the radio wasn't working right and they were having one of the units replaced - there would be a few minutes delay and we could step outside so long as we stayed near the ship.
I walked back of the ship where a few of the P-38 pilots were hobnobbing and lit up a cigarette. Smith made a beeline for the PX which was about two blocks from where we were standing and came back with six candy bars for our breakfast. We were called back into the plane, engines were again started and we again taxied out to the end of the runway. At exactly 12:30 PM San Francisco time, the pilot poured the coal to the engines, we started rolling down the runway in a north direction, pulled off and started a spiral turning climb toward the east back south over the bay and into a straight climb directly over Oakland bridge, Golden Gate bridge and southwest toward Hickam Field near Honolulu in the Hawaiian Islands.
The windows in a C-54 are round and bulge out. I could look down and back and see all of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and all the ships going in and out of that great harbor. It would be difficult to express the feeling I had as I looked back to that city and bay and watched it gradually diminish in size and fade into the distance and finally fade out entirely in the haze.
We leveled out at about 10,000 feet altitude. The flight clerk informed us that there was a latrine in the rear end and ice water in some jugs on the wall with a paper cup rack. Only two of us would be permitted to the back there at a time otherwise it would put the ship out of trim. Smith and I made a beeline and I really quenched my thirst. We were also permitted to smoke every 15 minutes of the hour. We were told by the flight clerk to take our Mae West jackets and place them under our seats where they would be handy in case they were needed. I took out a package that had been given to me by the Red Cross back at Hamilton Field. It was prepared by the Omaha Red Cross chapter. It contained two packs of cigarettes, a deck of cards, dice, a small checker board and checkers, sewing kit, mosquito repellent, sunburn oil and ointment, mirror, comb, and a good luck token. Smith had a map of the Pacific on which he'd drawn some lines between San Francisco and Hawaii and as it was 2,500 miles between them he'd divided lines into 12 parts as it was to take us 12 hours to make the flight and we'd be able to plot where we were every hour.
The sky was surprisingly clear and about two hours out of Hamilton we could occasionally see ships down below us many merchant ships going both east and west. Looking down at the water it is pretty hard to estimate altitude but whenever we could see a ship you could get an idea how high we were flying. There were a few destroyers that appeared to be on patrol and we saw two navy blimps below us. Soon we were over a solid cloud layer and so most of us busied ourselves with reading.
I got out my notebook and pencil and continued my diary - which I started back in the hotel in Frisco. Occasionally, I would consult my watch and figure out what the time would be back in South Dakota and I wondered what Peggy, the kids and the folks would be doing. They knew from my telegram that I was on my way out. I was glad that they knew. Smith started telling stories about 3:00 PM (Frisco time) and that killed about an hour and a half. Finally about 5:00 PM the traffic clerk brought out our box lunches - two sandwiches, a pickle, an apple and a cup of broth soup followed by a cup of coffee and some cookies. After lunch I went to sleep and didn't wake up until dark. I had a funny sensation looking out the window. I could see the green navigation light on the left wing tip but as there was no moon the sky and everything was very black. It was 10:30 PM San Francisco time and we were about two hours out of Hickam Field.
About 12:15 AM one of the fellows on the right side said, "I can see the lights". We could feel the pilot had begun his let down and soon the traffic clerk came in from the flight deck and told us to put on our Mae West jackets and fasten our seat belts. I thought about how it would have been if we were in this position about December 7th 1941. There were many search lights and ground lights below us so we figured we were over Honolulu and Pearl Harbor. We made a slow turn to the right and then we could feel the flaps come down and we were in final approach. I put my head into the window in time to see his landing lights come on and the rectangle of the runway lights ahead. He made a nice landing. At the end of the runway he taxied over to the ATC terminal of Hickam Field.
We got off our ship and walked through a gate into a patio with chairs and tables. Some Red Cross ladies were serving doughnuts, coffee, pineapple juice (ice cold) and strips of pineapple. Over the PA system they announced that we were to report for baggage and army orders inspection in the ATC briefing room. Here we were issued billeting instructions, checked our luggage, then boarded an army truck for a ride to the transient officer's quarters - Hickam Field. Here we signed up for a towel, sheet, blanket and pillow case for a charge of 25 cents. Smith and I found our bunks and disposed of our stuff then went out to the officer's mess for some supper. It was 1:30 AM San Francisco time. I set my watch back to 10:30 PM Honolulu time. We shaved and showered and then went to bed. Ah - the bed felt good. I went right to sleep.
Smith came over and awakened me at 7:00 AM the following morning. We planned to get on the sight seeing tour the ATC had if we weren't alerted. First we had breakfast then walked down to the ATC terminal to see when we'd be alerted. Found out that we would be going out at 1:00 PM so we canceled any plans we had for sight seeing. Anyway, we walked around Hickam Field and as it bordered on Pearl Harbor we saw some of the remains of the December 7th bombing. The barracks in which we quartered the night before had taken a direct hit that Sunday morning. Thirty-five men had been killed and many wounded. We could still see where they'd patched up the buildings and the hangers. It was a busy air base. The runways were parallel and I believe there were about six of them and they were approximately six to eight thousand feet long. We saw lots of B-29's being ferried through and we presumed they must be replacements for some other Wing than the 315th which we were attached to as their airplanes would be flown out by the crews themselves.
Smith and I reported back to the ATC traffic officer at 11:30 AM and then went over to the officer's mess for lunch. We didn't know it then but it was to be the last time we were to eat out of dishes and have regular food. Also it was to be the last time for a long while that we'd have ice in a glass of water. Our luggage was cleared and weighed again and we were ready to leave on flight #71 for Johnston Island which was about 950 miles southwest of Hawaii. We were on a different plane than the one we came on to Hawaii from the states. One thing we were tickled about was that this C-54 also had plush seats - were we lucky. They said that only one out of a hundred ATC ships had cushion seats.
There were relatively high mountains all around Honolulu so we took off in an easterly direction turning toward south soon after takeoff and then swinging around southwest as we climbed to the cruising altitude. We got a good view of Honolulu, Waikiki beach, and Pearl Harbor. There were lots of naval vessels - carriers and battleships in the harbor and quite a bit of activity visible from the air. It was hot and we were sweating considerably under our Mae West jackets but it was quite comfortable when we reached cruising altitude which I judged to be about 10,000 feet. The flight clerk said we could smoke as much as we pleased. Smith sat next to the window and I was in the aisle seat. We were in the second row from the front. There were 44 men and 2 flight nurses aboard. The nurses were going to Okinawa and most of the men were on their way to join the 501st B-29 group which was in the Wing we were attached to. They were all ground officers and enlisted men. From them we learned that the 315th Wing was being based at Tinian so, as we discovered later, we were all confused and it didn't pay to take much stock in rumors. It was a beautiful day. There were scattered cumulus clouds and the Pacific Ocean has a deep blue color. We saw no ships on the flight to Johnston Island.
At about 5:30 PM we were told to put on Mae West jackets and fasten seat belts and then we could see tiny Johnston Island just below our right wing. It was very small - just a tiny dot of coral in the vast Pacific. It was about a mile and a half long and 300 yards at its widest point. The runway ran full length on the southern edge and then a taxi lane went around the other side of the island where the ATC buildings were located. The administrative buildings and navy barracks etc. were in the center along a road that ran the full length of the island. It was solid white coral and quite hard on the eyes in the bright sunlight. We were informed that we would have a 2 1/2 hour wait and that we could get supper at the officer's mess.
We got out and walked the few steps to the shore on the north side. As with most Pacific islands, there was a coral reef surrounding the little island and in the lagoon on the north side they had a navy PBY Catalina flying boat or seaplane base. There were thousands of white birds that resembled seagulls at home only much larger and they made a lot of noise. Smith called them "gooney birds". There was a 600 foot radar antenna tower right in the center of the island and they had electric light power and a water distillation plant together with an ice plant. It was the first I noticed that it was hot and I sweated very profusely.
The sun went down about 7:15 PM (-1 1/2 hour Hawaii Time) - we set our watches back 1 1/2 hours from Hawaii Time. It was Saturday night and back home in South Dakota my loved ones would be sleeping. Smith and I both remarked that it would sure be hell to have to spend several months on a little spot like Johnston Island but we both soon arrived in a place that made Johnston Island seem like a paradise. With the exception of the ATC, most of the island was navy. All personnel wore shorts - pants cut off about 8 inches above the knee. We saw our first Pacific sunset and I am unable to express its beauty in words. There was a mild breeze blowing across the little island and it became quite comfortable. Up in the navy service club a dance orchestra was playing and you could hear it all over the island. Even though Ernie Pyle expressed it in his book as " two aircraft carriers tied end to end" it was a sort of a nice little spot.
We were called over the PA system at 8:00 PM to board our plane #71 and we taxied over to the west end of the island and took off. An incident happened that caused the first scare to us on a trip that so far had gone pretty smoothly. We were about 500 feet in the air when No. 4 engine suddenly backfired. Of course I'd been on many ships back in the states where engines had backfired in flight - an indication of one of two things: either the pilot had a faulty mixture setting or else there was a malfunction in the engine. Smith and I reasoned that it must have been a faulty mixture setting as the backfiring did not continue. As soon as we reached cruising altitude we removed our Mae Wests and started settling down for the night.
It was very dark outside - no moon but I could see the stars. It became quite cloudy as I could see them drift by the wing tip. Smith had curled up on his side and apparently asleep and I was just dozing off when, " Bing - Bing - Bing" number four back fired three times in a row shaking the whole ship. Smith was wide awake and said, " Herb - that ain't good - wonder why they don't turn around and go back to Johnston." Smith noticed too that he could see the exhaust flare of # 4 engine and that indicated we'd blown an exhaust stack. That created a serious danger of fire, but a few minutes later the co-pilot came back and we asked him and he said there were no fuel cells near that engine, consequently absolutely no danger. The engine was OK only that they were running on auto lean instead of a lean setting as they normally would run - we figured out that he had a magneto drop. Still it seemed that neither Smith nor I felt much like sleep so he entertained me by telling about farming at Bloomfield, Iowa.
We passed over the international dateline at about 11:30 PM Johnston Island time. It was now Sunday night instead of Saturday night - we'd lost a whole day. Lights in the ship were dimmed as we were soon to fly near the Jap held island of Wotgie - the daylight planes detoured 100 miles to the south as a precaution. I did feel a bit uncomfortable flying in Jap territory for the first time in an airplane far out over the pacific with what I thought to be a bum engine. A C-54 can maintain altitude on three engines but air speed is cut about 40 MPH. It can stay aloft at 10,000 feet for 90 minutes on two engines before it hits the water. But the glow from the stack of # 4 lighted up so much that it lit up the whole cabin. I thought sure all the Japs within 100 miles could see us for sure. As I think back it was a Sunday school picnic as compared to some of the flights I was to go on later on in the summer.
I figured out from my watch that it was Sunday afternoon back in Chester and it was the day that dad held his band picnic - funny how a person can daydream about things far away. In just a few days I was out in an airplane in the middle of the Pacific in a dark night and my loved ones were sitting around on a lawn at home having a picnic dinner and listening to dad's band.
We started our letdown to Kwajalein Atoll and landed there at 5:00 AM Johnston time, 1:30 AM Kwajalein time. Couldn't see very much as there were few lights but we walked into a "shack" which was the ATC terminal of the island. Even at that time of the night the heat was terrific - the temperature and humidity just seemed to stun a person. Even from what we could see this island seemed like a hell hole, which it was. We had a 1 1/2 hour wait and we were sent up a few buildings where we were to pay 50 cents and get a ticket to go over to a mess hall for a meal. A young private handed out slips of paper to the officers and then we got on a truck which took us over to a mess hall. That young private actually stunk so terribly that it seemed he couldn't have had a bath for two years. As we were riding in the truck over to the mess hall Smith said, "Herb, after you and I've been out here two weeks we'll smell just like that guy in there does."
At the mess hall we found two fellows stripped to the waist and in shorts - a dozen rough benches, tin cups and pie tins, mealy old dehydrated potatoes, powdered eggs, bread and grease, and luke warm "iced" tea. I could hardly eat it but that was to be our type of living for the following months - only we were not adjusted to anything like that. We were wringing wet with perspiration. I was very thirsty from then on for a few weeks until I became adjusted to drinking warm water. While there I thought of Russell Hurt, Vic Fennor, Mark Barber and Curt Severson who were in the 7th Division that had taken this place from the Japs. That must have been hell.
After we had eaten we went back over to the ATC office and stood around out in the front of the shacks which composed their headquarters, etc. My God it was hot. Our pilot and crew finally started walking out to our airplane so we all followed along. We were soon told to get aboard and the inside of the plane was like an oven, my God but it was hot. We were all wringing wet with perspiration. Finally we took off and headed for Guam – 1,700 miles away. We were told to keep our safety belts on as they were expecting rough weather ahead. It felt good to get up to cruising altitude again. I would judge that the temperature was about 70 degrees up there and about 120 degrees on the ground.
Finally we hit the first rough weather - the plane was tossed around a good deal but I was well adjusted from past experience. One of the men in the back seats became quite airsick. Wax paper sacks were passed around to those feeling sick. The rough weather lasted about two hours. The exhaust stack of # 4 engine was still missing and it flared up considerably. Smith was asleep and finally I went to sleep. When I awoke it was just getting daylight. The sky was full of large billowing cumulus clouds. Soon the sun was up and we could see the ocean again for miles in each direction. Suddenly below us we spotted a convoy heading west. There were about 40 merchant ships with a few destroyers around them and a small aircraft carrier. About three navy single engine planes were to be seen flying around the convoy - patrolling for Jap submarines.
We finally could feel that we were losing altitude and Smith said he thought he could see land ahead. Sure enough it was Guam and we flew over the entire length of the island at about 5,000 feet turning out over the ocean on the west side and started letting down in final approach to an airstrip near the southwest side of the island. There seemed to be a lot of activity on Guam - one could detect it from the air. We landed on Harmon Field - the landing strip used by the ATC on Guam.
It was 7:30 AM Guam time and already one could detect the heat - we left our plane and stood around in a large shed with a dirt floor where finally our luggage was brought in and handed out to us. The men of the 501st group who were with us were taken over to transient quarters in trucks but Smith, Sanderson and I were to report to 20th Air Force headquarters so there was no transportation for us. We sat around with our luggage for about a half hour wondering what next and then Smith and I decided we'd go into an office and ask every officer we saw to line us up some transportation. About the 15th one got on a telephone and ordered a weapons carrier truck (6 ft x 6 ft) to come down and transport ourselves and our luggage. It was hot and we were dripping wet. I drank the last water I had in my canteen. We waited about 40 minutes and finally a three ton army truck rolled up in front of the door. It wasn't the one for us but we talked the driver into taking us up to headquarters of the 20th Air Force which he did.
We pulled out on a four lane tar highway. There was certainly a lot of traffic for so early in the morning. These are my first impressions of Guam: lots of tall coconut trees everywhere, the soil was brick red and the reddish color penetrated buildings, trucks, and everything. All along the highway were stacks of material. It was only two miles from Harmon field to the 20th AF headquarters and soon we pulled up to the front of a large flat building which had a sign out in front marked "Headquarters 20th AAF". We went in and were greeted by a hell of a fine fellow - a sergeant sitting behind a desk - he was the receptionist - he told us to leave our gear on the floor beside his desk and then he sent us over to the headquarters officer's mess for breakfast. It was a long screened hall where about 25 Negro mess boys were serving. We lined up for pancakes, syrup, fried spam, and coffee. It tasted very fine and I must have eaten at least 10 pancakes.
As we were walking over toward the headquarters building who should we meet but Toby Tuthill and John Anderson. Toby had arrived the evening before and had been lucky to contact John immediately. John was the Honeywell Pacific Theater Coordinator and served on the 20th AF staff. As we were to report immediately to the commanding officer (General Lemay) we three went into headquarters and the sergeant sent us into an office where we met Colonel Knowles - the General's adjutant. We gave him our orders and then he told us that the 315th Wing was to be located on what was called "Northwest Field" here on the island of Guam. The hitch was that the field was about half completed and living conditions up there would be pretty rugged for awhile. He said that our orders would be cut that afternoon and we were to report up there on the following day to General Armstrong - CO of the 315th Wing. Transportation would be ready for us at 10:00 AM. We were then sent over to a billeting officer where we were furnished one blanket and then taken over to a barracks where there were about 40 army cots set up. Alongside the barracks was a shower shed and wash room. There was a large canvass lister bag on top of the shed.
The first thing Smith, Sanderson, and I did was to peel off our clothes and have a shower bath. We were pretty tired so we lay down on the cots and went to sleep. About 12:30 PM John Anderson and Tuthill came over and got us. We had lunch at the officers mess and then John took us for a ride in his jeep around the headquarters area and then over to the building where he had his office. He gave us the dope on the setup out here and the type of living, etc. that we'd have. Also informed Smith and me that we would be called on to go to various islands - Tinian, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, wherever our services were needed.
Smith already was the boss of our group and the fixings on our respective duties were planned long ago back in the states at Wright Field. Sanderson and Tuthill were to be in charge of maintenance and service of the turbos and C-1 autopilot for the entire wing. My job would be instructional and I would be in charge of briefings on bombing with the autopilot and AGLD radar unit for the entire Wing - also to assist the others in their duties whenever help was needed. Smith was to be in full charge of all our activities and was to assist the army on supply and depot 4th echelon maintenance.
We hadn't had much of a Sunday - having crossed the international dateline and in flying west we had been moving the clock back. Monday, consequently, was a mighty long day. It seemed that I was all mixed up on time anyway. It got dark early in the tropics - about 7:15 PM the sun went down and in a few minutes it was dark - there was no twilight - it got dark in a hurry. There was electric power at this area and we had two tiny light bulbs in this large barracks. I went out to the latrine - a screened-in 12 holer - no plumbing of course. It was the first BM I'd had since leaving Frisco and it was a big one. I thought things were very primitive but it was paradise compared to what I was getting into the following day. We lay down on our cots and Smith got started telling stories again. What a character! No pillows and those army cots were hard as the floor but I went to sleep in a hurry.
We were up at 6:00 AM on Tuesday, June 19th. A weapons carrier truck was sent up to our barracks soon after we'd had breakfast and we loaded our gear aboard, sat on the plank seats on the sides and started out for the 315th Wing Headquarters Northwest Field out on a four lane road along the west side of the island. Traffic was terrific - jeeps and trucks going like hell. It was as bad as the traffic on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Everywhere we looked we could see tent camps, bull dozers working and piles (yes piles) of equipment. For about a mile there were wooden boxes piled up about 25 - 30 ft high and it seemed like driving up a city street. We passed the 2nd Marine Division encampment, ground forces headquarters, several Sea-bee encampments, and in one area there were at least 500 new trucks parked in rows. All of these areas had been cleared out of solid jungle by bull dozers. Suddenly, B-29's started flying over us - about 100 feet off the ground, one after the other. Our driver said they were the 314th Wing ships based on "North Field" and they were on their way no doubt to bomb Japan. There were then two large B-29 bases on Guam - Northwest Field where we were to be based and North Field about 5 miles south of ours where the 314th Wing was based.
Finally we turned off the road and drove on a bumpy dirt road till we came to a sign saying 315th Wing Headquarters. All it was were tents sitting under the coconut trees. After a lot of inquiring around we found out where the temporary headquarters was located. We stepped into a tent and reported to a Colonel Fulton, Adjutant, who was sitting behind a wooden box that served as a desk.
"Gentlemen", he said. "I can't offer you a chair as you can see what the situation is around here." We handed him our orders and he said that it would be advisable for us to spread around and live with each Group. The 331st and the 502nd Group were on the north side of the field and the 501st and 16th Group were on the south side. As I'd worked with the 331st back at McCook, Nebraska and Smith had been with the 502nd at Grand Island, Nebraska, it was decided that we would live with them and Tuthill and Sanderson would live with the 501st and 16th Group.
The 501st bivouac area was a few hundred yards away so we drove through a winding dirt road (bumpy as all hell) to a clearing where there were about a hundred small tents. We dropped Toby off at the 501st Headquarters, took Sanderson over to the 16th area which was a few hundred yards farther into the jungle, then came back through the Wing Headquarters area and on to a two lane coral - tarred highway around the west end of the field to the north side where the 331st and 502nd areas were supposed to be. We finally found them and they were right together on a road leading off the highway - the 331st area was on the left hand side and the 502nd area on the right hand side. The men of the ground echelon were here and they'd left the states in March - coming out by boat. None of the flying echelon was here as yet except for one plane - General Armstrong's and that was sitting down on Harmon Field.
We caught a glimpse of the airfield as we came around the "perimeter" road. There were hundreds of bull dozers and trucks and machines working. There was a rise on the one end where they had knocked down the trees and were excavating a big cut so as to lower the clearance at the end of the runway. This entire north end of the island was on a rock - there was a cliff that was about 600 feet high all around this edge of the island - that's probably why the marines referred to it as "the rock". Vegetation was dense - only the clearings had been opened up with bull dozers. One couldn't walk through it. Along the edges of the highway and roads were piles of coconut trees and brush from being pushed over and to the side by the bull dozers.
We found the tent marked "Hdqtrs - 331st Bomb Group", jumped off the truck and Smith handed me my bags. I thanked the driver then walked into the tent to report. There were two enlisted men in one end and a young blond man with a 1st Lt. bar on his cap sitting behind a box that served as the desk. "I'm Herb Bach, a bombing technician assigned for duty with the 315th Wing and Colonel Fulton has asked me to live with the 331st Group". "I'm Lt. Russell Riley acting adjutant of the 331st Group, I'm sure glad to know you Bach". It was 12 o'clock noon and Lt. Riley took me over to the officer's mess. I noticed that the tents were lined up in rows and some had wooden floors built in from scrounged lumber. It was very muddy and we wadded through ankle deep mud up between the rows of tents until we came to an area where there were several large tents situated close together.
We stepped into one where about 25 officers were sitting at some benches eating out of pie tins. Riley took me over to an end table where he introduced me to Lt. Colonel Mackey - CO of the forward ground echelon of the 331st Group. Colonel Mackey was a gray haired, short, stocky man whom I judged to be about 45 - 50 years old. He was nice and I liked him right away. He had one of the KP's bring me a plate and utensils and then turned to the others and introduced me to all the officers present. When I told him that I'd been at McCook, Nebraska working with the flight crews of the 331st Group in May he was quite surprised and the first thing they all wanted to know was when they would arrive out here - a question I couldn't answer. I told them how we'd heard through rumor that the 315th Wing was to operate in China they laughed and said that they had heard that before they sailed in March. I was chided and razzed a bit about my appearance. Here I was with long hair neatly combed (I'd just had a haircut in Frisco the day before we left), a pair of fairly clean pants on and a new suntan shirt I'd put on clean that morning. One fellow said, "And to think I looked like that once". Well, they were a seedy looking bunch of men - hair cut off, a dirty brown color - browned by the sun and most of them had on shorts and combat boots, bared to the waist, and as they all wore their rank insignia on their caps, I couldn't tell whether they were a Lieutenant or a Major. The food was entirely C rations - ground up meat, vegetables, gravy and spuds all in one. Bread with a butter like stuff that they called "grease", warm water.
I was sitting near a fellow they called Padre - a young Captain - the Catholic Chaplain, Father Gaines. I was to get to know him quite well in the future. Two doctors were sitting across from me; Captain Wiggers and Captain Krausharr. I told Captain Krausharr that I knew a man by the same name that had been an educator back in South Dakota and wondered if there could be any connection. "There sure as hell is, he's my uncle. I'm from Aberdeen and my father was a physician there until he died a few years ago." Doc Krausharr was a swell guy and we were to have lots of good times together later on that summer.
This group of men composing about 50 officers and 400 men had left the states in March, sailing by boat to Guam. There they were loaded onto trucks and moved up to the north end of the island, given some lumber and tools and unloaded into a clearing in the jungle where they pitched their tents - built up their temporary living area and they began to build up the maintenance shops out along the line - then to build up a permanent housing area for the group. When I arrived they hadn't received any lumber so everything was dumped in the open and everyone was living in two man tents.
Colonel Mackey asked Lt. Riley to line a place for me to live and Riley told me he'd attend to that this afternoon and I'd have some place to sleep and store my stuff. During the afternoon I walked around the area with Doc Krausharr. Some of the fellows had fixed up their tents pretty nice. Beds had been made by building a frame out of coconut and bamboo logs and lacing rubber strips from old truck inner tubes to form a mattress that was very comfortable. Several chairs had been built out of boxes and it was amazing to me how much some of them had made out of so little. Those little tents were not very roomy and when two cots were put inside there was only a little space between them. Many of the fellows had built a frame out of bamboo and then hanging the tent over it and then by putting a shelter half (pup tent) on each end and staking them out, they could increase the room a great deal. Clothes lines were hung in between the tents and between the coconut and banyan trees. I asked Doc if a guy had to wash his own clothes (what a foolish question). "Yes, unless you want to go dirty." There was a time in my life when I enjoyed being a boy scout but I was over that phase of my life now. Most everybody's clothes were brownish red in color now and all things white such as towels and handkerchiefs soon became reddish brown. Even the tents which had once been army green in color were the same color as the soil. The reddish jungle dirt seemed to penetrate everything just like a dye.
In between the 331st and the 502nd areas was a clearing where about fifteen straddle ditches were located. This was the latrine area and both groups used it. There was no toilet paper so we used mimeograph paper for the first few weeks. On the one end of the area was a wooden board walk with a pipe running above it. There was a faucet on this pipe about every six feet and a large canvass lister bag was sitting on a platform on an end where water was brought in by trucks and stored. The men could get some resemblance of a shower bath.
Doc Krausharr gave me a grim warning of the dangers of skin disease due to jungle crud and fungus of the skin. Tropical jungles were lousy with molds and fungus that attacked all living tissue - and the human body was no exception. The best precaution was frequent bathing with soap and dusting skin with some borated talcum powder. About 25% of the men in the group had fungus infections and some of them were down at the army base hospital in serious condition. I realized that was the first of many things I'd forgotten to bring along although I did have a small can of Quintana foot powder and this I used sparingly. It was impossible to get either soap or powder. I did have enough soap along to last a month at least. They had a small PX (Post Exchange) fixed up in a tent but this was open only for an hour in the evening after supper. The supply of things for sale was very meager. Men would line up and stand in line for a long time to buy the few things they could get.
In the middle of the afternoon Lt. Riley found me and took me over to a tent where only one officer was living - name of Captain (name omitted, an S-2 officer). Nobody could stand him and other men who'd lived with him soon lined up another place. We went over to the tent and I noticed that he'd built a floor but it only covered the ground in half the tent - the side on which he lived. It was the only thing available so I went along with Lt. Riley to the supply tent where I checked out an army cot, mosquito netting, and two mattress covers (they were all out of blankets so they gave me two mattress covers instead). I also got a flashlight, galvanized pail, scrub brush, and a cake of GI soap. This we carried over to the tent and Riley helped me set up the cot and drape the mosquito netting over it. We carried my bags over from headquarters tent and I piled it all on top of my cot. I didn't know where I was going to put everything so I just left my bags packed as they were and they stayed that way for a long time. My B-4 bag was water proof but my little brown leather Honeywell bag was due to catch it from the weather.
That night we had C rations again supplemented with canned peach sauce. The peaches seemed a great treat to the fellows but not much to me - I hadn't been there long enough to get a longing for any food. I thought the C rations were quite tasty. That evening after supper I sat out in front of our tent on my laundry pail hobnobbing with my new acquaintances and then we went up to the officer's club which was a tent that had a coral floor and a few boxes for tables - craps and poker. Down in the tent area near the PX was a large banyan tree where they had hung a gas lantern. Under the tree was a large craps table (where they got the lumber God only knows). This table could handle 20 to 30 men at a time and it ran continuously. I saw $1, $5, and $10 bills that had changed hands so many times and worn so bad you couldn't tell whether it was American or Chinese money.
It grew dark at 7:15 PM and around 8:30 PM I walked over to my new little home and prepared to go to bed. My new roommate was lying in his cot under his netting reading, using a flashlight. All he said was, "You're that new guy aren't you" - that was all. I didn't have much to say to the fellow and never from that time and on did I have much to do with him. He was a very funny fellow.
They said this was the dry season as the wet season would commence after June 21st, however, even in the dry season it rained several times daily - generally during the night and the rain fell down at about a 10 degree angle from true vertical always from a northwesterly direction due to prevailing wind. I took my galvanized pail and set it in the middle of the tent, laid my B-4 bag down on that, set the leather bag on top of that, hung the musette bag on the tent pole, rolled up my clothes and laid them on top of the bags and crawled under the netting and laid on top of the mattress covers. Gosh but South Dakota was a long ways off.
About 2:00 AM I was awakened by the rain hitting me in the face. Water was running in the tent floor like a river. I had my flashlight in the cot beside me and I turned it on and looked out the south tent flaps which were open. There was a solid downpour - water stood four inches deep all over the ground. The north tent flaps were tied shut but rain was coming in through a small slit between the flaps. I couldn't do much about it but I did reach down and get my shoes and tied them to the corner of the cot before they were washed away. This roommate fellow was on the west side of the tent so he and all his stuff was OK and out of line of the rain. Not too much rain was hitting me so I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep - anyway I felt cool for once.
The following morning, Wednesday June 20th, I woke up around 5:30 AM - men in all the tents around me were stirring. Captain Wiggers and Captain Krausharr lived in the tent right across from me and they were out in front washing in their helmets and at the same time they were razzing Captain Gaines - Catholic Chaplain, who lived in the tent right next to mine, "Come on Padre - get your ass out of the sack. Guess we should be chaplains instead of the medical corps. Cripes what a life." By this time I'd gotten my pants and shoes on and was out with my helmet and on my way to the lister bag to get some water. Father Gaines was sitting up in his bunk and when he saw me he said, "Bach, I pity you having to live so close to a couple of pill peddlers - all they have to do is go down for a couple of hours in the morning to the first aid tent for sick call and then they sit around on their dead ends for the rest of the day - now look at me - I run all over this damn island trying to get stuff for these guys - and am I appreciated, Hell No!" This friendly chiding went on all summer. I was to get to know all these men intimately and this friendly razzing that was continuously going on did a lot for these men. Men who had left lovely homes and families and conveniences to come out here and live in this primitive manner.
I washed out of my helmet - brushed my teeth with water out of my canteen, then went along with Doc Krausharr down to the mess tent for breakfast. Colonel Mackey was there and eating. When he saw me he asked, "Well young fellow how did you sleep?" I said, "Well --." And they all roared. "You'll get use to it." I was sweating like the devil already but I noticed that the others were not. I was acclimated by about two weeks later and I seldom perspired heavily after that unless doing heavy work. We had French toast and spam and oatmeal with powdered milk that had been watered. It was a good breakfast - I thought. We would line up with enlisted men and everyone and pass through the mess tent - (kitchen) then over to the tents. The officers had a separate tent from the enlisted men but we had the same food and ate out of the same kind of dishes.
After breakfast I went back up to my tent and began thinking about what I could do to improve my new little home. About then a heavy set blond Captain came up and said, "I'm Harry Malcom, I'm in charge of construction around here and if I can be of any help to you--." Right then I met one of the characters of the outfit. He had been football coach of the Santa Barbara Junior College, Calif. He was the greatest scrounger in the southwest Pacific (I'll have a lot more to write about him later on). "I'll send up a couple of my boys with some boxes and tools and I know where you can get a couple of shelter halves and they'll build up that tent for you so it's livable. That sh-- eating roommate of yours wouldn't do anything, but if you've got a little whiskey along with you, why give the boys each a good drink."
About ten minutes later here come two enlisted men in a jeep with about five boxes and tools. We took down the tent moved all our stuff out and built up a nice large floor by laying boards over coconut logs. We then got some nice coconut poles, built a frame and set the tent up over it, tied the shelter halves to each end of the tent and staked them out. They also nailed two small wooden boxes up on the side pole and I set my toiletries in one and other gear in another. With large nails in the side pole I could hang up my B-4 bag and little brown leather bag so they wouldn't get wet. They left another small box which I could use as a stool. Outside they wired three small poles together like a tripod and I could set my helmet in that when I washed. Everything was finished by 10:30 AM and I began to have a pretty good feeling about everything. I took the two boys into my tent, got a quart of whiskey out of my B-4 bag. They both had a good snort as the bottle was half empty when they left. I don't know if Captain Malcom got much work out of either of them the rest of the day.
About noon my roommate came over to the tent and he was so pleased that he actually acted as though he was glad I was living with him. Colonel Mackey lived in a tent about two doors up from mine and dropped in on his way to lunch - expressed his satisfaction that I had secured a half way decent place to live. I told him I would be happy to help him in any way until the airplanes and flight crews arrived and he said he'd remember that. In a few days I was to get pretty busy and anyway Colonel Mackey never came around to ask me to help him with anything. I liked Colonel Mackey and continued to like him even though a lot of fellows felt he was a slave driver.
That afternoon a Lt. Hinkle - who was acting as officer’s club manager - besides his other duties, came over and asked if I wanted to join the officer's liquor ration association. It cost $40 bond - which we could get back when we left the island - and then we'd buy each bottle every week as we got it. He was going down to Aguana where the island command was located and pick up the liquor for the officers that week and he invited me to go along and as I didn't have a thing to do I took him up on it.
I hadn't seen the airfield so we drove in his jeep out through a jungle road to the landing strips. I was a bit amazed at the density of the jungle. We went past two large coral pits where bull dozers and scoops were hauling out loads of coral to be used in building the runways, taxi strips, and hard stands for parking airplanes. We went out on the field - it was about three miles long and two miles wide. Two long runways parallel to each other were built - they were about two miles long and they extended almost from the east side to the west side of the island. They were constructed out of asphalt and coral. Surrounding them many taxi strips and hardstands were in the process of building. I had seen construction crews working on roads etc., back in the states but never anything like this. There were hundreds of machines going full blast. We drove down one of the runways and it really was something - 11,000 ft long and I'd thought those 6,500 ft runways back at Dyersburg, Tennessee were long. We saw about 25 B-29s were sitting parked over on the south side so we went over there - they were 16th Group ships and they had arrived that morning. I hadn't been over the highway on the east side of the island so we went down that way cutting over across the island on a two lane highway which took us past North Field where the 314th Wing was based. It was a huge airdrome built in the same general plan as it appeared ours would be (a photo of Northwest Field appears in the Life Magazine and I shall try to clip it out and attach it here in this book).
We joined the western highway near 20th AF Headquarters drove past Harmon Field and then to Agauna. It had been the capitol city of Guam and the pre-war population was about 20,000. But there was nothing left of the old city but rubble, there was no high cliff at this end of the island and there was a gradual slope up from the beach. Consequently both the Japs and the Americans had invaded the island at this area. What the Japs didn't blow up the Americans did. It was now a city of quonset huts (quonset huts are built of round sheets of corrugated iron). The ends are screened. They varied in size from 100 feet long down to 30 feet in length. I could see that the Americans had been pretty good to the natives. Building up a complete city with quonset huts and panel board prefabricated buildings while most of the army service men lived in tents.
We were stopped by MP's and as we had a pass we were permitted to enter Aguana otherwise we could not have gone in. They kept the natives and the Americans apart for various reasons. We were not permitted to go into Aguana or Anaharan or any of the other native villages and they were not permitted in our areas. We could enter Aguana with a pass but we were never permitted to enter Anaharan which was on the southeast side of the island.
I signed up and paid my $40 then Lt. Hinkle secured about four cases of whiskey, rum, brandy, and gin and we started back for Northwest Field. Lt. Hinkle knew a P-38 photo reconnaissance group so we stopped in there a few minutes while he looked up some of his old buddies. He learned that this outfit would move up to Northwest Field as soon as it was operable and live there (they arrived about July 1st and lived in an area about three miles from the 331st Group area). We arrived back in our area about 4:00 PM and I helped Lt. Hinkle unload and store the liquor in the officer’s club tent.
After supper the fellows drew slips of paper from a hat and those that were lucky drew whiskey - those not so lucky got rum, gin and brandy. Lt. Riley gave me my beer, coke, and juice ration card. We could get five cans of beer, four cokes, and three cans of juice (grapefruit) every week. As this was beer night, we went down to the PX tent where we lined up to buy our one can of beer. The beer was warm though - refrigeration being something a guy dreamed about. The fellows of course started nipping on some of their liquor. The usual procedure was to take a canteen cup - pour in a can of grapefruit juice then add about three jiggers of whiskey. I discovered immediately that it didn't take much liquor in the tropics to put a guy into a spin.
Colonel Joyce - Group Engineering CO was a great singer and about 40 of the officers got started in a song fest under his direction. It was wonderful and the harmony etc. was really something. Of course the songs were not of the best - such as "I've Got Six Pense", "Roll Me Over", "Send Them All - The Long and the Short and the Tall", but there was one that I learned that night that I shall never forget and it was sung principally by the air corps. It went like this.
"We are little black sheep who have lost our way
baa - baa – baa
We are like little sheep who have gone astray
baa - baa – baa
God look down upon we three
As we pass into eternity
And have mercy on such as we
baa - baa - baa"
Something about that tune made me feel melancholy that night and every time afterwards that I heard it.
It rained again that night and I woke up. I was prepared for it now and I felt very comfortable (there's something soothing about rain falling on a tent roof).
After breakfast the following morning I was in my tent getting ready to walk over to the 502nd area and find Smith when the old boy himself walked in and surprised me. "Is this your tent? If it is you're just an old plutocrat." Smith had a jeep and he and I were going to go over to Wing and start getting organized. Smith had heard that about fifty or more airplanes of our Wing were expected in from the states within the next few days. If so it meant work for us. "I'm glad you've got your living quarters fixed up somewhat decent Herb because in few days we'll be so busy you won’t have time to fix up anything. I was lucky - they moved me into a tent that already had a floor and was fixed up. First thing we've got to do is go to the wing transportation officer and get a jeep requisitioned to each of us as we're going to need it. I borrowed this one I've got from an officer over at the 502nd and can use it for the day."
I put on my colored glasses - went out to the lister bag and filled my canteen - picked up my rain slicker and Smith and I set out in the jeep and headed for Wing Headquarters. "Anything you want to know about a jeep just ask your old friend Smith." He was a good jeep driver but I became as proficient at wheeling one of those things in a few weeks as anybody was. We found the Wing Engineering Officer – and Smith and I went with him over to the tent where the Wing S-2 Department was located. Here I met Colonel Hatfield and Major Chapman - with whom I was to work in close contact. I spent about two hours with them. It was planned that I was to spend a good deal of my time working with them. My duties would include studying plans with them and I would assist their department in briefing targets on all empire strikes. I would be informed 48 hours in advance to report over there - go over the details with them and then on the afternoon on the day preceding all missions, I would brief all bombardiers and radar operators on scope pictures and AGLD and then brief pilots and copilots on the C-1 setup. This meant that I would have a days work in connection with each mission the Wing would make. They said that a large pre-fab building - "the briefing room", was being constructed and they expected it would be ready by the time the Wing went on its first empire strike.
Smith and I had lunch over at Wing that day. The food was C-rations but they had MP's waiting on tables and we didn't have to stand in line. They were much farther ahead in building construction on this side of the field than they were on the north side. After lunch we set out to find Toby and Sanderson. We finally found Toby's tent and there he was - swinging a hammer - building a floor in his tent. Toby said he'd been down to operations office and had made a ground check on all airplanes the 501st and 16th Groups had in. Irving Sanderson had checked all ships for turbo malfunctions and everything had been cleared up. The three of us then went down to the "line" where Smith wanted to look into how they were coming along with their C-1 and turbo maintenance shops.
Smith and I then went back over to our side of the field and I went over to his tent to give it an inspection - it was a bit better than mine. He was rooming at the time with Captain Duffy - who'd been a taxi driver at one time in the city of Boston. Duffy was motor pool officer of the 502nd Group. Over his tent was a sign "Duffy's Tavern". I could see that he was the type of individual that would get along great with Smith. Duffy had swapped with the Sea-Bees and had two cases of canned beer so naturally the three of us sat around in the tent drinking warm beer. Smith said, "Herb, we've got to put our engineering talents together and figure out some way of building a mechanical refrigerator." That was to come but Toby Tuthill was the boy that built it. That night I stayed with Smith for supper with the 502nd Group and met all the officers over there. Smith hadn't known any of them back in Grand Island, Nebraska as he'd arrived after they had left for the Pacific.
The following morning - June 22nd (Friday) Smith came over with two order sheets and gave me one, "One vehicle will be issued daily for uses of H.C. Bach, Technician, for dispatch of duties, by 331st Motor Pool Officer." I was to have a jeep to use at any time I desired. We went down to the 331st Group motor pool where I was to be issued a jeep. Instructions were that I was to check it out every morning and return it in the evening. All oiling, gassing, and servicing would be carried out in the evening - so it would have a full tank of gas and oil and everything checked every morning I'd come down to get it. A stencil was cut and with a spray gun they painted on the right hand windshield, "Tech Rep 315th Wing". Smith said, "Herb, I'll have to check you out on a jeep." I had driven one before back in Dyersburg but I had to re-familiarize myself with the two and four wheel drives, etc. It was a Willy's jeep - practically new and had a good top on it.
We drove down to the north side of the field so Smith could check on how they were progressing with construction of C-1 and turbo maintenance shops. We then drove over to the south side where about 25 B-29's were parked. They were painting the bottom of the wings and fuselage of these planes with black paint - something they did to all of the ships in our Wing being as they would be raiding Japan at night. The General's ship "Fluffy Fuzz the 2nd" was sitting out on a taxi strip and we saw Toby Tuthill sitting over there under a wing talking to group of men huddled around him. We drove over. Toby handed us the form 1 of the airplane on which General Armstrong had written "C-1 autopilot entirely out of adjustment - precessing both right to left. Impossible to adjust for proper flight - this must be attended to and properly adjusted immediately." Toby said, "I've ground checked it completely and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that autopilot." A Major - who was the General's copilot, and the rest of the crew were there.
We decided that we would flight check the ship and with Smith, Tuthill, and I, we should be able to determine where the trouble was. While the Major went up to the Wing Air Inspector's office to get a pilot to go along as copilot, we borrowed chutes and Mae Wests from the crew members and fitted them. We gave the C-1 another complete check but neither of us could detect a thing wrong there on the ground. Finally, the Major came back with a Captain who could act as a copilot. We took a radar operator and a flight engineer along. I sat up in bombardier's seat and would set up that part of the equipment.
The engines were started and we taxied over to the east end of the runway - received take off signal from the control tower (which was then in operation) took off and headed out west of Guam. At about 8,000 feet they leveled off and Smith set up the C-1 while I leveled the stabilizer and centered the "PDI" We flew along level in a straight course for 20 minutes and there was absolutely no precession - the compass stayed right on the dot. There was absolutely no wing hunting or fishtailing. The Major remarked that that was the first time he'd flown in this ship that the C-1 autopilot handled like that. There was a ship off ahead of us so I made several bombing runs - (simulated) on it with the bomb sight. The autopilot and ship responded beautifully so it became evident to the Major that the trouble was General Armstrong and not the autopilot. We went back to Northwest Field, landed and taxied up to the hard stand.
After we got out Smith took a piece of paper and wrote, "Autopilot ground checked and flight checked and found to function perfectly. Suggest you set up your ratio and sensitivity knobs in the following positions and refrain from changing them in flight etc., etc., signed Floyd Tuthill, H.C. Bach, C.H. Smith, Tech Reps." The Major said that he knew the trouble was General Armstrong screwing the knobs on the control panel all over so that the unit would have a lot of cross control, "But what can a Major like I am do? You can't tell off a General." "Well", says Smith, "About the only thing one can do in a situation like this is to tie a hammer onto that control panel and after you get the C-1 set up and the General starts reaching for the knobs, take the hammer and hit him on the hand." I don't know if the Major carried out Smith's instructions but we never had a bit of complaint the rest of that summer.
There was nothing else to do so Smith and I drove back to our areas, I left the jeep at the motor pool and Smith stayed over with me for lunch and met the fellows in the 331st Group. The Wing officers were building a club house down at the beach so Smith and I drove down there in the afternoon. It was situated between Harmon Field and Aguana. We turned off the main highway and took a single lane dirt road that crisscrossed back and forth from the highway to the beach. To describe the beach I'd say it looked just like something one would see in the movies. It had Waikiki beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, all beat to hell for beauty (I was on Waikiki beach on way back to Frisco in September). There was a coral reef out about 1 - 2 miles and there was about 100 yards of pure white sand between the water's edge and the coconut trees. Those coconut trees in this area were quite tall - I'd say 50 to 100 feet in height, and they bent out toward the water. Under the trees were many tents that served as dressing rooms or bath houses. The one end of the beach, and also the best part, was roped off and a sign along the rope read, "Flag Officer's Beach" - all navy four strippers or better could swim there. There were many two man and four man rubber life rafts and a few improvised sail boats made out of empty drop fuel tanks as used on fighter planes. It was really a beautiful beach and we were to spend quite a few leisure hours there during the summer.
The 315th club house was being constructed near the east end of the beach. It consisted of a patio constructed of bamboo with palm fronds interwoven - like a fence around it. Near the rear end they were constructing a club house out of the same material - this would hold a bar and a dressing room. Later on they added a lot of tables and chairs made out of bamboo for the patio. Fellows could bring out their beer and put on their swim suits and then sit out around these tables - enjoy the nice breeze coming off the ocean. It was to be a fine spot later on. All officers of the 315th Wing were expected to help out in the construction. Smith did but I never got around to doing any work there although I made use and enjoyed the place quite frequently.
One could walk all the way out to the coral reef when the tide was out but when the tide was in there was a quite a few spots where the water would be over your head. They had dug out spots along the beach and had put up diving boards. Most fellows would lay in the wet sands, swim around a little or ride around in the lagoon on the rubber rafts. There were always hundreds of men down there in the afternoons. Right next to the place where the beach club was being constructed was the remains of a Japanese pillbox - (machine gun nest). When I crawled into it and looked out the port holes I could see that it commanded a wide view of the entire beach. Out beyond the reef were two tankers lying at anchor. They were delivering aviation gasoline into large pipelines that carried the gas up to a huge gasoline storage area up somewhere on top of the cliff over northeast of the beach. We could see navy destroyers going back and forth out about 10 miles from the beach - no doubt they were on submarine patrol.
At supper that night the 331st Group had as a guest a Mr. Ed Tregaskis - author of the "Guadalcanal Diary." Mr. Tregaskis had arrived with a combat crew over in the 16th Group - had been with them through their training in the states and was going to be with them through their combat. He was writing a series of articles on the experiences for the Saturday Evening Post (I read the articles after I arrived home and thought them to be very good). He spent a few hours in the officer's club tent hobnobbing with a few of us about his experiences and how long he thought the war would last (he predicted, as I remember, that we'd be lucky if we had the Japs whipped by Christmas day 1947). I was to see Ed Tregaskis occasionally in the following weeks - and I remember he sat in and listened to one of my target briefings for AGLD preceding one of the empire strikes. But he was sure a gooney looking guy - tall and scrawny, and he wore a pair of thick lens, horned rimmed glasses.
The following forenoon there were eight B-29's come in from the states. Colonel Peyton - CO of the 331st Group back at McCook, Nebraska and Smith had known him when he was base commander at Clovis, N.M. Army Air Base. He was a splendid fellow - 6 ft 3, gray haired, and about 40 - 45 years old. He had a wonderful personality - was called, "Big Jim" by most of the fellows. On another ship #612 was Captain Jesse Williams - also an old friend of Smith's at Clovis and a fellow that became a great friend of mine. Also in the few planes was Colonel Waltanski who became a great pal of mine. I shall have a lot more to say about Jesse and Colonel Walt in words to come.
I saw "Big Jim" Peyton in the area a short while after he'd had a shower and a chance to rest up. "Bach, I'm glad to see you", he said. "I didn't think you'd arrive out here ahead of us when you left McCook." I asked him where and when the rest of the outfit would arrive and he said they'd be arriving in any day now. The entire Wing was somewhere between Guam and Mather Field California (staging base). Colonel Peyton had a marvelous personality. It just seemed to raise the spirits and moral of the entire 331st Group to have him there. I would say that he was the finest commanding officer ("Old Man" as the army put it) that I'd ever met and known. He had loaded the camera well of his airplane with quite a few cases of whiskey so that night he treated all the officers in the group - including Smith and I, to a big binge. Doc Krausharr & Wiggers had gone over to the base hospital where they had an ice machine - one of the few times we ice during that summer.
I must add here that during that afternoon after I'd talked with Peyton and the flight crews that came in during the forenoon, I decided I better do something about all my dirty clothes that were accumulating in a rapid pace. So I took my pail and helmet and filled them with water from the lister bag, got a cake of Ivory Soap and scrub brush, laid the pants up on a board that was nailed between two coconut trees, and went to work. The usual procedure was to soak the clothes in water, rub some soap on them and then scrub to beat hell with a scrub brush. About two hours later I'd finished three pairs of khaki pants, four shirts, and a lot of underwear and socks. I thought if Peggy could see me now - what a wallop she'd get out of it all.
During the binge that Colonel Peyton put on for us that night Smith had introduced me to Captain Jesse Williams and Colonel Waltanski. Jesse had been married just a short while before he left for overseas. They'd flown from Mather to Hickam Field in Hawaii in first lap. Then from Hawaii to Kwajalein in the second, and from Kwajalein on to Guam. They had been informed at Mather Field, California that they were coming to an air base in the north part of Guam and briefed on its exact location. Jesse had had engine trouble and flown his ship on three engines all the way from Kwajalein to Guam. Waltanski had been an army pilot since 1935 and had a hitch of duty in B-17's in the Eighth Air Force in England before getting into B-29's. He was deputy CO under Colonel Peyton of the 331st Group. He claimed he had been an All American football tackle of Notre Dame and had played football under Knute Rockne. Jesse was a small fellow - dark hair and blue eyes, and had a very pleasant manner about him that one couldn't help but like. Colonel Waltanski was a rough and hard sort of individual and had a collection of cuss words in his vocabulary - the likes of which I've never heard. But Waltanski had a heart of gold and I liked him and for some reason he took a big liking to me. Both men were wonderful pilots - as good or better than any of the others in the wing and I put my trust to fly with either of them from hell to breakfast.
The following day, June 24th, several more of the wing ships came in and among them was Colonel Sam Gurney - CO of the 16th Group. He'd been base commander of the Dyersburg, Tennessee Army Air Field during the summer of 1944. When I heard that the CO of the 16th Group was Colonel Gurney it meant one joyous thing to me - a lot of my old pals from Dyersburg were in that outfit - Colonel Rawls, Tex Maersh, Kenny Mitkif, and many others. Away back in the fall of 1944 when Sam Gurney had left Dyersburg to go to Kearney, Nebraska to form a B-29 Group he'd talked a lot of fellows there into going along with him. I didn't however get to see Colonel Gurney until a few days later. A Major Art Goring - (no relation to Field Marshall Herman Goring) arrived that day with his plane. Art was one of the squadron CO's in the 331st Group. I'd known him back in McCook, Nebraska and I was later to do quite a bit of flying with him. He was quite heavy set and, as was natural, everyone nicknamed him "Herman". He was a heck of a nice fellow, also a darned fine pilot. Art was 31 years old and had entered cadets in 1942 just a month before he would have passed the age limit of 27. He'd had a tour of duty in the Pacific before on B-25's.
That evening they had a grand opening of the 315th Wing beach club. Smith went down for it but I didn't go. Reports indicated that they'd had a pretty big time. General Armstrong and the CO's of all the groups plus a lot of other big wheels of the island were among those that attended. Smith cut his foot quite badly on a piece of sharp coral so he was laid up for a few days. He was so full of booze at the time it happened he didn't know he'd cut his foot until someone discovered blood all over the club house floor and a foot inspection revealed old C.H. Smith bleeding like a stuck hog.
I went over to Smith's tent on the morning of June 25th to hear about the big beach party and found him confined to quarters with his foot in a bandage. While he was describing the details of the orgy the night before an enlisted man came in with a TWX (army teletype message) for him from John Anderson down at 20th AF Headquarters. John wanted either Smith or I to make a trip to Naha Air Base, Okinawa, to supervise installation of a C-1 autopilot and turbo 4th echelon maintenance depot for the 93rd VH Bombardment Group operating at that base. "Well I guess this damn foot of mine decides which one of us will go", Smith said.
I went over to the 331st Group message center - where I contacted John Anderson on the phone. I informed him the condition of Smith's foot and that I'd be the one of us to go. "Take a few clothes and your toilet articles in your musette bag - be sure to carry your helmet and canteen. I'll have Colonel Knowles make out your orders now and I think you can get out on the ATC at eleven o'clock this morning." I ran over and told Smith the dope then back over to my tent where I threw a couple of shirts, extra pants, and socks in my musette bag. Cleaned up my helmet a bit (had been using it as a wash basin) then went down to the motor pool where I got an enlisted man to go along and drive the jeep back. When I arrived at John Anderson's office at 20th Air Force he'd already had my orders cut, "They have a complete 4th echelon maintenance unit up there and they'll need a man to supervise the set up and help them get started. They have plenty of men with the necessary MOS but the army wants one of us to get them set up right. Order came here from 5th Air Force via 20th. I'm too busy to go up there myself and I know you fellows with the 315th Wing haven't much to do as yet so I picked you for the job." I was tickled to death to have the chance to go up there as they were still doing some fighting up there on that island and I was anxious to see some of the real thing.
I sent the boy home with the jeep and John took me over to Harmon Field and dropped me off at the ATC terminal. I took my orders into the dispatcher and as they read, "Expedite the transportation of technician at earliest possible time - - and to be returned to Guam immediately after completion of said mission, etc., etc." I had no trouble being put on a passenger list for the 11:15 plane - my orders were on the regular 20th Air Force daily order sheet and it had been signed by order of General Lemay (I have kept a copy of the orders and have them in my souvenir collection). About 11:00AM my name was called and I went out with eight other men and boarded a C-46 Curtis two engine transport. Here's where I first encountered bucket seats. There were a lot of large cases strapped to the floor so the other passengers and I sat in the bucket seats near the rear of the plane. The back rest was of cloth straps interlaced. We put on our Mae West jackets and put on the safety belts which were attached to the side of the plane.
We took off in an easterly direction flew up along the east side of Guam where I could look down on both Northwest and North Fields. About a half hour later we flew near the Jap island of Rota which is only about 80 miles north of Guam (we were later to use this Rota Island quite extensively as a bombing practice target). The other passengers comprised several Marine officers and a few other whose branch of the service I wasn't able to determine - they were army though - that I could tell.
In about an hour and a half from the time we left Guam we could see Tinian and then Saipan. The B-29 bases on Tinian's south end were clearly visible - it was large and hundreds of B-29's could be seen parked around the base on their individual hard stands. Tinian was not nearly so tropical as was Guam. There were not nearly so many jungle areas - looked more like eastern Tennessee from the air. We came up the east coast of Saipan which was only a few miles from Tinian. We could see a large B-29 base on the south side of that island. We swung into the left and let down and landed on an air strip right in the middle of the island. This air strip was connected to the B-29 base - Isely Field by a long taxi strip but we taxied over to the north end of the air strip where there was a group of large quonset huts which served as the ATC terminal. The crew members informed us that there would be a 30 minute stop. In one of the quonsets was a Red Cross girl behind a doughnut and coffee counter. I had a tin cup full of coffee and a couple of doughnuts - seemed nice to see a white girl again.
We took off in a westerly direction, flew along the west coast of Saipan - could see all the naval vessels and naval installations on the west side. The southern part of Saipan is flat and quite suitable for air bases but the north part is quite hilly and mountainous. The extreme north cliff ends in a high cliff - I should judge around eight or nine hundred feet above the water. We saw a couple of small convoys north of Saipan.
Two and a half hours after leaving Saipan we arrived in sight of Iwo Jima. We came in toward the center of the island and landed on an air strip near the center of that island. I got a good view of Mount Suribachi as we came in. One thing that impressed me a great deal were all the wrecked B-29's and other war equipment on that island. The soil wasn't that red clay like there was on Guam. It was a darker gray like color. There were not very many trees here and one could see the ravages of war even around the air strips as we taxied up towards some shacks that served as the ATC terminal. We had only a few minutes wait so we were not permitted to leave the plane. It was 3:45 in the afternoon and as both Iwo and Okinawa are in the same time zone as Guam, I didn't have to change settings on my watch.
We took off from the air strip in what seems to me to be a southwest direction (it seemed that I always had difficulty out there keeping myself oriented as to the correct direction). We flew past the south side of Mount Suribachi and I could see that the flag the marines had planted there during February was still on top. It really wasn't a mountain but a very steep hill. It was quite rocky and there wasn't a tree or plant to be seen on it, or around it - I suppose everything had been burned to crisp by the flame throwers during the fighting. We swung to the west and then the northwest from Iwo. That island is shaped and looks just like the continent of South America from the air.
It was getting dusk as we came in over land on Okinawa. It looked just like coming in over the coast of California as this was a fairly good sized island. It was quite rugged and hilly. We crossed the island and landed on an air strip on the west side of the island. There were a few shacks and the rest were tents. It was the first time that I'd been on an air field that had been made with the steel matting. I walked into the operations tent and had to stand around about 10 minutes before I could get the attention of the officer there in charge to look over my orders. Although the ATC had been operating in Okinawa only about a week - so they said - on a regular schedule, there's one thing about that organization - it was the most courteous in the army.
After awhile, a First Lieutenant, ATC looked over my orders then called an enlisted man who took me over to a building where they'd set up mess facilities and got me some food. I was the only one in the mess hall - a tent with about 15 tables in it - but the Mess Sergeant got me some food that was left. They had two gas lanterns in there for light. I ate rice with gravy, mutton, black tea and some pear sauce. The enlisted man came back before I'd finished eating and took me over to another tent where there were about a dozen cots. There were two men sleeping and several others sitting there talking. They were all infantry officers and when they saw the Tech Rep badge I wore they were quite curious. One fellow, a young 2nd Lieutenant was going home on emergency leave and I had a pretty good talk with him. He had been in the 7th Division and had been in some of the fighting on Okinawa. He told me that the Japs had capitulated about four days before but there was still a lot of localized fighting going on down south of Naha which was about 10 miles away. Every once in awhile I thought I could hear rumbling of cannonading going on but wasn't sure.
It was a bit cooler on Okinawa than it was on Guam. There were no blankets - I didn't have one with me so I curled up on the cot and covered up with my rain slicker that I brought along in the musette bag. I did get a bit cold during the night but spent a very comfortable night in spite of that. It was raining when I woke up so I put my little "hot - rocker" in my bag and put on my helmet liner and rain slicker. Had breakfast - powdered eggs, bread and coffee followed with stewed prunes, paid the Mess Sergeant and went over to the ATC operations office. There an ATC Captain after reading my orders said he thought there might be a chance of my getting a ride over to Naha air strip (the air strip was just outside the city of Naha and about 8 miles from where this ATC strip was located). Finally a sergeant came in and after the captain had talked with him he informed me that there was a 6 by 6 going over to that field with some materials and if I'd come along with him he'd take me down and see if I could go along with them. Sure enough I could - they were just leaving.
I rode in the back end of the truck - two enlisted men were up front. We left there on what was supposed to be a road but was just a path leading in between debris and junk that had been pushed aside by bull dozers. This had been the first time I'd been on what was recently a battlefield. Just a few weeks ago there had been some real hard bitter fighting take place on this very ground and my eyes were wide open trying to digest it all and remember all I could. We came over to a two lane road where the traffic was quite heavy. Many trucks carried both personnel and material. The road was quite rough and full of holes and all along the sides was debris, smashed tanks, trucks, and everywhere were empty boxes and oil drums - piles and piles of them. There were hardly any jungle plants like on Guam - most of them were trees that resembled those back home but I wouldn't know what kind they were. Most trees had been damaged, some were just stumps.
Near a terminal - cross road - we were held up momentarily by traffic and there I saw a sight I shall always remember - there were a large number of men moving up the other road to our left. They came right past our truck as we sat there. They were marines and I don't have words to express how they looked. Evidently they were out of combat recently - they were caked with the red mud, their faces were dirty and some had beards and some didn't - no doubt those that didn't were too young to have whiskers. They evidently were getting on or getting off a string of trucks that were standing on the road to our left but they were just out of combat after a month or two of it was quite evident. The one enlisted man in the cab remarked, "Those guys look like all that's left of them is eyeballs and assholes."
We turned off that road and turned left and right past smashed buildings and more debris and came near what the enlisted man told me was Sugar Loaf Hill and then finally came to Naha air strip. It had been a Jap airfield but bull dozers and other machinery were then working on it and had it pretty well operable. There were quite a few planes here - mostly B-24's, B-25's, P-51 fighters and a few C-47's. There were also a lot of wrecked Japanese air craft piled over on the far side near the end. Although I wanted to, I never did get over to see any of these.
As luck would have it, the two enlisted men and truck were going to the engineering office and that was where I was headed. There were a few buildings and hangers in use that hadn't been all knocked to pieces (I understand that this air field had changed hands by Japs and Americans several times before finally it was secured by the Americans). A lot of work and building was in progress - nobody seemed to know where anything was located. We did find the engineering office and reported to a Major who was the chief engineering officer of the 93rd B-24 Group - the outfit I was looking for. They had moved in there from New Guinea and Biak and were carrying out strike missions on the Jap island of Kyushu from where the Japanese kamikaze planes were coming (considerable Japanese kamikaze attacks were carried out in July on ships around Okinawa).
They had a bomb sight, C-1 and turbo maintenance unit but it was for 1st and 2nd echelon maintenance available on island so they were stuck. They had 6 enlisted men with an MOS for the 3rd and 4th echelon and they had by luck obtained a portable unit - this was a steel box about 8 x 10 x 10 feet in which instruments and gyros could be prepared in dust free atmosphere.
The Major was a fine fellow - took me down the line to a wooden shed where I met a 2nd Lieutenant bombsight maintenance officer and about half a dozen enlisted men. They were pretty happy to see me - "Now we'll get something set up and going around here." I looked over their shop - they had plenty of tools and had built two work benches out of old waste lumber. Well I went right to work with them. Three things had to be done before anything else - they had to have a supply of 24 volt AC current and 19 volt DC current so they could operate the units in the shop. They had a ("Putt Putt") - which is what the air corps called the external power unit used in starting airplanes - so this furnished the 19 volt DC so they got two inverters from wrecked airplanes and plenty of electronic wire out of same wreck. Hooked up the circuit through the "Putt Putt" and this furnished the 24 AC. Even with this crude method the power was available and it would have been indispensable as we couldn't have begun to set up any repair shop without first having a power source.
That morning I located and reported to the commanding officer of the 93rd Group. To add to the confusion of everything - he didn't seem to know anything about my having to be there - it looked as though he was as confused as everything else was around there. Anyway, it was on the records that I'd reported to the CO and I'd also see him when I finished my job and was ready to leave for Guam.
Only a part of their group of airplanes had arrived but they were already in operation even though all of their maintenance was in a primitive - hit and miss situation. The P-51 fighter group operating on that field had been there a few days longer and they were pretty well organized.
That noon I had for lunch one lunch or dinner unit of K rations. Had secured a few of them through the fellows as their mess facilities were not set up. It was my first experience with K rations and it wasn't bad. During the afternoon the men got hold of a derrick which was on caterpillar track and had them lift the dust proof steel maintenance unit over against the shack so that they were adjoining each other. The next problem was building some kind of gyro stabilizer precession stand (we all had these units back in the states and the shops down on Guam). Two of the enlisted men had worked with them before so they knew what they were. A piece of heavy timber 8" x 8" was found and this they put into a steel drum which was set in hole in the ground. On two pieces of plank 2" x 12" they shaped the correct fittings for a stabilizer and bomb sight. This was bolted to the 8" x 8" timber and that was sunk into the steel drum and asphalt and rock poured around the side. I used a bombsight to level it and the stand was as stable as those we'd had back home that were mounted in concrete.
That evening I had the K rations supper unit - it was pretty good for a change. There was no place to sleep so I laid down on one of the benches in the shop - it wasn't much harder than those army cots so I didn't have much trouble getting to sleep. There was a lot of noise outside - mechanics running engines up and trucks and jeeps bouncing past. It was a clear moonlit night and I did feel somewhat "alone" and far from home.
The following morning some of the men came in and woke me up - I was quite a bit stiff but felt fine after a little moving around. There was a lister bag not far from the shop so I filled my helmet and canteen. Went over behind the shop - washed up and brushed my teeth. I'd brought some "Haline" tablets along for water purification and every time I'd fill my canteen I'd put one of the tablets in it. I had a K ration breakfast unit to eat.
That morning we brought in units from one of the B-24's that was having an engine change. I took the stabilizer and bombsight first and supervised while two of the men tore it down and gave it a regular 100 hour maintenance inspection. They were lacking a strobotac – an air instrument for determining speed or RPM of gyros. But with the exception of this, they had the facilities for ordinary shop maintenance work on the equipment.
That morning we watched a take off of about 24 P-51 fighters from the strip. They said they were going on a strafing mission to the Japanese island of Kyushu. They were carrying droppable fuel tanks under their wings. Just before noon one of our men in the shop who was standing in the doorway yelled at us to come out - a P-51 had come in over the field and had dropped a red flare indicating he was in trouble and was coming in for an emergency landing. He had his wheels down and was swinging in off land over the water - it looked as though he was having a hard time flying it appeared. He came in over the end of the runway too high - cut the engine and stalled it about 25 feet above the runway - he hit and bounced and it looked as though he'd go off the runway when it appeared that he put in too much rudder and almost went off the other side - it continued to weave back and forth and finally we could see that he'd completely lost control. The ship left the runway barely missing some parked B-24's from which mechanics were running as fast as they could to get out of the way. It started heading straight for us but we got out of there fast, when finally it ground looped and came to a stop right side up only about 200 yards from where we were standing. A fire truck and ambulance were coming down the line fast. We started running out of there and by the time we'd arrived they lifted the pilot out of the plane and laid him on a stretcher on the ground. Right there I saw another sight I shall never forget. The pilot was a young kid - couldn't have been more than 21 years old. His left shoulder and back were torn open and his back was soaked red with blood. He was dead. Evidently had hung on long enough to get his ship back and land and had passed out a few seconds after he had set his ship down. He was a nice looking kid - blond hair cut short. I couldn't help but think and wonder about his mother who'd be getting a telegram soon from the war department. They threw a cloth sheet over him, put him into the ambulance and drove off. When we looked over the plane we saw a large gapping hole just behind the cockpit where it appeared a large piece of anti aircraft shell "flack" had hit him. There was blood all over the seat and on the floor. It affected me a great deal - seeing a man die in the war for the first time. It brought the realization to me just exactly what war was and what it meant. I thought of my own little boy and wondered if this war would bring about the end of all those things whereby a nice young blond boy like that wouldn't have to go out and die on a stinking island like Okinawa again. I shall never forget it.
During the balance of that day I put on a demonstration of correctly adjusting one of the servo motors for the autopilot. I then went over to the Group Engineering Officer and together with the Lieutenant in charge of bombsight maintenance, we went over to the maintenance set up - there was a lot of things they'd have to get - providing they could get them. I made out a list of things for them that they would need and as it was I thought they could get along - they had a few sharp enlisted men that would do OK.
The Engineering Officer accompanied me over to the CO's office and I made my clearance through him. The Engineering Officer provided the transportation and I left on a jeep with an enlisted man driving for the ATC airstrip. We rode over the same territory I'd come over a couple days before. At the ATC office I was informed that they'd be able to get me out about 4:00 AM in the morning. As soon as I'd located a place to bunk for the night (the same tent and bunch of cots I'd been in a few nights before), I went over to the lister bag, drew a helmet full of water - went out behind the tent - took off the clothes and had a good spit bath - first bath I'd had since leaving Guam. I had a good supper - fried spam, and rice, coffee and baked peach pie. Then went over to the ATC office where they promised me someone would come over and wake me up at 3:00 AM so I'd be all ready to go at 4:00 on the plane for Guam. At that time the take offs and landings at Okinawa were only in the morning and evenings for security reasons. I put on a clean shirt and a clean pair of pants then laid down on the cot - using my rain slicker as a pillow and felt pretty good about it all - I was glad to be on the way back to Guam and old C.H. Smith. It's not so easy to be all alone in a place like Okinawa in the confused state of everything, but I'd done a good job up there and I was glad about that.
On that morning of June 28th I woke up while it was still dark - it was a quarter to three and I had myself washed and had brushed the teeth when the enlisted man came in to get me. At that hour of the day there seemed to be lots of activity around us. Bull dozers, trucks, airplane engines being run up. I went over to the mess hall tent and things were already beginning to stir around there - the coffee was hot but like all army coffee - it tasted like something altogether different. Bread and scrambled eggs made from powdered eggs. I filled my canteen, collected my gear, then went down to the ATC office and found to my wishes that I was still on the "loading list". A little before 4:00 AM we were alerted and 14 men besides myself boarded the plane - another C-46. They were dandy airplanes - very roomy and a lot faster than the C-47's. We had two high ranking naval officers aboard. The rest were air corps officers. There was a lot of stuff packed up near the front end which appeared to be mail.
We took off over water - circling around and coming back over the island in a southeasterly direction. For over 10 minutes we stayed within 1,000 feet of the ground and water - I could see a lot of ships off to the left up along the shore of the island. We went up to around five or six thousand feet and stayed there all the way to Iwo. Even though we had some high navy brass aboard we still were not permitted to smoke.
The trip down to Iwo was uneventful with the exception that there were many small tropical rain squalls which we'd circle around. These local rain squalls were characteristic of the Pacific. There would be a large cloud with the shaded dark rain extending down into the water. In some instances one could see many of them - as many as six or eight at a time and there would always be the accompanying rainbows in them to add to the color. We landed at Iwo Jima and stayed there long enough to drop off the dozen air corps officers, pick up some more freight and some more men. These fellows were Sea-Bees and they were going to Saipan. I talked to one of the fellows sitting next to me and learned that he was in underwater demolition - what a rugged duty - their job was to go into a landing beach just prior to the time the marines would land and blow up all the underwater defenses the Japs would have set up. He'd been on the Iwo Jima and Okinawa landings and was going back to Saipan for a rest before they tackled another one. I suppose at that time that the next one would perhaps be the Japanese home islands. He was a rugged looking type of individual - powerfully built. He said he'd been in salvage work at San Diego, San Francisco, and all up and down the west coast prior to the war. Said it was tough work but that he'd enjoyed it - how anyone could have gone for that was beyond me.
We saw lots of ships between Iwo and Saipan - small convoys of merchant ships with destroyer escort. At one time we saw three PT boats close together. It was hard to see them but one could clearly see the wake they kicked up. We landed at Saipan about 11:45 AM. My lunch consisted of doughnuts and coffee served by a pretty Red Cross girl. I wondered how these girls kept themselves looking so nice out here - maybe they looked nice only because one rarely saw them.
We could look down at Iseley Field where the 73rd Wing, B-29's was located. They were moving ships around pulling them into lines with cleat tracks (caterpillar on rubber treads) and there were a lot of trucks and hustle bustle down there so I presumed they were getting ready for a take off. We took off for Guam at 1:00 PM From the air I could see the long lines of B-29's parked in straight rows along taxi strips leading up to the main runways on both Iseley Field, Saipan and over on the 58th Wing base on Tinian - looked like a powerful strike on Japan in the making (I later found out when our own Wing 315th on Guam started flying empire strikes that ships were lined up like that half a day before take off).
There was a good deal of activity going on the northwest side of Saipan. It appeared that there was a practice amphibious landing going on down there. Long lines of landing barges were coming in toward the shore and out a few miles in the ocean near some ships we could see other landing barges forming and coming in - quite a sight from the air. About an hour later we passed the Jap held island of Rota and then a short while later the north tip of Guam slipped under our left wing. I looked down and tried to spot where my little "home" was located - I could determine the area but couldn't see the tent because of the jungle. We came up alongside the bathing beach and he let down just over the 20th AF Headquarters and we landed on Harmon Field airstrip.
After clearing at the ATC office I got on a telephone and contacted John Anderson over at 20th AF. John came over in a few minutes and picked me up. I could notice that it was hotter on Guam than on Okinawa. John took me along in his jeep up to his office where I gave him the report on the Okinawa trip. At 5:15 PM we went over to the 20th AF officer's club where they had the finest bar (next to the fleet club bar at Admiral Nimitz' Headquarters). All officers instead of getting one quart of liquor as we did over in the 315th Wing would turn in their ration and receive instead a small book of 20 coupons per week. Each coupon would be worth one drink over the bar. John didn't care for hard liquor but he did like beer so I had three snorts while he drank two bottles of beer. On the south wall of their club they had two pictures of Air Corps Generals - Hap Arnold and Curtis Lemay. Above their bar was the insignia and broken propeller of a Jap "Zero" airplane. Around the north and west side was a veranda from which one could sit and look down upon the ocean - and our bathing beach. It was very nice and I enjoyed it. Saw all kinds of high brass there.
Following this we went over to the 20th AF officer's mess (same one I'd eaten ate first day in Guam). Had mutton, potatoes, carrots and peas, pineapple juice (with ice), and baked apple pie. It was the best meal I'd had for a long time and it sure tasted wonderful. John took me back to Northwest Field after supper and as we couldn't locate Smith anywhere at the time, he left me at my tent and started back to 20th AF Headquarters.
It was 7 o'clock and already starting to get dark. I found all my stuff OK except that there was a quarter inch of green mold all over my dress shoes and my little leather bag. Lt. Russ Riley came in and welcomed me back and said Smith was up in our 331st officer's club tent - telling stories to the fellows. As he was on his way over there I told him to tell Smith that I was back. A few minutes later Smith, Waltanski, and Jesse Williams stepped into my tent, "Well Herb - your back - thought you'd be gone at least a week." It seemed good to see old Smith. "Before I forget to tell you - Colonel Hatfield wants you over at Wing as soon as possible. We've got over half our Wing airplanes here now and things are about to happen. I came over to help Jesse and Walt drink up a bottle of their snake bite remedy so let's go back up to the club tent." Smith was wearing a tennis shoe on the left foot he'd cut down at the beach. "That's Duffy's shoe", he said. "He's got a hell of a big foot - must be 14's anyway." When the four of us walked into the tent the men started calling for Smith again, "C'mon Smith you gotta tell us that 'Grafter's' story again." So Smith sat down on the bench in the middle of the tent and went through the procedure of telling his most famous story. That one led to a few more of his choice ones.
My roommate was in bed when I went back to my bunk. "Where have you been?" he asked. I told him and that's all that was said. I crawled under my netting and thought how nice it felt to be back on Guam again.
As hard as that old cot was it was still hard for me to get out of bed the next morning. When I woke up some of the fellows had already been down for breakfast and were back tiding up their tents. Finally Chaplain Gaines stopped outside and when he saw me in bed he said, "Bach! What is the meaning of this? Are you still an elite civilian or are you in the army? For God's sake get your dead ass out of the sack." All this was friendly chaffing but it rather surprised me to hear a member of clergy use that kind of language. He hadn't had breakfast either so when I was ready the two of us went down to the mess tent. On the way I noticed a quite a few rows of new tents put up - they were the flight crews that had arrived while I'd been in Okinawa. They'd had to pitch their own tents and set up rugged housekeeping same as everyone else had done before.
At breakfast I saw Colonel's Peyton and Mackey and gave them a short account of my trip to Okinawa. Following breakfast I got down to the motor pool, checked out my jeep and started for Wing Headquarters. On the way over there I took the perimeter road (one leading around one end of the runways) and here I caught a glimpse of the field. Gosh, but things had developed. The two main runways were all finished - most of the taxi strips were done and it appeared they were working on the hardstands mainly. There were about 75 B-29's on the south side of the field and about 50 on the north side. Things were sure picking up fast. I was more amazed at seeing the progress in a few days on building construction in Wing Headquarters area. As I drove up to the office building of S-2, I noticed that they were working on the large consolidated briefing room building and it was nearing completion.
Colonel Hatfield was not in when I reported to the S-2 section but Major Chapman was there, and for about two hours until the Colonel came in, he went over the procedure as would be used by the Wing in briefings and interrogations and the part I was to play in it. Between now and the date of the Wing's first empire strike, the flight crews would make three orientation and training flights: the Jap held island of Rota - just north of Guam; Piyoris - Jap held island just north of Iwo Jima; and then the Jap naval base island of Truk - 950 miles southeast of Guam. Daylight regular pictures and radar scope camera pictures would be made previous to the mission by photo-reconnaissance airplanes and we'd have them. Also all data would be given to us on weather from the weather section, also, we would have all data from operations on altitude, airspeed, etc. My job would be briefing on AGLD and C-1 setting up procedures during flight and over target area. They had the dope on the island of Rota there at the time so I set down at a table and started getting ready on that. I'd done lots of that sort of thing back at Great Bend, Kansas, and McCook, Nebraska, so it was old stuff to me.
Colonel Hatfield brought in a new plan that had been devised by a Staff Sergeant there in the department. I agreed with him that the system was swell and we used it all the rest of the summer - until the war was over. The idea was to place the blown up aerial picture of the target on a stand in front of the room. Project the radar scope picture on it so that the two conformed then brush in lightly some fluorescent paint on to the outline of the radar scope image. Then a battery of ultra violet lamps taken from airplane instrument panels was placed around it. During briefing the bombardier and radar operator would be shown the actual photograph of the target and familiarized with the main parts - then the ultra violet lamps would be turned on and he'd see it exactly as he'd see it on his radar scope. It was a dandy method of presenting the target information to these men. I'd have to get the information ahead of time over there on weather, planned altitude and airspeed of bombing to give them a plan on correct set up procedure for the autopilot and ALGD. For example: high altitude and high air speed - high sensitivity and low ratio settings, or low altitude and high airspeed: high sensitivity and high ratio, etc., etc. Pilots had to be briefed on high accurate C-1 autopilot set up. Bombardiers and radar operators and navigators on their landfall, initial point, aiming point and target. I would meet each group on the afternoon preceding day of mission and spend two hours with them - one half hour with each group.
I had lunch at Wing Mess that noon then went back over to S-2 for a few hours. I was ready for the Rota briefing so with the instructions that they'd inform through 331st message center when to be there. I got into the jeep and decided I'd go over to the 16th Group area and look up some of my old Dyersburg friends. I saw Colonel Sam Gurney right off. He hadn't changed much and he remembered me. He was the same type of individual he'd been in Dyersburg when I knew him - fiery and energetic as could be. He was very disgusted with the situation as a whole. "How in name of hell can we operate out of here when we can't get decent living, food, maintenance, or anything?", he said. All I heard while I was with him the few minutes I was there was cussing about the situation (he was later to be dismissed from command of the 16th Group much to the disappointment of the men under him because he had guts enough to get up in a staff meeting and really tell off General Armstrong and General Lemay).
I went over to the 16th Group operations office where I saw Colonel Rawls. He and I had worked closely together down at Dyersburg, Tennessee during the summer of 1944. Rawls was another darn good officer in my estimation. I learned from him where Tex Maresh was living but when I got over there I was informed that Tex and a bunch of the fellows had gone down to the beach for the afternoon. I then went over to the 501st area and located Toby Tuthill - we had a couple of beers together and I went home.
That night we had our first picture show in the 331st area. It was Walter Pidgeon and Heddy Lamar in "White Cargo". An area had been cleared out of the jungle on the side of a slope - stools made from bomb crates had been set in there in rows for the men to sit on. A large screen was made by painting a board white and this sat down on the bottom of the slope. There was room for about 2,000 men to sit and watch the movie. This area would also be used for a chapel for religious services by both Catholics and Protestants.
It was raining when I woke up on the morning of June 30th - this was the rainy season on Guam and would continue being that until approximately Sept. 21st. It just meant that it would rain a dozen or more times a day instead of about six times. A cloud would move in over the island and all of a sudden it would pour down hard for a few minutes and then as suddenly as it started it would end.
While shaving - which was done outside the tent using a small mirror tacked onto a coconut tree I decided I looked so bad I'd better get in contact with one of the fellows in the group that cut hair. At breakfast the fellows told me that the best barber in the outfit was an Italian that worked as the dentist's assistant. So over there I went as soon as I'd tidied up the tent a bit. He took me over under a banyan tree where he'd set up shop. He'd built a barber chair out of a box. There was no cloth to put around one's neck so the hair would get down your neck and back, but he had a paint brush that he'd use to try brushing the hair off. He used a hand clipper, scissors and comb. Talked continually during the ordeal just like any other barber back home would do. Said he'd been the operator of a woman's beauty salon in New York City. I had him cut my hair real short - about one-half inch long as it was much easier to keep it clean that way. I was digging hair off my back for the rest of that day.
That noon I was informed by Wing S-2 to be over there at 9:00 AM the following morning. Smith came over and told me that John Anderson had called that he was getting a few of the fellows down from Saipan and Tinian for a get together and also the boys from the 314th Wing. He wanted Smith and I to come down to his office by 2:00 PM as he'd arranged a trip on a PT boat for the bunch of fellows (it was one of the boats used by air - sea rescue and was like a PT boat with the exception that they'd taken the guns and torpedo tubes off.
Smith picked me up about 12:30 PM and we stopped down on the field for a few minutes while Smith checked into a few situations in the maintenance shops. We arrived down at 20th AF Headquarters - John's office about 1:15 PM. There we met the other Honeywell men whom John had called in from the Mariana's bases; Charlie Webber and Miller from Saipan, also Bill Ebletoft and Stardahl from 314th Wing and Ed Wascavage from Tinian. Smith had known them all from previous contacts in the states. I'd met Ebletoft back at SE Division conference at Jacksonville, Florida in August of 1944.
John had secured a 6 by 6 truck and we set off for Apri Harbor Naval Base on the southwestern end of the island where neither Smith or I had been before. About four miles south of Aguana we came to the naval area. It was pretty well built up with quonset huts and prefabricated buildings - there were no tents. Up on a plateau overlooking the entire bay and area was Admiral Nimitz' Headquarters. We could see from where we passed it on the highway that this was a very nice built up area - nice white bungalows and cottages up there no doubt housing some of the high naval brass.
Soon we came to the harbor and navy yards. There was a long breakwater pier going out about two miles. It had been built by sinking concrete barges and piling coral into and around them. There was a two lane road on it and this we drove out on clear to the end of the pier. Here we could see the entire naval base - there were hundreds of ships of all kinds - aircraft carriers, battle ships, cruisers and destroyers. A submarine tender with a dozen or so submarines tied up to it. There were two large dry docks that had large ships sitting up in them being repaired. Here we saw a destroyer that looked like it had had its fantail blown off. They were all painted a dull bluish gray except for the line along their hulls which showed layers of salt water scum.
At the end of the pier we found a shack which was lucky for us for at that instant it started to rain with the gusto of one of those tropical downpours. Out about 200 yards from the pier was the air-sea rescue boat we were supposed to have a ride on. John, who'd secured a permit from one of the Generals up at the 20th AF to go for a ride on it, went into a shack where a naval seaman informed him that the navy had that very day refused to permit the boat to be used for joy riding purposes again. One of our fellows, Charles Miller, peeled off his clothes except his shorts, dove off the pier, 35 feet to the water and swam out to the boat. Soon we saw Charlie and one of the men from the boat get into a rubber life raft and come back to the pier. The navy guy was a Chief and wanted to see John Anderson's orders. As soon as he'd seen them he signaled the boat, they started the engines and moved into the pier to pick us up. We had to climb down a long rope ladder which was a bit hard for Smith with his bum foot.
As soon as we were aboard they started out between the ships on the way to the open sea. All of us took off all our clothes except our shorts. We came right close to two carriers and a cruiser lying at anchor in the bay. When we got it into open water they really opened it up. The water was quite smooth but standing in the cockpit of the rear deck we'd look back at our wake and it appeared that we couldn't see back over it we were so low in the water - the front half of the boat was out of the water. We passed a transport with many GI's on deck who were coming into the harbor. We rounded the south end of the island and went up the east coast staying about two miles from the coral reef. Here the sea was a little rough and the boat rolled a little but it didn't bother any of us. They stopped the engines when we were just outside the city of Anaharan. There was a nice beach in there and we could see many swimming and riding canoes in the lagoon. When they saw us they started crawling over the reef and swimming out to where we were. Gosh, how those guys could swim. We started diving off the boat into the water - all except Smith who didn't want to get in the water on account of his foot. It was a beautiful day - all around us were rain squalls but none of them hit us. On the way up around the island we were all laying out on the front deck and were really thrilled by the flying fish. We came back into the harbor and then went up to the 20th AF officer's club where John spent all of his accumulated liquor coupons on us.
Smith and I headed back for Northwest Field, stopping in to see Toby Tuthill and Sanderson. Toby was getting pretty fed up with Sanderson - he seemed a troublesome fellow - always sticking his nose into Toby's duties and contradicting things that Toby had told the maintenance crews. Smith, Toby and I got along so good together.
Our food kept getting worse and there was a lot of griping going on. It wasn't any fault of the mess officers either - they were going nuts trying to better the situation (the trouble was that the navy was getting all the good things and the army was being given the leave overs - exactly the things the navy didn't want). The food situation got steadily worse.
It was payday in the army and there were some very potent crap and poker games going on all through out the night. The Chaplains would sometimes stand around and watch them - offering consolation to those that lost their money and encouragement to those that were winning.
Sunday, July 1st.
I went to church services that morning at 7:00 AM. The Protestant chaplain was over there from the Wing. We had a hymn sheet that was mimeographed. There were about 800 men there sitting on the bomb crate stools. It was the most heart touching religious service I'd ever attended. Everyone in attendance was there because they had wanted to be. We sang several hymns and an enlisted man sang a solo - no accompaniment whatsoever. Around us on the roads and areas were jeeps, trucks, and bull dozers going full blast. During the sermon (which I thought was very good) a rain squall came up and it started to pour. Everyone sat right still and got soaking wet - but not a single individual made any move to leave. The chaplain continued with this sermon even though it poured so hard one could hardly hear him. This was the first day of a month when this organization was going into combat - there were to be some who were to make the extreme sacrifice.
I was over at Wing S-2 section at 8:30 and from nine to eleven I briefed bombardiers, radar operators, and pilots or airplane commanders on the practice bombing mission to Rota. They carried 24 100 lb. fragmentation bombs and were to use the northwest tip of the island for their radar drops. Eighty planes went on the flight but I didn't go over to the field to watch them take off. Instead I stayed near my tent - got out my dirty clothes, scrub brush and soap and did my laundry - my clothes were surely getting red from the Guam soil. I opened my B-4 bag and noticed a musty odor so I took everything out of it and hung it up in the sun (surely wished there was a place where I could store my stuff so that I wouldn't have to leave it in a bag all of the time).
They had rigged up a PA system with a portable 115 volt generator and with a record player and radio they would put out one of the "overseas armed forces radio service" programs on the public address system - we could hear it all over the camp. I was getting myself acclimated and the heat and lack of cold drinks wasn't bothering much any more. I was shaving and taking a good bath daily - rubbing in some quinsana powder after every bath in order to ward off the fungus. That afternoon I caught up my diary and wrote letters. I'd been doing most of my letter writing generally in the morning right after breakfast when I had time otherwise in the evening before going to bed. I still hadn't received a letter from home up to this time.
On the following morning I went over to the Wing S-2 section at 8:00 AM. Here I studied out of the briefing materials on the Piyoris Island practice mission. Only 65% of our total Wing airplanes were there from the states, but the late comers would have to make their practice missions before going into empire strike missions - this would mean that much extra work for us. I was interested in seeing the result of the radar drops on Rota the afternoon before. It wasn't too good. They'd have to do better than that. The island of Piyoris was similar to Rota. All of the installations had been knocked out by practice bombing missions but there were still some 15,000 Japs on the island. It did offer some fair radar targets that we'd be using.
That afternoon the briefing commenced for the Piyoris Island flight. Tex Maresh, Petroch and others were there. Tex had heard I was on the island and he was sure glad to see me and I was very happy to see him. Last time Tex and I'd been together was one Sunday in October back in Dyersburg, Tennessee when I'd gone along with him in an army L-5 to fly up over Reel Foot Lake to scare the ducks off so the other fellows who were out hunting that morning could get some shooting. Sure was grand to see those guys (my best army friends barring any were those fellows I met and got to know at Dyersburg, Tennessee.). Also, Kenny Mitkif was there (his wife and he had been in our Christmas party back in Dyersburg the night Peggy came down there to spend the holidays with me). Kenny had left Dyersburg January 4th to join Colonel Gurney's 16th B-29 Group. Tex Maresh had been one of the standardization board pilots at Dyersburg so I had done a lot of flying with him.
That evening the 502nd and 331st Groups were entertained with a talk by Father Calvo a catholic priest who had lived through the Japanese occupation. He gave us a nice talk on the history of the island - where the Chamorros had descended from, etc. Then most of his talk was on the Japanese period of occupation. When he'd finished he asked if anyone had any questions and one of the fellows asked if he'd had anything to do with the navy man Tweed who'd hidden out on Guam during the time the Japs held it. The priest said he'd refrained saying anything about Tweed in his talk because there was considerable ill feeling in the Chamorros and himself for this man Tweed. "He wouldn't dare come back to Guam again - we wouldn't have him." The natives had hidden him and protected him at a cost of over a hundred lives because they loved Americans and America and this was one way of showing their devotion. But Tweed had become a selfish tyrant sort of an individual and when the Americans re-took the island in the summer of 1944 he had gone back to the United States - received some great publicity on his experiences - whereas he'd eaten up every pig and chicken on the island which the Japanese did not get. One of the catholic priests was beheaded by the Japs for refusing to reveal where Tweed was hidden.
One thing of interest that I might add here is that when the Americans invaded Guam again in 1944 they drove the Japs out of the southern part into the northern jungles of the island and at the time I was there, there were over 8,000 Japs still at large - hiding in the jungles. Every once and awhile the Sea-Bees bull dozing out new roads and areas would see them or see evidence of where they'd been. A detachment of native constabulary and marines were constantly hunting them down and killing them. The jungle edges of our base were guarded rigidly by MP's and men on security guard duty. But except for a few on guard duty in our tent area, the place wasn't so very well guarded (a lot of them surrendered in fairly large groups after the war was over). They allowed 250 Japanese prisoners of war to go into the jungle and induce them into coming out, but at the time I left Guam in late September there were still thousands at large.
The following morning the flight crews took off for the Piyoris training shakedown mission. I didn't have much to do all that day but I did drop over to see if Claude was around - found him with the GI's (army version of diarrhea). He wanted me to run down to the line and get a hold of Sanderson and Tuthill and do a few jobs for him. Smith spent most of the day in the latrine area with his pants at half mast.
The morning of July 4th I was to report over at S-2 for the Truk briefing where I spent the entire forenoon. That afternoon I dropped up in the 331st officer's club tent to watch a red hot poker game that had been going on all day. Here I ran into Major Art "Herman" Goring who wanted me to go along with them down to Truk that night. It was classified as practice and training flight although the Jap held island of Truk was still fortified. Colonel Peyton was over in his tent so I dropped in to see what he thought about my going - it was OK by him and with the lousy results we'd been getting on radar bombing on both Rota and Piyoris he thought it a good idea if I'd do that and perhaps we could find out where a lot of the poor results were coming from.
That night the take off was scheduled for 2400 - midnight.
I went down to "personal equipment" and checked out a flying suit, had a parachute and Mae West fitted on. I picked up a G-2 bag filled with combat flying paraphernalia such as an escape kit, a case of drugs - benzedrine, codeine, and others, a 45 pistol and holster with shoulder straps and a water proof sack for the pistol, oxygen mask and many other articles too numerous to mention.
Art was to be the first ship over the target and about 100 airplanes were making the flight. At 3:00 PM I went along with Goring and the crew for a two hour final briefing session at Wing. Here we listened to the instructions on final pattern, altitude, of respective squadrons, and latest dope on the weather. Meanwhile, they were lining up all the ships on the taxi strips and when we went out to the ship it was sitting up front just off the east end of the runway on the taxi strip. Here Goring talked with Master Sergeant Rice - his ground crew chief - went over the form 1 and then on a visual inspection of the ship. I do not remember Goring's copilot name but his first name was Jim. A 1st Lt. Miller was the bombardier and a 2nd Lt. called "Al" was the radar operator. Miller and I checked over the bomb sight, AGLD and C-1 autopilot together and everything seemed OK.
The armament trucks came while we were there and went about loading 36 - 500 lb. demolition bombs into the two bomb bays. They had a dandy way of unloading them from the trucks and into the bomb bays. There were tracks leading down from the trucks and bombs were hooked onto a guide cable and lowered down and rolled on tracks under the bomb bay. Here they hooked the bomb shackles into the rings of the bomb - placed a fuse in the end and a fin on the other end then they had a hydraulic jack that raised the bomb up into the bomb bay where the shackle was snapped in place. Wires hung from the top of the bomb bay down to the fuse of each bomb. These wires had a snap that would be placed on the end after the plane was in flight by the bombardier. This snap when pulled through the fuse would arm the bomb and it would explode when it lit on the ground.
Another thing I must mention is that all the airplanes in the 315th Wing were "stripped" - that is - all gun turrets had been removed excepting the tail gun and that had four 50 calibers and one 37 mm cannon. Behind the tail turret was a small ball shaped antennae for the Q-15 radar that operated the gun. All the tail gunner had to do was keep the guns functioning - as soon as an airplane would get within range of the tail end of the ship the radar would track it and the sighting device would aim the guns and automatically fire it. Beneath the airplane between the wheels and between the bomb bays was a wing - 24 ft by 4 ft. This housed the antennae for the Q-7 radar which was used in navigation and which we used in connection with our AGLD and the Norden bombsight for bombing. Both of these antennae were so secret that they weren't installed on the ships until they reached Hickam Field, Hawaii.
After Goring and the flight crew had completed their inspection and we stowed our personal gear in the ship and got on the 6 by 6 truck and went back up to the 331st tent area for supper. We were to meet at the 331st operations tent at 10:30 PM and go down to the plane by truck. I figured by my watch that at the time we took off at midnight it would be 9:00 AM of the morning of the 4th of July back home. I wondered how my loved ones would be spending the 4th. We met at 10:30 PM and got on the truck and headed for the field. Goring said, "This ought to be a nice trip - the weather's a little rough between here and Truk. The Japs down there have been bombed so damned much they haven't anything left to shoot back with so we won't run into any trouble of that kind."
Down at the field there were about 50 airplanes on each side lined up nose to tail. It was a bright moonlit night so we could see fairly well. Trucks and jeeps were running up and down under the wings and around the airplanes - engineering officers, chaplains, and everyone whose presence was necessary for last minute operations (airplane engines in B-29's are not started until 6 minutes before the ship takes off. There are no engine run-ups prior to takeoff like they do in other airplanes, but the flight engineer checks all this in the first one-third of the takeoff run. This is done to prevent excessive cylinder head temperatures in the engines).
At 11:20 Major Goring told us to get our gear on and line up in front of the left wing for inspection (it was one of the standard operating procedures for all airplane commanders to line up the crew members and personally inspect their chute, Mae Wests, oxygen masks, and to see that they had the proper gear on them before each take off). We climbed aboard at 11:40 PM. My seat was on a five man life raft pack sitting on the floor between the pilot and co-pilot. This was meant to be an auxiliary seat for an extra crew member as there was a safety belt on it and one could lean against the bulkhead separating the pilot's compartment from the navigator's. It was damn hot sitting there with all that gear on. I'd stuffed my knee pockets with cigarettes and gum in one and a C-2 and an AB-C computer for bombing in the other. With all the other crap on I was really loaded down. As Jesse Williams was in Goring's squadron, his was the fourth ship behind us.
The 331st Group would go first - followed by the 501st over on south runway, then the 502nd and the 16th. At six minutes of midnight Goring called out to Sergeant Rice to clear the props and to post the fire guard and then he told the engineer to start the engines. Miller, the bombardier, picked up the signal light and flashed it three times toward the control tower and they blinked a green light back three times which meant "OK to taxi on to the end of the runway.” Jim, the co-pilot released the brakes and Art eased the throttles ahead just enough to get the plane moving and we moved over onto the end of the runway where we stopped - engines idling. I could see that they'd turned on the runway border lights (all a pilot needs is to able to see the edges and end of a runway). Goring said, "Ready on power setting one.” The engineer behind me called back, "Turbos set, temperature Okay" (one nice thing about B-29's - you could talk in the cabin without yelling your head off like we had to do in B-17's). We all had on head sets for intercom. Jim the co-pilot called, "Flaps set 18 degrees - left and right scanner report." Then I heard over the intercom, "Right flap OK - left flap OK", from the fellows back in the waist behind the wings. Then the green light came on at the control tower and Goring said, "Stand by for takeoff." He eased the throttles forward until the engines were doing about 1,500 RPM. "Release brakes", and we started rolling. I watched the needles on the RPM and manifold pressure dials gradually advance as Goring slowly eased the throttles forward. Finally he had them full forward. We moved past a large red light on the side of the runway and Goring called, "One-third runway"” Engineer called back, "Take off, engines OK.” The co-pilot started calling air speed, “120..125..135..140..145..150", etc. I could see the red lights at the end of the runway come toward us rapidly then he eased her off, air speed stayed the same. "Gear up." I could see the red lights on the top of the cliff flash under us and then I knew we were over the water. "Power setting two, flaps up a third." I could feel that we were settling a bit at the same time I could hear the whine come out of the engines as the power was reduced (being somewhat of a pilot myself - I always paid close attention to details).
We stayed at 400 ft altitude for approximately 10 minutes as the airspeed indicator slowly moved up beyond the 225 mark. "Cylinder head temperatures OK", and Goring replied, "Power setting three, flaps zero, transfer throttles", which meant we were really flying with ship trim and the engineer would handle throttles and everything from there. Goring then reached down and turned the autopilot master switch on (this switch starts the gyro motors running and gives them time to warm up to full RPM before the control engaging switches are turned on). We then went into a 200 foot per minute climb and turned toward the southeast. Goring said, "When we get up to cruising altitude and the navigators have made a 'fix' you can set up the autopilot and maybe Jim and I can learn something." I answered, "This ship is probably so damn nose heavy with you guys up here you can't trim it up" (both Goring and Jim were quite heavy set fellows and they got quite a laugh out of that).
At 8,000 feet the engineer began cabin pressurizing and we leveled out at 12,500 feet - our cruising altitude. Other ships would be flying at varying altitudes above and below us so there was no chance of having mid air collisions. As soon as the navigators (radar operator serves as navigator too) had made their fix I was ready to engage his C-1 autopilot for him. I had always preferred the daylight flying whereby one could set up a C-1 better with the horizon for reference on the flight instruments but it was quite dark out. Goring trimmed the ship and had it to where it would fly straight and level with hands off the controls for two minutes straight. I had Miller level the stabilizer and center the PDI, then centered the three axis - and engaged the control switches (I'd always enjoyed autopilot work on the B-29's as that ship could be trimmed up beautifully.
For the next half hour Goring, Jim, and I discussed C-1 adjustments and it was just like sitting in a room somewhere on the ground talking and not in an airplane on the way to bomb Truk (incidentally, there is no light in a cockpit of a B-29 but all dials, knobs and switches, controls, etc., are painted with fluorescent paint and there are several ultraviolet lamps lit that cause all these parts to glow. One can see fairly well from light thrown off by all this luminescence). We were due at Truk at 3:42 AM. Goring told the bombardier to break out the coffee which was carried in a large vacuum jug.
We had all had a good swig of coffee when the trouble started. All of a sudden it felt like some terrific force had picked that airplane up and shook the hell out of it. We were all hanging by our straps and just as suddenly a heavy force was pushing us down into our seats. Goring snapped off the autopilot and yelled at Jim to get on the controls with him. Cigarette butts and everything on the floor hung up in the air in front of my eyes. The rate of climb indicator went clear over to 5,000 ft/ minute climb and back over to 5,000 ft descent in a matter of seconds. Goring finally got it settled down into level flight. "Christ - we must have hit the grand pappy of all thunderheads on that one", Jim said. We'd no longer recovered from that one when we were into it again - this time it was longer - must have lasted at least five minutes but it seemed more like an hour. Here we encountered lightning. I can't begin to describe how terrifying it was. Goring yelled at Jim to close his eyes so if Goring became blinded by lightning Jim could take over. Then suddenly it started to roar like the whole ship was being torn to pieces. It was hail and how the Plexiglas in the nose of that ship stood it I'll never know and neither will any of the others.
Suddenly we were out of it and flying through clear moonlit sky again. "Geez - they just weren't shittin when they said we'd have a little rough weather", said Jim. I was trying hard to get my stomach back where it belonged. One of the scanners called up and said the other scanner was quite airsick so Miller the bombardier got up and crawled back through the tunnel to give him some medication. "I think we're through it", Art said. I got up and looked out through the side of the canopy at the engines - there I saw one of the most beautiful displays of St. Elmo's Fire I've ever seen. Lines of blue flame or electrical sparks were dancing around the tips of the propeller and on the leading edge of the wings. Art said he'd been a bit afraid of icing but the electronic ice indicators indicated there was no such trouble. An ordeal like that made one highly respectful of Pacific weather conditions.
We were one hour out of Truk so Goring ordered everyone to get into flak suits and flak helmets. "Not that I think we need them but it's SOP and we might as well start getting used to the damn things." We also we were to prepare for going on oxygen as we were going to 28,000 feet for bombing and even though we would have cabins "pressurized" there was always a chance of a chunk of flak hitting the ship and de-pressurizing the ship. I had a portable oxygen bottle which was hooked up to the line through the engineer's regulator by a long rubber hose. I put on a throat mike so I could talk to Miller prior and during the bombing run without any interference.
At 3:20 AM we reached bombing altitude and leveled off. Switched off the autopilot, re-trimmed the ship, and then set up the autopilot again. The radar operator called to say that he had picked up Truk on the scanner. I went to work with Miller on computing true altitude and airspeed from data on our instruments. This data was put into the sight. He then got out a small tachometer and adjusted the "disk speed" to true RPM "How does a 90 second run sound to you Bach?" "OK", I answered. "Don your oxygen masks", Goring called over intercom, "Station report." An interval, and then, "Tail gunner, roger....right scanner, roger,".....and so on up from each member of the ship. "Navigator to pilot and bombardier - landfall at 0331.14." "Roger, roger....pilot to bombardier - take over" (I am trying to put this down exactly as it took place in the words used).
He had the AGLD tuned in to the Q-7 radar - it wasn't good. He called to the radar operator to increase the intensity but it still wasn't as sharp as he'd like. I looked out through the front of the ship to see if I could get a glimpse of light on Truk but it was pitch dark down there. We were to drop across a naval dock area and Jap installations that had been bombed to pieces many times before. Miller finally located the IP on the scope and then turned the ship into a bank with the autopilot turn control knob then he could see his aiming point and then began synchronizing his sight. When he reached down and snapped on the intervalometer and held his hand on the automatic release I knew the sight was synchronized (had been in the bomb bays arming the bombs about half an hour before we arrived at Truk).
I remember those last few seconds watching the PDI meter on the pilot's panel - whenever the sight would put in a correction the autopilot would move the ship around into position and bring that needle back into center - zero position. I'd thought it was slow so I increased the ratio and sensitivity both on the autopilot. Suddenly we saw the lights on the panel blink on and also felt the bomb bay doors open and then close, "Bombs away", Miller called. Goring shut off the autopilot - went on manual and set the ship into a steep bank to the left and diving at about 500 ft per minute. "Tail gunner to pilot, I see the bombs fall. There's one - two fires - looks like we hit it good." Goring turned to me and said, "Looks like we hit the damn island anyway." There wasn't a single searchlight or bit of flak to be seen even though that island was said to be lousy with Japs. A few minutes later we could see flashes down below to our left and that indicated that another of our ships had dropped bombs.
We were to cruise at 21,000 feet on the way home to Guam so we didn't anticipate too much rough weather at that altitude. We sure were a screwy looking bunch of monsters I thought. A flak suit with one of those large flak helmets over your head plus an oxygen mask over your puss made a fellow look like something down from Mars. It felt good to get out of the flak suits, get the oxygen mask off and have a smoke. We broke out the coffee jug and everyone had a good snort of that. The autopilot was set up and we had a smooth trip back to Guam. We sighted the island at 7:00 AM and as there was no traffic - we being the 1st one back - we landed and taxied up to the hardstands on the north side of the field.
Chaplain Gaines - God bless his soul- was there in his jeep to welcome us back. We got out and Goring went over his Form 1 with Sergeant Rice, the crew chief. Hail damage was evident on the ship. The radar antennae wing was so badly damaged it would have to be replaced - that probably accounted for our trouble scoping the target properly. I waited around by the ship while Goring and the crew members got in a truck to ride over to the S-2 area for interrogation. I waited until Jesse taxied his ship up to the hardstand. I talked with Jesse for a few minutes then caught a ride with Major Moore - a group operations officer, up to our tent area. We went over to the personal equipment section where they fixed up a locker for me where I could store my flying gear. I then went over for a breakfast and then called up Major Chapman over at S-2 and found out that there was no word on when the first empire strike would take place - but there wouldn't be anything today. I was glad about that as I was quite tired. Had a shower bath and then went over to my tent and crawled into the sack.
I finally got to sleep but was disturbed several times by noises in the area. Finally about 11:30 AM Jessie Williams and Waltanski came into my tent and woke me up. They had been over to see Smith and had planned the four of us going down to the beach for a party. Smith couldn't go because he was too busy but they wanted me to go - so I got up, dressed and went along with them. Both Colonel Walt and Jessie had been on the Truk mission but neither of them had been to bed as yet. "There's too much noise around here and it's too damn hot around here for anyone to sleep so Walt and I thought we'd like to go down and lay on the beach and maybe get some sleep there", said Jessie.
We went down to the mess tent - got something to eat. Colonel Walt had one of the food packs that we could get some ice in and all of us had a few bottles of coke coming on our rations so I picked up a bottle of my precious whiskey. We got our cokes from the PX officer Captain Balke, and Colonel Walt said he could talk the mess officer over at Wing area out of some ice - so we set out for the beach at 1:00 PM. Got into our swimming trunks - laid down under a palm tree in the sand and started nipping on some cokes. God but it felt good to lay out there on that cool wet sand. All three of us had a good long snooze.
Friday July 6th.
I was up early and over to S-2 section at Wing by 8:00 AM. Material and information had arrived on the Wing's first Empire strike. There was a bit of tenseness in the air. Take off was scheduled for 4:00 PM on Saturday the 7th. The target was an oil refinery at Yokkaichi on the island of Honshu. Yokkaichi lays across the bay - Ise Bay - on the southeast direction from Nagoya. There were lots of installations in that area nearby the target - railway marshaling yards and a steel mill plus lots of other installations. From a radar bombing standpoint it would be a hard one.
At 2:00 PM that afternoon we briefed AC's bombardiers and radar operators on the targets (these radar pictures had been made just a few hours before by photo-recon planes operating off Northwest Field). Radar prints were furnished each crew on landfall, IP, aiming point, and target. That evening Smith informed me that he was going along with Colonel Sanborn - CO of the 502nd Group on the strike. "It's being put on orders Herb, so my insurance will be OK. Anyway, all the other Wings are losing darn few ships, so there isn't much danger I don't believe."
The following morning I went over to S-2 section and listened to the briefings. The building would hold about 600 men sitting on hard planks. They took two groups at a time for about two hours. Here they had a large map showing all of Japan, Iwo Jima, and Guam. A large red line indicated the route of the flight. Large green crosses showed individual squadrons IP, landfall, and target. Small black crosses indicated areas of known Japanese antiaircraft concentrations. Small airplanes indicated locations of night fighter units. "We know the Japanese have approximately eight antiaircraft batteries in this area - you will notice your route between landfall and IP carries you out of range. Concentrations of searchlights and batteries are known to be here in the target area. You are apt to be under flack barrage in the target area."
The other intelligence officer took the stand and with the pointer pointed out positions of sea air rescue units off the coast of Japan. "There will be two super dumbos - one in this area and the other over here" (a super dumbo is a B-29 that takes off from Iwo Jima - is a radio ship that remains in the target area over and near Japan. When a B-29 is hit and has to ditch in the ocean they contact super dumbo who flies to the area and brings in a submarine to pick up survivors if it is close to the coast of Japan and a destroyer if the ship goes down reasonably far enough away from the coast). "Your code for super dumbo for the mission will be 'room service' for radio call, 'bell hop' for trouble, 'scotch and soda' for ditching at sea. Your first two digits of room number indicates longitude of position you are in when ditching." Such things as colors for the code and emergency landing fields in Siberia and China were also given. A lot more security briefing was given but I do not recall it.
About 11:00 AM General Armstrong mounted the podium and said, "Well gentlemen, this is the first strike on the Empire of Japan. You have the finest airplanes in the world and the finest tools conceived by mankind. Tonight we shall join the other Wings in bringing round the clock bombardment of Japan. Good luck." The men then dispersed and went to their respective tent areas where they first had a Group briefing and then a Squadron briefing - these two later briefings were on such things as altitude of each plane to and from target, indicated airspeed, time at arrival at IP, time of bombing, direction of break away. All of this had to be figured out accurately by both Wing and group operations officers.
At 2:00 PM all flight crews were to report to the mess area for their last meal. Here they picked up their packed lunches and jugs of coffee and water. I had lunch with them and then went out to the field. The planes had all been lined up on both sides of the taxi strips - 50 on each side. It was a thrilling sight - the lull before the storm so as to speak. On the south side of the field the 501st ships were lined up ahead of the 16th Group ships. On the north side the 502nd ships were lined up ahead of the 331st. Jeeps, trucks, maintenance, and armament men were dashing around all over the place. Huge double trailer gas trucks were just finishing fueling the last ships in the line. They were carrying 8,500 gallons of 100 octane and 36 - 500 lb. demolition and fire cluster bombs (they later carried 8,000 gallons of gas and 40 - 500 lb. bombs on empire strikes). Their gross weight on this flight was 136,000 lbs. - the limit was 144,000 lbs. for a B-29 (Wing engineering stress and loading officers had figured it all out previously - such things as center of gravity, etc.).
Sanderson and Tuthill were down at the area near the end of the runway with about 30 officers and men - they were serving on the Wing "Abort" Crew. An abort is a plane that cannot take off due to mechanical failure - generally trouble with engines on take off run - such a ship would turn off at the end of the runway and the "Abort Crew" would go to work on it and try to have it fixed up so it could take off after the rest of the ships had left. An "airborne abort" was a ship that had taken off and had to return home due to mechanical failures before reaching the target.
Finally the flight crews began arriving at about 3:00 PM in large trucks - three flight crews or thirty men per truck. They were dropped off lugging their gear at their respective ships. There they went through their preliminary inspection procedures as I explained before in the Truk flight I was on a couple of days before. I got into my jeep and started making the rounds. General Armstrong's "Fluffy Fuzz the IInd" was sitting on the south end of the runway - he would be in lead ship. Another airplane was sitting on the end of the runway on the north runway - this was the Wing weather ship - it would take off 20 minutes before the rest and would fly in over the target to radio back the weather conditions - humidity, temperature, dew point, wind - and all data needed for bombing so that all the ships could have compilations made and proper adjustments by the time they reached the target area.
I drove over to the south side to find Tex Maresh and Kenny Mitkif and their planes and to wish them luck. On the way back over to the south side I stopped at Colonel Sanborn's ship which was the first one behind the weather ship and bid old Smith goodbye. "Well Herb, if I don't come back you tell the fellows back home that old C. H. Smith fought a good fight." I stuck around five minutes hobnobbing with Smith and Colonel Sanborn. One of the last remarks I heard Smith say was, "I don't know why you make me carry this cannon" to Colonel Sanborn, "I never could hit a cow in the ass with a scoop shovel."
I stopped to see Colonel Peyton and his crew and then went on to see Art Goring and winding up at Jesse Williams' ship #612. They had finished their ship inspection and were laying on the ground under the wing. "By God, SOP's or no SOP's I'm stripping down to my shorts as soon as I get this bucket of bolts airborne", Jesse remarked. It was really hot and the fellows would really sweat during the few minutes they'd have to sit in those hot airplanes while waiting for takeoff.
Soon we heard the weather ship start engines, head down the runway, and take off. I ran onto Chaplain Gaines making the rounds well wishing the crews so I decided to go along with him so I parked the jeep over at the group engineering tent and he and I drove down to a pile of coral in between the runways where we could get a good view of the takeoff (only the abort crews, ambulances, and Chaplains were permitted in the area around the last one-third of runways or in between the runways). The two of us sat up on a large chunk of coral where we could get a good view of everything. Overhead was a navy PBY Catalina flying boat put - putting around the base. It would act as an air sea rescue craft in case a ship landed in the water after take-off.
A few minutes before 4:00 PM we saw the engines on the General's airplane start followed by engines starting in about the first half dozen airplanes in each line. At exactly 4:00 PM we saw the General's ship start to move down the runway on the south side - it went clear to the last foot of the runway before it pulled off - engines lumbering hard to pull it up over the ledge on the cliff. Then on the north runway Colonel Sanborn's ship started down the runway. I stood up and waived as they roared past us but of course Smith didn't see me. It was quite a sight to see - a 29 coming down the runways alternating every 30 seconds apart. Some of them would pull up too quick and it seemed they just would clear the ledge by inches flying the ship half way between a stall and a climb. Lots of them mushed their ships over the hump when they'd become airborne too early. Both Art Goring and Colonel Peyton kept their ships on the ground right up to the end of the runway before pulling off and this way they could put the ship into a steeper climb with the higher take-off airspeed. One ship came so close to hitting that you could see a huge cloud of coral dust picked up by his prop wash - I thought that those fellows in that ship must have really been frightened. Suddenly we saw a ship start its takeoff run and as they passed the one-third take off line on the runway, cut their engines - they were really riding their brakes as they passed us. They turned off on the taxi strip at the end of the runway. I could see two trucks drive up to it and the fellows in the abort crew climb aboard the ship. Finally the last ship took off and I looked at my watch - it was 5:00 PM. One hundred and three airplanes put into the air in an hour - that wasn't bad.
That evening after supper I sat out in front of the tent hobnobbing with Chaplain Gaines and drinking my bottle of beer. We figured out how far they would be at occasional intervals. Gaines said he would remain up until after midnight so that he could pray for the fellows during the time that they'd be over the target which would be from 12:15 AM to 1:30 AM. I went to bed at 10:00 PM.
I was up early, had breakfast, and headed out to the field. The fellows were due back from the raid anywhere from 8:30 AM and on. At 7:45 AM we saw the weather ship come in and it landed at about 8:00 AM. About 8:25 AM we saw three ships in the distance swing into the traffic pattern of the field and start to let down. One was General Armstrong's ship and the two others were ships in the 501st Group. Soon there were at least a dozen ships all coming into the base leg - about eight landed but still none of them were #793 - Colonel Sanborn's ship. I began to worry a bit but finally I saw #793 come into the final approach - old Smith had made it!
I waited until all of the ships of fellows I knew had landed then got into the jeep and headed up to Wing interrogation area. Here the flight crews were getting off their trucks and walking through a tent which had been set up by the medics. Here they were given a two ounce glass of good bonded whiskey - outside the tent was a Red Cross mobile unit with two Red Cross girls serving hot coffee, doughnuts, and cake. Fellows were standing around all talking at the same time - telling each other all about it. They were a tired, grimy, sweat stained looking bunch of men. I found Smith standing with a cup of coffee in his hand talking to Colonel Peyton and Colonel Sanborn. "I think you ought to paint a milk bottle on your ships for that one", Smith said. "All that mission was, was a good long airplane ride. Hell, we didn't get close to any flak or searchlights."
The men were then taken into a large briefing room where each crew was assembled in small groups and questioned by the interrogation S-2 officers. Two airplanes had not returned to Guam - one had gone down in the water, ditched, and the men had been picked up between Iwo and Japan. The other had landed at Iwo. One was due to enemy action and the other to mechanical failure.
That afternoon Smith, Waltanski, Jessie, and I were ready to go down to the beach when I was called over to the 331st message center for a call over at Wing S-2. Major Chapman wanted me to report over there at 2:00 PM. So I told the fellows to go on down to the beach without me, and if I could I'd come down and join them. When I got over to Wing S-2 section I learned that the mission had been a failure and General LeMay was highly p___d off about it and had ordered a repeat mission to the same target in two days. Only 15% of the bombs had landed in the target area but a steel mill which the 314th Wing had bombed all to hell a few weeks before had taken about 75% of the hits (a radar photographic ship had brought back the results - this ship went in over the target after the last bombing plane). This was caused by the lead pathfinder ships of which General Armstrong's was one. They must have become confused by the bright radar reception of the steel mill area was our only assumption as to the probable cause. Anyway, the briefing on the 9th would be the same as that on the 7th so it would all be handled in the same day.
I left - going down to the beach where after looking around for awhile, I finally found Smith, Waltanski, and Jessie stretched out on the sand - plastered. When I told them the news they decided they better try and get some sleep. I could see where 35 missions were going to take a lot out of these men (the end of the war kept all of them from completing more than about 12).
I took a dip in the ocean, then about 4:30 PM we drove back to our tent area - Jessie riding with me. I happened to be taking a shower that evening with Colonel Jim Peyton when he asked, "Bach, how would you like to ride along with me tomorrow night?" "Sure", I said. "Only my insurance isn't worth a dime if I go on combat missions - unless I'm under orders", I answered. "Well, I sure as hell can put you under orders if of course you want to go - you don't have to you know - that's all up to you", he said. "Well Colonel", I said, "if you'll get me on orders I'd sure be tickled to go along." That was that.
I wondered afterwards if I was doing the right thing - and when I thought about little Bobby, Sandy, Peggy and the folks back home I wondered if I was justified in doing this and taking these chances for them - after all this was war and sitting in an airplane up over Japan with the Japs shooting at you wasn't exactly a healthy thing. On the other hand, there was nothing I wanted more than to be in some of the excitement and thrill of all this and now I had the chance - the latter outweighed the other. I was going. That night I went over and told Smith what I was going to do - he didn't like it.
This was to be a memorable day in my life - I was up early and over at Wing S-2 section by 7:30 AM. Briefing consisted of reviewing scope pictures and where the pathfinders had made their mistake. I didn't take part in the briefing that morning as it would have a repetition of the one on the 7th. Target was the same and so was the IP. Landfall had been changed, altitudes, airspeeds, and direction of attacks would be different. General Armstrong didn't say a word at the briefing - I wondered if his poor ability at operating a C-1 autopilot couldn't possibly be a big cause of this lousy bombing they'd done on that first mission. Wing briefing was completed by noon and Squadron and Group briefings were over by 2:00 PM. Take-off was scheduled for 6:00 PM.
I went over and took a shower, shaved, then went down to the tent and put on my flying suit and combat boots, then on down to the mess area where some of the men were already eating. At 4:15 PM I went over to Peyton's tent where the crew assembled. They were all Group staff officers and were flying ship #621 which was Captain Bond's ship and had just come in from the states. To my delight, Colonel Waltanski, Assistant Group CO, was going as copilot. Major Bouie - staff bombardier, and both of our Group navigation and radar officers, also Lt. Blossom - gunnery officer in tail gun position, and Captain Blanchard - Group flight engineering officer was going as flight engineer. And to my delight, Doc Krausharr was riding as scanner in the waist. I don't remember the name of the guy riding as the other scanner. All of these men were experts so as to say in their respectful positions.
The truck picked us up and we went over to the mess kitchen where Colonel Peyton had two cold pack bags picked up as well as our lunches and coffee. Then down to personal equipment where we picked up our G-2 bags containing our personal equipment and arrived down at the plane at 5:00 PM.
The 331st Group was behind the 502nd on the taxi strip so we'd be the last group over the target. The crew made their usual visual inspection of the plane - I ground checked the C-1 autopilot and bombing apparatus.
The Chaplains, Colonel Mackey, and many others came around to well wish us. Finally, 6:00 PM came and they started the take-off. Colonel Gurney was lead followed again by Colonel Sanborn of the 502nd. The General was not going on this mission. It was hot and we got our Mae Wests, chutes, and pistols on plus all other gear. Colonel Peyton inspected us and we climbed aboard - I sat in the usual position - on the life raft pack between the pilot and copilot.
Finally, it came time to start engines and we began taxiing behind the 502nd ship ahead of us. It was terribly hot - the sun beat on us unmercifully and we had all that heavy gear on. Sweat ran into my eyes (both pilot and copilot have a small electric fan in front and above them and they can keep their face dried off). Finally, the ship in front of us turned up toward the runway and took off, and then we taxied on, turned up toward the runway - waited a few seconds with breaks set - then the Colonel eased the throttles forward to 1,500 RPM. The green light from the control tower blinked at us and we were off. The sun was right in our eyes but did not hinder Peyton from seeing all he needed to see to take off. We stayed right down on the runway right till I saw the white stripes on the end come and flash under us and then we were airborne. The coral and ledge and cliff flashed beneath us and then suddenly we were over water - on our way to bomb Japan. I just couldn't realize it.
We could see many ships up ahead of us as we continued down low over the water to pick up airspeed. Finally, we turned to the right and began a gradual climb to 14,000 feet our cruising altitude. We set up the C-1 autopilot, removed part of our gear and relaxed a bit. Colonel Peyton called back to Krausharr on the intercom to get into that cold pack back there and hand it out to the fellows. We opened up the one in front and it was 24 cans of ice cold pineapple juice - we each had a can and boy but it tasted good. Far up ahead, and above and below, we could see two B-29's. Cigarettes were lit up. Major Bouie turned around in his bombardier's seat and then began a long bull session. Waltanski talked about his exploits over Regensburg with the Eighth Air Force. All of these men had been in combat previously. Captain Blanchard sitting with his eyes on the engineer's panel had been in the famous 19th Bombardment Group.
It was dark and soon we arrived over Iwo Jima, gave and received recognition lights in code. We were due over the target at 2:45 AM and we passed over Iwo at 10:20 PM right on the dot. I marveled at the work and accuracy of those navigators - they had to be as the airplane was supposed to arrive over target at a certain time right to the second. It was a bright moonlit night - good for the Japs but not for us, but according to the weather briefing we were to have nine-tenths cloud cover so it wasn't bad. If the Japs had any night fighters up there it would be different, however. There were only a few encountered on the other mission but they did no damage to our ships. Colonel Walt said, "Something tells me we're going to catch a little hell up there tonight." But none of the others seemed to worry about anything like that - for all appearances they were like a group of fliers on a cross country flight back in the states.
The trip became long and weary and I wished we could get up there and get it over with. The nervous anticipation I felt was a good deal similar to the feeling I used to have back in school teaching days on the night before a music contest - the feeling was quite similar. We were between Iwo and Japan - it was 12 midnight and I remember thinking about the fact that it would be 9:00 AM back home and I wondered what Peggy and the little ones would be doing. We were disengaging the autopilot and re-trimming the ship and re-engaging the autopilot every 90 minutes to compensate for the change in the ship's trim due to gas consumption. That is all we had to do - the engineer was handling the throttles and air speed was exactly at 240 indicated. The air was smooth - we were over the rain squalls and the clouds which we could see in the moonlight. About 12:30 AM Doc Krausharr crawled up the tunnel and sat down beside me. "Christ Bach, this is a hell of lot different than hunting pheasants back in South Dakota", he said. Yes, South Dakota seemed very far away and yet my loved ones seemed very close at that time.
We ate our sandwiches and drank our coffee about 12:45 AM. Colonel Peyton said to Doc, "You and Bud back there know how to handle the anti-radar tape?" "Yes sir", Doc answered. "Well if I want it out fast don't fail to get it out there as rapidly as possible." "Yes sir." "The weather ship ought to be in the target area pretty soon now and then we'll know." It seemed that we all had to get rid of water quite frequently. It seemed that every station on a B-29 was equipped with relief tubes except the nose - there we had a 3 gallon fuel can strapped on behind the copilot's seat - and that we were passing it around every 15 to 20 minutes. It seemed like Colonel Peyton had to go all the time.
Around 1:45 AM the radio operator called and said he had the weather ship's report, "Relative humidity - dew point - temperature - mean - mean datum plane pressure - mean absolute pressure - cloud covering 20%." That was that. Cloud cover 20% and we were supposed to be having 90 to 100 percent - we'd be like sitting ducks. Right then I began to feel quite ill at ease - I had wondered how I would stand up to this personally and the closer we got to Japan the dryer my mouth got and my stomach was beginning to get like a hard rock. We opened up another round of pineapple juice and began our climb to bombing altitude. "Get into your flak suites", Colonel Peyton called over the intercom. We were climbing 500 feet per minute. "Have one more cigarette if you like and then the smoking lamp is out until further notice. Bach, hand me that can, I've got to take my last piss before we get there." I handed the can over to the Colonel and about that time Captain Blanchard called, "Number 2 engine heating up - have reduced power on it and am increasing power on the others." Colonel Peyton was standing up and then I noticed he was so busy looking at the instrument dials that he was missing the can and spraying Waltanski's left leg.
We reached bombing altitude 29,500 feet at 2:15 AM. "Put on your oxygen masks." I had adjusted my mask so it didn't pinch my face as much as it had the flight before. Everyone had on flak suites and flak helmets and were set to go. I got my C-2 computer and AB-C computer and helped Major Bouie compute the bombing problems. "Landfall at 02:32", (our landfall was the tip of a small island on the coast of Japan, then we'd swing into Japan to a point close to Nagoya - our IP was a peninsula on the east side of Ise Bay - the aiming point and target was across the bay to the west). "Bach, I'd like you to handle the C-1", Colonel Peyton said. The control panel was right beside on the control pedestal. "Landfall check, change to 340 degrees right", came over the intercom from the navigators. "Bombardier, the control is yours." Major Bouie had scoped the IP on the AGLD and would handle the plane through his autopilot turn control knob.
Then over to our left we could see the show. Fires - terrific fires on the ground - there were many search lights and then we could see flak - ahead and to the left of us. It looked like large orange and dirty red mushrooms with lots of fluttering streamers coming out. Everyone on the ship had taken two benzedrine capsules when we reached bombing altitude - as if I needed anything to wake me up. Major Bouie said that we would use a 30 second bombing run and if the Colonel wished we could use evasive action anytime up to that.
We finally picked up IP and then it began to happen. I'd been on the C-1 trying to get perfect adjustment when one of the scanners called, "Searchlights moving over from the right." Waltanski looked out his side and said, "Here they come." Colonel Peyton called, "Evasive action - drop the tape." One light went right past our nose - the other caught our right wing tip and moved in and had us - we were doing maneuvers back and forth and he stayed on us perhaps 10 seconds but during that time one could read a fine print newspaper in that cabin.
Suddenly, the light left us, moved ahead and then we could see it start to converge with about six others into a cone over perhaps ten miles ahead of us. We could see that there was a plane - one of ours - they had it coned and they were throwing up a terrific barrage around it. Suddenly, it blew up - burning all the way down it was a terrible thing to see. "Must be one of the 502nd Group ships", Colonel Peyton said. "I wonder who it was."
Major Bouie was continuing evasive action, there was some radar interference due to all the ships ahead of us having thrown out a lot of anti-radar tape, but the IP and target was showing up on the scope sufficiently plain enough to read. "IP is past." I watched the PDI and must have made a hundred adjustments in those few seconds. On the APC when we were about half way between IP and aiming point about a dozen flak shells burst below and to the right of us - we could feel it - the right wing heeled up and then the autopilot settled it down again. Right ahead of us was the target - it was like looking down into a tub of boiling molten red hot metal. Everything appeared to be on fire. There wasn't a cloud over the target. Major Bouie snapped on the intervalometer switch, held the automatic release, and then I knew we were on the bombing run. His eye was constantly on the eyepiece. We were flying strait - there was very little correction put in. Not a searchlight hit us in those few seconds although there seemed to be hundreds on all sides of us. Suddenly, those red lights on the board flicked on and off. "Bombs away." Thirty-six 500 pounders on their way down to add to the fire and destruction below. "Autopilot off - take it Walt", the Colonel yelled. Waltanski grabbed the wheel and whipped us into about a 60 degree bank to the right and pushed her into a steep left bank and a climb - then to our left we saw several "meatballs" - red streamers coming up from the ground that burst into a terrific explosion. These I learned later were rockets the Japs were using. We swung back to the south still making dives and climbs. Flak became sporadic and finally there was very little to be seen in either direction. Sweat had been just pouring off me - my oxygen mask felt gooey on the inside.
Finally the radar operator called lands end - we continued descending until we leveled out at 15,000 feet our cruising altitude. Here the navigators took their fix, the autopilot was set up and we were on our way home. Off came the flak helmet. Colonel Peyton called, "Station report." "Tail gunner reporting, I think we have been hit somewhere on the stabilizer fin." "How's the cabin pressure, Blanchard?" "OK on 8,000 ft. pressure." All the rest of the stations reported they were OK. Doc Krausharr said they were down to damn near the last bail of anti-radar tape (I picked up a roll of that tape and brought it home with me as a souvenir - it was out of that last bail that they hadn't thrown out that night). "Take your oxygen masks and flight suits off", the Colonel called. "Smoking lamp is lit." A cigarette never tasted so good.
We were better than a hundred miles off the coast of Japan. Colonel Peyton said, "Bach, you'd better give me that damn can again", when Walt turned and said, "Jim, Colonel Peyton, sir, God damn you all to hell - you pissed all over my left leg!" "The hell I did", he answered. He had been so intent on things just before we reached Japan that he hadn't even noticed it at all. I had seen it happen, but at the time it happened it didn't seem so funny. Major Bouie turned around in his seat and I went back and told Captain Blanchard, the navigators and radar operator about it and everyone just roared. I thought Major Bouie would bust an intestine laughing. It was a great relief - engines were functioning smoothly everything was working properly and we were on our way home.
I had a great deal of admiration for Major Bouie - he had done a masterful job of bombardiering - he'd been just as calm and cool and he had gone about his job with clockwork precision. I told him that in all my experience back in the states I'd never seen better bombing. "Well", he said, "over 50 missions in the ETO and a year or two of instructing back in the states ought to teach a man something about the trade." We broke out the last round of pineapple juice, then I crawled back through the tunnel to where Doc Krausharr was sitting. Soon both of us crawled up into the tunnel and tried to sleep but I was too full of excitement and benzedrine to do that. Doc hadn't taken any benzedrine so soon he was asleep. I laid there listening to the steady rumble of the engines and thought about things - I'd been into this thing and this wasn't just a dream. It was funny, but I really felt happy about everything. I crawled back up through the tunnel to the nose about 5:00 AM. Colonel Peyton and Major Bouie were both asleep - the Colonel in his seat, head back, and feet up over the rudder bars. Waltanski had his feet up on the rudder bars - sitting watching the flight instruments and resetting the autopilot every 90 minutes. We were still between Japan and Iwo Jima. Major Bouie was stretched out on the floor in the navigator's compartment so I crawled up and sat in the bombardier’s seat.
Dawn broke and I could see another B-29 far ahead and above us. Colonel Walt told me to put on the headset and I found that the radio operator had tuned in the Saipan station and they were playing some Tommy Dorsey records. At about 7:30 AM we passed Iwo Jima and about 100 miles south of Iwo I saw one of the largest convoys of ships I'd ever seen - they were spread out in all directions and they were mostly navy too (at the time we supposed that there was another invasion coming up - perhaps on Japan itself).
Colonel Peyton woke up when we were nearing Saipan and then preparations were started for landing. Both Colonels Peyton and Waltanski had another shot of benzedrine. All crew members were order to take positions preparatory to landing. I crawled out of the bombardier’s seat and Major Bouie got into it and then I got back in my usual seat on the five man life raft pack between pilot and copilot. Ahead, to our right and left, above and below us we could see B-29's of our Wing. Soon we spotted the small Jap held island of Rota and then we began turning slightly to the left and letting down at about 200 feet per minute. Soon we could see the northern tip of Guam and we swung to the east to land on the runway in a western direction. There were at least 25 B-29's ahead of us on the base leg and final approach. Just as we started our final approach on the north runway a ship came slipping in front of us not more than a thousand feet ahead and beat us out. Everyone was running low on fuel and were in a hurry to get their ship on the ground. We slipped over and lined up on the south runway, came down into a nice landing and ran up to the far end where about 12 ships were slowly taxiing. At the end of the runway we turned north on the taxi strip - cut the two inboard engines and taxied on the two outboards over to the 331st Group hardstands and then stopped the engines.
I could see Chaplain Gaines sitting in his jeep just below the nose of our plane waiting for us - we were the first of the 331st Group in from the strike - well, we'd been the first one over the target. Colonel Peyton and Waltanski had to fill out the Form 1 before leaving the ship so I unbuckled my safety belt and crawled down through the nose wheel well to the ground - it was good to be back on solid ground again and good to get out of that Mae West and chute. Chaplain Gaines called me over to his jeep. "Well Herbert, how did you enjoy your trip over Japan?" I told him most of the details and then Colonels Walt and Peyton crawled out and of course all the engineering officers and maintenance people had gathered around our ship. We had a flak hole about the size of a stove lid in the tail fin above the tail gunner's compartment. I could hardly walk - my legs felt like they belonged to somebody else - from sitting in a cramped up position so long. It was 11:10 AM in the forenoon. Quite a long stretch of flying.
Soon we had three more 331st airplanes taxi up near us on the hardstands - one was Lt. Colonel Wilson's ship. We climbed aboard the truck - took our equipment over to personal equipment, then went over to the Wing interrogation area - here we went through the medics tent for our shot of whiskey and then had cakes and coffee with the Red Cross. I didn't go into interrogation with Peyton and the crew but stayed outside to talk to the others and to wait for Jessie and his crew to come in. Smith and his pal Duffy came up in a jeep so I strolled over to chat with him. "Well Herb, they tell me you had a pretty rough time up there last night." I told him briefly about the details, etc. "Yeah, from all reports so far it was Captain Dillingham's ship that got it over the target." Smith had known Dillingham and his crew members pretty well and I had met him through Smith several days before the mission. "Sure as hell is too bad", Smith said. "I knew him back at Grand Island. He was married and I believe he had a couple of kids. His copilot was an heir to the Dole Pineapple Company."
About then, Jessie and his crew, Major Goring and his crew, and others came up in their trucks. Jessie explained briefly the events of his experiences in the raid. "Had your shot of whiskey yet Herb?" he asked me. I told him I had, so he talked me into going through the tent with him and having another - which I did, followed by another cup of coffee from the Red Cross girls. Four ounces of whiskey on an empty stomach - in the tired condition I was in had its effect and by the time Colonel Walt came out of interrogation I was really spinning my top.
Waltanski and I got into Smith's jeep and rode over to the 331st tent area. Walt told us that the wing had lost two ships to enemy action, two others went down in the ocean just south of Japan - one crew picked up and the other was still missing. Seven airplanes were down at Iwo Jima and one was down at Saipan. When we arrived up at our tent area Smith told me there wouldn't be anything for me to do until the following day and to go ahead and sleep or do whatever I wanted to do. He was going to be pretty busy so he'd be unable to go along with us if we went down to the beach. Colonel Walt and I got out of our flying suits (mine smelled like a Russian wrestler's shorts) and headed for the showers. I put on a clean pair of shorts and shirt and then we went down to the mess area for oatmeal, hot cakes and fried spam. Colonel Peyton, Major Bouie and others came in. Colonel Peyton said, "Come on up to my tent after breakfast - I'm throwing a damn good party - I've arranged for some refreshments and we'll go down on the beach for the rest of the day - there's no activity in this Wing for at least three days now."
I went back to my own tent and wrote letters to Peggy and the folks - telling them where I'd been and what I'd done while waiting for the fellows to finish their breakfasts and baths. Afterwards I thought it wrong to have written them and told them - they'd be worrying, but on the other hand I felt it only the fair thing to do. I thought they'd rather know about those things. Those two letters must have sounded pretty funny because I was quite "snorted up" on benzedrine and whiskey.
About 1:30 PM we gathered in Peyton's tent and area around it - it was under a huge banyan tree with lots of shade. A lot of the AC's and others were there. Everyone had six to eight bottles of coke coming on ration and most everyone still had a supply of whiskey left from what they'd brought along from the states. Everyone was groggy and knocked out from the mission - but right there was the beginning of a party - a sort of get together of men - men in combat activity - that sort of bound them together in a close kinship. Colonel Peyton sat right in the middle of this group - he'd just had a bath - his hair was still wet and dripping - he'd put on a pair of underwear shorts and foot clogs and that's as far as he'd got. "Fellows", he said, "I learned from S-2 a short while ago that last night's mission knocked out over 95% of the Yokkaichi oil refinery. We did a hell of a fine job and General LeMay is no longer pissed off. I know that there won't be any more Empire strikes until the 14th or 15th so we're going to have us a hell of a party this afternoon - I've arranged for several trucks to take us down to the beach in a little while - also the AGF has promised me 300 lbs. of ice and ten cases of coke. I've got a few bottles of Seagrams VO left over and I want to give each of you a damn good drink here before we go and to tell you I'm damn proud of you and to let you know that I feel that I've got the finest damn bunch of crews in the whole damn Wing." (These are not exactly his words, but the idea of what he said that afternoon is there).
We had a good snort on the Colonel then the 75 to 100 of us got our swim trunks and towels and those of us who still had some whiskey took a bottle along and climbed aboard the trucks and headed for the beach. Most of the fellows felt pretty well snorted up - I sure did. But we were all tired out and yet we felt and acted liked a bunch of school kids going on a picnic. Nobody fell off the trucks and we arrived at the 315th beach club. One large table on the one side of the patio served as our bar and there we pooled all of our whiskey, coke and ice. Everyone had brought along canteen cups - so everyone just helped themselves. Some went swimming - others just lay in the wet sand and others sat around in the benches and stools in the patio talking about everything - airplanes - war - Japan - women - and good whiskey.
After about the second canteen cup of coke and whiskey I lay down on the wet sand under a coconut tree with Jessie and Waltanski - soon all three of us were sound asleep. We woke about 5:00 PM when someone started a water fight and from then on the party got a bit wild until it was time to go back to the tent area. Nobody fell off any of the trucks on the way back either. I had supper - took another shower and then crawled in my sack about 7:00 PM and slept soundly until six the morning.
The following day - July 11th was a great day for me - I received the first mail from home - two letters from Peggy and one from Mother. Both telling about Sandy getting hurt on the bumper of the car and also about Dad's band picnic - I must have read each letter a dozen times. Letters from home meant so much and I never realized how valuable they could be - made me feel like kicking myself in the hind end for being so lazy when I'd been home in the states and not writing my brother Pete a lot more often. Here I was lonesome as all hell - having been away from home for a month and he was away well over two years by this time. I was beginning to realize a lot of things I hadn't realized before. Mother's letter said he had left Marseilles, France on the way to the Pacific - I wondered where he was and if it could come that I'd be able to get together with him out here in the Pacific. From that day on I received letters almost every day from Peggy and Mother and it was then that I realized more than ever before that I'd married a woman and also had a mother that were both two very unselfish people. Both Peggy's and Mother's letters reflected no concern about their own hardship but rather a cheerful feeling about everything even though I knew things weren't easy for them. And I knew and could feel that my darling little wife wasn't complaining or crying on anybody's shoulders either in my family or her own.
That afternoon I went over to Wing S-2 where I briefed new crews in from the states on Rota and Pizoris shakedown flights. Also had a look at the photo-recon scope pictures on the results of the July 9th Yokkaichi mission. One picture showed the damage and on a large picture they had plotted the bomb patterns of every plane in the Wing - taken from the radar scope cameras that operated automatically on the bombing run. Only 2% of the bombs had dropped out of the target area - and that was some bombing. Everyone from Colonel Hatfield and on down in that S-2 section had broad smiles on their faces. If this Wing could keep up a record like that it would be something great.
That evening Smith, Jessie, Colonel Walt and I drove over to the Wing service center to see the USO Eddie Bracken show. We had to sit on some coconut log piles way out about a hundred yards from the side of the stage. The show was rotten - putrid. Eddie Bracken tried to tell a few jokes but he got more boos than applause. He did have a few white women that sang and danced and that was about the only thing that the fellows were interested in seeing (we heard later that Eddie Bracken got into a jam with the marines up on Okinawa and was ordered to go home to the states before completing all of his engagements). Before the show was over it started to rain pretty hard so the four of us went home. Jessie said, "I get ten times more kick out of sitting on my bunk looking at my wife's picture then looking at them stinking USO shows anyway." Which wasn't far from the truth.
The following morning - July 12th - Smith was over to my bunk at 6:00 AM. "Herb, how busy do you think you'll be for the next couple of days?" I told him I didn't think I'd be very busy unless there was an empire strike coming up. "Well, our next empire strike is scheduled for the 15th and I've got a ship in from the states that had a lot of electrical trouble - the DC voltage regulators went to hell and as a result it burned out the motors and all the DC coils in the C-1. Toby and Irv are too busy to take it and I haven't the time so I wonder if you'd head up the maintenance crew and install a new autopilot in that ship?" Smith had already lined up four maintenance men and a truck had delivered a new autopilot in steel cases down to the ship. Master Sergeant Bowles - headed the crew - I'd met him back at McCook, Nebraska and he was a darn good man.
We went to work taking out the old units and installing the new ones. I went about supervising wiring diagrams - correct tolerances and checking on thousands of other things while the four fellows did most of the installation under my guidance. I'd been in on an installation only twice before - once back at Honeywell's school in Minneapolis and once in a B-17 down at Dyersburg, Tennessee. This was a B-29 and a lot different from the B-17 and B-24 we'd worked on back home. Also they wanted this ship ready by the morning of July 14th - just 48 hours away and the time it took to make an installation - not counting the removal of an old unit, back at Honeywell Modification Center at Minneapolis was around 700 man hours,. We had 48 hours and five men to do the job in temperatures inside that airplane around 125 degrees F. It was going to be a hell of a job to get that ship ready by the morning of the 14th.
We went to work - I put Master Sergeant Bowles in charge of servo motors and control cables and I took the other two boys and started them on wiring harness, J-Box, stabilizer, ACP, AGD and vertical flight gyro. We went to work. I set up the wiring diagrams and tolerance sheets in on the navigator's desk then went around the ship constantly to check the boys - to see that they were not making any mistakes that would cost us precious time. They took turns going to chow and after lunch I went over to Wing S-2 to see Major Chapman and get the schedule for the briefing on the crews for their Truk shakedown mission.
I was back at the ship at 2:00 PM - it was terribly hot inside - we were taking a couple of salt tablets with each drink of water - the boys were stripped to their shorts and sweating - especially those working on the servo units back in the tail section. 6:00 PM came and we took turns going to chow - I sneaked in a shower bath right after supper. Captain Knapp - a flight line engineering officer, rigged us up a battery of maintenance flood lamps with about 15 long extension cords for putting lights inside of the ship. We laid two long strips of cardboard down under the wings and we took turns all during that night catching a few winks of sleep - I slept about two hours.
Smith came down to the ship about 7:00 AM the following morning and expressed satisfaction in the progress we were making. I stayed right on the junction box and wiring all that afternoon. That afternoon I spent two hours over at Wing S-2 briefing on the Truk mission and then back over to the ship. Major Crowell - engineering officer came over and then promised the fellows a two day liberty period if they finished the job by noon on the 14th. We worked all afternoon and night. Sergeant Bowles stayed right on the job - never knocked off a minute to get any sleep - kept going on salt pills and cigarettes. By nine o'clock the following morning the units were installed and ready for adjusting which was my job. By ten o'clock it was ready for a flight check and Major Box of the flight air inspection department took it up - I went with him. A few minor adjustments were necessary in the air and we landed at 11:45 AM. The job was done and the ship was ready.
I praised Sergeant Bowles and the fellows for the fine job and I wondered to myself why it was that men would put themselves out like that to work as hard as they did and to go without sleep here on Guam for 50 bucks a month - and enjoy doing it. If the same thing happened among we civilians back home it would have started a labor strike or else they'd have had to have time and a half or double time overtime. Must be patriotism.
I went over to Wing S-2 at 1:00 PM that afternoon - it just seemed that my days and nights were all mixed up - I wasn't getting much sleep or rest but I didn't seem to be very tired for some reason. That afternoon we went over the plans for the July 15th strike. This was the Nippon oil refinery and gasoline storage area northwest of Yokohama. This was expected to be a tough mission as a large concentration of antiaircraft artillery was known to be in that area. It was a good target from the standpoint of radar bombing. Mount Fuji was to be used as the IP and the target lay just east of the Japanese city of Kofu. The Wing would have about 150 airplanes on the raid with 10 airborne spares. These would continue onto the raid even though they weren't replacing any aborts. The reason for this was that when the General down at 20th AF wanted 150 airplanes to strike a certain target he didn't want 149. The wing would feint toward both Tokyo and Yokohama then turn northwest to the target. Take off was about 5:30 PM That afternoon I briefed about 40 new crews on the Truk mission also.
I briefed crews on the Kofu mission then spent the rest of the forenoon and part of the afternoon washing out some clothes, getting things out of my B-4 bag to dry in the sun. There was a hell of a lot of noise around the area - P38's were buzzing us right down to tree top level - so low one could see the rivets in his wings. Over a ways from us a 90 mm antiaircraft battery was firing at a tow target high overhead. About 3 o'clock the flight crews came back to the area following their briefing - they had their afternoon meal and then left for their airplanes. I drove down to the line at 4:30 PM ran onto Smith and then went along with him down to the "abort" crew where we joined Tuthill and Sanderson.
The ships were carrying 40 - 500 lb. bombs and 8,200 gallons of gasoline - their maximum and heaviest load and it would remain that for the rest of the missions. 5:30 PM came and the ships started taking off - from all appearances they really had trouble getting their ships off the ground and over the ledge. Some of them came very close to not getting off. We were sitting in a truck not very far from the end of the runway - it was something to see those big bombers lift off the ground with their engines laboring at maximum power. Suddenly, there was a terrific explosion - it seemed to take one's breath away - the sky on the other side of the cliff just lit up and there was a large column of black smoke (a 501st Group ship had hit the water about five miles off the cliff and had everything blow up - the only thing left when the air-sea rescue boat arrived was a portable oxygen bottle floating on the surface. The cause of the accident was unknown, and the take off continued as though nothing had happened.
Colonel Peyton did not go on this mission. Colonel Waltanski flew lead ship in the 331st Group. This seemed to be the jinx raid as a lot of mishaps and tragic accidents took place. "I've been down to wing operations and heard a lot of news - some of it bad. Jessie's been in trouble up there and they haven't heard anything since before midnight when he radioed that one of his engines was out and he didn't know what he would do. Wing operations told him to continue on the return at his own decision - and nothings been heard of him since. You know Herb, it would be as hard on me as losing a brother if old Jessie didn't come through." It hit me as a hard blow too and I was plenty worried. Jessie had grown to mean an awful lot to me as well as Smith.
At 8:00 AM we drove over to Wing operations - Colonel Peyton was there and he told us, "Captain Williams has just cleared at Iwo on his way home - looks like he's coming all the way home on three engines - he's a good boy - he'll get a DFC for this or better - I'll see to that." Smith and I were so relieved and happy to hear that, that we almost had tears in our eyes. Colonel Peyton also said, "The wind has changed and the boys are going to have a rough time landing through that cut over on the east end of the runway. They should handle it satisfactorily though."
Smith and I drove over to the runways about 10:00 AM and soon we saw the first ships lining up on the base leg for their landing. There was a stiff wind - about 30 MPH - unusual for that island coming in from the north and the runways were set northwest to southeast so they could always land directly into the prevailing wind which normally was about 10 - 15 MPH at the most.
The first ship - Colonel Gurney's - came in and we could see that he was putting in plenty of right rudder crab. Suddenly, when he got into the cut, he was out of the wind and the ship veered to the right - he had to put in full power immediately to pull it up and go around. About half of the ships had to go around in the first 50 or so that came in. Everyone who'd been watching the landings near the runways were ordered out of there so Smith and I drove over on a hardstand about 200 yards from the end of the north runway - there we could see the numbers on the ships as they came in.
Well over a hundred airplanes had landed when the second tragic accident of this mission occurred. One plane had misjudged and had pulled up to go around but too late. His right wing caught the side of the coral cut in the cliff and the plane started going end over end down between the runways - leaving a trail of burning gasoline and wreckage half way down the area between the runways almost to the control tower. Jeeps and ambulances raced on down there but there was no one left alive in that crash. Father Gaines walked almost into the burning wreck to administer last rights to the men before he was made to move out of the immediate area. "Herb, what in hell is Jessie going to do on three engines if these other guys can't get down with four?", Smith asked. That had us both worrying again. We thought maybe they'd order Jessie to land at the 314th Wing base but still they had as tough a problem or even worse there than there was here at this base.
Finally, all our ships were in excepting Jessie's. Smith and I sat in the jeep - sweating him out - there were lots of men standing around waiting. Finally, we saw his ship out in the distance and as it drew near we could see that No. 4 engine was feathered. "Well, if anyone can let down in that side wind through that cut on three engines - old Jessie will do it", Smith said. "But he's going to have to stall it in and that ain't good." His bum engine was on the opposite side of the air current which wasn't going to help any - also he'd never be able to pull it up on three engines if he had to go around again - it was only one try and it had to be good.
Jessie came around the field - fired his red emergency flare and then started out east - swung around and began his let down. I just prayed. Smith and I jumped up and stood on our jeep. Just before he reached the cut he cut the inboard engine on the right hand side - he entered the cut and then we could hear him open up on the outboard right hand engine - that ship was dangerously close to a stall - the ship turned almost a 45 degree angle to the runway - he was out of the cut - he whipped it around and shoved the nose down - brought it up and set the two wheels down on the runway as pretty as could be - he'd made it and it was a wonderfully good landing! Smith pounded me on the back, "God Herb, he made it - 'ol Jess made it!" We jumped in the jeep and tore down to the end of the runway - met Jessie's plane as he turned up the taxi strip on the north side. There he cut his engines and a cleat track hooked on and pulled him up to the hardstand.
We drove right behind and to the left of the tractor. Jessie had his head out the window - grabbing his hands together and shaking them. They parked the ship up on the hardstand with the others and by that time quite a crowd of men had gathered around. Jessie got out - in his shorts and shoes - Mae West and chute. But SOP's or no SOP's, Colonel Peyton grabbed him around the shoulders and hugged him. "Nice work, Williams. I'll see that you and the members of your crew get the DFC and you son will get the Silver Star for this" (Jessie was the only airplane commander in the entire Wing to receive both the DFC and Silver Star decorations - but he earned them - the Silver Star is the highest decoration next to the Congressional Medal of Honor given in the Army Air Corps). He had carried his bomb load in and dropped it on his target after having an engine go out on him just as he was nearing the coast of Japan. He had encountered severe flak - his ship was hit in several places. Then he brought this ship all the way back on three engines and ending it with an almost hazardous landing due to side wind conditions through a deep cut at the end of the runway that had already caused the complete loss of an airplane and crew. Also we learned from him later that Jap night fighters had been on him up to 200 miles off the coast of Japan where he'd finally shaken them off. The tail guns were completely out of ammunition.
After he had been through interrogation and showered and had something to eat, Smith and I got together in Waltanski's tent with him to hear the details. "Fellows, I just don't know what kept us from stalling out in that cut on the final approach. Pat (his copilot) was calling air speed and it got down to 140. I just prayed - Oh God, don't let this son of a bitch stall out. It didn't but why it didn't I'll never know." Waltanski hadn't seen the landing, but Smith and I told him how it appeared from where we were standing. Colonel Peyton dropped in for a short while to talk to Jessie. "Why didn't they order you down at Iwo, Jessie", he asked. "I don't know, they cleared me through there to proceed to Guam. I was in contact with 'Slicker' before I contacted Iwo", (Slicker was the code word for flight control on our base at Guam). "Then they ordered you back here to land even though they knew full well the landing conditions were extremely hazardous here this morning and you on three engines. I'm going over there. That flight control officer’s soul may belong to God almighty, but his ass will be in my hands before I finish with him", the Colonel said, then went out and took his jeep and started for the control tower. "I suppose that's some ground gripping SOB they've got on flight control over there", Walt said. "I hope Jim eats his ass off and busts him for good. I didn't get much poop from them on conditions and I had to go around once." Anyway, we were happy to have Jessie home safely. A great friendship had grown up between the four of us - Smith, Jessie, Waltanski, and I. But there was a very big spot in my heart for Jessie. He was a hell of a nice young fellow. When you see a young guy like that pull out of a tough spot through being able to muster up his entire skill when it is needed you couldn't help but have an immense admiration for him.
No ships were lost due to emergency action - the Wing lost two crews and airplanes on takeoff and on landing. During the remainder of the afternoon I was over at the Wing S-2 briefing new crews on Truk missions. When I got back to my tent that evening there were six letters - two from Peggy, two from Mother, and one each from Helen and Deane. I read them each twice then got out my paper and pen and took care of a daily duty - writing Peggy and answering the others. That night I went to the picture show. "Rhapsody in Blue" - all about George Gershwin's life. I thought about Pete and how he'd enjoy seeing that picture.
I was up early. Food was steadily growing worse and there was a lot of griping and complaining. I was to Wing S-2 in the morning and then to review the results of the July 15th strike mission. 75% of the target destroyed and still burning. The next strike mission was set for the 18th - take off 4:00 PM. Target - another oil refinery and gasoline storage area at Okayama and on Honshu Island. The boys would have to fly over the Japanese island of Shikoku and would be over Jap territory and exposed to flak for over two and a half hours. It was beginning to be evident what our Wing was doing - our job was to knock out Japanese fuel production. Every target was a large oil refinery or gasoline storage area. The 73rd and 58th Wings up on Tinian and Saipan were burning their cities. The 314th Wing on Guam was working on their heavy industry - steel, ship building, munitions, and aircraft. Our 315th Wing was taking care of the oil and fuel. The whole general scheme of things began to make sense.
That evening there was a general song fest in the officer's tent. Also it was announced that we'd soon be moving into our new permanent area - quonset huts and prefabricated barracks. The area was in a new clearing between one tent area and the field. I'd driven through that area that afternoon and things were progressing rapidly. Boy oh boy - we'd soon be off the ground and out of those tents. Rumors were that we'd also have some 10 holers for our latrines - no more straddling a ditch and looking at a hundred or so bare butts while doing an early morning chore.
I was back over at Wing S-2 in the morning for my briefing chores then back over to our tent area to do some more laundry and house clean the tent. I was still using the mattress covers for blankets and they were about the color of army blankets by this time - they had been white at one time. I scrubbed them until they were almost threadbare but I never got them better than a light shade of reddish brown. I also cut the pant legs off two pairs of new khaki pants and made some shorts. My skin was now a deep brown in color and I could stand being out in the hot sun for hours. I was in the best condition except for a small spot of jungle fungus that had developed on my hind end - I got some sulfa salve from Doc Krausharr that took care of this in a short while. I was very busy and that kept me from getting lonesome for home and also from minding the heat, the jungles and our primitive way of living. The boys in the ground echelon were having regular kitten ball and basketball games with other groups in the Wing most every night there wasn't an empire strike.
I went out to the line about 3:15 PM in the jeep. Went up and down the line well wishing the boys on their journey. Colonel Peyton wasn't going on this strike either - Colonel Waltanski was again flying lead ship in the Group. Colonel Peyton was a bit too old to take it too much anyway. Waltanski was in his early thirties.
I must add here that many very interesting names were being painted on the noses of these airplanes and incidentally - Waltanski had a Packard roadster back in the states that the boys had referred to as "Walt's Cockwagon", so Waltanski when he finally got a ship out of the spares - had a big rooster painted on the nose riding in a toy wagon. Art Goring's ship was called "Nipponese Nuisance", Lt. Colonel Wilson had "Beeg Az Iron Burd", with a chick showing it's hind end. There were hundreds of them as nearly everyone in the Wing had some name or thing painted on the nose.
I stopped at Jessie's ship and told him not to have a repeat on his last mission - his ship had a few patches on it - war marks. " Ol' 612 is going to bring me through and someday we're going to fly home - right under the Golden Gate Bridge at Frisco", he said. There was a lot of confidence in that boy both in himself and crew and ship (Jessie spent a lot of his spare time down on the line working with his ground crew on the plane).
At 3:45 PM I accompanied Chaplain Gaines down to his spot to watch the take-off. They were again carrying 8,200 gallons of gasoline and 40 - 500 lb. bombs. The General's ship was leading the show. The standard operating power settings being used on take-off on engines was at the time 2,800 RPM and 49 inches HG manifold pressure. It seemed to me that they just weren't getting quite enough power to adequately pull off the ground and clear the hump over the cliff. Too many of them were mushing into the air and mushing over the hump - that wasn't good. They were driving them right down to the end of that 2 mile long runway and pulling them off the ground rather than letting the airplane fly off like we used to do in the B-17's back in Dyersburg, Tennessee. It seemed to me that it was too much of a strain on pilots - gambling as to whether or not he was going to gather sufficient speed flying airspeed on his take-off run to keep that heavy airplane flying once he'd left the ground. It seemed to me watching that take-off that they would do something to lessen the situation - though the Boeing Stress Engineers claimed that from calculations, the B-29 should be able to take off in 8,500 feet at a maximum gross weight of 140,000 lbs. on those power settings - yet they were using up all of an 11,000 foot runway to get off with enough to climb to clear the obstacle. The situation proved to be an interesting thing for Smith in days to come. There were 185 airplanes on the mission. The take-off took place without any major accidents excepting there were a dozen or so ground aborts.
That night Smith and I drove over to see Toby Tuthill - he was still living in the same tent only their area wasn't laid out very orderly - their tents were arranged most any way, consequently one had to wind in and around - climbing over tent ropes and stakes to get to where Toby lived. We'd parked our jeep out on the side of the road and started walking in toward Toby's tent. Smith tripped over a tent stake and fell head long into a tent and right on top of some officer who was laying in his cot - a short bald headed guy came out yelling, "What in hell's going on?" Smith said, "Sorry mister, I just happened to get tangled up in your tent stakes while trying to find our way through this area." "Well what in the hell are you guys doing in this area - you don't belong in this area anyway - didn't you see the sign down the road marked officer's quarters?" (neither Smith nor I had on any insignia - just shorts and shoes and no caps). Smith said, "Say, just who in hell are you anyway?" "I'm Lt. ________, Finance Officer, 501st Group", the guy answered. "Well", Smith said, "I happened to be classified as a Colonel and the next time I come through here I'm going to kick your goddamned tent down." Then we went over to Toby's tent (Smith held the assimilated rank of a full Colonel which under Army Air Corps regulations he was entitled to use).
Over at Toby's tent we had a few snorts on Toby with latrine juice for wash (latrine juice was Toby's expression for water out of a canteen). About all Toby could talk about was how miserable our man Sanderson was making things for him. But our efficiency reports had come out with two superiors for Smith and I, an excellent for Toby and a very satisfactory for Sanderson.
That night on the way back to the tent area Smith was trying to dim the lights on his jeep when he mistakenly turned off the lights completely - then we sat out in the middle of the highway with hundreds of trucks and vehicles going past us and meeting us - and we without lights. Tis a wonder someone didn't run into us. Smith finally located the switch in his confusion and we were again on our way.
The following morning - July 19th, I was down to the line after breakfast to await landing. Nobody had heard any pre-dope on how the boys had made out the night before. I didn't see Colonel Peyton around anywhere so I got out of the jeep and walked up to the top of a coral pile near the end of the runways where I found Chaplain Gaines in his usual position - waiting the return of the boys. He was always there on the east end of the runways on the landings thanking God for the safe return of each crew - and on take-offs he was down on the west and blessing each one as they left the ground. I just couldn't help but have a good feeling about the man and practically all the flight crews came to feel about the man as a sort of an essential thing in all of this excitement. He always wore a helmet liner with a white Chaplain's insignia on the front of it.
Soon we saw the first airplane far off to the north and then it came around over to the east and began its letdown into the final approach and land on the south runway - it was General Armstrong's ship. Soon others began showing up over the horizon and then many of them - each hurrying to get down - there were always at least 25 airplanes on the base leg and about five or six on the final approach. I saw Waltanski's plane land, then Jessie's and soon all of them were down.
I drove over to the interrogation area which was my usual practice - to get the dope on the mission and see the fellows. On this raid they had encountered some Jap night fighter activity but it appeared that they were being reluctant to close in on our ships for attack. It was evident that the Japanese were not fully aware that our airplanes were stripped of all but tail guns. Our intelligence had it that the Japs were confused by the radar wings under the ships - it was believed the Japs were trying to get detailed photographs of these so as to determine what they were - no doubt they'd had parts of it to study from the few airplanes of our wing they'd shot down over Japan. Some of the crews at interrogation that morning told of two and three fast night fighters coming in on them from the front head on but not firing (from rumor after the war we heard that the Japs believed those radar wings to be some kind of super weapon - well, in a way it was).
I could see that the strain was beginning to tell on the fellows. Jessie was getting thin as a rail - nervous and smoking continuously - my old friend Tex Maresh was showing strain too - in fact, they all were. Flying a mission like that every third day was a killer and with the heat and bum food they were getting I began to wonder if they would stand up to that pace for 35 missions. Doc Krausharr told me that about a third of the fellows were already under close observation for combat fatigue - Jessie was one of them. It seemed funny, but there was nothing better for them than a little whiskey and to lay down on that beach every day following a mission - it was refreshing. It had always been a strict rule in the Army Air Corps - absolutely no liquor 24 hours before and during active flying, but there were no restrictions on what a fellow did in between those times - in fact, the flight surgeons condoned drinking as a relaxing agent.
That noon Smith came over and picked me up. "I'm on a big meeting over at Wing Engineering together with Boeing and Wright Engine men. Some officers from 20th Air Force Headquarters are coming over. Some decision is to be made regarding those engine power settings for take-offs. I should probably take Irving Sanderson along on it as he's our turbo man, but he’ll probably make a damn fool in front of those guys so how's about going along and giving me a little moral support anyway?"
I put on my last clean pair of pants and shirt and we set out for Wing Engineering office. Smith explained the setup on the way over. Colonel Martin presided at the meeting and every Group Engineering Officer was present besides two Boeing men, a Wright engine man, two Colonels from 20th AF and Smith and myself.
The Boeing men said their piece. "That airplane should take off and be able to climb 500 feet per minute in at most 8,000 feet of runway with power settings being used." A colonel of Wing Engineering said, "That may be true on paper, but they're not doing it." Then he read reports of airplane commanders whereby they were getting only 150 MPH flying speed using the full length of the runway. The Wright man, Harry King, got up and said, "The maximum RPM for safe performance on the Wright 2350 engine is 2,800 RPM and we're using that now." Colonel Martin said, "Then there's only one thing possible to consider and that's increasing take-off manifold pressure by increasing turbo boost." That pointed the finger right at Smith and myself. Right then I discovered that my old friend Smith might be the biggest screw-baller in the world, but when the cards were laid on the table he was there with the goods. "Well gentlemen, I've done quite a bit of studying on this problem during the past few days. When I was on the B-29 indoctrination committee for Minneapolis Honeywell last year at Wright Field and elsewhere, I was one of the men instrumental in getting power take-off settings on the B-29 raised from 45 inches to 47 and then I heard later that they had to start using 49 inches and 2,700 RPM with the 58th Wing in China. We are now using 49 inches and 2,800 RPM here in the 315th Wing and my good friend Harry King tells us that 2,800 RPM is the limit. But there's no reason why those engines won't do 50 or 50 1/2 inches without too much trouble and that will give you about 80 horsepower higher rating on each engine - 320 additional horsepower will make all the difference in the world on that take-off run." Harry King got up and said," Smith, you know detonation will occur at 54 inches." "Well yes Harry", Smith said, "Your company says that from tests that 54 inches is the limit where it is possible for detonation to start, but back in Minneapolis Honeywell Flight Research they found the average detonation condition around 60 inches. That is just a precautionary value your company has set and not an absolute limit." One of the Group Engineering Officers got up and said, "We know that in cases of over speed turbo on take-off the manifold pressures have gone above 54 inches without any harmful results." I got up and said, "In practically all turbo calibrations I've made both here and back in the states I've had manifold pressures on engines run above 50 inches due to voltage fluctuations and on some cases I've had them fluctuate well above 54 inches without any injury to the engine." Colonel Martin then directed at Smith, "It is your conviction Smith that power settings can be changed up to 50 and a half inches without any danger of detonation whatsoever?" "Those are my convictions and I highly recommend it", Smith answered. "What are your convictions King?" "I do not wish to be quoted on anything of that nature as I do not feel my company will authorize my making any commitments of that nature", King replied. Minutes had been taken of the meeting and it was adjourned.
When we stepped outside my old friend Jim O'Brien the Boeing engineer came over, "Bach, you old devil, still enjoying a good hot session just like did back in Dyersburg." I surely liked Jim and he was a darned good engineer (he later moved over in our area when the war was over and we saw a lot of each other). The proceedings of the meeting were sent to 20 AF and returned in a few hours with orders that all Wing airplanes would be recalibrated for take-off power settings with 2,800 RPM and 50 and a half inches of manifold pressure. Smith had won his battle. Every pilot in the Wing was very happy to see that happen.
That evening and during the following forenoon Smith, Sanderson, Tuthill and I were extremely busy - calibrating turbos on all the Wing airplanes. I took care of the 331st airplanes. I'd go from one to another with my voltmeter and calibrating screw tool. The ground crew chief would start up each engine and I'd adjust the calibrating potentionmeters for correct voltage for delivering 50 and a half inches manifold pressure at full RPM of 2,800. I worked all that night and finished by 10:00 AM the following morning. Smith had finished a short while before and had come over to the 331st area while I was on one of the last planes - we could hear the engine run-ups over on the other side where Toby and Sanderson were still running up on their calibrations. No sleep the night before, but I was getting so hardened in that I didn't notice it.
I then drove over to Wing S-2 area to check on the dope on the July 21st empire strike. Orders and all the data were in - this was going to be a big one - General LeMay had ordered a maximum effort strike for all Wings in the Marianas - there were to be close to 1,000 B-29's attacking Japan in 24 hours - one day. Our target was the Kawasaki coal liquefaction plant and Japanese naval oil storage dump right on the Tokyo Bay area between Tokyo and Yokohama. It looked like a tough one but the Halsey 3rd Fleet had been bombing the hell out of the Tokyo area for the past few days - knocking out airfields and flak batteries. The 314th and 73rd Wings were striking targets in the Tokyo area that day too and we'd be the last Wing over the area. Landfall was Cape Ino, feint toward Kofu - our preceding target - then north of Tokyo turning southwest using the small Idse peninsula as IP. Breakaway was over Yokosuka and east of the Izu Islands. That lay just outside the Tokyo Bay in the Sagami Sea.
Take-off 6:00 PM July 21st. Colonel Peyton and the 331st Group would lead the mission. I spent about two hours going over the material - scope pictures - altitudes and airspeeds and then headed for my tent. Took a shower and ate lunch and went over and stripped off my clothes, opened up the tent flaps and went to sleep. About 5:30 PM Colonel Peyton stopped in my tent and woke me up. "Bach, how'd you like to go along tomorrow night - I'm leading the show." "Will it be put on orders?" I asked. "I'll put you on orders", he said. "I'll go", I answered. That again was that. If someone a couple of years before had told me I'd be in an airplane that would bomb Tokyo I'd surely have said they were nuts. This time I felt absolutely no fear but more like I would have back in Dyersburg had someone asked me to go along on a cross country flight.
I put on my clothes and went along with Peyton to the mess area for supper. Food was sure getting lousy. Following supper Lt. Russ Riley told me to come up to his tent - there he had a gallon can of peaches he'd swiped. We ate up the whole can using our jack knives and bayonets for spoons. That evening Russ and I went over to the service area to see the picture show "Suspect". It was very good. It rained half the time we were there and we were soaking wet but that didn't bother us very much. Back in my tent I wrote a letter to Peggy by candlelight telling her I was a damn fool again and going on another trip with the fellows.
The following morning - July 21st - I was over to Wing by 7:00 AM and finished with my chores by 10:00. I saw Kenny Mitkif and he asked me how Peggy was (Peg and I were together with Kenny and his wife Christmas 1944 in Dyersburg). We wished each other good luck and I went back to our tent area where I caught up with my diary, wrote letters and laundered my flying suite. After lunch I laid down for a couple hours sleep then shaved and showered and at 3:30 I put on my flying suit and combat boots and walked down to mess where some of the combat crews were already eating. I went to Peyton's headquarters tent at 4:30 where his crew gathered - Waltanski was flying again copilot, Bouie was bombardiering, Captain Knapp was flying engineer and Major Bunch and Captain Eddings were going as scanners. The same navigators, radio operators and tail gunner as we had on the July 9th mission.
We picked up our lunch and a couple dozen cans of grapefruit juice at the mess tent, stopped over at personal equipment section for our stuff and arrived down at the ship at 5:00 PM. We were flying ship #811 - a new one just in from the states recently belonging to a Captain Narviss and crew. On the nose was painted a scantily dressed female laying on a couch and beneath this beautiful display of pulchritude was written "Just One Mo Time". Some deal that was.
It was hot. Jeeps and trucks were dashing back and forth in between the planes - there were better than a hundred airplanes on each side of the runways and all lined up in a line. While Peyton and the crew were on their visual inspection I walked back to the sixth ship behind us to give Jessie a well wishing - to my surprise there was old C.H. Smith in a flying suit - going along with Jessie. "I promised Jessie's wife I'd look after him over here and I'm going along to see that he gets back OK", Smith said, a stub of unlit cigar in his mouth. He'd been able to get in under orders by the Wing Commander to go along as an observer on the new power settings. "Well Herb, my old boozing buddy, let's see that airplane of Peyton's lay a good bomb line up there for us." I bid my two good pals farewell and went back up to Peyton's airplane which was in front sitting on the end of the runway.
The weather ship took off at 5:30 PM and at 5:45 we boarded the ship - adjusted our seats - I sat on the 5 man life raft pack again - my usual spot. I hacked my watch to the navigator's time piece. At 5:50 Peyton called to the crew chief out in front, "Post fire guard - ready to start engines." Our engines were started and at 6:00 PM we received the green light from the control tower - we were on our way.
I watched the RPM and manifold pressure gauges intently on take-off. Fifty and one-half inches, 2,800 RPM right on the dot - I'd done a good job on this ship anyway. We passed the one-third stripe and Captain Knapp yelled, "Engines OK take-off." I watched that airspeed needle come up to 150 then to 165 and then 170 as I glimpsed the end stripe flash beneath us and we were airborne.
Peyton set us right into a 1,000 feet per minute climb - the airspeed dropped to 160 MPH but we'd cleared the hump with at least 300 feet to spare. "Power setting two, flaps up a third", Colonel Peyton called, "This is more like it - they should have increased that power setting long ago", he said. As usual, he allowed the plane to settle down to about 200 feet above the water as we gathered air speed and "milked" the flaps up. Air speed reached 225 and the engine temperatures were normal and then we turned north and began our climb - 200 feet per minute leveling off at 10,500 feet, as weather between Guam and Iwo was excellent.
It as usual had been unmercifully hot sitting in that airplane prior to take-off but even at 10,000 feet the air was cool - about 70 degrees F. The cabins were pressurized at 8,000 feet pressure, the autopilot was set up and everyone except the engineer and navigators relaxed and took it easy. Cans of grapefruit juice were passed around and opened up. It grew dark - the air was very smooth. We passed Iwo Jima at 10:00 PM. We were due over the target at 2:06.45 AM. Recognition signals were exchanged at Iwo and then we began climbing to 17,000 to get over some weather between Iwo and Japan.
All along Colonel Walt had been ribbing Peyton about what he'd do if the Colonel did a repeat performance on his leg like he'd done on the July 9th mission. It was quite dark - the moon wasn't up - but I didn't seem to have any too much fear as to what lay ahead. One mission had given me a little confidence. At 12:00 AM we broke out the coffee and sandwiches and then I went back into the bomb bays and helped Major Bouie arm the bombs, 24 - 500 pounders in the front bomb bay and 16 in the aft bomb bay. It was a sinister feeling to stand on the catwalk between those bodies of destruction which would in a few hours go hurtling down through space onto the Japs. There is a light in each bomb bay so one can see to do the arming job. I took out my pencil and wrote "Greetings Hirohito from Robert Stephen Bach" on one of them. Some day when my little boy grew up I'd tell him about that.
We were nearing the coast of Japan. At 1:00 AM we began a 500 foot per minute climb up to 28,000 feet. Flak suites and helmets were put on and oxygen masks were adjusted. Everyone had a cigarette, a couple of benzedrine tablets, a drink of water and then at 1:30 AM the oxygen masks went on - we continued on cabin pressure but we were breathing oxygen from ships source on "auto - demand". At 1:45 AM we received the reports from the weather ship. Cloud cover over the Tokyo area was 45 to 50 percent. That was pretty good for us.
We flew through the blackness of the night. By this time the Japs had picked us up on their radar and knew that we were coming. I was busy computing the bombing problems with Major Bouie. "Landfall", came from the navigators - we were over Japan. Far to northeast we could see a red glow - Tokyo targets burning from the other Wing's raid. We headed directly north until the navigators called, "IP". Bouie called, "Roger, I have it scoped - there will be a 60 second run - transferring autopilot control." I stayed right on the ratio and sensitivity knobs of the autopilot trying to get immediate recovery on all signals put in from the sight. There hadn't been a bit of flak or search lights this far - it was funny. My mouth was just as dry as could be and that stomach of mine seemed to have a mind of its own. Right now we were on the outskirts and edge of Tokyo - I couldn't realize it - and no flak or nothing.
Colonel Peyton called the scanners and tail gunner to keep a sharp look out for night fighters. Then I saw Bouie's eye constantly on the eyepiece and then his hand tripped the intervalometer switch and held the release - we were on the run - that 60 seconds seemed an hour. Then we felt the bomb bays swing open and a moment afterward the lights blink and Bouie called, "Bombs away", and, "They are right on the button - perfect synchronization." Then Waltanski took manual control and we started our breakaway.
Then suddenly the scanners and tail gunner called, "Search lights at seven o'clock. Search lights at four o'clock moving over fast." "Anti radar rope", the Colonel called. We couldn't see a thing except fires over north and east of us but I began to have a cold sweat right then. "Flak barrage at 6 o'clock - a mile and below us - keep that tape going", the Colonel called. Then it happened - several search lights ahead of us and to our right came on and began moving over and right around us. Waltanski was wheeling us up 60 degree banks - pulling us up on our tail, then driving us down. "Number 2 power setting", Colonel Peyton called. "Let's get the hell out of here", Bouie said. Those ribbons of light were all around and then suddenly one swept in and for a short moment had us. My heart and stomach were up in my mouth.
Then it came, KABOONG - KABOONG - KABOONG ! Several right below and a head of us and one right in front of our nose - so bright it blinded us momentarily. Waltanski was throwing that airplane around so that I was constantly aware of being pulled out and forced back into my seat. Then they had us again - two lights - I remember seeing sweat pour down off Waltanski's forehead over his oxygen mask. Mine was terribly gooey inside and I wished I could pull the damn thing off. "KABOONG - KABOONG - KABOONG", one could really feel it. The airplane was jumping all over and then, "PANG - PANG - ZING - ZING - ZING". "We're hit!", the Colonel called. "Cabin pressure decreasing", Captain Knapp called. I could begin to feel the lowering of pressure. "Engines functioning normally. Power setting one", Peyton called. We were doing 300 or better indicated but still those search lights held us. I tried to pull myself into a small ball under that flak helmet and suit - Oh God - I thought - get us out of here - I'd never been so terribly frightened in all my life - my teeth were chattering and I had to take a leak so terribly.
It grew terribly cold as the pressure had all gone out of the cabin. "Engines heating", Knapp called. "Power setting three", Peyton called. "Put us in as steep a dive as you can Walt". I could feel the rapid ascension. "Airspeed 375 ." "That's enough", the Colonel called. The tail gunner called, "Search lights moving in from six o'clock." They must have had at least four or five on us then. Flak barrages continued - it seemed like one could walk on it - big terrible round balls of lightning that turned orange red and with streamers flying out in all directions - it was ghastly terrifying.
Suddenly we were away from the lights - they were moving in all directions back and forth, then the tail gunner called that they were moving back and away from us. Walt swung us into a steep bank to the right - and began to climb - we'd lost over 12,000 feet altitude and were down to 16,000 but we were apparently out of it for the time being. It had been rough - I just can't describe how terrible it had been. The boys behind us would really be catching hell. We had been flying over Tokyo Bay and from the briefing we'd been informed that there would likely be some of the Japanese flak barrages encountered.
We were now well past Yokosuka and over the Sagami Sea. We were climbing and one could really feel the strain of altitude. Suddenly the left scanner called that there were search lights again at 8 o'clock - these apparently came from the shores of the Jap peninsula of Chiba. We were too far away from them and they didn't catch us. Colonel Peyton called for a station report and nobody had received any injuries. The scanner reported that their compartment was full of holes and the air was really whistling in. I wondered how Jessie and Smith were making out behind us. The tail gunner called that he could see considerable flak and search light activity back behind us.
We were finally out of the Sagami Sea area and then we turned to the southwest into the Pacific Ocean and on past the Izu Islands. Then we began our slow descent and finally leveled out at 10,000 feet - we were finally out of it. God, what a relief that was. Off came the oxygen masks and flak suits - we'd have to remain below 12,000 feet all the way home as the cabin pressure was out. First thing everyone had to do was take a leak and we almost filled that three gallon can. I got the coffee jug out and passed it around and we all must have smoked at least three cigarettes in a row. "I suppose you're going to sit there and tell us this was a picnic compared to some of your missions over Germany", Colonel Peyton said to Waltanski. "You're damn right - if that had been the Krauts shooting at us back there we'd have been kibitzing with the fish in Tokyo Bay - hell them damn Japs can't shoot for a damn - if that had been over Germany and we were in a spot like we were back there we'd have gotten it but good. I still maintain these are milk runs as compared to those back over Europe", Waltanski said. Milk run or no, I decided right there that this had been plenty tough enough for me.
Things settled down into a tiring flight back to Guam. It seemed hard to get the ship trimmed up and there was a reason for it as the right scanner reported that he could shine his beam light out on the right wing and it looked as though there was a flak hole near the right aileron. They could use the autopilot but had to adjust it for aileron centering every few minutes - but that was better than flying all the way home manually.
Waltanski spread his big frame out on his seat and went to sleep - Colonel Peyton watching the instruments. Major Bouie and I crawled up into the tunnel and went to sleep - I woke up just as we were passing Saipan and Tinian - golly but I was tired. Colonels Peyton and Waltanski both had a couple benzedrine tablets and we got situated for landing. There were no planes ahead of us and we came in for a landing on the north runway at 10:30 AM and taxied over to our hardstand. Almost all of the ground personnel gathered over at our ship and were giving it the once over - I crawled down the nose wheel and out - sure was good to be on solid ground again.
Our ship was badly damaged - there were over a hundred flak holes in it - mostly in the waist and tail sections. Near the wing tip and the right aileron was a hole about three feet in diameter - just missed the main spar. I told the Colonel to go on over to interrogation without me and I'd wait until some of the other ships came in. I waited by our ship and soon I saw quite a few airplanes come in and land and then I saw #612 - Jessie and Smith had made it. They hadn't taken as much flak as we had - only a few small holes in the wings, but they'd seen a lot around them and had seen the search lights converge on us up ahead and had really sweat us out.
I went along with Jessie and Smith in the truck over to the personal equipment section to store our stuff and then on over to Wing interrogation area. Smith and I going through the medic's tent twice for a double shot of whiskey. I was very tired. When both Jessie and Walt came out of interrogation we got together and decided to have a session of our "foursome" down at the beach. We rode over to our tent area where I showered and then had breakfast. At 12:30 Walt picked me up in his jeep and we went over to get Jessie and Smith and then down to the beach. There we proceeded to take care of a quart of Smith's best whiskey mixed with canned grapefruit juice and then the four of us sprawled out on the wet sand under a palm tree and went to sleep.
We were back to the tent area by 6:30 PM. I showered, shaved and then ate supper. After supper I wrote letters by candle light, caught up on my diary, and hit the sack. It was good to be laying safe and sound in a bed in Guam. I resolved then and there that there was not going to be any more combat missions for me from then on.
The following morning - July 23rd - I was over at Wing S-2 at 8:00 AM to see the results of our mission. 87% of target was destroyed. Our camera had indicated that Colonel Peyton's lead ship had laid the first string of bombs and radar path right on the spot it was supposed to be. Most of the credit of that went to Major Bouie for some fine bombardiering (Major Bouie later earned a DFC for that mission - he'd earned two DFC's in Europe and this would add a star to his ribbon). Sad part of it was that two ships were lost to enemy action - one out of the 16th Group and one out the 501st. Several were down at Iwo Jima with mechanical failures. Orders and details were already beginning to come in on the July 25th raid but I didn't stop to look these over.
That afternoon I drove down to the 16th Group bivouac area to see Tex Maresh and Kenny Mitkif. Kenny wasn't in the area but I found Tex and we sat around drinking beer and kibitzing for a few hours. Tex had been getting letters from Roberts, McCorkle and Jim Sanders back at Dyersburg and that was interesting to me to find out how those fellows were doing. That night it was announced that enlisted men of the ground echelon would begin moving over into the permanent area the following morning. I went over to Smith's tent and he gave me one of his good Cuban cigars and we sat on stools out in front of his tent smoking and talking shop - about power settings, etc. until time for me to go home to bed.
On July 24th I was over to Wing S-2 section to study out the details preparatory to the July 25th bombing mission. The target was an engine plant on Shikoku Island near Tokushima. Take-off was scheduled at 4:30 PM. That afternoon I did a big laundry and after I was through I had all the clothes lines around my tent and immediate area filled with pants, shirts, underwear, socks, and towels.
The following day - July 25th - I briefed crews until 10:00 AM then went back over to the tent area. The 331st Group Adjutant had posted notice that all officers of the 331st Group were to report for billeting assignments in the new area. All staff officers would live in one area, maintenance in another section and flight crews in another. I went over to the adjutant's tent to find out where I'd be living. "Colonel Waltanski was in this morning and he had me put your name down to live in the same hut with him and two other officers, Lt. Colonel Wilson and Major Crowell. You are classified as a field grade officer and entitled to live in the same quarters as these officers."
He showed me a map of the permanent area. A large officer's mess hall was situated in one end beside which was the plot of ground where the officer's club would be located. There were eight rows of square huts. Four rows for ground maintenance and staff personnel, four rows for flight crews, some of these huts would house four men, others six, and the majority eight. Colonel Peyton and Colonel Mackey would live in one where they would also have desks and field telephones. Our tent was right next to his and right beside the mess hall. It was going to be an ideal setup for me and I was very happy about Walt being so considerate as to ask for me to come in with him to live.
That afternoon I was out on the flight line at 4:00 PM to see the fellows off. Colonel Sanborn of the 502nd Group was leading the Wing and the 331st was third Group in order. Waltanski was flying lead ship in the 331st Group. The target was not such a tough one as both the approach and breakaway would be over water. Some flak was expected and there were night fighter units in the area - but so far as they knew the Wing hadn't lost a single airplane due to enemy fighter action. It was rumored that General Hap Arnold, Under Secretary of War Patterson, and Admiral Chester Nimitz were in the control tower to watch the take-off. We found out later that this was true and that General "Rosie" O’Donnell from the 58th Wing on Tinian was there too as well as General LeMay - CO of the 20th AF.
The take-off went without a hitch. Afterwards there was a ceremony over on the south side hardstand where a B-29 flown in this Wing was named "Fleet Admiral Nimitz" in honor of the naval commander. Both Hap Arnold and General LeMay made talks over a portable public address system. Photographs were made - the first permitted in that area - but it showed only the nose of the airplane. That evening the island constabulary rounded up and killed six Japs north of our airfield between the 331st and bivouac area and the highway. That evening Smith came over with a couple of good cigars and we went to the picture show with Jack Benny in "The Horn Blows at Midnight" and smoked the cigars. We'd been getting two cigars and a pack of cigarettes daily in our rations. I'd been giving Smith the cigars and he'd been giving me the cigarettes.
I was up and out to the field early on the morning of July 26th to meet the boys coming back from the raid. Just as the first elements were coming in it started to rain very hard and some of them had difficulty with visibility but they all made it OK. All of them were in and landed by 9:00 AM. I met both Colonel Walt and Jessie after they had taxied up to their hardstands. The mission had been considerably easier than the one before. Only sporadic flak was encountered and that was near the target. Neither Jessie nor Walt had encountered any night fighter planes. Jessie was really beginning to show the strain. He was thin as a rail and getting thinner - it sort of disturbed me to see how awfully tired and knocked out he looked after those missions. Jessie had the ability - he was a wonderful pilot - everyone in the group liked and admired him but I was afraid he wasn't up to it physically. Even hard bitten and rugged Waltanski was showing strain but he'd go through a hundred missions before he'd crack up. Waltanski's vocabulary was something again - it was on the increase. Major Art Goring - the calmest man in the outfit showed no strain whatsoever - he was losing a few pounds which he could stand very easily. It was sad that Art had to go on a two week fast to get his weight below the 200 lb. limit when he got into cadet training. Colonel Peyton seemed grayer and more wrinkles in his face. They had been in combat only about a month and I wondered how they would be doing after a couple more months (little did I realize that in about three weeks it would all be over).
That afternoon Smith, Jessie, Walt and I were back on the beach. Smith had traded a bottle of booze for a pair of Jap field glasses and they were really powerful. We could see things around for quite a distance with them. Walt and Jessie went to sleep so Smith and I got into a five man life raft and rowed around the lagoon looking for sea shells - cat's eyes, etc. We had a lot of fun. At about 5:30 PM we woke Walt and Jessie up and then drove back over to our tent area. It was whiskey ration night - we lined up - drew paper slips out of a box and purchased a bottle of what we were lucky enough to draw. I still had a dozen bottles stored away in my B-4 bag that I'd brought over from the states - these I was saving for special occasions, getting along dandy on the quart per week we were getting on our rations. I walked over to Jessie's tent with him to see some pictures he'd received in the mail from his wife - she was a very pretty girl - brunette and small like my Peggy. I thought she was a lucky girl to have a husband like Jessie.
On July 27th I went over to Wing S-2 early in the morning and there I was informed that there would be no more empire strikes for our Wing until August 1st, but it looked like a maximum effort would perhaps come up then. It gave our fellows a few days to rest up and get back in shape. I went over to Headquarters 331st Group tent - picked up Waltanski then we went over to the motor pool and got a 6 x 6 truck - picked up all of his and my things and moved over to the hut in our new permanent area.
Those huts were going to be swell. They were 20' x 20' and the floor set up about three feet off the ground on some timbers. The entire side was covered with screen, the top was covered with a canvas tent which extended out about 5 feet on all sides to prevent rain from coming in and extended up into a point at the top where there was a screened opening for ventilation. It was going to be very roomy for the four of us. Walt got some nails and a hammer and we hung up our clothes on the side two by four rail. We set up our cots - Waltanski had an air mattress to lay on his cot - the lucky stiff. We sat down and made plans as to how we were going to improve our new home (we had lots of time when the war was over and we really fixed that hut up into nice living conditions).
That afternoon the mess facilities moved down to the new area. The enlisted men had a large mess building - a very large quonset and right beside this was the EM service club quonset - all this was in the other end of the area. They had built up the enlisted men's mess and club first. The officer's mess hall was about 100 feet long and 50 feet wide - built out of lumber and panel board and screened in nicely. It was wonderful. There were about 20 tables holding about 20 men lined up through the hall. To the rear of the mess hall was another building that would house a refrigerator unit and cooler. A few loads of coral were brought in and spread out on the ground on the east side of the mess hall. Here two large tents were set up and this served as an officer's club until the regular officer's club was constructed at a later date.
The bulldozers had removed most of the banyan and other tropical plants out of our new permanent area but they left lots of tall coconut trees which were interspersed throughout the area and that aided a lot in increasing the appearance and offering us a little shade. Walks were to be constructed out of coral up between the rows of huts. There was a small parking area in between the officer’s huts for jeeps. Between the officer's quarters and the buildings that would house the offices, etc., were the latrine and bathing areas. The latrines were 12 holers screened in and roofed. There were eight of these so about a hundred men could go at the same time. All around these latrines were rows of pipes - about 4 inches sunk deep into coral beds - these were to serve as urinals.
The showers were the ideal thing and really caught our fancy. They were built up on concrete floors and there were two adjoining platforms each with regular shower faucets and there were about 50 of these in each - so a hundred men could take a shower at the same time. At the ends of each shower platform were large 1,000 gallon lister bags and fresh water would be trucked into these daily. We were pretty thrilled over all this - especially our hut, the latrines and showers. Each officer was to pay $2.50 per month - this would pay for the services of about 50 enlisted men who would serve in the mess hall and tend bar in the officer's club when the club house was built.
That afternoon the Adjutant informed me that four other Tech Reps were coming to live with the 331st and they would be housed in a hut down about eight doors from mine. My old friend Jimmy O'Brien, Boeing Aircraft; Harry King, Wright Engine Corp.; Bill Payne, Western Electric; and Harold Cook, General Electric. I was glad to hear this - they had been batted around the Wing without very suitable places to live and now that the 331st had its new area built up, room had been secured for them over with us. Smith's 502nd Group, which he'd been living with were about a month behind us in constructing their permanent area. So old C.H. Smith had some more tent living to do as he didn't want to slight the officers in the 502nd by coming over to live in our new area as long as they'd been so good to him thus far. Our new area was about two miles from the old tent area so it wasn't so easy to pick up and cross the road to see Smith whenever I took the notion.
That afternoon Waltanski fixed it with the motor pool so that I could keep the jeep out constantly - parking it in the parking area right beside our hut at night - I would have to bring it in once a day for servicing however. That evening both Walt and I took our jeeps and went over and moved Jessie and his crew members over into their new hut - it was located down about a hundred yards from ours - the five officers in the crew lived in one hut. The fellows in Jessie's crew uncorked a "schnapps" to celebrate the new living quarters.
The following morning, July 28th, I went along with Smith down to the line after he'd been into our new hut for a short inspection tour. We drove over to see both Sanderson and Tuthill. Sanderson told us he'd had to give some maintenance men over in the 331st Group hell about the way they were running turbo maintenance. "They've got a ship over there that's giving us a lot of trouble. They are trying to tell me it's turbo trouble but I know it's a malfunction somewhere in the engine because I know turbo trouble when I see it. I've told them they'd have to pull that engine but they keep insisting the trouble lies in the turbo and I know it doesn't." He continued harping about what he knew and what the maintenance fellows didn't know. "Are you sure the manifold pressure gauge is OK", I asked? "Why Bach....", he looked at me like I was the dumbest thing in the world, "Of course, that's the first thing I check", he answered. "Well Herb", Smith said, "Let's you and I go over there and have a look at that ship."
Captain Knapp and part of the 331st maintenance personnel were there when we drove up to the ship. "Bach, do you know anything about turbos?", he asked. "Yeah, I used to know a little bit about it", I answered. "We'd sure appreciate it if you'd take a look at this engine - that guy from over across was here but the boys don't seem to agree with him."
I introduced Smith and then the two of us crawled up into the nose cabin and the crew chief started the engine for us - it went up to 2,800 RPM but 45 inches manifold pressure was all they could get out of it with full turbo boost. "Maybe it's the manifold pressure gauge", Smith said. "Try changing the leads around to another engine gauge and run it up again." They did that and ran the engine up again - still 45 inches. I told him to run it up again and I would go outside by the engine and listen to it - this had been a trick I had learned back at Dyersburg. He ran it up again and then I was convinced I knew where the trouble was. "Smith", I said, "There's nothing wrong with that engine or turbo, that engine is delivering full power - I can hear it." "The hell you can", Smith answered, "Then where's the trouble?" "It's in the line leading from the manifold to the gauge up in the cabin", I answered. I asked Captain Knapp if he could secure a manifold gauge tubing and we'd hook up a new gauge right out by the engine and check it. This was secured in a short while and the engine was run up while Smith and I stood out under the engine nacelle watching the dial - it ran right up to 50 and one-half inches right on the button. "By God my friend Herb, that was alright", Smith yelled. The leading edge of the wing was removed and there they found that one of the aileron cables had come against the manifold pressure gauge tubing and had worn a small hole in it. But why the manifold gauge would register up to 45 inches we were never quite able to figure out. "Well Herb, being able to hear an engine run up like that I'd say you'd make a pretty good musician." "Well, I was somewhat of a musician", I answered. "We're going right over to Sanderson and I'm going to give him an ass chewing he won't forget", Smith said.
We couldn't locate him but when we found Toby Tuthill, Toby informed Smith that Sanderson had gone down to see John Anderson at 20th AF and squawked to him that Smith wasn't giving him any help and wasn't doing his job properly as our senior man. The three of us decided right then and there that we were going to do something about getting rid of the fellow (the war ended shortly after and then we didn't bother about him - just tried to tolerate him a little longer).
That evening we were together in our little tent hut for the first time - Major Crowell, Lt. Colonel Wilson, Waltanski, and I. Major Crowell was the 331st Group Engineering Officer. I'd met him at McCook, Nebraska. He was quite handsome - dark complected with a well kept mustache which he spent a great deal of time keeping smartly trimmed. Wilson was CO of one of the squadrons and, like Waltanski, he was a command pilot which meant he had over 2,500 hours of military flying (they wore a star above the shield in their wings). His father was a Lt. General and had been captured on Bataan and was a prisoner of the Japs. His older brother - a full Colonel - was commanding one of the B-29 Groups over in the 314th Wing. Both brothers were West Point men. Hal Wilson was a heck of a swell fellow and I surely became fond of him in the short while we were together. Major Crowell being an engineering officer was out on the line most of the time so we didn't see much of him - and Waltanski and Wilson were flying on all missions so whenever there was a strike then I would be practically alone in the hut.
That evening there was a big dice game on in the officer's club tent. Jessie was quite the crap shooter and he and Waltanski were generally to be found around the dice table whenever a game was in session. I seldom ventured into their craps games - rather remained as an interested observer and bystander. Practically all of these men had left allotments at home and were receiving only a small portion of their pay - enough for a little spending money. As there was nothing much to buy on the island - the money they had was generally used in gambling and the lucky one would generally win all the money the others had.
They had a large table - about 12' x 6' covered with cloth - army blankets - and it had a foot high rail along the edges. About 25 men could gather around the table. There would be the shooter - the dice were passed around the table clockwise - he would place his bet - others would cover him - and then all around the table bets would be placed that he'd either make it or he wouldn't. One would hear the constant crap game chatter: "Come on little Joe", "Box cars or a pair of flowers", "Snake eyes", "No craps dice", "Come on 'ol natural", and then from the others - "Five he don't come", "Ten on the point", etc. Jessie was a heavy winner that night and it seemed he'd won quite consistently previously to this time.
On the morning of the 29th of July, Jessie asked me at breakfast it I'd drive him down to Aguana in the jeep - he wanted to put $1,000 he'd won in the crap game into securities. "If I don't do that Herb, they'll take it away from me again sure as hell. My wife and I can go on a damn good honeymoon on my craps winnings when I get home, if I watch my game. I'm ahead fourteen hundred bucks right now."
After breakfast we set out for Aguana and Jessie sent home $1,000 to a bank in Los Angeles, California. On the way back we stopped in at John Anderson's office at 20th AF. First thing John asked me was what was the matter with Sanderson. I told him that as far as I knew the fellow wasn't getting along any too well with the army and certainly wasn't getting along with either Smith, Tuthill, or myself. John said he'd thought him a weak link the first day he'd met him and when he'd come down that day complaining about Smith then John was certain his assumptions had been correct. "Well I think the best thing to do is get him recalled back to the states - he doesn't belong here - shouldn't have been sent out here in the first place", John said.
We drove back to our tent area stopping in to the 502nd area to look up Smith. He was doing his laundry when I found him and told him about my conversation with John Anderson. "I hope they pull the SOB out of here damn soon", Smith said. "I'm apt to forget myself soon and knock the hell out of him." It was too bad that we'd have to have had such a prick as Sanderson along with us out here, I thought. I wondered what was wrong with the fellow that prompted him to act the way he did - perhaps it was an extreme case of personal egotism. "Who is this guy Sanderson?", Jessie asked as we were driving over to our new area after leaving Smith. "He's a jug head they mistakenly sent along with us over here to take care of turbo maintenance", I said, and then went on telling Jessie how he'd raised hell down with John Anderson about Smith, etc.
That afternoon I was over to Wing S-2 to check on the next empire strike data. There I learned that we were to be on alert for another maximum effort - that perhaps the Wing would be split into two separate forces - that General LeMay had forewarned the Japanese that a certain number of cities would be burned - that the 73rd Wing up on Saipan had been showering these cities with leaflets warning civilian populations to get out of them. Finally, that afternoon we received orders - 100 B-29's of our Wing would hit another oil refinery in Tokyo Bay area about 10 miles from Tokyo near the Kawasaki oil refinery they had hit on the July 21st bombing. Another task force of 150 - 200 B-29's in our wing would stand by for further orders. Take-off would be 2:30 PM July 30th. Approach and breakaway of this target was much different than the 21st of July empire strike. Landfall was a peninsula on Cho Shi Bay east of Tokyo, a bombed out steel plant on the eastern side of Tokyo was IP. Breakaway was north of Yokohama and then into the Sagami Sea. Each plane would carry 40 - 500 lb. bombs - demolition. General Armstrong would lead the mission. Briefing commenced that afternoon at 3:00 PM and I was all through by 4:30 PM The 16th and 501st Groups were going on this mission so Jessie and Walt and the fellows in the 331st still had a breathing spell.
The following morning, July 30th, orders came in for a 50 B-29 raid on the coal liquefication plant at Ube. While the boys in the 16th Group and 501st Group were taking off we briefed crews - 30 out of the 331st and 30 of the 502nd for the Ube raid. It looked as though things were being stepped up considerably. For once we began to believe that this whole mess would soon be over - maybe sometime that fall. It seemed funny but those 50 B-29's were carrying a bigger load from Guam to Japan than over 200 B-17's could do over in Europe. Colonel Peyton believing that the Wing would be spit up into task forces quite frequently from then on decided to run it by Squadrons and Major Art Goring's Squadron was elected for this one with Waltanski going as lead ship. Jessie being in Goring's squadron was also on it. Take-off was 3:00 PM on July 31st.
July 31st - It was my Dad's birthday - on Guam time, but it would be July 30th back home. My briefing chores were over early in the forenoon and that afternoon I was out on the line to watch the fellows take-off. Colonel Waltanski's ship was lead. All of them were lined up on the north taxi strip and took off on the north runway. I bid farewell to Walt, Art Goring, Jessie, and others. There were no incidents in either take-off - the boys were becoming quite adapted to their heavily loaded ships and the runways.
That evening, Smith and I drove down to 20th AF Headquarters where we were guests of John Anderson - Smith and I taking care of most of the bar coupons John had left. We had a nice dinner in the headquarters officer's mess then retired again to the officer's club bar. Smith, as usual, got started telling stories and one led to another until he told the one about the "Grafters". Some officer over at a large table overheard him and wanted to hear it again so Smith proceeded to tell his most famous "Grafters" story over again - by this time almost everyone in the bar room paid attention - but there were a few high ranking officers - one and two star Generals in there that did not appreciate it so very well and told John Anderson a few days later about their disapproval. However, it didn't make any difference to anyone - least of all to Smith. As Smith used to say, "What the hell's a General anyway - just a star or two difference between them and an ex-shoe clerk anyway." It tickled the hell out of Smith that a couple of armchair Generals down at 20th AF didn't like his "Grafters" story and every time after that when I'd hear him tell the story he'd always tell his listeners how he'd insulted a couple of Generals down at 20th AF.
It was a beautiful moonlit night as we drove back to the tent area on the north tip of Guam. Tropical plants secrete a sort of wax on their leaves that glistens in the moonlight. The air was just balmy. We laid the windshield of the jeep down on the hood and really enjoyed the soft warm air. One could see far out over the ocean from the road on the high cliff. The boys - Jessie and Walt would be at that minute over the target - we thought about them and how they'd be getting along.
August 1st, I was out to the line early to greet the fellows coming in from their mission. They encountered a few jet fighters - the first they'd seen - also, the group lost a ship over the target - A Captain Ralph Merland - first and only ship the 331st Group lost to enemy action in the war. I knew him - had seen him and his crew often in the mess hall and down at the beach. It was too bad - if he could have lived only a few days longer then this thing would have been over. Rumor was at the time as I remember beginning to originate concerning the Japs soon giving up and surrendering - the fellows discussed it considerably amongst themselves - at that time it was believed the Japs would be finished by around Christmas time - after seeing the hard scraps there had been on Iwo Jima and Okinawa - it was still believed that an invasion of Japan would have to take place before the surrender would come. Here we were sitting on the doorstep of the atomic bomb - which was to come to everyone out there with as much surprise as to everyone elsewhere.
Orders were in for the next full mission for the night of August 3rd - it was to be another maximum effort (all available aircraft airborne) - what we called a 4A empire strike. The targets were three cities - in northern Honshu Island - Toyama, Kanazawa, and Kukui. It was to be an incendiary and demolition type bombing - each airplane would carry 30 fire bomb clusters and 10 demolition bombs. The Wing would split into three task groups. The 16th Group would hit Fukui, the 501st Kanazawa, and the 331st and 502nd combined on Toyama. Each task group would employ three pathfinders and it would be on regular radar drop. It was an interesting mission to me from the standpoint of the radar scoping since the target would be vague and unlike the others where the target would show up sharp on the radar screens. Results would depend entirely on the precision of the pathfinders. Feints were to be made at Nagoya and Shiznoka - cities on the south coast of Honshu Island.
Take-off time 3:00 PM August 3rd. That afternoon I came down with the GI’s - army lingo for having to go the toilet a hundred times a day. I reported immediately to Doc Krausharr. "Herb, I've got some medicine that will fix you up in 24 hours if you'll promise me to follow my instructions." He gave me two bottles - one containing capsules and the other some small white pills about the size of 5 grain aspirin tablets. "Here's what you are to do - every hour I want you to take four of the tablets, two capsules and drink a full canteen of water." "Holy gods", I said, "Every time I take a big drink of water now I have to run to the crapper." "Well", he said, "You do as I say and you'll get over it, otherwise you'll have them for some time." So I went over to my hut - filled the canteen at the lister bag, took the pills and started guzzling water. I didn't go into the mess hall for supper as I didn't feel like it - but rather traded my time between the hut and the latrine. I was thankful that we had these new 12 holers so I wouldn't have to sit bare butted out in the rain. Waltanski and Wilson were drinking up a couple of weeks beer ration in the hut that night and they sure got a kick out of watching me trying to put away that much water. About 7:30 - shortly after dark - Smith came over and between smart cracks out of both he and Waltanski - I almost filled my pants a few times. I continued taking my medicine and drinking water - running to the latrine about every half hour - trying not to make too much noise so that Wilson and Walt could sleep. About 11:00 PM I went over to the mess hall - which stayed open 24 hours per day and sat there reading, writing, and drinking the water. About 1:00 AM I ran out of pills so I went back to the hut and crawled in bed - the following morning I had a semi solid bowel movement so I was on the road to recovery.
I managed through briefing that morning - catching a quick trip to the S-2 latrine between each session. My work was over by 11:00 AM and although I hadn't eaten a thing for two days hardly, I still didn't have any appetite - that session knocked my taste for food for about a week so I really went down. Also from then on it seemed that every time I took salt pills I'd get sick to my stomach so I would try to eat a lot of salt during my meals. It seemed that just about all of the fellows had one or more sessions with the GI's but that was the only one for me. Doc Wiggers blamed it on eating island fruit such as coconut and wild bananas but Doc Krausharr thought it came from some parasite. None of the medics knew for sure just what the cause was. Some fellows claimed that it came to them every time they overdosed themselves with salt pills. I was inclined to agree with Doc Krausharr, however.
That afternoon I was together with Father Gaines up on the coral between runways to watch the take-off - after well wishing Peyton, Waltanski, Jessie, and many others. It was to be a 17 and one-half hour mission - a long jaunt for the fellows. Take-offs were getting better - more clockwork - over two hundred airplanes airborne in an hour and a half. As I watched Padre Gaines go through his motions of blessing every airplane as it left the ground I wondered to myself if he really had much power in calling the Almighty's attention to the safety of each and everyone of those airplanes - here they were carrying loads of destruction to burn up and wipe out three Japanese cities - there would be thousands of Japanese people - women and children who'd never see the sun come up again after this night. But Father Gaines had a duty to perform and as far as the men in the 315th Wing were concerned - he performed it nobly. I noticed that Father Gaines too was getting quite thin and strained looking - although each and all of us were sustained to a chocolate brown color - most of us lost considerable weight on Guam. Chaplain Gaines was certainly giving his best and his 'all' so as to speak for the benefit of the fellows.
That evening I ate the first good heavy meal I'd had for several days. Food improved a little when we moved over to the permanent area but it was on a continuous downgrade. Rice, powdered eggs and spam - canned grapefruit juice - three times per day. One could be sustained on that but you had to force yourself to eat enough of it to keep going. We began to hope for a return to C-rations again. Rumor had it that another invasion was in the making. Someone said - "Whenever the food gets bad in the Pacific the Marines are due to land somewhere - it never fails."
That evening I went to the picture show in our new area. They'd set the theater and chapels plus other recreational areas on the extreme north end of the area so one had to cross a sort of valley to get there and with the rainy season on this was filled with water. By driving up the highway and driving in behind this area we could maneuver it with our jeeps so that we wouldn't have to get our feet wet. It was now well into the rainy season on Guam - it rained quite frequently with typical tropical gusto - more so during the night then days. We could leave our helmets out on the stands and by morning they'd be full of nice soft water for our morning shave and wash up. I was getting mail from home from everyone with regularity so that I'd have one or two letters every evening.
After the show that night Captain Harry Macon came into the hut (I was alone as everyone else was on the mission or on duty). He'd lined up a large laundry machine and was going to run it for the fellows. "Do all your laundry for $10 per month." I took him up on it. It would include only the wet washing and we'd have to get it and hang it up to dry. Pressed clothes were something one could dream about. That saved me a lot of work and my clothes from then on were much cleaner. Harry Macon had rigged up a large tank that turned something like a cement mixer. This was set over a rock pit where they built a fire to heat the water. A scrounged and rebuilt "putt - putt" engine served as the power.
Macon had by this time developed his junk dealing tactics and experience into becoming the greatest scrounger and trader on Guam. His reputation had spread throughout the island. If one wanted anything badly enough and had the price, Macon could always get it. He didn't live in one of the huts - rather he built palatial quarters over back of the officer's mess out of materials he'd scrounged or traded for. Here he had set up his huge washing machine and also stored all his stuff - war trophies, etc., that he'd bought and traded around the island. He and about 12 enlisted men were doing the laundry for about 200 officers and men per month that at $10 a throw amounted to $2000 for them in their spare time. Macon was perhaps getting $1000 of this.
Then he'd go around to the non drinking officers of which there were perhaps 50 in the Group, and buy their whiskey for $25 or better on the quart. Liquor was the best bartering product in the Pacific - by far better than nylons, cigarettes, or other scarce articles at home. Macon knew how to trade and he was all over the island trading with navy, marines, army, and the natives. Macon could get a Japanese samurai sword for anyone who'd give him 5 quarts of whiskey in trade. He even picked up a bulldozer which was used around the area until some Wing General saw it and raised a stink so it had to be turned into the island command. He had two reconditioned trucks (Japanese), and several Jap motor bikes. His living quarters were loaded with such articles as Jap machine guns, rifles, pistols, uniforms, helmets, many native made necklaces, and lots of native jewelry (the way customs inspectors, army inspectors, etc., went through my bags and stuff on the way home, I've often wondered if Harry Macon was able to bring all that stuff along with him).
Anyway, he was quite a character. He told me that if ever I was to get into Long Beach, California, to just stand on any corner and watch for a yellow truck with "If it's Macon's it's Tried and Tested" on the side, hail it down and ride out to the damndest junk yard in California and there you'll find Harry Macon.
As usual, I was out on the line sitting in the jeep - hobnobbing with several ground crew men - waiting for the fellows to come back from the Toyana mission. There wasn't hardly a cloud in the sky on this morning so we could see the planes as they showed up over the horizon far to the north. The 16th and 501st Groups were back first - there was considerable bunching and there would be about 12 to 15 planes on the base leg at a time as they were low on gas and in a hurry to get down. I watched for Tex Maresh, Kenny Mitkif and other ships of the Dyersburg fellows - they'd all come through. They were good boys. Soon the 331st and 502nd ships began showing over the horizon so I sat and watched for Peyton, Walt, Jessie, Goring, and others. I drove over to Peyton's ship and then on to Waltanski's and Jessie's.
The boys had run into some very heavy flak near Toyana. Jessie said it was so thick below him at one time he could have crawled out and walked on it. There were lots of flak holes in the ships. Two of the 502nd ships came in with the "wounded aboard" signal flare. Major Art Goring's ship had blown out a supercharger and the engine could only operate at low altitude. There was lots of patching and repairing to be done and the maintenance and engineering crews would have a lot of work to get them ready for the next mission.
Smith was over at interrogation and we decided to go down to 20th AF Headquarters that afternoon and see John Anderson. We drove over around North Field where the 314th Wing was based and watched them take-off on a mission. "Smith", I said, "When this is all over I hope never to have to look at an airplane again." "Well", he answered, "That's not the way I feel - this is the most interesting job I've ever had and I only hope I can stay in some kind of work like this when this war's over." Smith was a graduate electrical engineer of Iowa and had worked for General Electric several years before joining Minneapolis Honeywell. He had been one of the first men into Honeywell's Aero Division and had been one of the first field engineers. He was ideal for this kind of work too. Had I been a single man I'd have given a lot to have stayed with it after the war was over. One thing for sure, it offered plenty of thrills and excitement and one certainly came in contact with all sorts of people.
We saw John Anderson at 20th AF and he wanted Smith to be prepared to go along with him to Northwest to help out on a blind landing project they were conducting using radar, automatic pilot and the formation stick they'd installed in the latest B-29's (formation sticks were not installed in B-29's as they had been in B-17's and B-24's over in the ETO during the last year of the war over there). We had a few at the bar with John then a mighty fine supper at the 20th Headquarters officer's mess. They certainly were getting the food there - almost up to the standards of the navy food. John told us they were occasionally getting fresh eggs and bacon and he believed the high command must have pretty good pull with the navy.
Going back that evening we cut across the island from the 20th Headquarters to the east side taking the Marine Drive up the shore. It was another typical balmy tropical night - that was one of the beautiful things about Guam - the evenings. Looking out over the tops of those palm trees to the lagoon and the ocean breaking on the coral reef in that moonlight was a very beautiful thing to see. The mess hall of the 331st Group was still open when we pulled into the area so we dropped in for a cup of coffee (it became nice for me later on being able to have a cup of coffee anytime of the day). They had a large coffee tank setting up in the end of the mess hall where officers could come in anytime of the day. We had only two large tents for the officers club alongside the mess hall so the fellows would go into the tent and get their beer and then go into the mess hall and sit at the benches. There were many bridge and whist games going on and scattered around throughout the hall were fellows sitting with their writing materials - writing letters home.
Our next mission was scheduled for August 7th. It was a demolition and fire bomb raid on Shizuoka - a seaport and industrial city on Suruga Bay. It was the end of that city so far as the Japanese were concerned. Bombs would be dropped by pathfinders on a saturation pattern. Two-thirds of the bomb loads would be incendiary. Only on this trip they were to load every third airplane with 500 lb. demolitions followed by two planes loaded with incendiary cluster bombs. The demolition bomb carrying planes would drop on their respective radar targets whereas the incendiaries would drop on the pattern as fixed by the lead pathfinders. I was quite interested in hearing the fellows telling about the raid on August 3rd - especially those who were last over the target - it must have been something to see a whole city on fire at night from the air. The fellows had also encountered headwinds over Japan on that night - reaching as high as 80 MPH. The August 7th mission was scheduled for a 3:30 PM take-off and it was to be another maximum effort (I came close to going along with Waltanski on this one but thought I'd better lay off that kind of stuff).
Briefing was over by 10:30 AM on the morning of the 7th and that afternoon I was out on the line well wishing the boys and was sitting in the jeep under the wing of Art Goring's ship hobnobbing with him when Lt. Russ Riley drove up with an armament officer in a jeep. "Hey - did you guys hear the news - a B-29 dropped some kind of new atom bomb on Hiroshima and it blew up the whole damn city - just heard it over the radio at message center - they said that one bomb like that did more damage than a thousand B-29's could do fully loaded." "Ah hell, that's a lot of shit", Art Goring answered. "By God that's right", Riley said, "I heard it", he added. "Well, what in hell are they sending us out for tonight if they could do the same job with one bomb - hell that's just a lot of hubba hubba", Goring said. Such a thing was unbelievable and yet there an hour before take-off the news had traveled up and down that line up of crews preparing for take-off like electricity. As I drove up to well wish other crews the first thing they asked me was, "What's this about a new kind of bomb they dropped on Hiroshima?”
Take-off took place and went like clock work again - no incidents or accidents. I buzzed back to the message center where Russ Riley - Group Cryptographic Officer was on the radio. At 6:00 PM the overseas armed forces radio news service was on and then we heard it - Riley had been right - we were all baffled and dumb founded as hell. That night all one heard at the mess hall or officer's club tent was chatter about the atomic bomb. "Cripes, maybe they won't need us anymore and we can go home." "Hell bud, don't worry, this wing will do its 35 missions - go home and sign up again for another tour of duty over here before this war's over." This was the general conversation and hobnobbing going on wherever one went that night.
I was on the field in the morning of the 8th to see the boys in from their mission. A few rain squalls made landing difficult for some of them but there were no accidents. The wing had three airplanes down in the ocean between Iwo and Japan - all due to mechanical failure - wear and tear was beginning to show up on airplanes as well as crews. Harry King - Wright Engine Technician - claimed then that the higher power settings were decreasing the operational time on the engines so they were being pulled at 50 hours instead of 100 for overhauls and being replaced by new engines at 500 hours regardless of condition. They were also being given a complete service inspection between missions - the same type inspection as airplanes were given every 100 hours back in the states. Yet it seemed that we just couldn't get away from having engine failures and losing ships and crews on that account. Two things seemed to be giving trouble in addition to the excessive cylinder head temperatures.
They were: rocker arms breaking (the rocker arms are those parts of the engine that operate the intake and exhaust valves); and then oil leaks. An oil leak is serious in an airplane and pilots must feather an engine immediately when an oil leak is detected due to fire hazard and the fact that when a bearing goes the engine will set up such a severe vibration that it is apt to tear itself out of the wing in a few moments. All of our airplanes were accounted for and during interrogation Major Chapman informed me that our next full Wing mission was already scheduled for the 10th.
That afternoon Smith, Waltanski, Hal Wilson, Jessie, and I went down to the 315th Wing's beach club at Tumon Bay for another session. Jessie and I went out looking for cats-eye shells along the beach. While there we saw a C-46 with an engine on fire come in over the bay on its base leg on final approach into Harmon Field. Just as he came over us the engine dropped out the nacelle and lit in the water about 300 yards from the shore - no one was hurt but it sure made a spectacular splash in the water. On the way home we passed Harmon Field and could see where it sat after coming in for a belly landing - it didn't look much like anyone had been hurt.
We stopped at the officer’s store at Army Ground Forces Area and bought some materials. I purchased a pith sun helmet, some underwear shorts, towels, socks, and other items. Back at our mess hall that night we heard that another atomic bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki. Rumors about the end of the war were breezing around mighty fast again - mostly wishful thinking for the most part. I attended another movie that night down at the theater area - Waltanski, Crowell, and Wilson were already sound asleep when I came back to the hut.
The following morning, August 9th, I accompanied Smith down to the line to help look over and go over the maintenance shop set ups. Four new airtight rooms had been received which were air conditioned. As Smith said, "All they will amount to will be hang outs for engineering officers to cool off - and of course for you and me too."
Many large and small quonset huts had replaced the tents out along the line and over between the 502nd and 331st Group hardstand area - a new area was built into the jungle where about 50 B-29's could be accommodated for repair. I didn't know it, but it was a service group - the 4th Service Group who'd moved in during the past days. They would do all 4th echelon and heavy maintenance work on the ships. They had moved in and were living in our old tent area. Many large maintenance sheds and quonset huts were being erected in this area.
Smith and I then drove over to the 502nd's new permanent area - they were about three miles from the 331st and farther into the jungle. It would be a couple of weeks before they'd be moving over there. We drove on over to the south side where we found both Toby Tuthill and Sanderson busy on maintenance work. Toby was getting black from the sun. He was quite dark complected anyway but his skin seemed almost black. We made the rounds to a few ships with Toby then went on up to Toby's tent (he was still living in the same tent) to see his great creation he'd been telling us so much about. It was Toby's refrigeration machine made of scrounged airplane parts from the scrap pile. I can't go into detail here on it but it was really something - it could freeze down beer in just a few minutes (Toby had been a refrigeration and air conditioning engineer before being transferred to Honeywell's Aero Division).
That evening Smith and I and Smith's roommate Duffy went over to see Toby with a case of Duffy's scrounged beer. Toby cooled it down in his machine and we sat around drinking ice cold beer - it was mighty good - Budweiser beer too. We cooled down about six cans of beer to take over to Waltanski - there Wilson, Walt, Jessie, Smith, myself, and Russ Riley were sipping a cool one when the most glorious news ever heard came in from Air Force Headquarters, "It looks to me like it says something about postponing all planned future missions as the Japanese high command has asked for surrender negotiations"... Everybody in that hut jumped to their feet. Waltanski called over to Colonel Peyton and he came over. They got into a jeep with Riley and headed for the message center. Smith, Duffy, Wilson and I following right on their heels in Smith's jeep. We arrived at the message center and went in and stood around while Russ Riley decoded the message. This was it - the war was going to be over - we slapped each other on the back and danced around - even Waltanski and Peyton yelled to the top of their lungs.
Peyton got Lt. Williams - Special Service Officer on the phone and then went over to the Special Service Office where he made the following announcement over the PA system which covered the entire area. "Men of the 331st Group this is your commanding officer, Colonel Peyton speaking. The Japanese Government has just asked the United States government to consider the surrender of Japan under principles set up in the recent Potsdam conference. 20th Air Force high command has just now informed me that all future planned missions will be postponed until further notice. This is happy news. This is momentous news. I assure you that it makes you no happier than it does me. But this is not the surrender of Japan and we may have to fly more missions - we may have to fly many more. I want you to conduct yourselves as the soldiers you are. All officers of the Group will arm with pistols - there will be no riotous celebrating. We'll do that when we get back states side again. Thank you and God bless you all."
Smith and Duffy and I went back to my hut and Waltanski, Peyton, and Wilson and many others came in. Peyton said, "It's alright with me if you fellows want to hoist a few only we must keep it quiet and not have anyone get out of hand." "Herb", Smith said, "have you got any squirrel piss left - if you have I'll borrow a quart and pay you back tomorrow." Lt. Riley went over to the officer's mess and club with all of our ration cards and brought back four bottles of coke apiece that we had coming. I got out two of my bottles that I'd brought along from Frisco and had been saving for a special occasion - one was a quart of Black & White Scotch and the other a fifth of Seagrams 7 Crown Whiskey. I opened the Black & White Scotch bottle and passed it around. Colonel Peyton and Colonel Mackey came into to the hut and had a drag on the scotch - it went around the bunch about twice and was gone. Waltanski and Wilson dug down into their foot lockers for some of the liquor that they'd been saving. The cokes were poured into canteen cups and mixed half and half with whiskey. We were very quite about everything - everyone feeling very happy and elated that this could mean the end of the war.
It was there that Hal Wilson told us that his father, a Lt. General, was a Japanese prisoner of war. Smith and I were about the only two there that hadn't really been through a lot of hell in this war. Though that night I wondered where my brother Pete was - if he was safe and if he'd heard the news (I learned about three weeks later that he was in the Ulithe Island group about 450 miles southwest of Guam). All around us were fellows in their huts doing a bit of quite celebrating. Smith started telling stories and then around 11:00 PM we all went to bed.
The following day rumor spread fast that it was all a hoax and amongst others one would hear that the war was over. One didn't know exactly what to believe. Anyway, it was a good rest for the fellows to know they wouldn't be flying a mission that afternoon - nearly everyone was down to Tumon Bay beach that afternoon and I never have seen so many people on the beach at one time - there were thousands there and everyone had that happy go lucky manner. Also they took down the barriers on the nurses and Red Cross girls and allowed them anywhere on the beach so they were to be seen up and down the beach intermingling with the officers and men. I imagine lots of new acquaintances were made that afternoon and perhaps lots of romances started up. One would see a couple of white women surrounded by about 50 men. Doc Krausharr brought over two nurses into the group I was with in the 315th Wing beach club. They weren't very pretty girls from standards at home but it seemed good to see and talk to a white woman again anyway.
I was over to S-2 the following morning to find out the dope. "Stand by for orders", was the only thing they had there. Major Chapman said they were betting 3 to 1 over at Wing officer's club that there would be more missions flown and the war wasn't over. I drove back across the field to our area on the north side. The ships sat around in readiness like a football team waiting to come out on the field for the big game. I counted 12 bombs on some ships and ten and eleven on others - indicating missions flown. I decided to go over to see the Dyersburg fellows in the 16th Group. There I found Colonel Rawls and Major Quintard in Colonel Rawls office at the 16th Group operations. Major Quintard had been head of the navigational school at Dyersburg before going into the 16th Group. He was now 16th Group staff navigator. From there I went over and as luck would have it I found Tex Maresh, Kenny Mitkif, Jim Norton and Petrich all together in the quonset hut where Major Tex Maresh lived. They were planning a picnic that afternoon down at the beach and wanted me along but I couldn't make it - besides, I'd been down there all the afternoon before. They were all convinced that there'd be more empire strikes and that the war wasn't over by any means.
That evening there was an unusually large number of men that came to the mess hall to eat at the same time - so many that there were over 100 men in line at the same time. The usual mess procedure was to form in line, pass along a counter where the cooks would load the food onto our plate, then on over to one of the benches where water or whatever drink we had was placed in large aluminum pitchers. We used ordinary pie tins for plates and aluminum cups, knives, forks, and spoons. I noticed that there was a great deal of hilarity that night - the men for the most part had dropped their strained look - no doubt due to the fact that most of us felt that the war was over.
That evening there was a big dice game in the officer's tent - a game that continued all night and all of the next day. Waltanski and Jessie were some of the participants - it was interesting to watch but I didn't have any money to throw away so I kept out of their gambling games. A big song fest got started in the mess hall so I went over there - soon the fellows began to gather until there were around a hundred fellows singing and the next day Smith said they could hear us over in his area. I imagine some of the Japs who were still at large in the jungles in that end of the island began to wonder what had happened to the Americans.
The 11th of August - Mother's birthday by Guam time - there was absolutely nothing for me to do at all that day. I dropped over to the 502nd area and talked to Smith for a short while - he was stretched out on the cot in his tent smoking a cigar and reading "The Sun is My Undoing" - a story of a guy that went nuts on a tropical island. "Well I'll tell you Herb, you might as well log a little sack time as I'm doing because this war isn't over by any means - I wouldn't be at all surprised if this isn't just some trick the Japs are pulling. We'll have to invade and fight a bloody long war up there regardless of atomic bombs and all such things." I sat around in Smith's tent for perhaps two hours. He hadn't been out of bed yet so he'd missed breakfast. I dug out a can of grapefruit juice he had sitting under his cot and this I opened and he drank most of it, crawled out and went over near a tree a short distance from the tent where there was a pipe sticking in the ground. "This is Duffy and my private pisser - got to drinking so much beer here with Duffy that we thought it a lot easier to build one near the tent then have to walk over to the latrine a dozen times a night." Smith went along with me over to the 331st area and there he had noon lunch with us. That afternoon Smith, Walt, Wilson and I got up a game of bridge in our hut.
About 3:00 PM the announcement came over the loud speaker system that the 315th Wing was alerted for a standby order for a maximum effort empire mission - that meant that everyone was confined to the immediate area - there would be no leaving for a swim at the beach or anywhere else. "Guess I'd better get down to the engineering office", Smith said. I took him down and then wheeled over to S-2 on the other side to see Major Chapman. There was no material in so far from 20th AF regarding the mission - only the alert had come through on the standby orders. I picked up Smith on the way back and dropped him off at the tent and then went over to the 331st area. There the boys were already making bets with each other that there'd be no more missions flown - they were soon to have it settled.
That evening the officers set up a pool in the officer's club tent - a large card was ruled out into squares - 24 squares in a column representing the hours in a day. The pool covered every hour for the remaining days of August. At five dollars a square one could take the chance on winning a thousand dollars if your name should be in the square representing the hour the Japanese capitulated. I spent five dollars and held the 14th hour of the 18th day of August (capitulation came at 9:00 AM on the morning of August 15th - Guam time).
The following morning - August 12th - it was mid afternoon at home on August 11th - Mother's birthday and also the arrival of a new little boy as a member of our family - Hertha and Irv's little boy David. I was called over to the Wing S-2 through the message center at 9:00 AM. Orders were in for a maximum effort strike - it looked like the war was to continue. This was to be entirely different than any missions we had made up to this time - a terror raid. Targets were to be Yokohama and Tokyo and the general area around those two cities - each airplane would carry 70 - 250 lb. demolition bombs or general purpose bombs - bombing would be done on a saturation pattern. Take-off was set for 1:00 PM on August 13th.
Nearly everyone in the wing and group areas remained close to the radios that were available. A large army radio was brought up from the message center and set up in the mess hall. The enlisted men had one too in their EM service club building. Men sat around the tables in the mess hall - playing bridge or poker or reading and listening to the radio for news reports coming from San Francisco "Overseas Armed Forces Radio Service". There was also one of the PA system speakers on a pole just outside the mess hall so the men could hear all the orders that would come over that. I expected all that afternoon that briefing orders would come as I knew that mission was scheduled for the following day. Finally about 3:00 PM we heard the following orders read over the PA system. "All combat crews of the 331st Group report to your Squadron Operations for transportation to Wing briefing at 1600 (four o'clock PM). I drove over to S-2 immediately and all my duties were completed at 6:00 PM and I was back out to the hut at 6:30 PM. The briefing continued until 10:00 PM that night.
The men were alerted at 6:00 AM the following morning and by 10:00 AM were back in the bivouac area again. Religious services were conducted for them at 10:30 and they ate at 11:00 and then went out to the field at noon. The ships were lined up and everything was ready to go - it looked like we would have a record number of airplanes airborne on this mission - practically every airplane in the Wing was in commission as they'd had a few days to get them ready.
The crews made their individual aircraft inspections. They had lined up in front of their ships for individual personal equipment inspections, things were buzzing in preparation for the take-off when we saw a jeep start down the line of airplanes - stopping briefly at each one. It was a jeep over at Wing Headquarters carrying Colonel Fulton and the Wing operations officer - "The mission has been postponed - orders of General LeMay." There was a lot of cheering up and down the line. I happened to be with Captain Ribble and his crew. Captain Ribble said, "That's the best combat mission I've ever flown." The men were returned to the area in trucks but were confined to the area on a "standby for further orders". The war wasn't over yet although many rumors cropped up that the Japs had capitulated.
Out on the line there was a lot of cussing being done by the men of the armament section. They had to unload the bombs from the ships, remove the fuses and tail fins and carry them back to the bomb disposal areas. According to SOP's bombs could not be in airplanes longer than four hours before take-off time. There was no drinking - combat crews and all flying personnel are not permitted to consume any intoxicants 24 hours prior to flying and they were held under standby orders so they didn't know exactly when they'd be flying again. But the gambling games really caught thunder that afternoon and evening.
Very few fellows were up early on the 14th - breakfast continued until 9:00 AM - most fellows began to wish that we'd find out soon one way or the other exactly what was going to happen - the suspense was killing. Finally, as I was having my third cup of coffee and hobnobbing with fellows at the table in the mess it came! "All combat crews of the 331st Group report to your Squadron Operations at 10:30." Certainly they were going to fly a mission - the high command wouldn't call it on and off and on unless they were going through with it this time - unless of course the Japanese should capitulate in the meantime.
The combat crews were transported over to Wing S-2 area for a short briefing - mostly weather and other conditions that would have changed - the mission would essentially be the same as that which they'd been briefed on before. Take-off time was set for 4:00 PM. The men were back in the bivouac area by 1:00 PM. Religious services were conducted by the Chaplains and they were fed at 2:00 PM. I'd say the general opinions of about 50% were that there'd be a last minute call off and the mission wouldn't be flown. At 3:00 PM they again were transported out to the line to the waiting airplanes where the poor armament gang had worked their heads off reloading the bombs into the bomb bays. There was going to be some real griping on the part of these lads if the mission would again be postponed.
I found Smith and we decided to go down to the end of the runways and join the abort crew, so about 3:30 PM we drove down and joined them - sitting up on the coral near the abort truck. Here we could have a good view of a combat take-off which would be the last one we'd ever see - at least in this war anyway. General Armstrong's ship "Fluffy fuzz IInd" was leading following the weather ship. 3:45 came and the weather ship took off and we expected that the mission was on for sure. General Armstrong's ship started engines and at exactly 4:00 PM he stopped them. We waited for 15 minutes and still no sign of engines starting. An MP came past us and yelled, "I think the war's over." Still there was no sign of anyone leaving their airplanes neither was there any sign from up on the other end of the runway that they were going to take-off. Smith said, "Herb, I'll bet you a quart of booze the war's over." I didn't take him up although I should have.
At 5:10 PM we saw the props on the General's ship start turning and then start - other ships in the line behind him and on the north taxi started their engines - the take-off was on - for sure. It must have been nerve racking for the fellows to sweat out that hour and ten minutes wondering if it was going to be or if it wasn't. I remember it was very disappointing to me as I'd become convinced that the war had just then been brought to an end. I thought of how terrible and unlucky it would be if some of those airplanes didn't come back - there were over 300 taking off on that mission (that mission by the 315th Wing was the last combat mission flown by any army air corps unit in the war - we learned officially afterwards).
One ship on the north runway chopped his throttles and came to a stop down near the end of the runway near us. It was Art Goring's ship. He'd had a runaway engine and in a few minutes the abort crew found the malfunction in the prop governor. A new governor head would have to be installed and that would take several hours. There were no ground spare engines being as this was a maximum effort so Art Goring and his crew did not make that last mission - perhaps God was looking out for him - maybe he'd have gone down - who knows.
Chaplain Gaines was up on the coral pile between the runways working overtime - no doubt calling to God and all the saints in heaven to look out for all the boys on that night. It was just starting to get dark as the last airplanes got into the air. Smith and I walked over to where the jeep was parked and I talked him into coming up to the 331st area with me for supper and sleeping in Waltanski's bunk. We remained in the mess hall until about 11:00 PM listening to the news reports over the radio. Smith said, "Herb, I still think the war will be over before the wing gets back." I thought so too. We hit the sack about midnight. The wing wouldn't be back until about 9:30 AM so Smith and I were a bit late getting out of bed.
We had breakfast and listened to the news at 8:00 AM. The war still wasn't over - at least there was no news about it over the radio. We were out to the field about 8:40 and as we were sitting in the jeep near the east end of the runways, Father Gaines and a Protestant Chaplain drove up in a jeep and parked beside us. "President Truman has just announced that the Japanese have surrendered unconditionally", Father Gaines told us. It was over. Smith and I stood up in the jeep and started slapping each other on the back.
About 9:15 we saw the first B-29 show up far to the north and soon there were many of them coming over the horizon, on the base leg, and racing into final approach to land. There were no accidents or incidents in either take-off or landing. No airplanes were lost by the Wing. There had been no flak or Japanese opposition - not even a single search light had been seen. The boys had heard the news over their radios at 9:00 AM on their way home. Everyone was happy - many smiles - lots of hilarity. Truck loads of combat crews went past us on their way to interrogation singing "Up we go into the wild blue yonder, etc." "San Francisco here we come", and other bits of hilarity. Normal strained looks following previous missions were gone. The men were very happy. One would see fellows get out of their ships and kiss the props on their airplanes. "The war is over - I can't believe it - now we can go home - God ain't it wonderful!"
The usual medical whiskey was absent at interrogation that morning but the men didn't need any stimulant. Smith and I picked up Jessie and went over to the 331st mess hall and talked with him while he ate his breakfast. "Let's see", Jessie said, "It's 6:00 AM back in Los Angeles right now - I sure wish I were there to celebrate with her - bet there's some real celebrating going on." Smith said, "Right now I'd like to be either on Times Square in New York or Market Street in Frisco - just to watch the celebrating." I thought about where I'd like to be - right back in South Dakota - it was the 14th of August back there - my little boy's 1st birthday.
Waltanski came in and ate beside us there at the table. "Let's go bingeing down to the beach", he said. About 1:00 PM there was a large chapel service conducted - we all attended. Then we picked up our liquor and swim suits and the four of us drove down to Tumon Bay. The beach looked like Coney Island on the 4th of July - there were thousands and thousands of people on the beach that afternoon. We settled down around a table in the 315th beach club where the tables untaken were rapidly filling up. Neither Walt nor Jessie had slept or had any rest but they didn't rest any that afternoon. They started singing over at a table where Colonel Joyce was sitting and soon everyone in the whole patio and club were singing. There were many nurses and Red Cross girls in the vicinity so only the more refined songs were sung. Chaplain Gaines and several other of the Wing Chaplains were there and they joined in on the festivities. Men started making speeches and then General Armstrong who happened to be there in a bathing suit got up and said a few words - "We must never forget those members of our Wing that are not here with us to celebrate victory."
The bath house facilities had been overtaxed with so many Wing officers down there that day that Smith, Jessie, Walt and I had changed clothes in a large tent nearby that had been used by officers of all services. About 4:40 PM we decided to get into our clothes and go back up to the 331st area. When we came into the tent there were three marines and two young naval officers pretty badly liquored up - trying to get into their clothes. Walt, Smith and I had hung our clothes up down near the other end of the tent. One of the marines asked Jessie, who was sitting on the bench near them, what outfit we were from. "315th Wing, B-29's", Jessie answered. Another navy officer said, "Yeah we know - you're the f--king bastards that won this war." "Just what did you say?" Waltanski said (Walt had all his clothes off at the time). I could see the temper start to rise in both Walt and Jessie. The other marine officers continued to heckle - they seemed desirous of starting a fight. About that time Walt had his pants, shirt and cap on and his shoes in his hands preparatory to going down to the beach to wash the sand off his feet. One of the marines made another bitter remark and that was too much for Walt. He charged up and stood right in front of the five marines and navy men. "Hit a brace", he bellered so that you could hear him a mile. "I said, hit a brace", he continued. The 2nd Lt. Marine who'd made the last remark gulped and his eyes hung out like they were on the end of a stick when he saw the eagles pinned on Walt's shirt collar and cap. "Give me your names, ranks, and organization and start talking", Walt bellered. He took a slip of paper from his billfold and with a pencil he wrote down their names and organizations. Then he left them there standing at attention while he gave them a talking to that I bet they'll never forget and neither will I. Waltanski knew and used every vile cuss word in the English language and he used every one of them in that little talk he handed to those three marine lieutenants and two navy ensigns. "That was the ass chewing of all ass chewings", Smith said to Walt as we were in the jeep on our way home. Waltanski never said a word all the way home - he was boiling mad.
I took Smith over to the 502nd tent area and stayed to have supper with him. "Well Smitty, the war's over and now what?", I said. "I don't know what the deal will be", Smith answered. Waltanski and Wilson were sound asleep when I arrived back at the hut. I dropped down to see Jimmie O'Brien and the other Tech Reps at their hut. Payne - the Western Electric radar man said, "C'mon Bach, let's have a poker game." I declined. Payne just loved to play poker, and all the following month every time I'd see him he'd say, "Let's get up a poker game."
I learned over at S-2 the following morning that I was relieved of my duties. There was no more bombing so no more work for me. I was reassigned back to Colonel Knowles at 20th AF. That afternoon Smith and I drove down there to see John Anderson and to find out what he knew about our future activities. I thought that perhaps I'd be called back to the states but John knew absolutely nothing about anything that applied to anything regarding our activities or what the future policies of ATSC at Wright Field would be. He had Colonel Knowles assign me to Smith in the 315th Wing as his assistant - That didn't mean very much as Smith didn't have very much to do either - it looked as though I'd become a pretty lazy guy before I'd get to go home.
On the 17th of August Colonel Peyton attended a meeting down at 20th AF where policies and plans of all of the B-29 Wings were formulated. All Wings for the time being would remain intact at their respective bases in the Marianas. There would be three types of duties assigned to the 315th Wing - carrying occupation troops to Japan; carrying food and clothing into Japan and dropping it by parachute to American POW's in Jap prison camps; and carrying supplies between bases in the Pacific. Some airplanes would have their bomb bays modified to carry the droppable food packages; others would be modified for troop carrying. In the meantime all Groups in the Wing were to adopt the policies of a piece time army. Duties would be assigned to all flying officers other than their flying duties. All Groups were expected to build up and improve their permanent bivouac area. Such things as roads, walks, baseball fields, officer's and enlisted men's clubs, chapels, theaters, etc., anything to improve the living conditions and well being of the men.
After Colonel Peyton had spoken at the officer's call where he presented the above plans, he asked that something be done regarding an officer's club for the 331st Group. Doc Krausharr was chairman of the 331st officer's club association and he in turn was made officer in charge of the erection of a new officer's club. Everything would have to be built and furnished by the officers themselves - that was not an easy problem to solve as one just couldn't go out and buy anything - it would have to be scrounged, begged for, bartered or swiped. Captain Harry Macom - our great scrounger - got up in the meeting and said, "If every officer in this Group will donate a quart of whiskey I'll take it and trade it with the navy for all the lumber and material you'll need in addition to bamboo and coconut logs to build the best club on the island." Some of the officers, including myself, had given a quart of whiskey already for securing materials for the officer's club. About 250 - 300 officers hadn't and with that much whiskey and a trader with Macon's abilities we were due to get something. It was also planned at the meeting that every officer of the Group was to devote 40% of his off duty hours working on the club house.
On the morning of the 18th Smith came over and woke me up. "Herb, we've got some work to do. Wing engineering called me and wanted to know if I would put together with Jimmie O'Brien, the Boeing Rep, and work out the wiring set up for the bomb bays and salvo switches for dropping those parachute food loads. It will mean about three day’s hard work for us three fellows. Toby and Irv have enough to do to keep them going on their turbo and C-1 maintenance. "Are you with me?" "Sure am," I answered.
After going over the complex wiring diagrams of the B-29 for operating the bomb bays through the bombsight we figured the best and simplest way it could be done. The bomb bays on the B-29 were electrically timed with the bombsight and intervalometer to open one second before the first bomb dropped and to close a second after the last one was away. Our job was to wire the doors up to a salvo switch so that the bombardier could open the doors and close them at his will, and then another circuit to the racks in each bomb bay for him to salvo the parachute and food load. A large steel and aluminum platform was to be hung in the bomb bay on four bomb shackle releases so that when the bombardier pressed his salvo switch all of those shackles would release at the same time permitting the platform upon which the food parcels would be loaded, to fall free. All of this would be attached to a parachute housed in a large can at the top of the bomb bay. A long static line attached to the top of the bomb bay - this would open the chute after it had dropped sufficiently far enough to clear the airplane.
Our job was to do the wiring modification - with the able assistance of about 50 enlisted bombsight and electrical maintenance boys. Well, we figured out the proper wiring modifications and additions together with Jimmie O'Brien and then went down on the line and spent about two hours lecturing the maintenance men on how to do the job. The rest of the job so far as we were concerned was to go over the airplanes after modification was finished and check them for proper operation. This took up and occupied our time for the following three days.
I had nothing to do the morning of the 21st of August so I slept late. Hal Wilson came in and gave me the good news. "My brother and I have been given the privilege of flying into Manchuria to get our Dad and General Wainwright - they have located them and an airfield at Mukden is being prepared where we can land. We are going to Manila and from there to Manchuria. We leave this afternoon in a ship modified for the purpose." I could see that he was extremely happy - and he surely had reasons for it. He was a splendid fellow and I could imagine the overwhelming joy his father would have seeing his two sons come in a B-29 to deliver him from a Japanese prison camp. "If there's room for you Herb I'd like to take you along", he said. I must have almost hit the ceiling - holy gosh- to get on trip on a plane to carry General Wainwright out of a Jap prison camp was something - almost unimaginable. "Anyway, get yourself ready and if there's a chance you can go along. I'll be back at noon and we'll go over to North Field."
All the rest of that morning I was jumping all over - I rushed over and told Smith and it was OK for me if I could go along. But my thoughts of what thrilling things lay ahead was short lived. Hal Wilson came back to the hut at 11:00 AM. "Sorry Herb, orders from Manila are 'carry only a skeleton crew'." That was that, but I couldn't help but get a huge thrill out of even thinking how close I'd been to something momentous. I bid Hal goodbye with a few words to the effect that, "Your Dad will surely be proud of you fellow." "Thanks Herb and goodbye", he said. It was the last time I ever saw Lt. Colonel Hal Wilson. We learned a few weeks later that Wilson's father was dead - had been dead several weeks prior to the Japanese surrender. Hal and his brother were held up at Manila and a C-54 hospital ship went into Manchuria to get General Wainwright and his surviving comrades. Hal never returned to our Wing while I remained there. He was left in Manila on detached duty whereas his brother returned to the command of his B-29 Group over in the 314th Wing.
I was over to see Smith that afternoon to tell him I was still on Guam. The 502nd Group was finally moving into their new permanent area. They had prefabricated barracks rather than huts as we had - a dozen officers living in each of the small barracks. Smith was rooming with all new officers - Lt. Colonels and Majors. I'd met all of them previous to this time. They built a partition in the center of it - in one end they placed their cots and hung up their clothes. In the other end they built a small bar, had some chairs and a regular little club room - it was nice.
The 22nd of August found me in the sack - didn't get up early enough to have breakfast so I guzzled a can of grapefruit juice and while in the process of doing this a jeep drove up in front of the hut. "Hey Herb, get your ass out of that sack and come out here." It was that slow southern Iowa hog calling voice of C.H. Smith (everybody in the whole 331st Group must have heard that because from then on all I heard was "Hey Herb, get your ass out of that sack"). John Anderson was with him and they came into my hut and then accompanied me over to the mess hall for a cup of coffee. John had received some word from Wright Field concerning our disposition and from there he had gathered that two of the Honeywell men now in the Pacific would be left out here to carry on. He had talked to the fellows up on Tinian and Saipan and it had been decided that Charlie Webber would stay and then it was up to Smith and I who'd be the other one. "How do you feel about it Herb - would you like to go home or would you stay if they wanted you out here?" he asked. "Well", I said, "personally, I'd rather go home if I can - how do you feel about it Claude?" "Well - I'd as soon stay here awhile longer", he answered. That was that - and a few days later we learned for sure that John Anderson and all of us would be going home as soon as transportation was available - Smith would be the only technician to stay and he'd take John Anderson's place down at 20th AF Headquarters. Transportation was to be via ATC when it became available - we were to wait another month for that being that there was top priority placed on liberated war prisoners. We would however be notified a few days in advance when we'd be leaving so that there'd be no last minute rush in clearing up our business and affairs on Guam.
One of my teeth started giving me some trouble so on the morning of August 23rd I rounded up the Group dentist - Captain Beltruicki (a Pole from Massachusetts). The dental department was still in a tent so I sat in a GI dental chair out in the open while he ground away on my tooth and put in a filling - pretty rugged. I always hated to sit in even the best of dental chairs. "Bell" was a good conscientious dentist and was as easy as could be on me.
That afternoon the combat crews were alerted for their first "peace-time" mission. They were to fly to Manila - Clark Field - to pick up a load of food to be delivered into Japan to the prisoner of war camps. Their briefing was on weather and other incidentals and took only an hour. Also that afternoon Captain Harry Macon had the Sea-Bees haul in about a hundred loads of coral and dumped it in neat rows between the huts and buildings. I went to work with the men helping them line up coconut logs that were staked down and the coral was laid evenly between them. This made a dandy set of side walks and one would be able to walk all over the area - between huts, latrines and mess halls without having to wade ankle deep in the mud. Those hundred dump truck loads of coral cost the outfit 10 quarts of whiskey - taken from the officer's whiskey pool. I might add that about 30 loads of that coral were laid in a clearing for the baseball and softball diamonds. Macon used his bulldozer to clear out the area and to smoothen out the coral.
There was very little griping amongst the enlisted men in the 331st Group that officers were getting all the gravy - officers had spent their liquor to get stuff for the enlisted men. When I'd first arrived a large number of officers including me had donated a quart of liquor for getting stuff to better the group. A large enlisted men's club had been built in July and furnished out of materials received by trading off the officer's whiskey - and now a darn good baseball and softball diamond with lots of athletic equipment to go along with it. There were other outfits on Guam right in our wing too who didn't treat their enlisted men nearly so well. I believe Colonel "Big Jim" Peyton should have credit for that. He was a splendid officer. I visualized my brother Pete as being the same type of officer - having the welfare of the men in his mind ahead of his own (there were many officers I met both in the Pacific and in the states that had cut their own throats through always looking out for their own comforts and to hell with their men). Before I was to leave Guam I was to see a fine new officer's club built as well as two fine asphalt basketball courts built for use of both officers and enlisted men of the 331st Group. The 502nd Group that Smith lived with had done absolutely nothing but build a small officer's club and drank up all their whiskey - nothing whatsoever was done for enlisted men and there was a pretty stinking feeling and the morale of the entire group was quite low.
After the war was over the island command let down a lot of the restrictions they had imposed on the army and navy personnel and the Chamorro natives. During the war the natives had been restricted from entering any military area or establishment, in turn, the service men and women were prohibited entrance into any native city or village except by pass from the high command. Those restrictions were removed with the exception of some continued restraints. We could enter villages and the native city of Aguana without permit but we would have to have a pass to get into the city of Anaharan and that had to be on official business only. In turn, the natives were permitted into our barracks areas but they were not permitted on the air fields. The reason as we were told, why the Americans were not permitted to enter the native city of Anaharan was because the Japanese high command had lived there and it had been pretty well loaded with Japanese army and navy personnel. Wherever the Japs had been concentrated the venereal disease rate was extremely high - so the command didn't take any chances on VD getting on a rampage as the Chamorro women - especially those that had Spanish or American blood mixed in and some of the Americans who'd intermingled with the Chamorros before the war, were not hard to look at - especially by young Americans who'd been away from America and in the Pacific two or three years.
They would often bring out groups of young Chamorro women chaperoned to parties held at service clubs of various organizations on the island but they were carefully watched. But it did seem mighty funny to stand out in the shower with about 50 other fellows - taking a bath while a few native women came up and tried to sell us some native hand made nick-nacks. I saw one fellow sitting in the crapper and an old native woman standing outside talking to him through the screen and trying to get him to buy a hand bag or a necklace.
The native women, living in the northern part of the island in the little villages of thatched roof huts, were not nearly so refined as the Chamorro women one would see down in Aguana and other areas of the southern part of the island. Down there one would see women in gingham dresses and dressed somewhat like the women back in the states. The island command did issue a lot of army fatigue clothing to the natives living up in our territory. One would see native men and kids dressed in fatigues - also the women - but they always cut two large holes in the front part of the jackets - for a purpose. They weren't very pretty or nice to look at.
On the morning of August 24th the airplanes came in from Manila with the bomb bays loaded with food, medicines, cigarettes and clothing - they were all loaded and set to go on their first mercy mission to Japan. Also that morning both Smith and I lost our jeeps as was expected although I never had any trouble getting transportation whenever I needed - Waltanski's jeep was generally available and I was always welcome to make use of it.
I went over to S-2 to sit in on the briefing on the first mercy mission with Jessie and his crew. They were to drop their loads on eight prisoner of war camps in northern Honshu Island. Take-off was set for 2:00 AM on the following morning - that would put them over Japan about 10 in the forenoon. Also - the entire Wing was informed that there would be considerable formation flying practice when they returned to Guam. We were informed there that General MacArthur would sign the peace with Japan on a battleship in Tokyo Bay and that all the Wings of the Marianas would fly a demonstration of force exposition over the Japanese homeland during that day.
Also I must add that both Colonel Peyton and Waltanski had picked up two small monkeys as pets over in Manila and had brought them back - I was going to have a little monkey running around the hut. They had purchased them from the natives over on Luzon Island near Clark Field. Both were equipped with a leather collar and a long chain so that they could be tied up. That afternoon they rounded up a few wooden boxes and built two monkey houses to sit outside of the huts (they were very playful little things and we had a lot of fun with them until I left for home).
All the flying crews were in bed early that night - they would be called at 12 midnight - fed and then take-off at 2:00 AM. I stayed up until take-off time - went out to the field in Waltanski's jeep and watched them go. A night take-off is quite the thing to see - especially that many airplanes. Their loads were relatively light and the majority of the planes would be airborne by the time they reached two-thirds of the runway.
I didn't get up until noon the following day - there just wasn't a thing to do. I was really becoming "Sack Time Bach". Lt. Russ Riley dropped in after lunch with a cribbage board and we played about an hour. I found out that Major Burch was an ardent chess player so I decided to get together with him - after all I used to be a chess player and that was better than sitting around wondering what to do.
That evening I went out to see the Wing come in at 7:30 PM. It was a night landing and with a couple of hundred airplanes coming in with their landing lights and everything, it was really something to see. There was no interrogation so Waltanski and Peyton climbed into the jeep and we drove up to the mess hall. They had seen a lot of Japan in broad daylight at low altitude. It was interesting to hear their descriptions of the Japanese countryside. Waltanski told me that when they came in over the prison camp area he could see a big sign they'd made in a field near the camp "Drop Here" out of what looked like benches and boxes and debris. The POW's had really given them a salute when they came over - waving their shirts and pieces of cloth they perhaps could get a hold of. "They looked tough", Peyton said. "Even from 1,500 feet you could see that they were a pretty pitiful looking bunch of men. Some of the boys had circled their planes around giving them a good 'buzz-job'."
One of the ships had been unable to salvo the load out of the aft bomb bay and had flown back to Guam with the loaded platform jammed in the bomb bay doors. That morning they unloaded the food packages and all the other stuff so we were able to see the contents of the stuff they were dropping to the POW's.. There were lots of C-rations, K-rations, fresh oranges and lemons, soap, canned fruit, vitamin pills, canned meat, canned soup, canned butter, lots of candy and gum, cigarettes, toiletries, shirts, pants, underwear, socks, caps, and shoes of all sizes. On the sides of the boxes were many Japanese figures printed with black ink. I learned later that this was a warning to Japanese people - severe penalties would be dealt to any Japanese person who took any of the articles in the containers or who did not deliver them promptly to the American war prisoners.
I went along with Major Art Goring and his crew the following day - August 25th - to flight check his ship - "Nipponese Nuissance" #690. It was a beautiful day for flying - scattered white cumulus clouds at about 8,000 feet. We took off circling north - over and around the island of Rota - checking everything in the airplane. I checked his C-1 autopilot and then we went down to the deck - about 300 feet over the water where I calibrated his turbos. We went up to about 10,000 feet while the engineer made his checks; the navigator checked the radio compass, radar and other navigational instruments.
I flew the ship manually for about an hour and a half (I'd flown the B-29 before back in the states at both McCook, Nebraska and Great Bend, Kansas). I'd never made a take-off, final approach, or landing in a 29. I never had any desire to try it either! But in the air the 29 is an easier ship to fly than a B-17. It trims up much nicer than any other ship I've ever flown. I brought it down from 10,000 feet to 1,500 and made the base leg and Art took it over on the final approach. Jim sat in between us and handled the flaps and gear switches.
Art Goring was another darn good pilot. It was nice to sit there and see the end of that runway line up right, then see it rapidly rush toward you and then feel them gently ease it down and let those big wheels back there gently "grease in". I'd rode in the seat beside many pilots who'd have no more feeling of a landing, before back in Dyersburg, that they'd bounced so hard it would shake your wisdom teeth out - while others like Goring had that extra sense - that extra ability to feel almost where those wheels were. Jim, the copilot said to me as we were taxiing back to the hardstand, "I've made lots of landings with Art during the last year and they've all been just like that - he's never made a poor one." One couldn't really judge a pilot by his landings exactly - there were too many other things to consider, but I certainly thought Art Goring as good an airplane jockey as Jessie, Walt, Peyton or any of the boys like Roberts, Sanders, and Nichols back at Dyersburg, Tennessee.
The Wing made another flight to Manila on August 26th to secure a load of supplies for the POW's. They returned on the morning of the 27th - one plane of the 502nd was lost in some bad weather about 400 miles west of Guam - he wasn't heard from either by radio or by ships flying in the immediate area - it remained a complete mystery.
I was having the time of my life taking care of Peyton's and Waltanski's two monkeys - it was a lot of "monkey business". The boys started telling about the liquor over at Manila - "Tuba" - a fermented liquor from the sap of a palm tree. None of the fellows had drank any of it as they were on flying orders but some was brought back to Guam and from reports it created a rip roaring hangover. It tasted like kerosene mixed in strawberry pop. After seeing Clark Field and Manila most fellows were happy to be back on Guam. They had eaten rations carried along with them and slept in their airplanes.
About that time we received news that the 315th Wing would carry the load of POW supplies up into north eastern Honshu Island and then fly in formation over the Tokyo area and over the bay where MacArthur was to sign the peace with the Japanese on the battleship Missouri. Immediately there was a clamor for ground personnel to have rides along on that one. Actually, I saw one crew with a sign stuck up on the nose of their airplane reading something like "Get your tickets here for a trip over Tokyo". Things got to be such a scramble that orders came out - only 10 men comprising crew will fly on the peace signing mission. I was out of luck as well as hundreds of other men. Smith had lined up to go with Colonel Sanborn and a crew of his staff officers. Peyton and Waltanski were going in the same ship and they had a full load - Peyton had promised Doc Krausharr and Chaplain Gaines previously that he'd take them along in the scanner positions. I asked everybody - but no luck. I was sick about it as I wanted to fly over Tokyo and Japan in daylight as well as to see the sight in Tokyo Bay on that afternoon.
I had given up all hopes when at breakfast a few mornings later Art Goring and his crew came in - they'd arrived back from Manila the preceding afternoon. "I hear you're looking for a ride up over Tokyo on the peace signing mission", Art said to me. "Sure am but there's no chance now, I'm afraid," I answered. "Well my left scanner went to the hospital last night for an operation and his seat is yours if you'd like to go along," Goring said. "Oh boy - you're the best pal a man ever had," I said. I could have kissed him.
Smith was over that afternoon and I told him I'd lined up a trip to go there to see the festivities and would be going along on the flight. Most of the days were spent loafing - eating, sleeping, reading, playing Cribbage and going down to the beach. I spent a lot of time over with Harry King, Jimmie O'Brien and Bill Payne - playing bridge and Pinochle.
I went over with Waltanski, Jessie, Goring and their crews to the briefing for the flight up to Japan in the forenoon of September 1st. It was a routine briefing taking only an hour and a half. The entire Wing had been practicing formation flying and would be ready for that on the big day (MacArthur wanted a lot of pomp and chivalry and the way things looked he was going to get it). Take-off would be at 1:00 PM and the entire Wing would fly to Iwo Jima where we would be gassed up and remain until 3:00 AM where the Groups would split up on take-off with each going to a designated city or area to drop the POW supplies in northern Honshu Island - then meeting in an area north of Tokyo where the entire Wing would assemble to form the formation that would fly over Tokyo and the bay area. Men would be permitted to take their cameras along but as I didn't have one it didn't make a great deal of difference to me.
According to the briefing we were to drop our load at a prisoner of war camp area near the city of Komatsu in northeastern Honshu Island and we would fly over areas the Wing had attacked during the war, in addition, we'd see a lot of the Japanese countryside as the highest altitude at any time would 12,000 feet and we would vary all the way down to 1,500 feet. I packed my musette bag with canned grapefruit juice and cigarettes and borrowed a large pair of binoculars from Major Burch which was to come in handy.
They fed us at 11:30 AM and we assembled and went down to the flying field at 12:30 PM. We carried the same equipment on this flight as we did on the combat missions. The 16th led off followed by the 501st, then the 331st and the 502nd Groups respectively. We boarded our plane #690 and took up positions - mine being the left scanner seat in the waist section of the airplane. I boarded the ship by crawling up a ladder into a door on the right hand side of the ship and just ahead of the stabilizer. The scanners have very comfortable seats - leather cushion of a swivel type that could be swung around and also locked in any position. These sat right beside the large Plexiglas 40 inch blisters - so one could have an excellent view of everything on that side of the ship. A Sergeant Malcomb and Sergeant Taylor were the other scanner and tail gunner respectively.
My duties would be to check the left flaps and wheels for the copilot. Also to watch for smoke or fire coming out of the exhaust stacks. Also I'd keep Goring informed of aircraft to that side of the ship to enable him to ward off collision. I situated my equipment around me so that it wouldn't bounce all over if we hit rough air and adjusted myself in the seat comfortably and put on the seat belt. I was all ready to go. I could see that the take-off had started and soon our engines were started and we started taxiing to the end of the runway. "Copilot to scanners - flaps," I heard over the intercom. "Right scanner to copilot, right flaps down 18 degrees." Then I repeated the same. Then I heard the engines increase power - felt the brakes release and we were off. When one is looking out the side of any airplane such as that and like you do in a commercial airliner it always seems like you're going twice as fast as you actually are. I felt the airplane become airborne then the right scanner reported gear and flaps up and I did the same. We were on our way. I had a beautiful seat in front of a big window to look over the Japanese home land and the U.S. fleet in Tokyo Bay - I was very content and satisfied with everything. The only bad thing was the fact that the two inverters of the 29 are situated in the waist - just in front of the scanners and they whine so loudly you can't hear yourself think. They even drown out the noise of the engines. One could become adjusted to it, so I didn't mind. This was to be a pleasure trip - a trip I'd never forget.
I could feel that they were setting up the C-1 and there was quite a "hunt" both in the elevator and rudder axis of the ship. They took the elevator hunt out but the fish tailing action continued. Soon Goring called me over the intercom and I crawled up through the tunnel to see what was wrong with the C-1. We soon discovered the trouble in the dashpot on the directional stabilizer. After readjusting that and re-trimming up the airplane, we were able to get the airplane flying on C-1 perfectly. I stayed up in front - sitting on the five man life raft, hobnobbing with Art, Jim, and the bombardier - Miller, I believe his name was.
We were flying at 8,000 feet using the turn control of the autopilot to move around squalls when it was necessary. I remember that I wondered if this would be the last time I'd set up and work with the Minneapolis Honeywell autopilot in flight (it was the last time). When we were half an hour out of Iwo I crawled back through the tunnel to take up my position as left scanner. We began the let down and I could hear Goring calling Iwo flight control over VHF. We were ordered to remain circling at 3,000 feet above the base leg until traffic was cleared and then we were told to enter the base leg with four other ships. Flaps and wheels were down and then we were in our final approach and landed. We were told to taxi over to the north where there already were about a hundred B-29's of our wing parked. It was 5:45 PM Guam time.
We parked up in a row of ships with other 331st Group airplanes. We left all our gear aboard and went over to some quonset huts where many of the fellows were congregated. There was nothing to do until 2:00 AM. Waltanski tried to secure a jeep or some means of transportation so that we might make a drive around the island before dark but he was unsuccessful. Decks of cards and dice cropped up amongst the men and soon gambling games were in progress throughout the area - under airplane wings and on the ground in the shade of buildings. There were about 350 airplanes and about 3,500 men milling about that parking area that night. We were not permitted to go across the field to the ATC terminal - that gang would have mobbed the Red Cross canteen if they had. I stuck around close to the airplane. Jessie's ship was parked close to ours and soon most of the men could be seen sitting under the wings of their ships - eating, sleeping, playing cards, shooting dice, or hobnobbing. We ate our spam sandwiches and drank our coffee. Refueling had been in process when we arrived and finally the trucks arrived down near our ships. We had to walk over to the side of the field to have a smoke (smoking is not permitted within 100 feet of any airplane when it is on the ground).
I found Smith sitting with about a 100 men of the 502nd Group - over at the side of the field. Smith was smoking a stub of a cigar and telling stories. As Jessie and I walked up Smith said, "Fellows let's show these 331st guys how we can sing the Iowa Corn Song." Smith stood up and they started singing "Oh we're from Ioway, etc." That started a darn good song fest and soon a couple hundred men were sitting around singing. Colonel Joyce - the usual singing director wasn't present but as soon as the group would finish singing one song another bunch would start up another and so all of the songs so common to men in the service and overseas were sung at least a couple of times.
About 9:00 PM I went back to the airplane where I found about seven of Goring's crew already in the tunnel sleeping. I decided I'd better try and get some sleep as tomorrow would be a big day - so laid down behind one of the inverters in the waist - using my gear for a pillow, and went to sleep. I was awakened by the sound of many engines in the immediate vicinity. All of our air crew were awake and stirring around the airplane. It was very dark outside and as we were near the edge of the parking area I could walk over to the edge and take a leak. Goring and the copilot were on visual inspection. I went back in the waist of the airplane and got a can of grapefruit juice and drank that along with a spam sandwich for breakfast.
It was 2:00 AM and already airplanes began taxiing down the far end to the runway with their navigational and landing lights on. About 3:00 AM we got into our gear for personal inspection - boarded our airplane - taking our positions and soon began taxiing down toward the runway. I had a powerful light attached to the wall which the right scanner showed me how to use. I was to direct it on the flaps and wheels so as to see them and then inform the copilot. Soon it came our turn and at 3:40 AM we took-off heading for the Japanese islands. It was quite dark but as we arrived at 10,000 feet - our cruising altitude, we could see the sky in the east was beginning to glow - dawn would soon break. We would reach the coast of Japan about 7:30 AM. According to our briefing we were to fly over the island of Shikoku, cross over the island of Honshu north coast - inland about 20 miles to our dropping target. We'd assemble into Wing formation after dropping the food loads and cross Tokyo and the bay area.
As we neared Japan we dropped down to about 8,000 feet. I got myself all adjusted to see everything. It became daylight. I had a map of Japan upon which the navigator had drawn our course en route in pencil. We were to hit landfall on the Toso Bay on the south coast of Shikoku island. I got out my binoculars and soon off the outboard engine I could make out what looked like land in the haze. Then the right scanner yelled to me that he could see land, I unbuckled my seat belt and crawled over - the sun was coming up and with the binoculars I could definitely make out land to our right - this was Cape Muoto. There were a lot of scattered clouds and there was a little roughness in the air but it was going to be OK so far as sight seeing was concerned. Soon I could make out land definitely over our left wing tip and soon, with the aid of the binoculars, I could see small cities down near the coast - mountains in the background - my first real sight of Japan in the daylight. The coast was very irregular . I couldn't see a single boat in the water beneath us or on the coast but there appeared to be some small boats in the small city ports. These cities or towns I figured from the map must be Kubokawa and Saga. Land grew closer and soon the coast slipped beneath the left wing and I could get a good look at it.
Here are my first impressions. Lots of mountains and rugged terrain - a good deal like Hawaii. Many urban areas - especially near the coast and roads visible from the air leading up winding paths into the mountains. There were no tall buildings in these towns - lots of tiled roofs and small buildings crowded closely together. Through the binoculars I looked for cars - didn't see any but I did see trucks, railroad cars, railroad tracks, and what appeared to be people on bicycles. There were to be seen many horse drawn wagons leading up into the mountainous countryside. The roads appeared to be graveled from the air - whether that was the natural color of the soil I do not know. As we flew inland we flew closer to the ground - not due to our decreasing altitude - rather the terrain and mountains were of higher elevation. It seemed that the country - rugged as it was - was densely populated. Along some of the good roads we could see houses packed closely together. It was very pretty as the houses all had a reddish colored roof and the land areas around were kept neatly. We could see lots of people - standing around in small patches of ground or fields and as we came over I could see a lot of them looking up and waving. The country was similar in some respects to flying over the Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee - and yet it wasn't. The houses, farms, roads and everything appeared different. The right scanner called me over to the right blister again where we saw a large mountain peak just off our right wing - it couldn't have been more than a couple thousand feet below our altitude, but it towered up over the others in the vicinity. Goring called me over the intercom and asked me if I'd seen "Geisha" houses through my binoculars yet. No doubt everybody in the ship "haw - hawed" about that.
It was not long before we could begin to see ocean again - the "Inland Sea". The 16th Group and 502nd Group ahead of us were flying over Kyushu Island and would get to fly close enough to Hiroshima to see the damage but we would be too far to the east to see it. There was a large city far to my left that I figured from the map as being Matsuyama - it had been hit in B-29 raids during the war but I was unable to see much even with the binoculars. The north coast of Shikuko was quite mountainous and along the coast line I could see many small villages and lots of small vessels in the water - these I supposed were fishing boats. We crossed many small islands in the inland sea on which there were quite a few air bases. There were many ships - some I'm quite sure were naval ships - in and around these islands. There was a heavy layer of clouds beneath us as we crossed the inland sea into Honshu Island so I didn't get much of a look at the coast.
As the cloud cover broke and became dispersed I looked toward the west where Hiroshima was supposed to be located - I couldn't make out very much in detail but I could see that there was a city - or rather what had been a city. The terrain in this part of Honshu was not quite as rugged as Shikoky Island had been but toward the north it became very mountainous again. Here one could see many main highways and railroads. It was not so populated as Shikoku but there appeared to be a great deal of farming and industry. We flew over many small areas where factories, mines and other industries appeared to be. Japan is beautiful from the air - lots of small farms that appear immaculate.
We passed over the north coast of Honshu into the Sea of Japan - we must have flown 100 to 200 miles out into this for reasons I do not know. With binoculars I could make out the land haze to the north - this was the coast of Korea - the mainland of Asia (I learned later that this was to time the Group so that all Groups in the Wing would meet at the rendezvous point to assemble). We swung back down southeast - crossing over the coast of Japan and then over the lake Matsue - this was an inland lake where Charles Lindbergh and wife were supposed to have landed back in 1930 on their round the world flight. We flew along the coast of Japan crossing over the Wakasa Bay and over the city of Fukui - or what was left of the city of Fukui - this was one of the cities our Wing had hit in a fire bomb raid only a few weeks before. It was a fairly large city - about the size of Memphis, Tennessee - about half of it was gone - burned and parts of it one couldn't make out where the streets had been. One could see people and carts down amongst the debris but no trucks or automobiles. We turned here and flew northwest and here I saw two large highways on which there was a considerable amount of automobile and truck traffic. I may be wrong but I'll swear that I could make out 1941 model Chevrolet cars on that highway.
There seemed to be a lot of industry - factories, saw mills, etc. in this area. Finally we crossed over and could see the city of Toyama where the 331st Group had made their fire bomb and demolition raid around August 1st. It was a large seaport city with considerable industry. We dropped down in altitude over the city. It was badly knocked out - there were, in the burned area, many frames of brick buildings standing, but these were just shells. I could see where the demolition bombs had landed by the appearance of large craters in some of the areas. It looked as though the Japs hadn't done a thing towards cleaning it up. The area most damaged was the dock area and what had been the business and industrial part of the city.
We flew on - gaining altitude to cross over some mountainous areas. A good many of these mountains had farms on their slopes. There was a lot of terracing in this area and one would occasionally see the typical Japanese shaped buildings. Here we flew over and near a Japanese village and through my binoculars I got a good look at a group of people standing out in the street between their houses. Most of them were women - dressed in kimonos and they were waving at us and actually appeared to be smiling and laughing. We did fly over a couple of places that were flat but appeared that this was waste land as I couldn't see that any farming was being done.
Over the intercom I heard the navigator telling Goring to turn a few degrees and the dropping area would be reached in a few minutes. I looked at my watch - it was 11:00 AM. I had been so absorbed I'd hardly noticed the time fly. We turned almost due east and began to let down to a lower altitude and soon I felt the bomb bay doors swing open and our food cargo was on it's way. Then I saw beneath us the area that had been a prisoner of war camp. Many bright orange parachutes were to be seen in the building areas and in the fields surrounding it - from the other ships that had dropped ahead of us. Some of the loads had landed right in the building area. We were about 1,500 to 2,000 feet above the area and I didn't get but a few glimpses of it. I could see some men a few miles farther south near a Jap town that appeared to be Americans but I was not sure. They were waving to us as we went over them.
We began to climb and turn toward the southwest and soon I could see a large group of airplanes far to the south already in formation. We began to turn southeast again and then I could see perhaps a dozen of our ships - Goring's own Squadron. We continued in a slow turn and soon I saw a ship move up on us and stay about 50 yards to our left and a little above. We formed groups of four and then two sections of three groups of four in a diamond pattern. After the Squadron was formed we turned and continued west until I could see other groups of 24 airplanes to our left and there was a group on our right. Colonel Peyton and Waltanski were in the lead Squadron and the four Squadrons formed into a box formation. We moved over to the right side so I could see almost all of the ships in the other three squadrons. We flew straight south and soon I could see other groups of the wing ahead and to our left. We made one complete turn and came into the left of what was the 16th Group. We continued in a southerly direction as we pulled up and to the right of the 16th Group. I could see the 501st pull up far to our left and as I looked above and behind us I could see the 502nd move up. We were in a box formation as a wing. It was a thrilling thing to see - over 350 airplanes in one grand terrific formation and we were out on the right edge of it as we were the lead ship of the outside Squadron of the right side Group. It looked like a jumbled up mess of airplanes from our position but it must have been something to see from the ground. I estimated that we were about eight to ten thousand feet high. I could look over and above us about 300 yards and see Jessie's ship.
Goring was tuned in on VHF directly to General Armstrong's lead ship so he could catch all the orders. They had the regular ship's radio tuned in on the Saipan station and we could listen to the peace signing broadcast. At the time we tuned in the dignitaries on the battleship Missouri were waiting for the Japanese delegation. We began to let down and then we neared Tokyo. I could see nothing but continuous towns and villages beneath us. Lots of roads and there was considerable traffic. We flew over many airfields and I saw some that appeared to be heavily bombed - a navy job.
I don't know exactly when we arrived over Tokyo itself but that area of Japan is practically one large city. Narrow streets and low one story houses - millions of them. We were down to about 2,000 feet altitude. Then ahead of us I began to see the remains of Tokyo proper - nothing but ashes and rubble - miles and miles of it - it was terrific. I couldn't see a thing - man or vehicle moving around in it anywhere. It was hard to make out where streets had been but far to the southwest I did see a street car stop and people got out of it. As we moved on we passed over what had been the business and financial district of Tokyo. There was nothing but piles and piles of rubble and debris - occasionally one would see a building - 15 to 20 stories high but as we came near it I could see that it was only a shell of masonry. The right scanner yelled at me to see Hirohito's palace so I jumped over there and had a few seconds glimpse of that. We passed right over the edge of it - it wasn't damaged - a sort of paradise amongst all the destruction. It was larger and covered more area of Tokyo than I'd thought. But one could only glimpse a few buildings and the wall as the area was covered over with trees.
We turned southeast and I could begin to see the bay. The dock area was all smashed to pieces - there were many ships - lots of them sunk and laying on their sides. All this while we were listening to the San Francisco "Overseas Armed Forces Radio Service" on the radio and over our intercom and the Japs had boarded the Missouri. But looking far ahead of us I could see that there was a fog - cloud cover moved over and one could make out only a few ships on the edge that appeared to be units of the US fleet. I shall never forget the destruction I saw below on the dock area of Tokyo - those huge buildings were just frames and rubble. The piers were all twisted up and had huge holes in them. Everything appeared to be burned - up along the river and throughout the dock area. I wonder if that city will ever be built up again - they'd have to start from scratch if they did attempt to build it into a city again.
We were out over the bay and over the US Third Fleet lying at anchor. We were right down over the clouds but couldn't see a thing. We swung to the west and after a few minutes we could see ships below us as the cloud cover thinned out and disappeared. I looked back of us with the binoculars and could make out several large battleships and carriers. I could faintly see the Missouri - or what I believed was the Missouri. I could make out a lot of white caps of men on her decks so I supposed that was it. About this time we heard the announcer say there were B-29's flying above them and we could hear the rumble of our engines over the radio - quite the deal. There were many, many naval vessels below us in plain view - battleships, cruisers, destroyers, carriers, etc. We were only about 2,500 feet above them and I'd say it was one of the greatest sights I've ever seen. About this time we heard Macarthur start talking.
We swung toward the north shore of Tokyo Bay and to the delight of perhaps everyone in the Wing we flew right over the Kawasaki oil refinery and storage area - or what remained of it. That had been our target on the July 21st mission. The entire area was all blown to hell - it had been a beautiful job of bombing. I couldn't see a bit of it that was intact. There were many gaping holes in the ground in the area where the 500 lb. bombs had landed. I looked out over the bay where we caught so much flak that night - anyway it was something to see that area where we'd been that night - six weeks before.
We flew down the coast and over the city of Yokohama and the immense dock area - everything was pretty well bombed to pieces. The residential and business area of Yokohama was just like Tokyo - all burned to pieces. General MacArthur was at that time inviting the Japs to sign the surrender documents. The right scanner yelled at me to come over to his side and there we could see Mount Fuji volcano off to the northwest just above the outboard engine - oh how I'd like to have a camera to have taken that picture but I'll always be able to remember it.
We turned and flew to the southwest. The groups spread out to a loose formation and we headed out to sea. We began to climb for more altitude and I watched the coast of Japan fade and disappear in the haze - we were on our way to Iwo Jima. We continued to listen to the radio broadcast from the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay and finally, when it was over, Taylor, Malcom, and I got into the spam sandwiches and coffee - which by this time had become quite stale. I drank a can of grapefruit juice instead of coffee. I was tired, so telling the boys to wake me up before we let down for Iwo, I crawled up in the tunnel and went to sleep.
I woke up just before we came to Iwo in time to give the copilot all the flap and landing gear information. It was an interesting sight watching the wing and groups circle and individual airplanes peel out of the formation to enter the base leg. We continued circling for 20 minutes before we let down into the base leg and we made two laps around the field before we came in and landed. It was 4:30 PM. We'd been airborne thirteen hours. Here the Wing received a refuel job and we were able to get out for about an hour to stretch our legs. We took off for Guam at 6:15 PM. I slept most of the way, and we landed back at our home base at Northwest Field about 10:30 PM. Trucks were there to meet us and take us up to the mess hall where we sunk our teeth into some fried spam, rice and canned peaches. I was in bed snoring at midnight. It had been a great day.
The following morning I discovered a stack of mail I'd missed seeing the evening before when I'd returned. Amongst the letters was one from brother Pete - dated August 14th and in it I learned that he was in the Ulithe Islands 450 miles southwest of Guam. Of course I realized he couldn't be there yet - almost 3 weeks after and I wondered where he was - I guessed either Manila, Okinawa, or Japan - I thought that he'd most likely be in Japan with the occupation forces (I learned when I returned home that he was on Okinawa). I was pretty much disappointed in not getting the chance to see him being as we were that close.
Two days after the flight to Japan a large ceremony was held in the Wing hardstand area in which citations were made to all the men by General Armstrong. Smith, Tuthill, Sanderson, and I received TO Wings and citations for Asiatic Pacific ribbons and two battle stars along with the others.
During that week I kept busy working on the new officer's club building. Doc Krausharr lined up several native men with machete knives to lead a party of about one hundred 331st Group officers into the jungle to get some bamboo. We set out about 7:30 AM one morning - following the men who were cutting their way through the dense tangled jungle mass with the machetes. The natives cut the bamboo and we piled it and when we secured about as much as we could carry we started out of there with bamboo poles on our shoulders. It was hot and humid. Perspiration ran into my eyes so I was almost blinded. The air just seemed so heavy that it almost choked a guy - I didn't think I'd make it out of there without passing out and it was a great relief to get out into the open space again. If hell is any hotter than that jungle was, I hope I never have to end up there. That afternoon about 200 fellows went into the jungle and brought out another load and then we had about enough for the club house.
There were about 50 men working on the clubhouse. My job, along with the other Tech Reps, would be to take care of the electric wiring job. Captain Macon had secured a lot of lumber, electric wire and hardware to make a fine club - along with the coconut logs and bamboo we'd gathered. That club house went up in about ten days. There was very little flying being done so we had plenty of time to put on the construction of the building. A fine bar was built in the main hall and the fellows built some dandy indirect lamps out of scrap aluminum. It was the nicest club I've seen on the island - with the exception of the fleet club down at the naval base near Apra Harbor.
On about the 8th of September Smith came over and said, "Herb you and I ought to line up a ride to Saipan and visit Charlie Webber and the boys up there." That noon I heard a Captain Crammer say he was going to fly a B-24 up that way and I asked if he'd take a couple of Tech Reps along to Saipan and he said he would (the Group had a B-24 used for odd jobs of flying and all Groups in the 315th Wing had one for that purpose). I used Waltanski's jeep to go over and inform Smith - get him ready and back over to the 331st. Harry King, Jimmie O'Brien and Payne went along too. I never liked a B-24 as it seemed like a box car and I'd never felt quite safe and at ease flying one.
We took off about 2:00 PM and landed at Iseley Field on Saipan at about 2:40 PM. Smith contacted Webber at flight control and he came down in a 6 x 6 truck and picked us up including Captain Crammer and the crew. We drove up the line seeing a lot of ships of the 73rd Wing. Seemed funny to see airplanes with gun mounts. But the 73rd Wing had carried the brunt of the B-29 raids on Japan. Counting the bombs painted on the noses of many revealed that many ships had made over 30 missions.
We went over to the engineering office and Charlie's office - one could buy ice cold Coca-Cola by the bottle - as many as you cared for. It seemed nice and they weren't rationed either. All of us piled on the truck and Charlie took off for a sight seeing ride of the island. We drove up the road on the east side of the island - past the army ground forces and marine encampments - everything built up out of prefabricated buildings or quonset huts. Funny, but neither Tinian nor Saipan was tropical. There were very few tropical plants such as coconuts and palm trees. Rather there were many Banyan trees and trees like I'd seen up on Okinawa. The country was more open. The northern end was mountainous - we drove up there and there was a large hospital located in the area. We saw the cliff where hundreds of Jap men and women and children had made the suicide jump. We came around the west side where the naval docks and area was located. There were many naval vessels and liberty ships tied up at the docks. A terrific downpour came up so Charlie drove the truck into a large naval warehouse and storage building. A friend of mine, Art Tosky from Groton, South Dakota, was supposed to be serving in the navy supply depot on Saipan but I didn't have the time or opportunity to look him up. We drove over to the ATC strip in the central part of Saipan where I'd stopped on my way to Okinawa in June. Here we had doughnuts and coffee with the Red Cross girls. On the way down to Iseley Field we passed the stockade area where the Japanese prisoners of war were held. They were ugly little creatures. Another large stockade area held Japanese women, men, and children - civilians.
About 5:00 PM we went down to the 73rd Wing officer's club. It was situated right on the south beach of Saipan. There was no coral reef around this part of the island so the sea would break and waves would wash up almost to the club house. It was nice. There was no liquor drinking for us as we were flying but we enjoyed the ice cold Coca-Cola. At 6:00 PM we accompanied Charlie over to the mess hall where we had supper - soup, roast pork, dressing, corn, and pear sauce. It was one of the rare times I'd eaten fresh meat in the Pacific. After supper we went over to the PX where each of us purchased a case of Coke to take along home. They had a lot of good cigars so Smith had everybody buy as many as each one of us could carry (when he bought them from everyone he had over 200 cigars - enough to last him a few weeks).
Captain Crammer secured the clearance from Iseley control and we boarded the beat up B-24 and flew to Guam landing there at 8:30 PM. That evening our new club house was open so Smith stayed over - we put him to bed in what remained of Colonel Wilson's old bunk. A large gala opening was planned for the officer's club on Saturday night following our trip up to Saipan. Invitations were sent out to officers all over the island - admission charge - one quart of liquor. A large amount of extra coke and beer was secured and the services of the Sea-Bees dance orchestra was secured.
The day preceding the grand opening we heard that Charlie Ruggles and Mary O'Brian and the USO show was on the island. They were contacted and promised to be present along with all the members of their show. I'd purchased two new shirts and two pairs of pants to wear on the way home so I got out a shirt of this to wear on that great social event of all times on Guam. Smith came over and ate supper with us, and then Smith, Jessie and I went over and started drinking up the beer. They ran out of beer by 8:00 PM - before any of the distinguished guests arrived. There were about 5,000 men trying to get into a 100' x 80' club house. When Charlie Ruggles and his troupe arrived they put Charlie behind the bar. He got stinking drunk - not used to drinking in the tropics and the heat was hard on him but he put up a good show for the boys. Mary O'Brian danced with everyone near her. It was so packed and crowded with men that Jessie, Smith and I walked over to my hut where we could sit and watch the festivities - it was all over by 1:00 AM.
The next morning both Smith and I went to the Protestant religious services in the chapel area - it was the last Sunday I was to spend on Guam. That afternoon a large group of us went to the beach in Tumon Bay for a swim - both Waltanski and Peyton took their monkeys "Felix" and "Oscar" along with them. We had a lot of fun playing "King of the Haystack" on a large rubber life raft. Waltanski - the huskiest one was generally in control - the only way we could get him out of the raft was to gang up and tip the whole raft over - with him in it. We took the monkeys out in the raft and somebody wondered if they could swim so Peyton unbuckled his and let him into the water. That little bugger made a bee-line for the beach kicking up a wake like an outboard motor boat. Several fellows dove in and tried to catch him but he left them in short order. We started yelling to the men up on the beach and they rushed out and caught him before he got up on the shore otherwise he'd been up a palm tree and away for good.
On the way back home from the beach we stopped in to see John Anderson at 20th AF Headquarters. Here John informed me that he'd already sent a TWX to each of the men in our wing. An indication was out that all technicians would leave for the states on the 20th of September or thereabouts. That was only a few days away. When I arrived back in the area I told O'Brien, Payne and Cook while Smith drove over to see Tuthill and Sanderson.
I had four quarts of whiskey and with the weeks ration I'd have five. Smith had a case of coke and I had one from Saipan so I planned a party for all my pals on the evening of the 19th. On the 18th I went down to the AGF and got my $40 deposit back from the liquor ration fund then stopped at the AGF officer's store and purchased a new pair of combat boots and other incidentals. The mess officer gave me a promise for 100 lbs. of ice for my party. The following were present: Smith, Waltanski, Peyton, Jessie Williams, Major Crowell, Art Goring, Russ Riley, Major Burch, Major Box, Major Chapman (from over at Wing S-2), Bill Payne, Jim O'Brien, and Harry King. My bags were all packed and ready to go. I'd just received a box of soap and powder from Peggy and this I gave to Waltanski, Jessie, Smith, and Peyton. We toasted each other, sang songs and had a very gala evening.
About 11:00 PM Sanderson and Tuthill and some technicians from across the field came in with our orders - they had just come up from 20th Headquarters. Sanderson wanted to go down to Harmon Field as he thought he would miss the plane but the rest of us didn't think there was any too much hurry. We'd get down there by 10:00AM the following morning and that would be early enough (Sanderson and a few of the Boeing and Wright Engine men from over across went down that night - ending up sitting around the ATC terminal all night long).
Our party continued - breaking up about 1:00 AM. It was the end of the road for me. The last time I'd be together with men whom I'd been very close to through a period of my life I'd never forget. Waltanski, Jessie and I took Smith home. I bid farewell to my old buddy who was going to remain on Guam in John Anderson's place. Then walked down with Jessie to his hut after we'd returned to our area. Jessie gave me some money with which to wire his wife some roses as soon as I arrived back in Frisco. I was to call her up on the telephone too. "Well, goodbye Herb - maybe I'll get up and hunt a few pheasants in South Dakota with you a few years from now." "Goodbye Jessie", I said. "And make all those landings good ones." That was the last time I saw one of the best and finest young fellows it has been my pleasure to know. Waltanski was sound asleep and snoring when I returned to the hut. Then I walked over to Jim O'Brien and the rest of the Tech Reps hut where the boys were still packing up their stuff.
We planned to get a 6 x 6 from the motor pool and leave here by 8:00 A.M. in the morning for Harmon Field. I had three quarts of whiskey left and these I gave to Waltanski, Goring, and Jessie on the following morning. I used Waltanski's jeep to carry all the stuff back to supply which I had checked out and by 7:30 AM I was ready to go. Jimmie O'Brien had secured a 6 x 6 truck and a driver and at 8:00 AM we set out for Harmon Field. We said goodbye to the fellows then drove across the field to have one last glimpse of that and then on over to the south side to see if the Tech Reps over there had left for Harmon Field. They had all gone so we set out on the highway and headed south past 20th AF and finally arrived at the ATC terminal at 9:00 AM. There we found about 30 of the technicians gathered - waiting. Sanderson and others had come down about midnight on the evening before and had been sitting around all the while. Jim O'Brien and I went into see the priorities officer and there we were told that Harmon Field would be shut down for runway repairs at midnight and if we didn't get on by that time we'd have to wait a week as all traffic would go from Saipan or Kwajalein - and there was a continual stream of repatriated American war prisoners and they had a higher priority than we had.
A C-54 was going out every 15 minutes and they'd call out the loading list over the PA system - there were many war prisoners sitting around and I was well entertained listening and conversing with them. They looked tough but this was the portion who were able to travel - on their own. Most of them were flying home on hospital ships.
At noon we boarded some trucks and rode over to the ATC transient officer's mess for lunch and then back to the ATC terminal to wait. The old army expression "hurry up and wait" surely hit the situation right on the head. The ATC terminal was new and a lot nicer than the old one had been - there were fairly nice benches to sit on and it had the typical appearance of railroad stations and bus depots back home - lots of service men sitting around sleeping, laying on the floor and even on their luggage. Every few minutes one would hear the announcer over the PA system announce the arrival of a transport from Manila, Okinawa, Saipan, Kwajalein or Japan and then he'd announce the loading list of another ship going east to Kwajalein and everyone would pick up his ears and hope that this would be the one.
But all of us were in a happy frame of mind - we were going home and what did a little waiting amount to anyway. We could only carry 65lbs baggage home with us so we'd burned all of our technical literature and left most of our clothes on the island. I carried only the good clothes that I had and had to wear the combat boots in order to get below the weight limit. Of course, here was Irving Sanderson with his typewriter - he couldn't get Tuthill or any of us to carry it home for him so he had to throw out shoes and clothes in order to get through the weighing counter - I hope he learned his lesson.
The afternoon wore drearily on and we again rode up to the ATC mess hall at 6:00 PM for supper. We began to worry that maybe we wouldn't get on a ship after all and would have to return to the 315th Wing for another week or two. Jimmie O'Brien and I went into the office and inquired and we were told that we would perhaps be able to get out on one of the planes about 10:30 to 11:00 PM - providing there were not too many ships come in from Japan with POW's. It was a beautiful summer tropical night with a full moon - the terminal building had a nice veranda outside where there were many benches and we sat waiting. A young Private with an accordion began playing outside - he was good and it sounded beautiful. I saw tears in the eyes of some of the fellows just out of the Jap prison camps - it was the first music like that they'd heard for years. Home - it was a beautiful word. We were going home to that wonderful country called America. I had been away only four months but that had been long enough for me.
Finally, at 11:00 PM the announcer called our names and there was a mad rush to gather up out luggage and line up at the ticket counter. Here our luggage was weighed and we were handed a slip of paper. Incidentally, I forgot to mention that we had to have a medical exam a few days before by our flight surgeon in order to get on orders to go home. Doc Krausharr had taken care of mine. At the ATC terminal we had a brief exam for venereal disease and a slip of paper was signed. We filed through into a large room where an ATC officer went over all our orders, papers, etc. About half the technicians including Sanderson, Tuthill and I were on the loading list - the other group was on the loading list on the following plane. It looked like we were going to get out of there.
At about 11:45 we were ordered to proceed down to our plane - we stood around the steps and finally the flight clerk read off our names and we boarded it - a C-54 just like we'd rode coming out - only this one had bucket seats of the hardest variety. I sat in the second seat from the front on the right hand side. An Air Corps officer, a Lt. Colonel Flood, sat on the first seat and Toby Tuthill sat next to me on the left. Jimmie O'Brien, Payne and Sanderson sat across from us on the other side. The flight clerk informed us that only two men would be permitted at a time to enter the navigator's compartment for a smoke after we'd reached cruising altitude. There was a blanket on each seat and underneath was a Mae West jacket which we adjusted for size and put on.
Soon the engines were started and we taxied out to the end of the runway - paused momentarily for engine run-ups, turned onto the runway and took off in a western direction turning up north and finally headed east. We leveled out at what I estimate was 10,000 feet. Suddenly the fellows over on the other side said, "He's got number one engine feathered", and a few minutes later - "It's running again", continued again with, "There it's feathered again", etc. Toby Tuthill and I looked at the floor and as soon as the flight clerk said we could remove our Mae Wests, we hit the floor, stretched out using the blankets as pillows. Sanderson said, "Do you mean to say you guys can sleep when we've got a bum engine?" "Wake me up when we hit the water", I answered and went to sleep.
It was 8:00 AM Guam time when I woke up. Normally a guy would have been stiff a month after sleeping on a hard rough airplane floor but the past four months had me in good condition for that - I felt refreshed after about seven and a half hours sleep. We could feel that he was beginning to let down for Kwajalein. The engine had been feathered on and off through the flight - it remained feathered from then on all the way into Kwajalein.
We came in over that island and had a good look at it (we'd been there at night on the way out in June). It was a long narrow island - surrounded by a coral reef and quite densely covered with tropical growth. The long runway along the side ran right up to the water's edge. We turned around the island and came in to land - taxied over to the hardstand near some low roofed buildings - tar papered shacks. We taxied up to a line where about a dozen C-54's were parked. Here we stopped and got down and out of the ship. The pilot came out and Tuthill and I asked him about the engine. He told us he'd set a course for Eniwetok Atoll but had decided to continue and come on into Kwajalein. We'd have to remain here until the engine was fixed. He was a nice tall blond young Captain.
Kwajalein didn't look so bad - I guess because we were used to things as bad or perhaps a bit worse. We filed through the ATC depot shack, secured a meal slip for 50 cents and went out into the building area to find the latrine - it had a lister bag with a few spigots attached to a pipe - I took out a towel and soap from my musette bag and washed up a bit. Up on the platform was written the never ending latrine slogan one saw all over the Pacific - "Kilroy was here". We went on over to the mess hall and here we had a wonderful breakfast - this place seemed very nice after all. We ate oatmeal with condensed milk and fried eggs and bread. Actually they were fried eggs - no powdered stuff. We could hardly believe it.
We wandered back over to the terminal building to see how they were coming on the engine on our plane - they had the cowling off and were working on it. It was a Pratt & Whitney engine - otherwise some of the Wright Engine Technicians might have given them a hand. We learned that the ship would perhaps be back in service about 3:00 PM Kwajalein time. Jimmie O'Brien, Tuthill and I set out for a walk around the area. It was funny, but when I'd arrived here last June I'd thought it was terrifically hot and that had been about midnight too. Here it was noon and very hot but I didn't mind it a bit. The soil in Kwajalein is dark gray in color. The trees and plants were similar to those on Guam. One could see many stumps - no doubt remains from the fighting.
About 1:00 PM we were back over to the ATC terminal, paid 50 cents, received a slip of paper, then over to the officer's mess for dinner - it was fairly good. We were back in front of the ATC terminal at 3:00 PM again but the cowling wasn't back on the engine until 3:30 PM and they started to run it up. The Wright Engine Technicians said it sounded rough as hell - even for a Pratt & Whitney. I didn't think it sounded so very good either but we were going to fly and finally they called out our plane number and we filed back in and took our seats. We were facing our longest over water hop - 2,700 miles to Johnston Island. The ship carrying Harry King and some of the other Tech Rep came into Kwajalein about 10:00 AM and left at 11:30. They were a long ways ahead of us.
It was hot inside that airplane - sitting there waiting. Finally, the engines were started and we taxied out and took off. We had a new pilot and crew. The fellows on the left side kept us informed on the condition of the engine - it continued to purr along OK. Bill Payne said, "Let's have a poker game so about ten of us gathered around a blanket that was spread out on the floor. I was about 15 bucks in the red - it grew dark and suddenly the bum engine began to smoke - and they feathered it. It must have been an oil leak - perhaps a rocker box leaking. It didn't look good - we were at least a thousand miles from land in any direction - right over the middle of the Pacific. Payne said, "Aw to hell with that engine, c'mon let's play poker." We resumed our game - I was in the red about 40 bucks.
Tuthill and I went up front for our turn in having a smoke. The pilot, copilot and engineer seemed worried so we asked them how things were going. "Not good - we've got another engine acting up and six and a half hours to go before we're out of danger" (a C-54 can stay in the air on two engines for 90 minutes or thereabouts on a gradual loss of altitude from 10,000 feet). "We are going up to 14,000 feet while we still can get a little climb on the three engines and then if the other engine goes out on us we'll have two hours before we have to ditch." Holy smokes - it dawned on me that we were in serious trouble.
We went back to the cabin after finishing our smoke and told the fellows - if number three engine went out in the next six hours we'd have to ditch - that would leave only two good engines on the right wing functioning and that couldn't hold up this airplane more than a couple of hours. It began to get cold as we had increased altitude - one could definitely feel the lack of oxygen. We wrapped the blankets around us and continued the poker game. I began to get hot and soon had changed the 40 dollar deficit into about 10 dollars winner. Every time a couple of men would come back from the front after having a smoke they expressed worry and anxiety. Wouldn't it be awful to end this all sitting in a rubber life raft out in the middle of the Pacific. It was in this same area that a C-54 had gone down earlier this summer with General Harmon aboard - they'd never been found or heard from.
The poker continued although our minds were not concentrated on the game. No one slept. Fellows sat around with their fingers crossed. The copilot came walking through on his way to the latrine in the rear. Many of the men asked him how things were going but he didn't answer. I looked at my watch - four hours to go before we'd be out of danger. The fellows just couldn't concentrate on the poker games to keep it going - they never knew what kind of game was being dealt. So we changed it to Showdown for a dollar a throw. I won a two dollar bill in this game which I saved and added to my "Short Snorter" collection.
It began to get light in the east - and soon the sun showed up over the horizon. We were two hours from being out of danger and then one and then - finally the pilot stepped back into our cabin and said, "You can relax fellows - if another engine goes out we will still make it into Johnston Island." That was a big relief. The sky was filled with many thunderheads and rain squalls but we were above them. I hadn't had a bit of sleep for 24 hours but I felt pretty good.
We began letting down and at 9:00 AM we sighted tiny Johnston Island off above and beyond our left wing. It was a welcome sight - a haven to us who'd wondered if we see land again there for a few hours. We turned around the little island, let down and landed, then taxied around the end and down the taxi strip on the north side to the terminal - stopped and we filed out of the ship's rear door down the portable stairway to the ground. It was good to be back on old terra-firma again.
We waited in the ATC terminal for instructions. "Flight 692 will be grounded at Johnston Island for engine change - all passengers report to the office for billeting instructions." Here all officers on the list were taken by truck up about 300 yards where some permanent barracks were located. Here in an office we were issued two sheets and a pillow case - my God we were really going to sleep on sheets and pillows again. We were taken over to a barracks where there were about 30 iron cots with mattresses and pillows - and a hard wood floor - everything. We were shown where the latrine and shower room building was located and also the officer's mess, and officer's club.
First thing we did was to make our beds - this was going to be lovely, wonderful. Then we went on over to the latrine building. There were shower rooms - nice distilled water with regular plumbing, also wash bowls and toilet stools. I showered and shaved - it was wonderful to be back in civilization again - even though we'd thought on our way out in June that tiny Johnston Island would be a desolate place to have to be stationed. Then we went over to the officer's mess - here we lined up - paid the cashier 50 cents then went and lined up along a counter. There were plates, glasses with ice water - pork chops, mashed potatoes with gravy, peas, apple pie and coffee. It was the best food we'd eaten since leaving the states. We sat at regular tables - had napkins, regular chairs. It was wonderful. Here we could sit - watch the C-54's land and take-off on the runway - look far out over the over the Pacific - and enjoy good food like that. It was a combined naval and ATC mess.
Some of our passengers had been back down to the ATC terminal where they'd learned that we'd be about two days on Johnston. A new engine was to be flown out from Hawaii. This would have to be installed and run at slow time for eight hours before we could continue with the trip. We slept about four hours in the bunks. They were wonderful - mattresses and pillows and sheets. The officer's club was open at 4:00 PM and naturally we were there - all the beer you wanted - ice cold Schlitz, Budweiser and Hamms at 10 cents a bottle. Good whiskey mixed with Coca-Cola or any other mix for 15 cents a throw. The club was nicely furnished - as nice as any officer's club at any air base I'd been on in the states. It was small but it was nice. We were a raunchy looking group of men - none of us had put a comb through our hair for months.
That evening we had another wonderful supper and then went to bed. Up again at seven in the morning and over to the officer's mess for sausage, pancakes, syrup and butter - real honest to God butter. We walked around the little island - noting the power plant, distillation plant and ice making plant. Then on down to the ATC terminal where they were busy installing a new engine on the airplane. We saw the ATC flight control officer and he told us that he thought the engine would be ready by 9:00 PM to take-off for Hickam Field, Hawaii. We spent the entire forenoon monkeying around the island. That afternoon we went swimming - in the nude up on the sea plane ramp on the northeast corner of the island. We went back over to the officer's club at 4:00 PM. Had supper at 6:00 PM. Then they announced over their PA system that our airplane would leave at 8:30 PM and we were to report to the ATC terminal at 8:00 PM. It was a balmy night as we sat in front of the terminal building on the benches waiting for orders to board the plane. Finally it came and we got on - in our usual seats, put on the Mae West jackets, adjusted the seat belts, taxied out and took off for Hickam Field at 8:30 PM Johnston time.
The trip into Honolulu was uneventful - no engine trouble and we let down and landed on Hickam at 3:45 AM Hawaii time. Here we entered the same terminal with its lovely patio. The same large Red Cross unit was located there with ice cold pineapple strips, doughnuts and coffee. I burned my tongue and lower lip badly on the scalding hot coffee and tin cup - carried a blister on my lower lip a few days. Here the customs and duty inspectors went through our luggage and equipment very thoroughly. We had to list everything we carried - including clothing - piece by piece on a long sheet of paper. Our army orders were inspected and then we were sent into a room where an army doctor told us to lower our trousers and he went around inspecting us for venereal disease. Following this, we were taken by truck along with all our luggage up to the same large transient officer’s quarters where we secured a sheet and pillow case and a bed assignment. There were about 30 of us and we stood in line by a desk while a slow and pokey enlisted man filled out a questionnaire for each of us before we were assigned our billeting. Some of the fellows went over to the mess hall for something to eat but Toby Tuthill and I went to bed - we were living in cots - side by side in the same room. It was a large building and men could be heard coming in and going out all night long.
Toby and I were up at 9:00 AM, dressed and went down to the office. Our names were not on the alert list so we wouldn't be going out that day. At breakfast we ran onto Jimmie O'Brien and Lt. Colonel Flood. Colonel Flood lived up in Hilo, Hawaii but would have to remain at Hickam a few days to get his clearance. He promised to line up some transportation so at 11:00 AM we drove down town in Honolulu in a jeep - the four of us, Colonel Flood, Tuthill, Jim O'Brien and I. The homes, especially the wealthy ones, were quite similar in construction to those in California. We had secured passes from the ATC flight control officer to leave Hickam Field but we'd have to return at 5:00 PM for the evening alert which would be posted at that time.
We drove past parts of Pearl Harbor dock areas where we could see many naval vessels of all kinds. Colonel Flood pointed out the many places where the December 7, 1941 attack had been heavy also naming the ships that had been damaged. We saw only one vessel that hadn't been salvaged - the old battleship Arizona - it still laid bottoms up. The streets in Honolulu are very crooked and the buildings are very shabby. It was a big disillusion to those of us who hadn't seen it but had read about it being a city of tropical grandeur. The main downtown part of Honolulu is dirty - unclean with huge crowds of soldiers and sailors winding up and down the sidewalks and streets - many natives. White seemed to be the predominant color of the civilian clothes as well as the many sailors. There were many street vendors and hawkers selling their wares - souvenirs, flowers, ice cream cones, etc. It was dirtier and more crowded with service men and people than any other city I'd been in America - including Market Street in Frisco.
We didn't stop anywhere. Colonel Flood said he'd take us out to Waikiki Beach and that there were some fine places over in that area where we'd eat lunch. We drove through a part of the city inhabited by Japanese - tumbled down shacks all arranged in a jumbled manner. Colonel Flood told us that Honolulu was about the only city in the Hawaiian Islands like that and quite often people coming through got the wrong impression of Hawaii for that reason. And of course this was war time and since December 7th, 1941 the city and area had been under strict marshal law. Bars, movies, and all places of amusement had closed at 6:00 PM curfew. The area was congested with service men based in the area, those going through like we were, and, those back from the Pacific on a rest period.
When we arrived near Waikiki Beach we were stopped for the second time by an MP and we had to produce our orders and passes from Hickam Field. Waikiki Beach was the greatest disillusionment of all - it was dirty - crap lying all over. It couldn't hold a candle to Tumon Bay Beach on Guam for beauty.
There were many, many lovely homes - spacious with windows covered with brightly covered awnings - lovely lawns, gardens, and tropical plants - well kept. This was the millionaire residential district. The road we drove on was tar and it wound in and around these mammoth homes. Finally, we drove up to the large beautiful Moana Hotel where we entered a terraced garden that had tables all around, a Hawaiian dance band playing and a large bar in one area. Near the other end was a huge oval shaped bar. Most of this was under a huge green and white awning and there were many palm trees and tropical plants scattered in amongst the tables. Here we could look out over the beach - it was a pretty sight.
Colonel Flood secured a table for the four of us - we had a round of drinks and then ordered lunch. The menu was mostly in Hawaiian terms but we did manage to figure out a pretty tasty lunch. There were many officers and their lady friends in the place. The waiters were Hawaiian men and they seemed very polite and gracious in their duties. We sure felt out of place - seedy looking with our un-pressed suntan clothes, unkempt hair and lack of neckties. The bill came to $3.80 apiece - I wouldn't care to board there too often at that rate.
We arrived back at the ATC transient officer's quarters on Hickam Field at 4:30 PM. None of us were alerted so we spent the balance of the day visiting the PX eating supper at the mess hall and then we hit the sack early. I was awakened at 6:30 AM by an enlisted man and told to report to the ATC traffic officer immediately. Toby woke up and sat up in bed while I rushed to get into my clothes and get my gear assembled. "Well Herb, looks like you're going home", Toby said. "Leave a message with the Hamilton Field ATC flight control officer in Frisco and I'll try catching up with you - if not there then in Wright Field or Minneapolis", he continued.
I went down to the ATC traffic office where the officers told me that they were going to put four men on each hospital ship coming through - there was room back in the tail compartment for several men - otherwise we'd probably have to remain on Hickam Field quite awhile before we could get a trip to Hamilton. I was on the loading list for the plane leaving at 9:30, and to my dismay, Sanderson was also on it. I'd probably have to endure the guy all the way to Minneapolis. Too bad Tuthill couldn't have been in his place - or one of the other fellows.
We had breakfast at the ATC terminal mess and sat around in the patio waiting for our flight to be called. Our luggage was loaded aboard and finally the call came over the PA system. We picked up our musette bags and went out the gate to the ship. Two army flight nurses met us on the portable steps and took us aboard - they showed us where to sit - in the part of the ship that had housed the latrine on the regular C-54 personnel carrying planes. It was the first time I'd seen the inside of a hospital plane. Canvas stretchers were hung in tiers along the sides - two per tier, about three feet above the other. There were thirty two patients in the ship and as we entered the ship they were eating - some of them sitting up with their feet over the side of the stretchers. The nurse told us we'd have to remain at the rear of the ship - we'd not be permitted at anytime to go up front amongst them. "These are liberated war prisoners from Japan", the one nurse told us, "and they are filthy with disease."
We had a nice spot to sit - there in what was part of the nurse's compartment. We moved our gear around, got our Mae West jackets on and settled down to wait for the take-off. There was one window for us to use so I didn't see anything of Hawaii as we took-off and headed for Hamilton Field on the mainland - 2,500 miles away. There were four of us Tech Reps huddled there together in the tail of that ship - Sutton and Doudra of Boeing and Sanderson and I from Honeywell. Both of the flight nurses were constantly busy - they wore suntans same as we did - with regular slacks.
In 12 hours I'd be back on good old USA again - I could hardly believe it. But it had been nice to come through Johnston Island and Hawaii on the way home. They had seemed like a transition between war and peace, or past and future. I wondered what I'd be doing when I got back - whether I'd remain with Honeywell, go back to teaching - or just what the future would be. I did a lot of meditating on that trip between Hawaii and California. Up in the front of the cabin I could see the remains of men who'd gone through the fighting on Bataan and Corrigedor followed by over four years in Japanese prisons. I wondered what was on their minds as we flew on that last over water lap on their "way home". Home and the good old USA was a wonderful thing - it was paradise.
About 3:00 PM Honolulu time, the flight nurse and I started up a conversation. It was her second flight between Japan and the U.S. with war prisoners. Prior to that time she'd been on planes between Okinawa and the U.S. and had made 32 Pacific flights back with wounded men. Pretty rugged duty for a woman. One of the men on a stretcher closest to me started joining us in the conversation so the nurse told me I could move over and talk with him provided I didn't get too close. He was a man of about 32 years of age, dark complected and appeared to have been quite handsome at one time. Now he weighed 90 to 100 lbs. - just a skeleton. His hair had been cut off quite short - all of his front teeth were missing. I introduced myself and learned that he was Sergeant Dick of a small town in Illinois. He'd arrived in the Philippines in the summer of 1941, had been in the infantry, was captured in Bataan, had made the death march, had survived the Jap prison stockade session at Cabanataun in northern Luzon Island, had survived the boat ride from Manila to Japan, and had come through over two years working 14 to 16 hours in a Japanese coal mine in Hitachi, Japan. I told him I'd been on a flight to drop supplies just a few weeks before. He told me that those supplies had saved them - some of the men had been able to travel out of the prison area on their own power but he and most of the fellows in the airplane had been too weak to travel and the rescue had come and carried them to Tokyo.
He was terribly emaciated but he looked as though he was in better condition than a lot of the men in the other stretchers. One thing he told me typified the kind of treatment these men had suffered at the hands of the Japanese. When I asked him if he was married he said, "No, and I'm not ever going to because I'll never be able to have any children. The rest of the fellows on this airplane including me have the same condition." He went on to tell me how the Japs had kicked them so often in the testicles that finally it no longer hurt so much - everything was gone. "And", he said, "that kind of treatment was simple compared to the other things they'd been through." I wanted him to sign my "Short Snorter" bill and he reached into a canvass bag where he had a big roll of Japanese 10 Yen notes, took one and used my pen to sign his name (I have the bill in my "Short Snorter" collection). One of the last things he told me before the flight nurse told me I'd have to move back was, "This is the most happy day I've ever known - to get back to the United States. Some of the fellows gave up hope of ever seeing home again but I never did. I guess that's why I came through. I kept my faith."
I moved back to my seat to the rear of the ship. We'd purchased a box lunch at Hickam and this we ate. It began to get dark although it was only 6:30 PM Honolulu time but we were flying against the sun and it was actually 9:30 PM California time. Those last three hours seemed like 24 hours and finally Sutton, who was looking out the window said. "I can see lights." We could feel that we were letting down. We came in over Frisco Bay and we took turns looking out the window. That first sight of the USA was thrilling. We let down, circled Hamilton Field and came in for a landing - taxied over to the ATC terminal. It was a good feeling to put the feet down on good old USA terra firma again.
A whole fleet of army ambulances were out to meet the ship and take the stretcher cases off the airplane. We watched them a few moments and then walked into the ATC terminal. Here we were taken into a room where customs officers again went through our luggage with a fine tooth comb, examined our papers and again we were given a medical inspection for venereal disease. It seemed that we'd been inspected by medics so often on that trip home that as soon as they'd send us to the medical department we'd automatically start unbuttoning and pulling our pants down. They also inspected us for filariasis, elephantiasis and other tropical diseases.
It was 12:30 AM September 26th California time. We'd finished with the duties at the terminal and were transported up to the transient officers quarters office where we received blankets, sheets, pillow cases and a bed assignment over in a barracks near by. My God but it was cold - we weren't adjusted to this. As soon as we'd found our bunks and disposed our luggage, we washed up and went up to the officer's mess to get something to eat. It was Saturday night in California and no doubt they'd had a dance on Hamilton Field because the officer's mess was full of officers and their girl friends or wives. We sure felt seedy looking coming in there in our un-pressed clothes and uncombed hair (I couldn't have combed mine if I wanted to - it was about an inch long and unruly as the very devil). Anyway, the food was what we were after. They had short orders and you could imagine what we ate - steak - big juicy steak - the first any of us had eaten any steak in over four months. French fried potatoes, carrots and peas, and lettuce salad - first I'd seen lettuce since leaving the states. Then we piled milk on our trays. I drank five bottles of milk - the first I'd had of that too. After eating that I ate 30 cents worth of ice cream. God what a feed. An officer and his lady friend were sitting at the same table as we were. They were quite amused at our actions and finally the officer said, "You fellows must have just arrived from overseas."
"You're not kidding", I answered. Gosh but it was great to be back in civilization again. After the big meal we went over to the barracks and crawled in the sack.
I was awakened at 7:00 AM by Toby Tuthill. "We just got in Herb and I thought I'd find you in the sack." I dressed - we had breakfast and then went down to the ATC office to see about a trip to Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. "Impossible to have space for you via ATC on your priority III until October 15th was what the traffic officer had to say. "I wish I was Elliot Roosevelt", one of the fellows said. "Even his dog could get a priority one." Well, we'd have to go into Frisco, get a hotel room if we could, and try to arrange transportation via commercial airlines or railroads. And from the gloomy report we heard from the ATC office - that was going to be a problem.
We cleared Hamilton Field and Toby and I lugged our luggage up to a bus terminal - rode out to the main gate and there caught a Greyhound bus to San Francisco. We went to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel - checked our luggage - tried to get accommodations but were refused. We were told to go to the Military Reservation Bureau on Post Street. So we got into a taxi and arrived there about 11:00 AM registered our names for a hotel room. We were told to have a seat in the waiting room and our names would be called.
We stepped into the waiting room - large about the size of a railroad station and there were hundreds of service men sitting. We began to have visions of spending the night in a park - sleeping on a bench. "Well Toby", I said, "If worse comes to worse we can always catch a bus out to Hamilton Field and spend the night there." Finally, after waiting all day our names were called over the PA system at 5:30 PM. We reported to the desk and were given a slip of paper that would secure us a room at the Whitcomb Hotel up on Market Street.
We caught a cab to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel where we picked up our luggage and winter uniforms we'd stored there in June before we'd left for the Pacific. The uniforms had been cleaned and pressed and placed in moth proof bags by the hotel company. The charge on mine was $7.50. We went on over to the Whitcomb Hotel - secured our rooms and went up. It wasn't a very nice room from past standards but from what we'd lived in during the past months it seemed pretty nice.
I put a call into Peggy - contacting her in about an hour - it was mighty nice to hear her voice again. Then we contacted Paul Hatlestad in Minneapolis - told him we were in and what we should do. Some of the boys had arrived in Frisco the week before from New Guinea, China, and India - they still couldn't get transportation. "You won't have to go to Wright Field", Paul said. "We have made arrangements whereby you can terminate with the army here in Minneapolis. Priorities are off on the commercial airlines so we can't help you there. I suggest you see what you can do regarding the railroad situation, also, one of you stay put in the United Airlines office and ride them as hard as you can for passage. If they have any cancellations, you'll get on that way. Try to get to Minneapolis as soon as possible. I know that transportation out of Frisco is swamped but do the best you can. The company will handle any expenses you'll have getting back here." That was that. We went down to the bar for a drink and to plan our course of action. The following morning we both went down to the Military Travel Bureau just off Market Street. That was swamped and after standing in line until noon we finally arrived at the desk. "No Pullman reservations available until October 9th. Coach seats available by the morning of October 2nd. Buy your tickets or you'll have to wait until a time beyond that." Cripes! That was a week away - we had to do better than that. We learned that there were 180,000 service men ahead of us on transportation east. We could take turns - sitting in the United Airlines office which was located only six blocks from the Whitcomb Hotel.
I started out the afternoon, sitting in there and inquiring at the desk every half hour. The girl became very disgusted right off and told me off in a nice way. The following day we decided to go in there every two hours and then maybe they'd start to take pity on us. But these poor girls in that office couldn't help it - there just wasn't space for us and it was no fault of theirs.
The day wore on - we wired Hatlestad the predicament and received no reply. We began to get pretty disgusted as there just didn't seem any way of getting out of that town. We thought of getting on a bus and shipping our luggage back but a trip to the bus depot convinced us it would be practically impossible - they too were swamped - men crowded in lines to the ticket offices. "After riding from Kwajalein to Johnston on three engines and also another about to go out I'll be damned if I'm going to battle for a ticket to ride a Prairie Schooner home", Tuthill said.
But it began to look very dark and desperate for us. That evening we had a few snorts at the Whitcomb bar and then went out to Fisherman's Wharf for a fish supper. The following morning we continued the ritual - Tuthill visiting the airline office every few minutes and I went back down to the Military Travel Reservations Bureau where I stood in line about two hours only to be informed that Pullman reservations were not available until the 19th of October. Coach tickets available for trains leaving the 7th of October. The situation was getting worse. We could only hold the room at the Whitcomb for five days and we were about to spend the third night. I saw Shorty Voass (a Honeywell man returned from India) at the Military Reservations Bureau. He'd been in Frisco eight days already and had a ticket to leave on the 29th - two days away. We learned that Sanderson had gone down to Los Angeles by train to try his luck getting out of there (he arrived in Minneapolis a couple of days after we did).
I was over to the airline office in the afternoon and during that time Tuthill got to conversing with a naval officer in the Whitcomb Hotel who'd given Toby a good tip. This naval officer knew a fellow over in a railroad reservation office that handled reservations for civilians - also was the guy that knew when some of these civilian reservations were canceled. He'd known of other naval officers who'd secured passage through this man and it looked like a good deal. When I arrived back at the hotel, Toby and I contacted him by phone. His name was Mr. Patta. No, he didn't have anything and there was nothing in view - he suggested we go down to the reservations bureau - well, we'd done that plenty - well, he'd let us know if anything turned up.
It didn't sound very encouraging. We were no further ahead than when we'd reached Frisco and this was already September 28th. We decided to go down to the railroad office on the following morning and talk to this man Patta. This we did and after practically crying our hard luck story on his shoulder he said he'd inform us if anything turned up. I told him there'd be ten bucks in it for him if he could get us lines up.
We spent the rest of the day between the railroad office and the hotel. At 5:00 PM when we were in the room the telephone rang. It was Mr. Patta. Cancellations had come in on a state room on the "City of San Francisco" a mainliner train to Omaha. "Get down here by 6:00 PM and I think I can line you up." We were there in 15 minutes. The compartment cost us $22 a piece plus the first class passage. It was for three persons and the other space would be turned in to the military bureau. The train was to leave Frisco the evening of October 1st - two days off. We bought those tickets in a hurry - and both of us gave him a $5 dollar tip - it was worth it. We were happy. I wired Peggy to meet me in Minneapolis on October 4th as we'd be able to catch a day coach from Omaha to Minneapolis on the night of the third.
We would have to hold the room an additional night over our 5 day limit. We went to see the hotel manager - explaining our predicament. He was a swell guy - extended our stay one day longer than we were rightfully allowed. We relaxed, had a good dinner that night in the "Kublakahn" restaurant in China Town. I called Jessie's wife in Los Angeles and the following day sent her the one dozen roses Jessie had wanted me to send. We went sight seeing on September 30th - seeing all the things in Frisco we'd missed seeing on the way out. Finally, on the evening of October 1st we took a taxi down to Union station. Here we boarded a ferry boat and sailed across Frisco Bay under the Oakland Bridge to Oakland. There was a large neon sign across Oakland Bridge which said "Welcome Home to a Grateful Nation". This was the first and only good sized boat ride I'd had in travels half way around the world and back.
A Red Cap took our luggage back on the depot and they'd be placed on the train. We arrived and boarded the car - our compartment was wonderful - spacious and had a private toilet and washroom. The conductor came in and wondered where the third party was - we of course didn't know, all we could tell him was what Mr. Patta had said. Soon he came back with another old grouchy conductor. They stood outside our door and talked for awhile - finally entered and said, "You'll have to pay $22 for the space of the other occupant before we'll clear your ticket - if another passenger arrives for the space before we leave we will redeem the ticket." Tuthill and I had to cough up another $11 a piece (the company paid it back to us in expense account).
There was a small davenport and a couple of cushioned seats. The seats could be made up into a regular Pullman upper and lower and the davenport into another bed. The Porter came in and asked us which beds we prefer - naturally we wanted the two lowers - which seemed to make him happy too. We gave him a good tip with a promise to take good care of us on the trip to Omaha. It was the first time I'd ever rode in the first class compartment of a nice train and it was quite an experience. This particular car was entirely composed of cabins similar to ours. It was new, clean and nice. We went to bed early and during the night I could see that we were moving through mountains. The Porter called us on the breakfast call at 8:00 AM - Frisco time. We were already in Nevada - a dreary unscenic country. We stood in line for breakfast and then back to our cabin to read most of the forenoon. It was nice to read newspapers again - and especially the funny papers - we hadn't had them out in the Pacific. We were back in the dining car for "first call for lunch" and then back to the cabin. Both Toby and I had brought a bottle along in our bags so in the afternoon Toby said, "Herb, this Nevada scenery is lousy to look at - you and I might just as well do a little serious boozing." We rang the porter and he secured us a few bottles of Coca-Cola and some glasses and chipped ice.
We pulled into Ogden, Utah that night for a 40 minute stop. We got out and walked around on the station platform to get a little exercise. I had on my Class A uniform -pinks and blouse and my top coat but still I froze - God this country was cold. I'd have to acclimated all over again. We had a good nights sleep then amused ourselves the following day looking at the scenery through Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. God it was good to get back into God's country again.
Our train was over three hours late and Toby and I were to catch a train out of Omaha at 11:40 PM for Minneapolis. We pulled into the station at 11:30 PM and thank God, the other train was out of the same station. Our conductor told us the track it was on. We ran with our luggage - arriving over at the train just a few minutes before it was ready to pullout. We didn't have any tickets but a little pleading with the "just getting home from the Pacific, etc.", softened the heart of the conductor and he let us on the train which was heavily crowded. There was one seat left on the coach and Toby and I took turns sitting on this - some difference between this and the train we'd just got off. But we'd soon be in Minneapolis where I'd made reservations at the Nicollet Hotel for Peggy and me. This was an old coach with the typical old hard straight back seats. I sat on my B-4 bag in the aisle - leaning my head over on Toby's lap. I did doze off for a few winks of sleep only to be awakened at every town at which the train stopped - which was every one as this train was a local.
We arrived at the Northwestern depot in Minneapolis at 10:30 AM the following morning, October 4th, 1945. It was great to see that old city again. Toby's wife was there to meet us - those two were happy to see each other. I could hardly wait to get up to the Nicollet and see Peggy - I thought she'd surely be there. I stepped into the phone booth - called Hatlestad up at the plant and let him know Tuthill and I were back. "I'd like to have you up here to the plant about 2:00 PM. Sure glad you made it out of Frisco Herb. Some of the boys - Grazda and Wascavage are still there." I thought he'd talk an hour and I was jumping up and down with anxiety to get up to the hotel and see if Peggy was there. Mrs. Tuthill had her car there and she and Toby gave me a lift up to the Nicollet Hotel which was only a few blocks from the depot.
The bell hop took my bags and I rushed to the desk. They had my reservation but Mrs. Bach had not checked in yet. I was disappointed. I went up and checked into the room, had a bath and shave, then went down to the Nicollet coffee shop for something to eat. I decided I'd go back up in the room and call the Great Northern to see what time their train came in from Sioux Falls - either in the morning or night - I thought perhaps Peggy would be coming in on the evening train then.
I decided I'd go out to the plant at about 12:30 PM. and catch Paul when he got back from lunch and then be back in time to meet Peggy if she came in late in the afternoon. I went down to the desk and scribbled a note to be left in the box to let her know I was out at the plant in case she should arrive before I got back. I discovered I'd forgotten my papers up in my musette bag so I took the elevator back up to the room to get them. I was just ready to leave when the door opened and here was a bell hop with a bag and behind him the prettiest brown eyes in the world - my precious little wife - Peggy. Words cannot express the happiness and gratitude of seeing her again after four months of being away. Seeing her and seeing Sandy and little Bobby in Chester a few days later were the most happy moments in my life. I hope I never have to be away from them again.
Automatic Ground Leveling Device
The nomenclature given to the autopilot on the B-29
Initial point of the bomb run
Pilots Directional Indicator
Army Transportation Corps
This story referred to several times in the diary was one told by C.H. Smith. Dad could not recollect the actual lines, but it was apparently a story told with the use of a billed cap. It involved two Scottish men....a young soldier and an old veteran of a previous war. As the story is told, the bill of the cap is forward on the head for one of the men as that person speaks and is then reversed while the lines of the second person are spoken. It is quite a sight gag with two types of Scottish brogue used, and with the cap's bill going forward and back at ever increased repetition became quite something to observe. With Smith's talent for story telling, it was quite a performance.
Content ©2005, Robert Bach
Edited for the web by Larry Miller and used with permission
January 1, 2005