38BG Stories From The Front
Colonel O,Neill is ordered home and Major Krell decides to leave with him
"Sept. 13 Crackup & formation of the 38th"
22nd Bomb Group
By Walter Krell
Computer transcription by his daughter, Michelle Krell Malone
Mr. Larry Hickey
In reply to your letter of 4/5/88, I'll try to answer your questions directly.
The crew members were: W. Krell, pilot; Graham Robertson, co-pilot (Australian); Gene Grauer, navigator; Pat Norton, radio operator/waist gunner; John Foley, turret gunner; John Engleman, engineer/tail gunner; Walter Darden, bombardier/nose gunner.
The crew chief was John Wilson, who came from Kansas and named the aircraft ÒKansas Comet.Ó He painted this in yellow capital letters five or six inches high on the side of the fuselage under the pilotÕs side windows, both sides. This was done sometime in May, 1942, when we were stationed at Garbutt Field in Townsville, Australia. After each mission, Wilson would paint a little yellow bomb with a stencil, about the same height as the letters in a row underneath the letters. I believe there were some 20-odd of these little bombs painted on the sides at the time of our crackup, and Wilson had started a second row below the first row.
The wreck took place on September 13, 1942. Gaylor asked me to write up the details, which I did. Enclosed is a copy of what I sent him on this ordeal.
The airplane, a B-26 #1433, was painted like the rest of the Group, that drab camouflage brown, gray underbelly, junction of the gray and brown, a wavy, irregular line along the lower side of the fuselage.
It was during the spring and early summer of 1943 that the cadres to form the 822 and 823 squadrons were provided from the existing two squadrons of the 38th Group at 17 Mile in New Guinea. Squadron areas were prepared, as well as roads, the mess hall, tent areas, and showers. New B-25s with the 75mm guns positioned in the bombardier crawl space were arriving in Brisbane during this period. Flight cadres and ground maintenance personnel for both the 822nd and 823rd were assembled at Charters Towers west of Townsville during the summer of 1943. New replacement flight crews and aircraft were received, and organization and training took place at Charters Towers on into the fall of that year. All aircraft had to be cycled through the 4th Air Depot in Townsville to have added the blister of two 50 caliber guns on both sides of the fuselage during this period.
Col. Brian ÒShantyÓ O'Neill, C.O. of the 38th Group was suddenly ordered back to the States for medical treatment as aftermath of the tragic lye burn episode. Enclosed is the brief on Shanty that I wrote in 1986 when he died.
Anyway, Shanty had offered me the command of the 38th Group. I was then becoming increasingly aware of a worsening condition in my neck, back, and legs as a result of the September 13 crackup. My reactions and speed in the cockpit were slowing, and I found myself stopping to think about things that formerly were just automatic lightening moves.
We were much too busy for me to stop and try to get straightened out, and yet here was that increasing worry that I could make a bad judgment and get a bunch of guys hurt. It was a hard choice to forego-- the command of a group--but for the good of all, I knew it was right and so Shanty and I returned to the States sometime in December, 1943.
So there in Australia, I turned the 822nd over to Carl Lausman, who took it into combat and later was killed.
Barney Johnson had the 823rd Squadron from the outset, and I presume he followed through.
I suppose Larry Tanberg was next in line to take over the 38th.
The enclosed pictures are all I’ve got. They may not be much help.
There was an awful lot of activity between the lines here that I don't want to get lost in, but will offer it if you should ask.
One last thing, Larry. During the past year, there seems a lot of interest in that damned crackup at Iron Range. I’d rather tell all to keep the record straight, but hope that it’s not forgotten that that poor little airplane served well in keeping the Japanese off balance on a lot of nasty little raids that have never been talked about. We didn’t have cameras, we didn’t get medals in the 22nd, and the only leadership we had was the willingness of the individual pilots to go out and raise hell. Anytime I had a tight formation of good B-26 pilots wrapped around me, I felt we could go anywhere, and playing with Zeros eventually got to be a real sport.
Good luck on your book. How anyone can assimilate all this stuff and keep their sanity deserves a DFC of their own.