On 8/5/45 I was the radio operator-gunner on a low level bombing mission at Tarumizu Kyushu Island. Japan. My job over the target was to throw out leaflets printed in Japanese so I was in a position to note oil and fuel coming out of the right engine. I called pilot Everett Brady who promptly shut down the engine but it would not feather and he warned we'd probably have to ditch and told us to get rid of as much weight as we could.
Tail Gunner Ralph Lawson and I chopped out a window, dumped radios and everthing else we could pry loose, then sat down with our backs to the auxillary gas tank behind the bomb bay. When we hit the water I got a whack on the back of my head and was out for a minute but water coming in snapped me awake.
Ralph was set to go out the window first but when he saw all the water, he suddenly remembered he couldn't swim and froze. We had been told in briefings the B-25 would only float 2 to 3 minutes after coming to rest in the water. I pulled the raft release, kicked Ralph out the window and dove in after him. I helped inflate his Mae West and moved away from the plane so we wouldn't be sucked under.
Brady, Co-pilot Ira Baker, navigator Merle Meacham and engineer/gunner Doyle Anderson were out on the right wing. The life raft door had not opened so I offered to try and release it again, but Brady decided the plane had bulged and the stuck the raft door, so we only had Mae Wests to keep us afloat.
When the crew joined us in the water we found Anderson's Mae West was not working and that he too could not swim. Meacham and I put a salvaged water tight first aid kit under the back straps of Anderson's Mae West and it held him up fairly well, but with 8 to 12 foot waves coming into the bay from the ocean, he ingested quite a bit of water and was sure he would never make it through the next wave, but Meacham helped him stay afloat.
Our group B-25's flew cover for us until fuel ran low and then P-51 fighters took over. On-shore Jpanese started shooting at us and the P-51s strafed them until they quit. A navy PBM plane tried to rescue us but could not land because of rough water. They did drop us rafts and a note telling us a submarine would be by in an hour and a quarter, and flew cover until the finist ship in the navy--USS BLACKFISH--picked us up.
Having lived on short rations on Okinawa for weeks before being shot down, I'ii always remember the first meal on the Sub with a choice of steak, chicken or turkey--but for desert ONLY apple pie and ice cream. We were on the sub for two weeks returning to their home base the day the war was ended. In retrospect I'm glad I learned to swim early and I thank God for his help that day. Without the exceptional skill of our pilot, lots of luck, and the "Old Man" up above, we'd have been just another KIA (killed in Action) wartime statistic.