38BG Stories From The Front
136 missions, 9 Zekes, 3 Ships accounted for in Almost Two years of Combat
The pride of the 405th Bomb Squadron “Green Dragon” strafer, the aptly named “Tokio Sleeper” has already compiled enviable combat record of 136 missions in slightly less than two years in the Southwest Pacific area. This is believed to be a world’s record for B-25 Strafers. During this time, she accounted for 9 Jap Zeros destroyed in aerial combat, and definitely sunk two large transports and a destroyer; besides destroying innumerable barges. It all started on a dark, murky night in early August, 1942 when the Tokio Sleeper first landed in Australia. She was one of a Group of B-25s which had just completed the long Pacific hop from the United States. This was the first time that the planes had been brought over with their own combat crews. Little did Captain Bob Herry of Sequin, Texas, realize that he had just brought in the plane destined to become the most famous B-25 in the history of the battle against Japan in the Southwest Pacific?
After a month of transition in Northern Australia, the Tokio Sleeper: officially known as B-25C-1, 41-12905, winged her way out of Horn Island on 15 September, 1942 on her first combat mission against the Japs. Buna was bombarded and 905 was successfully starting on a long and glorious career. During the next several months she compiled 42 combat missions as a medium bomber against Buna, Lae, Salamaua, Gasmata, Soputa, the famous Wairopi Bridge, Kokoda, Mambre, Gona, Finschafen and Malahang. Her first bid for SWPA fame came on New Year’s Eve of 1942, when she was the only plane to get over the Owen Stanley Range through very bad weather and bomb strongly defended Lae. Four Jap bombers were destroyed on the ground there by the lone attacker.
Shortly after this, all B-25 medium bombers were being converted into Strafers: a minimum altitude bomber fitted with 8 fixed .50 cal. guns in the nose. Before the Tokio Sleeper had a chance to become a strafer, a large Jap convoy was reported to be sighted in the Bismarck Sea. All 5th Air Force planes were alerted for action; and mast high bombing and strafing were to be used for the first time in the Pacific theater. It was firmly believed by General Kenny that the guns in the nose would sufficiently protect the low level Strafers against heavy machine gun fire. However the Tokio Sleeper had no guns in the nose for protection. But still and all, when the command came to attack the huge Jap convoy, she was right in the front line of the Mitchell Strafers. Her feats that day are among the most famous in the Green Dragon history to date. Captain Bill Brandon of Fort Worth, Texas, and his crew skip-bombed direct hits into a Jap-laden transport, a big destroyer and a large oiler. The transport and the destroyer sunk shortly afterwards, while the oiler was listing badly.
The sensational luck of the Tokio Sleeper held out until the memorable raid on Lae, 26 June, 1943. The Japs tried hard to even up the score against old 905 that day. The Nips succeeded in hitting her with everything but the kitchen sink. They shot out her rudder and elevator cables, smashed the turret gunner’s dome and literally riddled her fuselage and right stabilizer with bullets and ack-ack shrapnel. During the ensuing attack by Jap Zeros, her crew shot down in flames two of the attackers. The Tokio Sleeper barely limped home over the Owen Stanleys that afternoon and the pilot, Captain, Ed Adkins of Bakersfield, California, made all of the other crew members bail out despite their strong protests. Captain Adkins then brought her in at 170 mile per hour and saved her for further combat, in one of the prettiest crash landings ever made. Technical Sergeant Clyde A. Gillenwater of Saltsville, Va.and the rest of his maintenance crew immediately started repairing her for another crack at Tojo. After several days, the Tokio Sleeper was raring to go.
The Fifth Air Forces’ first devastating raids on Wewak began a few weeks later. On 17 August, 1943, a large convoy of Jap ships was reported in the harbor at Wewak. In the attack that day, the Tokio sleeper really did herself a masterful job. Lieutenant Roy Grover of Salt Lake city, Utah and his crew laid two 1000 pound bombs right into the side of a large Jap transport which exploded and sunk within two minutes. In pulling up over the stricken ship, Lieutenant Grover had to fly right between the masts and he brought back a long piece of the Jap radio antenna imbedded deep in the right wing of 905 to verify his startling account. The finest set of pictures ever taken by this squadron showed the Jap transport exploding and sinking out of sight within a few minutes.
Shortly after the Wewak successes, Yank Magazine conducted a contest to determine which bomber in the SWPA had the most missions to its credit. So the Tokio Sleeper had 77 bombs representing 77 missions painted on her side and was entered in the contest. She was awarded third place, just 7 missions short of the prize-winning entry, a B-24. This publicity stunt almost proved fatal to the career of old 905. The very next day while attacking Wewak again, Lieutenant Grover in the gaudily decorated Tokio Sleeper was picked out and savagely attacked by Jap Zeros. Two Zeros were shot down by the turret gunner in the furious battle that followed. Once again, old 905 limped home badly riddled. Needless to say, the bombs were hastily painted off her side that very same day.
The Tokio Sleeper has worn out seven engines so far, and has had many of her parts replaced several times. She has been shot up very badly on ten different occasions besides the many minor damages she managed to pick up along the way. She has hit all of the major targets in the SWPA, including Lae, Wewak, Rabaul, Cape Gloucester, Momote and Hansa Bay.
This morning she is winging her way to Hollandia as part of the first minimum altitude bombing-strafing attack on that strong Jap base. It may well prove to be another famous chapter in the astonishing career of this aptly-named Tokio Sleeper.
JOHN F. McCARTHY, Jr.
Captain, Air Corps,
Statistical Control Officer,
405th Bomb Squadron (M).