38BG Stories From The Front

29th Mission Of Jack H. Bleuler

38TH Bomb Group, 822nd Squadron
March 20, 1945

Frank Lee was the pilot and my diary reads “We hit a Jap convoy off the China coast, two destroyers, one destroyer escort and two merchant ships. I saw two of our planes go down in flames, although one ditched in the center of the convoy. Ack-ack was terrific. One destroyer tracked us with a 75 mm all the time we were coming in and breaking away. He was just one shot behind us every time. They were throwing everything from broadside at us. We skip bombed with two 1000 pounders and the two transports were damaged." 

My thoughts about this mission are as follows:

We were flying off the coast of China, which we could see, somewhere between Swatow and Amoy when the convoy was spotted. I first noticed it when ack-ack shells started breaking around us. I believe we were flying at about 4,000 to 5,000 feet. We banked sharply away from the coast toward the convoy which was spread out and dived toward one of the two merchant ships in the center. We leveled off right on top of the water and leap-froged over the merchant ship, dropping two bombs which straddled the ship. From the tail vantage point I was raking .50 caliber fire across the merchant ship and at the nearest destroyer which was perhaps a quarter of a mile away. I saw our bombs go off on each side of the ship. No direct hits but close enough for perhaps some damage.

Coming off of the target, I noticed one plane on fire that was preparing to ditch, but we had our hands full as at least one destroyer was tracking us with probably a 5 inch gun as the shell bursts were large and about 50 feet over the water and above us.  As the shell bursts kept getting lower (we were zig- zagging at about 10-15 feet over the water) I called  the pilot to go higher as I could see the shrapnel hitting the water, so up we would go. This continued up, down and sideways in a cat and mouse game that seemed to me like a life time as I could no longer see the destroyer but could see the shell bursts. I suspect that all of this took place in about 3 or 4 minutes but because of the spread of the convoy it was a an extremely long and scary combat run, but it was not over yet either.

When the shell bursts stopped we pulled up to perhaps 400 feet, and I noticed a B-25 with its right engine on fire at about 300 to 400 feet above the water and parallel to us at about 300yards. It appeared to be flying level for a couple of minutes as we pulled ahead, then suddenly the wing collapsed and the plane fell almost straight down and disintegrated upon impact.( I do not think this was an 822nd plane but I do think the picture was taken from an 822nd plane.) We headed back to Lingayen saddened about the loss of our comrades but just happy to be alive.