38BG Stories From The Front
This mission was flown from Okinawa on 5 August 1945
Mission: Tarumizv, Kyushu
By Jack Cox 405th Sqdn (This is Jack's memory of August 5, 1945, some details maybe affected by the passage of time)
The night before the mission, after having seen I our names on the next day's mission list, we all met in the Group Headquarters tent on Okinawa, for briefing. You were always uneasy after seeing the mission list, not knowing what to expect, but that evening things didn't get any easier when the briefer stepped up to the map and pointed the next day's target—Kagashima bay!
A low chorus of "Oh no" as the track showed us going through the narrow mouth of the bay, an area of Japanese real estate almost solid with little red dots that showed the location of ack ack emplacements.The briefer was quick to allay some of our misgivings by advising us that the guns were upon the headlands surrounding the entrance to the bay. While I do not remember, it seems they were a few hundred feet high. The briefer continued "Those guns cannot be lowered below zero degrees, and you are going in right on the deck, below their field of fire.Then another shocker, it would be a 500 plane mission. That may no seem like much to those that flew in Europe, but to us was unusual as we normally flew as single group missions. This was to be a mix of fighter, heavies, and with us at low level.
The next morning after squadron briefing, we picked up escape kit, etc. climbed on to trucks, and headed to Yontan airstrip. It was some kind of strip; jam packed with all types of airplanes all over the place. Lt. Brady was assigned the slot position of our squadron. I was flying number five on his right wing. It was really something to watch the 38th take off. We all followed pretty much two by two up the taxi way to the end of the runway for takeoff The lead flight would start take off, flight units, followed by 3-4 second intervals by the balance of the squadron in pairs, one slipping to the left and the other to the right. With 24 planes, the entire group in the air or rolling within about 2 minutes. The lead plane would fly out about 5 minutes and make a slow turn to the left. By the time he came back over the field, the group would be in formation.
We flew a loose formation on our way to Kyushu, and I remember a small volcanic island we always went over where you could smell the sulfur even up at our altitude. By the time Kyushu began to show up we had tightened up the formation and dropped right down on the deck. We went right through the middle of the slot between the headlands. Sure enough there was a lot of anti-aircraft fire going, off over our heads, but down at our level, I did not see any.Our target was Tarumizu, located on the east side of Kagashima Bay. We made a mistake by going down the right side right over the beach. There was a tremendous volume of very accurate small arm machine guns, and the air was full of those little white polls of smoke. Flying on Lt Brady's right wing I saw one of those hit his right engine and almost immediately he began to fall back At that time we were nearly to the target and he was supposed to pull us up in a line abreast. But the heavies had been there before us and the whole place was one big blanket of smoke. He was never able to get us into position and I remember seeing, just before entering the smoke, a yellow one man raft in the water. As we went into the smoke there were huge cinders floating all around us.
When we came out of the smoke there was a lot of confusion, and it seems to me instead of going out through the mouth of the gulf as we came in, he took us right down on the ground out to the ocean. By that time we had fallen behind the rest of the group, and I was on the horn with the lead plane. The left wing man (and I don't remember who it was) stayed back with us, and we crossed the shore and relaxed a little when we were out of range of all those guns.The lead plane called and asked how Brady was doing, and I_ told him, "I. think he is doing. a little better. He has picked up about 50 feet and 5 miles an hour." He had never been able to get that right engine feathered, and I had no more than said that when I saw left engine start to windmill and he started down. I went down with him and moved over to his left side. I lowered my flaps to stay behind. There were huge swells running that day, I felt there was little chance they could ditch and be able to get out.When they hit the water the nose section broke off, and those eight 50s flew way out into the ocean. His entire plane did a nose dive under the water, I thought that was the end. Then the plane backed up and popped out of the water. They all began scrambling out. I guess, because of the terrific impact, the fuselage had buckled enough to jam the door to their life raft, for they were unable to get it out. We called for air-sea rescue and began to circle.
The plane must have floated for five minutes or so, after it went down, we lost them. We circled as tight as we could but it is difficult to see anyone in that kind of sea. They broke out the sea marker and from then on we never lost sight of them. We knew there were major Japanese fighter air fields within minutes flying distance, so I advised the gunners to be on the lookout for them. I felt certain they would show up. Sure enough one of the gunners called, "Boggies coming in". Then almost at once he advised, "They are P51s". Now we had fighter protection. There were other problems; the crew in the water had nothing but Mae West life vests but no life raft. I sent the co-pilot (I think this was his first mission) to the rear of the plane, instructing him to take the fire axe and cut our life raft out of its container. I had considered popping it out but was afraid it would strike the tail section. It was not a good idea as back at the base, I got a real chewing out.
It was not too long until a "Dumbo" (Catalina flying boat) showed up, after he had circled a few times to size up the situation he pulled out and made an approach but when he hit the water, he must have hit a big swell and bounced at least 50 to a 100 ft in the air. He tried twice and then gave up. For some reason (we must have been on different frequencies) we could never contact any of the planes that showed up to help. However, it seemed like an hour, but could not have been more than a few minutes when a"Jukebox" (B17 rescue) came up. He looked good with that huge lifeboat strapped on underneath. He circled and circled, but he did not drop the boat. I was upset with that. Then a dark shadow under the water appeared and up carne one of our submarines. We saw them take the crew on board. By that time, we were beginning to be concerned about fuel so we high tailed it for Okinawa.