This mission started out well and then got worse before it got better and turned out very well. Some missions are just bound to succeed. and this was one of them.This was written by Allen Barbour of the 823rd Squadron
THE B-25 MISSION THAT SHORTENED THE WAR
The following report is not intended to downgrade the role of the Enola Gay in hastening the wars end in the Pacific. It's dropping the BIG one was undeniably important, BUT the world should know of an unheralded B-25 mission that must have had a signifacat impact on Japanese moral, spirit and their will to continue the fight. That mission surely deserves a share of the credit for shortening the Pacific conflict. While I cannot remember all the detales, perhaps some of the other players can come forth with their accounts.
Th mission was executed early in 1945- probably March - when the 38th Bomb Group was operating from it's Lingayen airstrip. Japanese troops had pretty well been driven off Luzon and we were putting more strikes into Formosa to neutralize airdromes, troop concentrations, production and distribution networks.
Our target that day was a troop encampment a few miles inland about halfway up Formosa's west coast. I was co-pilot for Bob Campbell, leading 823rds B-25 in the rear element. Idenity of the lead squadron escapes me. We had supported enough of the Army's mop-up operations to learn that these missions could be rough unless the enemy was caught by surprise, and therefore radio silence was essential.
We took off that fateful morning and headed north along Luzon's west coast and open water between the Phillippines and Formosa. At Formosa's southern tip, we followed the west coast to the point where the penetration to the target was to begin. To our surprise and chagrin, the lead element continued northward.
Our navigator identified the river we were to follow and unable to overtake the lead aircraft, bound by radio silence, and in imminent danger of having to abort this vital strike, Campbell made the type of horseback decision reflecting the individual initiative decision for which American Military leaders are noted - he elected to hit the target with the 6 B-25s under his direct control. " That all we need", he said as he banked left in a slow 270 degree turn, rolling out to lead the squadron due east along the river marking our overland route. Minutes later the navigator identified a bend in the river as our landmmark for the target run, and signaled a turn north. Campbell banked left to attack heading as the other aircraft moved into line-abreast positions. Advancing throttles to the firewall we picked up speed as we dived, rounded out at tree top level, and dropped even lower over open fields
We toggled the bomb bay doors open and charged the machine guns, producing reassuring whams from the 8 nose guns and 4 side guns. On we sped, rising over trees and electric wires in our path. We reached the forest and the navigator pinpointed the target clearing directly ahead. Campbell depressed his gun trigger, raking the area with an awesome stream of 50-caliber rounds, slowing the aircraft with each burst and filling the cockpit with the smell of cordite. The other B-25s followed suit as we toggled out cargos of parafrags. It was an exhilarating moment as we sped over the target, flushed with success in achieving complete surprise.
Then an abrupt change in scenario. A line of aircraft was bearing down on us head-on, filling the air with tracers and hot lead, fragmentation bombs exploding behind them. We were looking directly at the business end of a B-25 strafing attack! An instant of wild evasive maneuvering as we sought to avoid collision with the incoming B-25s but at a combined closing speed 600 miles per hour it was over almost in an instant - the other strafers whipped over, under, around and through our group and were gone.
Miraculously we suffered no casualties. Once safely over the water, we climbed to 5,000 feet, circled once to allow stragglers to catch up, and reassembled for the long flight home, relieved to note that all of the lead squadron were in formation ahead.
As we surmised, the mission debriefing revealed the lead squadron had belatedly recognized its navigational error and had turned inland furthher north to make it's target run north to south. It could have been disastrous for us and certainly dramatized the inherent dangers of exercising individual initiative without communication. However, the favorable outcome must have absolutely devastated the enemy - picture the disheveled Japanese CO surveying the result of our strike, lamenting to hi s Exec, " How can honorable Nipponese possibly hope to defeat enemy which can execute a coordinated attack like that?"