THE 71ST'S FIRST MISSION
BY Elmo G. Knutson
" I was asigned to the 38th Bomb Group, 69th Squadron, 11/41, as a radio operator-gunner on their B-18s, but a couple weeks later they brought in B26s as replacements which proved interesting and dangerous."
"In 1/42 we started overseas. Combat were sent to Angel Island to wait for planes; ground crews went to Austrailia. In 4/42 we went back to Patterson Field to crash some more B26s, and soon thereafter the 69th and 70th went to Fiji and New Calidonia in B-26s but personnel were exchanged with the 71st and 405th. I was reassigned to the 71st and assume those from the 70th were assigned to the 405th."
"In May or June two squadrons of B'25s came into Patterson Field and the B-26s were flown out. Four radio operators of the 71st stayed with the B-25s in the new 71st squadron. I was assigned to Ezra Best's plane while we trained in Patterson. In 7/42 we went to Sacramento to pick up new new B-25s to fly to Australia. There was much concern whether the planes carried enough fuel to reach Hawaii without wing tanks. we did not have outboards, but after many test flights we did fly them over."
"My first mission was from Horne Island to 7-Mile to add fuel, and on to Buna, the first tactical mission flown by the 71st. My last Mission was the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. I left for home in 7/43 and was assigned to Greenville AAB until discharg in 9/45.
TRAGEDY AT THE 405TH
By Lew Pavel
With squadron areas at 17 Mile Strip, non-mission planes would buzz their squadron HDQ to request transportation be sent for them. One day in early '44 as I left my tent, a B-25 buzzed over. As it pulled up sharply to continue to the strip something fell through the floor.
(This was shortly after our belly turrents had been removed to allow for the installation of disposable fuel tank. This greatly extended our range and was dropped as we initated our target run, a technique resulting in a very nasty surprise for the Japs when our first attacks on Wewak--well beyond normal range--caught most of their aircraft on the ground resulting in one of the most devastating strike of the war. When flying withhout that tank, the hole in the bottom of the plane was covered with a piece of plywood.)
I assumed that it was a "fat Cat" returning from an Australian supply run and that someone had laid a bag of potatoes on the plywood. Visualizing a respite from the usual dehydrated variety, Iwalked on down the hill to the object, and was stunned and sickened to discover it was a body. I ran down to HDQ but operations personnel were already on their way up the hill.
We later were informed the victim was a GI who had wrangled a ride from Australia to rejoin his unit in New Guinea. Unfotunately none of the crew thought to warn him not to set on the improvised cover, and the sudden increase in G's as the plane left the camp area ended his army career.
BY CLIFF SUTHERLAND
" A pilot names Thompson asked me to go along as a navigator. We left Nadzab up through a pass and on to Hollandia. Our route home was back through the same pass, but as we approached it a tropical rainstrom hit us. As we neared the pass, it seemed a hundred planes were circling wondering what to do. The pilot and co-pilot jerked their windows open, and this soaked my maps and blew them to the floor in a useless wad. It was then that the pilot asked if I had any ideas what to do. Well I had been dating some native girls in the area and knew of a pass that led to the sea and the pilot took that pass. We were followed by 2 B-24s, 3 A-20s and 2 P-38s. The P-38s went into the drink and I never found out what happened to their pilots. The rest of stopped at Finchaven for gas and went on home."
Sutherland stated he flew 52 missions and never got a scratch. Our plane was hit by a piece of heavy glass up at about the pilots head and the cockpit was filled by a whitish powder, but no one was hurt.
He reported his closest shave was at Charters Towers. "We were coming in for a formation landing and prop wash hit us. The left wing nearly hit the ground and the left wheel banged into the runway, they sent us up again with a lead plane so we would not have the jitters. This time the same thing happened and blew the left tire, we took off at 45 degrees headed right at the tower. The man in the tower jumped out and broke his ankle. Pilot Ed McLean and co-pilot Ralph Klus went on around and came in for a nearly normal landing.
HANRAHAN'S NEW GUINEA BY BILL HANRAHAN 823RD
" Some of the experiences in New Guinea can be recalled with fondness only in respect to the association with great young men whose sense of humor carried them thriugh the living conditions at 17-mile on the edge of the Waygon (spelling) swamp. Moving to Nadzab was moving up town.'
" When the 822nd and 823rd, spinoffs of the 71st and 405th respectively, were formed and trained at Charters Towers, conditions were acceptable, and the food was edible-sheep. "Shanty" O'Neill made his first appearence after his hospital stay, but any form of talking on his part was painful. I am sure you are aware of the lye incident."
"Upon arrival at 17-mile, where the 71st and 405th were operational, realization of the New Guinea enviroment hit home. The New Guinea crud, some form of skin eruption, affected some people and the dogs purchased in Australia. A bright purple medicine used on the affected areas was enough to scare the Japs out of New Guinea. I have never to this day seen the volume of mosquitoes at 17-mile even in the Louisiana swamps or Texas rice fields. :
" At Nadzab, someone determined that the kuani grass was too high too close to the living area. A 6 x6 truck was used to pull a wedge through this grass to have some clearance for mosquitoe control. This made the area more visable from the air and chased snakes into the tents. Since everything seemed toxic or poisonous in New Guinea, there were many references to the instigators heritage,"
" In the 823rd we had a supply sgt. in the Chemical Warfare tent who was said to have a PHD in zoology. At least this was the rumor. He (I wish I could recall his name) would go out at night to capture snakes and birds. A green tree python. a 6' lizard and poisonous snakes were his companions in the tent with the gas masks and impregnated wool clothing and blankets. He also painted the panthers on patchs for our jackets. I do not know if he painted the cats on our aircraft."
" B-24s operated off the strip at Nadzab. I recall one B-24 exploding on the runway end while we were awaiting takeoff for a mission. Needless to say, we were delayed two hours. While strafing Hansa Bay shores , George Toothman and I witnessed a direct hit on a B-24, 3000 feet above the point of land and it disapppeared in a puff. Even though we had very little respect for the B-24 aircraft, one incident at Nadzab amazed everyone and provided some entertainment. The crew could not lower the gear and was ordered to bail out. The aircraft was placed on auto-pilot and fighters were ordered to shoot it down. The weather was CAVU and visability was excellent. The fighters made pass after pass at that plane and it would not distruct. I think it ran out of fuel."
"The nose heavy on landing B-25G was determined to be under fire-powered with the 75mm cannon and was dispatched to Townsville for the removal of the 75s and 50s added. However at Alexishaven Bill Branden cured Zeros of head-on passes by firing the 75 at them. Tokyo Rose accussed the 25s of firing bombs at their aircraft. Later the Japs used phosphorous bombs on formations, but other than being colorfull I do not think any damage occured.
I witnessed my first B-25 shot down over Madang on the Alexishaven mission. If I am not mistaken, it was a 405th aircraft. Three men crawled out on the wing, but Zeros made passes and by the time we arrived over the airplane, nothing was visable. Incidentally Zig Zay P-47s were cover-their first mission. One wag in our squadron informed Zig Zag the fight was on the deck and to get the hell downstairs. We saw one Zero in the air that day, and he was chasing a P-47 on the deck until he saw us and made a pass.
Bill recalls that while operating off of 17-Mile strip at Port Morseby weather over the Owen Stanley range produced substantial periods of operational inactivity and accompanying crew boredom.
During one such period, Major Holland Legg, original 823rd CO, became involved in a heated discussion one evening about the ability of the #2 and #3 ships in a 3 ship element to get into formation first. 17-Mile strip was narrow (two B-25s could not pass safely) and the hill at the end of the strip required one lane to turn right and the next to turn left, producing many thrills with 15 second takeoff intervals and prop wash. To settle the question, the next morning three B-25s lined up for take- off and all three ship added power simultaneously for an extremely hairy but ultimately safe take-off. In the interest of safety, it was conceded #2 and #3 tied, with any future such solutions to the question banned.
Cribbage, bridge and poker served to alleviate some of the bordom for the aircrews while the ground crews labored mightily to to achieve maximum availability of aircraft for the next run. Books and periodicals were passed from hand to hand until only tattered remnants remained. Antique movies sometimes interrupted by a single Japanese bomber at 30,000 feet drew full houses. Remember those thrilling day?
A Glowing Report of an additional hardship encountered at 17-Mile Strip in New Guinea- "Our squadron latrine was located about 100 feet from the dispensary and about 200 feet from the mess hall. After a period of use, those large green insects, appearing to be about 1/20 scale of a P-47, multiplied in their new found nursery. In the interests of sanitation, flight durgeon Dr. Daniels decided to soak the pit with kerosene to to discourage further expansion of the green monsters. Naturally some (or all) of us deposited cigarettes into the pit and the contents were set aglow. Of course this unpopular location could not be abandoned until we moved to Nadzab. My guess is the pit is still glowing and any present day archeologists would be stymied in studying this phenomenon ."
" The mess hall was screened , but this did not deter the green bugs entering into this epicurian house, not only not only for inspection but also to sample the efforts of our cooks. Occasionally they would fall into the bread dough, or anything edible--however they would stand out in the baked bread. frankly I haven't eaten raisin bread since then and thoroughly examine my favorite oat meal cookies."
AL BARBOUR 823RD
The mission was flown 6/29/45. There were so many air units in the air hitting Balikpapen that day that a navy destroyer was assigned to act as command post/bombing coordinator. Unfortunately, the communications were abominable and as our B-25s continued to circle without getting any response to to repeated requests for permission to carry out their bomb run, the group leader grew increasiingly concerned about their dwindling fuel supplies. (they were 5 hours into the mission and had another 5 hours ahead of them for the flight back.) Finally a decision was reluctantly reached to make the run without an official go-ahead from the ship and get back to Palawan before they all had to ditch,
As the B-25s moved into attack formation and began their low level pass over the target, the crews were surprized to see bomb craters opening up AHEAD of them. As Trease stated, a B-24 group had chosen that moment to make a high level run over the same are and Grumpy was crippled by a B-24 bomb blast. The plane augered in just offshore, fatally injuring the crew members in the front end of the plane---Clarence Kowalski (P), Joe Rapach (Co_P), Albert Conradi (N) and Rollie Heskett (eng-gun). However the radio operator and the tail gunner in the rear end survived.
ANOTHER VERSION OF THE SAME INCIDENT BY JAMES K HAILEY OF THE 823RD
We took off from Puerto Princesa, Palawan Island, Phillippines 6/29/45, and as we approached the target, we noted the railwar tracks to our left parralling the warehouses. Suddenly the warehouse started exploding from left to right, one immediately after the other. I wondered how the buildings could be exploding so even. Smoke and debris was higher than we were.
" I looked down and saw Kowalski's aircraft below me with a gaping hole about 2 feet in diameter between #1 engine and the fuselage. I had a chance to look up and saw 6 B-24's at about 10 or 12,000 feet with bomb bay doors open. It was the 90th Bomb Group--they had toggled their bombs through us. Kowalski must have been hit by one of their bombs. I heard later that two of the back end crew (gunners) were saved. Kowalski along with the front end crew, was lost with the aircraft.
SILVER STAR AND OTHER INFORMATION BY TOM KIRBY, HEADQUARTERS SQDN
Congradulations to M/Sgt Machiajewski (gunner) who was finally awarded the Silver Star for downing a Zero over Lae, NG, 11/24/42, while on a lone "milk run" reconnaissance flight. It was ceremoniously presented by the TAC Air Group CO Col Jonieg at the Greater Pittsburg International Airport, closest location to Al's home on 11/2/90.
Were you aware two 38th BG'ers were intrumental in developing code designations for Japanese aircraft? S/Sgt Francis Williams and Cpl Joseph Gratton, initially assigned to 38th Bomb Group Headquarters at Jackson AFB, were reassigned to the newly formed Allied Technical Air Intelligence Unit upon arrival at Ballart Australia. There was much confusion in identifing SWPA Japanese aircraft---all single engine -fighters were zeros: anything else was a "Mitsubishi" or a "Nakajima". The increasing variety of aircraft by type and capability was needed to assist in developing combat tactics. Fran suggested using easily -remembered first names-male for fighters and float planes, female for bombers, reconnisance and flying boats; names beginning with "T" were assigned to Transport planes with trainers named after trees and gliders after birds. With the support General MacArthur and Washington approval, the "MacArthur Southwest Pacific Code name system" was initiated with 50 names. By '42 the system was adopted by all US Army and Navy Air Forces, and subsequently the British Air Ministry gave its approval.(members may recall Williams as cartoonist of the "Bliss Blitz" issued to troops aboard the USS Bliss on the way to Australia.)
THE FLYING CHICKEN BY TED BROUGHTON 71ST
Ted Broughton, Palantine ,TX believes many serving with the 71st Squadron from Hollandia, NG, to the Phillippines will remember "Daisey Mae" the flying chicken. Ted was invited to dinner by a Malay missionary, and later visited the family to play "Santa Claus" to the kids, gave the missionary a flashlight and his wife a pair of scissors. "they were very pleased and gave me full grown hen".
"I had all the intentions of cooking her but not having the proper equipment decided to fatten her. The very next day she laid an egg. I was so thrilled that , I fed her again and definately called off the execution though she did not lay an egg the next day. The following day we were moving up, so it was her chance to go for an airplane ride. So I made her a box, made sure she got plenty of air and fedher and watered her well, before takeoff."
"When we landed the pilot asked, "How's the chicken?"I took a look and lo and behold, she had laid another egg while flying at several thousand feet , traveling several miles a minute. I could hardly believe it."
" Thats what I call patriotism-regardless of hardships and abnormal circumstances, she carried out her work as if nothing had happened--so I housed her in GI tent with modern conveniences. I think she's the only hen that ever laid an egg in the air--if not I'll bet she is the only hen that ever laid an egg while flying in a combat zone". Ted informs me that Daisey Mae advanced rapidly in rank--she a promotion with every egg and had worked herself up to 4 star General, but she flew into her nest and broke two eggs. Broughton "busted" her back to private but she came back cackling and a laying!"
FLYING CAN BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH BY RAY LEWMAN 405TH
My first mission was over Manokawri NG, with Red Davis as pilot, as we approached I could see gunfire off to the right which hit our engine. Davis immediately headed for Biak where the engineers building a strip moved off the runway long enough for us to land.
" On the second mission bomb shrapnel and intense ground fire resulted in over a hundred holes in the plane."
My third mission was over Halmhera air field. We were behind the lead plane and were caught in the blast of it's 100 pound bombs. Several of the crew were slightly wounded but we got off the target with everything operating. That was my last co-pilot mission.
"My fourth mission I was so damned nervous I do not recall how we got off the ground and back on again. We ran into weather and could not get to the target. However after that I settled down and flew many more missions, all but two of which were uneventfull."
" In a 9 plane abreast formation over Kendari, the plane on my right was crowded on top of us. I looked up and judged he was only 5 feet above us and ahead was a row of tall trees. Our only option was to go through the trees, which we did without any problem except for limbs hanging all over the plane when we returned."
My last mission we went down the dirt runway of an airfield in the Phillippines just after a rain and when firing the 50's, mud splattered on the windshield. I did see the tall trees ahead and pulled up as fast as I could, bt after I cleared them, I could not get any of the crew to climb out and clean the windshield. Luckily we ran into a squall which did it for us.
TAKING OFF FROM A CONVERTED FIGHTER STRIP ON LINGAYEN
BY GRANT W NELSON 822nd
" We were lined up for takeoff, fourth to go, and as co-pilot I dropped 20 degrees of flaps. As our turn approached , Milt Costello reved up the engines as we both stood on the brakes. The plane ahead of us was 1/4 down the strip when we let her go. we were rocketing down the runway when the air was suddenly filled with red flares from the tower. The plane ahead of us had blown a right main tire. As it slewed around the runway. brakes smoking, we came down on him like a frieght train. Going too fast to hit the brakes, Milt was trying to get the nose wheel up and I was holding the throttles to the fire wall with one hand. ready to pick up the wheels with the other. I knew we were going to hit the other plane so I threw down full flaps. we rose over the troubled plane like an elevator thanks to the increased lift, bounced down on the other side of the plane and staggered into the air almost completely stalled out. I flipped up the wheels to give us a little more speed and helped Milt keep the wheel forward to compensate for the action of the flaps. It seemed like an eternity before I could milk up the flaps and we could start to join the group. I looked back at navigator N.J. O'Brien who was white as a sheet but still twirling three coins as he wiped the sweat from his brow. We continued the mission, too busy to think about what had happened."
" Not until we returned, were debriefed and had our shot of whiskey from Doc Sawyer did the full impact hit me. I kept thinking if it hadn't been for our crew chief, Sgt Evans, who kept those engines fine- tuned we would have all been history."
STRANGE THINGS HAPPEN BY DALE HOWIESON
A humerous but serious wartime anomaly occured in 2/44. The 38th Group with fighter cover departed Port Moresby via the Markham River Valley to destroy enemy aircraft at Wewak. The Japs had the same end in mind with their bombers and fighters headed for Port Morseby. The two formations passed each other on opposite sides of the valley. In the ensuing melee with both formations making 180 degree turns, aircraft were all over the sky before both groups could reform to return to their respective bases. Witnesses Dale Howieson and Sam Zorich stated fighter covers of both sides adheared to their orders to protect their own bombers; as a result not a shot was fired, not a bomb was dropped.
EMERGENCY ON MOROTAI BY DEAN CLARK 822ND
On 11/16/44, immediately after Ormoc Bay, our crew was given a night harassment mission over Lolobata, an island ajacent to Morotai.It had been by-passed en route to the Philippines but was well defended with ack-ack and searchlights.
We took off before midnight with a load of 100pound demolition bombs to be dropped two at a time at intermittent period of 1 to 2 hours. The idea was to keep the Japs awake and perhaps fray their nerves.
All went well for several passes thru searchlights and ack-ack, triggering out our bombs from 8,000 feet. About 4 AM we came off target with our right engine afire. I cut the fuel and co-pilot Don Raymond pulled the extinguisher cord. We crossed fingers until the fire went out seconds later. We feathered the prop, salvoed the remaining bombs, and began let-down toward Morotai on single engine.
Earlier Leo McClory reported a P-61 night fighter looking us over. We didn't give it much thought until decent when the tower informed us our IFF (identification friend or foe) was inoperative-no one was sure who we were! That explained the P-61 - we were mighty glad he was not trigger happy.
After making the tower's requested identifyiny turns while reducing altitude, and being cleared to land, we were informed the base was on a yellow alert-runway lights would not be turned on until final approach. Picture this-pitch black night, no light anywhere on the island, hoping we were lined up with the runway since chances of single taking a combat equipped plane around a second time were slim indeed.
About 1/4 mile out on final approach, the runway lights came on and we quickly set down. The lights were out before we reached the first taxiway. The tower then informed a Jap had followed us in. We exited the plane in a hurry, hit the corel deck, and watched anti-personnel bombs exploding down the runway toward us. Thank goodness the Jap ran out of bombs - 2 or 3 more would have reached our exposed position.
The other crew members (Joe Gully-bombardier, Bill Fanning-engineer, and Roger Coutier-radio operator) agreed the flight was a harrowing experience.
KAVIENG HARBOR RESCUE FROM MANKATO, MN FREE PRESS
On 2/15/44, Eugene Benson's 71st BS B-25 based at Dobodura, New Guinea, was hit by Japanese gunfire during an attack on Kavieng at the west end of New Ireland. With an uncontrollable fire in the left engine, Benson completed the bombing run and ditched the plane in the Japanese controlled harbor.
Benson, co-pilot William Smith and navigator Hollie Rushing clambered through the top hatch and jumped into the ocean, His gunner who bailed out a scant 150 off the ground, and the radio operator were listed as missing and presumed dead.
The spreading flames from the leaking fuel prevented access to the plane's inflatable rubber raft and the three survivors bobbed around on 12 foot swells supported by their Mae West life vests, only superficially injured but facing an uncertain future. About 75 miles south, Nathan Gordon, piloting a PBY Catalina flying boat, circled as search and rescue stand-by for the mission. Alerted that several bombers had crashed at Kavieng, Gordon headed for the area escorted by four P-47s. With fighters pinpointing the individual crash sites, Gordon set the plane down in heavy seas as Japanese 75mm shore batteries tried to get his plane. Taxing to the first raft sighted, Gordon found it empty and immediately took off to be guided to another crash site to pick up six crew members (some seriously injured) who had been exposed to heavy Japanese gunfire for twenty minutes and took off to a third crash site-Benson's. Gathering Benson's crew aboard, little worse for wear despite a two hour soaking, relatively minor cuts and flash burns, Gordon took the PBY off again and headed south, but after about 50 miles, he got a call from a bomber that another plane was down at Kavieng. Returning to the crash site, Gordon found it so close to shore, he had to overshoot the area and taxi back to pick up the 6 survivors from two rafts.
With the overloaded PBY taking on sea water from several popped rivits in the hull, they again lumbered into the air and flew to the hospital facility at Finschaven, NG, where the rescued airman were patched up, with most of them eventually returning to duty.
On recommendation of General Kenney, 5th AF Commander, Gordon was awarded the Medal Of Honor, the first navy man to receive the medal in the South Pacific. Benson received a Siler Star for continuing his bomb run after the plane was hit and for getting the stricken plane down on the water relatively safely. He resumed duty with the Wolfpack and flew another 21 bombing missions for a total of 62 before being transferred stateside for duty as a flight instructor.
71ST SQUADRON---Joe Hollywood (71st) writes he was on two raids from Palawan as top turret -gunner. A friend , radio-gunner George Kleinknecht was one of Kowalski's crew survivors ( Balikpapen Reprise) "Can't recall the tail -gunner also recued by the Australian Cruiser, taken to Morotai, flown back to Lingayen Gulf. Post-war Joe was unable to reach George at 52 Claremont Rd; Palisades, NJ.
SUB-PATROL---Izzy Lodawer (Hq and 71st) reported a little known fact to the "Sun Setters". In the early dawn of 12/8/41, the 38th was alerted for deployment to Savannah, GA. Several B-18as and B-26s departed Jackson, MS, that morning and in the afternoon were flying anti-submarine patrol off the coast of Georgia. The mission was conducted for about a week befor the planes returned to Jackson to prepare for overseas deployment.
FUN IN THE ADMIRALTIES----Joe Blessing (405th) wrote of a memorable night: "I remember running a mission out of the Admiralty Islands, returning there in mid-afternoon. At a ramshackle Offficer's Club we ran into some Navy boys ---Toby McDonald, an ex All American from Harvard and one of the famous Vanderbilt family, owners of half of America's railroads. They invited us on a PT (Patrol Boat) Boat patrol that night to check out Jap shore batteries on New Britain. Knowing how the navy ate, we accepted. After drinks and a great meal of roast beef and real mashed potatoes, I fell asleep but awakened around 2a.m. when all hell broke loose-the Japs really opened up. The navy apparently had all of the info they needed since they turned around and headed back. By then the sea had become so rough I got sick as a dog--there went a great meal"
30 MILE STRIP--Robert H. Plummer (405th) offers additional information to "Early History, History of the 38th" (Mat Gac,) "When the Group left Horn Island, it went to 30 mile strip for about a month, sharing space with two native groups who seemed to want to fight all of the time---with each other. There was an Australian Group which kept the Japs at bay in the meantime."
27-MONTH DUTY TOUR--822ND SQUADRON. One of the longest 38th BG tours of duty was that of armorer-gunner Francis L. Heebner--6/23/43 to 9/30/45--altho assigned to the 822nd (just forming), upon arriviving in Port Morseby he was assigned to servicing planes for the 71st and 405th until their planes arrived from the Charters Towers modification center in late 9/43. (One of the planes he serviced was Pappy Gunns). "Our planes were assigned to the 11/14/43 Rabaul raid. A few days before we took of for Dobadura. the missions originating point. About 90 minutes out , our left engine quit and I literally prayed we would not have to jump back over Owen Stanley range, but the pilot got the plane turned , flew back to 17 mile on one engine--made an excellent landing." Heebner's tour included Nadzab, Hollandia,Biak, Morotai, Lingayen and Okinawa. "Morotai was rough ----Jap raids almost every night. On 10/31/44 three bombers came in low at 4:00a.m. dropping 100-pounders, peppering our tents with Shrapnel. Luckily all our fellows were in the shelter and no one was hurt. A P-61 night fighter shot down two Betty Bombers , but three B-24 Liberators were blown up in their revetments."
LEISURE TIME IN NEW GUINEA 823RD SQUADRON- Dale Howieson's relief from boredom in New Guinea was most difficult--reading material old, books non-existent. For a change of pace, one day Dale and buddy Tom decided to explore a small stream flowing down the mountain behind the tent area in Nadzab. "We had gone quite a way when we saw someone ahead of us--aJap left behind during forced evacuation of the area? We proceede cautiously, my 30 caliber carbine and Tom's 45 at ready. "We were quite relieved to see he was wearing fatigues like ours---turned out he was from the quartermaster unit, releaving his monotony panning for gold in the sand in the bends and along the shore. He showed us a small bottle about half full of gold particles gained through his interesting, profitable hobby. That reminded me that shortly after arriving in Nadzab, I heard about old mining equipment and plumbing discovered along the Markham Valley river. Gold was found in crevices and in pipes of the machinery which needless to say, was torn apart by GIs looking for more.
GOING AND COMING BY BILL McKINSTRY 822ND Bill took to the waterways both going and coming and found both of them interesting experiences. Going overseas on the USS General H. W. Butner in Feruary 1945 as one of a group of A-20 pilots and gunners along with 5000 "jeeps" who had just finished basic training, we were suckers for the ship's crew. Unaccustomed to only two meals a day, we gladly forked over $1.50 for the roast beef sandwiches they were selling. However we did resent the proddings in the ribs with the billys of the MPs when it was announced "Now hear this!All hands below decks". As Army Air Force crews , we considered ourselves as better than cattle and one of our guys came up with a great idea. We had all been issued .45 automatics (no ammunition) and he suggested that on the morrow, we wear the holster and 45s over our shoulders and under our B-4 jackets. The expression on the faces of the SPs when they started prodding and we all unzipped those jackets was a joy to behold! They never prodded us again
COMING HOME on the SS George Middlemas with 68 rotation points in December '45 we ran into a typhoon and rough seas for several days. I was bunked in gun-crew quarters on the fantail and had to use the ropes they strung from there to midships to get to the messhall. After it got calm, walking the deck amidship, I looked over the side and noticed a wrinkle in the hull that went below the water line. Only when I saw one at the same location on the other side did I grasp the significance. The typhoon d--n near broke the ship in half!-but it did get us home.
THE LONG WAY TO NEW GUINEA by James W. Ballow 822nd As a member of the822nd squadron, I experienced an extraordinarily long voyage with members of the 823rd. The journey began at Camp Shanks, Nyack, NY, 5/43, boarding a troop train to Weehawken, NJ. There we boarded a ferry boat (displacing morning commuters) to Staten Island and were loaded on the troopship "Henry Gibbons". On 5/15, we got underway in a convoy of 4 troop ships with several destroyers as escort. The New York departure convinced us we were headed for Europe, but we sailed steadily south and were soon in the Carribbean where we suffered several U-boat alerts. Days later we had the wonderful experience of passage through the Panama Canal with a short stop at Balboa, Panama.
Next, weeks of steaming through the vast reaches of the Pacific. Day after day of tedium and heat in the troop hold with endless crap games (Cook Willy Chin the big winner). Finally, a fuel stop at BORA BORA, Society Islands, where we could only stand at the ship's railing and admire the tropical paradise. Onward we sailed eventually making landfall at Brisbane, our supposed destination--but we were needed in New Guinea and could not debark,( a few of the boys got off before word was received). Our Merchant Marine crew wanted no part of the combat zone, was replaced by local personnel, and we were off again to the open sea, at long last arriving at Port Morseby 6/23/43. We were taken to the beach in a French corvette and trucked to 17-Mile Strip where we were welcomed by 1st Sergeant Weldon Ghastley and given work details before we evan got our land legs. With almost 6 weeks on the oceans travelling over 12,000 miles, we probably had more time and distance than many navy veterans.
Incidently, the 348 Fighter Group, first p-47s on the SWPA, was on the Gibbons, and I vividly recall the morale building efforts C.O. Colonel Neil Kirby ( awarded The Congretional Medal Of Honor post-humously) who treated our B-25 guys like his own. (Ballow was a Sgt-ass't crew chief and also flight engineer for a short time on the squadron's C-47. "Fat Cat")
A MATTER OF HONOR BY ERNEST E. ORR 71ST
Ernest E Orr introduced an ethical question stimulated by an experience following the placing of a stone on the Meriweather County (GA) Court House lawn,, honoring soldiers from that county who lost their lives in combat, He was approached by two womed whose sons were killed in training (one before leaving the states) wondering why they were not listed on the stone since they were just as dead from service to their country as those so honored.
"This is a rather unpleasat subject, but the question brought to mind a tent mate, Aubrey L. Atkins, who was killed in a training flight at Breddon Drome, Australia, but was not listed in the 71st roster which was made up while we were still there--and he is just as dead as the two tentmates who died in combat--Owen C. Remillard and Camillio J. Morgantl"
(Orr reminds the editor of 6/27/43 when his crew flew Townsville to Charters Towers for 4 plane formation practice--takeoff, assemble. land,rotate lead--repeat. The third go, #4 came in high on our left , slid over us to drop into position #4 but hit the plane on the right, both crashing into scrub wasteland. Upon radioing we were ordered back to Townsville. Newmans 6-man crew and Davis's 4 were all killed (navigators and gunners were not required--and I questioned my action of accepting Lt Peebles invitation that day). The point remains that ten good men were just as dead as if downed in combat. Were they any less deserving than those who were?)
NOT ALL OF THEM WERE TOUGH BY GEORGE REED 405TH
While flying combat was rough duty, George V. Reed reminds us not all missions were tough--and this one, along with "Fat Cat" trips to Sydney, will never be forgotten. We were staging out of Dobadura, NG, striking Kavieng and Rabaul, when Ops Officer Jesse Foley asked pilot Collins and myself if we would like special duty. John agreed, so we picked up two USN JG's to show them the area. After flying over Cape Gloucester and the Admiralty Islands, they remarked, "this is all well and good but what about this Goodenough Island we've been hearing about?"
" Our crew had heard about Goodenough but never seen it. We knew there was an emergency fighter strip there and a few natives, but it had no military value. Collins had alot of faith in his navigator (me) who found it all right -- but we had been warned not to stare at the natives--"wear your shades!" we'd been told--and what a sight--all those beautiful, nubile, topless, light colored gals. And what a bug-eyed crew!-- took Bud Yeoman three days to get his eyeballs to recede." (George stated a meternal ancestor was named Goodenough and wondered if some previous generation had visited and named the Island.)
DETACHED DUTY BY BILL GARLAND, 405TH- early in 1944 while home-based at Nadzab, we were dispatched to to operate for a few missions out of Merauki on the southern coast of New Guinea. wWe put tents, air mattresses,mosquito nets and mess kits in the rear fuselages of the B-25s and went over the mountains to that fine resort city. We pitched our tents under the coconut trees and stood in line with our mess kits for those great picnic lunches. The targets we hit did not have any memorable names; however you can't tell that to Andy Beverage. He, his navigator and one of his gunners were wounded on one of these milk runs.
After a few days of this "plush living" Johnny Carte and I were given the go sign to hop down to Aussie Land and fill our birds with those tall bottles of Australian Ambrosia. Upon our return we landed after a rain squall passed by and parked our birds containing the precious cargo.
Some non-thinking character informed several ground crew members the beer was only for flying personnel. Needless to say our mechanics, armorers,radio repairmen, crew chiefs, etc; were not to be denied. Somehow all of the saturated personnel were rounded up although some were found in mighty odd places--strange as it may seem, I don't recall this incident affecting our flying schedule.
DOUBLE DUTY BY GRANT W. NELSON 822ND-Flying co-pilot with John Collins, we took a ground force Colonel to Los Negros Island. No sooner had we landed on the short, narrow strip than we were contacted by the ground forces asking whether we could drop bombs from our plane. We assured them that we could, and an armament man promptly supplied us with two bombs (250-or 500 pounders) loading of which was a feat initself.
We took off with an infantry captain who knew the target, made a practice run over it and the second time around dropped one of the bombs. The captain was very pleased, so we hit the target the second time per his instructions, then back to the landing strip about a 1/4 mile from the fighting. Operational time about 20 minutes. The infantry Captain requested a repeat performsnce. They loaded two more bombs and we hit the target again-two missions in 40 minutes. Would they were all this easy.