38BG Stories From The Front
"It was a dark and stormy night ..."
Actually, that's not the way this story starts It begins in October/November 1944. The 38th was based on Morotai in the Halmahera Island group and the island was being subjected to nightly air raids by Japanese bombers They were making their runs in Bettys, flying at about 20,000 feet These raids were wreaking havoc with our Air Force planes on the ground, destroying as many as 30-40 planes a night.
Despite a tremendous number of 90mm anti-aircraft guns they kept coming. But it certainly was a helluva show as the flak shells burst It was as though there were a thousand fireflies twinkling And, of course the old saying applied, "What goes up, must come down" And down came the shrapnel like a summer rain We all had deep air raid shelters covered with coconut logs and a foot of crushed coral on top of that so only a direct hit on the shelter was a worry.
A squadron of Aussie Spitfire night fighters was brought in commanded by RAAF ace "Killer' Kane The Aussies dove through our flak to get at the Japanese; but were not effective enough So, a simple tactic was devised, to wit Keep a US. bomber over Jap airfields in the area every night all night
These nightly intrusion missions involved sending one plane to the target area where it would orbit the jap airfield at an altitude of roughly 10,000 feet for a couple of hours At half-hour intervals these planes would drop one 500 lb. bomb on the Japanese air strip. This kept them from turning on runway lights for night fighters to take off .Every couple of hours each plane was relieved by another and headed for home
This is where my story begins - headed for home from, if memory serves me correctly, Menado in the Celebes it turned out to be a screwy mission with no enemy contact but hair-raising nonetheless
Our call sign was "Badger Four." We got on course, and I settled back to have a smoke. Our co-pilot was flying the plane and there was a full moon which lit things up nicely. As I looked out the window, I suddenly became aware of a solid under cast that had built up beneath us All fatigue vanished as I realized the predicament we were in We let down until we were right on top of the under cast and began calling Bloomer Tower to get a heading to the strip. There were volcanic mountains in the Halmaheras and we needed a bearing straight to the strip. The dialogue between Badger Four and Bloomer Tower went something like this:
"Bloomer Tower, Bloomer Tower, this is Badger Four, over."
"Roger, Badger Four. This is Bloomer Tower, over."
"Bloomer Tower, this is Badger Four. There is an under cast between us and the ground and ifs going to be tricky getting down without slamming into the side of a mountain I'll give you a long count you give me a new heading"
This conversation kept repeating itself until our navigator told me we were about 10 minutes from our ETA I began a slow circling let-down out over the ocean and pretty soon was in thick "soup." In response to our request Bloomer Tower began flashing a green light while we flashed our landing lights Suddenly, there it was the green light reflected in the clouds Simultaneously, Bloomer Tower said it saw our lights flashing I aimed at the green light and dove down through the remaining clouds We broke out at about 1,000 feet which was well below the surrounding mountains
I called the tower, "Bloomer Tower, Bloomer Tower. This is Badger Four on the downwind leg wheels down and locked Thanks for the help."
Bloomer Towers reply: "Welcome home, Badger Four." Those four words made my day!