Stories

      Touring China in wartime the hard way.

      While stationed at Lingayen, Luzon, PI, my fourth mission as engineer/top-turrett gunner was against Byoritsu Refinery in Formosa. Our plane collided with the right wing of the lead aircraft at the start of the target run, veered sharply down and right under another aircraft which passed withina foot of my top turrett, sheared off a foot from the top of one rudder and severly bent the other.

     The pilot maintained control and headed west through a deep valley toward the South China Sea, guns firing at us from both sides. As we crossed the NE Formosa coastline, the pilot ordered us to prepare to ditch while struggling to maintain flight barely above the water, but then we gradually gained altitude and headed for an emergency strip in SE China. As we circled through the mountains, we missed the strip and ran low on fuel. Passing over several Japanese military convoys, we headed away from the main roads, crash-landing, wheels up, on the side of a mountain, skimmed across a shallow river (Fu-t un CH'i) nosed into the east bank near the small town of Shaowu in Northwestern Fulkien (now F-jan) Province.

     All crew members carried small American and Chinese flags with instructions to turn crew members over to American authorities for a reward. We were picked up by Chinese guerillas in Japanese occupied territory and taken to a farm building where we were fed sweetened, hard boiled eggs. We were then picked up by the Mayor of Shaowu who was also President of a school called American University. He had lived in San Francisco for 6 years and spoke good English. He invited us to come to his home and get cleaned up and eat, but as we were prepring to bathe, there was a loud banging on the front door and shouts of "Open up". An armed contingent of US Marines quickly loaded us into waiting jeeps, concerned that local informers would reveal our whereabouts to the Japanese. The drove us about 50 miles to their mountain hideaway where they maintained a weather station reporting local weather and other activities to the USAAF and the Navy. They were also part of Air-Ground rescue network responsible for getting downed aircrews to safety. It took an AGAS Officer and a Chinese driver/mechanic three days in a 4 x 4 vehicle driving westward over unpaved roads to the last remaining air field in SE China. We were then flown in a C-47 to 14th AF Headquarters, in Kunming, China, arriving  4/2/45.

     During the trip, our Chinese driver had to replace the fuel pump Diaphram periodically because the Pine-Gas (smelled like turpintine) was very corrosive to rubber. It was carried in a 55 gallon drum in the rear of the 4 x 4 along with a container of gasoline for starting the engine. The roads were very narrow with no guard rails , and periodic flights of Japanese planes flew over the roads traveled.

     The crew was interrogated about our unfortunate incident at 14th AF Hq, and from Kunnming we were flown by B-24 to Leyte in the Phillippines where the officers were further interrogated before our return to active duty at Lingayen

 

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