Letter to Hickey {mospagebreak}

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Krell's Sept. 13, 1942 crack up"
Donor Original Source PIMA ID Donor ID Category
Michelle Krell Malone Walter Krell na RPE- CT-DA- 415 CT-DA-P
"Letter of Jan. 2, 1985"
22nd Bomb Group
By Walter Krell
Computer transcription by his daughter, Michelle Krell Malone
Mr. Larry Hickey, President, IRSEC
Boulder, Colorado
Dear Larry:
Thank you for your letter of December 27, 1988.
The enclosed is a copy of a letter just mailed to Walt Gaylor to try to straighten out this Pat Norton waist gun innovation. It's not current with the 38th material you're asking for, but maybe it is something to put in the files for the 22nd stuff later on.
Please know that there has been no attempt to ignore your letter of 4/22/88. About that time, I plunged into the damnedest summer I can remember. I'm hooked into an agricultural venture; it seemed we went weeks on end averaging about four hours sleep a night. My desk became piled high with unattended correspondence which I am now trying to dig through. No excuse, Sir.
     Didn't think it would be so hard to find a picture of the "Kansas Comet." I'm now trying to locate Johnny Wilson's widow for a possible picture. Wilson was the crew chief who came up with that name.
If you're in touch with John Foley, I'd appreciate his address. He just seemed to drop out of sight. Last time I heard about him was several years ago from Dr. Fred Knight, 19th Flight Surgeon, Safford, Arizona. Fred had seen Foley running a war memento booth near Pappy Boyington at some air show. You'd think Foley would have a photo. [Note: John Foley in fact resides in Banning, California, with his wife and son.---Michelle Krell Malone, 2/15/97]
      You are correct, the Comet was painted yellow and there was a shadow effect which certainly could have been red. Pat Norton, John Foley, and I are the only remaining flight crew.
About the burns. The accident occurred on the return from the Iron Range in New Guinea. Prior to departing for this raid, I distinctly remember rushing about in a jeep to brief each pilot at his B-26, as each pilot waited in his respective dispersal bay. These bays were fairly strung out, quite a distance from one another. There was much synchronizing of watches to make sure that the various aircraft would start up and taxi out in a sequence. This procedure would ensure that all aircraft in this mission would arrive at the main runway in a certain order for takeoff. There wasn't a hell of a lot of room for many aircraft to stack up. Consequently, as they kicked up dust, they ground grit into each other's engines, air intakes, and Pitot tubes.
       During all this preparation, I was wearing a very brief pair of athletic shorts. Not the long type the Australians wore that came down to the knees, but a very abbreviated type that didn't cover much. I had hoped to go by my tent and put on a decent pair of pants to fly in, but time ran out. I barely had time to get back to my B-26 and start up in order to stay ahead of the others. Like a damn fool, I took off dressed in my shorts. That's why I was still wearing these same absurd briefs when we returned from New Guinea and we cracked up. Both legs got severely burned from the top of my GI shoes to the bottom of those absurd athletic briefs.
For years and years following this, I couldn't expose my legs to the sun because they'd light right up.
Larry, this long winded explanation is basically to explain why I was so stupid as to be dressed this way, and why the burns were so extensive on my lower extremities. I was told the injuries were a combination of first-, second-, and third-degree burns.
     It is regrettable that I didn't keep some kind of a diary, though the important events seem to be etched in my memory forever. The mundane information is vague, such as dates and the names of guys I may have been drinking with at the time. I do know the date of the crackup, however. It took place on September 13, 1942; that date I am sure of. The healing process seemed to require much more time than the doctors anticipated. I wouldn't for the world knock them, because I owe them my life, but there was a hell of a lot they didn't know about burn therapy in those days, and they probably wouldn't have had the facilities available at the 12th Station Hospital in Townsville anyhow.
I am thankful to Dr. Fred Knight, who kept me going after the accident, and I am sure that I was still in the 12th Station Hospital into November, 1942. Prior to my hospital stay, I had shared a rental house in Townsville with my navigator Gene Grauer, who had also gotten badly banged up in this crackup. So when we got sprung from the hospital and told that we were ambulatory and that we would have to check in every day, we moved back into the rental house.
      We had no difficulty copping a jeep for our own personal use. After about two weeks of recovery, I found my legs were less painful to use, so I went right out to Garbutt Field, found a parked B-26, and went flying with the crew chief accompanying me in the co-pilot's seat. I repeated this flying routine every day for about four or five days when one late night Dr. Markle suddenly burst into the house in the midst of a party and just raised hell with me about flying when I hadn't officially been returned to flying status. He'd gotten wind of my flying. Since he was also a pretty good friend of mine, I couldn't see why he was so upset, so I went right on flying each day. Finally he nailed me again and this time handed me a hospital discharge and told me that since I wouldn't follow his orders, he wouldn't return me to flying status. He then ordered me back to the Squadron at Iron Range, and now it would be up to the Squadron flight surgeon to put me on flying status.
      It just seems it had to be late November or early December of 1942 when I finally got back to Iron Range in New Guinea. Things couldn't have been worse in my estimation: I returned to Iron Range to find that morale was shot. That is, some of the older co-pilots had been moved up to first pilot. It was a hell of a place for a new first pilot to get his start, especially on a B-26. On top of this, new young pilots had arrived from the United States, and these were being assigned to fly as co-pilots. Most of them seemed scared and apprehensive of everything. The airstrikes seemed to have been condensed down to pounding Buna. These strikes were a mild run, consisting of at least two trips a day, no overwater, no Zeros, no AA. However, things were a little more comfortable at seven-mile, Port Moresby. That is, there was food and a place to sleep.
In addition, a despicable individual had returned to the Squadron who had avoided all of the early rough work: Rabaul, for example. He had also escaped a lot of work by being on detached service in Perth, Australia. Not a team player, he was a self-aggrandizing grandstander. He was now out to capture all the "combat time" he could grab, and in so doing, managed to keep the entire unit in a constant state of agitation. His name was Franklyn Allen.
I took a few trips over the target with the different crews to see how well Allen had organized his flights, and I was grateful this idiot hadn't been around when thoughtful, considerate planning was so necessary.
      Hatch was now talking to me about putting together our old team of Krell, Stanwood, and Hatch. As a team we had been out in front on some good raids. A short while after this, Hatch had his big wipeout.
     Commanding Officer Joe Reed got orders to move back from Iron Range to Woodstock, about 18 miles west of Townsville. I was sent on down with an advance detail to oversee preparations for the return of the remainder of the Squadron. I seem to recall that this took place during January, 1943. Now out of combat, with the pressure off, the men became inactive. During this time the rains suddenly became torrential, and the creeks became swollen. Our aircraft were dispersed in bays on higher ground, which turned to jelly.
     At one point, the line chief, Fuller, asked me to taxi a B-26 from its bay down the taxiway to firmer ground. I hadn't gone 200 feet before the left maingear dropped down to its axle in the wet earth. The left prop dug into the ground, and this sudden stop damaged the crankshaft and two of the four prop blades. Never do I remember so many glaring, angry eyes as those focused on me by a group of mechanics watching nearby. I could not have felt worse about all the work I'd suddenly made for them.
Larry, I don't mean to go on and on with this "Dear John" housekeeping trivia. You'll probably have to dump this whole letter as useless for your purposes. One thing I might mention is this: when I was lying in the 12th Station Hospital, Shanty O'Neil, the greatest of the greats, was almost a daily visitor. Shanty was seeing General Walker on a frequent basis, and Shanty would tell me what was going on. Walker, a good man, was lost shortly thereafter over Rabaul. Shanty was able to tell me about the probable disposition of the 22nd Group, and that he, Shanty, was assigned to take over the newly arriving 38th Group as Commanding Officer.
     The ground elements were aboard ship, already having arrived in the Australian area for direct unloading at Port Moresby. The air contingents would be arriving during the next few weeks. There were only two squadrons. Two more would have to be activated to come up to strength, and I could take over as Commanding Officer of one of these new units if I wanted to transfer to the 38th Group.
It was in February, 1943, that Gene Grauer, Pat Norton, and I arrived at 17 Mile in New Guinea to join the 38th Group. I became Group Engineering Officer, while waiting to form the new squadrons. Though my role there was not conducive to flying combat on a regular basis (individual pilots and crews were all assigned within the two existing squadrons).
     There never seemed to be a co-pilot unhappy to have me take his place for a raid. Mostly, I flew with a person named Cox, who was soon killed. It was not my impression that the air war was too hot during this first half of 1943, but things became increasingly more dangerous as the crews were ordered on longer flights to penetrate deeper into enemy territory.
Surely Tanberg has filled you in with the 38th events leading up to the tragic lye episode of Shanty.
This letter is getting too gassy. I'm only through the first three paragraphs of your letter of 4/22/88. You've got to be bored to death, so I'll cut this off, mail it, and start another one about the questions you asked about the 822nd Squadron. Hope you can stand it.
Sincerely yours,
Walt Krell
PS Probably the next guy you talk to will convince you this letter is all baloney.