My Dad would have been 90 years old this Wednesday. He endured The Great Depression, quite school to join the CCC and help build our state parks. Went back to school half way through his senior year and caught up with his class and graduated. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and flew 35 missions over Japan two of which ended in catastrophic crash landings.
I was very fortunate to have him as a role model and I'm thankful I was raised by parents who were of The Greatest Generation. Here is his diary entry for his tenth mission, he was 23 years old.
February 19, 1945
Mission #10. Destination - aircraft plant in Tokyo.
Pilot - Lt. Pearson - Ship #1
My position - Radar operator
Take off - 0647 Landed - 12:35
Total time - 17 hours, 45 minutes!
Bombing - some radar, some visual, on primary target and also docks of Tokyo.
Altitude 26,000 feet
Flak moderate and heavy, accurate. Thompson in #2 got one in the right wing large enough to put two barrels through. Got back OK, no one hurt.
Fighter opposition - moderate, heavy on our element, and very aggressive.
Strength - about 150 B-29's, including Tinian. I counted 87 in sight at one time.
Losses - Three over target, one ditched. Two of the three from our group, one from our squadron. Both in our four plane element. Bombing results unobserved. Our bombardier, Skinner, got an Irving, ring gunner Doan, a probable.
Longest and toughest mission for me as yet. We were lead ship of the extreme right element, low element, with Lt. Samuelson on our right (Evans, Radar) and Lt. Rouse (Johnston, Radar) as tail end Charlie, Calhoun on left wing. Picked up a few attacks after I.P., we being the first formation in. Right after bombs away, an Irving came in from the front and high, the ring gunner shooting at him. He went on back and crashed into Sammy on top, almost halfway back. We think it was a deliberate ramming. The plane broke in two and burst into flame immediately, the Irving going into smaller pieces with it. Six parachutes were seen to open from the 29, one was burning and collapsed This happened directly over Tokyo at 26,000. Evans was one of my closest buddies, he, Burkie, and I traveling together ever since Scott Field. He may have been one of the parachutists. He gave me his leather jacket to send home in case something happened. I knew every man on the crew very well, and it sure is hurting.
Rouse then pulled into Sammy's position on our right wing, and soon after was seen spiralling down to earth, no one knows what happened to him. Johnston was also one of my .closest buddies since Scott Field. Taught me lots of songs. During all this, we were getting plenty of attacks and expecting any-thing. No. 3 engine was bad and it started throwing huge chunks of frozen oil.
The prop then ran away and the engine started burning. Unable to feather it, we soon dropped back from the formation, losing altitude fast. Course took us out of the Mainland and Maj. Fitzgerald went into a dive to follow us down. We all expected a ditching or a crash off the mainland, but the ship leveled off at 3000 feet and the fire was put out. However, not knowing how long we'd last, everyone prepared to ditch and started throwing all loose stuff into the sea.
We proceeded in ditching position for some time, Fitzgerald alongside of us (Cookson, Radar) and No. 3 whining at a high pitch. Later, the prop flew off and tore a huge gash in the fuselage, in the fore bomb bay section, tearing a bomb bay door off. We were down to 150 indicated, and limped all the way back, expecting to ditch at any time, or the nose to drop off. We steered clear of high islands by our Radar and our ETA seemed far beyond our gas limitations.
After nearly 18 hours of flying, we came in sight of our base around midnight, a few hours overdue, Fitzgerald still aiding us. Can't commend him enough. We were leery of our landing gears and the nature of our landing, made a beautiful approach and soft landing. We were just a short ways up the runway, still clipping it off, when something happened, due to lack of hydraulic pressure for brakes, I think . We ran off the strip, smashed into a truck, hit a cleat truck, turning if over, tore through an embankment and smashed into a parked B-29 (Z9) on its hard stand. I was standing up in the Radar room, got thrown clean up into the CFC (Central Fire Control) compartment, not missing anything and nothing missing me. Got out with banged up nose.
Two other gunners in back with me didn't get hurt either, nor the remainder of the crew in the front. Driver of the truck was seriously injured, cleat truck man killed instantly. I'll never know how the boys in the front got out, the nose was ripped off completely to the wings and twisted around, the fuselage battered on all directions, cowlings, landing gears and everything imaginable lying all over. The tail was at least 20-25 ft. in the air, the tunnel twisted, making it impossible to get thru. We had to wait for a rope to climb down. Z9 was knocked off its stand and into the embankment. It was also cut in two, the tail lying all over and the fuselage flattened By the time we got out, they were washing the blood away with a hose and a huge crowd had gathered. Our crew was intact, the pilot injured slightly and we got out of the scene immediately.
Taken to the dispensary for slight treatment, received a double shot, wonderful stimulant, ate a meal and a very tired and jittery crew called it a day. Three planes out of the four in our formation, or rather element, will never fly again, but one of the crews will be back another day, less exciting, I hope.
Longest mission recorded (17 hours, 13 minutes), 1500 miles with 2 engines out on same side.
February 20, 1945
Got our pictured taken in front of both of our sections of the plane now being salvaged. Lt. Pearson said we were put in for a rest. Took Lt. Samuelson's crew's belongings out of their quonset today. Four and a half crews gone out of twenty.
- My Dad is first one on the left standing.
- His squadron meeting up at Mt Fuji to go into Tokyo to do business.
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