K-13: Walter Solowski CFC
The crew picked up their plane at Walker AAFB, KS. Before leaving for Guam they were in Cuba for a month, where the crew got to know each other very well. They called Charles McNamara A/C - "MC". They flew from Walker to Lincoln, to Camp Stoneman, CA, then to Honolulu, then to Kwajalein Island (sp?) in the south Pacific and then to Guam. The first mission he remembers pretty well. It was a low level bombing raid over Tokyo - at about 7,500 feet. They were to bomb the Kawasaki oil fields and this is where they had the vertical rudder shot off by flak. There was also damage to aerilons, so that meant the plane was flown with flaps and the undamaged aerlons. The tail gunner was not injured; in fact not one of the crew ever had even a scratch. On this mission he witnessed a B-29 exploding on their left side. All of their 29 missions were flown in K-13, They never flew in any other aircraft. They would fly about 2-3 missions per week; usually 2. Typical behavior for the crew was to fire the guns to ensure operations when about a hundred miles out from Guam, before they would reach Iwo Jima, and then to pull the bomb pins that were in each bomb, which meant climbing into the bomb bay. The bombs were put in the bomb bay with pins in to prevent early detonation. Pulling the pins and setting various switches was the duty of Walter and one other. As CFO, Walter was responsible for the gun movement and synchronization. In all he remembers about 15 enemy planes shot down by the K-13 gunners, and there were cameras loaded at each gun station to record the kills. Mostly twin engine Ki's and Zeros. The gun sighting system allowed the gunners to aim directly at the target plane and not be concerned with air speed, in coming flight direction, accidentally shooting your own craft or other variables that had to be considered previously. At one time K-13 was the lead plane which was responsible for jamming the Japanese radar. This meant throwing aluminum chaff out the plane. This was before Burgess Field became the radio operator, which meant he could jam radar from his station. Before any mission they were told what to expect in terms of flak, bursts and enemy fighters. It was customary for them to take up the position in the "slot", meaning the last plane in the formation; protecting the rear. The Radio Operator was a Syrian from Massachusetts, Joe Joseph, the 330th spreadsheet has him recorded as George M. They had 2 Polish fellows and Stats was an Italian. One mission he remembers quite well was when they were patrolling the waters off the Japan coast looking for a downed B-29 that had ditched and they were listening for radio signals from the plane. This was a 19 hour, 45 minute flight and instead of bombs they had extra fuel tanks put in the bomb bay for extended time in the air. This was a special assignment directly from Curtis LeMay and upon landing they reported directly to his office for a debriefing. After about 10 missions they were sent for a week of R & R at a sub base. The average flight was 15 hours, 45 minutes. On one mission three of the four engines were feathered due to an oil leak and they were forced to land on Iwo Jima. On another mission they served as navigation for P-51's flying out of Iwo Jima. The P-51's missions was to do very low level strafing, so they would escort them to the target and then escort them back to their Iwo Jima base. On another mission, one of the bombs had failed to release and was still caught in the bomb bay. This created a problem because the ship could not gain any air speed. "MC" had Walter enter the bomb bay and kick out the bomb for which, Walter believes, "MC" nominated him for the Bronze Star. Walter believes "MC" did this on his own, because at separation from active duty the award was made to him then. On still another mission he remembers they were carrying 3 - 2,000 pound bombs dropped at 3,000 ft. The concussion from the explosion was so severe the at the entire plane shook, wobbled and was all over the place which caused "MC" to grab the controls. None of the gunners were strapped in so they got bounced around pretty good. Bob Jones, Bombardier, brother Davey was eventually Chief of Staff under Reagan. What he remembers about Charles J. McNamara…"he was a good pilot, always had a smile on his face, a good friend, even was cheerful when we got hit."
K-5, as retold by the son of CPL Troy G. Brooks (LG)
I second your thoughts as to these men; after all of these years, my Dad still thinks of his A/C as "Skipper", and he still speaks of him with respect and great admiration. As your records show, he was Robert Willman; he subsequently went on to a career as a commercial pilot for Delta Airlines. He is now retired and living in Arizona. Dad still recalls one mission where they lost one (or two?) engines and were running really low on fuel. They were trying to get back as far as Iwo Jima, but they had reached the conclusion they were going to have to ditch. Dad said they were told to prepare to ditch, and they watched the water getting closer through their blisters back in the gunners' compartment. They actually started to assume their ditching positions when they heard the gear come down--the guys up front saw Iwo pop into view. He said they landed and took every bit of runway there was to get the plane stopped--and the tanks ran dry and the remaining engines starved and wheezed to a stop. They all deplaned and just stood there on the runway, apparently kind of disbelieving and in a state of shock. This jeep comes roaring up and a young lieutenant jumps out, screaming to "get this aircraft turned around and off the runway". Dad said a couple of them were ready to feed the lieutenant his words back to him the hard way, but the Skipper just looked at the red faced young officer, pointed back over his shoulder with his thumb at the plane, quietly said, "You move it", and started walking off towards the flight line, followed by his chuckling crew. He said the lieutenant was either too dumbfounded to reply, or he got a brief glimmer of reality and decided he'd best keep his mouth shut and arrange a tug.
K-5: Robert Willman (A/C)
Our crew was assigned K-5. We picked this plane up brand new in Kansas, flew it 120 miles to the air base at Kearney, Nebraska. Here we were issued equipment for overseas flying, such as floation gear,side arms, etc. We were there only two days, but I'll never forget the send-off talk by The base commander, the gist of which was this: " one week from today, eleven of you men will be dead". It proved to be true. 1LT Robert Ziegele and crew crashed on Guam returning from our first mission. From Kearney Air Base we flew to Mather Field near Sacramento, Ca. This would be our jump-off place to Guam. Incidentally, I had graduated from flying school at Mather almost two years previously. A full day at Mather followed by a midnight departure for Hawaii. We still didn't know our final destination until we had passed the point of no-return to the States. In case of a problem calling for a return to Mather, no crew member would be able to call home to tell his family of our destination. We opened our orders to find we would be based at North Field on Guam. After a 24 hour layover in Hawaii we left for Kwajalein and another overnight and on to Guam. We always flew long distances singly, flying formation used too much fuel. Same thing on a mission, we flew one minute apart and joined formation about 100 miles off the coast of Japan. That is where the Jap fighters came to meet us.
Now, about K-1: Doug Neill and crew flew the original K-1 upon arrival on Guam. However, he and his crew were shot down over Tokyo Bay while we were back in the States attending Lead Crew School. Upon our return we were given a new K-1, in which we completed our missions and flew it back to Mather Field. Our time between missions was spent in different ways. Shortly after arriving at Guam, all officers were assigned secondary duties. My assignment was as Assistant Engineering Officer of the 457th BS. It was my duty to relieve the engineering officer of mundane duties such as paper work. We worked in a tent on our flight line and rubbed elbows with our airplane and engine mechanics. This extra duty was welcome to help pass the time. Yes, we did go swimming. What a wonderful white sand beach. The water was clear and pleasantly warm. Never saw a nurse all the time i was there. The only woman I ever saw was the one who gave us a donut after each mission. The more popular guy was the Flight Surgeon who gave us a shot of whiskey during our crew debriefing. After doing our laundry in a 55 gallon drum, an enterprising person found a Chamorro Family in the jungle that would do our uniforms. A Jeep ride through a rough trail took us to their home which was a shelter made of what was available. There was a mother,father, a young boy and girl. Their facilities were a brook flowing nearby for their water supply and plenty of dead wood for heating the water. The girl showed us her flat iron which she would use to iron our clothes. Upon our return, we couldn't believe how clean and nice our clothes looked. The price was very modest, so we always gave them double what they asked.
When we felt like living it up, we would requisition a Jeep and drive to the Navy Base at the far end of Guam. Instead of eating in a mess hall, we ate at the Navy Officers' Club. How about this, linen table cloths and napkins, a Filippino waiter and a choice of steaks! K-5 was called "City of Duluth". The nose art was named "She Wolf" after a cartoon in our Walker Army Airfield newspaper. Our new K-1 had no city designation nor nose art. We flew K-5 to Guam, flew 5 or 6 missions. The day after we left for school in California, MAJ Woolwine and crew were assigned to K-5 and kept if for the duration. I think they changed the city designation and the nose art. We were assigned to the new K-1 upon our return to Guam, completed our missions and flew it back to Mather Field at the end of the war.
The 18th of April we were scheduled for a 1:00 am departure to bomb an airfield at Kanoya. Our take-off was normal, but about 20 or 30 minutes into our climb to altitude, Johnnie called to me and said, "Skipper, we're loosing oil fast on #2 engine". I immediately gave the order to feather #2 prop. Johnnie came back with, "we're too late, all the oil is gone". [The oil tank holds 80 gallons.] Prop feathering uses oil from that tank. We now had a runaway prop. I called Murphy and told him to radio North Field," we are returning". We made a 18o degree turn and asked Sweeney for a heading to Guam. I announced to the crew that we would be salvoing our bomb load and our rear bomb bay fuel tank [640 gallons], to lighten our load for landing with only three engines. Bill Grossmiller took charge of the salvoing job. Next I called Sweeney and asked how the prop looked from his desk, adjacent to #2. He said, "It looks red hot". I told him to come up front in case the prop comes loose and comes into the fuselage. I decided to go back to take a look as Ray took the controls. By this time the hub was white hot, so I told Murphy to leave his seat and go up to the tunnel and join the guys in the rear. Our descent was very gradual to avoid a buildup of speed. Ray was in touch with the tower by now and they told us there was no other traffic and we were,"cleared to land". Our approach was normal, but the instant our main gear touched the runway, the #2 prop siezed. We taxied to our hardstand with no further problems.
As a result of this episode, engineering was ordered to modify the oil Tanks with a stand-pipe to save the final three gallons for prop feathering. No one ever told me when the modification was completed. After three more missions we were sent back to the states for training at Muroc AAF. Now, I'll tell you what caused the problem. #2 engine had been uncowled for some inspection or repair. A phone call from Group Maintenance for the mechanic who had been working on #2 was told to report to that tent. After a reasonable time,and he had not returned, someone asked if the engine could be cowled. The consensus was that everyone thought it should be cowled. In fact, the oil sump plug had not been reinstalled. So that is what we had when we came to work that night. I never saw our Crew Chief again.
Last mission of the War, as recounted by SGT Lewis J. DiRisio, Ground Crewman on K-55 (Transcribed from the Fairport (New York) Herald-Mail, August, 1945 by his son, James)
Sgt. Lewis J. DiRisio, son of Mr. And Mrs. Floyd DiRisio of Barnum St., who is with a ground crew of the 20th Air Force and helps to check and repair fire control apparatus on B-29's has written a letter to his parents, parts of which are here given. Sgt. DiRisio writes: Dear Mother and Dad: Now that the war is finally over (at least the fighting part) it can't be too long before we come home. The news that the Japs had surrendered was received with cheers and celebrations over here, (the Sgt. is based at Guam) and now since the war is over I can tell you something I was going to keep to myself until I arrived home. Ever since we came to Guam, I had been trying to go on a combat mission over Japan. Well, every time we were all set to go, our O.K. was rescinded. However, the day before yesterday they finally told us we could go. As it happened we took part in the last B-29 raid against Japan. Right up until take-off time, which was at 6 o'clock, everyone was hoping the war would end. However, we finally took off with a full load of incendiary bombs headed for Japan. The crew was confident we would get orders to drop our bombs in the ocean and return to Guam. We passed Iwo Jima and still there was no news, so when we finally saw the coast of Japan, we knew the war was still on and we would drop our bombs as planned. As we reached the coast line of Japan, our gunners began to check their equipment and became tense and alert. Our target was a town about twenty miles north of Tokyo. As we made our bomb run, I could see the blazing inferno that was once a town. The flames shot thousands of feet into the air, and the smoke rose to about 18,000 feet. When our ship passed through the smoke the intense heat tossed the plane around like a match stick, and I found myself rolling around the floor. At first I thought we had been hit by flak, but when I looked at the gunners no one seemed excited or worried so I figured we were all right. There were a few flak bursts, but they were under us and not very accurate. If there were any Jap fighters in the sky we did not see them. With just the little excitement I had seen, I had my fill of combat flying. I know just what "having your heart in your throat" feels like. I almost choked on mine. Well, we turned off the bomb run and started back to Guam. Up to now we had been in the air seven hours. As we left the target area and passed over the main Island of Honshu, I saw the volcano, Fujiama in the distance. It did not look pretty as it does in the travel folders of the Orient. As we winged our way back we still had no news that the war was over. Daylight finally came and we ate our lunch. The plane carries a box the size of a small suitcase which keeps the food warm. Lunch consisted of turkey, peas, carrots, grapefruit and coffee. As our gasoline was running low, Captain Scruggs, our commander, decided to land on Tinian for refueling. It was here that we learned the war was over. From Tinian we flew back to Guam. At the end of the mission we had been in the air fifteen hours. I don't think I would care to try it again. Once was enough for me. Your loving son, Lewis.
A Wing and a Prayer. The story of K-37's Plight
With a dead pilot, a badly wounded copilot, and the instrument panels blown away, the B-29 crew prayed for a miracle that would get them to Iwo Jima. July's "Valor" told of the survival of a B-29, commanded by Lt. William F. Orr, that was severely damaged during the June 1, 1945, incendiary raid on Osaka, Japan. While K-37's crew waited on the hardstand for a 2:47 a.m. take off, the Aircraft Commander, Capt. Arthur Behrens, took Chaplain Paul Shade aside and told him, "Paul, I'm not coming back from this one." His prophetic words did not include the crew. K-37 arrived over the initial point (IP) at about 11 a.m. Before bombs away, the aircraft was hit by what probably was a barrage of heavy flak. MSGT Charles Whitehead (FE), remembers a number of almost simultaneous explosions. There was "a blinding flash inside the airplane, a tremendous roar, and a violent concussion." The left side of the nose was blown away, killing Captain Behrens instantly, shattering the left arm of 2LT. Bob Woliver (P) and blinding his left eye. MSGT Whitehead's shoulder was perforated by bits of metal. Destruction on the flight deck was cataclysmic. The aircraft commander's instrument panel was destroyed, and the copilot's panel was left with only a magnetic compass and the needle and ball. The left control column was snapped off a foot above the floor, the flight engineer's panel and the radio knocked out, and the hydraulic system ruptured. Shattered glass, hydraulic fluid, and blood covered the floor of the flight deck. Sergeant Whitehead looked through a large hole in the top of the fuselage to see barrels of the four .50-caliber guns in the upper front turret twisted "like pieces of spaghetti." K-37 immediately went into a spiraling dive from 20,000 feet. The dazed copilot, Lieutenant Woliver, recovered his faculties enough to pull out with his good right arm at an estimated 10,000 feet. There was undetermined damage to the flight controls, leaving the B-29 in a nose-down attitude. Keeping the nose up required heavy back pressure on the control column. The B-29 now was over water, headed toward China. Bomb bay doors could not be opened to jettison the bomb load. Not knowing K-37's location, 2LT. Robert Fast (N) computed a heading for Iwo Jima as best he could. During the four-hour flight, Woliver never left his seat, though periodically he became so weak from loss of blood that he could not control the aircraft. During these periods, either Whitehead or 2LT. John Logerot (B) took over the control column. With no instruments working, power settings, speed, altitude, and fuel consumption could only be guessed at. The course Lieutenant Woliver was flying would have missed Iwo Jima by 100 miles, but it did avoid the front that Bill Orr's crew had to penetrate. As they headed for a probably fatal ditching somewhere in the Pacific, Lady Luck smiled on K-37. A P-61 Black Widow night fighter based at Iwo was on a radar calibration flight. The P-61's Radar Operator, Lt. Arvid Shulenberger, picked up an emergency signal from the B-29's identification, friend or foe system. When the Black Widow came up on K-37 from the right side, all appeared to be well--four turning and no sign of damage. Then pilot Maj. Arthur Shepherd swung the P-61 to the other side of the B-29 where they could see half of K-37's nose shot away. With hand signals, the P-61 crew got Woliver on a heading for Iwo Jima. Lieutenant Woliver knew he could not land the airplane in his weakened condition, with partial sight, no instruments, and no brakes. He ordered the crew to bail out over the island. Woliver himself was too weak to get out of his seat and leave through the nose wheel well. Lieutenant Logerot, suffering from flash burns, stayed with the damaged plane, got Woliver out the wheel well, and was the last to leave K-37. He was awarded the Silver Star for his heroism. The tower at Iwo ordered the P-61 to shoot down K-37, which continued to fly erratically near the island. It took nearly all its ammunition to send the B-29 bearing CAP Behrens's body into the sea. 2LT Woliver, who had stayed at his post despite grave wounds and saved the lives of his crew, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He retired as a LTCOL and died in 1988. The ordeal of Woliver and the crew of K-37 is a story not only of individual valor but of shared courage by an aircrew in the face of almost certain disaster. The fulfillment of CAP. Arthur Behrens's premonition that he alone would not return from the Osaka mission is an intriguing encounter with the mysteries of human intuition.(Thanks to Don Murray for telling us about this mission and to crew members Charles Whitehead and Robert Fast for providing details. Published October 1994. For presentation on this web site, some Valor articles have been amended for accuracy)
TSGT Lawrence C. Seery, Jr. (FE) 459th BS
Lawrence “Dood” Seery, Jr. was born on April 16, 1920. He volunteered to join the military on December 4, 1941, at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. He wanted to become a pilot, but an old football injury prevented him from passing the medical entrance for pilot training. He reached the rank of TSGT. (He had been notified that he would be promoted to 2LT, but died before the promotion became official.) “Dood” was the engineer on a B-29 Superfortress aircraft with a crew of eleven. The Superfortress had been designed for the long flights to bomb Japan from Guam and other air fields in the Pacific theater. On April 24, 1945, eight days after “Dood” had celebrated his 25th birthday, it was reported that his crew of K-63 had returned from a bombing run, and they were ordered to refuel and join an 11 aircraft group assigned to bomb a large aircraft factory north of Tachikawa, Japan. The factory was heavily defended by both fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft batteries. The approach and bomb run was normal with K-63 in the tail end position of the formation. While in the target area, the bombing group encountered intense fighter attacks and flak burst. When the bombers were out of the most intense fighting, they were accounting for each B-29 in the formation and the rear gunners of the other aircraft in the group stated that aircraft K-63 was no longer in formation, but was thought to be some distance behind and apparently crippled by flak, plus sustained numerous fighter attacks which possibly wounded some members of the crew. Still determined to make effective use of the bombs which they had been unable to drop on the primary target, the crew of aircraft K-63, with one engine inoperative and another losing power, made a bomb run and dropped their bombs on a secondary target near the coast of Japan. While on the run or just after releasing the bombs, three objects were observed leaving the ship. Two of the objects were crew members as their parachutes opened and the third may have been a crew member, but his chute didn’t open while in sight of the “buddy” ship assigned to assist K-63. Radio contact later confirmed that the navigator, radar operator, and radio operator had parachuted from the craft. The aircraft struggled while losing power, speed, and altitude until it was ditched in the sea some 80 miles from Japan in fairly rough seas and the B-29 broke into two pieces, sinking quickly. The crew of the “buddy” ship observed what they believed to be six crew members leave the craft and take to life rafts. The position was carefully plotted and air-sea rescue groups were informed. Due to the distance and other planes being in similar trouble the “buddy” ship couldn’t stay until the rescue was completed. Later in the day an attempt was made to search the area several times in adverse weather, but no rescue was accomplished. The crew of aircraft K-63 was not recovered and this had been one of the squadrons best air crews. Approximately three months later, Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945.
SSGT Bob Billings (LG) of K-31
I asked Bob what it was like to be on the runway during a typical daylight mission: "There were a lot of fumes because we had the pressure doors open to the bomb-bay. We didn't close them until we needed to pressurize. Some days we sat in line for 30 minutes or so and our flight suits were soaking wet from the heat and from pulling props before engine start. I always worried that we would foul the plugs waiting so long because the engines would get hot and run rough. But they cleared up pretty good when the power was applied. We only aborted one take-off and that was due to water in the fuel. Our A/C Baker hated to abort a mission.! He seemed to take it personally."
My MOS was 747 Aircraft Mechanic/Aux Equip. I worked on K-9, K-13 and others. I floated from plane to plane as help was needed. We were then asigned to set up Aux Equip. There was SGT Bill Shaw, Newkark OH, CPL John Dellapost Cincinnati OH, PFC Bruno Galluci New Haverford CT. (His name now is John Gale, Montclair NJ.) The four of us set up the Aux. Equip. Shop. We had a Cletrac (like a bulldozer with rubber treads) We mounted a boom on the front of the Cletrac, it was used to change engines. We were given the job of installing a diesal generator and string the lights on the two runways.
Our crew #713 on K-6 completed over 30 B-29 missions in 1945 in the Pacific theater. Then we were on R & R in Hawaii when WWII ended. We were then transported by SHIP (instead of by air!) to the Continental US where I was on leave for 30 days and then discharged. Because we didn't get to return to Guam before the war ended, I didn't receive my war medals, ribbons, Bronze Stars or Distinguished Flying Cross until over 50 years later!
A note: These were taken from personal letters Mr. Homan wrote back to his mother during his time in the war. They were generously provided to me by Homan's daughter Kristine! Thanks Kristine for sharing so much with all of us!
01-28-1945 We've gotten 4-5 new ships in so work will probably pick up. I've decided to specialize in sync. units (synchronizers, that is). We all have a special unit of the set; so during these nights we should be able to do quite a bit of work on our specialties without much interference. Did I tell you we were issued Carbines? Yes, I finally have a gun of my own. The Infantrymen are issued one immediately. We have to go out to the range "zero" and fire them for practice. Also we are supposed to clean and oil them every week. What a pipe dream that is - I wouldn't take one apart for fear of losing the parts!!
03-11-1945 Jerry and I went into town for dinner. We met Lt. Hanley and he treated us at the drug store while we talked chiefly of the future and how we would find our new home. He's a grand guy and I'm glad he is my boss rather than any other.
03-26-1945 Gosh, it's a beautiful spring day here at Walker and we sure get to enjoy them since there hasn't been too much work lately. We've played ball and also volleyball just to keep us limber. We intended to go golfing, but rental on clubs is 25˘, green fee 50˘ and we'd have to buy a ball for 85˘ - so after talking it over we decided to wait till we hit San Fran and try to swing a cheaper, more reasonable deal there.
04-17-1945 Radar is really very important and we are given a rather enviable position because of it - when clouds or night obscure the target and for navigation home across all that water, boy! do the aircrews appreciate Radar. My ship was lost in action and I am really saddened (This would have been K-14,Ziegele's Crew 714). The operator and the crew were becoming quite familiar to me - in fact, the operator and I had become quite friendly - he was a very nice fellow.
05-11-1945 So far the rains haven't come, but I'm only hoping that they delay a few weeks - by then we will be in the pre-fabricated huts and then I don't care - at present I have visions of a river gushing through our tent some night leaving us stranded, mere islands, from the rest of the squadron - probably be court-martialed for desertion.
05-29-1945 Boy we certainly do keep up the good work. I'm quite proud to be so closely connected these ships. As you stand and watch them taxi down the taxi strips you see part of yourself taking off in those planes. It's a grand feeling and I'm glad to have had this association with both the ship and the men.
06-15-1945 Yesterday afternoon we heard Gen. "Hap" Arnold here on the field. He was very complementary, told us how proud the people in the States were of us, and telling us our job ahead. He only spoke for about 3 minutes and then continued on.
07-02-1945 P.S. Just heard chow (tonight) is that well known, far renowned, and greatly detested "Guam Steak" or "Guam Chicken" - SPAM!
07-07-1945 We are really busy again, and yesterday I got a new ship for a "war weary" one which is returning stateside, it has a tear-drop radome and the antenna and RF unit are mounted for a mechanics dream. Zowie do I love it - cuts out about 2-3 hrs. work in dome removals and 1 - 1 1/2 hrs. off a RF unit pulling. It's so convenient - wish all mine were that way.
07-24-1945 I've gotten some of the names of my ships below. As far as I know - this doesn't violate security regulations. By coincidence I have two named after towns familiar during my V.P.I. days. They are City of Roanoke, City of Lynchburg, City of Williamsport (all of Virginia), City of Duluth, City of Jacksonville, City of Fort Worth. These are all I know of at present - have to wait for the other two ships for which I care.
07-26-1945 Public Relations took pictures of the field for the papers. I'm atop an engine and am called "precision instrument specialist". Group of five.
08-30-1945 Today we went back to line work having been relieved of my work detail. Jerry and I were on the first ship we've worked on in almost two weeks - K-6, City of Council Bluffs - Kansas. Our planes are now carrying supplies up to the Prisoner of War Camps in the Empire - C rations, sliced peaches, and other things both nourishing and a new diet for those unfortunate fellows. We are hoping to find some of our lost crews still surviving and you could add a few prayers on their behalf. I'm afraid for the old K-1 crew, no word, no parachutes were noted at the time. (this was the Neill crew and they were shot on 23 May 1945. All MIA)
07-10-1945 Well, at long last, I've snagged a detail - yep. I'm relived of my M.O.S. for one week and am now an experienced (?) carpenter - building or rather erecting a prefabricated barracks. And so good, so eager am I that they gave me another chance to prove my abilities. Beginning tomorrow morning I also have a beer-can smashing detail. We tour the Squadron area and smash, collapse all beer cans and cart them to the dump. This lasts only a few hours in the morning and then I return to the other detail. It's really a very welcome relief from the work on the line. And anyway I'm the last to pull detail so it's about time.
07-26-1945 Boy, am I ever tired! Yesterday I was C.Q. from 1800 - 0600 and the day before we worked till 0430. And since its hardly possible to sleep after 1000 because of the heat, my total sleeping hours really are small. However tonight I was back at 2130 and so shall really get some sleep.
09-08-1945 We had a crash out here yesterday only three escaped. So far four gunners have refused to fly and more are expected to quit. The reason we are having formation flying is that the 2 September over Tokyo, the formation was bad. The Staff figured they had to have more practice and so this happens. The fellas are somewhat bitter 'cause it could have been avoided if the staff wasn't so stupid. We all try to imagine how these poor kids families will take the news - death so needlessly almost a month after surrender.
09-10-1945 One of my ships, K-3 is in Washington D.C. - took some people back and I hope it doesn't return cause that'll mean so much less work if it doesn't. For the next four days I'm on the alert crew - work from 1900 - 2400 or if necessary 1900 - 0700 or whenever we finish.
10-09-1945 One of the ships went down with a Brig. Gen aboard so for the past two days we've had most our planes in the air searching for survivors. Haven't heard who were rescued, but four so far have been picked up. 11-03-1945 Yesterday I intended to write, but we had another unfortunate crash - all except one were killed (10 dead). I watched the fire for about 10 minutes. Only the tail-gunner got out and his hair was all burned off and his face and body so badly charred it's doubtful whether he'll live or not.
11-13-1945 Today I had such a terrific headache - I've been living on aspirins. My stomach is still upset and I believe I shall skip supper tonight and give it a rest. Boy, those shots really knock me for a loop, so I'll be glad to return to civilian life and avoid these inoculations.
12-17-1945 Francois said I should say "hello" for him. He's a very nice fella from Middlefield, Conn. He is 29 years of age, a Yale graduate - Majored in music. Has traveled through South America - did so during the summer vacation. Worked on tramp steamer down, went as far as his money lasted, and then worked and saved to go on. At Columbia he sailed for Hawaii - was stranded and wired home for money. After graduating, he joined a local band - and later played bass fiddle and piano for Vaughn Monroe during 1940 - 1941. He was born in France and lived there 4 or 5 years. His folks, especially his mother, usually speak French and all his letters home are in that language. At present, he's married, has a daughter - Laura Anne - and is quite devoted to both. During the early part of the war, he flew - but had an accident and can barely distinguish shapes with his left eye - hence, he lost out and went to Radar. He lost 28 points because of a court martial - I'll explain that when I get home - and hence is still around. And now he is my friend and buddy.
1LT Paul A. Rietz (B) K-61
Letter home to Rietz's parents in early 1945.
I presume that you heard on the radio and read in the papers about yesterday's powerful force of B-29's that bombed airfields on Kyushu, Japan. Save the clippings out of the paper-I was on that raid! I will tell you all about the raid that I am allowed to tell. It was our first mission and I feel safe in saying that we were all a little scared. There are only two people who know how scared I was-myself and the laundry man! We had a night take-off and hit there in the morning. There was a beautiful moon over the Pacific as we headed north to our target. Clouds over the water cast shadows on the water that look like islands. Everything went well until we made our run on the target. Opposition was light but a piece of flak hit one of our engines just before I got my bombs away. We had to stop that engine and feather the propeller. In spite of the fact that we had lost an engine we were able to stay with the formation and I got my bombs away on the primary target. One Jap fighter made a pass at us and swooped over our left wing. I was able to clearly distinguish the Rising Sun insignia on each of his wings as he exposed his belly upon breaking away. It seemed like an eternity until our formation finally broke over the coastline of Kyushu and headed to the open sea for home. In reality it was only a few minutes. We flew all the way back to our base on three engines and landed safely. At last I know what it is like to come in on a wing and a prayer. I know that I was not the only one who had prayers on his lips. Our mission took almost sixteen hours from take-off to landing, and exactly half the time we were flying on three engines. Believe me, these B-29's get there and get back. I have nothing but praise for them and for the men who fly them. We were extremely fatigued when we landed, but the Red Cross was there with hot coffee and doughnuts that helped revive my tired condition. I got a refreshing night's sleep and feel O.K. today. It gave me a peculiar feeling to look down on Japan and know that I was looking at enemy territory. My throat was so dry I couldn't swallow as I watched the black puffs of flak bursting nearby. Really it wasn't so bad and I feel better after my initial test. All of our planes returned safely. There was lots of laughing and talking about the raid when the various crews met each other last night after the raid. The hardest part about the mission for me was the long hours we were in the air.
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