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IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey Famous title comes to consoles.

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Old 02-21-2011, 07:00 PM
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Lts. Gevorkian and Kester crash landed their P-51s on the same beach in southern France and evaded through Spain together.

Part of Gevorkian and Kester's story is related by Monsieur A. Auger, a Frenchman, who aided them: "The 26th of August 1944, I was on my way to Cap Ferret to see my parents. Suddenly, at the cemetery, I saw a soldier in uniform in the dis*tance coming this way. Thinking it was a German (even though they had left Cap Ferret at the beginning of August), I jumped into a ditch. The soldier did exactly the same thing. That's when I discovered that he was an American soldier.

"Relieved, and as happy as I, the man tried to explain to me in his language that he was a pilot, and, showing me his scarf which was his navigating map, was going to Cherbourg. (This was actually a silk escape map that was carried by all U.S. aircrew members.) He explained as best he could that he and another pilot, (Kester), were caught in a thunderstorm and that their compass*es went berserk. I then showed him on his scarf where he was and explained to him that, without knowing it, he had crossed a mine field! It is a miracle that the man didn't blow up because, except for a few paths, the beach was covered with mines."

Mademoiselle Marcelle Mora relates her story of the incident: "The 26th of August, (1944), we all rushed to the beach to see the planes, out of gas, one behind the other, 3/4 of a kilometer apart. With all my friends we hugged the pilots, posed for a picture in front of the airplanes. I remember the pilots were taken care of by the FFI, (the French Resistance Group), of Cap Ferret."

Lts. Gevorkian and Kester were turned over to Monsieur Guy Schyler, of Alfred Schyler Fils & Co., Bordeaux, and Prince Stanislas Poniatowski, who in 1939 was President and General Manager of Hispano-Suiza, SA., a French company that built gasoline engines and the famous "Moteur Cannon". He had been jailed by the Germans for refusing to aid the German war effort.

Monsieur Guy Schyler now picks up the story: "On August 26th, 1944, I received a call from Colonel De Luze, commanding officer of the F.F.I. (French Forces of Interior - Maquis), to inform me that the planes that had been cruising around the Arcachon Bay were now flying north, then south, that one of them flew out of sight facing the ocean, and the two others had crash landed on the beach, a few kilometers from the small village of Lege-Cap Ferret adjacent to the Bay of Arca*chon. Colonel De Luze having asked me to investigate, I in turn called Prince Stanislas Poniatowski. We sailed for the spot where both aircraft had pancaked. We were living on the opposite side of the bay.

"Sam and John told us they had lost their formation because of a heavy storm, and were surprised not to find mountains printed on their scarf (escape map), after the estuary of the Loire. They were completely lost, having no idea where they were and practically no more petrol in their tanks. They also were not aware that there were a good many Germans at Royan as well as at Le Verdon, so they did not perform any attack on them, whereas the Germans thought they had better keep quiet unless the American pilots might well bring some trouble should they attempt shooting at the planes!

"An F.F.I. group joined us, wishing to recover the guns as well as munitions, which were useless because they were specially designed for the airplane. I myself took the compass, even though also of no use. Both aircraft were on the ocean side of the beach, so we had to climb a small sand dune to reach the beach on the Arcachon Bay side where our boat was anchored. Sam, John, Ponia*towski and myself, crossed the bay to our homes. The Poniatowski family were direct neighbors to my mother.

"Next morning I contacted Major Xavier de Laborde Noguez, whom I had asked to join us at Bordeaux to organize the return of the Americansto their base through Spain. Xavier was then with the F.F.I. fighting the battle of Medoc under command of General de Larminat. Xavier, as well l as Poniatowski and de Luze are all now dead Xavier had organized, during the German occupa*tion, a Resistance group specializing in getting French or foreigners out of France through Spain and forwarding information to London. As men*tioned above, the German forces, having left Bordeaux and, in general, the Aquitaine region, there was then no need to hide our American friends."

Lt. Gevorkian told the interrogator in London: "My fighter plane, and that of 2nd Lt. John E. Kester, landed on Cap Ferret, W. of Bordeaux, on 26 Aug 44. We were both put up at the house of Prince Stanley Poniatowski, Villa Hyowawa, Boul de L'Ocean, Arcachon, for 12 days, a very well known man to the Resistance and acting mayor of Arcachon. Then we were taken by Guy Schuyler, who lived next door, to Bordeaux, where we stayed 2 days at the home of M. DuBreille, FFI Member, known to Mlle. F. Rauly, 23 Rue des Villas, Cauderan (Gironde). M. Xavier Testas arranged for us to be sent to Hendaye, and we were taken there by M. et Mme. Gabriel Testas. From here we went to Gastes to pick up a number of other Americans and British (Volz, Walsh and Christ), all now returned to duty, and then joined A!lied control on about 10 September."

The procedure if near the Spanish Costa Brava was to take the evader through the French/Spanish border to Barcelona, where he was hidden in a safe house, of which there were a good many in the city. There Tom Forsythe, of the American Consulate, took over to get the airman back to England, usually through Gibraltar.

John Potter, counterintelligence for the O.S.S. in Spain and Portugal, remembers "double cross*ing" things he dealt with in Andorra, the tiny (191 sq. m.) republic in the eastern Pyrenees, such as receiving word that, "I've got four aviators hid*den in the mountains. Twenty thousand pesatas each ($2,190.) is wanted or they go back to the Germans." Mr. Potter said that in counterintelli*gence work, one does not deal with choir boys!

Lt. Kester was killed, 14 Jan. 1945, strafing a German airdrome. Major Gevorkian was killed in a P-51 accident, 7 Aug. 1945, in southern Germany. In 1982, Ailes Anciennes, a French non-profit organization that works to save historic aircraft, recovered Gevorkian's and Kester's P-51s from under tons of beach sand for restoration.

George Korinek

Our fighter group had been assigned escort duty to protect a B-17 bombing mission in Germany. This part of the mission was uneventful and we didn't experience much enemy action other than flak. At this time I had 60 plus missions and 285 combat flying hours. After our rendezvous with the bombers, we were relieved by another fighter group and began our return to our base at Wormingford, England. Since we had not been bounced by enemy fighters and had not dropped our belly tanks, we had plenty of fuel left and so requested permission to hit targets of opportunity. The request was granted. From our altitude I had previously noticed a freight train heading for Paris. I took my flight down and made a strafing run on the train. About four cars behind the locomotive my machine guns hit an ammunition car which exploded. I pulled up to avoid the explosion and in doing so saw several German Me-109's parked in a pasture at the edge of a wooded area. I went down to tree-top level to strafe them and caught ground fire. It hit my left engine which caught fire. I managed to strafe the gun crew firing at me before I bailed out at low altitude.'

"bailed out at a low altitude," is a very modest understatement. Korinek almost lost his life! The official encounter report submitted by a member of his flight, Lt. Wayne Lanham, states: "Lt. Korinek had been strafing a locomotive and was hit by flak while strafing a plane on an airdrome. Lt. Korinek bailed at 300 feet and his chute opened at about 100 feet." (or lower!)

I was downed near Evereux, France, west of Paris. I'd landed in a grain field and hid there for several hours while German soldiers searched for me. On their second combing of the field, about ten young Wehrmacht soldiers saw me and fired several shots at the ground along side me and, needless to say, I surrendered! They put me aboard a 6 x 6 truck and took me to their operations headquarters several miles away. In route the truck passed through a dense forest. Several of the soldiers who had been talking among themselves didn't notice some low, overhanging branches and were swept off the truck. In spite of my predicament, I found this so funny that I broke out in laughter. The soldiers were so young and inexperienced that they seemed more embarrassed by this than disturbed. After picking up the soldiers who had been brushed off we continued on our way.

After we reached their headquarters I was interrogated by German flying officers, who could not speak English. They had an enlisted man who knew enough English to translate for them. I feigned ignorance, but since I had studied German in college, I knew enough to better prepare my answers as they asked for information concerning my unit and mission. After this attempted interrogation, I was sent to a jail house in Evereux. I was placed in a cell with some crew members from a shot down B-17. Several of these men had been badly injured with compound fractures but we were prevented from helping them by an armed guard.

The following day I was transported to Chartres, France, where I saw more American prisoners from downed B-17s. We were paraded through the streets to the derision of the French people. We were then transported to Paris by motor lorry and put on a train there to Frankfurt am Main for further interrogation. I was impressed by their intelligence organization, for they knew more about me and my family than I could have ever imagined. (Hanns Scharff interrogated Lt. Korinek on July 11, 1944.)

I spent eleven days in solitary confinement and was constantly interrogated. I was then sent by train to Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Germany, for permanent incarceration. I spent a little over seven months there. On January 20, 1945, we were forced to evacuate our camp and march through the countryside, deep in snow, for several days. About three or four days after the march we were loaded in 40 x 8 box cars enroute to Stammlager VII A, at Moosburg, near Munich.

We were liberated on April 27, 1945 by General Patton's 14th Armored Division. Our treatment by the Germans was satisfactory considering that we were prisoners. Regimentation and the lack of food and boredom were our biggest problems. We were always hungry and I went from 166 pounds to 115 at the time of my release.

Victor LaBella

We were on a bomber escort mission to Berlin. About twenty minutes into Germany my right engine began to lose power. I turned towards home and my good engine began to lose power too and I started a descent. I descended to the tops of the cloud-cover at about fifteen hundred feet and decided to leave the airplane. I turned her over (upside down) and bailed out. I landed in a large cultivated field and immediately got picked up by the Home Guard. They had rifles and held me until some regular military took me to a local town and threw me in the hoosegow. The next day a Luftwaffe enlisted man accompanied me on a train ride to the interrogation center near Frankfurt am Main at Oberursel. The scariest part of this trip was that our 8th Air Force had bombed the train station that very day, so they stopped the train a few miles out of Frankfurt and all the passengers were put on busses. Here I was amongst all these people who were going in to check on their loved ones. My guard was very indifferent to my concern and I frankly stayed as close to him as possible. These people knew who I was and looks of hate and loud talking with threatening gestures alarmed me. I'd heard stories of how German civilians had killed downed airmen. I knew that my lone guard could never protect me even if he wanted to. After a slow agonizing ride we arrived in Frankfurt where I was taken to the interrogation center and thrown into solitary for two days. They fed me soup and black bread. I was brought before an interrogator who spoke perfect English and told me how he'd attended some college in California. I guess I was brought before him two or three times in which he asked me a few questions. After a few more days I was put in a box car with a lot of others and sent to Stalag Luft I.

I think I was in the south compound, block 14. There I ran into Joe Marsiglia, White, Ernest George and a couple of fellows with whom I'd gone to flight training school. After the long miseries of prison life we knew that the war was coming to an end and one day all the guards were gone. Some of our fellows took off and others remained. We had a lot of German women that were frantically trying to get into the compound with us. They were terrified of the advancing Russian army. When the Russians started arriving, they were not the regulars but a group of undisciplined, badly dressed, raggedy-assed of hoodlums. They went into town and were breaking into the homes and taking whatever they wanted, including cash and valuables, raped women and generally terrorizing the local populace. I believe this was actually planned by the Russians so that when the main body of the army came in, about three days later, and established discipline, the local people having undergone such horrible experiences that they were psychologically beaten into submission and would accept the new troops as their protectors.

When the Russians came into the camp we were treated very well. They rounded up some live stock from the local area and brought them into the camp, slaughtered them, and we had our first fresh meat since taken prisoner. I had been there fourteen months and some of the RAF pilots had been there for four or five years.

Our commanders, theirs and ours, asked that we stay in the camp, because we were going to be picked up. I don't know this to be a fact, but I heard that some of the Americans that didn't stay, that took off walking or by bicycle, you know how Americans are, especially after being imprisoned, were never heard of again. Well, shortly, B-17s came and flew us down to Camp Lucky Strike. We were there a week or ten days. Some of us took off for Paris. After being in prison we wanted to eat, drink and be merry ---- and be bred, (laughter). I think I fooled around in Paris for ten or fifteen days. Ernest George was with me and we then returned to Lucky Strike. Things were rather loose, the fellas were going into French towns or catching plane rides back to England. I eventually returned to the States by ship.

I stayed in the service and retired in 1963.
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Old 02-21-2011, 07:02 PM
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Capt. Bert McDowell Jr.

I learned the importance of freedom the hard way! Our fighter group had a policy of the, three squadrons taking turns going back into Germany to look for "targets of opportunity" when escorting our bombers back from the target. On this mission it was the 338th's time and down we went from the 30,000-foot assigned level to 8,500 feet where we could more easily see enemy truck convoys, airfields, oil tanks and other choice targets.

I spotted an airfield in southern Germany (near Gerolshofen), called it out over the radio and down we went as fast as our "Mustangs" would go, coming in over the airfield fence at about 20 feet with the airspeed needle on the 400-miles-an-hour mark, all six guns on each plane blazing away.

I could feel the German shells from ground guns hitting my plane but had no idea how severe the damage. I lined up on a Junkers 88, a twin-engine bomber, and through the thousands of "red golf balls" coming at me from both sides, I could see my bullets hitting the JU-88 and setting it on fire. Just before I got to it, the plane blew up. Instinctively, I ducked my head and pulled back slightly on the stick to pass over the burning wreckage.

After flying for almost ten minutes, the engine froze. Wheels and flaps up, I set my P-51 down almost perfectly and came to a sudden stop. I was out and running for a wooded area, waving to my buddies who were circling above me to let them know I was O.K. When darkness settled in, with snow on the ground, I walked on muddy back roads all night. As dawn broke, I hid in another woods. It rained all that day, a bitter, cold, steady rain. I never spent a more miserable time in my life. I had no hat and was wearing summer underwear!

When dark enough to travel, I started walking towards the Allied lines and passed Germans who were coming home from work or shopping. The blackout was in effect, of course, so people appeared as dark forms. I walked all night again and just before dawn hid in another forest. I was awakened by voices. Looking cautiously from under my bush, I stared into the wrong end of two German Lugers. Two S.S. soldiers! One shouted: "Raus! Raus!", which I understood to mean, "Get the hell out of there." The taller of the two said in broken English: "You are lucky ... vor you der vor iss ovfer."

I was marched to a tiny village a couple of miles away to their detachment headquarters. There the German S.S. soldier who spoke English asked if I was hungry. I replied, "Ja!". He gave me a hot bowl of potato soup, two slices of black bread and a cup of ersatz (artificial) coffee. I wolfed it down.

The commander sent for a local female school teacher who spoke English and asked me many questions, such as where were the other members of my crew, what target did we bomb, where was our base in England, what type of plane were we flying, etc. Each time I answered by giving my name, rank, serial number and reminding her that this was in accordance with the Geneva Convention, to which Germany was a signatory member. She gave up and I was put in the cellar of a small house. No dinner that night. No breakfast the next morning.

Escorted by two guards, we walked five or six miles to a railroad station in a small village. While sitting in the tiny station, a small boy of about eight, who was with his mother, kept staring at me. Finally, he walked over to me, pulled out a cheese sandwich from a brown paper bag and offered it to me. I said "Dunker" (thank you, one of the few German words I knew). I almost cried, I was so overwhelmed by this gesture of generosity and friendliness to a prisoner of war.

We boarded the train for the hour's ride to Mannheim. There we rode a trolley car to the end of the line, then walked some four miles to an airfield, where I was imprisoned for two days, then transferred to the Luftwaffe interrogation center at Oberursel, a suburb of Frankfurt. There I spent 11 miserable days and 10 nights in solitary confinement while being interrogated.

They told me that I could not tell them anything that they did not already know. On the evening of 22 February 1945, about 50 of us were taken to the Frankfurt Banhof (railroad station). We were sitting on the floor when we heard the air raid sirens scream. Soon the eerie sound of falling bombs interrupted our thoughts ... RAF bombers were bombing the city! The railroad marshaling yard took a terrible beating but NOT ONE BOMB DROPPED ON THE BANHOF! The Good Lord answered our prayers!

After waiting seven hours for another freight train (the one we were scheduled to take was blasted to smithereens), we climbed aboard boxcars for the intermediate staging camp at Wetzlar. European boxcars are tiny when compared to American ones. There were 44 of us crammed into each boxcar, which meant we had to take turns sitting and standing. We were issued one can of meat and one loaf of bread, plus some water, for each six men. The meat was spoiled and we became violently ill. It was a nightmarish two-day and two-night journey ... an unbelievable mess!

About four days later, it was off to my first permanent P.O.W. camp at Nuremberg, also by boxcar. We were marched from the railroad yards to the camp, Stalag 13-D (I was in Compound . At 11 a.m. on 4 April 1945, we were informed that we were leaving camp at 1 p.m. and to be ready to march. Promptly at 1 p.m. down the road we marched, 8,000 of us, in a column of threes, with German guards and police dogs on each side of the column.

After three hours we were spotted by some American P-47 "Thunderbolt" fighter-bombers. They attacked us with 500-pound bombs and strafed us with their eight .50-caliber machine guns. It was sheer panic -- every man for himself!

After it was over, there were dead and dying all over the place. Among those killed (I counted 12 in my immediate area) were some who had been captured in North Africa in 1942 and had been through all kinds of hell ... forced marches in snow, half starved, and now this.

We marched all that night, in the rain, and all the next day in the rain until 11 p.m. before we finally stopped for the night, lying on the ground, trying to sleep. Every now and then we were given ten-minute rest stops. We walked into Stalag VII-A, Moosburg, Germany, near Munich, on 20 April 1945, we could hear the rumble of tanks of General George S. Patton's Third Army in the valley. A P.O.W. climbed up the flagpole at the main gate, threw down the Nazi swastika flag, then hauled up the Stars and Stripes. There were very few dry eyes among the newly liberated prisoners that morning!

My experience taught me something I had previously taken for granted ... how very precious is freedom. And food. And cleanliness. And warmth. And sanitation. Never before had I given any thought to having clean clothes waiting for me when I got out of the shower. But I do now, even after some 45 years

Wes Tibbetts

Several people told me to read the book Goodbye Mickey Mouse. It is a great story and I highly recommend it for it is very close portrayal of the men who composed a fighter squadron. One particular scene is about two fighter pilots who had too much to drink one night and what happened to them as a result of their overindulgence. That made me think of Wes Tibbetts and a similar night we shared.
Wes was a very fine looking fellow and almost the maximum size allowed for a fighter pilot. While in college he became a light middle weight boxer and won the Gold Gloves championship for Iowa. If you have ever boxed, you know this is no simple feat.
When I joined the 55th Fighter Group in Portland, Wes had been there and had come in with the new fresh lieutenants who were the class ahead of me. It included Joe Myers, Giller, Ryan, Marsiglia et al.
I liked Wes but he was never in my crowd. We never double-dated (although I am sure that the girls we no problem for him – he was very handsome man as you can see in the picture.) We were just friends in the early days but, as time went on, and especially when we were in combat, we became closer.
Wes was just a quiet and great guy. He did have something that I am not sure you would say made him special, but it did make him a “one and only” as far as anyone else I have ever met. By swallowing air, he was able to pass wind at almost any time. Somehow he decided it would be a great trick to pass wind in the form of Morse Code. If you don’t recall the sound of Morse Code, it is: A…dit…daaa B..daa..dit.dit.dit Caa.dit.daa.dit and so on down the alphabet.
Everyone got to know Wes for there was always a new officer coming in to the group. Eventually one of the old timers would say, “We have a guy that can fart the alphabet”. Naturally the new man would say you are crazy and a bet of some kind was bound to follow. The old timer would then come and get Wes and lead him to the fellow who would bet against him. I saw this happen in our room at night, at the Officers’ Club, and even in London when we were on R&R. Wes always seemed pleased to show the new man his unique talent and certainly never wanted any of the bet money. His demonstrations would always gather a crowd and his performance was always followed by tons of laughter.
Wes and I went overseas with the 55th and were stationed at Nuthampstead. There was a fair sized Quonset hut that contained the officers of the 338th and the flight leaders. That would be Sqd. Co.: Busching, Exec: Jones, Adj: Hall, S-2: Gabbert, Doc Garnett and the four flight leaders, Patterson, Beal, Marsiglia, and Tibbetts.
The night of the story, we had been flying out of Nuthampstead long enough to have some tough losses. Wes and I had both been flying every day for a week, trying to put up all the planes we could, filling in for some of the fellows who were ill. About 6pm that evening we got a call that there was to be an all out effort the next morning. Neither of us had been scheduled to fly, but after Doc and Bushing had checked around, they found they were short of a couple of pilots. So Wes and I volunteered.
We had all planned to go out that evening to something special, a Danny Kaye Show. So at about 8pm everyone took off but Wes and me. Both of us felt we needed the rest to be ready for combat the next day.
About 9pm we got a phone call saying the mission had been cancelled due to bad weather. Wes and I were so happy we got out of bed and started shooting the breeze. At that time I never touched a drop of liquor for I always wanted to beat my opponent and I would rather go in to combat with him having a hangover (, rather) than me. I knew I wasn’t going to give him any advantage. Wes was the same for he had been a great athlete and there is no place for liquor when you want to be in top shape.
Both of us had given our combat liquor to Busching and knew that he stored it in his footlocker. Somehow in shooting the breeze we decided it would be a good idea to celebrate tonight and have just a shot of bourbon. We put in enough bourbon to sufficiently fill the bottoms of our very large canteen cups and proceeded to have a drink. Well, let me tell you, if you never have any liquor and you drink it straight with no water, it arrives at the top of your head The first drink hit our funny bone and each drink thereafter seemed to hit a higher level of funny bone. We kept this up until the two of us drank the whole quart (they were quarts in those days). I remember that we were sitting at a picnic-style table with the cross supports you had to stop over to get out. Well neither one of us could step out and the last thing I remembered was crawling (there was no way I could walk!) back to my bed and into my sleeping bag.
I was vaguely aware of being slapped in the face and lots of turmoil going on around me, but I was in too deep a stupor to respond.
A day later when I came to, Doc Garnett told me the rest of the story. When they came back form the show that evening, they found Wes drunkenly trying to get in bed with me muttering, “The only way we’re going to get through this is to stick together”. They had a helluva time getting Wes away from me and Doc was slapping me, trying to get me to wake up. When he couldn’t wake me and saw that Wes was in such bad shape, he knew we weren’t merely intoxicated but in need of immediate medical attention.
He rushed us both to the hospital and had our stomachs pumped out. When I finally woke up almost a day later, I can remember the terrible terrible task it was just to open my eyes. What pain. And there was Wes in the next bed. Normally I think I would have laughed under the circumstances, but this was no laughing matter.
I often wonder if I would have lived if Doc hadn’t been in the room. Someone else probably would have just got Wes to bed and figured we would sleep it off. Doc said there was no way we would have made it with the lack of tolerance we had for liquor.
We stayed in the hospital another day and by that time we could laugh about it. We both thanked Doc Garnett for saving our lives. I certainly would have felt bad to be shot down by a bottle of bourbon.
Wes Tibbetts was shot down on a flight to (Gotha). That was a day we lost a number of pilots. A day that it was a tough show. We never heard from Wes on the radio and as far as I know he just disappeared. Was it flak? Did he call on the radio and it was jammed so we didn’t hear him? If by chance there is life after death then I want him to know that I still think of him and miss him saying “good-bye”.
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Old 02-21-2011, 07:04 PM
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I’d known since Annette & I dated that her uncle had been killed in WWII while serving as a pilot. Annette’s father Wilbur would tell me from time to time pieces of information about his brother Brad. I knew Brad was a P-38 fighter pilot in the Army Air Force. He was missing in action in Germany or France in March of 1944 and later declared killed in action, after the war Brad was returned to the U.S. for burial in Jan of 1949.

I also wanted to know Brad’s story but Brad’s siblings and widow Mary Ellen who had never remarried were all alive and well and I was a little concerned about what they might think of me digging into Brad’s service and ultimate death.

2nd Lt. Bradford R Wikholm was a pilot of a Lockheed P-38J “Lightening” fighter plane in the U S Army Air force during WWII. This was a single seat aircraft that was heavily armed with four 50 caliber machine guns and one 20mm cannon all mounted in the nose of the plane. It was the first fighter plane to reach and exceed 400 miles an hour in airspeed. The P-38 stood out from other fighters as it had a dual tail, in fact the Germans sometimes referred to it as the “fork tailed devil.” Lt. Brad Wikholm’s service # was 0-753770. Brad was assigned to the 338th Fighter Squadron as part of the 55th Fighter Group.

I learned that each fighter squadron usually had 25 or so planes attached to it with 16 flying per mission with an occasional spare or two. The rest would be grounded for service or possible repair due to battle damage. This would mean that the entire 55th would field about 50 aircraft per mission on average.

The 55th was very active as their record shows & Brad flew a number of missions during his time with the group. Brad was the pilot of P-38 tail # 42-67989. On March 18th, 1944 a major bombing mission was launched, the main target being Friedrichshafen, Germany. This mission involved nearly 2000 aircraft including bombers & fighter escorts including the 55th.

All of the bomber groups did not bomb the same target as some groups were split off to other nearby targets as part of the same overall mission. They encountered fierce opposition & losses were heavy as 43 bombers & 13 fighters were lost to enemy aircraft & flak.

The bombers successfully dropped their bombs & were on their return flight near the German town of Gottenheim not far from the French & German border when they were attacked from fresh German fighters including both FW-190 & Messerschmitt or ME-109 fighter planes. The 55th engaged the German fighters & tried to lure them or chase them away from the bomber formation in order to protect them from further loss when Brad’s P-38 was hit by enemy fire. I finally received Brads missing aircrew report or MACR # 3100 and it contained some graphic details of Brads final moments on the mission. Capt. Val Bollwerk was the flight leader for the 338th fighter squadron for that days mission and his statement is included in Brad’s Missing Air Crew Report. Capt. Bollwerk indicated he was the last witness to see Brad’s plane. His statement reads as follows:

“2nd Lt. Bradford R Wikholm was flying in my flight, we were in the target area and engaged with enemy aircraft. He was hit in the right engine and started burning. He dived and put the fire out. The enemy aircraft were chased away from him. He was going down and to the west apparently all right for he had the aircraft under control at apparently 6000 ft. I was then bounced by 4 enemy aircraft and lost him. This was the last I saw of him and he was not under attack by enemy aircraft when I last sighted him. I did not see him bail out and I believe he defiantly had the aircraft under control when I last saw him.” It also included a hand drawn map of the approx area where Lt. Wikholm’s plane was last seen near Gottenheim, Germany close to the French border city of Colmar located in the Alsace region of France. Some records said Brad went down near Gottenheim, Germany and others later mentioned France. I know Brad was recovered from France so it was clear that the U.S. Army simply did not know for some time just where Brad’s plane had gone down. Anyhow Capt. Bollwerk lost sight of Brad when he peeled off to evade & engage the German fighters and no other American pilots or aircrews witnessed what happened to Brad. He never returned to England nor did he ever turn up as a POW. So Brad was declared as missing in action for about two years. He wasn’t declared killed in action until two years later in 1946. The day that Brad was lost I knew from earlier research that he was the only loss for the 55th on that day. After Germany surrendered the U.S. military began earnestly searching for our missing and dead servicemen. The U.S. Army was contacted by villagers in and around Hohwarth/St. Pierre Bois, France that an American airman was buried in a local church cemetery. They eventually sent an Army graves and registration recovery unit into the area and investigated this along with numerous other claims and found it was true and exhumed Brads remains and interned him at the new U.S. Military Cemetery at St Avold, Metz, France. In January 1949 he was returned to the U.S. and interned in the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Mateo near San Francisco, California in plot l/6 8155 on Jan 6th, 1949.

My research results were beginning to slow down despite the fact that I had found what I thought were several key pieces of information. I had a number of replies from my posted queries on the Internet but they were not producing much new info at this point. I went back to some sites that I had visited before or thought I had when I found that someone else had posted a query asking if anybody knew Lt. Bradford Wikholm and that he wanted to be contacted. It was posted nearly seven years ago and had sat unanswered all that time but I was still hopeful & excited to answer it & told this person he hit the jackpot.

He emailed me the very next day & told me he had a propeller from Brad’s plane wreckage in his private collection and wanted info on Brad. He was in France & knew several details about Brad including the correct aircraft tail # and other facts that convinced me he was not pulling my leg. His name is Patrick Baumann from the village of Holtzwihr.

Patrick is a wine salesman and represents a local grower in the area so he travels throughout the region a lot and has made many contacts and friends over the years and he is an avid WWII historian who is especially interested in the air war. His hobby over the last 20 years is to research and locate WWII aircraft crash sites in the Alsace region of France. His goal is to research every known site in that region.

Patrick also heads the Association of the Aerial Remembrances of East France. He often donates remnants of plane crash sites to nearby and sometimes far away museums. In the case of Brad’s propeller Patrick tells the story of how he drove by a home in the region that had this propeller propped up in their garden and Patrick just had to have it. The owner wouldn’t part with it but after Patrick had stopped by a few times asking about how the guy obtained it he finally agreed to part with it but Patrick had to trade another piece of aircraft wreckage for it.

He offered to run an ad in the local newspaper to attempt to locate any witnesses who remembered that day long ago.

Patrick and I exchanged emails & info several times & we both were excited when he received letters from two witnesses who saw Brads final moments above & Brads plane crash. They stated that they watched as the smoke from Brad’s plane stopped as the fire appeared to have been extinguished but then Brad was jumped by two German fighters both of which were model ME-109’s. Brad was somehow able to out maneuver one German pilot & shoot him down. That German crashed landed a few miles away but the pilot survived it although we have not yet discovered his identity. Patrick’s research has since identified these pilots as belonging to German fighter group JG-106. In maneuvering to shoot down an enemy plane you would often try to position yourself behind the other plane to achieve a premium position to shoot him down. Based on one witnesses account and the physical evidence from a propeller from Brads P-38 that was salvaged from the crash site it appears that Brad and the German pilot now identified as Lt. Broo at one point found their planes coming face to face and engaged each other. The one propeller from Brad’s P-38 that Patrick now owns has two bullet holes entering from the front and exiting out the rear. As I understand at this point and admit I have yet to clarify is that the propeller only mounts facing one way. This would collaborate the witness who stated that he saw them fly at each other firing their guns. Brads aircraft apparently was hit again as his plane was again on fire or maybe the original damaged area reignited and started trailing smoke again. The German pilot Lt. Broo for whatever reason broke of the engagement and did not pursue Brad the last few moments before Brad crashed. Maybe he knew that Brad’s plane was so severely damaged that Brad was no longer a threat or maybe he was low on fuel. Either way he did not follow Brad all the way down which the pursuing pilots sometimes did if possible to ensure a confirmed victory. Captured German Luftwaffe records show Lt. Broo’s engagement with Brad was credited to him as a “probable victory” not a confirmed victory. Regardless the witnesses said they watched as Brad flew over an old castle on a hilltop across a wide valley past their homes flying right toward the old St. Gilles Church sitting on the opposite hill top. They watched nervously as Brads P-38 narrowly missed it passing just over the church steeple. Just as he passed the church steeple he rolled his P-38 over so it was upside down and dropped out of it “bailing out”. They saw two “pilots” fall out of the plane and later found that the second pilot was actually a life raft that was positioned behind Brad in the cock pit and automatically dropped out with the pilot. But many witnesses thought that two pilots bailed out. P-38 pilots had to bail out in an upside down position and drop out of the cockpit as the aircraft had a dual tail and a stabilizer that spanned in between that they were likely to strike if they bailed in an upright position. Anyhow they lost sight of both Brad and the aircraft as they both disappeared behind the hilltop and church but heard a dull whoop as the aircraft crashed into the far hillside out of view. Then seconds later they saw the smoke rising in the distance from the burning wreckage.

By ironic fate Brad’s picture appeared in the Los Angeles Times on March 15th 1944 just 3 days before his loss. It shows Brad sitting in the cockpit of his plane with Lt. Orville Goodman kneeling on the wing talking to Brad before a mission. Its caption reads “California Pilots in England”. Since Capt. Val Bollwerk was the last to see Brad’s plane & did not actually see Brad shot down or crash there was no official record of his death for U S Army until he was recovered after the war. Therefore Brad was listed as Missing In Action or MIA until 1946 when he was declared dead. Since no American military personal witnessed Brad’s dogfight with the two German planes he does not receive any official credit for shooting down or forcing down the ME-109 either. This no doubt happened to a number of pilots during the war.

Patrick also received a letter from Mrs. Irene Meyer the widow of the former mayor of Hohwarth. Mrs. Meyer’s husband had two photographs of Brad, in these photos Brad is in civilian clothes and they are apparently his escape & evasion photos. Pilots carried these in case they were shot down behind enemy lines & survived they might be able to use them to make false id’s and passports to escape. Mrs. Meyer sent these to Patrick who in turn sent them to me via email. Mrs. Meyer does not know where her husband got the photos but fortunately they kept them for 59 years and never discarded them. Mrs. Meyer also included a photograph of Brads original grave in St. Gilles Church Cemetery apparently taken immediately after his burial showing it completely covered in flowers including a large floral wreath hung over the cross marking his grave. In that photo there’s also a woman with two children standing behind the cross. The back of the photo had the following written on it: “Bradford Wikholm 18/03/44. Jeanne, sister of Lucien, of Direction (or of Lens?)”

Patrick went to the town to meet a couple of witnesses & then went to the actual crash site along with his friend Lt. Col. Le Clair Yves of the French Air Force & with a couple others they used a metal locator to find & dig up fragments of the plane & sent several of those fragments back to the U.S. to me. I have those fragments in my home and after sixty years it’s just amazing to have parts of Brads plane sitting on my desk. I gave a number of these to Brads widow Mary Ellen and his siblings.

A new and most informative and the closest involved eyewitness came foward named Fernand Huber who was 13 years old at the time. He including his wife Annette who was also a child at the time and the others we later met at the memorial gave us the following additional information. “It was the afternoon of March 18, 1944. It was a beautiful day and dry, many people were busy cutting their vines (this is wine country). I heard and saw an armada of allied bombers on their way returning toward England when the Luftwaffe attacked them. The attack started while they were still on the German side of the Rhine River heading towards France. Fernand himself saw several aircraft shot down that day alone. He mentioned how three bombers went down on the German side of the Rhine and two came down on the French side of the river. One came down near the town of Muttersholtz and the other close to Chatenois. The attack was fierce and included both German fighters FW 190’s and Messerschmitt or ME-109’s. Suddenly an American P-38 was coming down with his engine on fire. His plane was approaching dangerously close to St Gilles Church. At about that distance the pilot bailed out with the villagers below watching closely. They thought that two pilots bailed out but later realized the second pilot was just a life raft. Sadly Brad was too close to the ground for his parachute to properly perform. His plane struck the ground in the forest between Hohwarth and Sauloch near Oberhagel. Brad was found less than 200m from the plane wreckage. He was lying close to a fir tree. Many people rushed into the trees all over the hillside at first trying to locate both pilots or so they thought. Fernand was the first to find Brad with his father right behind him. He saw that Brad had been killed instantly and could not be helped. Mr. Huber said he found Brad with his parachute pulled all the way out of the pack but was not fully opened up. He also said that Brad looked in good condition, meaning he was not wounded while he was in the aircraft. Whether out of reaction or instinct he removed Brad’s emergency survival kit from and stuffed it under his own coat. The German soldiers were right behind Fernand and when the soldiers caught up they chased Fernand several feet back and he watched them search Brad for anything of intelligence. The soldiers were going through his belongings. He had three uniforms with him including: his flight suit, regular uniform and a change of civilian clothes all of which were worn over each other. His flight suit being worn on the outside over his civilian clothes with his regular uniform under them. I assume that it was intended that if shot down he would strip his flight suit off and instantly be in civilian clothes and if caught he would strip them off and be in uniform. It would also help to insulate him as the P-38 itself was not insulated and could be around 20 degrees below in flight. He also had flight boots over his regular shoes with him. Fernand continued to watch in amazement and saw that Brad had three different currencies on him including: American dollars, French francs and German marks to have the maximum chance to slip into the population of the country where he would most likely go down. The Germans would not let the villagers remove Brad from the forest that night so a few of the local men stayed in the forest with Brad overnight where he lay as well as a few German soldiers who kept guard at the crash site and over Brad. The Germans allowed them to remove Brad in the morning, which they did by a horse drawn cart to the Town Hall where he remained for two hours. They decided he couldn’t stay there so they took Brad to the home of Fernand Huber’s family. Fernand’s parents owned a large home which was formerly an old school house that was located on a sloping hill so that at the lower end were two large storage rooms. The larger room was used by the local volunteer firemen as a storage room where they kept their equipment. In this room was a large table where they brought and laid Brad on it. He was kept there for the next two days with some villagers coming by at different times with flowers to pay respects to the brave fighter pilot who gave so much for them. The German soldiers would not let them bury him yet as they came by two other times to search him again for possible intelligence information. The last time the Gestapo came and actually removed his flight suit and took it. Fernand saw that Brad had on a nice pair of Brown shoes under his flight boots and Fernand was so interested in those shoes as the war had been going on for a few years now and new shoes were no where to be found but out of respect no one dared to remove Brad’s shoes.

During this time while Brad was at the Huber’s home the local villagers were forced by the German soldiers to go back to the crash site and dismantle the wreckage with hand tools and load the parts onto oxen carts and horse drawn wagons to haul it off with Fernand helping to help operate the cart brakes. He remembers the engines were very heavy and required very hard work to load them. While at the Huber’s home the local volunteer firemen took turns standing watch over Brad so that he was never alone. This fact was represented at the memorial later, in fact Brad was never alone from the time he was located moments after the crash until he was buried.

Finally after two days at the Huber’s home Brad was taken to the cemetery at St. Gilles Church and buried. The villagers risked much as they turned out and completely covered Brads grave with flowers and installed a large cross over it and then hung a large floral wreath on it. Someone took a picture of it that I had mentioned earlier. Several witnesses stated that to this day they do not know who did it but someone or several would come by and put fresh flowers on Brads grave regularly for two years until Brad was recovered by the U S Army. His grave was never without fresh flowers when they were available and just as remarkable was that they remembered that someone had placed a French flag at great risk on Brad’s grave in the summer of 44 much to the displeasure of the German authorities. A courageous gesture in occupied France. The German soldiers removed it but the same man came by another night and spread another French flag over it again. The Germans were angry this time and went to several nearby homes questioning and threatening the locals so he didn’t do it again as so not to endanger innocent villagers.

I finally received the IDPF or Individual Deceased Personal File this did not offer a lot of new information but it did provide a number of collaborating facts to what some of the witnesses and Patrick had already uncovered and offered.

Patrick did contact the mayor of Hohwarth reminding them of Brads sacrifice & that March 18, 2004 was the 60th anniversary of his death. Patrick advised them that four members of the Wikholm family are coming to hold a memorial that day at the crash site. He inquired if they would be interested in participating in the memorial as well. Patrick mentioned the suggestion of possibly renaming a local street in the village or placing a memorial plaque in honor of Lt Wikholm’s sacrifice there. We found out later on at the memorial that the village hadn’t planned anything at all but they got into the spirit of it all and in ten days flat had approved, planned, designed, engraved and built the memorial plaque at the site only about 40 feet from the actual crash site.

I never dreamed that when I started this quest to know the truth regarding Lt. Bradford Wikholm that it would result in the journey it became including traveling to France to remember Brad where he gave his life so long ago and now here we were.

I awoke early on the morning of the 18th to look out of the window over past the Rhine River at the black forest in Germany.

We had breakfast and Patrick met us at the hotel and we followed him to a church in Holtzwhir. About 10 feet high on the side wall was a plaque honoring a British Lancaster bomber crew that had been shot down nearby loosing 3 of the 10 crewmen. Patrick had had it dedicated ten years before at a memorial for that crew. Brads memorial was Patrick’s second dedication and an even bigger one he said. The Channel 3 news crew met us.

We now headed about 20 km to Hohwarth. Along the way we passed about a dozen ancient castles dotting the hills. We wound our way through the hills until we came upon a church on a hilltop. This was St. Gilles Church and was surrounded by a small walled cemetery. After standing it for a few seconds Patrick opened his notebook and showed us the photo of Brads original grave with the family standing behind it and pointed out to the hillside and said look. Here we were standing looking at Brad’s original grave with the exact hills silhouetted in the background. Then Patrick said to look at the actual grave and said that the little boy named Gerard Herbst who was standing in the old photo is now buried in that same grave. After Brad was removed and sent to the states that the family of that boy kept the plot and about 5 years ago he died and was buried in it. Wow!

We took lots of pictures and the news crew did the same focusing on Duane and Patrick mostly. After spending some time there we drove to a restaurant in town where we met several people including: two uniformed French Air Force officers a Lt. Col. Philippe Moral and Lt. Francis Bouillt. We also met Mrs. Irene Meyer who had provided the photos of Brad’s escape and evasion pictures and the original grave photo, we met Mrs. Herbst the widow of Gerard Herbst, the boy in the old grave photo.

Patrick hurried us to go and we left to go to the actual memorial and crash site. We arrived quickly and found about 75 or more people already waiting there. The local village school had come as well to attend this memorable event. The news crew set up and we saw a plot with a log border around it with the U S and French flags covering the monument. I gave an 8 x 10 inch portrait of Brad that I had brought and he placed it under the flags in front of the still hidden monument.

We then met the Mayor of Hohwarth Daniel Gross and the French Counsel General. Unfortunately I did not get his name. Patrick lined us up and right as it was beginning we heard the unmistakable noise of jets approaching. We all turned our eyes toward the sky and watched in awe as the two French Air Force fighters soared overhead. They were Mirage 2000 models and one was slightly ahead of the other. Wow! What a moment just about 60 years to the moment that brad’s P-38 crashed only about 40 feet from where we were standing. I couldn’t stop thinking about Brad and of Mary Ellen at that moment and of how much they both sacrificed that day. Brads life came to an abrupt end and Mary Ellen spent the rest of her life without him.

Patrick got up next and read a speech that his brother translated for all of us talking about that day 60 years ago and honoring all the airmen who were downed that day. As I mentioned earlier 8 aircraft or about 71 Americans were shot down within sight of the town that afternoon in the span of a few minutes. Then the Mayor and Duane (Brad’s brother) went up together and removed both flags revealing the large stone with the memorial plaque mounted to its face. The marker states:

In memory

2nd Lt. Bradford R. Wikholm

Pilot with the 55th Fighter Group

8th U S Air Force

Killed in action

18 March 1944

Patrick then brought Duane the family flowers to place at the base of the monument, which he did.

The monument was flanked during the whole ceremony on each side by the two French Air Force officers and then flanking them were a six man volunteer fireman’s honor guard. They were there to represent the memory of those who stood watch over Brad while he was lying at the Huber’s home for two days before burial 60 years ago. Then Patrick had a large portable tape player and stereo and played the U S national anthem and then taps followed by La Marseillaise. The officers saluted during the appropriate songs as we all hand our hands over our hearts.

The dedication was now over and we walked a short distance to the actual site where Patrick’s friends had hung an American flag right over the impact site. It was facing the wrong way I noticed as I quietly chuckled but it was a nice touch over that sacred ground. While we talked and listened to people telling about the times and memories an elderly woman of about 80-85 years came down from the road and started talking in French of course. She began to weep slightly but told of how young and how handsome Brad looked and how bad she felt for his family back home but stopped mid sentence and exclaimed that “my God did he have big feet”. They all laughed and had to explain to her that his thick padded flight suit was over his other clothes and shoes. For 60 years this woman thought Brad had gigantic feet. Again this was a moment of humor in a tragic circumstance. Mr. Huber during all this had picked up a stick and was digging around the site and dug up two fragments of the plane while we stood there. He gave the big piece to Duane, which I believe Duane brought back home.

We then returned back to our hotel in Bischwhir for a short rest, Patrick came and we followed him over to his home to watch the news coverage. It was maybe a seven minute long storyline and was done very well. It featured Duane of course as Brad’s only sibling there but also featured Patrick quite a bit. Annette had a really nice shot of her laying flowers at the memorial for her uncle Brad. I had brought a number of pictures of Brad and Mary Ellen and earlier in the day the cameraman asked me to hold my album open as he filmed shots of those pictures. Most all of them were on that broadcast as well including Mary Ellen’s. I was very happy to see that they featured and talked about Mary Ellen as she sacrificed so much also. After the broadcast we all went to old town Colmar and had a wonderful dinner before parting back to the hotel. Patrick stopped by in the morning before Annette & I departed and gave us one copy of the local newspaper with an article covering the memorial dedication. Patrick also gave a bottle of wine to Duane and I as a parting gift and we said our goodbyes. Annette and I took the train back to Paris to sightsee more and Duane and Sylvia drove back a different route that what they came.

How do you end a story like this? I think the key is you don’t end it. Those that loved and lost them will never forget what they did nor how they died. Nor do they forget the void left in their lives. News anchor and author Tom Brokaw called them the “greatest generation.” Brad was one of over 400,000 Americans who died in WWII. I hope in some small way I gave a little something back to Brad along with the good people of Hohwarth and St, Pierre Bois and Patrick Baumann with the dignity and honor Brad deserves.
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Old 02-23-2011, 12:41 AM
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Capt. Joe Foss was a pilot in the "Cactus Airforce"...in the PTO and racked up an impressive record. here's a little on him followed by an interview of him in 1943.

With 26 victories, Joe Foss was the first American ace of World War II to tie the World War One record of the legendary Eddie Rickenbacker. His actions with the Cactus Air Force earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor and the cover of LIFE magazine. After Guadalcanal, he served a second tour in the Pacific, ending the war as the second highest scoring Marine ace. (He has since become America's top Marine ace, due to post-war re-evaluations of Pappy Boyington's victories.) After WWII, Joe went on to become the youngest governor of South Dakota (two terms), helped start the American Football League, and served as President of the NRA. He was active in numerous civil and patriotic organizations until his death in January of 2003.


Interview of

Executive Officer, VMF-121

in the
Bureau of Aeronautics
26 April 1943

Captain Foss tells of experiences as a fighter pilot on Guadalcanal. In his narrative he discusses among other topics Jap and U. S. air tactics, attacks on convoys, the P-38, strafing, gun-spread on planes, ammunition combinations, gunnery, float planes, oxygen, radio, Jap pilots.

Distribution: To all units ashore and afloat concerned with aircraft


I went into Guadalcanal in VMF-121. Major "Duke" Davis was Commanding Officer and I was the Exec. We flew off a converted carrier, about 350 miles off Guadalcanal, arriving October 9. Our second day there, we started air operations.

At that time the Jap attacks were with the Type-1 high altitude bomber, coming in in formations of from 27 up to 35 with fighter escort; altitudes from 22,000 to 26,000 feet. They would send down a fighter sweep before the bombing attack. About 12 Zeros would arrive 30 to 45 minutes ahead of the bombers, — apparently to draw up all our fighters to start an engagement. About the time an engagement started the second wave of Zeros would come in. They always came in at high altitude, somewhere about 30,000. By the time they arrived, they were hoping you were down at a good low altitude where they could work on you.

The first outfit that came in would always spar around; they wanted to draw you down so that the high altitude boys could get a good pass at you. Once of that was enough to cure me, and everyone in our outfit. We went in to get something that looked like easy bait and as we started in the Zeros that were above us came down on us. They had a little bit too much speed to do much damage. They didn't shoot down many, but they hit just about all of us.

So whenever we'd see about six Jap planes that seemed to want to engage us, we were quite sure they had plenty of high cover. If the fighting was on even terms, they weren't at all anxious to engage us. But whenever they had the long end of the deal, they were anxious to engage. Along with the bombers there would be six to eight more Zeros. They'd fly to the rear and above, about 3000 feet

above the bombers, doing loops and slow rolls, to slow them down so they could stay with the bombers. They were usually up around 30,000 feet. Then there were another six just prowling around. You never could tell where they were; they would circle wide and try to come in from the opposite direction.

When I got there, we seemed to be getting off late. The Japs got wise to the fact that if they made a circle and came in over the mountains we couldn't pick them up on the Radar as soon as we used it when they came right down the channel. With the mountain interference on the Radar we hadn't quite enough warning to make it up there. On several occasions I reached the same altitude as the bombers, — a bad situation. We didn't have time to climb into a position to get a pass at the bombers. Sometimes my outfit made a parallel run to the bombing formation but couldn't gain a bit on them; we stayed right there just out of range. Their gunners would be shooting at us while Zeros stayed up and didn't seem to want to come down. Finally they could come down, and then we'd get to fight the Zeros. One reason why my squadron had lot (SIC) of Zeros to its credit is that we always wanted to get into a scrap. When there was nothing else around, we always went after the Zeros, if they didn't come after us.


Instead of scrambling all the fighters on the first warning, we would send up one flight of eight and sometimes twelve planes just to spar around with these first fighters. They circle around for a long time before they engage; they never press the attack. We were just trying to hold off 'till we could get some more fighters with plenty of oxygen and gas up there in time for the bombers. We always got at least eight planes to the bombers.

At that time, we were allowed 40 F4F's on the field, about 30 of which were operating. Out of these 30, we could guarantee to have 24 in the air.

The P-38's didn't arrive until late in October. The day they arrived was the last time that the Japs came in with their big formations for high altitude bombing.

Until October 25 we had air combat every day, sometimes two and three times a day. On October 25 we knocked down 17 Zeros and 5 bombers. That attack was the last that came into the field. Every day we picked them up on the Radar. They'd come down to within 40 miles of the field and orbit. We covered the field, and went out in their direction far enough to intercept them, if they came in. That went on for about a week. After that we decided to see what was out farther. As soon as we'd start out, they'd evidently see us coming and turn around, for our control would call us and say they were departing. This went on until November 12, when the Jap

battle ships came down, and we had a Fleet engagement through the 15th. During that engagement the Jap dive bombers came down a couple of times. Our boys intercepted them and cleaned out just about the whole formation.


Then they brought a convoy down the channel consisting of eight transports and four cargo ships covered by nine destroyers and three light cruisers. When they were at this end of New Georgia Island, the ENTERPRISE group came in to help us. After we hit them the first time the warships turned around and left their cargo and transport ships to fight it out for themselves, with very light Zero coverage. That was the end of that outfit. The four cargo ships got through that day, because we went after the transports first. The cargo ships arrived at Guadalcanal the next morning — the l5th. I took off just at daylight and spotted them as they were coming around Savo Island. I went on up the channel; and when I came back, three of them were in flames. Then we strafed the beach, and the fourth one couldn't unload anything. A P-39 dropped a bomb right in the hold and an SBD dropped another one. That ship was evidently loaded with oil. It was the end of the four cargo ships.


I left Guadalcanal the 17th of November. On January 1st I came back and found that things had changed. They now had course rules around the field and MP's; enemy action was very erratic. We flew a lot of patrols over the ships in the channel. We were bringing in a lot of supplies. We made fighter sweeps up over Munda and Rekata Bay and once in a while saw a Jap cargo ship, accompanied usually by one or two destroyers, coming down the channel headed for Munda. They would try to leave Bougainville late enough in the day to be coming into our range just at dark. If we came out to intercept them, we had to come back to the field after dark. Usually the weather was really bad up that way; there were squalls almost every day all along the line; it was really a workout to get back.

Then part of our Fleet force went up and shelled Munda. While they were en route, we covered them until darkness; then the next morning we picked them up at daylight and flew fighter coverage over them. We had only four Grummans to cover them but didn't think it too few at the time. Coming back, I was the first one out at daylight and didn't see a thing for three hours. Just after I had been relieved by the other half of my flight, eight dive bombers, which had evidently been watching, came in. My four boys jumped in, shot down five of the dive bombers, and put two more smoking.


By that time my boys were out of ammunition and decided to
circle around the ships to get a little protection from their AA fire. But the ships chased them out of there. Then twelve Zeros jumped in (we were about 65 to 70 miles from Guadalcanal at the time). There was a smart chap leading who told the boys to move up on line. The four of them got in line. Then as soon as one of the Zeros peeled off and came down for an attack, the chap on the opposite end just buzzed up and started a head-on run at the Jap as he came down. The Jap would pull right up and give it up. One of my boys who had pulled up at him would slide into the middle of the formation. Then they'd just keep shifting back and forth. The Japs chased them all the way to Guadalcanal, where one of the Zeros burst into flames and flew into the water. Our boys didn't have a bean left in their guns.


On January 15, we went to get an AK, evidently coming to Kolombangara or to Munda, accompanied by one destroyer. It was about 15 minutes before dark when we arrived. There were eleven dive bombers, eight Grummans, and eight P-39's. We had four Grummans at 18,000 (that was I), four Grummans at 16,000, and eight P-39's lower; the dive bombers were at about 12,000 feet. It was so dark that if I had been any higher I couldn't have seen the dive bombers. We kept crossicg back and forth so that we'd loop behind the others and cover their tail. Just as the first dive bombers started in, the Zeros jumped in and attacked the P-39's at low altitude, about l4,000 feet. Then the four-plane section of Grummans which were at 16,000 feet dived in and rescued the P-39's. They shot down four of five Japs. I didn't dare go down because I saw six Zeros at my altitude just waiting for me to go down. I just stayed up and circled around trying to get a shot at them. Finally they moved in and started making a pass on me. By this time we'd gone past our range and didn't dare use full throttle or we'd have run out of gas before we got home. As the Zeros went back to re-form and came back for a second time, we slid into a cloud and got away from them. Every one got home, with the exception of one of my four who had a head-on collision with a Zero. When we got back to Guadalcanal, I had less than ten gallons of gasoline left. One of my wing men ran out of gas taxiing off the runway, so we had a pretty close run on fuel.

After that, there weren't any Jap ships coming down the channel in daylight hours. They'd always start from the far end of Bougainville and be out of our range by morning, though we made sweeps every morning.

About noon on January 25th or 26th a bogey was picked up, and one flight was scrambled along with four P-38's which climbed up and hit the ceiling at 18,000 feet. There they circled around, and waited for the bogey to move in. Over Savo Island we spotted our first planes — about twelve Zeros. I gave the command to move in and see what was there. As we got out toward the Zeros, I came to a big gap in the clouds and decided to take a short look above to see

what was up there — I saw plenty! There were above twenty more Zeros up there and in back of those, about twenty more dive bombers! They wanted us to go on out and attack the Zeros over Savo Island. Then those boys would call and say, "They're out here now; go on in and take the field". We just circled between the field and Savo Island, under the clouds, and they just kept sparring around but didn't attack us. They sent bait in within 2000 or 3000 feet directly below us; they pulled right in front so we'd make a run on them, I just called and told everyone to stay in formation. The P-38's were flying on the opposite side of a large circle - we covered each other's tails. Finally two of the Zeros decided they were going to get some action. They met us, head-on, a little off to the side so we'd swing over at them. But we didn't; we just passed them about 100 yards off. They decided to swing around to get on our tail, failing to notice that the P-38's were following. They pulled in front of the P-38's; that was the end of those two birds.

We sparred around there for about an hour. In the meantime all airplanes came up — had sixteen more Grummans, eight P-40' s, and two more P-38's. The Japs turned around and went home with their big outfits. They'd lost five in the deal and hadn't fired a shot.

I left the last of January.

THE P-38

Q. What was your impression of the P-38's?

A. The P-38 is really a good plane as an interceptor, above 20,000 feet. If you get notice that a bogey is coming in, and don't have much time, give it to the P-38's; they can really get up there. If it's above 20,000 feet they make their runs, go on out far enough to make a turn, and come back for another run, When the P-38's were sparring around with me, they would buzz way down below me, take a look, then go up through a hole in the clouds, take a short look around and come back down. They ran all around the sky while I was doing my best just to stay where I was.

Q. Was any attempt made to use them at the limit of their range?

A. They went clear up to Bougainville. They sent P-38's to fly cover on B-17's and on B-24's. There would be Zeros above them and below them would be more Zeros, float bi-planes and float Zeros, but their orders were to stay in formation with the bombers. If any of the enemy fighters made an attack, they'd just pull up, give a short burst, and the enemy fighter would pull right back up out of range. When they failed to do this one day, three of them were shot down. They went down below 20,000 feet to get some "easy meat", (these float bi-planes that can turn on a dime) - went down and tried to dogfight - that was the end of three P-38's

Q. Did you do much strafing on enemy ships?

A. Yes. When we first came, they said there wouldn't be much strafing of enemy ships; I thought I'd start out on canoes or something easy. But our first assignment was some transport ships. Before we went out (I was going out in another formation just to get the idea), the leader said, "Now I don't like to go down close, but you just follow me." When we got out there, there were four or five cargo ships and nine destroyers. We went right on down. I don't know how he missed the ship. That was my first indoctrination in strafing. We came in at about a 45° angle. There were plenty of AA bursts, too close for comfort, on that attack. From then on I was leading.

We went out again around October 13. There were six cargo and transport ships with sevel (SIC) destroyers covering them. The cargo ships were in column with three destroyers on one side and four on the other. We were supposed to go in and strafe a cargo ship, but when we came out they spotted us. They all turned in different directions when I came in at the usual 45°, I failed to look out for a destroyer over at the side, and she real1y packed them right into the middle of the flight. She didn't shoot anyone down. But on the way out one plane in another flight was shot down. I didn't seem to have enough speed, so the next time I went out to strafe destroyers I came down at about 70° and just made a tight spiral to keep my fire right on the decks. The boys came in a little from the side; none of us got shot down that trip.

The next time we went out to strafe a light cruiser off New Georgia. We lost one man out of eight on that deal.

On November l4th my flight had the pleasure of strafing a Jap battleship off Savo Island. The bad thing about that was that they had pompom guns on her, all forward of the big guns clear to the tip of the bow. They kept shooting even after we started sprinkling around right into the gun positions. Finally we shut them up. I couldn't tell you whether they were worked by indirect control - I never did see anyone there. I came right down, but I was looking at other things.

As far as strafing goes, you got a lot of it. Then strafing the fields - we made several attacks on Rekata Bay, a seaplane base. There we really did some good work. We'd get five or a dozen planes and set them on fire. We'd get the radio-shack, and things like that, or get a gas dump - start a few fires, etc. They had five or six AA guns there. And then their small arms fire was something fierce. There is a point at Rekata Bay with a little island right at the end of the point. Whenever you strafe that bay, you come
past this point, right off this island. On this island they have an anti-aircraft position covered with small arms fire. Every time we went through there, somebody got badly shot up, but we always had enough speed to go around the corner and make a forced landing down the coast. The boys usually get back, unless they were killed in the plane.

When the field at Munda was constructed, we made several attacks, getting as high as a dozen planes one day, started fires around the field, got some trucks, dropped in one time and surprised the men whe were working on the runways, and cleaned the field off pretty well. They kept moving in anti-aircraft and three-inch stuff. The last time I went to Munda there looked to me to be around twelve big anti-aircraft positions located so that if you got in there you'd really have to pull a Houdini to get out. Their small stuff would light up the boundary of the field, when they started shooting. Everybody that went in there got pretty well peppered

They have a new destroyer, comparatively new, with anti-aircraft. It resembles the ATLANTA class cruiser, in shape of the turrets. When you come down on those babies, they light up like a Christmas tree. Just about everyone in the formations gets hit a few times

Q. What was the highest altitude at which you operated?

A. The highest altitude that my outfit operated was 31,000 indicated. We could have used a few thousand more feet on several occasions. Our main trouble with the Grumman was that we couldn't get enough altitude in time. We liked to make overhead and high side runs; those were the only two runs that we ever used. Once in a while someone would use a headon run, When we used the headon run, we'd come out behind the Zeros - where some of them had a clear shot at you.

Q. If you'd had planes with a good enough rate of climb, would you have used it up to 35,000 or 36,000 feet?

A. Yes.

Q. What was the effect of the strafing on the ships?

A. Sometimes it'll start a fire on a cargo ship, and on the troop transports the decks are just packed with men. When you strafe the deck on a troop transport, you really do some damage to personnel. When you strafe a destroyer, that's the end of anti-aircraft from that destroyer, if you're placing them good, up and down the deck. They'll stop shooting at you when you get to about 3000 feet.

There were two destroyers that came in one afternoon. Broad daylight around Savo Island, and they saw two of our little old corvettes. These two corvettes saw the destroyers coming, and started

on down the channel, trying to outrun them. The destroyers cut loose and had them well bracketed. When the little fellows saw there was no use trying to run, they just turned and headed straight towards the two destroyers, shooting full blast with their 3-inch. I'll swear that one was sinking - there was a squirt of water coming up - and they were still shooting at the Jap destroyer, All the men on the two corvettes were saved. Then we went out and strafed the Japs. After they cleared Savo Island, one of them exploded, caught on fire, and sank. Then a little farther on, the other one did the same thing. They gave the last four planes credit for sinking two destroyers. But as for doing any damage to a cruiser or battleship, in my estimation, you don't do any. The main thing is to draw fire so that your dive bombers and torpedo planes can get in. When the torpedo planes were coming in on this battleship, the battleship would blaze away with big guns trying to cause geysers so that the torpedo planes would fly into them. They did that all day, but they didn't get a single torpedo plane. I saw one of Captain Dooley's hits, he got one right amidships. I was just a few feet off from the ship when it hit. Then I saw thousand-pound bombs hit on the battleship, and they still kept shooting their big guns; they never would shut up those big guns; torpedoes would hit them and thousand-pound bombs, still the big guns kept going.

Q. Did you see her sink?

A. No, sir. That's the thing we all missed out on. We got the old thing dead in the water at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon; you could see that it had a slight list. It was then about two miles off Savo Island. A nice big cloud came up, what you'd call a thunderhead, up to about 24,000 feet and tight down to the water. The Japs were right under that thing. They were in that place with five destroyers, a light cruiser, and that battleship. We couldn't get in to get at them. I tried to go under the thing because I knew that they would be taking personnel off the battleship, and I thought that was really a chance to score. We'd go in there a few feet and we couldn't tell the water from the rain. It was solid. We just turned around and came back out again, That night, they evidently left a skeleton crew aboard and towed the battleship around Savo Island so that it could take a few shots at Henderson Field as a farewell. There was one salvo of big stuff came in that night - that was all. Some think it turned over and sank after that one. Whether they planted dynamite in it or not, I don't know; but the next morning there was a big explosion. We never sighted the battleship again.

Q. I don't suppose you ever identified it — what class

A. It was of the KONGO Class.

Q. Do you feel that fighter strafing is worth while in making the torpedo and bombing attacks more effective?

A. There's a lot of pro and con on that because sometimes it will cost you about 50% of your fighters. You really lose the fighters on that deal. When you do get out and get out alive on a strafing attack on warships, you just aren't good, you're lucky.

Q. It does silence the anti-aircraft?

A. Yes, it does on destroyers and transports, but on cruisers and battleships the anti-aircraft keeps pegging away. The only thing that I silenced on the battleship was pompom guns. The anti-aircraft there was still plenty of that around - I got one hit right under my wing. I had an idea of turning one way but just happened to turn the other way. It hit where I would have been.


Q. How important do you think it is to keep your guns from being too widely separated?

A. I noticed on the F4U that the guns are really close together. I was wondering if they weren't so close together that they'd overheat.

Q. I didn't mean close to each other - but you've got one group of guns on one wing and one on the other wing - whether that's 15 or 10 feet, does it make very much difference?

A. No, sir. I wouldn't say that it did. In the Grumman whenever we've caught troops we've been able to wipe out the whole outfit. One day, my wing man and I caught some troops on the road as we came out of a dive. They just stood still until we went by, and I called to him and said, "I'm going to do a quick wing over here and start shooting; you just get right under my wing and shoot where I am." We cut loose and when we came back, they were all knocked off. Our guns were set for 250 and 350.

Q. How about combat against other aircraft - does the spread between the two-gun emplacement make very much difference there?

A. No, sir. In combat, against the other planes, I've always used my outboard four guns and left off my inboard guns to save them in case I ran short on ammunition. On one occasion I made a mistake and instead of turning on my outboard four guns, I turned off my outboard four and turned on my inboard. When I started shooting, it sounded like a sewing machine; but I happened to be right on him and got him with the two. I'd like six guns on the plane and save two in case something goes wrong with the others or if you run out of ammunition.

Q. Did you have any trouble with the reflector sight in night strafing?

A. Never did any night strafing or night fighting.


Q. In shooting at aircraft, what was the ammunition combination?

A. One-one-one. When we were in there the first time, we had one-one-one. When I came back, all the pilots said it won't be so easy shooting down Zeros now because they've got armorplating in them and they have self-sealing tanks. They told us that they weren't blowing up like they used to. So we took a short check on the ammunition. The ordnance chief or someone had decided that maybe they should get rid of some AP ammunition they had over there. About 50% of it had been loaded - with five AP's, an incendiary, and a couple of tracers. As a result they weren't blowing the planes up so readily. We got that changed right then and now and started out the same way again, blowing them up.

Q. Do you think the AP was necessary? We had an idea that tracer and incendiary were enough.

A. Well, the AP comes in handy with headon (SIC) passes at Zeros. In fact, about 25% of the Zeros shot down are direct headon (SIC) passes; just staying right in until the last second, hoping you get him or hoping he pulls up. That's where your AP comes in handy because you just keep drilling him right head on with the AP. He usually goes down or up.

Q. Did you see any skip-bombing?

A. No, Sir.

Q. What do you think of the idea of it for fighters?

A. I don't know enough about it to make any comments.


Q. What do you think of the use of tracer? Did you use your tracer for sighting?

A. Yes, sir. To start out I used the sight. After I got started, however, I just dropped my seat clear down so that I wouldn't have my neck stuck out and just barely looked over the edge. Then I used my tracer altogether, but, I had previously used the sight enough to know right where to shoot. As for deflection shots, I'd always lead enough so that I'd never underlead. I'd always over-lead. When you overlead, you just ease forward on your stick and you can always see as far as the axis where he's going to go. You shoot in front of him and just ease forward on your stick. He flies right into it - you see your tracer work right on him. And on the tail end shot just give a burst of tracer, If it's over or under, you just go up or down. I never wanted to sit up high enough to look at the sight. I just stayed down. To start with, I flew around looking in the sight. It works fine, as far as the sight goes; but after a while you don't need it. Is fact, I don't believe any of the boys that had been in combat a lot were using it; they all slid away down in the seat.

Q. Depended entirely on tracer?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. How close do you have to come to do effective damage?

A. When we started out, all our shooting was out of range. We would begin on the enemy a quarter of a mile away, and by the time we actually got into range we'd used up our ammunition. Then we started getting in there from 300 yards to 50 foot off, and really started hitting them. Then we moved it down so that we'd shoot right at 100 yards - then you can't miss. If you're off to one side or the other, just kick it on. If you shoot too far off, you scare 'em! If you keep your tracers out of there - the Jap pilot shoots. I've seen him shoot half a mile off; they just keep shooting until they go on range, and they're still shooting whan they pass you. They really get rid of the ammunition! I talked to the boys when a new outfit would come in. When you talk to a man before he goes out the first time, it doesn't do any good; but after he's been out the first time or the first two times, then you can talk to him. He knows what you're talking about. I'd just tell them, "Get in there, really get them in your sights, and really shoot close." I told one group that, and every flight scored on the trip. They'd all had a couple of combats before; they were shooting away out of range - 500 or 600 yards.

Q. Have you flown the F4U's?

A. Yes, I have. One 1½ hour hop in it. There were no other planes in the sky, so there was nothing to compare it to. But I liked the way it climbed and handled.

Q. How bad is the visibility?

A. I kept the seat clear up and my head up in that little knot on the top. I think that it would probably be all right, - unless it was on a Zero, a full deflection shot going full speed.


Q. What do you think about float fighters?

A. Well, sir, those float fighters that they have don't last

anytime at all, I mean, they're sure death. Anytime we ever tangled with float fighters, none got away. If you got float fighters and mentioned it to somebody, he'd just laugh.

Q. There's been a lot of talk about float planes.

A. Shooting float planes is just like shooting down clay pigeons. They buzz around - they'll turn on a dime. I saw five P-39's chasing one one day. They had just started to shoot when he decided that was enough of that; so he turned around and came headon back out. The P-39's scattered and went all directions. Then they made another run; and when he'd see them all bearing down on him and start shooting, he'd made a quick turn and jump right back through them nearly causing them to have collision with each other. They were all so crazy to get him that they chased him for fifteen minutes before they finally got him. Another morning my flight ran into two of them, and all seven of the boys turned off after the one. I had the other one to myself. I didn't want to fool around with him; so I gave him a burst and he started smoking. I thought I had him. I then raced over to get this other one that they were chasing. I started over and looked back. The one that I thought I'd got was taking off again up the channel. I went back.

Q. What good are they to the Japs? Or how do they use them?

A. They use them at low altitudes, and they use them to jump SBD's. They come in handy as search planes. At first they had no bases on Guadalcanal, Munda, and Kolambangara; their closest land base was Kahili. They moved these seaplanes into Rekata Bay, and from Rekata Bay they could sneak out and catch SBD's that were flying the different searches. They can handle an SBD. They can maneuver but they just haven't got the speed, I've seen them do slow rolls and all that stuff with their float plane.


Q. In strafing a destroyer, what is the maximum distance for attack?

A. In strafing a destroyer, I would start shooting at 3000 feet. Some of them start shooting at 5000 feet; but in my opinion that's just wasting time and ammunition. I go right down and pull up below 1000 feet. After I pass the destroyer, I am right on the water. In strafing a troop transport, I'd drop over the bow or the stern, so that when I went out I was right on the water. I just cleared the ship, went over it, and then really snaked along. We shot all the way in, down to 500 feet - by that time you're really going, high speeds - we were always upward of 300 when we came by. On the way out none of us were hit; it was when you were coming down that you were in a bad spot. You have to look out for crossfire. The ship that you're strafing isn't the dangerous one; there's one on each side; they start playing a crossfire into you, and they pretty well
put it on you. When six or seven or eight destroyers and cruisers were escorting transports and cargo ships, we'd come in and attack the corner warships so that we'd draw fire from these ships and give the dive bombers a chance to go in and drop on the cargo and transport ships. They used to shoot the fighters in preference to the dive bombers. Whether they couldn't tell a dive bomber from a fighter, I don't know. The Grumman looked so chubby that they right away thought it was a dive bomber with a big bomb on it!

Q. Can you hit anything with a TBF in a 45° dive - using bombs?

A. They put these bomb racks on and I know they got one hit. That kind of attack was comparatively new when I left there, so I have really no word on that.

Q. How did you coordinate strafing with dive bombing?

A. The fighter flight commander would use his own judgment. The dive bombers never told us. As soon as I'd see them getting ready, I knew just about what to do, so then I carried out my attack. It worked well.


Q. Have you any comment on oxygen, communications, radio equipment?

A. In regard to oxygen - when new pilots went in, there'd be a couple who would fail to have their mask on tight, or would get excited and get the mask off their face, and pass out. Everytime that some new pilots came in we'd always lose a couple of men. A lot of time we'd have gasoline left after returning. If the Japs kept orbiting out there, we wouldn't have enough oxygen to stay; we'd have to go on back down and hope that someone else got up there in time for the attack. They used to pull that old stuff all the time. They'd start an attack in and then turn out and go back out and orbit a while and then start in again for the attack, and then change their mind again. They knew that we were using gasoline and oxygen.

Q. Were you using the white mask or the newer one?

A. They were about 50-50 when I first arrived. Later all the white ones were gone, and we were using the latest one, the big one. Some don't like the large mask. They like the little white one. As far as that's concerned, either one was all right. We just left the mask in the plane. We flew a different plane every hop so you never had the same type mask twice in a row.

We had a lot of trouble with the radio. They'd go out. They'd get them back in commission, but they'd go right out all the time. And then when we'd get 35 or 40 miles away, we were unable to receive Guadalcanal. We could talk to each other, and maybe the base could
hear us; but we couldn't talk back and forth to the base. That's a handicap. The radio as I use it in combat is very important, because I direct the whole flight with it. We talk back and forth, though we don't put on a lot of unnecessary stuff over the air. If you see a Zero banging up and down and if one chap get's another one in his sight, you just yell over at him that there is a Zero on his tail to give him a chance so he doesn't make any fancy pull-ups. We saved a lot of necks by the radio. I've talked to the Army pilots the same way when I had P-38's or P-39's in combat with me. We'd direct the attack, and tell them not to attack or to move around to the other side.

Q. Did you use the throat microphone?

A. Altogether.

Q. You didn't have microphones in those new masks you got out there?

A. Yes, sir, in some of them they did. As it happened, I had the throat mikes all the time.

Q. Do the Japs use radio much in their tactics?

A. One time they happened to be on our frequency, and we couldn't use our radios at all. Whether they were just being funny, I don't know, and I don't know what they were saying. It was just some mad mass of Japanese over the radio. They blocked us, and we couldn't say a word. We got off that frequency in a hurry. That's the only time I ever heard the Japs on the air


They have a rather unusual way in their attacks. The leader always shies around; his wing mate flies back far enough so you can hit him off without the leader's ever knowing it. They fly more or less in a column - the wing man is supposed to stay with that leader. How he does it, I don't know. When you stay 200 or 300 yards behind your leader and try to follow him, you've really got something on your hands. The wing man has a tough time of it. I talked to some of the Japanese through an interpreter, some of the Japanese pilots, and they'd always shake their heads about following their leader, and talk about their heads going around and around. I see their point.


In our attacks, we'd move in close. Eight planes right close together. If we broke up it would be first one four-plane section and then the other four-plane section; then into two planes. In the end it's just a big dog fight. My wing man would stay right on me until there'd be a plane in front of me that I was chasing.
Then a plane would be coming from one side or the other, and that was a farewell for my wingman. He just made a quick swing out, and he'd always get a head-on shot, probably not such a good shot; but he'd put out a shot and make a quick turn. I'd turn around the other way and hope that we'd come back together; if we didn't see each other, we joined up on the first Grumman we saw. And always branch out from that again. I had my boys fly up more or less on line when they were going into an attack; they flew pretty well up. If the attack moved in from the tail end, I'd just call to him; and he would lead the attack in - he'd be first man in, and I'd be last. Instead of all having to slide over, I'd just call him, and he could take over. We had very good luck that way. We were never surprised. He flew back about 30° I'd say, or as much as 45° but never any of this column stuff. I always want to know where all my wing men are.

Q. Are the Jap pilots who have teen taken prisoner high-grade people?

A. The Zero pilot seems to be the better of the two, Bomber and combat pilots. They were very young, lads of 19-21; with very good builds. As for intelligence, they were pretty "thick". I don't mean to say they wouldn't answer my questions, because they would really answer questions. They would tell you about their fighter cover and about their tactics - things that we had been able to figure out already from the attacks. They gave us very accurate information in regard to six planes down and six up, and twelve planes in a flight. The Japs are pretty well broken up when they're taken prisoner. One told me the only reason he ever joined up in the Air Corps was so he could fly. Now he couldn't fly anymore - by that he meant that he'd never be able to fly for Japan again; and we won't take him on. He was out of luck. He was a 21-year chap who had gone to the University of Tokio.
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Old 02-23-2011, 12:43 AM
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another cactus pilot...sadly its his obit.

Robert Galer, hero just doing his job

He was not much to talk about his heroism, the kind that gets you the nation's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor.

But in the archives of the Marine Corps Historical Center are the words of the young Robert E. Galer, who died Monday in Dallas at age 91, a retired brigadier general. Not even his wife, Sharon, knew about the historical material at the Washington., D.C., center.

It came about in December 1942, when Mr. Galer was 29, a fighter pilot on furlough on his way to his family home in Seattle.

Mr. Galer had his roots here. He was a 1935 University of Washington graduate in engineering, earning money working at the school's bookstore; he had played basketball for the UW, leading it to a division championship and earning All-America honors as a forward. He later was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame.

It was what Mr. Galer did from August to September of 1942 that earned him the medal given at the White House by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The citation said: "Leading his squadron repeatedly in daring and aggressive raids against Japanese aerial forces, vastly superior in number, Major Galer availed himself of every favorable attack opportunity, individually shooting down 11 enemy bomber and fighter aircraft over a period of 29 days."

In 1942, his squadron was assigned to Guadalcanal. On the Web site globalsecurity.org, a defense-policy organization, there is a description of conditions during those days of war:

" ... miserable ... The field was either a bowl of black dust or a quagmire of mud. Malaria and dysentery were constant companions. Sleep in mud-floored tents was constantly interrupted by bombardments from Japanese ships and planes."

Mr. Galer was shot down three times as he flew the Grumman Wildcat F4F-4s.

Interviewed by the Corps, he recounted one of the times he was shot down. He spoke in the colloquialisms of those times:

"I pancaked into the water near Florida Island, a small bit off the Solomons some 25 or 30 miles from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. It took me an hour and a half to swim ashore, which gave me plenty of time to do some worrying ... about the tide turning before I made it, or about man-eating sharks and poisonous stingrays which infested the waters. ... "

Mr. Galer was awarded numerous other medals, including a Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.

He also served in the Korean War, making a harrowing escape in August 1952, when his Corsair plane was shot down. His foot caught in a cockpit strap and he dangled head down as the plane plummeted. He finally managed to parachute 150 feet from the ground, suffering cracked ribs and a damaged shoulder.

He retired from the Marine Corps in 1957, then worked as an engineer on missiles in Texas, and finally in real estate. He died of a stroke.

A memorial service was held yesterday in Dallas. Besides his wife, Mr. Galer is survived by three sons, Robert, of Park City, Utah; Vincent, of Dallas; Charles, of Dallas; a daughter, Christine Brooks of Dallas; a brother, Fred Galer of Seattle; and six grandchildren.

Sharon Galer said her husband still had a Husky blanket. She said he had "great stories" about the war but never brought them up himself.

"He was very humble and felt like he was doing his job," she said.
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Old 02-23-2011, 12:44 AM
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WWII Battle of Midway pilot honored

Jim Muri thought he was getting together with his buddies for lunch Friday at Gusick’s — something the friends hadn’t done for a while.

At 92, Muri, a decorated World War II combat pilot, had been ill but was feeling better and missed his pals.

Walking slowly with a cane and with a friend, Yellowstone County Commissioner John Ostlund, at his side, Muri entered the Billings restaurant where friends and fellow pilots had gathered to surprise and honor the decorated veteran.

Friday marked the 68th anniversary of Muri’s death-defying flight over a Japanese aircraft carrier on June 4, 1942, during the Battle of Midway.

Ostlund said it was a coincidence that the date he’d picked for the luncheon turned out to be the anniversary of the famous flight. The timing called for making the lunch a bigger to-do.

About a dozen people, including Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy, Sheriff Jay Bell and Undersheriff Seth Weston, joined in surprising Muri.

Muri, who grew up near Miles City, may have been surprised at the gathering, but he was well aware of what day it was.

“Oh, yes,” Muri said when asked if he had remembered the date’s significance.

Close friend and retired airline pilot Roger Nelson and Muri recounted the events that day as they examined a painting depicting the flight. The painting was created for the cover of Aviation History magazine.

“Absolutely fabulous,” Muri said as he gazed at the painting and the B-26 bomber No. 1391, named the Suzie Q, he piloted.

Muri flew one of four twin-engine bombers that took off from Midway Island on June 4, 1942, to attack a powerful Japanese fleet that was preparing to invade the U.S. military outpost about 1,100 miles west of Hawaii.

Muri’s plane was riddled by anti-aircraft fire and bullets from attacking Japanese fighters. After unsuccessfully launching a torpedo at the Japanese carrier Akagi, Muri probably saved his crew with an improvised maneuver. He banked hard and flew right down the length of the Akagi’s deck, correctly guessing that Japanese antiaircraft gunners couldn’t swing their guns fast enough to shoot him down.

Muri outran the Japanese fighters and crash landed on Midway. There were more than 500 bullet holes in his bomber, Muri said. He was only 24 years old at the time.

Muri and his crewmen, three of whom were wounded, were later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. In 2003, Muri received the Jimmy Doolittle Award for outstanding service to the U.S. Army Air Corps in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The anniversary luncheon featured a summary of the Battle of Midway by Lonnie Bell, a longtime Billings broadcaster and World War II Navy veteran who was stationed in Hawaii while the battle was fought.

Bell also strapped on his guitar and sang “Midway,” a patriotic ballad he wrote more than 30 years ago. The song memorializes the flight of 1391, pays tribute to Midway’s veterans and salutes the sacrifices made by Vietnam vets.

In another happy coincidence, Bell wrote the song long before he ever met Muri. It wasn’t until about nine years ago that Bell learned that Muri lived in Billings. Don Cooper, a mutual friend of Muri and Bell, helped make the connection.

Cooper met Muri at a Thanksgiving dinner at the home of his daughter, Kristie Ostlund, who is John Ostlund’s wife and used to clean Muri’s house. Cooper and Bell went over to Muri’s house a few days later and the three became fast friends.

Bell called the connection “absolutely insane.”

Muri and other first-wave attackers inflicted little damage on the Japanese fleet, but they set the stage for a decisive U.S. victory. Over the course of the three-day battle, Japan lost four aircraft carriers and hundreds of its most experienced pilots. The United States lost the carrier Yorktown, but kept possession of Midway Island and checked Japanese expansion in the Pacific.

Nelson, who accompanied Muri to Washington when he received the Doolittle award, told Muri his flight was historic.

“Yes, it was,” Muri agreed. “It sure was.”
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Old 02-27-2011, 05:35 PM
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remember the movie 1941?? well maybe it wasnt so off the mark...

( and actually it is in a book...found one of my dad's old paperbacks and researched the pilot)


Lt. Nobuo Fijita

It could have been a great book, a book about a Japanese WWII pilot who bombed the American West Coast. That’s what I heard, that he actually flew his warplane over the coast and dropped bombs on the America mainland. I had the chance, but I missed out writing that book.

A Greyhound bus driver told me the story and I didn’t believe him. I was sitting directly behind the driver, nearing Brookings en route to San Francisco, when he said, “Japanese aircraft bombed this place during World War II.”
The Japanese did launch a series of ill-directed high-altitude balloon bombs destined for North American and one or two fell harmlessly but the Japanese never bombed the mainland––or so we believed. I perked up when the bus driver mentioned the Japanese pilot had made a return visit to the US and the newspaper in Brooking ran the story. I had to check it out.
Later, I went to the newspaper. “That’s right,” the editor said, “one of those war secrets; would still be hush-hush had not the pilot come for a visit.” I could hardly believe it. The newspaper carried a photograph of Lt. Nobuo Fujita, 78, was appearing in Brookings, “nearly 48 years after he flew the only successful bombing mission against the US mainland.”
Secret or not, this had to be one of the most daring feats to come out of the war. From the editor I got the pilot’s address and wrote to him. He agreed to meet with me. I was flying from San Francisco to Bangkok and stopped in Tokyo and made the two-hour train trip to his village, and there I met Nobuo Fujita, a fail and soft-spoken man. I could hardly believe he had to tell me. He spoke some English, with the help of a dictionary.
He told how that bombing mission on California wasn’t his first against America. On November 21, 1941, he had sailed aboard I-25, an attack submarine, under orders to proceed to Pearl Harbor and join forces in the attacked on December 7. Aboard I-25 was his small Zero-type reconnaissance seaplane.
The plane was kept in a sealed deck hanger. It had to be assembled on deck and taken apart when it returned. Once assembled, the plane was catapulted with compressed air down a ramp on the deck. Top speed was barely 150 mph, and its only armament was one machine gun. But it did carry two 76-kg bombs.
After Pearl, I-25 returned to Yokosuka whereupon Fujita was ordered to report to Naval Headquarters. He was nervous when he entered the commander’s office. He was informed his next mission was to bomb the American mainland. He laughed when he told me the story. Where would it be, he asked himself, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles? Disappointment followed. He was to fly to Oregon-California border, drop incinerary bombs and set the forests on fire. Forest fires, not a city.
1-25 sailed from Yokosuka on August 15, 1942, and on an early morning in September sighted Cape Blanco light¬house. The submarine surfaced due west of the Oregon-California border and nipped into a cove. The aircraft was assembled and armed. With two 76 kg incendiary bombs aboard, Fujita was soon airborne. The sun was rising above the fog as he climbed to 2,500 metres. When they reached a heavily wooded area, he released the bombs.
On the return Fujita took the plane down to treetop level and hedgehopped back to awaiting submarine. They were beginning to submerge when the duty officer sighted an enemy airplane coming out of the sun.
I-25 dove and was 18 metres under the surface when the first bomb exploded. The submarine rolled sharply and the lights went out. Another bomb dropped by but missed. Fortunately damage was minor and repairs could be made later. That night they surfaced and made repairs.
Since they still had four incendiary bombs left, Fujita decided to make a second bombing mission. Knowing it was dangerous to fly during daylight hours he planned a night flight.
Before midnight, 50 miles west of Cape Blanco, I-25 surfaced and the crew assembled and armed the plane. Fujita took off in the dark, flew inland for about half and hour and dropped his bombs in a forest area east of Port Orford. He saw the explosions of red fire in the dark.
On the return flight, Fujita was very careful to avoid being seen. He turned off the engine when he reached the coast and glided well out to sea before starting the engine. Once safely aboard Fujita reported the success of the mission.
They spent the rest of the patrol time attacking merchant shipping. I-25 sank two tankers, one on October 5 and another on October 6. Not until they were down to their last torpedo did they decide to return home. Then on October 11, they fired their last torpedo at one of two submarines travelling on the surface about 80 miles off the Washington coast. The submarine, a Soviet L 16, blew up in a terrific explosion.
How was it possible that an enemy plane could fly over US territory and not be spotted? And why weren’t the bombings ever made known? For the answer, I had to go back to the archives in America.
The truth is Fujita in his low-flying plane was spotted by four people and reported in each incident. A milkman was driving his truck when there was a break in the fog and he saw an airplane coming in over the coast. He called the Coast Guard and was told he didn’t know what an airplane looked like.
A teenager who was out hunting instead of being in school saw the plane but was afraid to report it.
An unidentified soldier at Cape Blanco saw the plane and wondered what stupid fool was flying around in a putt-putt with a Japanese insignia trying to frighten the daylights out of everyone. His CO told him to get some sleep
A Forest Service officer on watch heard what sounded like a Model A Ford backfiring looked up to see a pontoon plane. He called headquarters but the operator attached “no significance to the report.”
The most interesting report concerned the US bomber. The twin-engine Lockheed neared the California-Oregon border when the pilot saw something dark in the water ahead. He made a pass and seeing that it might be an enemy submarine, dropped two 300-pound bombs. He then banked and made another approach but did not see any damage or oil on the water. It was long after the war that he learned he had not only seen a submarine and dropped a bomb on it, but that he had actually hit and damaged it.
What Nobuo told me next during my visit in Japan I could hardly believe. After the Pearl, he flew reconnaissance missions launched from I-25 over Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, Wellington and Auckland in New Zealand and other Pacific ports that included Suva in the Fiji Islands and Noumea in New Caledonia––and was never detected.
I wanted to visit Nobuo again. There were so many questions I had to ask, and maybe even write his biography, if he agreed.
A few year later I was in Tokyo and thought I’d like to see Nobuo again. I phoned his home. It was too late. Nobuo Fujita had passed away some weeks before.
All that remains is a plaque on the California-Oregon border, a wooden marker on a mountainside, and the memories of a few people who are still alive. But even those will soon be forgotten. The full story will never be told and a part of history is lost forever.

an interesting footnote to the story

TOKYO, Oct. 2— Nobuo Fujita, a Japanese pilot who flew bombing runs over Oregon in 1942, apparently the only time that an enemy aircraft has ever bombed the American mainland, died on Tuesday at a hospital near Tokyo. He was 85.

The cause was lung cancer, family members said.

Mr. Fujita, whose incendiary bombs set off forest fires in Oregon's coastal range, played the key role in a quixotic plan by Japanese military commanders to put pressure on America's home turf in World War II. The idea was that the United States Navy would then be obliged to retreat from the Pacific to protect the West Coast.

A quiet, humble man who in his later years was deeply ashamed of his air raids on the United States, Mr. Fujita eventually forged a remarkable bond of friendship with the people of Brookings, the small logging town whose surrounding forests he had bombed. Last week, as he lay dying, the town council of Brookings hailed Mr. Fujita an ''ambassador of good will'' and proclaimed him an ''honorary citizen'' of the town.

On his first postwar visit to Brookings in 1962, Mr. Fujita carried with him a 400-year-old samurai sword that had been handed down in his family from generation to generation. He presented the sword, which he had carried with him throughout the war, to Brookings as a symbol of his regret, and it now hangs in the local library.

Mr. Fujita's daughter, Yoriko Asakura, said today that there was a bit more to the story. She recalled that her father had been very anxious before that visit, fretting about whether Oregonians would be angry at him for the bombing, and so he had decided to carry the sword so that if necessary he could appease their fury by committing ritual suicide, disemboweling himself with the sword in the traditional Japanese method known as seppuku.

''He thought perhaps people would still be angry and would throw eggs at him,'' Mrs. Asakura recalled, adding that ''if that happened, as a Japanese, he wanted to take responsibility for what he had done'' by committing seppuku.

Mr. Fujita's grandson, Fumihiro Asakura, said his grandfather had been deeply moved that the people of Brookings treated him hospitably, showering him with affection and respect that he felt he did not deserve. From this remarkable mutual magnanimity, Mr. Fujita began the metamorphosis from an enemy bomber of Brookings to its honorary citizen.

Brookings is a remote town of 5,400 on the southern Oregon coast, focused on logging and farming, but it now has an excellent selection of Japan books in its local library.

''He gave $1,000 to the library to purchase books about Japan for children, so that there wouldn't be another war between the United States and Japan,'' Nancy Brendlinger, the Mayor of Brookings, said by telephone. ''He was always very humble and always promoting the idea of peace between the United States and Japan.''

Churches and businesses in Brookings contributed $3,000 to pay for Mr. Fujita's trip to Oregon in 1962, and when he could afford to, he responded by paying for several local people to visit Japan. He also made three more visits to Brookings over the years, planting trees to mark the spot where he dropped the bombs and taking part in a 1994 ceremony to dedicate a state historical marker near the site.

In the war, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, of course, and even bombed some islands off Alaska. But the air raids on Oregon were the only attacks by Japanese airplanes on what were states at that time.

A submarine carrying a crew of about 100 and a small plane with folded wings slipped across the Pacific to the unprotected waters off the Oregon coast. In the predawn darkness of Sept. 9, 1942, the crew assembled the plane and shot it into the air with a catapult. Mr. Fujita, who was a warrant officer, oriented himself with the Cape Bianco lighthouse and flew over the coastal range, dropping two 168-pound fire bombs over the forests in the hope of setting terrible forest fires.

Mr. Fujita's plane had been spotted from the ground, but no one had anything better to shoot at it with than a deer rifle, and so he flew back to the submarine -- and was horrified to discover that it was not there. He feared that it had been discovered and forced to leave him behind, but he eventually found it and landed in the water on the plane's floats.

The submarine's crew members quickly stowed the plane and dived to 250 feet, where they stayed quietly -- listening to American depth charges -- as the United States Navy searched frantically for them.

Three weeks later, Mr. Fujita flew an almost identical mission and dropped two more bombs. None of the bombings, on either mission, caused much of a fire, but they did provoke alarm up and down the coast.

Although Mr. Fujita's were the only air raids on the American mainland, Japan did release thousands of balloons carrying bombs. The winds carried the balloons across the ocean to the western United States, where they landed and set small fires. The only fatalities were a group of people on a church outing in Oregon and perhaps a woman in Montana.

Mr. Fujita's air raid was regarded in Japan as heroic. The main front-page article in the Asahi newspaper's evening edition on Sept. 17, 1942, carried a headline: ''Incendiary Bomb Dropped on Oregon State. First Air Raid on Mainland America. Big Shock to Americans.''

After the war, Mr. Fujita started a hardware store in Ibaraki Prefecture, near Tokyo, but it eventually went bankrupt. He later worked at a company making wire, and he rarely talked of the war or of his younger brother, who was killed in the fighting. Mr. Fujita's survivors -- in addition to his daughter, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild -- do not even know where the brother was killed.

His family members did not even know that he had bombed Oregon until he abruptly announced in 1962 that he had been invited to Brookings and would be going for a return visit -- with his sword, just in case.
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Old 02-27-2011, 06:57 PM
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in keeping with the notion that the sequel will be a pacific air battle....


by Captain Roy P. Gee, USN-Ret

Here I am, sitting at my computer, trying to recall the details of my involvement in a great naval battle that was fought 61 years ago. I'm 83 years old and as my recollections of combat fade, I seem to get braver and more heroic than I really ever was. I needed some help in remembering those long-ago events, so I’ve relied upon a letter that I wrote back in 1988 to Bill Vickrey, a Battle of Midway historian, detailing my participation in the battle. In addition, I’ve used certain dates, times, and facts contained in various Battle of Midway logs, reports, and books in order to maintain as much accuracy as I can. My flight log was not recovered when the Hornet was sunk in the Battle of Santa Cruz, which meant that I’d lost the most valuable resource a pilot can have in reporting what he did in the air.

With those qualifications then, here is my story at the Battle of Midway.

As I grew up in Salt Lake City Utah, I believe I was unknowingly preparing for war. I was a member of the Mormon Church, a very conservative Christian faith. I became a Cub Scout and eventually advanced to the Boy Scout program, where I reached the rank of Eagle Scout. As youngsters, my friends and I played war games between the Yanks and the Huns, or the Chinese. We dug trenches and then went “over the top,” which was a well-known phrase from World War I. That meant that the infantry troops came out of their trenches, rushed up and over their high, protecting walls of dirt and sand bags, and from that position made a frontal assault through “no man’s land” against the enemy’s frontline trenches. I remember playing that game many times in my early youth.

Also, I remember as a youngster having seen several movies about World War I aerial warfare, such as “Wings” and “The Dawn Patrol,” and from that I developed a great desire to learn how to fly an airplane. I visualized myself as a gallant young aviator, flying a Spad fighter, and dog-fighting with Baron Von Ritchhofen (the “Red Baron”) and his bright red Fokker triplane.

I participated in the ROTC program as a platoon commander in high school, and during the summer months I learned infantry strategy and tactics in the Citizens Military Training Program, provided by the U.S. Army at nearby Fort Douglas. I participated in that program during four consecutive summers, graduating as a Sergeant-Major and with a temporary commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army Infantry Reserve Corps.

But I still wanted to fly. During my sophomore year at the University of Utah, I completed an aviation class in pilot training, which was sponsored by the Civilian Pilot Training Program. That program was established by President Roosevelt in order to gather a very large cadre of young pilots who could quickly be inducted into the armed forces whenever necessary. I completed the program and earned a private pilot license.

One day in June of 1940, a U.S. Navy aviation recruiting team came to Salt Lake City. I took their flight physical exam with the belief that if I passed that tough test, I would be a cinch for acceptance by the U.S. Army Air Corps. Instead, as fate would have it, I was skillfully talked into becoming a naval aviator. Because of that decision, the course of my life has led me to this moment in time. I now know that I made the right decision on that June day so long ago.

Upon completing flight school at Pensacola in 1941, I eagerly awaited my orders to see whether I was staying there or going on to Miami. The patrol bomber and cruiser scout pilots were trained at Pensacola, while candidates for any of the fighter or attack squadrons were sent for advanced carrier training at NAS Miami. The orders came—Miami! I was destined for the air group of the brand-new USS Hornet (CV-.


Before boarding the Hornet, the air group was stationed at Norfolk, where my roommate was Grant Teats. During the first weekend of December, Grant and I took a trip with two other buddies to Washington, D.C. to see a pro football game between the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles. During the course of the game we began hearing announcements for Admiral or General So-and-So to report to the War Department, or for Congressman or Senator So-and-So to report to their offices at the Capitol. There was a suspenseful feeling throughout the stadium that something awful had happened. Our fears came true when a man sitting in our vicinity with a portable radio exclaimed that reports were coming in from Hawaii about Japanese aircraft bombing and torpedoing Navy ships at Pearl Harbor. Many had been sunk or severely damaged. Scores of people quickly left the stadium, as did my three shipmates and me.

We drove back to the Naval Air Station at Norfolk, Virginia, and reported to the squadron duty officer for further orders. We felt nothing but hatred for the Japanese at that moment. Their navy had carried out a very dastardly and cowardly sneak attack against our navy on the morning of the Sabbath. President Roosevelt put the attack in perspective: “December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy!” When our country declared war on Japan and Germany in the following days, I was both mentally and physically prepared to do my duty to God and my country.

The Hornet pilots were like a group of race horses chomping at the bit. We were in a big hurry to get into combat against those “dirty Japs” who had attacked us in such a devious manner. In retrospect, though, I think that I wasn’t fully aware at that time of the enormity of the situation or the realities of war.


After the Hornet launched Jimmy Doolittle's B-25s on 18 April 1942, task force commander RADM "Bull" Halsey, in the flagship USS Enterprise, ordered a 180 degree reversal of course back towards Hawaii. Our aircraft were moved from the hanger deck to the flight deck, and we pilots were able to get in a little flight time. I was with Bombing Squadron 8 (VB- while my former roommate Grant Teats had been assigned to Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-. Our two squadrons plus Fighting 8 (VF- and Scouting 8 (VS- flew CAP and search missions during the 7-day transit back to Hawaii.

On the 25th of April, as Hornet approached Pearl Harbor, the air group flew to Ewa airfield on Oahu. After the fly-off, Hornet proceeded to its berth at Pearl Harbor. After four days in port, Hornet departed Pearl on the 30th, recovered the air group, and steamed to the South Pacific in order to aid USS Yorktown (CV-5) and USS Lexington (CV-2) at the Battle of the Coral Sea. While en route, the pilots of VB-8 and VS-8 flew many 200-mile search missions. During one such mission, LT(jg) Randal Gardner and his radioman-gunner (R/G) from VB-8 failed to return. They were never found.

The Battle of the Coral Sea was over before Hornet reached the scene, so the ship was ordered to return to Hawaii. We flew still more searches on the return leg, and tragedy struck VB-8 again when ENS Louis J. Muery and his R/G, Richter, failed to return. We later learned that they made a forced landing in the water as a result of engine failure and had spent 23 days in a rubber life raft before washing into the rough surf of an island. The raft capsized in the surf, and as the two weakened survivors struggled to get ashore, Richter drowned. Muery was later rescued.

Hornet arrived at Pearl on May 26th, but sailed again only two days later—we and our sister carriers were to repulse an expected Japanese fleet assault against Midway Atoll.


We went to general quarters at 0630 on the morning of June 4th. All Hornet pilots and crewmen were at flight quarters in their ready rooms. A PBY flying from Midway had spotted the Japanese task force. The teletype in VB-8's ready room was steadily clicking away with navigational data that I diligently copied to my chart board, as did the other VB-8 pilots. The required information consisted of following elements: (1) enemy position, course, and speed, (2) own task force position, course, and speed, (3) wind speed on the surface and at various altitudes, (4) latitude and longitude of the operational area plus magnetic compass variation. Using these four elements, each pilot was responsible to prepare his own navigational solution for flying a relative motion course to intercept and attack the enemy, and also the return course back to our carrier.

CHAG (Commander, Hornet Air Group: Stanhope C. Ring) had his own navigation solution, as did our VB-8 CO, LCDR Ruff Johnson, the VS-8 CO, LCDR Walt Rodee, and the VT-8 CO, LCDR John Waldron. The VF-8 CO, LCDR Mitchell remarked that he would use the solution that was chosen. The squadron COs’ solutions were different from CHAG's, but he overruled them and said that the air group would fly his navigational solution. LCDR Waldron strongly disagreed. (The conflict over our proposed navigation was explained in my 1988 letter to Bill Vickrey, and is reported on page 84 of A Glorious Page In Our History, published in 1990. Waldron subsequently decided that he’d follow his own solution, and told his Torpedo 8 boys to follow him—he would lead them to the enemy.)


Suddenly, “Pilots Man Your Planes” was announced. We all wished each other good luck as we left the ready room for the climb to the flight deck and our SBDs. (And by the way, climbing up and down the ship ladders many times a day will get you in great physical condition! Carriers didn't have escalators in those days.)

I met my R/G, Radioman First Class Canfield at our assigned SBD and went over our mission and recognition charts with him. I don’t know which particular aircraft (side number) we flew that day—my only record of that went down with the Hornet at the Battle of Santa Cruz.

After completing an inspection of the aircraft and its bomb, Canfield and I climbed into the cockpits. As I sat there waiting for the signal to start engines, I suddenly got the same feeling of apprehension and butterflies in the stomach that I got before the start of competition in high school and collegiate athletics. The butterflies left after takeoff as I focused on navigating and flying formation. Our two squadrons (VB-8 and VS- rendezvoused in two close-knit, stepped-down formations on each side of CHAG's section, which consisted of CHAG and VS-8 wingman ENS Ben Tappman and VB-8 wingman ENS Clayton Fisher. CHAG's section was flying above and somewhat separated from VB-8/VS-8 and was escorted by 10 VF-8 F4Fs. As we proceeded to climb to 19,000 ft, we soon lost visual contact with VT-8. We were maintaining absolute radio silence and were on oxygen, and our engines were on high blower. I eased my fuel mixture control back to a leaner blend in order to conserve fuel as we leveled out at 19,000 feet and proceeded on our assigned course.

We continued flying on a westerly heading for some time and were getting close to our point of no return without seeing anything of the Japanese fleet. LCDR Johnson decided to break away and fly towards Midway because some of our pilots didn’t have enough fuel to return to the Hornet. So we left CHAG, VS-8, and VF-8 and flew to Midway. Shortly after we turned towards Midway, LT Tucker, for some reason, turned his section of 3 SBDs away and headed in an easterly direction. As the remaining 14 VB-8 SBDs headed towards Midway, ENS Guillory suffered engine failure and made a forced water landing. He and his R/G, ARM2/c Cottrell were observed to safely leave the aircraft and get into a life raft. They were later rescued by a PBY.

As we approached Midway, the skipper signaled us to jettison bombs. Afterwards, as we continued our approach to the Eastern Island airfield, we received sporadic AA fire that caused minor damage to some of the planes, but it quickly ceased after our SBDs were recognized as friendly. Shortly thereafter, ENS T. J. Wood ran out of gas. He and his R/G, ARM3/c Martz were safely rescued after ditching their aircraft. ENS Forrester Auman ran out of fuel on his landing approach and safely ditched in the lagoon, where he and his R/G, ARM3/c McLean were rescued by a PT boat. After the remaining 11 SBDs had landed, we taxied to an area where our aircraft were refueled and rearmed with 500 lb. bombs. Refueling from gasoline drums was necessary due to fuel trucks being damaged from the Japanese air attack. The runways had not been damaged, but certain buildings and the water system had been hit.

Midway Air Operations had notified Hornet of the arrival of VB-8 at Midway. LCDR Johnson was ordered to return to the ship and to attack any Japanese ships that we might find while en route. So we departed Midway and returned to the Hornet without incident. We were recovered aboard at about 1400 with our 500 lb. bombs intact. When I entered the VB-8 ready-room, I was shocked to learn that none of VT-8's 15 TBDs nor VF-8's 10 F4Fs had returned, and that all the crews had been declared MIA. I went to the wardroom to get something to eat and paused to look at the empty chairs that were normally filled by my friends from VF-8 and VT-8. It was a sorrowful site, but I could only dwell on it for a moment—the announcement came for all VB-8 pilots to report to the ready room immediately.


Upon entering the ready room, I was informed that we were launching on a mission to attack the Japanese Carrier Hiryu. The attack group would consist of 9 VS-8 SBDs carrying 1000 lb. bombs and 7 VB-8 SBDs carrying the 500 lb. bombs that we’d loaded on Midway. No VF escort would be available. The enemy ships were located approximately 162 miles out, bearing 290 degrees. I plotted my course for intercepting the enemy formation and returning to the Hornet. LT(jg) Bates, the VB-8 flight leader for this mission, briefed us on tactics for the strike. We were ready to go.

Since we’d seen no action that morning, I thought that this could be VB-8's first exposure to real combat. We were ordered to man our planes at about 1540. I met Canfield at our SBD for the second time that day, and we completed our same routine and boarded the aircraft. We went through the takeoff checklist after I started the engine, then we were ready to roll when our turn came. As I approached the take-off position, I was given the stop signal followed by the hold brakes signal, and was then handed over to the Takeoff Control Officer (TCO), who held a stick with a brightly colored flag in his right hand. When the deck ahead was clear, the TCO rotated the flag above his head, which was the signal for me to rev the engine to full takeoff power while holding the brakes and keeping the tail down with the elevators in the full-up position. The TCO made eye contact with me, then suddenly bent forward on his knee, pointing the flag towards the bow. That was my signal to release the brakes and let ‘er rip. It’s an exhilarating way to take off in an airplane, and old-time carrier pilots can recount many interesting tales.

We were safely airborne and proceeding to our rendezvous point. Our VB-8 SBDs, led by LT(jg) Bates joined up with VS-8 and LT Stebbins, who was the strike leader. The Enterprise had also launched a much larger strike group about 30 minutes before ours.

By the time we arrived in the target area, the Enterprise group had already finished their strike. That had cleared the upper altitudes of Zeroes, leaving our approach over the enemy force unopposed. The Hiryu was observed to be completely on fire, so LT Stebbins directed us toward other suitable targets. He took VS-8 toward one while signaling LT(jg) Bates that our squadron was to bomb a nearby cruiser. We maneuvered to make our attack out of the sun from 15,000 ft. There were puffs of AA fire all around us.

Just as we were approaching the dive point, we noticed several explosions on the ocean’s surface, quite some distance from the target. Looking up, we saw a flight of B-17s high above us. They’d dropped their bomb loads right through our formation, missing us as well as the enemy ships!

We then tailed off into our dives. LT(jg) Bates had the lead plane (bomb 50 ft. off the starboard bow) followed by ENS Nickerson (100 ft. astern). I was next (hit astern). The second section dove next with ENS White first (miss), followed by ENS Friez (miss wide), followed by ENS Barrett (hit on starboard quarter), followed lastly by ENS Fisher (no release). During the dive, what looked like orange balls were popping up at me and continued coming from all directions during my high-speed retirement at sea level. Following the strike, all 16 of Hornet’s SBDs rendezvoused unscathed and returned to the ship, landing back aboard at dusk. VB-8 had at last lost its combat virginity.


The Hornet's deck log reported the following remarks on Friday, 5 June 1942:

"Zone Description: plus 10

0 to 4

Ship darkened and in readiness condition three.

0110: held funeral service and buried the remains of the late Lieutenant R.R. INGERSOLL, U.S. Navy; the late CUMMINGS, W.B. JR. Pvt, USMC; the late HUMFLEET, L. E., Pvt, USMC; the late IGNATIUS, W.B. SGT, USMC; and late MAYER, E.A. Sea. 2c, USN, in Latitude 30 degrees- 19' N, Longitude 174 degrees- 52' W."

Thus, the Hornet's deck log recorded the final resting place of five brave men who were mortally wounded at their battle stations during a tragic landing accident that had occurred the day before. Radar had observed many bogeys in the direction of Yorktown, which was reporting that she was under attack by enemy aircraft. The sky in her direction was filled with AA bursts. As the attack subsided, Yorktown’s fighters were low on gas and ammo and were ordered to land on either Hornet or Enterprise. A wounded pilot flying F4F, side number 5-F-4, crashed on landing aboard Hornet, which caused the plane’s machine guns to accidentally fire. That resulted in the five deaths noted above in the ship’s log, and it also wounded 20 other men at their battle stations.


Hornet went to general quarters for an hour at 0530 on the morning of June 5th. Thereafter, readiness condition 2 was set in order to await strike scheduling from CTF 16, and by late afternoon we had been in the ready room for most of the day. Readiness condition 2 allowed the pilots to leave the ready room for meals so long as we kept updating our chart boards with the latest navigational data reported on the teletype.

A mission assignment from CTF 16 finally came in at about 1700. We were tasked to search for and attack a damaged Japanese aircraft carrier and its escorting ships bearing 315 degrees, about 300 miles out and on a westerly course with a speed of 12 knots. At about 1730, I launched in SBD no. 8-B-8 with an eleven-plane strike group consisting of CHAG and ten VB-8 SBDs. Clay Fisher was again flying CHAG’s wing, and our skipper, LCDR Ruff Johnson was leading a nine-plane division of three stepped-down sections, slightly separated from CHAG and Fisher. LT Tucker's section was flying loosely on the LCDR Johnson’s left, while LT Moe Vose had positioned his 3rd section aft of Tucker’s and stepped down to facilitate maneuvering. I was flying number 3 on the right wing of Vose, and LT John Lynch was number 2 on his left wing.

We proceeded on course at 18,000 feet to search for our target. After about an hour, five B-17's were sighted apparently returning to Midway. We continued on course, and at about 1910 a lone enemy cruiser was sighted heading west. We passed it by in order to locate the damaged carrier, but to no avail. At our maximum range, CHAG reversed course back toward the cruiser we’d previously sighted. We found it again shortly after 2000, and it began to increase speed and send up AA fire as we formed to attack. We followed CHAG down toward the cruiser, which skillfully maneuvered to avoid our bombs. CHAG's bomb failed to release and none of the other ten hit the ship, although there were several near-misses.

We all turned toward home with little attempt to rendezvous after our dives. I was able to form up with Vose, and we flew back toward the Hornet together. By the time we approached the task force, darkness had enveloped the ships and it didn’t seem that a deck landing would be possible. Suddenly their lights came on and we were ordered to land. I followed LT Vose into the landing pattern, and Canfield and I went over the carrier landing checklist: wheels down and locked, flaps down, tailhook extended. I picked up the LSO and his lighted wands as I turned into the groove. My approach speed was good, but I was a little high. The LSO gave the high-dip signal, meaning I was to drop the nose, come down about ten feet, and resume my approach attitude. The LSO then gave me the Roger signal, followed shortly by the cut engine signal, and I landed the aircraft, catching the third wire. This was my first night carrier landing in the SBD, and I felt very good.

After my tailhook was cleared from the arresting wire and put in the up position, I revved the engine in order to quickly clear the landing area and move forward so that the barriers could be raised in time for the next plane to land. After the propeller stopped turning and the wheels were chocked, Canfield and I climbed down and proceeded to our ready rooms. As I went through the hatch and down the ladder, I felt uncomfortable with the surrounding bulkheads and passageways. Somehow, they looked strangely unfamiliar. And for good reason—as I entered what I though was VB-8’s ready room, I discovered that I’d landed on our sister ship, the Enterprise! And of course, LT Vose had done the same thing.

They told me I’d be assigned to fly another search on the following morning, so I was billeted in a room and told to go to sleep. Although three additional Hornet pilots (ENS Doug Carter of VB-8, ENS Jim Forbes of VS-8, and one other whose name I don’t remember) had also landed aboard Enterprise, I don't recall having any contact with them while aboard.


I awoke about 0500 on June 6th and remembered that I was on Enterprise and scheduled to fly a 200-mile search that morning. I hopped out of the bunk, washed myself a little, slipped into my flight suit, and hurried to the wardroom for breakfast where I encountered an atmosphere similar to the one in the Hornet's wardroom the previous morning: many missing pilots would never again sit in the empty chairs. I have never forgotten that feeling.

I finished breakfast and went quickly to the ready room to prepare for the mission. The search group was launched at 0700, and Canfield and I were flying a sector to the southwest at 1500 ft. I was on autopilot, making it easy to keep track of my relative position from the task force as the search proceeded. After about an hour I noticed several silhouettes on the horizon ahead. As the distance closed, I could see that they were four ships in formation on a southwesterly course. I dropped down to 800 ft. and tracked them for several minutes in order to record their position, course, and speed, and also to determine their ship class from my IJN silhouette cards. The two larger ships were cruisers with pagoda-type superstructures, and the other two were destroyers. (I later learned that the two larger ones were the Japanese heavy cruisers Mogami and Mikuma.)

Remaining at a safe distance out of AA range, I dictated a message for CTF 16 to Canfield. The message contained the enemy formation’s composition, relative position, course, and speed. Canfield sent the message by radio but got no confirmation that it had been received. He was concerned that a problem with his radio transmitter might have prevented the task force from receiving the message. It was already 0835 and I decided to get out of there and back to task force ASAP. Arriving over the Enterprise at about 0930, I dropped them a message containing the data on the enemy cruiser formation that we’d located. I then returned to the Hornet’s air pattern to await recovery. After she launched a strike group, I was recovered aboard at about 1015. I proceeded to the bridge in order to brief RADM Mitscher on the details of my sighting. After reporting to the VB-8 ready room, I was told that I wouldn't be flying any more that day.


No flights had been scheduled for the VB-8/VS-8 pilots on June 7th, although half of us were on standby in our ready rooms from 0600-1300 while the other half did the same thing from 1300-1900. Our SBDs were also on standby, loaded with 500 lb. bombs and machine gun ammo. On June 8th we were tasked to provide intermediate air patrols covering sectors up to 50 miles out from Task Force 16 during ship refueling operations. I launched in 8-B-7 at 1340 to fly an intermediate patrol, and after a time I spotted a life raft with one man in it. I rocked my wings to let him know that I saw him and tried reporting his bearing and distance to CTF 16, but once again Canfield got no response. I noticed that I wasn’t receiving a ZB homing signal either. I reversed my course in order to fly back toward the task force, but it had become enveloped in a local storm and I couldn’t see it. With my ZB inoperative, I didn't want to waist fuel waiting for the ships to break clear of the weather, so I decided to fly to Midway. I radioed CTF 16 with my decision and reasoning, and changed course for Midway, which wasn't far.

I was directed to taxi to the Marine Air Group area upon landing, where Canfield and I reported to the air group commander, Lt. Col. Ira Kimes. He informed us that we would be temporarily assigned to the Marine bombing squadron pending further orders. A message was sent to the Hornet notifying them of our safe arrival on the island, and a reply was received that we were to turn our SBD over to the Marines and to await sea transport to back to Pearl Harbor.

Around June 20th, USS Pensacola (CA-24) put into Midway in order to pick up wounded personnel and other survivors of the battle for transport to back to Pearl Harbor. Canfield and I boarded the cruiser for the short transit to Hawaii, and rejoined our squadron a few days later. While en route, I asked the Pensacola's communications officer about Canfield’s transmission concerning the man I’d spotted in the life raft. He did some checking and later told me the message had been copied and the man was rescued. I felt very relieved, but I never found out his name.
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Old 02-27-2011, 07:03 PM
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A Vivid Memory of Midway

Commander Clayton E. Fisher, USN-Ret

by Ronald Russell

In September 1941, upon completion of pilot training advanced carrier training in Florida, Ensign Clayton E. Fisher was assigned to Bombing Squadron 8 (VB- aboard the brand new carrier USS Hornet (CV- at Norfolk, Virginia. The ship was placed in commission in October, and for the next few months conducted shakedown and training operations in the Atlantic and Caribbean. One day in March 1942, two Army B-25 medium bombers were mysteriously brought aboard the ship just before it got underway for an unexplained operation. The VB-8 pilots were amazed to see the two big planes take off from the carrier. Without knowing it, they had witnessed the first operational test of Lt. Col. Jimmie Doolittle’s proposal for attacking the Japanese mainland with carrier-launched B-25s.

Fisher and the rest of the Hornet’s crew got to see the real thing two months later, as Doolittle and his sixteen B-25s launched from the ship on their dramatic mission that stunned the enemy’s high command. As a direct result, Japanese Admiral Yamamoto was given the go-ahead for his expansive Midway operation, in which Fisher flew five missions as the pilot of a VB-8 SBD dive bomber.

The morning of 4 June 1942 saw the Hornet airmen’s first combat sortie. Fisher was assigned to fly wing on the air group commander, an honor that brought him a great deal of apprehension since the much-feared Japanese Zeros would seek out the group commander’s flight in any air combat. But it was not to be—only Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT- among the Hornet’s four squadrons made contact with the enemy carriers; the rest returned to the ship or in some cases landed in the sea due to lack of fuel.

Later that same day, VB-8 was sent with other squadrons to attack the Japanese carrier Hiryu, which had escaped the devastating strikes that morning by USS Yorktown and USS Enterprise aircraft. The Hiryu was already fatally hit by the time VB-8 arrived overhead, so the squadron dove on one of its escorting cruisers. Fisher’s 1000-pound bomb failed to release at the bottom of his dive, nearly driving his SBD into the water. As it happened, the extra weight propelled his plane through and beyond the enemy task force at an enormous speed, and he was relieved to see Japanese antiaircraft gunners firing well behind him as a result.

By the following day, June 5th, four enemy carriers had been sunk, but Admiral Spruance, was uncertain whether there might be more. While searching for additional Japanese ships, a lone destroyer, the Tanikaze, was sighted and attacked by multiple Navy squadrons as well as two flights of Army B-17s. Fisher’s bomb missed just astern of the ship, which may have been the luckiest vessel on either side in the Battle of Midway—over a hundred bombs were dropped on the elusive target with only minor damage from a near miss.

The 6th of June saw further searches for possible Japanese carriers. Two cruisers and two destroyers were found and attacked by planes from the Hornet and Enterprise as well as Marine aircraft from Midway. Fisher’s bomb missed on that sortie, but on a second flight that afternoon he got a crippling direct hit on the destroyer Arashio as it tried to screen the cruisers Mogami and Mikuma. The Mikuma sank as the result of that action, while the badly damaged Mogami and Arashio eventually made it back to port.

The Battle of Midway was finally over. By the end of the day on June 6th, Fisher was emotionally drained and physically exhausted. He had logged seventeen hours on his five combat sorties. His most vivid memory of Midway, though, was not the trauma of aerial combat. Instead, he remembers looking into the VT-8 ready room as the sun set on June 4th. What he saw was a ghostly emptiness. Instead numerous pilots reviewing the day’s battle, there were just empty seats. The only sign of the men who should have been there was their uniforms hanging on hooks, after having changed into their flight suits.

But he had survived, and there were other sorties to be flown and battles to be fought. He would do so both in the Pacific and in Korea, in SBDs as well as F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair fighters.

Clay Fisher was an SBD pilot with VB-8, USS Hornet, at the Battle of Midway. On the morning of 4 June 1942 he flew as wingman to air group commander Stanhope Ring. The following text is taken from e-mail messages to the BOMRT in 2001 and 2005. In these messages, Clay describes his dive bombing and other combat experiences in the SBD.)


Check list before diving:

1. Shift to Low Blower.

2. Shift to low prop pitch. (We wanted full maximum power setting as we broke our dives.

3. Hit full split flaps. (In early 1942 the SBD had to reduce speed to be able to split the flaps, which was tough when under attack. Douglas came out with an engineering change that allowed splitting the flaps at any speed. Also, we could dive at various split flap settings.)

4. Open the cockpit hatch. I think this was to prevent the windshield from fogging up due to the changes in temperatures during the dive. (Our gunner's hatch was always open due to the twin gun mounts. In combat, the gunner was facing the tail during the dive. For training dives, he turned his seat to face forward. Those gunners were some of the bravest!

If I remember correctly, at our standard 70-degree dive with full extension of the dive flaps, our maximum diving speed was only about 240 knots. You felt like you were hanging on a string. That slow speed let us release a bomb between 1500 and 1000 feet. We could do a "snap pullout." The blackout was more severe but of a shorter time period. I always tried to lower my head for the pullout, and it reduced the blackout. In our standard dive, the plane was vertical to the water or ground, but the track downward was 70 degrees. You felt no pressure on your butt or seat belt when you had it right. It was like you were floating.

The SBD did not have shoulder straps. Sometime after the BOM, our mechanics made us a single chest strap that we could tighten for ditching, etc. I ditched at Santa Cruz without landing flaps, and I think that makeshift chest strap saved my life. &nbps I still banged my head on the instrument panel and was momentarily knocked out. I didn't remember anything after I chopped my throttle, until the cockpit filled up with water.

Our standard squadron tactic was to try to position the formation so we could roll down in either a left of right 90 degree turn to pick up the target's course. We did not form the old pre-war "Hollywood" echelon for the individual breaks from the formation. We flew 3-plane sections and 3-section divisions. On the break, the #1 plane dropped down and immediately broke 90 degrees (either right or left). The following sections ditto. The longer we could stay in formation so our gunners could fire, the more protection we had against the fighters. We practiced to see how fast we could break into our dives. With sufficiently close intervals, we could have all 9 dive bombers in a column.

The inside of the split flaps were painted red, and the last plane could see eight red bars. That prevented possible midair collisions if a pilot got out of position. If our flight leader rolled left into the dive, he turned left after his dive recovery and continued straight ahead. The other 8 planes would expedite a join-up on the inside of his turn. Getting back into formation for mutual protection was essential. We practiced this tactic, and were good at it, although in combat it was almost impossible to get all 9 planes back into formation.

I think out dive bomber tactics were far superior to the Japanese. The long initial glide and then the final pushover that the Vals used had 2 weaknesses: (a) their initial long shallow dive made our fighters' job easier, and (b) it was difficult for them to get into the final dive position. I don't know if the Vals made 70-degree dives with only the fixed landing gear acting as dive brakes.

The SBD had a glass window below the pilot's feet, which I guess was for sighting the target, and for a straight pushover dive. The glass was cleaned before takeoff, but engine oil always smeared up the glass. The SBD engine threw quite a lot of oil. You could always tell an SBD pilot by the oil on his flight helmet!


Questions on flying and fighting the SBD:

--did you commence a dive by the famous half-roll into a dive, pulling positive G, or by diving straight ahead, pulling negative G?

--where was the dive brake extension handle located?

--where was the bomb release located?

--the SBD apparently had a telescopic sight in front of the pilot. Was it used for bomb aiming or gun aiming or both?

--even in summertime, it should have been pretty cold flying at 15-19.000 ft altitude. Contemporary photos show pilots & crewmen in thin clothing--no fur jackets. What did it feel like, actually?

--was there any trim change when extending the dive brakes?"

The old Hollywood movies of Navy dive bombers usually showed the formation flights "peeling off" from an echelon of aircraft "stacked up" flying a "step-up" formation" (each aircraft flying above the aircraft ahead). This was because the early dive bombers were biplanes and the upper wing would block out the plane you were flying formation on. The SBD was of course a monoplane and flew "step down" in all formations, which was a much better formation for combat. The attachment below describes the SBD flight formation.

The trim tab and dive brake controls were located on the left side of the cockpit just below the throttle handle. When we were in position to open the split flap ("dive brakes"), we hit the flap handle and as we steepened our dives. As our speed increased, we had to keep adjusting our rudder tab to keep the aircraft from skidding. The pilot’s right hand and arm controlled the "joy stick."

The SBD had a manual bomb release lever down low on the left side of the cockpit and an electrical switch on the top of the joy stick.

In 1942 The SBDs had a telescope used as a bomb sight and also as a gun sight for the two forward .50 caliber machine guns that fired through the propeller. Later SBD models had a virtual image combination bomb and gun sight.

Most of the SBDs flew at about 12 to 14 thousand feet, and it did get pretty cold but the June weather during the BOM was tolerable.

Estimating the correct "lead" on a fast moving ship and keeping the rudder trimmed were the secrets to obtaining a direct bomb hit. It took a lot of practice bombing on a moving target to become a proficient dive bomber pilot. Unfortunately, most of the younger dive bomber pilots that flew during BOOM never had the opportunity to practice very much dive bombing in the SBD.

In combat situations we wanted to be able to stay in our defense formation as long as possible until our flight leader led us into our 70 degree dives. Our flight leader would roll into a 90 degree sharp nose down turn and his inside wingman broke next, followed by his outside wingman. The sections behind broke the formation the same way. We wanted to get into our dives as fast as possible. Once in our 70 degree dives, the Zero fighters could not attack but had to spiral down and attack after we pulled out. Our flight leader would always try to do a 90 degree turn after pulling out of his dive so we could join up on the inside of his turn. Then it was a simple relative bearing problem, just sighting through the back edge of your windshield at the plane’s windshield you were joining up on. Acquiring that position quickly put you back in formation.

In a 70 degree dive with those very effective dive brakes we could release our bombs as low as 1200 to 1500 feet.

So many artists concepts of SBDs attacking aircraft carriers show the planes glide bombing. I will describe the standard SBD dive bombing run during 1942. It was a 70 degree dive--the plane’s track or path is 70 degrees, but the plane is in a vertical position to the surface of the water. You knew when you were in a good 70 degree dive when your butt was not pushed against the seat nor were you hanging on your safety belt. You were sort of floating between the seat and your safety belt.

The split flaps, or what the pilots called dive brakes, were painted bright red on the inside of the flaps. The holes helped create more drag. When we broke our formations started our 70 degree dives in a long column, you could see those red flaps of all the planes diving ahead of you.

I think the Douglas Aircraft designer who conceived this flap arrangement was a genius. Early in 1942, Douglas made a flap modification that let the dive flaps open at high approach speeds as we started in to our dives. Our maximum dive speeds were actually pretty slow, around 240 knots. You felt like you were just hanging there and going too slow when the aa stuff was coming at you.

Another great feature of the flap arrangement was to be able to “collapse” them just as you started pulling out of the dive. This greatly accelerated the plane’s speed and gave the Japanese gunners problems leading the target with their guns.

All navy SBD dive bomber squadrons flew combat missions from a standard 9 plane division of 3-plane sections, with the sections and the wingmen flying in stepped down position. That formation provided maximum firepower from the rapid firing twin mounted .30 caliber guns, bringing a possible 18 guns to bear on attacking zero fighters.
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Old 02-28-2011, 05:38 PM
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olife mentioned the "night witches" in the operation husky thread. i had already posted some of the soviet women ace stuff but had more.

a soviet documentry with english subtitles...some good stuff here

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