My Travels Abroad; War on the Horizon (1939)

A reminiscence based on the personal diary of a 14-year old in the last gorgeous summer of 1939 in France

(2)
La Cour aux Glycines: L’Hôtel de la Renaissance, Rue Murger, Bourron-Marlotte, Seine et Marne, France

Prologue 

In the spring of 1939 my father could see the War coming and realized that the coming summer would be the last opportunity for him and my mother to see their European friends—of twenty years—before the end of peace. He had not taken a real vacation for ten years or so and arranged for an entire summer of vacation.

My father had served with the AEF in France in the summer and fall of 1918 as a Lieutenant of engineers (303rd Engineer Train, 78th Division) where he commanded a corps of one-hundred mules and fifty motor trucks seeing action near St. Menehould in the Argonne Forest building pontoon bridges under fire at night to permit river crossings by the AEF.

1919_H_L_FkaParis
Paris- 1918 (Kerr on right)

Following the November 11th Armistice he was billeted for the fall, winter, and spring months of 1919 in the house of a family named Chapeau (also Fleureau) in the village of Vénary-les-Laumes—a billet he shared with two fellow officers Herring and Lokensgaard (see framed sepia-tone of trio taken in Paris).  My father became attached to the family and especially to the small boy Fernand Chapeau to whom he later sent assistance for his schooling.  The old uncle (Fleureau) in residence had lived through two Prussian invasions of France (and as yet unforeseen, was to witness and to survive a third).

Leandre et Mme. Legal 22 Rue St. Martin, Hautvillers
Leandre et Mme. Legal 22 Rue St. Martin, Hautvillers

My mother had gone, in December of 1918, under the auspices of the YMCA, to do canteen work in France at Bay-sur-Aube for the soldiers who remained in France long after the Armistice—for lack of available shipping.  There she came to know another Y-girl, Juliet Whiton. Later, in June 1919 when that assignment ended, in order to remain in France over the summer, she joined an American Red Cross group, locally administered by British (Quaker) Friends, where she met “Jock” (Lady Chalmers) and “Benjamin” (Grace Lindley); British women, who took men’s names for a lark (my Mother became “Rufus” owing to her auburn hair) and who became lifelong friends.  With them in Nanteuille-la-Fosse (now-la-Forêt) and Hautvillers near Epernay she helped in the rural reconstruction, worked in the vineyards, and came to know the widow Legal—later Minoggio—and her son Léandre, to whom she became “marraine” or godmother.

In 1921 my mother and father (who had grown up together in Ithaca, NY) met again by chance in the New York subway and were married in Ithaca on August 18th, 1921.  They spent the rest of that summer on their honeymoon in France during which time they visited the friends they had come to know in 1919.

This summer of 1939 would be their last foreseeable opportunity to revisit them.  I was fourteen (just leaving eighth grade) and my sister Holley was thirteen.  We lived at 85 Ledgeways, Wellesley Hills, MA.

Much of this account is pretty mundane. Pay more attention to the annotations in italics and later parts as the War clouds gathered.


Diary
Diary

June 6th, Tue.   Wellesley Hills, New York (by car: a new ’39 Pontiac)
“We started from Wellesley Hills about 8:00a with a farewell party in the driveway.  Had lunch in Westbourough [sic] then went by the Merritt Highway into the Whitestone Bridge.  Found our lodgings and went to the Fair.  We saw the Federal Bldg., Railroads, and the Trylon and Perisphere.  Tomorrow will see all the countries.  We wore our feet out walking and went to bed.

So worried had been my father about getting away on this trip that for several days in the preceding weeks he had forbidden us to go to school where mumps were for a while prevalent, and forbade us to go to at least one party or social function which seemed to us at the time as desperately unfair. Tears of anger and frustration!
      In the driveway at 85 Ledgeways the neighborhood kids came over on their bikes to hang out and to say goodbye. The Merritt Parkway had just opened that spring and was considered a marvel of modern highway engineering. The Fair, of course, was the New York World’s Fair of 1939.

TrylonPerisphere
Trylon & Perisphere (NYDailyNews)June 7th, Wed.  Flushing Meadows, Long Island

“Got up early.  Ate breakfast at Blue Bird Inn.  Daddy went in to New York City and left Holley and [me] at the Foreign section.  Had lunch at Childs then saw Chrysler, Ford, aviation, maritime, US Steel, Italy and USSR.  We were so tired that we ate at the Blue Bird Inn and went to bed. PS we saw the smallest [electric] motor in the world.  It was about the size of a kernel of corn.

      At US Steel a full-sized automobile was suspended above the floor by a steel wire so thin it could hardly be seen and somewhere else a bicycle rolled continuously on rollers in wavering balance without a rider, controlled by some sort of rudimentary feedback computer.

June 8th, Thu.    Long Island
“Up at 7:30 and had breakfast at the Blue Bird Inn.  Then we went to the Fair.  We were at the Fair all day and saw Petroleum, Westinghouse, Amer. T&T, Communications, France, DuPont, Carrier Corp., Metals, Cons. Edison, Kodak, Sweden, [Missourie] and the fireworks on the Lagoon of Nations.  When we came home we met mother.  Coming home we went right to bed.

      Holley and I wanted desperately to go on at least one of the seemingly spectacular rides (Parachutes, roller coaster, etc.) but my parents wouldn’t allow it; too frivolous a waste of time otherwise to be spent in educational pursuit!

 June 9th, Fri.    Long Island
“Up at 7:30.  Went right to Fair and saw General Motors.  Also we saw Glass, and again Kodak and General Electric.  In afternoon we met Randolph Cautley for supper.  Saw French and Coronation Scott [?] exhibits.  In morning Daddy smashed up the car and we had to have it fixed.  We leave for the boat tomorrow, oh! boy! 

June 10th, Sat.    Long Island, New York City, MV Georgic
“We left Flushing and went to Pennsylvania Station by the subway.  From there we went to the Cunard dock and had breakfast.  Then we got on the boat.  We sailed at noon and passed the Statue of Liberty.  After dinner we looked around the boat and had tea.  After supper we went to bed.  I have an upper berth.

MVGeorgic
MV Georgic [GracesGuide.co.uk]
     The ship, the Cunarder MV Georgic was, I believe, later lost during the War after having been converted to a troop ship.  In 1939 ordinary people were unable to fly across the Atlantic as regular commercial air service became common only after the War.

June 11th, Sun.    MV Georgic
“Had breakfast and made some new friends.  Then we went to church.  After that we had some fun at deck tennis and the gym.  In the afternoon we went swimming and had tea.  In the evening we saw “Gunga Din” in the lounge also we set our clocks back one hour.

      To this day I remember scenes from that film—vultures taking to the air from desolate desert telegraph wires and, at the end, as the unsuspecting British Gurkhas approach the rebel ambush, prisoner Gunga Din, wounded but determined, struggles to the top of the fortress dome with his bugle to sound the alarm.  Not quite what Kipling had in mind but a stirring story nonetheless.
     ECA [my mother]: Holley fell out of the upper berth so we put her in the lower.

June 12th, Mon.    MV Georgic
“Holley and I played deck tennis all morning.  In the afternoon we had a swim and played ping-pong.  Later there were some “horse races” but we did not bet.  After supper we played some more ping-pong and went to bed.

June 13th, Tue.    MV Georgic
“Got up and played deck tennis with Holley.  After dinner we played ping-pong.  Later we went on a trip through the engine room of the ship.  I had a slight headache all afternoon.  After tea we played chess and watched the horse races.  In the evening there was a movie “The Cowboy and the Lady” which was lousy.  Went right to bed.

      I remember some popular tunes of the time which I always associate with this ocean trip: “Bei Mir Bist du Schoen”, “The Three Little Fishies” (They swam, and they swam, right over the dam), “Deep Purple”, and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”.

June 14th, Wed.    MV Georgic
“Slept very late in the morning.  Wrote four letters in the writing room.  Holley and I played deck tennis all afternoon.  The sea is pretty rough and the ship is rolling a little.  Played ping-pong and went to bed late.

39061201_GeorgicJune 15th, Thu.    MV Georgic
“Got up at 7:30 had breakfast.  Played around with the elevator boy for about an hour.  Holley and I played deck tennis all morning.  At 11:00 we went on a tour of the ship.  In the afternoon we played deck tennis and skipped a kiddie’s party.  At supper there were balloons again.  Broke several.  Went to a concert and saw the “Little Princess” [Shirley Temple].  Bed late.

      The concert was a string quartet.  My mother was continually annoyed at not having been able to place one of the passengers whom, she was convinced, she knew personally or, at least, had seen before somewhere. It was revealed at the concert; for the man she “knew” was playing first violin. She had observed him closely, she finally remembered, at a concert in Boston in the spring. They were the Pro Arte String Quartet [the first violinist was Alphonse Onnou, who died of leukemia at age 46 in late 1940].

June 16th, Fri.    MV Georgic
“Got some guys and played Michigan in the morning and afternoon.  Also watched them hauling cars out of the hold.  Someone said we would see land in the morning.  Bed early.

June 17th, Sat.    MV Georgic
“Got up at 6:30 and saw first glimpse of Ireland.  Came in to Queenstown [sic; it was Cork] harbor and the tender came to meet us.  Watched the passengers and cars go overboard to the other boat.  Also saw the pilot come aboard.  Left Queenstown and headed for South Hampton, England.  Saw “The Wings of the Navy” then went to bed.

June 18th, Sun.    MV Georgic, Rouen
“Got up early and watched the boat come in to South Hampton.  Cars and [ship’s] laundry were unloaded.  Had lunch and headed for Europe across the English Channel.  Played Michigan and lost.  Arrived at Le Havre, France.  Started driving to Paris and stopped at a hotel in Rouen.  Went to bed.

June 19th, Mon.    Rouen, Les Petites Andelys
“Had a lousy breakfast.  Went out and saw the Cathedral, the market place and the tower where Joan of Arc was a prisoner.  After lunch we started for Paris but stopped at Les Andelys on the Seine to see a lady [Mme. Champsaur].  We had to wait so long that we stayed for the night.  While there we saw the Chateau Gaillard built by Richard the Lionheart—all in ruins.  Stayed at the hotel Chain d’Or.

June 20th, Tue.    Les Andelys, Paris
“Got up early.  Took the [guide] book back to Mme. Champsaur.  Started driving for Paris.  Arrived in Paris and found the Hotel [Universitie].  Went to the Amer. Express Co. and got mail.  Holley and mother to a hairdresser.  Daddy and I saw the Luxembourg Gardens.  After supper [Rallye] we saw the Tuileries Gardens and the Arc de [Triumph].  Drove in the car and saw the [Eiffle] Tower.  Back to the Hotel and bed.

June 21st, Wed.    Paris, Fontainebleau
“Had breakfast in Paris. After this we started driving for [Fontainbleau]. Saw a palace that Napoleon built and found a place to stay.  After dinner we went on a tour through the Chateau of Napoleon then walked around the garden. We went to look for hotels for the summer. Had supper and stayed over night at the Hotel Angelus “lousy”.

June 22nd, Thu.    Fontainebleau
“Went back to Fontainbleau to the “Cascade”.  Played ping-pong and wrote letters.  Daddy at Chateau for music. All afternoon looked at hotels and at last found one [La Renaissance] that we [all] liked. Had supper at the Cascade and played ping-pong. Bed and bath.

39062301_Cascades      Les Cascades was in Avon just south of the Palace.  We had great arguments about hotels for the summer.  Mom and Dad would like what Holley and I hated and vice versa.  Holley and I sort of liked the Cascade. Nice graveled yard and garden, games, etc. In the dining room of the Cascade was a painting of the head of an American Indian carrying a grim expression on his face; mother commented that it seemed to her that he had just had an “arrow escape”. Groans all around.

June 23rd, Fri.    Paris, Fontainebleau
“Played ping-pong for awhile.  Daddy and Mother walked to Fontainbleau while Holley and I played at the Cascade.  In the afternoon we went back to the Hôtel [de la] Renaissance and took a walk in the forest.  We drove to the firing range [champ de tir] of the artillery school and back to the hotel.  When we finished our business there we watched an old painter at work [in the street].  Had supper and played tennis.  Bed.

      At the champ de tir the guns [French 75s?] were firing directly away from us toward a distant hillside.  My father claimed that, at the height of its arc, he could discern a fleeting shadow of the shell itself in flight directly away from us.  I looked, and looked, and could never see what he saw.

June 24th, Sat.    Fontainebleau, Paris
“After P.D. [petit déjuner] we started driving for Paris.  On the way we played a new game.  We went to the Amer. Exp. Co. and to the Louvre and saw some artists.  After dinner we went to Notre Dame and saw the 3 rose windows.  Then we climbed to the top and saw the grotesque gargoyles.  We stayed for supper at a hotel [Victoria Palace] took a walk [Luxembourg Gardens] and went to bed.  P.S. bought a map of New England, 1580 A.D.

June 25th, Sun.    Paris, Fontainebleau
“Got up early at the Hotel Victoria Palace and went to Napoleon’s Tomb.  Then we went to Versailles and went through the palace with an old man.  After that we had lunch and walked around the gardens.  We watched the fountains for a while and went to Fontainbleau had supper and went to bed.

      In Paris in late June and early July dark does not come until almost eleven at night so that the days can be long filled with activity.

June 26th, Mon.    Fontainebleau
“Daddy took us to see them firing on the champ de tir.  On the way home we got caught in a rain storm.  Had lunch.  Went and played in the sand pile while Daddy and Mother went to Fontainbleau.  Holley and I ran to the champ de tir saw them fire and walked back [to the Cascade].  Holley walked with Mother and Daddy then supper.

June 27th, Tue.    Fontainbleau, Bourron-Marlotte
“We played ping-pong all morning while Mother and Daddy packed.  After lunch we packed our bags and played ping-pong.  Then we took the bags down to [La Renaissance in] Marlotte and on the way we watched the firing.  We watched the old painter finishing his picture and then went home.  After supper Holley and I tried to see how far we could get in ping-pong, we made 120 times.

      We spent the summer at the Hôtel de la Renaissance on the Rue Murger in Bourron-Marlotte.  It was owned by the family Perronet (Madame, M’seur, and their two boys Jacques, the elder, and Michel who were just a year or so older than we).
One entered from the narrow street through an iron gate which opened onto a spacious gravelled court—itself widely open beyond to a wooded wilderness after crossing hedged and gravelled garden paths.  Buildings enclosed the court on three sides, a two story   connecting structure forming the façade on the street and the roof of the gate; all of it old and stuccoed.  Overhead garlands of hanging wisteria draped the court in the center of which was a small stone “well”.
      The section on the right housed a dining room—used only in bad weather—and farther back, under more wisteria and flanked by a kiosk, an open gravelled space served as the al fresco dining patio; tables all around under parasols.  The kitchen was nearby and beyond somewhere was the kitchen garden.  On the right over the dining room and other ground floor rooms were other guest rooms and the residence rooms of the Perronet family.
      We were assigned rooms on the left over some public spaces containing a billiard and a ping-pong table and another (with a piano) large enough for fencing matches.
      There are three surviving color stereopticon photo’s of the courtyard area two of which have Holley, Jacques, and me in the middle ground. There is as well a sepia tone postcard probably of the thirties.  Thereon the yard is grandly called La Cour aux Glycines.
      Renoir’s house is across the rue Murger, occupied then by his son.
      Anyone who has stayed here and at the same time has read Rumer Godden’s novel The Greengage Summer would be convinced that the two venues must have been one and the same.

June 28th, Wed.    Marlotte, Loire valley
“Got up very early in order to get an early start for the [Chateaux] Country.  We started at 9:00 and drove to Blois where “Ze Duc de Guise vas here kill-ed right in ze middle of ze room”.  We had lunch and drove through Tours to Chinon and the Castle.  Here we had tea and saw the ruins of Chinon.  There were towers and dungeons all around.  When we got to the car we [had] lost the keys but [I] found them again [in the grass].  We drove to Tours, had supper and went to bed.

      When my parents were at Blois in 1921 their guide had so described the demise of the Duc and my Mother delighted in repeating the phrase whenever it seemed vaguely appropriate.

June 29th, Wed.    Loire valley, Marlotte
“Had breakfast in the girls bedroom then drove to Loches and saw all the awful dungeons and tortures.  We had our picture taken at a stone dog.  Then we went to Chenonceaux and its Chateau.  After lunch we drove to Amboise and saw a spiral ramp where horses could climb up.  Then we drove to Marlotte and had supper and bed.

39062900_LochesDog     The picture by the stone dog(s) is among the stereopticon photos that we took with my father’s two-lens camera.
      At Loches my parents were sure that they had the same man as a guide that they had had in 1921.  They remembered him as a master at rattling the keys, locks, and chains in the dimly lit dungeons.  He gave me a rose blossom which I saved and dried and put in a little screw-top bottle; sill among my things.  It smells as rich now as it did then.
      At Loches in 1999 I asked the guides about this man and they remembered him well-—he had died sometime in the seventies at a great age.  I took a picture, again, of the stone dogs.

June 30th, Fri.    Marlotte
“Bought a ping-pong ball and played, (it was lousy).  Holley smashed the ball so we played billiards.  Then after lunch we played more billiards, put another dent in the ball and played more billiards. After supper Mother read to us.

July 1st, Sat.    Marlotte
“Stayed in bed all morning, wrote a letter and two postcards.  Mother read to us.  Had some soup in bed.  Played some games, told some jokes then had an orange.  Mother and Holley drew me in bed and Mother drew Holley.  Daddy came home and went to sleep had supper and went to bed.

July 2nd, Sun.    Marlotte
“Had breakfast in the girl’s room.  After breakfast Mother read to us from Holley’s book.  Then I got up for lunch.  After lunch we played billiards and then studied the verb donner.  Then played more billiards.  After supper Mother read to us then we went to bed.

July 3rd, Mon.    Marlotte
“Played billiards with Holley.  Mother and Daddy went to Fontainbleau after lunch and we played chess.  Holley won twice and I won once.  Then we played billiards with Jack  Perronet.  After supper we went to see about French lessons.  Then came back and talked with M. Perronet.  Bed.

      My parents had enrolled in the American Summer School at Fontainebleau for the summer; my mother in French and the history of music and theater, and my father in violin—which he played moderately well but which he enjoyed immensely.   With our parents at school part of most weekdays Holley and I were left to ourselves and to play with Jaques Perronet.   Michel must have been elsewhere; I have almost no recollection of him.

July 4th, Tue.    Marlotte
“Holley and I played billiards then went with Mother to rent bicycles.  We rode around Marlotte in the morning.  Mother and Daddy went to Fontainbleau for lunch.  We had lunch alone then rode almost to Grez [-sur-Loing].  When we came back we played a tie game of chess.  Then we rode our bicycles with Jack and he showed us his room.  After supper Jack showed us a new game of cards.  Bed late.

July 5th, Wed.    Marlotte
“Had a French lesson with Mlle. Coquard.  It was lousy, rode around the garden and then had lunch.  In the afternoon Jack took us up to the “Gorge au Loups” and we sailed boats.  Then he gave us some good tea.  After supper we played cards with Jack in our room then went to bed.

July 6th, Thu.    Marlotte
“Had a French lesson.  Then went down and played chess and rode bicycles.  After lunch played chess and rode bicycles.  After supper read and went to bed.
P.S. Went and saw a much better lady about French lessons.

July 7th, Fri.    Marlotte
“Had a French lesson. Rode our bikes then had lunch.  Daddy took Mother to Fontainbleau for her French lesson.  Holley and I played chess then went to a violin quartet in Fontainbleau.  After supper we read in our room.  Bed.

      At lunch and dinner there was always fresh garden salad available.  Without fail, a minute or two after salad had been ordered, we would see the tall blond waiter fly from the kitchen to the garden and back, long curly hair streaming behind him like wings on a casque.  My mother called him Hermes.

July 8th, Sat.    Marlotte
“After breakfast we had our last French lesson with Mlle. Coquard.  After the lesson we rode around the garden.  We had lunch and then did some sketching on the street.  Then Holley and I rode our bicycles into the forêt.  After supper we rode around the garden with the French family.  Bed 10:00.

July 9th, Sun.    The Argonne
“Started for the Argonne forest.  Had lunch at St. Menehould then went to the forest.  We saw the front line, the old German machine gun nests and trenches.  Daddy took us over the same route that he and his mules went over in the war.  Also we saw the big American cemetery and monument [at Romagne].  We saw the German dugouts also.  Got home at 12:00 very tired.  Bed!!
P.S. Daddy got stopped for having white headlights on our car.  The French ones are yellow.

ECA: “Started for the battlefields. A day of showers, sun, and cloud shadows.  The countryside was beautiful.  Drove to Grand Pré where K. showed us all his hangouts during the War. Swung around by Varennes and the Argonne Forest.  Saw Joy’s and my dugout salle de bains and the Kron Prinz dugout.  Then to Romagne to see the American cemetery.  Home by way of Montfaucon where we climbed the high war monument.  Everything is green and the scars of the War are practically gone.”

July 10th, Mon.    Marlotte
“Got up very late and had breakfast.  We rode around on our bicycles around the garden.  After lunch Mother and Daddy went to Fontainbleau.  Jack, Holley and I rode to Fontainbleau and saw the champ de tir, the Palace, and his school. I painted a stained glass window then we had supper and read.  Bed.

July 11th, Tue.    Paris, Vincennes
“We rode around all morning.  Then we and Jack drove to Paris and the Bois de Vincennes [a zoo].  We had lunch at the bois then saw the animals.  They are all in pits surrounded by cement like stone.  I liked the bears and the seals the best.  We climbed the big rock and then went home.  After supper we played ping-pong and went to bed.

July 12th, Wed.    Marlotte
“Wrote letters in the morning then had a drawing lesson with Madam Bourgose.  We drew a hand.  After lunch Jacques took us to a big sand pile in the forest.  He had some firecrackers and almost killed himself (oh yeah).  Played ping-pong after supper and had a [bike] crash.  I got a flat tire.  Bed.

July 13th, Thu.    Marlotte

81052005005
Window

“After breakfast we wrote some postal cards and letters.  Then had our French lesson.  I drew Mme. de l’Epinois’ bathroom window then had my lesson.  After lunch fooled around the garden and then went and watched the artist [M. Vaillant] sketch the street.  Started one myself.  After supper did some more and went to bed.

      Madame de L’Epinois (our “new” French teacher?) was a middle aged lady whom my parents more or less befriended.  She had an old house directly across from La Renaissance with an ornate bathroom window that overlooked the street.

July 14th, Fri.    Marlotte, Riom, La Bourboule
“Got up at 7:00 and had breakfast in the room.  Then started driving to Clermont-Ferrand.  Had lunch at St. Pierre and went on.  At Riom we turned off for La Bourboule through some beautiful mountain country.  When we got to Bourboule we found a hotel  and then went up a funicular railway and got a good view.  Then we went into a church and saw some [Bastille Day] fireworks.  Bed.

July 15th, Sat.    La Bourboule, Clermont-Ferrand,
“Started driving for Clrmt. Ferrand.  On the way we stopped at a Chateau and saw it.  It is in Murols.  Had lunch at Champaix.  Got to Clrmt.  Ferrand and found Daddy’s friend [Paul DeBrion].  They took us to their summer place.  There we saw their baby.  On the way back we saw a rainbow that was very beautiful. Stayed for the night at La Palisse.  Bed Very tired.

      The rainbow was memorable for its having been projected well below us against a dark, forested background as we traversed a high mountain road above a deep valley.  It was double.  I have seen few like it since—one from halfway up 1,200 foot Cannon Cliff in Franconia Notch, NH as I retreated by rappel to the talus after a soaking hail storm.

July 16th, Sun.    Clermont-Ferrand, Venary-les-Laumes, Marlotte
“Started driving for Venary.  Arrived there at dinner time.  We stayed for lunch at Fernand Chapeau’s house.  After lunch he took us to see a statue of Vercingetorix.  Saw some Phenoecian ruins.  After this started driving for Sens and Marlotte.  Had supper at La Renaissance.  Very tired so went to bed.

39071602_FamChapeau(2)
KA, Fernand Chapeau, MFleury/ HA, WA, MmeC?, MmeFC, MmeF?/ PierreC, SisterC

    The ruins are actually Roman—The ancient site of Alesia.
Vercingetorix is, I believe, the inspiration for the French cartoon character Asterix.
Whom we visited was young, thirtyish Fernand Chapeau of Venary. The village is Venary-les-Laumes near Montbard between Auxerre and Dijon. After a long search ca 1999 I found Fernand’s son Pierre at the same house. He was smitten, and he later told me that his sister refused to believe my visit. He was
maçon and described his father, who had died several yeras earlier, simply as écrivan without elaboration. I have wondered since about this reticence. The Vichy period during the War was a divided and dangerous place.

July 17th, Mon.    Marlotte
“After breakfast we wrote some letters and then went to our French lesson.  Then we had lunch.  Mother went to Fontainbleau and we fooled around and then we had tea with Jaques Perronet.  Went sketching with Mother.  Started a street scene.  Read after supper out of “Land For My Sons”.  Bed

July 18th, Tue.    Marlotte
39072001_MarlotteMurgerE2“Played around with Jacques then took our bikes to be fixed.  After dinner we sketched awhile and I finished a very good one of the street.  Got our bicycles and had supper.  Then we read while it rained.  Bed.

July 19th, Wed.    Marlotte
“Had to write a letter to Mr. Mackey in picture writing.  Went to our sketching lesson with Madame Bourghus.  Had lunch.  Rode our bikes then went to Moret to sketch.  I did a shield.  After supper we walked and then read.  Bed.

      Mr. Mackey was the “hired man” at the Booth farm in Locke, NY where Holley and I were boarded out for several summers in the mid-thirties.
     He was memorable for having taken a more or less educational interest in us.  Showing us unusual things in the woods, how to make pokeberry ink, making for us a board with mounted and labeled samples from a dozen kinds of tree, building a little water wheel mill in the stream behind the barn, etc.  We considered him somewhat mysterious as he would come and go for extended periods without ever telling us children where he went.
      I still have the watercolor of the shield and the other “drawings” mentioned in this account.

July 20th, Thu.    Marlotte
“As in all others.  Wrote letters and then had our French lesson.  She showed us her dog’s medals from Paris.  Had lunch and then sketched the Rue Murger from where the artist first sat.  Had supper then read “Land For My Sons”.

July 21st, Fri.    Marlotte, Paris
“Had breakfast in the room!!!  Then Daddy drove us to the train at Montigny and we went to Paris.  We shopped all morning then had lunch. Got on the train and went to Montigny where Daddy met us.  Rode our bikes then finished “Land For My Sons”.  Bed.

July 22nd, Sat.    Marlotte, Moret
39072201_MoretWindow2“Went to Moret and started to sketch the old gates but it poured rain and we went into the church.  I did a stained glass window.  After lunch we went for a walk and I lost the party and came home.  After supper we started “Quentin Durward” by Sir Walter Scott.  Bed.

      Louis XI figured prominently in Scott’s Quentin Durward and Loches was one of his venues.  It was Louis Onze who invented the cages and many of the tortures there.  He wore a soft cap with cast leaden ornaments.  His massive wooden cages—too small either to stand in or to lie full length—can still (1999) be seen at Loches.

July 23rd, Sun.    Marlotte, Chateau Thierry, Reims
“Started for Reims to see the Cathedral.  On the way we stopped at Chateau Thierry and saw two monuments.  Here is where the heaviest fighting on the American side was done during the war.  Also we saw Epernay where mother was after the war and saw Hautvillers and the house where she stayed [at Nanteuille-la-Fosse, 110 rue de Bré].  At Reims we had lunch and saw the Cathedral.  Then came home and then went to bed.

July 24th, Mon.    Marlotte
“Wrote some letters then watched the gym teacher do some junk.  Went to our French lesson and had lunch.  Mother et Daddy went to Fontainbleau and we fooled around.  Went to the big sand pile and made a ball shoot.  Started home and got caught in a hail and rain storm.  Got soaked.  Came home and dried off.  Read, supper, read and then Bed.

July 25th, Tue.    Marlotte

39072501_MoretGate2
The gate at Moret

“Wrote a postcard and then went to Moret with Mother and Holley.  I drew one of the ancient gates and Holley drew nothing.  Had a late lunch.  Played ping-pong with a man.  Daddy met him and he is a Baron.  After supper we played billiards and went to bed.

     This man was Danish Baron Peter von Soren a member, we later learned, of the British Intelligence Service.  After communicating with him for a year or so we lost touch and presume that he was lost in the War.  Peter had a goatee and somewhat resembled likenesses of Shakespeare.

July 26th, Wed.    Marlotte
“Wrote a postcard then went to our drawing lesson.  It was lousy.  Had dinner then fooled around.  Later we went to meet Baron Peter Soren for tea.  Then he took us canoeing.  Had supper then read and to Bed.

July 27th, Thu.    Marlotte
“Did jobs and went to our French lesson.  After lunch we went to Fontainbleau and met Polly Applewhite and her friend.  Then went to the movies.  The first one was lousy but the second Marco Polo was swell.  Afterward we went home had supper and read Quentin Durward.  Bed.

      Polly and her mother we had met on the Georgic.

July 28th, Fri.    Marlotte, Melun
“Played around until dinner.  After dinner we went to Melun on some tourist business.  After that we saw a beautiful chateau called Veaux le Vicompt.  Afterward we passed some plages and I walked home from Montigny.  After supper we read.  Bed.

      The French government had issued a requirement that all aliens must register for “Cartes de Tourismes” at the nearest departmental seat—for us, Melun.  There was a huge line for the caisses—one had to wait in one line for one part of the process and then go to the end of the other line for the second part.  It took forever.  When my father finally reached the first window the fonctionaire began to review his papers.  Upon being asked in what capacity he was last in France (as my father had noted on his form) my father answered, “Comme soldat“.  The man exploded “Comme soldat, comme soldat!” and passed him instantly to the head of the second line and we were out of there in moments.
      Vaux le Vicompt was designed by the builder of Versailles; André le Nôtre

July 29th, Sat.    Marlotte
“Looked at the maps of Brittany for mileage.  Played around and had dinner.  After dinner we went to Fontainebleau and played a new game of billiards there.  Got some ice cream and came home.  After supper Daddy and I played billiards then went to bed.

July 30th, Sun.    Marlotte
“Went to Montigny to get Peter Soren.  Mother and Daddy went with him to church while we went to the restaurant.  It was closed but we got in later.  After lunch we went canoeing with Peter and went swimming it was cold.  Came back and had supper.  Read and went to bed.

     The restaurant was in Montigny-sur-Loing called La Vanne Rouge and its terrace was right on the river dotted with tables and parasols and with a boat ramp and canoes.
ECA: “[for dinner] they served chicked and veg., fresh melon, salad, cheese, fruit, tarts, coffee.  Peter is a conoisseur on wines so we had him choose.  He took Grande Cru Croton, 1910, a red wine, very nice.”
     La Vanne Rouge is still there (1999) as I went out of my way to find it.  It was late afternoon and closed; the patron wouldn’t let me in for a beer so I had only to peer through the cracks in the gate to get a glimpse.  I tried to walk from there to Marlotte but found the distance (3 km) far greater than I had remembered, so great in fact that I had to return to get my car. In 1939 we thought nothing of walking to Montigny and back of a summer evening.

July 31st, Mon.    Marlotte
“Did jobs and went to Fontainbleau and picked up Polly and her mother.  Then came to the hotel an got a pick-nick lunch.  Went to the Loing river got a big rowboat and went up the river.  Had our supper and boy what sandwiches.  Had a swell time coming back.  Took them to Fontainbleau and then went to bed.
ECA: “In Fontainbleau we saw whole lines of artillery soldiers file by on horseback in the moonlight.”

August 1st, Tue.    Marlotte
“I got out the maps and planned the mileage for our Brittany trip.  After lunch rode to Fontainbleau and met Polly at the Palace then we went to the restaurant and played all afternoon.  Came home and had supper then went to bed.

August 2nd, Wed.    Marlotte
“Went to our drawing lesson.  Holley started an oil painting.  After lunch we went to Peter’s hotel and then he took us to a little weekend house and we played ping-pong.  Mother and Daddy came and we had tea and played chess. Read out of Quentin Durward.

August 3rd, Thu.    Marlotte
“Went down to breakfast then went to our French lesson.  I drew and started some oils and Holley some palette knife.  After dinner it rained so we went over and finished painting.  Rained all afternoon then we had supper and went to bed.

August 4th, Fri.    Marlotte, Nemours
“Had breakfast and then got Peter and went to Nemours and saw the church and an old museum with some guns and old locks in it.  After lunch we went to Fontainbleau on our bikes and met Polly and two others with red hair Billy and Joan.  Had tea under the arch with Simon Pigley.  Glad to get rid of Joan.  Had supper with the Applewhites and heard the concert.  Bed.

August 5th, Sat.    Marlotte, Paris, Libourne
“Got up and packed for Libourne near Bordeaux.  Had an early lunch then took the bus to Paris.  Saw the museum of Arts et Metiers then saw the Wax Works [Musee Grevin].  Had supper then went to the station [Gare Quai d’Orsay] and got on the wagon-lit.  Went to bed in the upper berth.

     The Gare Quai d’Orsay  is now the Musée d’Orsay since 1986.

August     6th, Sun.    Libourne, Ste. Foy la Grande (Gironde)
“Got up at 5:00 and got off the train at Libourne.  Then took a small train to Ste. Foy la Grande.  Here we met the Minoggios and went to their house [Villa Anfa, Rosière] and had breakfast.  Took a walk [along the Dordogne] until lunch.  After lunch we took another walk to town and the park.  Came home and had supper.  Played with the cats then went to bed in the cellar.

      Mme. Minoggio (Mme. Legal) was the woman that my mother knew from Hautvillers (Epernay) in 1919 and to whose son, Léandre, she became marraine (see prologue).  At this time he was in the French airforce in Morocco.  He survived the war;  I met his son Jean Pierre Legal in Paris in 2003 on one of the days of the infamous weeklong canicule in which thousands of Parisians died.
I found Léandre’s son Jean Pierre in Paris after a laborious and months long search by mail through the
mairies of  France and Luxembourg where resident records are kept. Sadly, as a teenager, he had had a moto accident that put him in a wheelchair for life. In spite of this disability he drove a car and showed me around Ile de France in several subsequent years. He died in 2016.
ECA: “They   showed us photo’s of Léandre and Janny(?) in Morocco where they live.   Also showed us the pictures of ourseves that they had framed, and the oil portrait of Leandre which Papa [Irving Porter Church] had painted.”

August 7th, Mon.    Ste. Foy la Grande, Libourne
“Played with the cats in bed.  Had breakfast then took a walk to the Gare to find my hat.  Saw the church and the river.  After lunch we made tents for the cats then had tea.  Went to the train and went to Libourne.  Went in the church and waited at the Gare for the train to Paris.  Went to bed on the train and went to sleep.

August 8th, Tue.    Paris, Marlotte
“Got up at Austerlitz Gare and had breakfast.  Took the Metro to Opera and left Daddy at the American Exp. Co.  We shopped all morning and I got a French railway car.  Went to the Bastille to see about the bus then had lunch.  Took the bus to Marlotte and played around until supper.  Read then went to bed.

August 9th, Wed.    Marlotte
“Rode to Fontainebleau with Mother and found Polly.  We all rode to Marlotte and fooled around.  Had lunch and then went to the sand pile and just sat and talked all afternoon.  Rode to Fontainebleau and had tea.  Played in the restaurant then came back for supper and saw a fencing match.

August 10th, Thu.    Marlotte
“Went to our French lesson.  Then had lunch.  After lunch we rode to Fontainebleau and met Polly for an hour then went to the Spicer-Simpson’s for tea.  Played deck tennis then came home and had supper.  Later we went to say goodbye to Peter.  He also gave us tea and we talked then came home and went to bed.

Autographs
Autographs: Peter Soren, Spicer-Simpson (Ship personnel)

      Mr. Spicer-Simpson was a well known sculptor and medalist.  He lived in the Bourron part of Bourron-Marlotte.

August 11th, Fri.    Marlotte
“I went to the sand pile with Holley while she collected colored sands.  After dinner we went to Fontainebleau and found Polly and Rowena LaCoste then went to Samoise plage to swim.  Came home and played ping-pong at the restaurant.  On the way home we got soaked in the pouring rain.  Had supper then read and went to bed.

August 12th, Sat.    Marlotte, Chartres, LeHavre
“Packed our bags and started driving for Chartres.  Saw the cathedral then had lunch.  After lunch drove all afternoon to Le Havre and got supper there.  After supper we walked down by the docks then went to bed.

August 13th, Sun.    Le Havre, Avranches, Rennes
“Got up and in the middle of breakfast Benjamin [see preface] came in and Mother and she renewed acquaintances.  We drove to the river side in the fog to get a bac or ferry but waited 3 hrs for it.  Went to Honfleur and met Jock then had lunch in a little town.  Drove all afternoon to Brittany.  Stopped at Avranches and saw le Mont St. Michel across the water.  Drove to Rennes in the dark where we spent the night.
P.S. stopped at Bayeux and saw the famouse tapestry there.  Made by the wife [Queen Mathilde] of Wm. the Conquerer.  [Got a folding reproduction of the entire tapestry.]

August 14th, Mon.    Rennes, Quimper
“Drove to Quimperlé where we had dinner.  Walked around and saw the church then went on to Quimper. Found a hotel and settled there.  Drove to Concarneau to see the fishing boats then came back to Quimper.  Holley got her coifs and Daddy left for Paris on the train.  Bed.

August 15th, Tue.    Quimper, Vannes
“Walked around Quimper and saw the fair.  Drove to Quimperle and had lunch.  Then went to Carnac and saw the old Druid tombs.  Had ice cream then went to a museum.  Took a drive around the coast then went to Vannes for the night.

August 16th, Wed.    Vannes, Sillé-le-Guillaume, Marlotte
“Said goodbye to Jock and Benjamin and drove all morning.  Had lunch at Sillé then drove all afternoon to Marlotte.  Had supper and went to bed.  Dead tired.

 August 17th, Thu.    Marlotte
“Did jobs and then had lunch.  Afterwards we rode to Fontainbleau on our bicycles to see Polly.  Rowena was there and we ducked Isabella.  We went to see the rocks in the woods but did not find the cave.  Played in the restaurant then came home.  Had supper and went to bed.

      These rocks are undoubtedly among those which became popular and  world renowned rock climbing (bouldering) venues after the War.

August 18th, Fri.    Marlotte
“Packed all the bags and trunks for Switzerland.  After dinner Mother drove us to Fontainbleau to see Polly.  We just sat and talked then went to Polly’s lesson.  Daddy got us and we said goodbye and went home to bed.
P.S, This was Mother’s wedding anniversary but Daddy and Mother both forgot it.

August 19th, Sat.    Marlotte, Grenoble
“Got up early and had breakfast in the room.  Packed and started for Grenoble in the alps.  Drove all morning and had lunch at Chalons and drove on to Lyon.  South of Lyon we saw our first “alp”.  We drove to Grenoble and found a hotel.  This hotel [Lesdiguires] had super elevators and swell surroundings.  Had supper and went to bed.  We were amused to see telephone booths labeled “Allo-1” and “Allo-2”.

August 20th, Sun.    Grenoble, Annecy, Chamonix
“We went [to] the Syndicat d’Initiative [local chamber of commerce] and found out about the alps.  Drove to Annecy and had lunch at the top of an aerial tramway and had a swell view of the lac.  Drove through the Col des Aravis which was 1,400 meters high.  In the mountains the cows have bells.  We came out of the pass and came to Chamonix to spend the night [at the Beau Rivage].

      In 1997 I took a detour through the Col des Aravis and found it exactly as I had remembered it almost sixty years before.  It was here that I remember looking from the car window up the grassy alps and to the rocky towers above thinking, “Wow, wouldn’t it be swell to be able to climb to their tops”.

August 21st, Mon.    Chamonix
“Went to the teleferique du Aiguille de Midi and went halfway up Mt.  Blanc in the little cable car.  Took a short walk to the snow line and threw a snowball.  Had lunch at the top of the teleferique.  Then took a long walk over a glacier [Glacier des Pelerins] and saw some huge cracks.  And a natural bubbler.  The avalanches of snow and rock sounded like the crashing of distant thunder.  Came down had supper and went to bed.
P.S. I had no supper because of a bad headache.

   The top in 1939 is now only “halfway” up and is now called Plan de l’Aiguille.

August 22nd, Tue.    Chamonix, Annemasse
“Went to another teleferique [du Brevent] with two stages.  Stayed at the top and got a few views.  After lunch we came down and finished packing.  Started out for Geneve.  Got halfway and Daddy found he had lost the passports.  We looked all over car but in vain, turned around and looked in the hotel—but in vain!  Then, after searching the baggage again Daddy found them in the bottom of his bag.  Whew!  Drove to Annemasse and spent the night.  The hotel was dingy.

August 23rd, Wed.    Annemasse, Lausanne
“Got up in Annemasse and packed the bags then took an hour going through the customs at the border.  Drove to the Amer. Exp. Co. and did some business in Geneve.  Had lunch [Coq d’Or] then took a bus trip around the city.  Saw the League of Nations buildings.  Then drove to Lausanne and found a hotel [Mont Fleury].  Had supper, wrote in this book and went to bed.

      In Geneva I remember that my father took me especially to see the confluence of the Rhone (clear water from Lac Leman) and the Arve (glacial rockflour filled water from Chamonix).  The two streams run parallel in the same bed essentially unmixed for miles.

August 24th, Thu.    Lausanne, Interlaken
“Packed and went to see the church.  Went up in the steeple and saw the town.  Drove to Aigles and on the way saw Chateau Chillon on Lac LeMan—Lord Byron was there.  Had lunch and drove through a high pass to Interlaken.  Here we found a hotel and had supper.  Went and looked at the stores then went to bed.

      At the hotel in Interlaken we slept for the first time under huge, white down featherbeds, something we had seen heretofore only in movies like Heidi.

August 25th, Fri.    Interlaken, Altdorf
“Drove to Grindelwald and took a long walk around the cliffs.  I saw a mountain goat.  We watched some boys and girls scale a cliff with mountain climbing equipment.  A fall meant death.  We came home and had lunch [Parc des Alpes] then drove to Altdorf and went to bed.
ECA: “When we came down we saw a real mountain climber giving a demonstration of the use of spikes and rope.  It was quite thrilling”.

August 26th, Sat.    Altdorf, Luzern, Zurich
“Went and saw the church and the monument to Wilhelm Tell.  Also saw the chapel by the lake.  Drove to Luzern and the Amer.  Exp. Co. Had lunch then went on a tour of the city; we saw an ancient wooden bridge with paintings of death in the tympani.  I got a Swiss chalet.  Drove to Zurich and had supper.  Walked around outside the Fair grounds and went to bed.

August  27th, Sun.    Zurich
“Went to the [Industrial] Fair and spent all morning there.  Had lunch and stayed there all afternoon.  It is very interesting.  I liked it better than the World’s Fair.  Had supper, took a walk and went to bed.

August  28th, Mon.    Zurich, Bern
“Went to the Exposition and stayed there all morning.  Had lunch then packed to go on.  Drove to Bern where we found a hotel.  Had supper by the riverside at a place under a bridge.  Read Quentin Durward.  Bed.

August 29th, Tue.    Bern, Basle, Lausanne
“Went to tourist office and got a guide to show us the city.  We drove around all morning and saw a big clock strike.  The clock was really complicated.  Had lunch then drove to Basle and looked into Germany.  Drove all afternoon to Lausanne and spent the night at the same hotel as before in the same rooms.  On the way to Basle we realized that the Swiss were mobilizing [their army].  We had to get gas ration cards.  Tank traps were in the roads at Basle.
ECA: “Found that we could not get gas without a permit from the military”.

In 1949 with my roommate from Cornell we were picked up while hitch hiking to Bern by one Edith Roth, captain of the 1939 Swiss ski team. She drove alarmingly fast. The reason, it turned out, was so that we would arrive in Bern at noon, in time to see ths old clock go through its paces.

August 30th, Wed.    Lausanne, Bourg
Went to Geneve and got our laundry and went back to Nyon to cross into France [at La Cure in the high Juras] but the border was barred with barbed wire and wagons.  We went to the next place [Divonne?] and found it barred too.  We got scared so went to the American consul [in Geneva] and he told one that was open.  Drove to Annemasse got through the customs and had lunch at Annecy.  Drove all afternoon to Bourg where we spent the night.
P.S. Got a flat tire and changed it.  [First] blackout at Bourg.
ECA: “Tension seems to be growing.  Hitler has  replied to the note from Great Britain”.

    My recollection of Annemasse is one of barbed wire, tank traps, and visible machine guns.

August 31st, Thu.    Bourg, Marlotte
“Had breakfast early.  Drove all morning and had lunch at Marlotte.  Drove to Fontainebleau said goodbye to the [American] School and came back.  Played with Jaques Perronnet and had suppper.  Then played in the billiard room.  Bed.
ECA: “Partial mobilization [of French Army] taking place everywhere.”

September 1st, Fri.    Marlotte
“Washed and dried all morning.  Had lunch while Mother and Daddy went to see Peter while we played battleship and swatted flies.  Changed rooms and then had supper.  After supper finished Quentin Durward.
P.S.!  Hitler attacks Poland.  Refugees from Paris in all small towns.  General mobilization in France and England.  “Mobilisation général” was on every tongue!

September 2nd, Sat.    Marlotte
“Drove to Fontainebleau with Peter and got some papers and went to the bank.  Mother, Daddy, and Peter read the papers and we are not sure [now] about our sailing.  Had lunch then Holley and I played battleship all afternoon.  Had supper then Mother, Daddy, and Holley went to see Mr. Spicer-Simpson.  Bed.
P.S.!  Blackout in Marlotte.  Hitler still in Poland.  France and England are mobilized.  The Bremen is on its way across under the watch of the British cruiser Warrick.

      In the evening outside the Renaissance I remember “Hermes”, the hotel waiters that we knew, and other young men of the town all gathered in the street by the gate in their army uniforms and with their knapsacks and guns. They were saying goodbye to their friends and families.

September 3rd, Sun.    Marlotte, Paris, Marlotte
“Collected Peter and all went to Paris.  There we went to all the Consulate, Am. Exp. Co., and Cunard.  ‘Abris’ all over also blue lights and windows.  Had lunch at the Rallye then came back in the pouring rain.  Packed a little went to bed.
P.S. War declared!  Hitler still in Poland.  France and England declare war on Hitler as we were told by the doorman at the Consulate.

On this day the Cunarder Athenia was sunk by a German  submarine.

September 4th, Mon.    Marlotte, LeHavre
“Got up and had breakfast early in our rooms.  Said goodbye and drove all morning.  Had lunch in the car then came to Havre.  Looked for hotels and found a nice small one.  Went to the Consulate and Express Co.  Also the U.S. Lines.  Had supper at the Hotel Bordeaux.  Daddy met [ran into] Mrs. McBride of the Music School [in the steamship office line].
ECA: “American Consul advises only American boats. The ‘President  Harding’ and the ‘Washington’ are being sent over by the end of the  week.”

September 5th, Tue.    LeHavre
“Woke up to the tune of an awful air raid siren at 6:00.  Boy, what a noise!  Had breakfast.  Did some business then sat by the sea untill lunch at a small restaurant down the street.  After lunch went to the beach and swam untill 4:00.  Fooled around untill supper.  Had supper at a small restaurant then went to bed.

    The [Cunarder] Athenia having been sunk we cancelled the Mauritania passage. My father considered it by then too dangerous to sail on a British ship.

September  6th, Wed.    LeHavre
“The siren blew again twice.  Did some jobs around LeHavre then met Mrs. McBride for lunch.  Drove around the port then went swimming until supper.  Had supper.  Learned some bridge then went to bed.

September 7th, Thu.    LeHavre
“Did some business in Havre and Mother met some old war friends [Juliet Whiton] and we had lunch with them.  Sat around while Daddy wrote a lengthy document on efficiency then went swimming.  Had supper learned some more bridge then went to bed.  Boy are we bored!

      My father was incensed to distraction by the confusion and lack of efficiency exhibited by the steamship companies in handling the hordes of tourists, mostly American, trying desperately to arrange for safe passage home.  Queues at information and booking windows—in which one could stand in vain for more then half a day only to be denied in the end an answer to a simple question—contained hundreds of people, stretching outdoors into the weather and down the streets.  There were never any useful general announcements; no one had any idea of what was going on or how to manipulate the “system”.   

      Dad was going to remedy all this and spent days writing an efficiency manifesto to be given to all the steamship companies for their edification.  However, the exercise was rendered moot the next day as the port of Le Havre was summarily closed by the French government and the mobs of tourists were directed, thence, to Bordeaux, four hundred miles and two days travel away.  A real disaster for anyone having to take a train or bus.

September  8th, Fri.    Le Havre
“Did some washing and darning then went swimming.  Boy was it swell because the tide was out.  Had lunch then stayed in the room all afternoon waiting for Mother and Daddy.  Several British fighter planes were doing manoevers over the city.  Fooled around then has supper.  Played some bridge (not very well).  Bed.

September 9th, Sat.    Le Havre, Alencon
“Packed and put Mrs. McBride’s luggage on the fenders [of the car] and went into town.  Spent the morning in all the steamship offices then had lunch.  Mrs. McBride got passage on a freighter so we took her bags off.  Started driving for Bordeaux and stopped at Alencon at Hotel France.  Bed.  Many trucks and troops are passing [the other way] on their way to the front.  Roads jammed with southbound cars.  All of France in blackout.

September 10th, Sun.    Alencon, Bordeaux
“Started driving for Bordeaux.  On the way had sort of a hard time getting gasoline.  Met several long lines of old trucks being collected for the army.  Had lunch at Chatellerault then drove on.  We were stopped once to have our head]lights painted blue.  Awfully hot.  Gas rationing pretty serious.  Got to Bordeaux then found a stuffy and dingy hotel. Had supper and went to bed.

      At one point below LeMans we encountered an endless southbound tie-up.  As we neared the bottleneck it became clear that it was caused by a huge water-filled pothole in the road around which “les poilus” were struggling to direct traffic—cursing and swearing at drivers whose cars went in and then had to be muscled out.  When it became our turn the soldiers put up an anguished shout and covered their eyes as my father headed more or less straight for the hole, lumbered in, gunned the engine, and lurched clear on the far side.  Smiles of amazement on the faces of the soldiers; “Voiture du millionaire!” one shouted as we passed  on.

39091001_BlueLights
Poilu with blue paint

     As dusk fell, somewhere in the countryside south of Poitiers two poilus stepped into the road, bayonets crossed against us.  We stopped and a third scurried out of the bushes with a brush and a can of  paint; he painted our headlights blue.

September 11th, Mon.    Bordeaux
“Went around Bordeaux to the U.S. Lines and Consulate.  Found a better hotel then had lunch.  After lunch moved in to our new hotel then Holley and I played slapjack.  Daddy took us to an old church with the tower across the street [Tour Ste. Michele].  In the bottom [crypt] of the tower there are a whole mess of skeletons (some chemical in the ground preserved them) that were found when the tower was started.  We bought some soup then had some supper.  Bed.  I slept on the floor.

September 12th, Tue.    Bordeaux
“Played cards most of the morning then had lunch.  Played some more cards then had supper.  Played bridge.  Boredom terrific.  Bed.  Much chiseling and graft in the steamship lines.  No passage in view for several weeks.

September 13th, Wed.    Bordeaux
“Same as before.  Played cards and such things and walked in the park.
ECA: “They say the ‘Washington’ by a mixup of wires was almost entirely booked in London when it came to Le Havre and so a great many people there were disappointed. The U.S. Lines have certainly made a mess of things but I suppose it is not entirely their fault.  With 1000’s of people milling around Havre, Bordeaux, and Paris—what a proposition.    All we can do is wait and hope.”

September 14th, Thu.    Bordeaux
“Mother and Daddy went to the Consulate.  We played cards and had lunch then played some more cards.  Had supper then played some bridge.  Bed.

September 15th, Fri.    Bordeaux
“I started a paper airplane.  Had lunch and Isabella [Murray] walked in.  She treated us to a patisserie.  Had supper at the Becassine with the Murrays.  Bed.
P.S. Isabella showed us her gas mask.  They are building abris in the Allees de Tourneys.
ECA: “Stormed the Consulate and offices of U.S. Lines again but there was such a crowd everywhere that we didn’t accomplish a thing. …they say Toscanini is here and stands in line with the rest of us.”

September 16th, Sat.    Bordeaux
“I worked on my paper airplane and started a car.  Mother walked with Mrs. Fitzherbert and we talked until lunch.  Worked some more then had supper with Mrs.  Fitzherbert and the Murrays.  Bed.

      My parents had run into Mrs. Fitzherbert a close neighbor in Wellesley Hills.

September 17th, Sun.    Bordeaux
“Made some more things of paper.  Had lunch with Mrs. Fitzherbert. Fooled around until supper with the Murrays.  Bed.
ECA: “The children were so homesick today that they were making maps of Wellesley.”

September 18th, Mon.    Bordeaux
USS Manhattan“Daddy went out and I and Holley waited.  Daddy came back with passage on the ‘Manhattan‘, Sept. 22nd.  Had supper at the Dubern with Mrs. Fitzherbert.  Met Miss Boreson and she ate with us.  Bed.

September 19th, Tue.    Bordeaux
“Saw Mrs. Fitzherbert off with Daddy to the train [to le Verdon].  I worked some more then had lunch.  Worked after dinner then had supper at the Becassine with the Murrays.  Bed.

September 20th, Wed.    Bordeaux
“I worked some more [on my paper and mucilage models; by now a steamship and a steam locomotive].  Mother and Holley went shopping.  Had lunch and went to the movies.  Saw all about the Maginot Line and France’s defense.  Took a buggy around the town.  Ate at the Becassine.  Played in Isabella’s room.

September 21st, Thu.    Bordeaux
“Finished the paper stuff.  Got the Murrays and had dinner at the Capon Fin.  Wow!  Packed and fooled around until supper at the Richlieu.  Bed.

September 22nd, Fri.    Bordeaux, le Verdon, SS Manhattan
“Drove early to le Verdon and got the car on the dock.  Much red tape along the way.  Sat on baggage and finished book.  Got passport stamped and got on board ship!  Met the Albros.  Had supper then went to bed.  Our cabins connected by a bath.

September 23rd, Sat.    SS Manhattan
“Explored the boat all morning and found Alice Albro.  Had lunch and explored some more.  After supper Daddy and I stayed up and watched [as] the car [was] loaded until twelve o’clock on.  After the car got on we stayed up till 4:00a and saw the boat sail away from the dock.  Our boat was brightly lighted and painted with [huge] lighted American flags [on the sides].  There were 700 extra people sleeping on cots in the lounges.

September 24th, Sun.    SS Manhattan
“Played around with shuffleboard and deck tennis until lunch.  Met a boy and played around.  Had supper and went to bed.

September 25th, Mon.    SS Manhattan
“Played around the ship and had dinner.  Sea calm and pretty.  Met some more guys and played shuffleboard.  [Igor] Stravinsky tripped over my shuffleboard stick in rushing to ask a girl for a ginger ale with him in the bar.  Paderevsky was aboard also; he was melancholy all the trip.  In morning had a lifeboat drill.  Had supper and went to bed.

September 26th, Tue.    SS Manhattan
“Not feeling very well so went to bed again.  Sick untill about 5:00. Went to sleep.  Had some ginger ale.

September 27th, Wed.    SS Manhattan
“Went out on deck and played shuffleboard and deck tennis.  Had lunch and played around some more.  Got a haircut.  Had supper; took a bath.  Wrote in this book and went to bed.


Here ends my trip diary.  Several days later [the 30th] we arrived in New York and drove to Boston by way of the Havilands’ in Hartford where we spent the night.  The next day we were at great pains to complete the trip in daylight so that we could show our friends the blue painted headlights.  Returning was exciting and we were envied by our friends not least because we were three weeks late for the start of school!


Epilogue

On a several occasions I have returned to Marlotte.

Once, ten years later, in 1949 while on a European trip with my college roommate Bill Pistler.  We arrived, having given up hitchhiking from Lyon by boarding a train in Macon.  Mme. Perronet put us up in a back room somewhere at no cost.  The place seemed exactly as I had remembered it.  The War had been hard though.  The Germans had taken over the hotel for officer’s billets but the Perronets had been allowed to stay on.  M. Perronet had died (of a heart attack) either during or shortly after the War and Michel and Madame ran the hotel.  Jacques was following an engineering career in Paris.  We later visited with him there.  From this visit to La Renaissance I have a photo’ of Madame and my friend and of Jacques and me.

Then not until 1997 (and once more in 1999) was I able very briefly to return; really only for a few minutes each time.  In 1997 in an effort to re-contact Madame or Jacques I learned that all three of the remaining family members had died; Madame sometime. probably in the seventies. and both Jacques and Michel of heart attacks, like their father, within this decade.  However I arranged to meet Jacques widow, Janine, briefly in Paris to give her the photographs and was able to cajole some friends into taking me to Marlotte one evening to look around.  The “new” Madame Perronet has a son, also Jacques, and an apartment in part of the original hotel from which she commutes to Paris.

In Marlotte I found the Rue Murger and La Renaissance which has now been partially dismantled and converted to a cirque hippique.  Most of its former charm had vanished.


Bill Atkinson, January, 2000
ECA: additions, January 2002
Conversion to MSWord, May 2010


 

A Gunner’s Tale (1944-45)

t-square 26 1CHAPTER III
Bombing Japan

by S/Sgt. Francis (Frank) E. Reynolds
498th BG [T-Square], 874th Squadron, Saipan
1944-45
[From a manuscript e-mailed to me by Gib Buckbee, whose father was a friend of Reynolds.]

-o0|0o-

(Some disturbing graphic content has been redacted thus: [. . .])

In mid-October we departed for Saipan. American forces had taken Tinian,
only two miles from Saipan, and Guam located 100 miles [south] of us. All islands were 1500 miles from Japan with the Japanese stronghold, Iwo Jima, being midway.

874th squadron
874th Squadron

When we arrived on Saipan, it was hot and rainy. We spent a few days in tents while we built quonset huts near the shoreline to live in. The officers and enlisted men lived in separate huts but close to each other. Showers were saltwater and located on the beach. We filled our canteens from steel drums. The food was all canned—no fresh food. Flight lunches were individual packets of canned food called K-rations.

We dug trenches outside the huts that we could get in if we had air raids. On November 2 at 0130 Japanese bombers dropped bombs for the first time. There were plenty of scares, but no aircraft destroyed, and two enemy were shot down by antiaircraft guns. We got bombed or strafed every few nights. The strafing was the worst. The enemy planes would come in low under the radar and start shooting. I remember one night we awoke with tracers going by the end of the hut. I was the first one in the trench and landed on the bottom with three or four guys lying on top of me. I thought the bullets would have to go through them before getting to me. I did not even notice the coral digging into my back.

Those raids did kill some people and destroyed aircraft. At night we took turns guarding the aircraft. Usually an officer and an enlisted man paired up to guard against Japanese still hiding in caves. One night in December, I was guarding our plane with an officer when the plane next to ours was hit by a rocket, fired from an attacking plane, and started burning. We got out of the bunker and ran to escape the coming explosion.

iwo jima
Iwo Jima (Mt. Suribachi)

After a big raid on us New Year’s Eve the raids ended, due to B-24s bombing the airfield on Iwo. Planes would fly from Japan to Iwo, land, refuel, load bombs, and bomb us. B-24s were given the job of keeping the airfield on Iwo knocked out. They dropped bombs every hour and the Japanese could not fill in the bomb holes as fast as the B-24s made them.

We flew two practice missions to enemy occupied islands. The Marines made certain there could be no possibility of a tipoff from Japanese holdouts on Saipan by conducting a “rabbit hunt” around the runways, which netted them over 200 killed. Then the planes were loaded for our first mission. Bad weather caused delays, but finally on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1944, 100 aircraft in nine plane formations, flew over Tokyo and dropped bombs on an aircraft factory. This raid was the first such attack since the Doolittle strikes in April, 1942.

The B-29 was under-powered, and taking off fully loaded with fuel, bombs and ammunition was hazardous. We had a 10,000 foot runway ending with a 300 foot cliff drop-off. All of the runway was used, and sometimes the 300 feet altitude that could be lost before hitting the water saved us. We flew low altitude to a climb point off the coast of Japan and then climbed to 30,000 feet bombing altitude. We had never made a maximum weight takeoff or been higher than 25,000 feet until that first mission. Flight time was 15 hours [round trip].

We saw many enemy fighters, but only had a few attacks on the first mission. On our third mission the fighters were more aggressive, and I shot down the first confirmed fighter in our Squadron. I shot down two others on later missions. The Japanese were doing anything to knock us down. They put up heavy flak, swarms of attacks, kamikaze rams, and even dropped phosphorous bombs above our formations. Major Krause was our well-liked operations officer. What happened to him as stated in official records illustrates their determination.

This is an eyewitness story given by Lieutenant Webster, who was in the flight commanded by Major John E. Krause which was flying over target 357, Tokyo December 27, 1944. His plane, T-Square 25, was leading the third element of a nine ship tight formation at 31,500 feet on the bomb run between Mount Fuji and Tokyo when they ran into trouble at 0425, one minute before bombs away:

“A Japanese Tony came in head-on with a closing rate of 700 mph or better, slightly high with guns blazing. The top gun sight blister blew off from gun fire, probably killing the gunner instantly. The right side of the ship, from nose to leading edge of the wing, was torn open with a gash three feet wide and emitting a sheet of yellow flame, no doubt killing co-pilot, engineer and radio operator. Parts and pieces of equipment came flying out of the wide cut in the side section. It is possible the Tony rammed the nose with his right wing, no one knows for sure. The ship held formation for 30 seconds, then dropped out abruptly losing speed and altitude faster than accompanying planes could slow down for her.

Fighters swarmed in from all sides, levels, and directions, each pressing home their attacks, trying for the kill like a bunch of hornets. At approximately one minute from the time T-Square 25 left formation, a Tony rammed it on the right side knocking off parts of the wing and either No. 3 or No. 4 engine, which came off and tumbled through the air. This was at an altitude of 28,000 feet and they were going down fast when another Tony rammed them from underneath in the belly near the gunners’ compartment. They finally went out of control and were heading nearly straight down until last seen at 20,000 feet. None of the crew was reported to have bailed out. Nine Japanese Tonys were seen to be shot down by the crew of T-Square 25.”

[. . .]

On a mission to Tokyo in February of 1945, we were under heavy fighter attacks when a 20mm cannon shell exploded against the fuselage just above my head. It knocked the plexiglass blister out and I hit the gun sight with my chest breaking it off as I was blown* outside the plane. I was pinned against the outside of the fuselage by the slip stream. The only thing that saved me was the seat belt. It was just above my knees, holding my legs inside from the knees down. The rest of me was outside.
*explosive decompression

God gave me superhuman strength and I got my hands on the rim where the blister was mounted and pulled myself back into the ship. The slip stream had stripped my flak vest, helmet and oxygen mask off, and tore the oxygen hose off the outlet. I had to have oxygen or pass out in 30 seconds and die in 3 minutes. Again, God came to my rescue. I unsnapped the seat belt, ran into the radar room where there was an extra outlet and mask and got on oxygen.

The plane took more hits; the controls were shot out, and the order came “Prepare For Bail Out.” Everyone was getting their chutes on. Mine was blown out in the explosion so I was trying to put on the spare, but it did not fit and I could not adjust it. In sheer desperation, I grabbed the radar operator and pleaded, “Don’t leave me!” He adjusted the chute for me. The pilots regained control of the plane by alternate controls and canceled the bail out.

Outside of some small shrapnel in my hands and neck, I was in good shape when we landed. The flight surgeon picked the flak out and gave me a tetanus shot.

I thank God for saving my life.

When word got around about what happened, for several days people would yell at me, “Hey, Reynolds. Don’t leave me!” Followed by loud laughter.

goat gulch theatre
Goat Gulch theatre

A Wing of B-29s moved into Tinian across the water about two miles from us in January, 1945. They flew a few bombing missions and then switched to dropping mines. We were envious of their “milk runs” as we called them. Dropping mines in harbors could not be as dangerous as bombing Tokyo. One night I was sitting on the hillside that faced Tinian to watch an outdoor movie. The Wing started taking off on a mission. Just as the first plane got a short distance from the runway there was a blinding flash and the aircraft blew into a million pieces. The second and third — the same thing. Ten out of the first fifteen planes blew up before the takeoffs were stopped. It was the most horrifying thing I ever saw.

Later we learned the mines they carried were detonated by sound, and the salt air had affected their fusing, causing aircraft engine noise to trigger the explosions.

In January, 1945 we lost an engine soon after takeoff and aborted the mission. The standard procedure was to salvo the bombs, and land. But our crew had worked hard the day before using hand-cranked hoists to load the bombs, and hated to see all that work wasted. Why not land with the bombs and use them on the next mission? The pilot requested permission to land with the bombs. Permission was granted.

The weather was dear with gusty winds. As the plane neared the cliffs, which as also the end of the runway, the wind abruptly decreased. This caused the heavy plane to drop onto the runway extra hard. The gasoline tanks located in the wings were almost full, and the hard landing ruptured the inter-connections between the tanks. Gasoline poured from the underside of the wings as we rolled down the runway. Engines and electrical power were quickly cut off to prevent a fire. The airplane was stopped. We evacuated and ran a safe distance from the gasoline-leaking ship. Crash crews hosed down everything. A refueling crew unloaded the remaining gasoline. The plane was towed to a hard stand and we unloaded the bombs.

The next morning the eleven-member flight crew reported to the crew chief and were given screwdrivers. The bottom wing panels had to come off so the mechanics could repair the connections. There were easily 1000 long screws on each wing that held the panels in place that had to be removed. After repairs by the mechanics, we reinstalled the panels and screws. There were a lot of sore hands and arms when it was over. To my knowledge no aircraft was ever allowed to land with bombs again.

Our mission to bomb industrial targets was costing heavy losses. Some missions were running at ten losses. Also, we were not hitting the targets. Weather was the main problem. Clouds covered the target area time after time. Frequently, 200mph jet streams played havoc with the bomb runs. If it was downwind, the ground speed was greater than what the bomb sight was designed for. Upstream antiaircraft fire was deadly or the planes ran low on fuel to return home.

The Air Corps Commander, General Arnold, decided a change in the command was in order. He assigned Major General LeMay, the most innovative Air Corps General of WWII, as Commander [of the 20th Air Force]. The General and his staff made a study and found that a high percentage of the buildings in Japan were constructed of wood. Also, there were very few antiaircraft guns suitable for defense against low altitude attacks. New tactics, copied after those the British used against Germany, were developed. Instead of high altitude precision bombing against industrial targets, it would be low altitude night area bombing of the cities, using incendiary bombs to burn them down.

March the 9th of 1945 was the first mission. Bomber streams of 300 planes from Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, their first mission, bombed assigned sections of Tokyo at 7,000 to 8,000 feet altitude with incendiaries. The glow from the fires could be seen for over 100 miles as we flew home. Fifteen and a half square miles, an area equal to Dallas, Texas, was laid waste. Within ten days five raids had taken place against the major cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe and Nagoya the second time, causing incalculable damage. Aircraft losses were low. Fire bombing was such a success it became the tactic that destroyed Japan’s war capability.

The fire raids were frightening to the bomber crews. When we arrived over Tokyo it was a sea of fire. Looking down at it, we knew if something happened to the plane we would have to parachute out and would probably land in the fire. What was terrifying was to get caught in the heat thermals from the burning fires. The airplane would suddenly shoot up 1,000 feet in altitude and just as suddenly sink 1,000 feet. We were tossed about like toys, with the pilot fighting for control of the plane. One plane was flipped on its back and miraculously the pilot got it righted. The fuselage and wings were warped. Another plane had the bomb bay doors torn off and one of them bent cross-wise with the leading edge of the wing and stayed there until the plane landed. A gunner on a new crew caught in a thermal was sure the plane was going down and he bailed out. Those thermals were much worse than any thunderstorm I was ever in.

In March, 1945 we were taking off overloaded with bombs, as usual. We used all the runway and went off the cliff still below flying speed. We lost the 300 feet altitude from diff to ocean and skimmed along on top of the waves so close that the propellers were throwing water on the gunners’ blisters. The nose of the plane was unusually high, but the pilot had to hold that altitude or we would hit the water. The flight engineer said, “Everybody get up front!” The five of us in the rear scrambled through the tunnel and joined the navigator and radio operator in the cockpit. The airspeed slowly built up as the tail lifted from the shift of our weight, and the pilot managed to climb enough to get the nose down.

Full power from the engines was only used for take-off which only took two to three minutes. The use of full power was not to exceed five minutes under emergency conditions because it could cause engine failure. We used full power for ten minutes.

Target 357, the [Musashino] aircraft factory on the outskirts of Tokyo, had been our first mission’s target and we had been back several times, but had inflicted very little damage. Now our Wing was told to destroy that factory. Low altitude bombing had been so successful it was decided to try it on [target] 357 with 500-pound explosive bombs.

Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945 [Atkinson’s first mission] was the date I was promoted to staff sergeant and this was our crew’s 17th mission. Take-offs started at 0700 at 30-second intervals. We were near the end of the stream. The plane in front of us crashed on take-off at the end of the runway and bulldozers pushed the burning debris off the cliff into the water so we could takeoff. This caused a 45-minute break between aircraft arriving at the target. All antiaircraft guns knew our route and could concentrate on us. It was a beautiful fall moon, as forecast, and I could clearly see the small island in Tokyo Bay where we began the bomb run over. There was probably only one gun down there and their first shell knocked out No. 2 engine. As we proceeded, searchlights picked us up and shell blasts rocked the plane. The interphone went out, which meant the pilot could not communicate with us. Another engine on the other side went out. The bomb bay doors came open, the bombs fell out but the doors would not close. The plane turned left, as briefed, toward the coast. We ran out of [the] searchlights and antiaircraft fire.

For a few brief moments it looked like we were going to make it. But in the center wing section a few sparks grew into a stream and quickly into flames. I grabbed a fire extinguisher and went into the bomb bay hoping I could reach the fire, but could not. With horror I saw flames licking around a hung-up bomb and knew we were doomed.

I went back into the gunners’ compartment and said, “Let’s get out of here, this thing is going to blow up!” We proceeded to the rear escape hatch. The tail gunner had come forward and was crouched in the door. The last thing I did was take my .45 caliber pistol from its holster and leave it in the plane, thinking, they may kill me but not with my own gun.

We jumped through the hatch one by one. I delayed opening the chute until well below the flames, now shooting past the tail. When the ripcord was pulled the chute opened with the expected jolt. I swung around to see the burning plane just in time to see it explode with a loud boom.

A Japanese fighter had been trailing below and behind us, and he passed below me. I fell through his propeller wash which started me swinging violently. I fought the swinging, using the shroud lines, as taught in training. I observed a chute on each side of me, and tried to see where I was going to land. Suddenly, I was brushing tree branches and came to a halt with the chute caught in the top of a tree, but I was hanging in the clear. After my vision adjusted, it looked like I wasn’t very far off the ground, so unsnapping the harness, I lowered myself as much as possible and finally let loose and fell about ten feet.

I thank the good Lord for getting me out of that burning plane and safely on the ground.

It was 0400, April 2, 1945. I was on a hill and moved up to the tree trunk and sat down awaiting daylight. I was unhurt with only a couple of scratches. I had a lot of melted metal on my clothes, but no bums. It was cold, probably around freezing, but I wore a khaki uniform, covered by flight coveralls and flight jacket so I was fairly comfortable. I thought we were on the briefed withdrawal route from the target, and this must be the foothills of mountains northwest of Tokyo.

When it got good and light, I decided to go toward one of the chutes I saw while descending. I found the chute but no one was there. So, I climbed up a hill, saw a village and a path leading to it and headed that way.

As I approached the village, I saw someone on a bicycle. We both stopped. I saw it was a boy who must have been twelve to fourteen years of age, and approached him slowly and smiling not wanting to scare him. I had a couple of coins in my pocket and gave them to him. He turned his bike around and rode ahead of me a few feet. The path turned into a road. As we approached the village, an old man in a robe with writing on his long shawl was waiting for me. I saluted him and he bowed to me. He motioned me down the street. People started coming out of the houses and lining the streets, looking at me and laughing. A big teenager grabbed my arm and tried to twist it behind my back. I resisted and pushed him away, firmly but gently, and he walked along beside I thought, this is not too bad.

CHAPTER IV
Japanese Prisoner

by S/Sgt. Francis (Frank) E. Reynolds
498th BG, 874th Squadron, Saipan
1944-45

-o0|0o-

After walking about two blocks, I came to two policemen at [a] train station. They blindfolded me and tied my hands behind my back. School children started gathering around us and when the train came, we all got on it. Several of the kids came by and greeted me with a kick or punch. After a thirty- to forty-five minute ride, I was led off the train and walked to a police station. The blindfold was removed. Five or six policemen were in the room. One of them in very broken English asked me a few questions. The last one was, ‘”Who do you think will win the war?” I replied, “America.” He translated my answer and they all laughed.

About two hours passed before a truck stopped outside and military personnel came in. I instinctively knew the good times were over. The blindfold went back With shouts, punches, and kicks I was driven like a blind animal onto the truck bed and placed with no support for my back. I heard other voices and knew there were prisoners and guards aboard. Every time the truck took a sharp turn, I fell over— which gave the guard an excuse to jerk me back up by my hair and abuse me for falling over.

The truck finally stopped after a long ride, and we were herded into a field and tied to posts. I could hear voices and knew we had an audience. I thought, this is public execution time. I hoped they would shoot us and not behead us with swords.

A voice shouted with the equivalent of “Attention!”. The crowd grew quiet. Another voice gave a short speech and when he stopped, the guards started beating us. The crowd cheered. This was repeated four or five times. Then we just stood there for a while. We were untied and herded towards the crowd. They were lined up in two long rows and as we walked between them, they hit and kicked us. At one point my blindfold was knocked down and I saw our tormentors were high school age kids. It was a very terrifying experience.

They put us back on the truck and after another long ride we were unloaded and taken through a gate into a courtyard. We stood there for hours waiting our turn at interrogation. I learned by listening that five of my crew were there: Lieutenant Houghton and sergeants San Souci, Le Marca, Evans and myself. Lieutenant Houghton was injured and burned. I could smell his burned flesh. There was also a flyer from another plane. Sergeant Peterson, the top gunner, was missing. As we were going to the rear of the plane to bail out Peterson approached me, very scared, and without his parachute on. I told him he had better get his chute on, the airplane was going to blow up. I thought he probably had time to get it on and bail out before it did explode.

When my turn came I was led into a room, untied, and the blindfold removed. The interrogator was in civilian clothes, looked to be about 55 years old, and shouted every question at me in very hard-to-understand English. At the slightest provocation he would bang me on the head with a three foot long stick. If I flinched or anything he shouted, “Act like a soldier!.” I learned immediately I was never to show fear or pain or I was treated worse. The interrogation was a list of questions and he wrote down the answers.

I was led back to the courtyard. The whole time we were there people were coming out of the building, looking at us, laughing and getting in their kicks and hits. Probably around 2000 my guard said something, and a voice answered him in perfect English by spelling my name. He explained to me the guard wanted to know what the name tag on my jacket was.

Again, I was led into a room, my blindfold removed and wrists untied. This time I was facing a young Japanese officer. He told me that I was in Tokyo, in the hands of Military Police, that I was there for interrogation; and after they had obtained their information, which would take about two weeks, I would be moved to a Prisoner of War camp where conditions would be better. He was drinking hot tea and offered me some. He filled his cup and handed it to me. That was the best thing that happened to me all day.

The guard again blindfolded and tied me up and we returned to the court yard. After waiting an hour or so I was herded into another building. When the blindfold was removed I was standing in front of a wooden cell. After removing my shoes I crawled through a three-foot by three-foot door onto a wood floor. The door closed and was locked with a huge padlock. I was alone. In the left comer was a hole in the floor with a cover on top and a box below which was the toilet. There was a blanket and wrapping myself in it, I lay on the floor and slept soundly all night.

The building was a long single story, that had a concrete walkway on one side and six cells on the other. The cells were ten-feet wide and twelve-feet deep. The front was wood posts set about one inch apart. A small opening six inches high and twelve inches long at floor level cut in the posts was used to pass food and water into the cell. The walls were wood planks dividing the cells and you could see or whisper through the cracks in some places. The back wall had a small window placed against the ceiling that could not be reached, but at least you could see daylight. A light bulb was placed in the center of the ceiling and burned all the time. Behind this building was a pig pen. The pigs ate the Japanese mess hall garbage and supplied the cells with swarms of fleas, ticks and flies.

The main building where we were interrogated was the Kempi Tai Headquarters of a special military unit, like the Gestapo in Germany. It was a two story concrete structure with cells in the basement similar to those in the wooden building in the rear. We had a routine enforced by a patrolling guard which changed every eight hours. No talking or moving about in the cells. We were awakened at 0600 in the morning, sat with our backs against the walls until 2100 when we lay down. We were fed a baseball-size rice ball at 0800, 1300, and 1600 supplemented with a tablespoon full of greens, beans or vegetable one or two times a day. A small cup of water followed the food.

The Japanese never released any names or information about their prisoners. My mother and Rickie only knew that I was missing in action. But God gave my mother a dream. In this dream she saw me in a wooden cell counting out beans to other cell mates. This is exactly what we did and each person might get ten or twelve beans. From that dream she believed I was alive.

In the next few days I underwent three or four interrogations during which the Japanese wanted to know my personal history, military training, information on each mission flown, where the bombs hit, etc. When it came to the five fire-bombing missions, the interrogator insisted I say the fires killed innocent civilians. In the process, with him shouting, “Act like a soldier”, I asked him why I wasn’t being treated like a soldier under the Geneva Convention for treatment of POWs. Bang! Bang! Bang! Came the club. ‘”You are not a soldier! You bombed and killed innocent civilians! You are a criminal!”, he screamed at me. In the end I signed a fourteen-page confession containing the statement that I had killed innocent civilians on the five fire raids.

The flight engineer, Lieutenant Houghton, was in the cell to my right. I could not see him through the cracks but knew he was injured and burned. I tried to find out what happened to those in the front of the plane. But he was in shock and could not tell me. After about two weeks the Japanese knew he was dying and came and got him. They told me he was going to a POW camp. He was never seen again. [. . .]

On my second or third night in prison at 0900 P.M., the guard came down the cells telling us it was “lie down and sleep time.” When he came to my cell he told me goodnight in Japanese, and asked me how to say goodnight in English. I pretended to not understand that he wanted me to learn the Japanese phrase and teach him the American phrase. He repeated the phrase three or four times and started getting angry at no response from me. Thinking he understood very little English, when he said in Japanese, “Goodnight and American ……..?” I said, “American go to hell.” He immediately started cursing me in Japanese, ran down to the end of the cell block, filled a bucket with water, ran back to my cell and threw the water on me. My clothes were soaked, the floor in the cell was wet, the temperature was probably 40° and I was cold, wet and miserable for two or three days and nights. I caught a cold that lasted two weeks. I learned to be more cautious with the guards.

From that time on he became my personal tormentor. I named him “Double Ugly.” When he came on duty he delighted in coming to my cell and making me stand against the wood posts while he shoved his bayonet at me through the space between the posts. I would jump back avoiding the thrust. It was a big game to him, but could have been deadly for me if my timing was off.

[. . .]

I had been in the cell about a week when an injured P-51 pilot from Iwo Jima was brought to my cell. His forehead had a gash about three inches long and deep into the skull. Also his face and hands were burned. He was doing low altitude strafing and collided with some utility lines and crashed.

I poked food into his mouth, gave him water, helped him use the toilet, and kept him from scratching the scabs off his face and hands. He said the itching was almost intolerable. He lived but healed very slowly due to malnutrition.

[This] pilot attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology before entering the Army Air Corps. He told me he recognized the young Japanese officer, who had given me the cup of tea the first day, as a graduate of M.I.T., class of 1941 and that he had obviously just returned to Japan a few months before Pearl Harbor. No wonder he spoke perfect English.

San Souci, the right gunner, was added to the cell after about ten days of captivity. About four or five days later we got a shock when the guard came to the cell and said, “Reynoldo, we have your friend.” There stood Peterson, the top gunner. We had been wondering what had happened to him.

Like the rest of us, he had landed in the hills but he had decided to evade capture. (There was no escape plan from Japan.) All he had to eat was some plants and one craw fish. After fourteen days hunger drove him to approach a farm house. He saw the farmer and family were just starting to eat supper so he held his gun on them until he ate their food. Then he gave the startled farmer his gun and surrendered. The farmer got the police and then gave Pete a good beating for eating his food.

Pete had lost more weight than we had, but looked pretty good except for his foot. In his evasion he had gotten his foot wet and it had frozen and was black and swollen. It started paining him badly, so San Souci and I thought if we could get it lanced it would drain and reduce the pain. We talked the guard into lancing it by sticking his bayonet in it. We got the guard to get us a paper concrete bag from the construction outside and wrapped it around his foot to hold down the odor and drippings. We got a bag change whenever we could from a cooperative guard.

Prisoners were being brought in every day or so and they were segregated from the older prisoners. One time I was moved 10 the basement cells in the Headquarters building. When the cell door opened, I saw that the cell contained six or eight Japanese. One of them wore a military uniform. When the cell door closed, one of them asked if I was American. I replied, ‘”Yes.” He immediately stuck out his hand to shake hands with me. I backed away from him wondering what was happening. He said, “I Socialist. I Socialist.” It finally dawned on me he was talking about a political party. I got into a shoving hassle with the soldier about food once. I did not sleep very well lying down beside the enemy, but we shared the common miseries of hunger, cold, lice, and fleas.

By late April there were thirty to forty flyers in the jail brought in from all over Japan. One morning several guards came to the cells and started calling out names, giving them shoes, and saying they were being taken to a POW camp. Peterson was on the list. But six of us were left behind: four from my crew, the crew member captured the same day we were, and the P-51 pilot.

We were very disappointed. The next time the young Japanese officer came by I asked him why we were not taken to the POW camp. He said, “It has been determined that you six people have killed innocent civilians and are war criminals. You will be put on trial and executed.”

The propaganda radio program known as Tokyo Rose had said that flyers that attacked Japan would be killed. Some of the captured Doolittle flyers had been executed. We did not bother putting on our parachutes for the first three or four months of combat missions. But we were briefed in March that some flyers were being taken prisoner. We were not too shocked by his statement.

Again, captured flyers were brought into Kempi Tai a few at a time until the cells held thirty to forty. About May 20th all prisoners were again taken to a POW camp, we were told, except the six of us.

I found out after the war was over that both groups of prisoners did not go to a POW camp as claimed, but were in fact taken to another part of Tokyo and put in another jail. The building they were in caught fire on the 24th of May from the 600 B-29s fire raid and all were killed. U.S. authorities eventually identified sixty- six airmen that had perished.

I praise and thank God that He prevented the Japanese from carrying out their threats.

I spent most of my four and a half months at Kempi Tai in my original cell. It had contained a Doolittle flyer in 1942. On the wall he scratched his name, the date he arrived, and a calendar of sorts with thirty-seven scratches representing his days there. Below he had scratched, “I TRUST IN GOD.” I used to look at that and wonder what it really meant to trust in God. It was 1954 before I found out.

On May 24th and 26th, six hundred B-29s fire bombed Tokyo and destroyed the rest of the city. Fire bombs rained all around us, but none hit our wood building. The flames and smoke nearly choked us and the heat was almost unbearable, but we survived.

Thank you. Lord, for your mercy.

The Japanese defenses had been strengthened against the low-flying bombers. Antiaircraft guns had been moved on top of all concrete buildings and many into open lots. Since electrical power always failed, they devised a primitive but effective warning and firing plan.

The city was divided into small areas. Gongs were put in these areas to alert the gunners. When a B-29 was sighted, a gong would sound. The guns would start shooting at the plane if they could see it; if not, they shot as fast as they could with shells set to explode at the bombing altitude, expecting the plane to run into their fire. They shot down twenty-four planes the first night and twenty-eight the second night.

The planes carried canisters similar to fifty-gallon oil drums, loaded with little five-pound fire bombs. These canisters were dropped and then detonated at 2,000 feet altitude, raining burning fire bombs over a large area.

This is what it sounded like to us on the ground. We would hear the gong, the antiaircraft firing, the B-29 engines; then if the plane was hit, the crowds in the street would clap their hands. This was followed by the explosion from the detonator, and the little bombs exploding like firecrackers and falling down with a whistling sound. Then we would hear the shrieks of the people and the clatter of their wooden clogs as they scurried about dodging the falling bombs and the pools of fire.

In the next few days a lot of flyers were brought into Kempi Tai, several in bad condition. They were burned, injured and beaten by the population. Three or four that had inhaled flames died in a day or so. One flyer two cells from me was badly burned and in terrible pain. He alternated screaming with pain, begging the guards to kill him, and taunting them with every four-letter word imaginable, for two days and nights, before he quieted down. After about a week when it seemed like he was going to live, two guards took him out of his cell and killed him with their bayonets.

A co-pilot, who was the only survivor on his crew, told how as he was descending in his chute that the crowd followed under him on the ground. When he landed he was beaten, hung from a lamp post with his parachute shrouds, choked unconscious, cut loose and rescued by a soldier.

The cells became crowded as more flyers were brought in. We had fourteen in my cell. The small cells did not allow much floor space per man. With heads against the walls our legs overlapped to the knees. Most of us had to lie on our sides all night. For months after liberation I could not sleep on my sore sides, and to this day I cannot sleep with anyone touching me.

Abuse by the guards was getting worse. If we were caught talking, a common punishment was to do the Japanese kneel-down. On days when bombings had taken place, we all were made to kneel by the hour. Or they would make us stand up with arms raised. As things got worse for them, they retaliated against us more. Our water was reduced to three men per cup full, and one time we went without water for three days.

Another day around this time, there was a dull thud in the court yard and the guards were laughing. They told us a flyer had been pushed off the Headquarters building balcony and was killed when he struck the pavement in the courtyard.

I had a strong will to live fueled by two motivating forces—hate and love. I hated those Japanese guards. I spent hours upon hours planning how I would get even with them, finally deciding that when we were liberated I would capture the civilian interrogator and the guards, and put them in the cells we were in, and treat them like they treated us. That was the worst punishment I could think of.

My love for Rickie was the strongest motivating force. I could dose my eyes and visualize her in all her beauty. Though I could not feel her touch, I could just see her and know that she would be there when I got back to her.

In July the guards started telling us that the day U.S. forces invaded Japan all prisoners would be killed. It was obvious orders had come down from higher authority to this effect.

The Japanese were preparing for the invasion. Concrete pill boxes were being built in the prison area. Civilians were undergoing military training. We could hear a formation that met in the early morning once a week. They started off by singing their national anthem, then did exercises and close order drill, followed by bayonet practice with bamboo spears. If an invasion had taken place the loss of life would have been horrifying for the Americans and Japanese.

Around August 10th a Navy aircraft carrier pilot was brought in. Word from him got around that he heard on the radio just before take-off that some kind of new bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima and destroyed the city. We could not imagine that, and thought perhaps it was an exaggeration.

On August 15th we were awakened at 0500 in the morning, one hour early. Breakfast rice was brought at 0600 instead of the usual 0800. Shortly thereafter a group of guards came in and started calling off the names of prisoners, one cell at a time. Shoes were made available, blindfolds were put on and arms were tied as usual. But it was strange that the guards were not knocking us around. I complained that the rope around my wrists was too tight and it was loosened. We were told we were going to that long awaited POW camp. There were 125 prisoners.

After a long truck convoy ride, followed by a wait on the trucks for an hour or so, we were unloaded, untied, and blindfolds removed. We were near a sandy beach on a small island in a bay. Next, we gladly obeyed the order to strip our filthy lice and flea-ridden clothes off and get in the water. It was warm salt water and felt wonderful. A couple of tanned and muscled British POWs appeared and with sticks gingerly loaded our clothes on a cart and left to wash them.

After wading around in the water for a while, we were directed to a fenced compound and taken to a barracks. A fiber mat was provided to lie on and we were ordered to stay in the barracks. Lunch was brought to us on a cart. The rice was hot, tasteful and more than we got for all three meals previously. Our clothes were returned dean and bug-free. The British said they boiled them to kill the lice.

That afternoon a Colonel Charmichael came to our barracks. He was a B-29 Group Commander in China when he was shot down. He told us another Group Commander from Saipan named King and forty-eight other flyers were in a nearby barracks, but were kept segregated from the British. Even so, he heard from the British that Japan had surrendered, but the guards were not saying anything. He said if we were patient we would surely know something in a few days. Sure enough, in a day or so a Navy fighter buzzed the camp and dropped a carton of cigarettes with a note that said the war was over and they would be in to get us in a few days.

In the meantime we were living in hog heaven. Our hair was clipped down to the scalp because we had scabies. Razors were supplied and we shaved. A big wooden tub was filled with hot water. We soaped up and rinsed off and then entered that steaming hot water for a few minutes. All of this was a first in five months for us six “war criminals”. The food remained plentiful and tasty. We relished the freedom of lazing in the sun and talking to each other until we were hoarse.

I was a skeleton, but in good health, except my knees and ankles were swollen and ached. Also, my lips and the end of my tongue had bad cracks in them. We got to see the British doctor in three or four days, and he said my condition was caused by malnutrition and vitamin shortage. The Japanese gave us some Red Cross supplies they had been withholding, and we got several boxes containing 3000 vitamin tablets which we ate like candy.

powdropAfter a few days the guards painted large PW letters on the roofs of our buildings. General McArthur had ordered them to identify all POW camps by this means.

A couple of days later a B-29 appeared flying low and parachuted us oil drums filled with food. So, during the last week in captivity we had all the meat, vegetables, and fruit we could eat. With all that good food for two weeks, I gained at least ten pounds, but I was still very weak.

The last few days we mingled with the other group of flyers. There were 3000 flyers missing in action during the air war on Japan. Only 175 lived to the end of the war. I thank God that I was one of those who survived.

-o0|0o-

francis e. reynolds
S/Sgt. Francis (Frank) Reynolds was a B-29 gunner in the 498th BG, 874th Squadron based on Saipan. He retired with the rank of Lt. Col. USAF.

From a manuscript e-mailed to me by Gib Buckbee, whose father was a friend of Reynolds.

 

The Depth Perception Caper (1943-1944)

Things are seldom what they seem.

Among the many qualities required of every aspiring airman in the Army Air Force in World War II was the ability to distinguish the distance relationship between two similar but abstract objects—that is, to decide which is closer and which farther without clues from the nature of the objects themselves or from their surroundings.  The perception of depth in this way depends upon the natural focusing mechanism of the eyes coupled with their ability to converge laterally upon any point in space.  I had no reason to believe that my eyes were any different in this regard from those of any other.


When called up by the draft at the age of eighteen in June of 1943 [just a week or so after graduating from high school] we were summoned to a building on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston to begin our induction into the Army.  After having filled out much paperwork and having sat through interviews by uniformed officers—one certainly a psychologist—we spent the rest of the day shuffling slowly through long lines stripped to our undershorts and undergoing various physical probings, needle-stickings, and examinations.  At day’s end we were free to return home for a period of about two weeks before reporting for duty and shipment out to Fort Devens and the duration.

Being drafted meant that you joined the Army in some as yet unknown and unassigned capacity: the infantry, artillery, intelligence, ordnance, etc. there being no obvious way at the outset to direct your course.  The idea of the infantry seemed worrisome—I had many high school classmates who served in that gritty service almost all of whom returned after the War.  But, as it happened on that afternoon, upon leaving for home I passed a desk with a sign and a recruiting officer looking for men to join the (then) Army Air Force.  I stopped by.  A limited number of applicants could be taken.  I filled out an application and found that I must return in a day or so for another round of induction indignities.  I went home with fantasies of flying beginning to fill my head.  It certainly seemed better than the alternatives.

At that next round I discovered that I had just barely met the Air Force body weight requirement.  The lower limit was 111 pounds for my height—I weighed in at 112.  (I had been previously turned down by the Navy V-12 college program for having been too short—I was 5’-2”.)  Among other things, after the eye test (luckily I was 20/20), there was a test for depth perception.

DepthPerception

In a long narrow space about twelve feet from a chair was a large black screen with a small rectangular window cut out about the size of a post card.  Through the window I could see two vertical white lines about two inches apart and as wide as a pencil, both against a black background.  The operator showed me that the lines were really white sticks that could be moved by pulling the two strings he handed me; as one stick moved forward the other moved back.  The track carried a scale visible only to the operator for observing their separation.  I was to be given three attempts to set the sticks equidistant from me; side by side.  I pulled the strings watching the sticks move back and forth and stopping when they seemed even.

After my three tries the operator told me I was outside the allowed three-millimeter limit and that I had failed.  My heart sank.  Was I for this to be denied the chance to join the Air Force?  “Yes; unless you can pass this test. You will be permitted two re-tests, one next week and one the week after that.”  But, gee, I had to report for active duty in a week and would be able to make it for only that one chance.

I fretted all the way home and immediately upon arriving I went to the basement and, several hours later, had fashioned a passable facsimile of the depth perception apparatus.  I began to practice.  When my father came home from work he enthusiastically joined me and we spent the evening I pulling the strings and Dad reading the scale and taking notes.  At first I wasn’t very good at it but practice seemed to work.  By the end of the week I could line up the sticks almost perfectly.  At the induction center I passed the re-test easily and began my wartime Air Force career.

Many months passed.  After induction at Fort Devens we cadets were shipped by train to Greensboro, North Carolina for a summer of basic training pretty much indistinguishable from that of any other Army service—drill sergeants, forced marches, heat, mud, mosquitoes, and poison ivy.  Thence to the University of Cincinnati for a Fall of college-level courses in mathematics, physics, geography, and English.  It was during this period that we were given ten hours of instruction in flying Piper Cubs.

WCA & Piper Cub J-3 (1943)
WCA & Piper Cub J-3 (1943)

Near the end of that year [1943] we were sent to San Antonio, Texas to undergo a rigorous classification process at the end of which we hoped to emerge as qualified to attend pilot, bombardier, or navigation school, graduation from which guaranteed you silver “wings” and a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the Army.  Those not considered qualified were assigned to aerial gunnery or aircraft maintenance schools and graduated as non-commissioned officers.  I had decided that my chances of getting through the rigors of pilot training were slim and settled on aiming for aerial navigation as more suited to my temperament.

Once again we were confronted by a battery of many tests to prove aptitudes in mathematics, physics, reading comprehension, balance, coordination, reaction time, spatial manipulation, etc.  And again, near the very end: depth perception.

As I sat facing the white sticks with the strings in my hand I panicked. Nothing to do but try my best. I moved the sticks; I strained to see when they seemed even; three tries; I failed. One re-test permitted the next day and so, no chance to practice even had I the means to do so. I tried to think of some practice scheme for the barracks but had to give it up.  For a long day I agonized over my fate until the final hour.  I reported to the test and found myself assigned to a different test space (there were three) and a different operator. I sat down. The operator explained the test and moved the sticks to and fro and I noticed that he was standing, not at the apparatus where he could see the scale, but behind me. He had rigged up an auxiliary scale on the wall beside me but just out of my sight. It was crudely driven by two cords along the wall that passed my left ear and, right there—between two screw eyes—was a large knot arranged to limit the motion.  If I turned my head ever so slightly I could just see it out of the very corner of my eye.  The test began.  I watched only the knot—setting it each time as best I could guess midway between the two screw eyes.  It was a slim chance depending as it did on the knot’s having no built-in bias.  But… I “passed” the test!  I could go on to pre-flight training and aerial navigation school!

At least a year later [late 1944]—after pre-flight and navigation school at Selman Field in Monroe, Louisiana where we got our commissions and won our wings, after radar navigation school in Boca Raton, Florida, after meeting our crew and flying at last in B-29’s in Lincoln, Nebraska, after bombing and gunnery practice in Peyote, Texas, and finally arriving in Kearney, Nebraska for overseas assignment—amazingly, I faced the white sticks yet again.  I failed, but it was by then too late.  In my final interview before we were to fly overseas to the Pacific Theater the debriefing officer looked up from my record noting the failure in depth perception.  Without hesitation I told him this story.

He commended my resourcefulness and said, in effect, “It’s guys like you that we need in the Air Force.”  He stood up; I stood up and saluted.  “Good luck,” he said.


I became an Aerial Radar Navigator and was deployed to Saipan in the Marianas to fly bombing runs over Japan in 1945, and, after the Japanese surrendered, we dropped supplies to POW camps in Japan.


498th Bombardment Group Info (1944-1946)

498th Bombardment Group Book
498th Bombardment Group Book

If you visit here please take a minute to scroll down this page to my Seeking 498th Veterans section in the hope that you may be able to provide information to relatives seeking traces of their fathers, uncles, and brothers of the 498th.

The 498th Bombardment Group was a B-29 group that was based on Saipan and operated against Japan from late in 1944 until the end of the Second World War.

The 498th was formed in November 1943 as part of the 73rd Bombardment Wing, the second B-29 combat wing to be formed. The group was originally meant to accompany the 58th Bombardment Wing to India, but that plan was abandoned in April 1944 and instead the wing was assigned to the Mariana Islands.

Saipan was captured after a battle that lasted from 15 June to 9 July 1944. Work on airfields for the B-29s began well before the Japanese had been defeated, and between 24 June and 6 August a 6,000ft long by 150ft wide runway had been completed at Isley Field. The first elements of the 73rd Bombardment Wing arrived on 24 August, and the four bombardment groups soon followed. The 498th was the first group to arrive, officially taking up residence on 6 September.

On 28 October the 497th and 498th Groups took part in the wing’s first combat mission, sending eighteen B-29s to bomb Truk. Fourteen aircraft bombed the Dublon submarine pens, with the 498th getting a quarter of its bombs in the right area. The 497th and 498th returned to Truk again on 30 October, although this time poor weather obscured the target. A third raid against Truk on 2 November was also unsuccessful.

The next target for the group was Iwo Jima, which was hit on 5 and 8 November.

On 24 November the wing carried out its first attack against Tokyo, aiming at the major aircraft engine factory at Musashi. This mission, code named San Antonio I, was very carefully planned, although bad weather on Saipan delayed it for a week from its original date of 17 November. All four of the wing’s groups were involved and 111 B-29s took off from Saipan. The Japanese managed to put up around 125 fighters, but there was only one success, when one fighter appeared to ram a B-29 in the tail. Only 24 aircraft actually bombed Musashi, with another 64 hitting other parts of Tokyo. Overall the wing lost two aircraft destroyed and another 11 were damaged (three by friendly fire).

After this first raid the wing spent the next four months carrying out high level daylight precision raids against Japanese aircraft factories. These didn’t have the expected result, and XXI Bomber Command began to experiment with low-level incendiary raids. The last of the high altitude attacks on the aircraft industry was another failed raid on Musashi on 4 March. After this General LeMay, commander of XXI Bomber Command, decided to shift to night incendiary bombing, beginning with a raid on Tokyo on the night of 9/10 March. The new tactic was a dramatic success – losses dropped as the Japanese fighter force struggled to deal with night fighting and Japan’s cities burned. The group focuses on low level night bombing for the rest of the war.

The group was awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations. The first came during the daytime period and was for a raid on an aircraft engine factory at Nagoya on 13 December 1944. The second was for nighttime raids against Kobe and Osaka in June 1945.

The group returned to the United States in November 1945. It was assigned to Strategic Air Command on 21 March 1946, but was inactivated on 4 August.

(Source: http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/498th_Bombardment_Group.html)

More history: 498th Bombardment Group
498th BG book: “The Twenty Niner”
Photographs: 498th BG, 873rd Squadron


Below are some 498th BG veterans, whose families, and friends have graciously lent me pictures and names to put up on this site.

If you visit here please take a minute to scroll down this page to my Seeking 498th Veterans section in the hope that you may be able to provide information to relatives seeking traces of their fathers, uncles, and brothers of the 498th.


J. Creedon's Crew
T-square 36 “Tokyo Raiders” (25 missions)

T-square 36 “Tokyo Raiders” (25 missions)
J. Creedon (AC), W. King (CP), R.V. Thomas (N), A. McNicoll (B), F.L. Ackerman (V), C. Moden (FE), C. Cary (RO), C.N. Schultz (TG), L. Devries (RG), E.R. Jenkins (LG), D.W. Perkins (CFC)
T-36 shot-up from enemy aircraft and flak on 5 June 1945 over Kobe. After an emergency landing on Iwo Jima crew reassigned to T-33
Information courtesy of George Schultz (son of C.N. Schultz)


R.Stickney's Crew
Crew-T42, 875th Bomb Squadron

Crew-T42, 875th Bomb Squadron
H.A. Brandt*, R.C. Stickney (AC), L.E. Winslow, R.F. Thompson, J.N. Herowitz (Hurwitz?)
J.L. Boyd, J.P. Quinn, Thomas*, J.O. Merriwether, P.M. Haines (Haynes?), E.M. Zeohe (Zeone?)
T-42 Crashed in the Marianas on Anatahan on their first mission (no survivors).
*Not on fatal flight.
Information courtesy of Curt Kessler.


R.Livingston's Crew
R. Livingston’s Crew, 874th Bomb Squadron

R. Livingston’s Crew, 874th Bomb Squadron
R.A. Livingston (AC), R.D. Town, C.E. McCoy, O. Baskin, M. Melbostad, S. Cook
N. Cure, M.A. Palmer, F.J. Whitney, B.O. Hopsan, J.B. Comeaux
Information courtesy of Sue Erickson.


H.Taylor's Crew
H. Taylor’s Crew, 874th Bomb Squadron

H. Taylor’s Crew, 874th Bomb Squadron
R. Mossholder (LG), J. McDonald (CFC), R. Northrup (RN), D. Miller (TG), C. Green (RG), W. Clecker (RO), J. Damm (B), W. Blume (N), H. Taylor (AC), A. Nevotti (CP), M. Gardner (FE)
Information courtesy of Bill Blume (Son of W. Blume).


Cassady Crew
Cassady Crew, 874th Bomb Squadron

Cassady Crew, 874th Bomb Squadron


Devil's Darlin' Crew
Devil’s Darlin’ Crew, 873rd Bomb Squadron

Devil’s Darlin’ Crew, 873rd Bomb Squadron
Silk, Burton, Malone, Kossoff, Woods, Clarke, Schiffine, Osborne, Dayoff, Ritchie, Dijeweke


McClendon Crew
Lee McClendon Crew, 874th Bomb Squadron

Lee McClendon Crew, 874th Bomb Squadron
David Beckett, Paul J. Sobonya, Lee McClendon, Arthur J. Petro, James W. Bissantz, Travis P. Watkins, J. Edwin Barnitz, Edward C. Kane, Hubert C. Nalcton, Virgil L. Young, Alfred D. Peck.


MoosmannGroup
Unidentified crew, 874th Squadron
1., 2., 3. Pilot, 4., 5. Tsgt. Roger Moosmann (CFC), 6., 7., 8., 9.-11. (not shown).


If you visit here please take a minute to look below in the hope that you may be able to provide information to relatives seeking traces of their fathers, uncles, and brothers of the 498th.

Seeking 498th Bombardment Squadron Vets

These are people who have e-mailed me seeking information about their 498th Bombardment Group fathers, uncles, and friends who, for whatever reason, were unable to pass on much information to their children and siblings before their deaths.

If you have any information about these Saipan 498th BG veterans please e-mail me.

1. Barbara Bernier seeks service information about her father:
498th BG, 875th Sq.
1st. Lt. Donald M. Bernier (Pilot, AM)
Box 275, Whitefish, MT (1945)

2. Elizabeth Young seeks information about her father:
498th BG, 874th Sq.
1st. Lt. Frank Mitchell, Jr. (Nav./bomb., DFC-2, AM-4, OLC)
7243 Stoney Island Ave., Chicago, IL (1945)

3. Jeffrey Dale seeks information about his grandfather:
73rd Wing, Saipan (BG and squadron unknown).
Sgt. Raymond L. Dombrzal (Tail gunner)

4. Annette Boose seeks information about:
498th BG, 873rd Sq.
Cpl. Edward Boose (Capt. Kilgo’s crew, MIA 10/27/45)
121 H West St., Norwalk, OH

5. B-29 Crew Photo
I have a photo of Crew #42 of the 875th:
Brandt; Richard L. Stickney; Landon E. Winslow; Richard F. Thompson, Jr,; Julius N. Hurwitz (Herowitz?); Jack L. Boyd; John P. Quinn; Robert J. Thomas; James O. Merriwether; Paul M. Haynes (Haines?); Edward M. Zeone (Zeohe?)
It is possible that Howard H. King and John E. Burns were at one time also on this crew which is listed as missing in action in the 498th BG record book “The Twenty Niner.”


Allied POW Thank-You Letters after V-J Day (1945)

Letters written to W.C. Atkinson by Allied Prisoners of War in Ube, Japan, 1945.

From my 1945 Combat Mission Logs:

There was one more combat mission from Saipan (Number 14 to Usaka Arsenal, August 14th) and, after V-J Day, we flew two or three times to Japan to drop supplies to prisoner of war camps. On several occasions we crawled out into the bomb bay to stuff notes into the duffel and, months later, received several grateful and humorous letters from the recipients—mostly English and Aussies.


Gnr. G.C. Woodall 1539954
89/35th Regt. R.A.
Base Post Office
Melbourne, Australia

October 1st, 1945

Dear Sir:

Just a few lines thanking you and your crew for the excellent way you dropped our PW supplies in Ube, Japan. It was certainly a godsend and saved a few more lives. When we got news that supplies were going to be dropped we had spotters on the roof looking for B-29s, or, as the Nips call ’em: B-Neegoo Koo’s, and when they did come it caused quite a lot of excitement. The boys could hardly believe their eyes and believe me they were very thankful. A lot different to dropping bombs. We had quite a bit of fun every time you roared over the camp. Spotters shouting “Traps open. He’s going to drop it this time.” and down it would come.

I would like to write a whole story about the time after you dropped [those] supplies but not writing for nearly four years it seems funny with a pen in your hand. It is quite a treat to be back to civilization again.

Thanks again and many thanks. My two pals also send their appreciation.

From a Cockney lad and two pals, Charlie, Wag, Bob.


Epilogue:
In 2014 I received an email message from G.C. Woodall’s granddaughter. She had “Googled” her grandfather’s name:

Dear Sir,
I hope this message finds you well.

I came across your WW2 letters via a prisoner of war site, whilst researching my grandfather’s wartime experiences – his name was Charlie Woodall.
It has brought tears to my eyes seeing his words on screen, having known very little about this part of his life. Understandably, he chose never to discuss his time in Japan with family members.

If you are able to, I’d very much like to see a copy of the original letter/telegram. Please do let me know if this would be possible.

With kindest regards,
Samantha Woodall

I was able to mail her Charlie Woodall’s original aerogram.


23 Springhill Terrace
Rugeley, Staffordshire,
England

Ca. October 23, 1945

Sir:

Just a line thanking you so much for the supply of food and clothing. I must say it was a grand sight seeing it all dropping down. One day starving and the next plenty for everyone. It saved a “hell” of a lot of lads’ lives, who was just on their last legs.

We had 286 chaps in our camp [at] Ube. One died the day after you came. We left Japan on USS Hospital Consolidation, went to Okinawa, then to Manila from here to San Francisco, then England. Once again thanks a lot hoping you get home for Christmas, all the best.

Roy Ravenhill


Hughes, H.
“Near Clock”
High Street, Sheringham,
Norfolk, England

Written in Ube POW Camp, 30th August 1945

Dear Mr. Atkinson:

powdrop
Dropping duffels & canisters over Ube POW Camp (1945)

By the time you receive this letter knowledge of our long ordeal in Japan will be common to all therefore, it seems nothing I can say will adequately express the gratitude we feel for your splendid efforts on August 28th, 1945. Starved of those commodities for three and a half years which you so conveniently put down for us, we were frantic with joy and for the most of us it was the best afternoon entertainment ever experienced.

Personally, my greatest joy was to see your magnificent B-29 at close quarters. I’ve served in heavy anti-aircraft artillery for many years and have a natural interest in A/C [aircraft] and whereas hitherto I’ve only seen you at 30,000 feet or so and admired from afar, a treat such as this I’ll never forget.

I must relate some of the incredible coincidences which occurred with your supply aiming. Our camp shoe repairer, who for years past has been trying to patch up footwear with bamboo accessories, received a sack of boots through the roof right into his bed. Another camp received tinned meat supplies through the cookhouse roof right into the boiler!

And this will amuse you I’m sure. A ‘chuteless canister hurtled into a large row boat just off the shore and instantaneously sank it. Twelve passengers who were watching the show suddenly found themselves up to their necks in water—all in true Mack Sennett [slapstick] style.

The star report comes from a nearby Nipponese latrine. An aged Japanese woman was astride one of their primitive privies when another ‘chuteless drum thudded into the back of it and blew the old woman out into the road covered from head to foot in peaches and mire.

We are all English here except three American medical men from whom you will no doubt hear and we are all mighty pleased you dropped your note giving us an opportunity to thankya for the good work.

We were taken in Java in 1942 and have never lost faith in Uncle Sam although at times we thought you were getting a little personal with the rough stuff—we’re the luckiest people in the world. Anyhow, the supplies will help us to be patient while we wait for repatriation.

With sincere gratitude,

Regimental Sergeant Major Hughes
(6th Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment)
Royal Artillery


B-29 Combat Mission Logs of Wm. C. Atkinson, Radar Navigator (1945)

20th Air Force, 73rd Wing, 498th Bombardment Group, 874th Squadron, Isley Field, Saipan, Marianas

IMG_4606
Crew #121
Mission- 5, Tachikawa
Milne, Atkinson [author], Shaw, Harris, Foster, Spiller, Hyman, Norris, Jensvold
Wasowski (VanWormer, photographer?)
Cover photo on this page: 13 April 1945. B-29’s of the 874th (T-square) Squadron based on Saipan, Marianas, passing north of Mount Fuji. Picture taken from #4 in a formation of 12 aircraft. The B-29 intersecting the left ridge of Fuji is piloted by Capt. Jas. R Norris and crew (T-23) with Lt. Wm. C. Atkinson as radar navigator. This photo appeared first in TIME magazine and subsequently became part of an advertisement for the Boeing Aircraft Corp.

What follows are logs from my notes taken at the time. Selected sophomoric, ungracious, and puerile passages have been expunged. The writer was 20 in 1945.


Strike #1 (night)                                    1-2 April, 1945

Target-     No. 357, Musashino Engine Works of the Nakajima Aircraft 
                Company, Tokyo, Japan
Bomb Load-  35 500 lb HE's and 4 parachute flares.  (Gross weight 
                on takeoff 140,000 lb)
Aircraft-   T(square)-35, "Southern Belle"
Opposition- Flak moderate to intense, very accurate and coordinated 
                with searchlight batteries.  No Fighters

Southern Belle This was our first strike, our inauguration into the clan of combat flyers we had looked upon as out of our sphere of experience. We “rhubarbs” could not join in the tales and yarns of the missions to Japan. We were looked down upon and were told what it would be like, what the “score” was, but now we were off on our own to bomb the [Japanese] mainland. At last we, too, would have a tale to tell, we would “belong.”

It was not without due apprehension that we took off that night and watched, with eyes to remember all we saw, the lights and the hum of Saipan drop below under the wing and slip into the limbo [of] the night. The course was 341 true; Iwo Jima the first radar checkpoint.

[At Isley Field it was common on take off for the pilot of a fully loaded B-29 to hold the wheels to the runway until the final few hundred feet (the last two percent of the runway’s length); hauling back at the last possible instant to lurch over the road along the cliff edge; then diving full throttle for the sea far below, gaining airspeed while retracting the wheels; and finally beginning the long takeoff climb as the belly of the plane virtually skimmed the water. More than one of the crews failed at this maneuver, especially at night.]

Unlike the later missions no one slept on the 7-1/2 hour trip to the target. We were eager, ever so eager. Things had to work out; we dared not miss a trick. John (Shaw, navigator) did celestial all the way and there wasn’t an island or a ship that I missed on the radar for a wind [determination] or a fix to determine our position. Iwo appeared as a yellow ghostly friend on the scope to the right of us. John made a correction to course and we droned on [cruising airspeed 195 mph] between the stars and the vast chasm of the sea. The sea an enemy, the stars our guardians of position and course.

The time? About 0200 or thereabouts. Three hours later Norris [Capt. James R., pilot] informed us that we were within 50-100 miles of the Empire. For the first time since before takeoff the tension again became evident. Our stomachs tightened. I needed a drink of water. ‘Chutes, Mae-Wests, and flak suits were donned. Everything was checked. The C-1 set up again, RPM and manifold pressure juggled to the satisfaction by Van Wormer [Alan, copilot] and Gins [Ruskin Jensvold, flight engineer]. Spiller [Bill, central fire control], Whiskey [Walter Wasowski, left gunner], Harris [Henry, right gunner], and Rocky [Gerry Foster, tail gunner from Rock Island] checked [gun] turret operation and ammo. Max [Hyman, bombardier] turned on his switches, and checked his [Norden bomb] sight and the intervalometer. Milne [Dwight, radioman] made sure he cold get in touch with the air-sea rescue facilities by radio, John went on VHF. God, my heart was beating to beat Holy Ned.

B29Navigator
B29 Navigator

I was to make a radar approach to the target while Max bombed visually by moonlight. It was the first time it had been tried in the Bomber Command. LeMay had taken over the 20th AF and [had] its tactical procedures changed to obtain better bombing results which [had been] fouled by the terrific winds and inaccuracies connected with the previous strikes from 30,000 ft. Tonight we were going in at 6,800 ft. Untried, damn low for B-29’s, and risky, we [were soon to discover].

[The radar was the Western Electric Eagle AN/APQ-7 or APQ-13 developed for navigation and for bombing at night and through cloud cover. It was electronically linked to the Norden bomb sight and the autopilot. By twisting a knob I could (alone) direct the plane.]

Everyone smoked.

We came in over O-Shima, the first enemy island of any size, on course. John had done us proudly. The control point showed in radar and I strained my eyes for the coast. Gradually it made itself evident and the IP [Initial Point] at Eno Shima appeared. We altered course. First flak! Capt. Norris and Max could see the orange flashes ahead of us. Although we weren’t in the [search] lights they could see icy fingers of light probing the sky in search of the “enemy”. We were alone as all night missions were flown as individual ships, formation being out of the question. Max saw the Tama River gleaming in the moonlight and the radar confirmed the position. He said he thought he could see the target and he set the sight telescope on it. Time hung motionless. Another minute. He started the rate motor and began to synchronize.

Then it all happened. Like a dream. “Lights converging on the boys ahead! Flak!” The intercom clicked and crackled. A light flashed momentarily on the wing from below and immediately snapped back. In an instant every searchlight in the area [they were radar coordinated] was on us. The ship must have shone like a Christmas tree in that intangible fingertip grip. Flak. We could hear it now. Thumping and rattling outside the ship. Odd. You’ll never hear anything like it on the ground. Max called up, “I can’t see; the goddam lights; I’ve lost the target.” Then there was a rock, a loud thump and number four [rightmost] engine roared into a mass of flame. The whole wing seemed afire and the radar compartment was alive with the angry orange light. Harris [right gunner], terrified, and justifiably so, screamed over the intercom. We were panic stricken. This was “It” really fitted in here. Max took a chance and said “Bombs away!”. Bill slithered out of his position and fumbled with his ‘chute, his hand on the bomb bay door, all set to jump. I was almost paralyzed with fear. We waited for the order to jump [I had my chest ‘chute on and my hand on the rear door handle.]. It never came. Harris broke in to say that the fire seemed to be lessening. Waited. The bombs had not gone away! The intervalometer was stuck. In the next instant Max salvoed. Everyone was confused and scared stiff, blue. Capt. Virgil Olds took over [he was from operations as backup co-pilot for support].

All this took less than a minute. The second that we were hit the Japanese lights went out! They must have been sure that we were cooked geese and gone after the ship behind us. We turned off the bomb run with the fire almost out. We never understood why [but Gins’ quick thinking with the fuel system controls can be probably credited with having saved us.] In nine cases out of ten a tank fire is fatal. The grace of God was with us. The turn was left; the bombs must have dropped a half-mile or so over.

A new scare developed. Although the fire was out the wing and flap were glowing around the edges of a hole the way a paper napkin continues glowing from a cigarette burn. It increased in size slowly and Harris kept the intercom alive and jumpy with reports of the increasing size of the hole behind #4 engine. Finally, even this ceased.

[We learned later that we had almost lost Rocky. He jerked his head left to see the sudden plume of flame pass the tail and then waited, patiently like the rest of us, for the order to bail out. Everything seemed to him suddenly eerily silent as the ship droned on for minute after minute. Finally, assuming that everyone else had bailed, and just as he put his hand on his ejection lever, he noticed that his sudden head rotation had unplugged the intercom connection to his helmet.]

The crew settled down, we made land’s end and headed for Iwo.

We had lost nearly 500 gallons of gas and the ship was so beat up that Norris and Olds decided to land at Iwo which was then only a week or so declared “secured” from the enemy. A three-engine landing on the dirt and muddy runway was successful, although it was discovered later that a Japanese shell had pierced the right wheel-well door resulting in one flat tire. Why the other didn’t blow will always remain a mystery.

Brief Cover [This photo appeared on the cover of the Air Force magazine “Brief” showing us coming in with #4 feathered at Iwo Jima that day. Iwo Jima had fallen to the Marines on March 17th.]

Iwo Jima was the most desolate and battle-scarred island I have ever seen. Nothing but volcanic ash, steaming fissures, and shell holes. The runway was dirt but plenty long [having been bull-dozed to 10,000 feet just days before].

The Marines crowded around as we marveled at the Japanese flak accuracy. We felt a blissful happy-go-luckyness that accompanied a safe return but in this case our bliss was strictly from ignorance. We didn’t know the half of it. The right inboard tire was flat, the rear section of #4 engine nacelle was blown off and the [upper] flap [skin] burned out in the resultant fire. The props were pitted with flak hits and there was a shell hole in the radar compartment; one in the floor and one in the top right over my head [evidently fused for a higher altitude]. A straight line between them missed me by about six inches.

A while later we heard the crack of a rifle and the twang of a bullet. The Marines unslung their carbines, squashed out their fags, and sauntered over to a clump of bushes not very far distant. At gun point three Japanese appeared, hands in the air, and were driven off in a 6×6 [truck].

It drizzled and rained coolly most of the time and Mount Suribachi was a sombre lump of indistinct grey rising at the end of the runway.

All thirteen of us piled into one Jeep with all our equipment and were driven to a Tinian ship. The boys serviced it, pulled the props through and we said so-long to Iwo, its war-weary soil and Marines. Back to Saipan and the sack with, at last, a story to tell. We “belonged.”

We only hoped that we were doing the Marines as much good by bombing the mainland as they did for us by securing Iwo.


T-35 returned two weeks later, flyable, but with much needed repairs still in evidence.

Lt. Pound and crew were ahead of us over the target and caught no small portion of hell themselves. Their ship T-38. They had a flap blown up and Summer sported a flak burst under his feet in the radar compartment.

[T-35 “Southern Belle” was originally assigned to the 462nd Bomb Group in China.]


Strike #2 (daylight)                                  12 April, 1945

Target-     No. 357, Musashino Engine Works of the Nakajima Aircraft 
                Company, Tokyo, Japan
Bomb Load-  5 2,000 lb HE's
Aircraft-   T-23 ["Pocahontas"]
Opposition- Flak meager to moderate and accurate.
            Fighters neutralized by P-51 escort.

This time it was a daylight formation strike with P-51 fighter cover. The same old target, #357 [Musashino Engine Works of the Nakajima Aircraft Company, Tokyo, Japan], the bane of the 20th Air Force.

Sofu-Gan was the assembly point. Sofu-Gan is an item in the very damn middle of the Pacific and at the end of the vast Nanpo Shoto extending south from Tokyo Bay. It is an item so small that it didn’t appear in the radar until we were almost on top of it and even that never would have occurred if John hadn’t had a small bit of luck on his last LoRaN fix. It is a mere finger of rock that sticks out of and breaks the surface of the sea like a stump in a swamp. Actually higher than it is wide. There is reported a Japanese navigation light thereon.

After circling in vain for some minutes we found a large formation of “T” ships, tacked on in the “slot”, and went into the CP [Control Point] at Omaezaki and thence to the IP at at Oso-Saki on the Shimoda Peninsula. I could see the land at Numazu where we picked up our first flak. I was not on the [radar] set and thus could sit by Harris in the right blister to see what went on. The land was barren brown save for a few spots of side-hill cultivation and twisting roads. Then the coast again at Odawara as we paralleled it and then broke out on the Tokyo plain with Musashino and #357 dead ahead.

Fuji San
The B-29 intersecting the left ridge of Fuji is piloted by Capt. Jas. R Norris and crew (T-23) Lt. Wm. C. Atkinson as radar navigator.

[This  photo  taken 13 April 1945. B-29’s of the 874th (T-square) Squadron based on Saipan, Marianas, passing north of Mt. Fuji. Picture taken from #4 in a formation of 12 aircraft. The B-29 intersecting the left ridge of Fuji is piloted by Capt. Jas. R Norris and crew (T-23) with Lt. Wm. C. Atkinson as radar navigator. This photo appeared first in Time Magazine and subsequently became part of an advertisement for the Boeing Aircraft Corp.]

It was then that I saw a black plane come barreling down through our formation with large red circles on the wings. The left engine and underside of the wing was afire. It spiraled astern and down, out of sight. I remember noticing how cracked and worn the paint seemed. It looked for all the world like a toy.

The next one was closer and exploded as I watched, the tail drifting more slowly than the fluttering fuselage and wings. Two P-51’s recovered from pursuit in a sweeping arc, slow rolled and shot up behind the formation. Lord it was a good feeling to have those “brothers -in-arms” near at hand.

Our formation neared the target. More flak. Heavy now. Then, “Bomb bay doors coming open; Bomb bay doors open, Sir,” replied the scanners and we waited, watching for bombs away. A minute or so and we saw the lead ship drop and as though the formation were one the 2,000 pounders fell away, to the rear, and to the target. I craned my neck over Harris’ shoulder in the blister. The water filtration plant the Japanese had tried in vain to camouflage drifted by. There was the stadium and the neat rows of buildings and test cells of the plant—#357. The train of explosives ripped across the eastern end—the assembly wings—like an angry stampede. All was obscured then by heavy smoke.

We turned and passed the inscrutable Fuji San riding all-wise, immortal, and serene it its perpetual bath of cloud. It gave me a sense of peace so out of tune with the work we were doing. Snow-capped and silent Fuji drifted to the rear—the symbol of the Empire of Japan.

Gins figured closely on the gas and we really sweated these last few minutes to Saipan. We could almost see the gas disappearing at its 400 gallons per hour rate. We got down with just enough to fill our cigarette lighters. Gins was OK.


Strike #3 (night)                                  15-16 April, 1945

Target-     Industrial Kawasaki and southwestern Tokyo.
Bomb Load-  184 70 lb gasoline gel incendiaries.
Aircraft-   T-29
Opposition- Flak heavy but generally inaccurate.

Here we were on another night strike to the Tokyo area. This time not without knowing what we were getting into after having been pretty well shot up on the first two strikes. I was told later by one of the boys in Squadron Operations that after our two first raids they really were worried about our safe return on this night.

The IP was made at Manazuru-Misaki and we made a “precision” radar turn [a 1/4 needle-width turn] on to the bomb run heading. We were reported to have had P-51 fighter cover but we never got so much as a look at any such comforting element in the battle.

It seems that since the last time we pulled a “nighty” the Japanese had by no means been out of practice with their damned lights and the long bluish beams groped around and finally caught us! Ow! Not again! Our props were de-synchronized to throw off the sound directed lights but there was no foiling the radar controlled ones. We climbed, turned, and twisted in a vain attempt to escape the lights. Not this time were we going to stick to the bomb run and get shot to hell. It sounded as if all the flak in Nippon was exploding in the bomb bays and returned the icy fear as it had on the first strike to the same target.

All this evasive action was doing my run no good. I had a fixed dropping angle set on the bomb pip and was to wait, make course corrections [at the radar I was connected to the Norden sight and the autopilot], and finally to tell Max to drop when the pip touched the mouth of the Tama river at Kawasaki. Every time the Capt. racked the ship up on a wing to dodge a light the [radar] scope picture would blank out. It was awful. “Bomb bay doors coming open” and that was the end of my efficiency as a “V” on that trip. The doors reflected the radar energy and produced an “H” indication on the scope. Hell’s bells! Target, coastline, and aiming point completely disappeared. The resulting confusion and maddening casualness of my intercom conversation with Max was humorous but nonetheless effective. Lucky? The bombs tacked right on to the end of a large fire and walked on through the city.

Well—then a funny thing occurred. Capt. Norris kept calling, “What’s draggin’, what’s draggin’?” and put the turbo’s and power settings to the limit. I couldn’t figure it. The air-speed crept from 250 indicated to 290! The ship was vibrating and straining in every rivet. Thence to almost 310, the red-line speed. Wow! Gins said “What the hell,” half to himself, and then Norris said “Oh!” in a very self- effacing manner. The needle on the IAS [indicated airspeed] dial crept back to normal. He had misread his airspeed by 100 mph.

The glare of the lights and the crack and thump of the flak dropped behind as we made for the sea south and east of Chosi Point. The coast slipped invisibly behind us for there were no lights to give away its position.

However, our worries were not over. About 100 miles out towards Iwo Whiskey reported a light following, it seemed, in our wake as though searching. “A light,” he said ,”like a star.” It would appear at 5 or 7 o’clock low, gradually gain altitude and move ahead to 3 or 9 o’clock level then turning as though making a pass on a pursuit curve. Switches and sights ready Rocky, Whiskey, Spiller, and Harris waited, sweating him out. Not to mention the rest of us. Finally they observed a burst of 50 cal. fire but could not tell whether it was directed at us. Either we lost him or he gave up and returned [owing] to our evasive action.

Saipan landing, interrogation, and coffee all in due course and without [further] event.


Barlow’s crew from Tinian went down over the target on this strike along with Pankin (N) and Charlie Barr (V).


Strike #4 (daylight)                                  27 April, 1945

Target-     Miazaki Airfield, Kyushu, Japan
Bomb Load-  17 500 lb HE's
Aircraft-   T-23 ["Pocahontas"]
Opposition- Flak moderate and inaccurate.  A few Japanese fighters.

We were sweating out assembly as usual. Why? He who misses assembly flies over target very much alone. We had found Sofu-Gan the time before but this was a little easier. Okino Shima was right on the tip of Shikoku (south western) and should have given a good radar return. John told me we were north of course. So, with the set on, I strained my eyes for the coast of Shikoku and finally it came in. I gave the Capt. his heading for Okino Shima.

Gad! It was close. Our ship caught the “T” Square formation on the last wheel before taking off for Ho Soshima and the target. We were at 20,000 feet and on oxygen (depressurized) so it was almost too much trouble to sit in [Harris’] blister to watch goings on.

The Japanese received us with plenty of flak though the squadron ahead picked up more than we. There was a burst or two fairly close but we heard nothing.

Those old bombs hit right squarely on the target in a beautiful pattern stating at the aiming point (a new runway) and stalking right on up through the hangars and barracks. The 497th BG ahead of us wrecked the east side of the target with an equally good pattern.

Some of the Japanese fighter pilots got pretty eager though we had only one closely pressed attack. John was looking out his window just in time to get a head on view of the attacker with his fifties flickering and ducked. Max had one hand on his sight and the other on the toggle switch and dared not relinquish the latter as bombs away was near at hand. Bill fired a burst from the upper aft and forward [turrets] (six guns) but could not depress them enough and the tracers streamed harmlessly over the Japanese’s canopy.

The formation split at sea to the south after a left turn and we returned to Base
individually.


Strike #5 (daylight)                                  30 April, 1945

Target-     Tachikawa Airfield west of Tokyo (primary).
            Hamamatsu prop[eller] works at Hamamatsu, Honshu, Japan 
                (secondary)
Bomb Load-  23 500 lb HE's
Aircraft-   T-27 (But not the original "Torchy")
Opposition- Little flak.  No fighters.

If it was clear, no undercast, we were to fly up to Suraga Wan, make landfall at Masaki and turn to the right of Fuji San for the bomb run on the airfield at Tachikawa. However, there existed a complete overcast over all of visible Japan with only Fuji’s cone sticking out of a sea of cloud. We weren’t very long on course, Fuji had not dropped very far behind before we made a 1/4 needle-width turn in formation to the left with the volcano in the center [of the turn].

'Torchy' [T-27, “Torchy“. Capt. James R. Norris and crew. VanWormer standing 2nd. from left.]

The secondary target was urban Hamamatsu on the coast west of Omae- zaki. The banjo factory there now makes propellers. Since it was socked in the run was by radar. We made IP at Motosu-ko, the southernmost of a string of lakes northwest of Fuji, and rolled in over the cloud blanket to bombs away. Of course we dropped on the lead ship. Altitude 20,000 feet. Neither flak nor fighters were observed.

Hamamatsu is the most bombed city in Japan as it has often been used as a “secondary” for strikes to both Nagoya and the Tokyo area targets.

Scenically the trip was a flop but the clouds are a godsend as far as flak is concerned. This, our longest time over enemy territory, lasted 53 minutes.

On the weary way to Iwo Jima Milne picked up radio Shanghai and we listened to the Japanese news in English. Some reference was made [to] a probable weather strike. “They dropped their bombs an fled”. The news of the Okinawa campaign was given an unusual air by their reference to us as the “enemy”. “We attacked the enemy last night with dive bombers and strafing attacks with good results, etc.”. To be called the enemy is a little out of the ordinary on English speaking radio. I have yet to hear the Tokyo Rose.


Strike #6 (daylight)                                     5 May, 1945

    Target-     Naval aircraft works at Kure Naval Base, Kure, Honshu
    Bomb Load-  17 500 lb HE's
    Aircraft-   T-37 [never named]
    Opposition- Flak from naval units in Inland Sea moderate to intense.

In our minds there were misgivings about this mission. It looked like another “Cook’s” tour of Japan in the briefing and that is just what it turned out to be.

The plan:
Assembly at Shingu on the cycloidal tip of Shikoku.
Control point at Muroto Saki.
Turn over 34-15’N, 133-33.5’E.
IP at Mihara.
Target, Kure Naval Base.
Then a left turn to the south, back across Shikoku, and back to Iwo and Base. As it happened we were over Japanese territory for 0137 hours.

We assembled over, or rather, just off Shingu as the boys found a little flak. Very inhospitable of the Japanese. It was a rat-race! We looked and searched and circled and flew for 30 minutes looking for an extended nose-wheel or the flash of a red Aldis lamp on a “T” ship. At long last it was located and a close three minutes later we were off across the great peninsula south of Osaka to the sea between Honshu and Shikoku and on to the CP at Muroto-saki. Thence north to a TP [Turning Point] somewhere to the north and east of Mihara, the IP.

The bomb run was a good one though some of the squadrons dropped short. We encountered heavy flak from some naval vessels in the bays. Most of it was directed at B-29s ahead of us. The puffs of smoke were multi-colored, probably to identify the ships from whence [they were] fired.

I could not see the bomb impacts as we were on oxygen again but Photo-recon reported 95% damage to the target. There is another batch of aircraft that will never leave the assembly-line.

Our bombing has improved greatly in the last two months of combat operations.

Leaving the target we turned south and left in such a manner as to avoid the city of Matsuyama on the north west coast of Shikoku where heavy flak has been reported in the past. Land’s end and not a scratch.

I took the navigation to relieve John and we struck out for Iwo Jima. The sea was smooth [no whitecaps] and as a result we were unable to take accurate drift readings with the B-3 [drift-meter]. Nevertheless our DR [dead reckoning] was fairly good and we came in 20 miles right of course and Iwo. I gave Gins the ETA [estimated time of arrival] to Saipan and there followed a problem.

We hadn’t enough fuel to make Base. So to Iwo. Man, were we surprised! The air and traffic pattern was so full of B-29s short of gas and with flak damage that Walnut and Maple [control] towers at Iwo’s north and south fields were going mad trying to get all the ships in. I turned to VHF and listened to the tower calls:

“Maple tower from Happy 52. We have 300 gallons of gas and cannot stay in the air much over 45 minutes. When can you get us in?”
“Happy 52 from Maple tower. Keep circling, keep circling. There is a dreamboat at the end of the runway. This field will be closed for ten, one-zero, minutes, over.”
“Walnut tower from Mascot 35. In an upwind leg, over.”
“Mascot 35 from Walnut tower. Where are you? What is your position?.
“Mascot 35, repeat, 35 to Walnut tower. We are north of the field, we are north of the field. Give me instructions for landing.”
“Give us a call on base leg, over.”
“Brrsksk-k-k sput skt-tsnut tower to all dreamboats. Keep circling; come in over the fr-rs-st-stk and watch for a green light from the tower, over.”
“Roger.”
“Walnut tower from Happy 52. We cannot stay up much longer, over.”
“R-akt-t skkatz-z immediately!”
Substitute and add at least 100 more calls, call signs. and ships to this and you will have some idea of the bedlam that reigned that day. The air was crowded with superforts, creaming all over the sky and nearly out of gas. Mt. Suribachi (Mt. Sonofabichi to the Marines) sat like a duck on a rock, silent but undoubtedly amused.

We circled for almost two hours and finally Mascot 37 received the OK to land. Gradually the bees were getting into the hive. Turned off the base leg and onto the landing glide with full flaps and gear down. Mushed in–and hit the runway. It was rough as hell, dirt-surfaced and filled with pot-holes and water. The mud sprayed from the wheels in a thick cloud and the dust from the prop-wash of the ship ahead obscured the strip. The ship lurched and sat back on its tail with an awful scrape. Then. “Walnut tower to Mascot 37, 37. Throttles, throttles! There is a dreamboat close behind you.” “Roger.” The props revved up and we moved ahead and pulled to the right as a ship ground past with its brakes screaming in short yelps.

Our ship joined a long line of B-29s taxiing to the parking area on a new, half-finished, “black-top” to the southeast. The dust was foul. We passed, it seemed, more B-29s than on Saipan in all four Groups. There were tail markings from all over the Marianas and all the [combat] Wings. A mess! Many minutes later a linesman waved us into a spot. Gins cut the engines. The immediate lack of noise seemed perfectly calm though the ships kept roaring and screeching by to park farther down the line.

Everyone piled out into the cool afternoon air of Iwo, stretched and had a smoke.

Rochet’s plane was sitting across from us with a crowd of interested spectators about. An ambulance had stopped by to take the tail gunner to a field hospital. He had a bit of flak in his thigh and a 50 cal. through the calf of the same leg. They had lost an engine over the target by a flak hit in the prop hub. The oil had leaked out and the engine could not be feathered [to prevent wind-milling] as the mechanism had been destroyed. It wind-milled until the engine froze with a terrific jolt. They were unbelievably lucky that the prop did not twist off and tear a gash down the side of the plane [as happened later to another]. [Rochet went down in May, rammed by an enemy fighter.]

Another ship, besides Creedon and “our boys”, had encountered an active [weather] front with severe turbulence and was almost thrown out of control. His bombs (2,000 pounders) had swung up on the shackles as the ship dropped suddenly, flattening the “tunnel”, and had then snapped down, torn off the racks, and gone away through the closed bomb bay doors. The doors hung in shreds.

[The “tunnel” was a long, padded, and severely restricted crawl-way over the bomb bays connecting the rear and forward main compartments of the airplane. [Once in the tunnel it was not possible to turn around.]

Although we were refuelled in an hour or so the field closed in. Isley Field was also rumored to be socked in. We were destined to spend the night.

45050501_IwoWhiskey
Walter Wasowski and Mt. Suribachi (of flag-planting fame)

Iwo was the same only that men and machines had been at work since our first landing. There was still the drizzling rain, the grey volcanic ash, and the ever steaming fissures of sulphur and stink. We could see Minami Iwo to the south. A great volcanic cone rising from the horizon, misty purple and partly shrouded in clouds. Suribachi’s mute form receded into the mist and gloom as the last vestige of the day just gone lingered for a second and faded in the damp murk. Evening and we were still sweating out chow of sorts. Hey, bub! How about a wee bit of C- ration or a banana peel? Ignored. Nothing happened so we walked about a mile to the operations tent–this time they had one–but no chow. On the return trip to the ship we got lost but found at last the large black “T” and the 37. Just as we were getting to sleep on various piles of ‘chutes and in the tunnel a truck rolled around to take us to XXI BomCom HQ where we were fed C-ration and lousy coffee. Ran into Dick Drill and Adams, his bombardier.

The night was a long one as I tossed on the floor of the aft pressurized compartment with Harris’ feet in my face. Every so often a star shell arced into the sky–still Japanese hunting.

The morning crept in cool and mist-cloaked. The moisture dripped from the glistening ship and the silent shadows of the other planes could be seen row on row across the strip. All was at peace.

After breakfast Norris got a clearance for Saipan and at 1000 we were set to go again. Milne found and salvaged a life raft and bought a Japanese bicycle from a Marine for $20 which items we loaded in by the put-put [hatch] and left for Saipan.

The last thing I saw was Iwo’s tremendous cemetery from the air outlined in white like a great cross. Iwo is prayed for by every B-29 man in the Marianas. [The Marines suffered the heaviest casualties (50%) on Iwo Jima of any engagement in their entire history.]


Strike #7 (daylight)                                    10 May, 1945

    Target-     Oil storage depot at Tokuyama, Honshu, Japan
    Bomb Load-  17 500 lb HE's [largest overall B-29 raid to date]
    Aircraft-   T-37
    Opposition- Flak meagre to moderate and inaccurate. One fighter.

Heretofore we had been concentrating on the aircraft industries of Japan and the airfields of Kyushu in support of the Okinawa [offenses]. Now we were after the oil of the Empire. Our strategic bombing was following the pattern of the ETO [European Theatre of Operations].

We were eager and this looked like a good raid. It was! The Group won a commendation from the CO [Commanding Officer].

I slept most of the trip up but did get a radar run on Minami Iwo [to find the wind]. Iwo means rock, I think, and Minami means little. “Little Rock”. Only it’s not so little.

We assembled at the island of Okino-shima off Shikoku as we had done on the Kyushu strike. There was a small bit of flak from the island so we stayed reasonably clear of it. Got there on time this time. No sweating. Heck, Capt. Norris saw the damned point before I picked it up on the set. This T-37 hain’t got such a good radar set.

Immediately after turning on course for Oita on Beppu Wan I established myself in the blister beside Harris. We were pressurized [owing] to low oxygen in the aft tanks.

For the first time on a strike I had no fear or apprehension. I was merely interested to see what went on. I took notes and times (GCT) as follows:

0037- A flattop in Beppu Wan headed east.
0038- T-23 with Creedon and #3 smoking. He is dropping to the rear of the formation.
0042- We hit the control point at Oita or Kanuki-bana and turned for IP.
0045- I could see a fighter far to the right in a suspended pursuit curve attack on another formation. He fell away, came closer, and slid under us low at 4 o’clock. No attack.
0046- Creedon in T-23 smoking more violently.
0051- Bomb bay doors open on the deputy. Over the inland sea on course for Royodo-hama and Tokuyama.
0053- First flak for the day. Rather meagre and seemed to be only the smoke remaining from previous shots at the squadron ahead.
0054- Bombs away! Long lines of 500 pounders strung out in vertical lines below each ship simultaneously. As they fell away I saw a black object flash by twisting and spewing gas. Hell! Laugh? T-28 had salvoed his bomb bay gas tank.

I couldn’t see the impacts until we made the turn off target to the south. Those I did see were those of the 869th who were right behind us. The smoke was black and billowed in a pillar to 15,000 feet. The column was topped with a cap of white vapor. It mushroomed out at our altitude. When the bombs of the 869th struck the orange, boiling angry flames seethed up to 5,000 feet! God, what a fire oil makes. Gad, what a fire, period.

0100- Ships in the small harbors of O-shima put up a heavy flak to our left.
0104- Three flak bursts at 9 o’clock. Brown.
0112- Unidentified planes at 10 o’clock low about a mile away.
0115- Observed T-29 with one bomb bay door hanging open. We crossed the island of Shikoku south of Mitsugahama. And at
0117- we made land’s end over Tanoura and a river’s mouth.

I got a good look at Japan’s three main islands this time and all I can say is that it is the most god-awful rough and rugged country I have ever seen. Mostly barren with a few tree covered slopes. The roads seemed to be dirt for the most part and wound aimlessly through the hills. A few rice steppes and groups of houses scattered hither and yon in the valleys.

The Group won a commendation from the Colonel (Ganey) for its excellent results.


[GCT- Greenwich Civil Time]


Strike #8 (daylight)                                     19 May, 1945

Target-     Tachikawa Aircraft Works, near Tokyo (primary)
Bomb Load-  25 500 lb HE's
Aircraft-   T-37
Opposition- Little flak.  No fighters

After the abort on the Nagoya strike of the 15th and after not being scheduled for the strike immediately previous to this one we were reasonably eager to get off on this daylight mission to Tachikawa. Not, however, through any burning desire to sit and smoke cigarettes over the mainland. It was more nearly one of those “another day, another dollar” propositions. Our strikes are beginning to pile up–almost into the two digit bracket. Barlow’s crew went down with Pankin and Barr on the Kawasaki mission, their first. When buddies are lost you can’t help but wonder if perhaps you won’t be next on the list and that beaverish gleam pales and vanishes.

Briefing was, as usual, in that miserable hour between night an day when you’ve just about dropped off to sleep. The lights, the eye- rubbing, the groans, and the process of dressing in a half stupor find you presently in the briefing formation by S-2. Hardly able to stand. Off to the over-sized briefing Quonset hut at 0030.

We were to assemble this time at Aoga Shima in the Nanpo Shoto and north of nature’s insular prank, Sofu Gan. Thence to climb to 20,000 feet on course to target at Tachikawa. It didn’t look like a very rough raid.

The mess hall sported the usual [powdered] eggs, tomato juice, and coffee [with evaporated milk]. At 0130 we entrucked and drove the three or so miles to the line and T-37. VanWormer has been taken off the crew and we now have Lt. Seavey from Bangor, Me [an] extraterritorial province. Seavey found that the left outside wheel bearing was the wrong size and needed switching to get even brake clearance all around. The ground crew went to work and had the thing fixed just as we started to pull props and load. The Southern Cross hung low in the southwestern sky. We took off.

I checked the set and dozed most of the way up to assembly. Aoga came in on the set and after 15 min of circling we made formation and started for the mainland. At the start of the climb we ran into the weather that was to alter the entire mission. At 6,000 feet we disappeared into solid cloud. Wow! The formation dispersed like a broken string of pearls on a marble floor! We kept our course and climbed higher and higher. Higher still and finally at 22,000 feet we broke into the sunshine and burning blue of the sky. We leveled out at 25,000 feet. 16,000 feet of cloud!

This was all very interesting–when I found out about it. I had no more idea than the Man in the Moon that we had broken formation until Norris called up and asked me what the course was to the IP for Hamamatsu! I had assumed we had been in formation and hadn’t figured out a thing. My heart sank and I was a real beaver for the next many minutes.

The nearest B-29 must have been ten miles away. The formation was gone. The whole of Japan socked in like a cup of lousy coffee. After straightening out my muddled bombing problem [we] turned up Suruga Wan and [I] figured it would be just as easy to cross the bay with a long bomb run to Hamamatsu as to go to Motosu-ko and make a near 180 [degree turn]. We turned left and with a few course corrections were zeroed in on the yellow-green blob [on the radar] that was Hamamatsu. We passed Omae-zaka. Course 141 true.

There were, all of a sudden, ships all over hell and back. A lone wolf here, [a] three ship element there, some more single planes and a few larger groups that had managed to reassemble after making it into the clear. Some fellows were even creaming around below in the soup at the risk of an “egg” down the astrodome.

Hamamatsu was a strong indication on the scope and as soon as we came to the first sighting angle I gave Max the hack and he clutched [the Norden sight] in. It went perfectly as far as we could tell. Max’s pre-computed data needed very little adjustment on rate to check with my sighting angles. We must have hit the city dead center.

Bombs away. Just as a 17 ship formation slid in from the right and below us. They dropped at the same instant and were almost hit by our bombs. Later I heard Bob Hayes telling a wild tale of a ship that had almost dropped through their formation. Us, natch. That was an “A” Group. The 869th.

The only flak we saw was way off to the left and seemed to be tracking an imaginary ship across the sky . No fighters were seen.


Strike #9 (night)                                    23-24 May, 1945

    Target-     Southern Tokyo between Kawasaki and the Imperial Palace.
    Bomb Load-  M47-A incendiaries
    Aircraft-   T-37
    Opposition- Heavy flak. Ground-to-air rockets and a lot of stuff
                we never did figure out.

Well–we’ve definitely got our own ship now, T-37, and undoubtedly will have it for the rest of our strikes.

This was the first fire raid we’d been on since Kawasaki and ,in fact, the first night mission since then. Landfall at Omae-zaki as is the habit on all or most strikes to the Tokyo area. Some one of these days they’ll get wise; I hope not. From Omae-zaki we were briefed to proceed to a set of coordinates near the town of Toya and turn onto the run on the aiming point from there.

As we approached landfall we could see the glow of the fires, the flak, and the searchlights criss-crossed against a background of smoke. Even though we had “rope” to foil the radar controlled lights we knew darn right well that we were in for a hot time.

[“Rope”, “window”, or “chaff”: short lengths of aluminum foil in packages cut in strips of a width to match the enemy radar wavelength (0.5 in.). To be tossed periodically in handfuls from the aft camera hatch.]

At landfall the Capt. did a 1/4 needle-width turn rolling out on course for Toya right over Omae-zaki. I had to fix the IP position with ranges and bearings from Hachioji and Fuji San as coordinates are real hard to see on the ground, much less in the scope. Max and Capt. Norris could see Fuji off to the left in the moonlight and decided that it would be overcast right up to the target. Not so lucky.

We turned on the IP and just in time. Spiller and Max let out a sigh of relief as the ship leveled out between the two concentrations of lights; one to the north at #357, and the other to the south at Kawasaki. Neither saw us for a moment anyway. Harris worked his way to the camera hatch to toss out the rope at the prescribed intervals. He looked like an overgrown beetle in the flak suit and helmet. Then the lights. Max said that they’d seem to be coming toward us, almost touch the wings and then drop to the rear [fixed on the bright return from the chaff]. Wow. The rope was working and we all liked to think that it was. “Bomb bay doors coming open.”, Max informed us. The ship shuddered and lost some airspeed. It now indicated 230. The door showed somewhat on the scope though I could still see the AP. The bomb pip was lost in the ground return.

Flak could be heard now. That meant it was close. It sounded like sheets of tin, big ones, being snapped. The bursts not quite so close were like [heavy boots] being dropped on the floor of the apartment above. I could see the glow of the fires below on the fixtures in the blisters.

The intercom clicked and those dearest of all words were heard– “Bombs away.” No longer were we slaves to fixed course and airspeed. Scanners confirmed, I turned off the set and went to the blister like a two-year-old with a piano on his back. Harris was still dispensing rope.

We had a show on that night. Ground-to-air rockets were arcing upwards in white, fiery pursuit of the ship behind us. The fires cast a redness on the sky. Individual blocks and streets could be seen burning and elsewhere whole masses of city blocks were afire in sections with right-angled corners like the black spaces in a crossword puzzle. We had just flown through the smoke, rough like a cumulus cloud, and its acrid odor lingered in the plane.

Out over the bay. Safe for just a minute until we hit the opposite shore on the other side of Tokyo.

Whiskey cut in. “Sir, there’s a ship, a B-29, behind us at 7 o’clock level. She’s afire and going down. Wait. I see three, no four, ‘chutes. No more.” I craned my neck but could see nothing. Whiskey had a voice of rock over the intercom. Never rattled in the least. You’d never know but that he was as cool as a cucumber. Togane on the east side of the Tateyama was land’s end.

When your nerves are on edge you’ll fall for anything. Whiskey called in a light at 9 o’clock level and everyone got set for a night fighter pass. The amplidynes [remote gun turret motors] hummed as all the turrets swung to the left. We all waited for further developments. John, the brains of the outfit this time, quietly informed us that it was “just Venus rising in the east.”. And so it was.


Two crews from the 874th were missing. Both were pathfinders and had gone in ahead of us at about 5,000 feet which was murder. Zweifel went down with Faivre as his co-pilot. He was one of the oldest crews here with but a few missions to complete his tour. The other missing aircraft was flown by Capt. Olds, operations, and Capt. Miller, group navigator.

Olds was our stand-by co-pilot on the first of our raids and it was his quick action on the feathering button coupled with Gins results on the switch and fuel shut-off that saved us.

A submarine was reported to have picked up five guys who bailed over Tokyo bay. 875th boys.

Bill Hain on Thomas’ crew from the 499th also went down last night. He was a radar operator from Pittsburgh.

This was no “milk-run”.


Strike #10 (night)                                   25-26 May, 1945

    Target-     West Tokyo near the Imperial Palace.
    Bomb Load-  M47-A incendiaries
    Aircraft-   T-37
    Opposition- Rockets, flak, "foo-fighters," lights in a
                concentrated mass.

This strike was very much like the one before it on the 24th. There was a slight alteration of IP this time and also of the axis of attack. We were to [attack] west Tokyo in the vicinity of the palace.

Bombing altitude was 11,000 feet. A slight improvement in safety over the lesser heights of some previous nights I could mention. At least we were out of range of that god-awful automatic fire, the 20s and 40s [40mm anti-aircraft shells]. Omae-zaki is getting rather to be a joke by now but nonetheless, it was the Control Point again. We nearly missed it! John called me up to say that we should be within radar range of the coast, that is, not more than 100 miles out. I turned on the set, switched to the 100 mile range and waited. In about 15 minutes or so I was rewarded with a faint indication on the scope. It grew stronger and closer. I switched again to the 50 mile range, called up John, and spread my map. Nothing looked in the least familiar and we couldn’t match the [scope] picture with the map at all! Shaw was baffled. I unfolded the map to the east, studied it, and then the two sections to the west. The first was futile, but in the last and westernmost section there was a note of similarity to the scope indication. I called Johnny and we concluded that we were where it was almost impossible to be. True. We were west of Nagoya!!! At least 100 miles off course! Wow. West of Nagoya and about 30 miles south of Nakiri, Honshu on a raid to Tokyo. The [magnetic] variation had been set in wrong on the flux-gate compass [used by the autopilot].

The Capt. altered course along the coast to the CP. In 15 minutes we were opposite Hamamatsu and they could see the glow of the fires now at Tokyo 75 miles away. Hamamatsu was partly afire. I guess some of the boys had used it as a target of opportunity. A left correction took us over the Control Point and on course for IP. Again the boys up front could see the lights, flak, and fires. Course was checked on Ihaitake and its big brother Fuji San which glowed palely in the half-moonlight. The moon was slightly past [the] zenith.

IP. We turned. We wished we hadn’t. Lord, what a show! The Japanese had this one all figured out and we prayed that this was a one- night-stand instead of the show’s world premiere. Rockets, lights, flak, foo-fighters, phosphorous explosions and I don’t know what all.

[Everyone talked about “foo-fighters but I never heard any rational description of one or whether they existed at all. Here is another link.]

I got the position on Hachioji which checked out with the briefed bomb run.

“Pilot, pilot. See that thing out there? Looks like a rocket.” We wheeled up on one wing in an attempt to avoid it.

“It’s turning in. Looks as though it were following us.” Norris took the ailerons and Seavey the elevators. The ship went crazy in the air. Up, down, over, and back. Suddenly the “thing” exploded in mid-air and we never did find out what it was. Next on the program were the lights. We had no desire to see our names “up in them” nor in smoke either. The results were disastrous as far as my bomb run was concerned. In spite of the rope and de-synchronized props we couldn’t shake them. The scope was so screwed up from the turning and we were so seldom in straight and level flight that I stopped looking at the damned thing. I watched the dancing shadows on the top of the ship over the open camera hatch where Harris was tossing out the rope. Again we could hear the thump and whack of the flak as it exploded around our ears. The ship would heave on the close ones.

Excitedly Seavey called up all out of breath, “Drop the bombs and let’s get the hell out of here.” I don’t blame him. I was scared stiff. The bombs went “away” and we made tracks. Heading was about 40 degrees true and we were headed right for the heart of Tokyo. I told the Capt. that it was OK to turn but he didn’t hear me or something. I watched with my heart in my mouth as the transmitter pip [the scope center] slid over the very center of the enemy city. The flak was closer and louder. This took about a minute at the end of which I called again and we swung to the north, out of the lights and guns. As soon as the lights left us I turned off the set for the required 45 minutes and we turned right again to head for the sea over Chosi Point. We were confused and doing night pilotage. Harris, the Capt., Whiskey, John, and Max all had their ideas on the lay of the land and, as a result, we must have passed north, south, and under at least six Chosi Points before the grey moon glitter showed us to be indisputably over the sea.

We continued on the 090 heading for 100 miles or so then turned south to [fool] the fighters. We saw none. After turning on to a reasonable facsimile of the heading for Iwo we watched the glow of the great fires at Tokyo until we were more than 200 miles at sea. The bomb flashes were still visible at 100 miles.

T-37 had a flak dent in the wing and that was all.


Strike #11 (daylight)                                   29 May, 1945

    Target-     Yokohama
    Bomb Load-  M47-A incendiaries
    Aircraft-   T-37
    Opposition- Flak moderate and continuously pointed. Few fighters.

The first mission of any kind to Japan’s greatest port, Yokohama. Furthermore it was the first daylight incendiary raid we’d been on. Tokyo and Kawasaki were gone and now it was Yokohama’s turn.

For a break briefing was in the afternoon. This meant that we could sleep right up until chow time at 0100 and get in an extra hour. The reason for last minute briefings is the fact that the weather data had to be up to date. Evidently they expected no changes this time. When the awful hour rolled around we were nevertheless POed for all of that extra hour and the eggs and bacon left us stumbling around like sleeping pills.

Trucks, stations, engines, taxi, and at last take-off came around 0400. Later than usual so that it was daylight before we’d gone as far as Pajoros [northernmost of the Marianas]. Between Pajoros and assembly at Aoga Shima I read the latest TIME and drew a sketch of Harris as he slept in the sun by the right blister. I took a wind run on Iwo and Kita Iwo and a few hours later picked up Aoga and thanked my stars that it was daylight and not Sofu Gan.

We assembled without difficulty and climbed to 19,000 feet as we neared the coast. When the Capt. told us to don our armor-plated skivvies and ‘chutes I turned off the set and settled myself in the blister with much trouble and sweat. I had an oxygen bottle and a fouled up intercom connection. When we made landfall at Minami-Osaka (just west of old friend Omae-zaki) we depressurized and I started breathing through my Martian bagpipes all set to take notes with much effort:

0044- Landfall and general confusion as my headphone cord came undone and caught on the goddamn flak suit.
0046- Harris reports a fighter at 5 o’clock low. I almost broke my neck in a vain attempt to see it.
0055- Long pause while I proceed to get blue around the gills as I drag on an empty oxygen bottle at 20,000 feet thinking that my supply is OK as the gauge reads 350 lb/in2. I guess this… huff… thing is… whuff, whuff… broken, empty! Gotta get to the filler valve, filler valve. My head swam and buzzed, I got scared. I forced myself to crawl, well scrambled in cords, cables, maps, and armor plate to refill my empty bottle. With much exertion and completely out of breath I took deep gulps of O2 and came around in time to note that we were now over Manazawa and Fuji-gama. Whew!

0100- IP at Fuji San. Much effort expended with no rewarding view of the crater directly below us. Nothing but rice paddies.
0102- Over Sagami-gawa at Atsugi.
0103- Bomb bay doors.
0104- Fugisawa and Chogo.
0105- First flak. It was exploding just ahead of us and low and all we could see [were] the brown smoke puffs drifting by. It seemed to be continuously pointed fire.
0108- Kamakura to right, on course to target.
0108- Bombs away.
More flak, continuously pointed, and more audible than before.
0109- Over target. I leaned out and could see many fires on the south side of the city with white smoke plumes hugging the ground in a south wind. The smoke rose to the north in a great pillar with top about 20,000 feet.
0111- Futtsu.
0112- A 58th Wing ship with flak in the wing between #1 and #2 engines headed earthward and exploding in a blaze of flame.
0117- Land’s end at Amatzu.

I navigated to Base while John got in some well deserved sack time in the radar room. Milne got a radio report on some dye-marker 30 miles from land’s end well behind us. We had a wind shift and [Gins] sweated out the gas on let down from Agrihan to Saipan.


Strike #12 (abort)                                      5 June, 1945

    Target-     Kobe    
    Bomb Load-  M47-A incendiaries
    Aircraft-   T-37
    Opposition- 

Our second abort. This would have been our twelfth strike to Japan. We preflighted [inspected] the ship in the dark of morning, pulled props and took off for Iwo and the target. I was sleeping when I was awakened by an awful vibration in the ship. It stopped and I asked Harris what the score was. I seemed we had swallowed five valves in #3 engine and were headed back to Saipan. Just an hour or so out of Iwo. Norris made a successful three-engine landing at Isley Field and after getting all our equipment returned to personnel supply we hit the squadron area and the sacks.


Strike #12a                                             7 June, 1945

    Target-     Dock area of Osaka, Honshu, Japan.
    Bomb Load- 
    Aircraft-   T-37
    Opposition- Six flak bursts.  No fighters.

We all had misgivings about this one after the bad time the boys, including Creedon, had on the last Kobe raid on the 5th.

With no trouble at all we made it to assembly at Kita Iwo on time. We led the right element with Czerwinski right, Rich left, and Lt. Pound in the slot to fill in the box. Why they assembled [us] at Kita we will never know as the pilots had to fly formation [tiring] all the long way to Japan.

On arriving at Wing assembly at Okina-shima I turned off the set and went to the blister for the bomb run. There was a beautiful sight outside . The entire mass of Japan as far as you could see was solidly overcast and silhouetted against the whiteness were the P-51s. There must have been fifty of them though Max only counted 43.

That’s about all there was to the mission. On the way down the run we saw six bursts of flak, inaccurate. We dropped [bombs] and returned to Saipan without event. Definitely a
milk-run; no aircraft lost.


Strike #13                                             10 June, 1945

    Target-     Musashino Engine Works of the Nakajima A/C Co. (#357)
    Bomb Load-  7 2,000 lb HEs
    Aircraft-   T-37
    Opposition- Flak moderate to intense. Moderate Japanese fighter 
                activity

Three-five-seven again. This time out to get the reinforced concrete western section. The engine test cells. This time or never as far as we were concerned. On previous strikes the eastern, assembly, wings had been almost completely destroyed. Our Group and most of the 73rd [Wing] were out to cream this while in the XXI BombCom were to hit nine other targets on Honshu.

A yawn, a muttered curse, and early morning takeoff as usual saw us at Aoga Shima around 0700. The radar was inop, kaput, with a burned out crystal as I only later discovered, but we had no difficulty locating the island. Our headache, however, was in finding the squadron formation. We milled around for some 20 minutes looking for the flash of a green Aldis lamp or an extended nose wheel on a “T” ship. No go. Rats–this business of tacking on to another bunch or going up in hopes of mission credit alone is PP. After a little we saw on the horizon a formation on course for the target. We made off in pursuit on the chance that it was the 874th and also for a little company. Finally after 170 miles of running we pulled into formation, our boys, at landfall though not in our correct position as lead of the right element.

Since the radar was on the foul [I] could take no scope photos so, with time on my hands, I went to the right sighting station. We were bombing from 19,000 feet but were partially pressurized at 12,000 feet. Seavey and Harris reported P-51s abroad which fact put everyone at ease to some extent.

And here I stopped writing on Saipan. It was six months ago that this all happened. The position data and much else has been forgotten. I shall, however, with the use of a sectional chart and some imagination, do my best.

We made landfall at, or somewhere near, Omae-zaki or Shizuoka on Suruga Wan. The IP was, I believe, Kofu north of Fuji. Thence we headed on [a] course that included a turning point and a CP to cross up the poor souls on the ground. Fuji had lost a good deal of its whipped cream to the increasing sweet-tooth of Old Sol and looked very un-Fujiish. Black with just a trace of snow in the crevices and fluting of the cone. The ground was spotted with cloud shadows. It looked as though the target would be overcast.

As we turned, by radar I guess, over Kofu I saw what looked to be P- 51s. Specks against a brilliant, steely blue sky bit I couldn’t say for sure. The overcast increased as we crossed the mountains and approached the Tokyo coastal plain from the west. The target lay about half way between the mouth of the Ara-kawa at Tokyo and the mountains at Ome. near Musashino. Max called up to say that it looked as though the overcast ended just beyond #357 and that we probably would have to proceed to secondary. This was not good news. Using one of the most heavily flak-defended area of Japan was considered generally a poor risk from the standpoint of longevity.

The lead and deputy lead [planes] opened their bomb bay doors and the squadron followed suit. Synchronization was impossible [here] and therefor the order was given to proceed to Hitachi.

Flak. Right over #357 we broke into the clear and I could see the continuously pointed fire exploding somewhere under our right wing every two seconds or so. Smoke brownish-black.

Next, and completely without warning, the Japanese fighters appeared. I guess the P-51s had stayed back in Tokyo to strafe. There was formation off to our right, same altitude. I saw a lone fighter buzzing around it in lazy roll-throughs and breakaways. Distance slowed down motion. He disappeared. I dozed off. Z-z-z-z.

The vibration and racket of Spiller’s twin fifties snapped me to consciousness again. The turret was right behind me. The intercom was buzzing with clock position calls, high, low, level, and everywhere as the Japanese pressed the attacks.

Creedon was hit and smoking in #3 (feathered). We gathered that he was hit; King flying. Norris dropped back for top cover and the fighters dropped back to jump on Creedon who was now lagging formation. Target yet a couple of minutes away.

Several attacks were called in by Whiskey, Spiller, Max and Seavey. The guns rattled and the [empty] shells clattered into the turret covers on the bottoms. All this was a great help to John on the navigation and Gins on the panel. Bill called in a twin-engine “Tojo” at 9 o’clock high and turning in. “Yeah, I see ‘im.”, Rocky answered an instant later. The ship shook. “We got him, goddammit we got him!” I couldn’t see but Whiskey confirmed the fact that the Japanese had spun in and gone down through the overcast.

Bomb bay door opened again. King managed to overtake the squadron though McNicholl had salvoed the bombs and closed his doors to gain speed. We both fell [back] in [to formation] just in time to drop with the squadron on the engineering works. The lead did a bang-up job–every bomb right in there.

We turned right and held a course to sea before we turned again on course for Iwo. Norris stayed back for a while with King and Creedon until they made Iwo. We landed at Saipan.


Rocky and and Bill Spiller got credit (1/2 apiece) for the fighter they shot down.

The Group got two commendations, one from Wing to all Groups at Hitachi, and one from Group Command. Every bomb in the Wing had struck within an 1,800 foot circle from the AP.

Creedon, King, and the boys had a mission they’ll never forget! It all happened in the same split second. 20mm shells from a fighter at 2 o’clock low. Number three engine shot out, Creedon severely wounded in the calf, the co-pilots throttle box wrecked, all fuel and oil pressure gauges shot out, and a 20mm explosion in front of “Killer” McNicoll’s flak curtain. Mac was spun around in his seat and dazed. He [evidently scuttled] the bombs and closed the bomb bay doors and then passed out. He doesn’t remember a thing about it at all.

At this date I know that Creedon is OK and will be able to walk after several skin grafts.


After a month-long tour at Lead Crew School (special radar bombing training) in the US during July at Muroc Army Air Field in California the T-37 crew returned to Saipan in early August having heard of the dropping of the Hiroshima bomb at Hickham Field on the way back across the Pacific.

There was one more combat mission from Saipan (Number 14 to Osaka Arsenal, August 14th) and, after V-J Day, we flew two or three times to Japan to drop supplies to prisoner of war camps. On several occasions we crawled out into the bomb bay to stuff notes into the duffel and, months later, received several grateful and humorous letters from the recipients–mostly English and Aussies.


We had close friends in the 497th BG whose ship was A-16 “The Fickle Finger of Fate” piloted by Capt. Dick Fate (Bob Hayes, V; Will Kessler, N; Lonnie Snowden, CP). A-16 took off on the night of October 5th for Kwajalein on its way home to the States. They had an oil leak a few hours out and decided to return to Saipan where they crashed on Kobler Field in the early hours of the great typhoon of that date. Twenty were lost.


Group BookReference: The Twenty Niner the Combat Story of the 498th B.G., edited by Capt. Michael J. Ogden and published ca. 1946.

A letter of appreciation from Alan Richtmeyer whose father was a B-29 Central Fire Control (CFC) gunner in the Marianas. [Link pending]

Letters home from James A. Rafferty, a maintenance man of the 874th. They kept Torchy and other planes in the air.

75th Anniversary, Atomic Bomb, Hiroshima. By Michael E. Ruane, Aug. 5, 2020, Washington Post.