The 307th Bombardment Assn

Lt. James Hobstetter, Pilot, 370th BS Diary 1944

August 14, 1942
Have been instructing at Ellington Field Texas for the last month following my
appointment in the U.S. Army Air Corp. I trained for nine months as a cadet before
receiving my wings and commission. I reported on Nov. 12, 1941 at the Kelly
replacement center, San Antonio, Texas. After drilling for 5 weeks I was sent to
Coleman Field, Texas where I received my primary training in a PT-19. After 12 weeks I
was again transferred to Randolph field, Texas where I received my basic training in a
BT-14. Upon completion of this secondary course I was transferred to bombardment
school at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas. Upon graduation I was retained as an
instructor and have just completed my first month at my new job. I have been flying a
twin engine AT- 9. While here I have also flown the AT-15, AT-17 and BT-13.
Dottie and I have been married for a month and a half now after a very nice wedding on
June 27 in the Church of Immaculate Conception. All of which reminds me that we must
have Father Kennedy for supper soon. I’m very happy and enthusiastic about married
life. I hope nothing ever happens to change it.
August 22, 1943
It took me a year to get away from Ellington Field but I made it. I am now the proud
possessor of a son – two months old. My how time flies.
I have completed the B-24 course here at Tarrant Field and am now first pilot. My
orders have not arrived as yet so I am acting as asst. engineering officer with the 1016
Squadron-temporarily. As to my future status I have no idea. My preference is combat
secondary Air Transport Command. As I have instructed for exactly one year I hope
above all that I am not made to do so again. I want combat in any zone.
I just received the most shocking news. Lt. Cyrus S. Eaton Jr. has been reported missing
in action over the Netherlands. I spent four years with Cy at Colgate and we have both
visited back and forth since then. I last saw Cy in Houston when Stevie and he visited us
for about seven days. Shortly after that he left the country.
Sometime in December
Stevie has received a letter from Cy in a German prison camp. He is apparently safe but
banged up. I have not heard the details. What a relief to know he is safe.
May 11, 1944
a brief summary bringing me up to date
Much water has gone over the damn since my last entry. I was assigned to the 2nd Air
Force from my station Tarrant Field. Dottie and I spent a delightful two months with
little or nothing to occupy me at Tarrant Field. We had a very attractive little house in Ft.
Worth. I left for Clovis, New Mexico and Dottie joined me later after taking Jimmy
home. I stayed in Clovis a month before shipping to Blythe, California. Dottie and I
lived in a little trailer camp – one room and a bath. Cramped as we were I enjoyed our
stay a great deal. Dottie managed to cook some excellent meals on a hot plate. She will
never cease to amaze me with her ability and her ingenuity – a very remarkable and
lovely wife. I certainly am lucky and happy. We spent some marvelous weekends in Los
Angeles. We spent a little too much money but I don’t regret it a bit. We spent several
evenings at the Beachcomber, and both of us have a craving for that Chinese menu. We
visited all of the local famous night spots and shows. I can’t remember enjoying myself
as much as being there with Dottie.
From Blythe we went to Herrington, Kansas a staging area prior to going overseas. We
stayed ten days. I was assigned a new B-24J only to have it taken away and given a
special assignment in radar schooling at Langley field, Va. Dottie stopped in Dayton
and brought Jimmy with her to Langley. He certainly is cute. I wish I could see him
more. The most difficult thing I have ever had to do was say goodbye to Dottie.
Although I have always wanted combat I was almost sorry of my choice when we finally
said good-bye. I can’t remember ever being so utterly happy as the day we were married.
I’m hopelessly in love with her.
I took of from Langley in my new plane (new to me as it had been in combat in North
Africa prior to modification) The Axis ship painted on the side attracted much attention
while on route. I landed in Dayton but did not stay I am quite sorry now. We made
several stops on our way to the west coast. Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Tucson,
Arizona and finally Fairfield, Calif, our port of embarkation. I left Fairfield at 2300
March 14, 1944 on a clear but black night for Hickam Field, Oahu.
I’ll never forget as we passed over the Golden Gate Bridge and took our last look at the
United States for maybe a year or more. Behind us were the lights of America with
people laughing, dancing, doing as they please and no worries to bother them. In front of
us there was nothing but the blackness of the Pacific Ocean, uncertainty, and I felt very
much alone as if I were being swallowed in a black void.
Four hours later when I started our fuel transfer a most unfortunate thing happened. The
bomb bay doors were cracked open as to eliminate gas fumes. I was in the bomb bay
checking the rate of flow when the cruise control chart which indicated the manifold
pressure and R.P.M. settings we were to maintain hourly so as to use the minimum
amount of gasoline was blown from the navigator’s table out the bomb bay. We had gas
enough for several extra hours provided we followed the settings which were now gone.
Fortunately Brooks (co-pilot) and I had committed most of them to memory and together
we developed our own settings which proved more than satisfactory. An added wrong
was that our ground crew had not checked our radio liaison transmitter and we had no
contact with the ground for nearly four hours.
Later the stars came out and the moon gave a friendly and bright smile. I felt much better
and more at ease. When I looked at the stars and the vast water that lay before us I felt
that we were the only living souls in the whole universe. Ten men in a plane the only
living thing other than the sky and the ocean. I felt as if God had his eye on us alone.
The weather was excellent and our motors were ticking like clocks. We landed at
Hickam Field at 1430 the following day. Bowers (navigator) did a fine job and it was
certainly a relief to see the island of Molokai jutting up out of the water. I made a let
down through the clouds on our E.T.A. and there it was looming in front of us. We
stayed at Hickam two weeks.
The plane had to be taken into depot for repairs. The no. 1 supercharger regulator was
out. I noticed it on take-off at Fairfield but we managed to bring it down and continued.
The main problem was that the bomb bay tanks were installed incorrectly. They had
fallen a few inches and we were unable to close the bomb bay doors. On investigation
we found that their weight had sheared two braces running from each bomb bay wall to
the flight deck. With the bomb doors closed I could see the tear in the outside skin. I’m
glad we located the trouble before the back end of the plane fell off.
We left Hickam for Canton Island. It’s an 1100 mile trip with no check points. The
island is extremely small about the size of a pinpoint. About halfway we bumped into a
front, (intertropical front) – nothing but pounding rain in the clouds for three hours. We
broke out on course about an hour from Canton – what a relief. We could do nothing but
fly a compass course and hope because the navigator was unable to read drift in the
clouds. That incidentally is the trip where Rickenbacker went down.
We left Canton for Nandi in the Fiji Islands and encountered no trouble. Saw my first
native a Bula at Nandi. Rugged looking lot. There was a front at Nandi extending along
our course when we took off. I went on instruments immediately after takeoff and stayed
on instruments for 3 ½ hours. We hit some pretty violent storms once being knocked
down 4000 ft. We wallowed through and finally broke out on course just east of the New
Hebrides. We proceeded on and finally broke out at Guadalcanal the same day, April 2.
May 2, 1944
We spent a month at Guadalcanal as casual officers in the 13th Bomber Command. While
swimming at the beach one afternoon who should come walking by leading a platoon but
an old schoolmate and very good friend J.C. Cleveland. It was a most pleasant and
shocking surprise that we should meet on one of the many islands in the South Pacific.
We spent several evenings recounting old times. Fortunately J.C. had possession of some
liquor which added to the pleasure of our evenings together. I also met another school
friend Capt. Ralph Thompson.
The “Rude Nude” was taken from me and put in 29th Service pool. I have since learned
that it has been taken away and I’m afraid that I’ll not see it again.
We logged 80 hours at Guadalcanal composed primarily of bombing, formation and night
searchlight missions. The school itself, although beneficial as far as orientation in
respect to weather and locality was concerned, fell short of the intrinsic value for which it
was organized. The old army game was again put to good use on completing the course
at the canal. It seems that regardless of how a person had been previously trained the last
authority to which you are subject can discount all former training and do with you what
he pleases. I spent two months at Langley Field undergoing specialized training in radar
and trained specifically to enter the “Snooper” squadron at Munda, New Georgia Island.
Our orders were stated that we were an electronically trained radar crew and trained for
the sole purpose of entering the radar squadron, yet this young lt. colonel completely
discounted this training and placed us in a regular combat outfit. The ridiculous part of
the deal was that the radar squadron was in need of radar crews at the time. It baffles me
to some degree, yet it was too sensible to send us to radar and in the army the sensible is
last to be achieved.
While at the canal I went on my first raid – Rabaul. We led a three ship formation. The
primary target Rapopo Airdrome was closed due to weather so we bombed an aerodrome
on New Ireland. There was no fighter interception as the Jap air defenses had been
neutralized. We encountered a little but quite accurate AA fire which burst just off our
left wing.
On the way home we developed engine trouble and landed at Torakina on Bougainville.
We were subject to our first air raid here but I was asleep and heard nothing. We have
several nice runway strips at Bougainville. The Japs controlling the bulk of the island,
they shell the airdrome continually but do little or no damage.
One amazing feature is that when landing you must keep your base leg in close to the
field because the Japs are in a position to fire at you if your landing pattern is too large.
There is also a Jap prisoner on Bougainville who is quite well known. His ambition is to
become a cab driver in Los Angeles. He once remarked “You may take Munda back
from us but you will never get California back”.
I was sent from Guadalcanal to the 307th Bomb Group, 370th Squadron, 13 Air Task
Force stationed on Munda. We spent only a few days here due to the fact that the
complete group was being transferred to the Admiralty Islands. We have been on Los
Negros for about a week at this point. There was very little preparation made for our
arrival but we were given a camp site situated in a coconut grove along a beach .
We pitched our tents here and have managed to survive for almost a week. It rains
incessantly and as a result the humidity is extremely high which fosters all types of
fungus growth and millions of bugs. There is very little fresh water in which to bathe.
They have constructed a scaffold and place old gasoline cans on the top which are filled
with water. This contraption serves as a shower but the water is very limited and smells
of gasoline. We have fresh drinking water contained in lister bags but unfortunately it is
not cold. The ocean serves as a beach but also as a laundry. The only unfortunate part is
that the clothes which are washed in the ocean have a rather putrid odor. We have a mess
tent and a very long chow line. All our food is canned and meat dehydrated. Everything
has a very flat taste but when hungry you find it very welcome.
If I ever have malaria or topical disease of any kind I must certainly have them now
because the first night here I had no mosquito bar and as a result I was awakened many
times with crawling bugs and mosquitoes.
After several days of camp building we were called to operations and given the briefing
for our second raid – Woleai. It is a little coral island located about 400 miles west of
Truk. It is the only refueling place for planes being shipped to Truk and it is therefore
packed with supplies and is of utmost strategic value to the Japs on Truk.
We took off at 0630 May 6, 1944 in two flights of six planes each. Our target was the
runway on Woleai. The flak was moderate and generally inaccurate however several
bursts knocked us around a bit, the most exciting was directed at Truk. The bombing
pattern was well placed, and 50% of the runway was destroyed We suffered no
casualties, and encountered no fighter interception (Flight time 10:30)
My 3rd strike was May 8, and was directed at the Mokmer supply area located on Biak
Island just off the New Guinea coast. The 307th Group joined with the Fifth Group,
making a total of 48 airplanes (quite a sizeable formation for this area). We proceeded to
Hollandia and picked up a fighter escort and proceeded on to the target. They had several
heavy AA batteries and a number of medium AA emplacements. The firing accuracy was
fair but erratic in spots. One heavy AA shell burst off our nose and I saw a rather large
piece of flak whistle over our canopy. We encountered no fighter interception and
proceeded home without casualties. Upon landing we found a flak hole in our right wing.
It was the first time I had been hit. This was another medium altitude strike. The
bombing pattern was excellent, 80% of the bombs hitting the target area. (Flight time
My 4th strike and by far the most exciting was directed at Truk. The two groups joined
squadrons making a total of 40 planes on this raid. We were hoping for a fighter escort
but to no avail. We proceeded to Truk and made our bombing run at 20,000 feet. The
AA fire was heavy and extremely accurate. Just as we were about halfway on the
bombing run I noticed the concentrated flak burst in the squadron directly ahead of us.
The heavy AA was bursting right in the squadron formation. I could see the ships
rocking with the bursts most of them must have been hit and why none of them were
knocked down is completely enigmatic. The flak burst and then seemed to burst again
with additional smaller flashes or pieces of metal flying everywhere. We were next and
directly behind the squadron. We got through without mishap.
The Zeroes and Tojos were waiting for us as we came off the target. More were climbing
to hit us on the way home. Our squadrons pulled in and formed a very tight box which
looked like suicide for the Japs to attack but they did. I could feel our ship quiver as we
opened fire. Tracers from the ships formation were spewing out in every direction. The
gunners and Walter (bombardier) who was acting as fire control officer from the
navigator’s dome were calling the angles of attack the Zeroes were making. We were
well closed on our flight leader who was pulling in tight under the lead element when it
happened. I happened to glance up as the Tojo made a vertical dive from 12 o’clock He
was diving with tremendous speed down through the formation between the first and
second flight. I was flying left wing of the second flight and got a good look at him. I
glanced quickly at my flight leader and then back to the Tojo just in time to see him blow
up. His plane made a violent twisting flip and then scattered into little pieces of confetti
which drifted by our ship as we passed. I saw the pilot fall out, he was the largest
remaining piece of the plane. It happened right in front of our plane. I thought he had
been shot because our nose gunner was firing at the time. I was stunned. I couldn’t
believe that a gun could blow a plane into pieces in a split second. But that isn’t what
had happened .
In his violent dive which I estimate must have been five or six hundred MPH, he went
out of control and crashed into Lt. Willock’s plane. Willock was on the right wing of the
lead element, the crash tore his left rudder and elevator from his plane and the last I saw
of him he was out of control and going down. The tail turret gunner was still firing as he
went down. From the waist gunner’s report he pulled out about 10,000 ft. and in doing
so the tail turret and gunner was torn from the plane. The Zeroes jumped him
immediately dropping phosphorous bombs and making passes at him from all directions.
He kept his plane under control although she was listing badly to the left side.
For a minute it looked as if he might be able to climb back into formation. The Zeroes
followed us and we kept up a running battle for about 45 minutes. I heard Willcock
calling the rescue Catalina as he was expecting to go down. As we neared the equator
about 200 miles from the target our radio operator intercepted a message. Willcock’s
plane stated his position and that they were going to bail out. Having plenty of gasoline
we got permission to leave the formation and cover Willcock’s crew when they bailed
out. We rigged up a life raft and emergency rations to drop to them When we arrived at
their position we found a PBY and another B24 circling the spot where they had bailed
out. I thought I saw several heads sticking out of the green sea marker The water was
too choppy for the PBY to land but several rafts were dropped. Being of no further use
and running low on gas we returned home. The PBY was still circling when we left. The
story runs that six men bailed out. The navigator refused to jump because he couldn’t
swim. The pilot, reluctant to leave him, attempted to water land the crippled plane. It
exploded on impact. The other two were apparently killed in the flight. Three survivors
were picked up, the others apparently drowned in the rough sea. Total losses three ships.
May 12 flight time 10:20
My 5th strike was again on the supply area at Biak (Mokmer supply area). We again had
fighter cover out of Hollandia but encountered no interception. The bombs were well
placed about all of them in the target area. One ship was shot down. It was piloted by
Lt. Hoyt whom I had known from cadet days. Then crew bailed out and nine of them
were picked up. The tenth, Lt. Shaw whom I also knew quite well was picked up by a
submarine – a Japanese submarine. I can’t think of anything more horrible.
May 14 flight time 10:00
6th raid on Bosnek, Biak Island. All bombs extremely well placed except one which
hung up in the Bomb bay. Lt. Walters salvoed it immediately. It fell well over the target
area into an obscure clump of trees by a road. On impact there occurred a violent
explosion and smoke towered to 5000 ft. It had evidently hit an ammunition dump
which we didn’t know of. A lucky but effective bomb (no fighter cover ).
May 16 flight time 8:10
7th raid again at supply area Bosnek on Biak Island. My engineer reported a gas leak
about an hour out from the field. Upon investigation I found the left bomb bay wall
above the bomb bay track covered with moist and dripping gasoline. The fumes were
very heavy in the bomb bay, command and flight deck. I had all radio and electrical
equipment shut off and then opened the bomb bay doors and all available windows in
order to flush out the fumes. I could not determine the cause but to all appearances the
leak was in the no. 2 cell.
With a 10 hour mission facing me and the possibility of the leak becoming more serious
I elected to return to the field and did so. After turning back the engineer reported that
the leak seemed to subside and the fumes were clearing up. I immediately turned on
course to the target and attempted to catch the formation. I proceeded as fast as I could
without straining the engines for two hours. The navigator seemed to think we might
catch them just before reaching the target area but the winds held us from doing so.
We reached a point halfway between Hollandia and Cape Durville at 1100 and still had
found no trace of the formation. Having used excessive amounts of gasoline in our chase
I was about to turn back again when I spotted some B24 and B25s bombing the runway
on Walade Island. I elected to bomb the island rather than drop our bombs in the water
and we did. I was a bit apprehensive about bombing an unauthorized target or tangling
up with another air force, but the island was Japanese and I had nine 500 lb bombs which
I didn’t want to waste. I half expected to catch hell about it but no one said a word. I’m
not quite certain I will get strike credit for this mission. I hope so.
May 18, 1944 flight time 9:45
8th raid again on the supply area Bosnek on Biak Island. We’ve been pounding it
consistently and it is practically useless to the Japs. To us it would be of utmost value –
opening raids on bases close to the Philippines. I wonder if there will be a landing soon?
No. 1 supercharger regulator went out three hours after take-off but as we were not going
to high altitude I continued the flight. We were bombing on AFCE in the flight leaders
position because he fell out early with engine trouble. Our AFCE wasn’t functioning
properly from the bombardier’s station and as a result our bombing run was sloppy but
70% of our bombs hit the target. Right over the damn target our no. 1 engine started
throwing oil and smoking badly. The oil was scattering all over the wing and tail and the
pressure began to drop. I immediately feathered the engine before losing all the oil. I
called the flight leader and he attempted to slow up the formation for us but we were
going too slow and dropped back. I’m certainly glad there were no Zeroes to jump on us.
One other boy from another squadron dropped back to cover us on the way home. I’m
certainly grateful to him as we had a 650 mile trip home and nothing but water to land
on. I slowed us up as much as possible to consume minimum gasoline and it took us
51/2 hours to get back. Thank heaven it wasn’t farther because we had only a little over
an hours fuel left when we landed. I can remember in the States what you would do in a
case like this-simply head for the nearest field and maybe an emergency landing but out
here there is no place to land so you keep going and hope.
May 20 flight time 9:35
Strike no. 9
We were given several days off before making this raid on Truk. It is my understanding
that we are to pound Truk as consistently as we did Biak. I have a premonition since
return from Truk that our losses will be heavy.
Our mission today was a complete failure due to adverse weather conditions. We passed
through two fronts going up and found the target closed in at Truk proper. The mission
was completely messed up in all respects which almost cost us some lives. The group
leader started his climb too late and as a result we never reached our prescribed altitude.
In making his hasty climb he caused the formation to string out badly and some of the
boys barely got into formation in time. I was pulling all the power I could and was still
unable to gain an inch. As we neared the target our squadron was stringing badly. I was
just about to drop my bombs in order to move in close when fortunately the leader made
a turn into me and I caught them. Why he made the turn I don’t know but I‘m very
grateful because the Zeros hit us at about the same time.
We were flying just below a thin wispy overcast at about 18,000 ft. The Zeros were
dropping on us from out of the clouds. Most attacks from the sun high at 10 o’clock to 2
o’clock. However, we did receive some beam attacks and oddly enough one pursuit
came at the tail. I have never seen the group box flown as tight as it was today. The four
squadrons were packed as tight as two squadrons flying normally. Any attacking Zero
was met by guns from all 24 planes. Nothing seems to stop the Zeros however and they
pressed their attacks closer than we had previously encountered.
Flying on the wing your primary concern is the lead ship and as a result you don’t see a
lot of things that are happening. The most nerve racking part of it is to resist taking your
eyes off the lead ship because when your guns start to roar and you see tracers and fire
pouring out of the ships around you, you begin to wonder.
On one occasion I felt this anxiety to the maximum degree. We were the farthest ship to
the left of the squadron (there being no wing man behind me). The Zeroes had jumped us
over the target and had since laid off for about ten minutes. Another group was waiting
for us above the clouds. Things were quiet for a moment. Suddenly the bombardier
called out “Zeros high ten o’clock – here they come”. With a stunning roar our guns
opened up. I jumped as the top turret poured out his first blast. Smoke and fumes filled
the cabin and shell casings were flying all over the command deck. All guns from the
ships in formation were trained over the top of our own and blasting like hell. I could see
the tracers flying over and in front of us. The firing kept up and grew in violence. To
keep from taking my eyes off the lead ship was almost more than I could stand because
from what I could hear and see the bastards must be going to fly right through my cockpit
They gave us a running fight which slackened after about 40 minutes. One Zero
followed us after the rest had departed. He was about 3,000 ft. above and just tagging
along. Finally he pulled up into a beautiful roll and dived straight through the formation.
He apparently was not aiming at anyone, I think he was just showing off. All ships fired
at him but I was unable to determine any hits.
Our top turret gunner got two probables and the tail turret one probable. Our nose turret
was out, one waste gun and the tail turret guns ran away rendering them useless. Having
only one waste gun, a ball turret and top turret our fire power was greatly reduced.
Our bombs were unobserved but I don’t believe they hit anything.
Our squadron suffered no losses but one other outfit lost one plane. I knew the boy at
Guadalcanal. He went down about ten miles from Dublin Island-inside the Truk atoll.
May 25 flight time 10:10
Tenth raid on Biak Island. We are now not permitted to bomb east of the Bosnek area or
to report any shipping in the area. Indications point toward a landing. Our mission today
was more or less a failure. Our weather forecast was decidedly inaccurate which reduced
the effect of the mission a great deal. About 45 minutes from Biak we bumped into a
frontal condition that had moved in unexpectedly and covered the entire area. We were
in formation at the time both the 5th group and the 307 (total 48 planes) flying 10,000 ft.
It was the typical frontal condition of this area. Heavy cumulus and cumulonimbus
storms, rain and cloud coverage down to the water. Flying B2 I effected a T.P. to the
right just as we busted into it. We immediately encountered intense rain and turbulence.
I had my hands full trying to keep the ship level until the co-pilot got the auto-pilot set
up. I wondered at the time just what in the hell 48 planes were going to do milling
around on instruments. Why some collision failed to occur I’ll never know because ships
were scattered everywhere.
After we had flown about 40 minutes Bowers said we should be near the target area (still
on instruments). I was about to have the bombardier drop the bombs on our ETA. When
I heard another pilot state that he had found a little hole at about 7,000 ft. I let down
immediately as did everyone else. There was a hole all right, but it was brimming over
with airplanes. We caught a glimpse of the shore at this point and recognized some
landmarks near our target. Walters took over on AFCE and followed the coast to the
target. Our bombs were unobserved except for one which hit on the land. Everything
else was obscured by the clouds. We left the target and broke out of the front weather
after about 45 minutes just north of the New Guinea coast and proceeded home, rejoining
our formation just west of Manus Island. I noticed on the way home a very small
isolated island with a very large house and several smaller buildings surrounding it. One
of these days I’m going down and have a look at it.
May 27
A landing was effected on Biak today near the Bosnek area. We have pounded it
consistently with 500 lb and fragmentation bombs for the past two weeks and the Navy
shelled it this morning in conjunction with another attack by our planes. ( I wasn’t on the
The invasion was effected shortly after our bombers left the target. From all I can gather
the troops are having a rather hard time of it at present. The Japs still have plenty of
mortars back in the trees (they are very heavy just back of the shore line and coconut
groves) and are shelling our men very heavily.
May 28 flight time 9:00
11th raid on Woleai which is about 400 miles west of Truk. We had to evade some
weather at the target (target was clear) and as a result the lead ship made a three minute
bombing run (ridiculous as it sounds). By the time we got to the target the Japs had a
damn good bead on us and we were only at 8,000 ft. They had a number of heavy AA
guns and had evidently been getting lots of practice because they put it right on us.
When you can hear AA fire it’s too close and these were quite audible and rocked our
ship with each explosion. Most of the boys found holes in their planes but we had no
losses. (no interception)
May 29
With the landing on Biak it’s my firm desire that we will move over there. They have
three strips on the island and it would open up raids in western New Guineas and up into
the Celebes. It would be quite advantageous in view of the fact that there is land close
by and we would have fighter cover. The 5th Air force playboys will undoubtedly get it
and we will continue hitting Truk – 620 miles over water and never any fighter cover.
The Japs have everything their way at Truk, and maul us every time. They have plenty
of Zeros with good pilots waiting for us every time. Their AA fire is very heavy and
accurate. Without our own fighter cover they can (and do) have ships tail our formations
just out of range and radio our positions, speed and altitude to ground batteries. If you
are hit and fall out of formation you’re at their mercy and no one can help you. If you are
lucky enough to stagger out of range of the Zeros before going down you have only the
ocean to land in with the nearest base 600 miles away.
In other theaters if you are hit you can stagger to a base or bail out over land , here you
just pray that you don’t get hit. They talk about it being so tough in Europe. There at
least if you are hit you can bail out and expect to land someplace. The worst that could
happen would be capture. Then you would at least be a prisoner of war. Over here there
are no prisoners of war, the Japs don’t believe in it.
June 1 flight 8:00
Mission 13
I distinctly recall the Colonel once stating that nine 500 lb bombs come to a cost of
$21,000 and to bear this figure in mind each time we drop them uselessly in the water.
Of all the useless and extravagant missions this one was predominate. The weather
forecast showed three cold fronts on our route, the last being at Truk proper. The
weatherman made every effort to have the flight cancelled. He indicated that we had one
chance in one hundred of ever seeing Truk. How right he was.
Nevertheless we took off at 0645 with the first front at the edge of the field. We
immediately formed a frontal penetration and proceeded into the weather. I became very
uneasy after 15 minutes of it because my flight indicator went out of commission and a
B24 will not fly very well with needle, ball and airspeed.
There is a T.O. to the effect that a B24 will not be flown in weather conditions without
the flight indicator. I therefore had justification for turning back but my AFCE was
functioning quite well and I elected to proceed. After three hours of instruments (blind)
in heavy rain and turbulence we were still in it and only an hour from Truk. I had
managed to get to 15,000 ft. (half flown and half thrown) but had heard no report of
altitude or positions of the other ships.
About 40 miles from the edge of the Truk atoll we finally broke out into the clear. I
circled for a few minutes trying to make contact with the other ships but only two other
airplanes appeared, the rest had evidently turned back some time previously. We all
stayed reasonably close to the bad weather because we were within range of the Zeros
and three ships would have little or no chance against them in a fight . The weather
offered protection.
When it became evident that no other planes were going to appear, the group leader who
was piloting one of the other planes ordered us to turn back. Three planes would have no
chance over Truk and it was the only decision to take. After about three more hours of
instrument conditions we broke out about 50 miles from Los Negros Island. Nearly all
the planes had to drop their bombs in the water in order to have gasoline enough to get
The futility of the mission was apparent from the beginning. The waste inexcusable. I
have not heard the official report but I am afraid we will not be given strike credit for this
June 3 flight time 7:30
Mission 14
The same inclement weather conditions prevailed on this mission. Two large frontal
masses on our route, the second lying at Truk proper. These missions are rather precious
and at times pilots continue when they shouldn’t . I did today. My instrument flight
indicator went out of commission 15 min. after take-off. I must be confused, this
happened last mission. At any rate we logged five hours instrument flying associated
with heavy turbulence and rain. Truk as predicted was completely weathered in and
bombing results were negative.
June 7, 1944 flight time 8:00
Mission 15
Weather again. There must be something big cooking because no other plausible excuse
can be given for these severe and useless missions. We have lost four planes in the
weather so far – they just disappear in the storms and never come out. Again we got to
Truk but to no avail. Bombed on E.T.A.
June 9 flight 8:30
Mission 16
Same old story – bad weather. We even picked up severe ice at 18,000 ft. We hit a
very severe storm at 20,000 ft. and we were almost thrown on our back from the
turbulence. I thought for a moment our aileron cables had been torn loose in the storm
because on coming out I found a foot of play in wheel. The cold temperature had
loosened the cable tension – no damage.
June 11 flight 9:10
Mission 17
Weather again but at Truk it opened to a scattered to broken condition with thin altostratus layers. I managed to rendezvous with six other ships and made a run on Moen
Island. The Zeroes evidently don’t like weather flying because only six attached our
formation – for which I am most thankful. The bombs were well laid and we suffered no
casualties. We had three flak holes in our wing.
June 12
I received the sad news today that two crews from the “Snooper” squadron went down.
Both crews trained in the states with me. Lt. Booth went down about 100 miles from
home – three enlisted men survived and were picked up. Lt. Wagner and crew were
never heard from after a night raid on Truk.
June 13 8:10
Mission 18
Truk again. Intercepted but no losses in our squadron. Several holes in my plane.
June 15 9:05
Mission 19
Truk! Interception was very severe although only 15 Zeroes attacked. Our squadron was
slightly out of position and as a result we received the bulk of the attack. Two
phosphorous bombs burst directly in front of us – one I was unable to avoid but no
apparent damage resulted. The Jap’s pilots were most unfriendly and pressed their
attacks very close.
We must have hit their Geisha house or something as equally aggravating. Had a nice
hole in the tail and leading edge of one wing.
June 15 5:15
Mission 20
Truk! Unable to transfer fuel and had to turn back.
June 16
The first silver ship, a new one, flew on today’s mission. From what I can gather the
Japs must have thought President Roosevelt was flying it because they swarmed after it
like bees. Several men on board were killed and the ship was badly shot up. I’m flying a
silver ship tomorrow.
June 17 9:05
Mission 21
Truk! Intercepted. Several planes badly shot up and one down. A 20 mm hit one pilot
in the head killing the navigator also and badly wounding the co -pilot . From what I
could gather over the radio his rudders were also shot out, also one engine. The weather
going home was rather bad and I never expected him to make it but he did. Upon
arriving at the field the co-pilot was paralyzed in the arms and couldn’t fly. The engineer
who had never flown landed the plane by coaching from the co-pilot. One other pilot
was also killed, an old timer in the area.
June 19 9:10
Mission 21
Truk! Intercepted. Got a beautiful flak hole one foot long in the no. 1 engine – hole also
in the rudder. One ship also shot down.
Mission 22
12:45 flight time
Yap! Bombing results were good and we caught several planes on the ground. The
Zeroes got our 5th group plane about 40 miles from Yap. It made my flesh crawl to hear
him screaming over the radio as he went down. It has always been an understanding that
if a plane goes down no one ever turns back to help. The only help to be offered is
prayer. It’s a difficult thing to do but keeping our formation and getting away as fast as
possible may save someone else.
In this case however our squadron and one other turned back to help him. There was
nothing we could do – the Zeroes were swarming him and he went down before we could
get to him. Three men were spotted in a raft as we left. Our tail gunners saw the Zeroes
strafing them as we pulled away.
June 27 12:00
Mission 23
Yap. Weather was adverse and our rendezvous was a failure. Yap is a little island a little
over 1,000 statute miles from Los Negros. It’s importance is that it is a feeding line or
stop over for planes going from Truk to the Philippines. The distance is so great from
our base that we fly up individually to a small reef called Sorol Island in order to
conserve gasoline.
Sorol is about 150 miles from Yap and there we rendezvous before going over the target.
Flying over water 900 miles to an island 1 mile by ½ mile (Sorol) constitutes a real
navigation problem. In adverse weather Sorol is very hard to find. After a poor
rendezvous 16 ships managed to make the target but not together – we had six in our
formation and were followed by two other squadrons – 30 Zeroes rose to meet us and
really gave us a going over. We managed to take our toll also taking down five of them
for the days catch.
They made coordinated attacks lining up in pairs at 10, 12 and 2 o’clock and attacked
simultaneously. They dropped their phosphorous bombs very accurately attacking level
from 12 o’clock and flipping their bellies up just in advance of the lead ships permitting
their bombs to slide into the formation. Several ships were scorched from the
phosphorous and in some cases flaming fragments burned clear through their wing
The flight lasted 35 minutes but to me it seemed like 35 hours. We had 11 large holes in
our plane. Two large holes in the turret and two in the armor plate. (gunner unhurt). The
astrodome was torn away – a 7.7 round knocked the window out just in back of the copilot. Something crashed through my windshield just to the right of my head scattering
glass all over the cabin. Several pieces bounced off my flak suit and one cut the
navigator’s arm. I thought the top of the cabin was being torn away when it hit. Brooks
and I both instinctively ducked – I don’t know why. The rest of the holes were in the
wings. I could hear them thump when they hit. Our cabin was quite drafty on the way
Mission sometime late in June
I evidently neglected an entry on a mission to Noemfoor Island. I flew with Colonel
Burnhorn on this the last raid prior to the landing on Noemfoor Island.
July 4
Lt. Ball from our squadron was shot down today at Yap. Lt. Kelley from our squadron
received a direct AA burst in his waste killing one man and severely wounding three
others. Why this ship wasn’t blown apart will remain an oddity of the war.
July 5 12:10 flight
Mission 24
There are always two, usually three frontal areas to pass through on the Yap trip – the
last being usually in the Yap area.
A two wave attack spaced an hour apart was attempted on this mission in an effort to
catch the Zeroes on the ground while they were refueling. The first wave of 12 ships
took off at 0100 and was attacked heavily, suffering one loss and several casualties. The
plan as set up could have worked perfectly except for one thing – weather. Low clouds
completely obscured the target and an E.T.A. run was effected with negative results. As
we passed over the target a small break in the clouds revealed the Jap planes on the
ground – a perfect chance spoiled by weather.
About 30 minutes from the target with no trouble intercepted we began to take it easy
and loosen the formation. I was sliding away from the leader and was busily engaged in
setting up the auto-pilot when a Zero from out of nowhere made a high head on pass at
our ship and dropped a bomb which exploded off our left wing. I have never seen an
aerial bomb quite like it before. Instead of a phosphorous explosion it turned out to be a
black explosion similar to an Ack Ack burst except much larger. Evidently a demolition
bomb of some type.
The formation quickly reformed and the Jap hovered around exhibiting some fancy
flying. As a farewell he made one last pass which turned out to be much to his
misfortune, his very last. He went down in flames and exploded on contact with the
water. In the future I don’t believe I’ll loosen up my formation until all danger is past.
Mission 26 12:05
Yap again. Intercepted by 15 Zeroes. I lost an engine on the way home but made it to
base with no difficulty.
Mission 27 12:00
A rather sad and equally disastrous mission for all concerned.
About an hour and one-half from the target we encountered heavy frontal activity. I
almost collided with another ship in the clouds but fortunately Brooks saw him in time to
warn me. It was a little too close for comfort however.
About 15 minutes from the target we broke out of the weather and into the clear. Planes
were scattered in many directions and instead of effecting a rendezvous the group leader
continued straight for the target. The resulting fiasco is almost too discouraging to relate.
The Zeroes were in the air waiting for us and had a field day at our expense. B-24s with
full power were racing like mad men to catch the group leader in order to make
formation before the full weight of the attack began. As a result instead of a formation
we had a large mass of B-24s packed together seeking protection. Planes were
overrunning, fighting prop-wash and narrowly avoiding collisions.
The Zeroes were quick to realize the situation and attacked relentlessly. I was flying near
the rear of the group and got a good picture of what was happening. Just as we left the
target a piece of flak tore through our astrodome and wounded Lt. Walters in the head.
Lester (flying A-2) was hit in the no. 2 engine and caught fire. He feathered his engine
and dropped down underneath the formation but managed to keep going.
Just off to our left and a little ahead of us was a ship flown by a 372nd pilot. He was
flying on the left wing of Lt. Sylor (our squadron). About 10 minutes after bomb away
he was hit by a Zero and started smoking, he inadvertently swerved into Sylor and
collided. Both planes burst into flames and broke into pieces. I couldn’t believe that a
B-24 could disintegrate so rapidly.
Lt. Sylors’s plane was torn in half just back of the wing section. The 372nd ship (Lt.
Diederich) seemed to break into hundreds of pieces. The flames belched all over the sky
– so hot that I could feel the blast in my ship. My ball gunner reported that the largest
section to hit the water was the wing of Lt. Sylors’s plane. The burning oil and gasoline
spread over a large area of water and could be seen for many miles. No survivors.
When the collision occurred the ship on Sylor’s right swerved into me and to avoid him I
immediately swerved away from him and right into the lap of a Zero who was watching
us. He came in on a high attack at 2 o’clock. Cooper in the top turret got on him
immediately. The Zero’s tracers were passing right in front of our nose and had he been
able to press his attack a little further he would have shot the hell out of us.
Cooper stopped him in the middle of his attack and pieces began to fly from his plane.
He broke off, went into a spin and with his guns still firing went into the sea. His bullets
made a circular splash as they hit the water and he crashed right into the center – a
perfect bulls-eye. McDonald also got his first Zero from the waist.
Lester finally made it to Walade after some excellent flying for two hours on only 2
engines. Quite a few of our ships were well shot up and three were shot down. I don’t
know how many Zeroes went down.
Rest leave – Whoopee
Mission 28 13:00
Yap. Intercepted by only seven Zeroes this time. We must have taken our toll on the
last mission. One ship in the group was hit over the target by a Zero. He must have
gotten the pilot and the co-pilot with the first burst. The cabin was on fire and the plane
flipped over on it’s back and crashed right into the target area.
Mission 29 12:00
Yap. No interception. This is to be our last raid on Yap and the last raid from the
Admiralties. We are moving to Walade Island just off the New Guinea coast.
This target I might add is flattened!!!
Mission 30 8:35
Palau – Koror Town
When the 5th Air Force pulled their one and only raid on Palau two months ago they were
intercepted by 50 Zeroes. On our first mission we only found six interceptors and on this
mission none. I wonder what the Japs are doing? The AA fire was quite heavy and
accurate. We were not hit however.
Three ships went down the first day. Lt. Ray of the 5th group blew up over the target.
We went through phases together. Lt. Davis and his crew with whom I spent my time
while on rest leave collided with another ship over the target, and both went down in
flames. No survivors.
Mission 31 8:20
Palau – Koror Town
Walters made an excellent run and my wing ships were in good formation as a result we
had 100% hits on our target.
I noticed that someone planted a bomb in the middle of the Jap whore house. There are
supposedly 600 prostitutes at Palau. I’ll wager the Japs are really irked now.
No interception on this mission but the AA, is very heavy and accurate. The squadron
C.O. of the 372nd caught a direct burst of AA on yesterday’s mission. Witnesses said his
wing folded up and he went down over the target. No parachute.
Mission 32 9:25
I led the wing over Gnessus Airstrip (Palau group) and we had excellent results with 90%
coverage. Six planes were destroyed on the ground. The AA batteries must have thought
we were going on up to Koror Town, and the 90 degree turn on the bomb run caught
them with their pants down because they didn’t get a shot at my squadron.
Lt. Parenti went down about 40 miles from the target, three survivors were picked up.
Mission 33 9:30
Our new target is in the Halmahera Islands. Lolobatu Airstrip. I took my squadron over
second and was able to see the very heavy barrage AA fire thrown up at the first
squadron. It was so thick I could have walked on it. I fully expected to get well shot up
but they missed us except for some small holes.
I thought the bomb run would never end. I missed my I.P. a little and as a result my run
was two minutes long. Walters dropped a little short and my wing men had their heads
up and locked because they dropped short also – only 50% coverage.
Mission 34 10:20
Halmahera – Hatetabako Airstrip. With no interception we were briefed to make
individual runs. I think I was shot at by every gun in the Halmahera. I made a dry run
over Lolobatu and was shot at there. As I passed out over the bay the shore batteries on
the opposite shore opened up. I then turned south heading down the bay with the
intention of circling back for a run on Hatetabako. The bay narrowed at one part and
batteries from both shores opened up on me. With that I whipped around got the hell out
of there and made a quick run on Hatetabako and of course they fired at us. Harry had a
very fine run, putting 10 out of 12 bombs down the center of the runway.
Mission no. 35 10:00
Halmahera again – Lolobatu
The invasion fleet was in the bay to the north of us making their landing in Moratai. It
was a very impressive show. We had seen the three different convoys steaming toward
Moratai on our previous missions. It is a very comforting thought to know that all the
ships are friendly.
Paliau Island in the Palau group was also invaded. Things seem to be really popping.
Moratai will undoubtedly be our base someday.
Sept. 17, 1944
I have accepted the job of operations officer in our squadron.
We move to Noemfoor and something big is popping.
Sept. 20, 1944
This is it. Balikpapan in Borneo, the largest producer of aviation gasoline the Japs have.
We are all going after the Pandansari refinery “the Ploesti of the Pacific”. How we will
ever make it and home again I don’t know.
Test runs on fuel consumption have been made and the higher ups say we can and must
do it. If we can they say the war will be shortened six months to a year and the
Philippines campaign will be much easier. Everyone is excited as hell. War
correspondents and reporters are flooding in to witness the mission.
Sept. 27
This is important. The Rank from every place in the Pacific are here. The place is full of
Generals. General Kenney is here. Every plane is being carefully tuned and loaded to
full capacity, 3550 gal of gasoline – meaning two bombing tanks and both wing tanks.
Our ammunition has been cut down to decrease the load. With the intercepted expected
I don’t like it a bit. The planes will weight close to 70,000 lbs. And our runway is only
6,000 ft. long. This alone is bad enough – the worst part is that it will be a night take-off.
I wonder how many boys will die trying to get off the ground.
The Snoopers are laying bets that we lose 10% on take-off. They say we can’t do it.
Theoretically they should know because every take-off they make is at night and they
never carry anything approaching our load.
Sept. 28
We have had briefings everyday. Everything is being done to boost our morale. We
have been told that no matter what our losses are – if we can knock Balikpapan out the
cost is worth it. Everyone is to get a medal that makes the flight.
Sept. 29
This is it! Although I’m not certain that I’m very enthusiastic about it. I am to lead our
group. We are going over in two waves about 20 minutes apart, so actually I am leading
only a section. The 5th group is going, also the 5th Air Force, 90th group. We will not get
fighter cover naturally.
The mission is expected to be 16 hours continually over Jap held territory. We are to fly
individually to a rendezvous point on the other side of the Celebes.
I’m not sure whether I want to get drunk or try to sleep. I’m too nervous to make up my
mind. Take-off is at 0100. The thought of that take-off worries the hell out of me. I’ve
never taken off with such a load even in the daytime, and I don’t mind admitting I’m
scared .
They are placing ducks and all different kinds of boats with lights on in water off the
edge of the strip in order to give us some sort of horizon.
It’s a black night but the weather is supposedly pretty good. Our ships are lined up the
entire length of the strip. Crowds of people have come down to the line to watch. M.P.s
and Jeeps are all over the place.
The first ship from the 5th group is in take-off and everyone is asking one question – Can
he make it? I’ve never been so nervous. I hope he makes it. If he can I can. The 5th
group leader is a Lt. Colonel flying his last mission. Little does he know now that he is
to be shot down over the target. He made it and I breathed a sigh of relief. It looked for
a moment as if he would never get off the runway, but he did and I could see his lights
very low on the water.
I’m in take-off position and waiting for the light – my throat is very dry. I’m moving
down the runway. The engineer is calling off the airspeed. 105 – 110 – 120 –130 – 135
I was almost out of runway when she finally became airborne. I could see the last lights
pass below before I went on instrument. We were just mushing through air and very
low. I thought the airspeed would never build up to normal climb. I held my altitude to
100 ft. until I got enough airspeed to climb. I hate to think of what would happen if an
engine had sneezed once.
I circled and headed out on course while continuing to climb. Immediately I ran into
turbulent cumulus clouds based at about 1,000 ft. We were rocked, thrown and jolted
until I thought the bomb bay would break in two. My respect for a B-24 increased
doubly in that it could stand that turbulence and still carry that load without breaking up.
We finally broke out and the weather cleared up beautifully. At daybreak we hit the
Celebes coast. The weather was excellent and everything was running perfectly. I had
carefully nursed my fuel, stretching every ounce I could get. My plane was new and the
only one equipped with radar for blind bombing.
Our rendezvous on the west coast of Borneo worked perfectly – all ships did an excellent
job and we were on course to the target on time. I had a sinking feeling when we reached
the Borneo coast. After flying all this distance the weather was socked in below us, and
the target obscured. I didn’t quite know what to do.
We proceeded in the general direction of the refinery but I couldn’t see a damn thing. I
made a large circle and came back looking for an opening but no luck so, I headed inland
again. The other group made an E.T.A. run, dropped their bombs and went home. I
contacted our radar man and told him to pick up the target.
Interception had started and I was so busy I didn’t notice it at first. When our guns
started to fire I rather stupidly asked Thayne if we were being intercepted. He simply
said “what do you think”. I had to laugh. The other group was being heavily intercepted
but as yet they had not turned their full attack on us.
Our radar operator was having trouble and the navigator’s radar was completely out. I
didn’t know what to do. Every instinct told me that I should drop my bombs on E.T.A.
and beat it for home. On the other hand we had flown the longest distance ever
attempted by 4 engine bombers in formation, and we were after the most important target
in the Pacific.
Had I known we were going to come back to Balikpapan again I probably would have
dropped my bombs in the water and left, but at the time I was under the impression that
this was to be the only raid – similar to Ploesti. At any rate I turned inland again and
contacted the radar operator.
Everyone was getting rather nervous as we were still being intercepted. I know the other
pilots must have been cursing me for staying over the target so long. The radar man
finally called back that he had picked up the target and I turned back on course. The
radar operator was flying his first mission and was excited as hell. I could barely make
out what he was saying because he was yelling over the radio, and I couldn’t quiet him
down. We got on course however and dropped our bombs on the northern portion of the
target (as best we could tell from the radar). Had the navigator’s equipment been in
operation I feel certain that we could have smacked it in the center.
Heavy AA barrages were coming up through the clouds, but not too accurate because we
weren’t hit. I immediately concentrated on evasive action because the Zeroes were still
attacking. I don’t know whether they were low on ammunition or what because they
weren’t too eager and did little damage. The 5th group lost three planes and several badly
The 5th Air Force “Jolly Rogers” didn’t do a damn thing. The bastards never went over
the target. They dropped their bombs on the coast up north and the squadron turned back
without even dropping their bombs because they heard us being intercepted. They never
hit a target without fighter cover and because they didn’t have it today they turned back
because of enemy interception. There is a word for that kind of thing.
I will never forget that long ride home. We had been over the target 40 minutes longer
than we were supposed to be, and I sweated and nursed our gasoline like a newborn babe.
After 16 hours of flying we landed at Noemfoor. Crowds lined the runway to welcome
the ships back. There was much handshaking but everyone was disappointed because the
target was closed in. I was too tired and nervous to sleep so I got drunk and then slept for
about a day and a half. I had gone without sleep for almost two days so everything
averaged out beautifully. This was my 36th mission.
October 4th will remain one of the blackest days in the southwest Pacific. Certainly one
of the blackest days in the history of the 13th Air Force.
(End of Journal)
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