|Preface||Chapter 12||Chapter 14|
May marked a slowing up of bombing activity. Although the Group averaged more than one mission per day for the month, the missions were more or less routine runs which were not intercepted, and the AA had actually begun to diminish. Our efforts of preceding months were bearing their fruit. Rabaul Town had been reduced to rubble and our job was to keep the five satellite airfields unserviceable and to destroy the supplies that the Nips had dispersed from the Town storehouses when the rain of bombs came. How well we succeeded in keeping Lakunai, Vunakanau, Tobera, Rapopo, and Keravat out of commission and unfit for staging was proved by analysis of reconnaissance photos. Only three aircraft could be found by the photo interpreters and for the first month on Stirling, no "Condition Red" was sounded during May. In addition to the primary Rabaul job, May also saw Crusader Mitchells dropping bombs on Borpop, New Ireland, and Buka Passage from medium altitude. Score for May: 1,218,795 Pounds of assorted lethal firecrackers dropped. Lest it be thought that May was the month of the Milk Runs, we hasten to add that 22 aircraft were damaged by AA and one man injured by flak. No planes were lost on combat missions, but in an unfortunate accident on May 11th Lieut. Kenneth Lattie of the 70th, on a compass check, was forced to ditch when an inexplicable engine fire threatened to spread. PFC. John F. Deaton went down with the plane, but other crew members were rescued.
But, the battle continued, and we again turn to the well written public relations stories that tell so eloquently the Individual exploits of members of "The Crusaders," stories written by the Intelligence and Public Relations Officers of the various Squadrons.
HEADQUARTERS, 13th AAF, Southwest Pacific, May 18, 1944--Revenge played a large part recently in the destruction of a Jap gun position on the edge of Buka Airfield on Bougainville Island. During an attack on the same airfield last November, Lieut. Paul Nadler, pilot of a ravaging B-25 bomber in the 13th AAF, watched shells from those guns batter his plane so badly that it had to be junked when he finally landed it, crippled and smoking, at his advanced base.
It was the middle of May before another low level attack was made on the Buka strip. Meanwhile Nadler nursed a fine hate for the gunners who had so nearly taken his life months before. From time to time, as the strip was subjected to repeated altitude bombing, he checked photos to be certain that the guns had not been destroyed. The position seemed to bear a charmed life, for no bombs fell near enough to do more than superficial damage.
This last mission was at night. It called for a low bombing attack. So that the blinking guns would not give away the path of the onrushing planes, there would be no strafing. Before the attack Nadler carefully decided which plane in the formation would be closest to that gun. He asked for that ship and got it.
In a tight Javelin formation, the Mitchells left their base just at dusk. The night was black as only a moonless tropical night can be when finally the ships peeled off into the formation from which the attack was to be made. From long study, from true navigation, and from the instincts developed in more than fifty missions flown against the Japs, Lieutenant Nadler drove his ship toward the gun position. His bombing run was marked to begin several hundred yards in front of the Jap guns.
As his Mitchell came across the target area he toggled bomb after bomb--all but the last three. And as his nose guns lined up on the position he opened fire. A thousand rounds of .50 caliber slugs tore into the emplacement. Finally, with the accuracy developed in skip-bombing missions, he salvoed his last three bombs into the target and turned toward home.
A photo ship brought back results the next day. Where the guns had been was a hole. Where the ammunition had been stacked was a hole. Where the gun crews' quarters had been was a shambles.
Lieutenant Nadler feels better. As far as he's concerned the slate is clean and he and the Japs are even again.
* * *
HEADQUARTERS, 13TH AAF, SOUTHWEST PACIFIC, May 18, 1944--Squadron Intelligence Officer Bill Trone rode along on a 13th AAF strike on Rabaul early in May to get some movies of the bomb hits on Tobera. The wing ship he was riding was to continue on the bomb run after dropping, while be hung down in the camera hatch and recorded the quarter-tonners hitting the runway.
Lieut. "Li'l Arthur" La Fortune, the pilot, kept his part of the pact perfectly. As the formation turned, "Li'l Arthur" kept going straight and level. Captain Trone ground away. Suddenly four bursts hit their altitude and a little to the left. Then four more dead on altitude again and a stone's throw ahead. Meanwhile the bombs started across the runway and Trone was singing out "Beautiful, beautiful."
But when the last four bursts blossomed, the pilot decided enough was enough. "Goddammit, Bill, I gotta turn," he yelled into the interphone, and barrelled the 25 around on one wing and firewalled out to sea. Once safe, he offered to make another run to get some more pictures. Captain Trone looked back at the runway, and then at the polka dotted sky which up till now he hadn't seen. One look was enough.
"The hell with it, Artie. Let's catch the formation."
"Li'l Arthur's" chuckle rattled the interphone One run on Rabaul was still par for the course.
* * *
HEADQUARTERS, 13TH AAF, SOUTH PACIFIC, May 18, 1944--Sgt. Orville Pixley doesn't drop bombs on the Japs or shoot down enemy fighters, but the men in his 13th AAF medium bomber squadron say the war couldn't be fought without him.
Pixley, the Squadron painter, decorates the B-25 Billy Mitchell bombers in his outfit with luscious pin-up girls. No pilot in the Squadron would think of going into action without one of these attractive good-luck charms on the nose of his ship. A self-taught artist, Pixley worked on San Diego construction projects before he entered the Army in June, 1943.
Scantily-clad girls are the favorite aircraft insignia, Pixley says. The bomber crews also favor insignia that emphasize the punch and firepower of their ships. Pixley's latest painting for a ship named "GI Delivery," shows a stork bearing a litter of sizzling bombs to Jap targets. He also painted "Mickey Finn's" insignia, which he describes as "A knockout of a girl perched on the rim of a beer glass."
"You can tell what the men miss the most out here," says Pixley, "by the names of the ships I've decorated. They include 'Paper Doll,' 'Blondie' and 'Dark Eyes.' "
One pilot asked Pixley to paint the portrait of his two year-old daughter on the bomber named "Baby Jeanne."
"It took me a long time to copy the photograph but the Lieutenant was so proud of the job, he almost cried. I figured it was worth it," Pixley explained.
Although his Squadron's bombers attack the strongly fortified Jap base at Rabaul almost every day, not one has been shot down or badly damaged since Pixley's good luck charms made their appearance on the aircraft.
* * *
HEADQUARTERS, 13TH AAF, SOUTHWEST PACIFIC--Although only casually acquainted 12 years ago, Maj. James D. Barlow, commanding officer of a 13th AAF medium bombardment squadron, recently had no trouble recognizing his new assistant operations officer, 1st Lieut. James N. Thomason.
In 1938 the two men, both football stars, met in the San Francisco's Seal's Stadium at an intersectional game. Major Barlow played left half for Santa Clara while Lieutenant Thomason held down the blocking back position for Texas A & M.
Santa Clara defeated Texas A & M 7-0, but it was one of the toughest fought games in the Seal's Stadium. The Major left the game with a badly injured knee. His rival, Lieutenant Thomason, followed him out in the third quarter. He was on a stretcher, unconscious.
Reunited in the same squadron the two pilots have flown 30 bombing missions together over Jap bases in the Southwest Pacific.
* * *
HEADQUARTERS, 13TH AAF, SOUTHWEST PACIFIC . . . And then there was the advanced base mess hall in which the food became so bad at one time that a sign was erected: "A continuation of the practice of bringing food into the Mess Hall will result in disciplinary action."
ARS GRATIA ARTIS
|Preface||Chapter 12||Chapter 14|