|Preface||Chapter 15||Chapter 17|
Second elements of the advance echelon to reach Hollandia found that the first arrivals had done a splendid job with the fine area that had been placed at their disposal. A cleared flat plain of about five acres situated between the Hollandia-Tanahmerah road and the Cyclops Mountains had been laid out, and the first of the straight and orderly rows of tents and squadron streets begun. Meals were eaten outdoors on the sand or on any box or vehicle convenient, with the kitchens under canvas. But soon a community mess hall to serve the five squadrons began to rise. That unfailing and first question--how about showers?--had been admirably answered by Nature, for on the eastern extremity of the area, a rapid, clear, cool stream coursed down from the Cyclops Range.
From a fork in its path, one branch poured over a 20-foot cliff in a sparkling waterfall, and into this small Niagara was built piping and a shower platform. No pumps and no water conservation problem there--the cold rivulet took our rough construction in its stride and having served our purposes, spilled on to a rocky bed and meandered on its way. A board placed over two rocks made a very comfortable hand laundry on the other branch of the stream, where you could give yourself a "tub bath" when you had scrubbed enough.
One by one the Squadron parties arrived and over a two week period a comfortable though close-pitched camp arose on the plain, with the Group administration buildings and Mess Hall at the center.
A word of praise for the organization and administration of the Group's living facilities and the activities of the Hollandia detachment is due at this point to Maj. Roy B. Harris, Adjutant of the 69th, who was the Camp Commander, and to the various junior officers who commanded their Squadron detachments.
When the work of camp building had been completed, the line facilities were set up, and everyone relaxed for a welcome breather while awaiting the planes. Those of this detachment or of the combat crews who arrived at the end of August who were able to get down to Hollandia Town or up the highway to Tanahmerah Bay added unforgetable pictures to their mental photographic galleries--the tortuous highways between the two was a tribute to the perseverance of the Army's road builders. Hacked and scraped out of rugged mountainside, the road curled around rugged razorback hills, bridged valleys between other hills, ran fairly flat and straight past the strips and Lake Sentani. Both at Hollandia and Tanahmerah the road approached the settlements through a defile and down a long incline of a thousand yards or more, affording a beautiful vista of blue water, of unloading ships and bustling activity in the tiny town at Hollandia, and of the placid inner bay broken by tiny islands and graceful native catamarans paddling across its breadth at Tanahmerah.
Hollandia, as a period in the Group's overseas life, afforded, perhaps more than any other base, a view of the remarkable paradox that modern war brought to New Guinea and to other backward, sparsely populated and little known parts of the world. Roads, bridges, motor vehicles, airfields and the most modern aircraft, oil reservoirs, and other accoutrements of present day technology, were cheek by jowl with the rudimentary civilization of the South Seas. One wondered what the celebrated fuzzywuzzles, whom the Group's personnel here encountered for the first time, thought of the mechanized parade of war that streamed by them and over their beads. They weren't awed for long if at all, as they soon learned to ask for cigarettes and food and to raise their thumbs in the best American hitch-hiking technique. Gangs of natives riding to and from work on dusty Army six-by-sixes and weapons carriers soon became familiar sights. "Hello Joe" with a friendly if uncomprehending grin became a familiar greeting, and wandering gangs of small boys, passing through camp were an amusing and pitiable sight. Clad in oversize GI shorts or the remains of discarded undershirts the slight and skinny black and brown boys with their banana bellies often bore on their legs the gaping suppurations of yaws or on their bodies the gray scale of kurap. It was the same at Sansapor later, but the natives there seemed to have suffered less from war and disease than these of more populated Hollandia, where the effects of Jap occupation were more pronounced.
While these activities were going on, the combat crews of the squadrons, at Russells and Stirling, were doing local transition flying, making fuel consumption studies, and late in August, practiced skip-bombing and participated in mock beach-head maneuvers in the Admiralties. Between August 30 and September 4 all the Group's B-25s reached the Cyclops and Sentani Strips and the crew members installed themselves in the tents that awaited them.
Upon arrival at Hollandia, the Group came under the tactical control of the 308th Bomb Wing, replaced within a few days by the 310th Bomb Wing. A certain amount of confusion attended this change and this, coupled with the fact that all sections were operating with skeleton staffs, complicated our operations at Hollandia. In fact, original plans had not called for the Group to stage missions from Hollandia, but the tactical situation demanded our assistance, and as usual we went to work with a will.
The operating schedule assigned us involved three types of flying new to the Group. Food-dropping flights in which we carried much needed foods and supplies to parties stranded in the hinterland, interdiction missions which swept the area around the several task forces then moving up to take part in the Palau and Morotai operations and bombing missions in which from one to three of our Mitchells navigated flights of A-20's from the 312th Bomb Group over targets in southwestern New Guinea.
It is difficult to establish precisely which Crusader pilot first took the air against the enemy from Hollandia, but indications are that he was probably Lieut. Lawrence J. McLaughlin, a Royal Oak, Michigan, resident who reached the SWPA and combat via Notre Dame and the Air Cadets. On September 1 Lieutenant McLaughlin, a 390th Flight Commander, flew an "indoctrination"--as it was high-falutingly designated--mission as passenger in the lead A-20 of a 312th Bomb Group formation hitting Nabire Airdrome. Action got under way on the 3rd with Lieut. Joseph D. Wright of the 75th leading 10 Mitchells to Nabire when weathered out of the primary target, Utarom airfield. On the 5th and 6th things were really rolling. Maj. Rolf N. Romstad and Lieut, Edward Powleko led the 69th and 75th to drop an excellent pattern on the Utarom and Nabire runways. Thomas J. Wintersole led the 69th's planes on the interdiction mission, with George P. Picher, Kenneth E. Frick, and Herbert Sunderman of the 100th flying another patrol of this assignment; the 390th was also airborne, but was weathered off its target. The following day one of its planes led 24 A-20's of the 3rd Attack Group on a successful run over Mongosah Airdrome, dropping four 500-pounders of its own.
Lieut. Julian S. Whitehead of the 75th drew the honor of flying the first food-dropping mission on this day, flying supplies to a Dutch party stranded on Kebar Plain in the interior.
Panels and a smoke signal were displayed by the ground party, and from 300 feet Lieutenant Whitehead dropped his load so close to the designated spot that the retrieve was made while he was still over the area.
On the 6th-7th, Capt. R. E. Shanks and Lieut. L. E. Davis of the 69th investigated bogies over But and Dagua with negative results, while Major Paxton, Lieut. Richard V. Gadd and Capt. Vernon W. Fisher took elements of the 70th and 69th on a raid to Babo.
These two days brought a new and very interesting mission. Intelligence had reason to believe that the Japs intended to send a bomber with important cargo, escorted by two fighters, into the Wewak area on the night of the 6th. To Capt. Andrew Elliott and Lieut. Vincent Jensen of the 70th fell the interception assignment. Taking off at 23551, the pair flew over the Wewak and Boram fields from 0105 until 0630, but the expected express delivery was not made.
Each squadron had a crack at leading the A-20's from Hollandia. Not equipped with bombsights, these ships could not bomb from medium altitude except on a leader. Our usual procedure was to send one Mitchell to lead each squadron of 12, but on some days the schedule of interdiction missions and patrols made it necessary for one of our Mitchells to lead a full two-squadron formation of the A-20's. In these instances the B-25 led one squadron in while the other orbited out of range of possible AA. When the first run had been completed, the lone Mitchell rendezvoused with the second A-20 squadron and went back for a second run with new companions.
On two occasions the single Mitchell led a triple header, with three runs over the target, dropping a single bomb on each run to guide the accompanying Havocs.
The 100th suffered a regrettable operational accident on September 8. Putting in at Noemfoor on return from a Babo strike in weather that was almost zero zero, Lieut. Theo Wright blew a tire on landing. Lieut. R. L. Dillinger, following him in, overshot his landing and crashed into Wright's and another parked aircraft. Lieutenant Dillinger, Capt. R. L. Lawley Jr., and S/Sgt. N. C. Mills were killed, and Lieut. C. W. Duncan was seriously injured.
The scheduled strike on Babo (that place really took a shellacking while the Crusaders were around) for the 14th was forced back by extremely inclement weather, and Capt. Robert W. Thorndyke of the 75th may be said to have closed the book on Group flying from Hollandia with a two-plane relief mission to the party on Kebar Plain the same day. This brought the total of missions flown from Hollandia to 38, involving 243 sorties and the releasing of 259,800 pounds of bombs over the western New Guinea Japs. Not an impressive figure for the Group, but when it is considered that it had not been planned to fly combat from Hollandia, a very satisfactory showing.
The mission schedule at Hollandia shut down abruptly, and the move to our new base was swift. Air Echeloners and combat crews began to break camp on the 12th, and on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of September pulled out in C-47's for the newly-opened Mar Strip at Sansapor, Vogelkopf Peninsula, Dutch New Guinea. The departure of the first elements was attended by an amusing, and very typically Army, snafu. Trucks were efficiently loaded and formed into a tight convoy in the precise order in which the C-47's would be loaded. That was fine so far as it went, but when the convoy reached the Sentani strip, the fun began. Nobody knew the plane numbers and when someone was found who did, nobody knew where the planes were standing. They were found in a hour or two and loading was nearly complete when the inevitable jeep-mounted Paul Revere from the local A. T. C. arrived on the scene with the announcement that the movement had been cancelled. One of your reporters intrudes a personal note at this point to add that this news was particularly lemonish to his party. Our truck had thrown a wheel on the driveway into Sentani and we had shifted our load to another truck. Unloading the plane was the third go at stevedoring for us, and our speed was down to that of a limping snail.
Elements of the truck convoy bounced and jostled back to the campsite, and the plight was laid before Lieutenant Colonel Daugherty. A fast man with the telephone as with his nose guns, the Colonel soon had the higher brass at the other end of the line holding their receivers farther and farther from their ears, and the move was on again. Back we bounced to the strip and with a Shanghai Gesture to the A. T. C. office, loaded up again, this time for keeps.
And now, what of our ground men, bounding over the rolling main? The accounts differ. Let's start with the Extavia, and we quote one of the Ship's company: "The trip was an eventful one for everyone. On August 1, a floating mine luckily missed amidships and exploded just off the stern, buckling a few plates."
This occurred off Simbo Island in the Solomons.
The first evidence that things were SNAFU developed upon arrival at Finschafen on August 3rd. Our arrival was totally unexpected by port authorities. A wireless request to Headquarters for information brought a garbled message, apparently directing the Extavia to Oro Bay. Docking there on the 5th, we found SNAFU had turned to JANFU (joint Army-Navy) Neither the Army nor the Navy nor the Australians knew anything about the Extavia. Further wireless messages were exchanged over five days, then back to Finschafen we repaired. "You again," said the exasperated port officer, but this time he came up with orders for us to proceed to Hollandia the same day. The Extavia put in at Hollandia and a few of the boat travelers paid hasty visits to the camp. Enroute to Hollandia a sub sounding was made and depth charges were laid. Anchored overnight in Maffin Bay between Hollandia and Sarmi Point, the passengers saw their first action in New Guinea. Artillery and A-20's were devastating Nips at Sarmi. After dark, enemy patrols foraged the area and engagements took place during the night, with two air alerts. It was a good show. We could sleep the next day. The Extavia dropped anchor off Middleburg Island on August 26th, and by the 28th everyone was ashore on the mainland. Nothing like a sea trip to rest the nerves.
Of the Mandan Victory and the Balch, bearing motor vehicles and clean-up parties, we learn only that passengers on the former ate with the crew and on the latter set up a field kitchen and cooked their own. Of the stout Liberty Ship George S. Boutwell, the record states barely that she arrived at Sansapor on September 3rd. Of the Ripley, deponent sayeth not, A slightly dyspeptic historian sums up neatly the plight of the war-engulfed gourmet aboard a transport in commenting upon the cruise of the good ship U. S. S. Sea Perch, once of the United Fruit Lines. Says he: "Our meals aboard ship were terrible. It was the worst food I have eaten in 44 months of Army life."
A 70th Squadron report written months afterward made the statement: "It was generally felt when we arrived at Sansapor that if the world were to be given an enema, this was the spot at which operations would begin." (With apologies to John Hersey). To members of the first shore parties of the Ground Echelons even this observation seems scarcely adequate as a commentary.
Mar Strip at Sansapor came into being by way of an Allied amphibious landing on July 30th. There had been no ground or air reaction to this movement except for one belated reconnaissance on July 31. Strategically speaking, this was the final step in the campaign to retake New Guinea, which began in August-September of 1942 with the expulsion of the enemy from Milne Bay. It was uphill work in the early stages, but since the fall of Lae in September 1943, advances had been made with great rapidity. With the key points of Milne Bay, Buna, Lae, Finschafen, Saidor, Hansa Bay, Aitape, Hollandia, Wakde, Biak, Noemfoor, and Sansapor in Allied hands, the enemy's forces in New Guinea, lacking both external support and internal cohesion, were little more than dead branches. As a result of the Sansapor move, Manokwari, with its garrison of about 15,000 troops, was cut off as effectively as Wewak. The enemy lost no time, however, in attempting to evacuate to the islands further west, especially to Ceram. Occupation of Middleburg Island by the Allies was carried out simultaneously with the Sansapor operation.
The first clearing details boarded trucks at the beach side of the strip, and were driven over mountainous bumps through a thick cloud of dust and up a bulldozed path into the most dense rain forest they had ever seen. When the trucks reached a point where the path widened slightly and abruptly stopped, the men were handed axes, machetes, saws, picks, and shovels and told "All right men, this is it. Let's go to work." The dismayed squads pitched into their appalling task. Not only did 50, 80, and 100 foot mahogany, teak, lauan, and other trees have to be felled, but before a tree could be cut a dense thicket of underbrush had to be hacked away with machetes.
The inches-thick bed of leaves under foot was alive with tiny red mites or chiggers, which enjoyed the feast of their lives on our lower extremities. The leaves had to be raked into piles; then it was discovered that such was the persistent dampness they would not burn unless saturated with fuel oil or gasoline. When the rains fell the unscraped, unrolled paths knifed out by the bulldozers rapidly became mud-lakes as truck and jeep wheels churned through. There was nothing, nothing at all, pleasant about Sansapor for the first arrivals.
First parties returned to the boats for meals and sleep this first night, but a few hardy souls elected to stay in the "area." There had been a scramble in unloading priorities on the beach and various tents and cots of the Squadrons were seized by engineer and infantry units unloading at the same time. We in turn acquired their cots and tentage.
Some infantry jungle hammocks were obtained and fortunate ones among the first to sleep ashore slung these between trees. Others slept eight and nine in pyramidal tents or even out in the open, cots under mosquito bars. The famous New Guinea insects attacked en masse.
Over the weeks the dense rain forest yielded to axe, shovel, sweat, bulldozer, truck, and determination. Mess, supply, and personnel tents rose on frameworks of green timber that had stood on the spot. Unloading was completed, goods sorted, and the line facilities set up. The seemingly impossible was being accomplished. Areas began to shape up, showers hastily thrown up on arrival were finished off and screened, storage tanks erected, wells cased. Men and officers worked all day on Squadron details, then applied the twilight hours to clearing and finishing off their own tents. Piles of brush, and fallen trees up to three feet in diameter, had to be skirted when walking from tent to orderly room or mess hall, but these soon gave way to dynamite, fire, and drag line.
The Sansapor area received its initial raid during the evening of August 26th, and for the next seven days, with the exception of the 29th, the enemy managed to send a daily average of more than two airplanes over Sansapor and vicinity. All of these raids occurred between 1930-0200.
On August 27th five unwanted Purple Hearts were picked up by some Group officers when the condition red paid dividends to the enemy. Capts. Raymond Jaskoviak and Willis R. Garber, and Lieuts. Raymond Proctor, Richard Grabenborst, and Les Sokler were wounded by shell fragments. The latter three officers were hospitalized for as long as two months before rejoining Group Headquarters.
At 0207 on the morning of August 31st, two enemy medium bombers attacked Mar and Middleburg strips.
The first bomber came in low from the Southwest and dropped one bomb on Mar strip. No damage was inflicted but one man was wounded. The second bomber attacked from the Southeast dropping one stick of bombs, causing slight damage to Middleburg strip. Two further alerts were issued at hour intervals following the attack, but no other airplanes appeared.
Between 1956 and 2014 on September 1, Sansapor radar picked up an enemy airplane west of Middleburg. This plot was probably caused by the airplanes that bombed the Biak area between 2123-2220.
At 2113 on September 4 an air raid warning was sounded, and one unidentified airplane was indicated to the West, but did not close.
On September 7 a red alert was issued between 2330 to 2346, but no enemy airplane appeared.
On September 10, a single enemy airplane approached from the Southwest along the coastline and dropped six or seven light bombs west of the Wewe river. Also on the same date two enemy airplanes made separate passes at Middleburg. The alert started at 0305, and the all clear was given at 0412. The enemy airplanes were turned back by the AA. No bombs were dropped.
On September 11, one unidentified enemy airplane came from the Southwest along the coast and dropped six or seven small bombs west of the Wesan River. Searchlights and AA engaged without result. Indication of one airplane over Middleburg was received. AA engaged without result. All clear was given at 0419.
When the Air Echelons arrived on the 15th and 16th, tired ground men jibed and taunted, "Ho, softies. You should have been here when it was ROUGH." The trite phrase, already worn from use in North Africa, Italy, Burma, and The 'Canal, was never more aptly applied. But the air travelers did not have it at all easy. Although they had only the brush and thicket to clear for their tents, they made the acquaintance of the chiggers and centipedes and the skin rashes. They hacked and hewed at stumps and roots to pitch their tents, and then went to the dust bowl at the line to help set their sections up. They were regaled at night with the tale of the 70th men who, exploring the jungle in back of the Squadron area, found a dead and decomposing Jap. They were told how ominously close the perimeter was and how many Nips were still in the hills.
Flight Echelons arriving the 16th and 17th landed at Middleburg strip, as Mar was not yet ready to receive bombers. After the areas had been cleared to a point where small details could finish up the work, all attention was concentrated on the line. S-2's and S-3's threw up their own pyramidal tents between revetments and crowded their desks, tables, and maps in as best they could. When the steel matting was ready for the bombers, they hopped over from Middleburg, a mere "split-second" between take off there and landing at Mar. When a Mitchell taxied past a tent at the line to reach its revetment, the tent billowed like a spinnaker in the prop wash and a pall of dust and grit hung for 15 minutes. Two weeks later when corrugated sheet iron had been thrown over native lumber framework, hard-working Operations and Intelligence personnel got some slight relief from incipient silicosis, because their working quarters had in most cases been recessed from the taxi loop enough to eliminate the worst of the dust.
To recite every hardship of the first days at Sansapor would require far more space than can be allotted in this volume. The curtain is about to rise on Act III of our tactical performance-The Indies. Therefore, in the hope that these few words do Justice to a month of arduous camp-building against the formidable natural resistance, your editors would like to take leave of this subject with a parting word on the spirit of the men who built Sansapor. Veterans of Caledonia and 'Canal, and replacements who joined the others at Stirling and at Sansapor itself worked side by side through the endless uncomfortable and tiresome hours at line-hut and latrine building, digging and driving, and the thousand other exhausting tasks of camp building, and into their seemingly small, humble, unglamorous task went the same building and fighting spirit that stretched the Alcan Highway north to the Arctic, picked and reamed the Burma and Ledo roads from India to hard-pressed, struggling China, and pushed the railway and highway across the withering Iranian desert to carry the material of war to our Russian Allies.
At this time an old neighbor, co-worker and recent fellow traveler on the Sea Perch officially joined the Group family. This was the 886th Chemical Company (Air Operations), which was to share in the Group's life and activities from this time onward as an attached unit.
The 886th, too, had an interesting prior history, and was already well known to us when the official connection was established. The unit was activated in Hawaii in July, 1942, at Hickam Field, as an assigned section of the Seventh Air Force. The original cadre of Lieutenant Martin, first CO; First Sergeant Bozenny and 15 other enlisted men were drawn from the Fifth Chemical Company, one of the few Chemical Warfare units of the peacetime regular army. From activation until May, 1943, the 886th was busily and energetically preparing itself for its job in the war. In addition to training and outfitting itself for the job in the war, the Company took part in the air training activities of the Seventh Air Force, filling spray tanks, providing Chemical warfare demonstrations, and participating in Chemical maneuvers in the Makua Valley. It also carried on its service unit functions, storing incendiary munitions and Chemical Warfare supplies. In October, 1942, the first men of the Company, one platoon, sailed for New Hebrides.
In May, 1943, the balance of the Company embarked on the USAT Jane Addams and moved to the South Pacific by way of Samoa and New Hebrides, arriving at Guadalcanal in July. Here the Company became part of the 13th Air Force and the XIII Bomber Command, and was attached to the 307th Bomb Group (H). Their experiences at the 'Canal duplicated those of the squadrons--a dense patch of jungle near Carney Field had to be cleared for a camp area. The Company soon settled down to the tropical island routine of work, air raids, mud, heat, dust, and dehydrated foods.
Immediately upon arrival at the 'Canal the Company began construction operation of a large incendiary and chemical munitions dump with T/Sgt. Nick Cristea in charge. It was in October of '43 that the 886th first became acquainted with the Group, its first work for us being the preparation of spray tanks for experimental smoke screening operations. In November a detachment accompanied the Group to the Russell Islands, where this work was continued. During the above periods Lieutenant Blohm and then Lieutenant Kemmler served as CO's, succeeded in December by Capt. John W. Thompson.
When August, 1944, rolled around, the 886th boarded the Sea Perch, and made its way to Sansapor, picking up parties from the Group's squadrons en route.
At this time new faces appeared in the Company and we find the following in the key jobs: First Sergeant Moots; Cpl. Schneider in the Orderly Room; T/5 Thomas E. Adkins, Mail Clerk; T/4 Raymond Ritchie, motor mechanic; T/4 Myron S. Nerby in charge of feeding the boys; T/5 Robert Monks as Company Clerk with T/5 Raymond McKeon as Personnel Clerk and T/5 Edward M. Hoban as Distributing Point supply clerk, while T/5 Forrest M. Hoover was busy as manager of the Company baseball team and looking after Special Services.
Upon arrival at Sansapor, the 886th was attached to the Group. A heavy schedule of preparation of gasoline gel fire bombs for use in P-38s and B-25's was immediately undertaken, and the Company was able to feel that it has really come to grips with the Japs, for its bombs were doing plenty of irreparable damage to the Nip installations in the Indies.
Lieut. G. L. Swangren and Lieut. Leroy L. Zang joined the unit at this time.
Japanese aircraft strength in the Halmaheras, Celebes, and Philippines was estimated in the late summer of 1944 at 700 planes. After futile attempts to halt our landing at Morotai, the Jap began to withdraw his aircraft from the Halmaheras to the second-ring Indies defense line stretching from Sandakan in British North Borneo through Celebes, Boeroe, and Ceram to the Aroe Islands. Studded into this ring were some 30 airfields, excluding Borneo, and many supply stations. From these fields and bases it was apparently his intention to prevent our reoccupation of the Philippines, or failing that, to delay us as long as possible and at the greatest cost.
These targets had been bombed during the previous months by heavy units based at Noemfoor, Biak, and Owl. The process of neutralization had begun and the Group's assignment was to complete it, keep the airfields out of operation, destroy the remaining aircraft, bomb, burn, and strafe the enemy's oil wells, supply and personnel concentrations, and deny the water beneath our wings to his small cargo ships and barges.
The first Philippine beach head was in the making.
The 13th Air Task Force, comprised of the Crusaders and two P-38 Groups, was charged with the protection of the left flank in the "march back."
In accomplishing this, we would also isolate the enemy garrisons on Kai, Aroe, and Tanimbar Islands, and on Timor and Flores to the south and west.
The offensive got under way when Major Paxton and Lieut. George J. Manuche, each leading 12 aircraft from the 70th and 69th, took off from Mar Strip on September 16th to attack Namlea, on Boeroe Island, from medium altitude. It was the opening shot for the Crusaders on the airfields, and supply bases in the Netherlands East Indies.
By the 22nd all the squadrons had got in one or more strikes on Indies targets. F/0 Bernard Long led the 75th's first, a formation of six at medium altitude, which hit Langoan Town and Samate Airdrome in trios on the 18th to drop twenty-four 500's. The 390th joined the fray on the 21st with Lieut. R. H. Partrick taking nine planes over Namlea runway at noon to release 36 quarter-tonners. The formation met heavy AA of an intense and accurate variety, three ships being holed and Lieut. John J. Rapp, bombardier, and Sgt. R. E. Hansen, engineergunner, getting nicked by flak. The 100th, last of the squadrons to reach the new base, flew its first on the 22nd. These first missions were flown from Middleburg Island, crews in some cases having to get up at 0330 to reach their planes via the Middleburg ferry. Nobody liked this arrangement and everyone was relieved when the Mar hardstands were completed and the Middleburg commuting ended.
A seven-plane barge sweep of the Halmaheras by the 69th on September 21, Lieut. Donald Holloway leading, scored a direct hit and two near misses with centuries on a long fuel barge, and two near misses, with 1650 rounds strafed, on a two-man submarine near Kaoe Bay. Flying a weather mission to Northeast Celebes on the same day, Lieuts. R. E. Overmeyer and Staff, of the 69th, dropped 12 one-hundred-pounders on Manado Town and Kokas Rest Camp, demolishing buildings and starting fires. The pair observed 22 twin engine planes on the Langoan revetments, six apparently serviceable.
Also active on the 22nd was the 70th, with a pair searching Seleman Bay, Cape Cell, Cape Haja, Bara Pay, Mongole, Sanana, Obi Major, and Djoronga and strafing Toedjoeh Island. Lieut. Thomas R. Hatfield led the 75th's nine over Haroekoe at minimum for what the report described as an enjoyable mission. They blew up a frame building, started four fires, and strafed the whole area viciously, giving the tower a particular going over that sent the occupants running for their lives. On the way a 150-foot wooden ship lying off east Haroekoe Strait was also shot up. Two planes were hit by machine gun fire without serious damage. Capt. Gordon M. Dana took the 390th over the same target on the deck to score hits on houses and gun positions. F/0 John T. Elson, bombardier, was later awarded the Purple Heart for the injuries he received when small arms fire smashed the greenhouse.
The 100th, which had got in strikes on Haroekoe and a pair of negative searches, hit Namlea on the 24th, led by Capt. Leonard V. Super. Lieut. William H. Meyer made a second run for photos on this mission and got himself well shot up by intense heavy fire, but without a vital hit or personal injury. Lieut. Jack B. Blankenship took the Squadron over Langoan on the 25th for 60% hits, encountering light, medium, and inaccurate AA.
The schedule maintained a fast pace for the balance of the month, with strikes to Haroekoe, and Namlea again, and to Kaoe Bay, Amahai, Boela Tank Farm, Langoan, and Haroekoe. The 30th of September produced the most interesting missions of the month.
While Lieut. J. S. Whitehead, 75th, led six over Sidate, accompanied by Lieut. William H. Meyer and six of the 100th, the 69th and 70th, Lieut. L. E. Davis and Lieut. R. V. Gadd leading, hit Langoan, and the 390th, Lieut. Carl N. Bernasco leading, bombed Mapanget Supply. This is what these Crusaders were doing at 1030 and 1100 that morning: The 70th went across at 10,000 feet and dropped 24 bombs. Two single engined bandits, believed to be Oscars, followed the B-25s through the bomb run, 800 to 1000 feet above and slightly to the right. On the retirement two phosphorus bombs were dropped, which exploded in large bursts, accurate in altitude, but trailing.
The bogies stayed with the formation, 3000 feet above, until they reached the coast. During this time a third Jap came 3000 feet above the formation from seven o'clock, continued above and to the right of the formation, looped, started rocking back and forth, and then dived ahead of the formation down to water level. At the coast, with the formation at 9000 feet, the first bogie made three passes from seven o'clock on the second element. On the first pass it fired from 800 to 400 yards and peeled off down and to the right. On the second and third passes it peeled off to the left after closing to 600 yards. Both B-25s fired. The tall gunner saw tracers from one turret gun enter the Jap plane and after the third pass it dropped away, emitting black smoke and apparently out of control. Immediately afterward, the second bandit, which was at three o'clock, made a left turn ahead of the formation and passed within 50 feet of both elements from two o'clock, but did not fire. Two turret gunners fired, and it dropped away to the left and behind the formation, smoking in spurts.
Following across at 1048, the 69th dropped 20 on the target and was met by slight, medium, and inaccurate AA. On the bomb run five bursts of white smoke observed falling in streamers were thought to be phosphorus bombs, but no bogies were seen.
Meanwhile the 390th was over Mapanget to drop twenty-four 500-pounders. The formation retired from the target at 9000 feet and made a gradual descent. As they reached the coastline at Lembeh Strait, four enemy fighters were observed at 11,000 feet flying a parallel course 1200 yards to the right. The first attack was made from the rear as one enemy fighter broke away from his flight, diving in from 5 o'clock from 11,000 feet. His attack started at 1500 yards, breaking off at 800 with a left turn. During the attack, at least two guns on each wing of the bogie were firing steadily. One phosphorus bomb burst about 500 yards off the right wing of the rear element during the attack. Six turrets and six tail guns returned attacking fire, and tracers were seen flying all over the sky.
The second attack occurred six or seven minutes after the first, when enemy fighters peeled off to the left. Lieutenant Bernasco turned the formation into the attacking planes, firing a long burst from his nose guns. One bogie came in head-on, pressing the attack from 1000 to 300 yards, firing at least four wing guns. The entire formation fired on him with sure bits. At 300 yards the fighter rolled into a vertical bank with nose high and some appearance of a high speed stall, showing his belly to the formation, which continued pouring tracers into him. As he went into the bank, Lieutenant Bernasco anticipated a phosphorus bomb and drew his formation up 300 feet. The Jap did throw the bomb from the vertical bank and it exploded about 200 feet below the formation. A piece of the plane came off just after he had released his bomb. He went from the bank into a flat spin as the formation lost sight of him. The other two Nips dropped phosphorus bombs far to the left and rear of our formation during this attack. No further attack was pressed, and three of the fighters joined in formation to our right and took the opposite direction. A couple of minutes after the attack a splash was seen in the water. No plane was seen to crash in the water, but as three enlisted men in one crew were discussing the splash they observed a column of gray smoke rising from the spot. It appears that the Crusaders got a plane, but no official credit was given.
While this action was taking place, Lieut. H. F. Watts, 70th, with a formation of four searching for an enemy destroyer north of Ternate Island, was also having some fun. Crossing Kaoe Bay he saw three Sugar Charlies lying off the Airdrome and went to attack, discovering too late that they were bulks. His wingman immediately made good the sighting with another of three barges on the beach between Madjid and Kaoe. These were strafed with 1700 rounds, and numerous hits were noted. The formation rejoined and continued its square search. Enroute to base, while passing over Wor Island, Sgt. H. C. Bowen, Lieut. John T. Mogan's gunner, sighted the periscope and wake of a submarine. Lieutenant Mogan circled, called the formation leader, asked and received permission to attack, sent a flash sighting message to base, and attacked from 300 feet. He toggled four bombs at 50-foot intervals from sufficient altitude to permit the projectiles to enter the water nearly vertically, to gain greater submergence. The third bomb hit directly on the leading edge of the wake. The formation circled after the attack and saw an 80-foot diameter oil slick rapidly expanding, and small casks, boxes, and other debris coming to the surface. Fuel was running low, so no further observation was possisible, but there was no doubt in the minds of the crews that the kill was definite.
The 70th seem to have been, without question, the eager beavers of this day. Capt. George Salvo and Lieut. Reed Stevens, also out searching, strafed barges at Mandilio Island and sampans at Biloeloe, in addition to obtaining photos and weather reporting.
The general program for October was a continuation of the attrition bombing of Ambon, Ceram, and the Halmaheras, and constant shipping sweeps. The usual operations schedule called for four squadrons to send eight planes each on strike; two squadrons would also have a pair out on shipping sweep, another would have two standing by on shipping alert, and the fourth squadron would send a single plane on a weather and photo reconnaissance flight. The fifth squadron would enjoy a day off from combat for ground maintenance.
The first found Lieut. Richard H. Scruggs and Lieut. Joseph D. Wright of the 75th out on weather and photo reconnaissance; nine from the 70th led by Lieut. Reed Stevens and seven from the 69th led by Lieut. R. E. Overmyer hit Doom Island as a secondary, while the 100th's nine, Lieut. John J. Burnett in the lead, reached the primary at Manado. A neat pattern of 9 tons was laid over Manado, causing an explosion 400 feet in diameter with smoke billowing to 3000 feet.
The month opened inauspiciously for sleeping--the only attack of the month, out of several alerts, came at 0200 on the 2nd. A Dinah coming in from the east dove from 13000 to 2000 and dropped several 100-pound bombs on 6th Division Headquarters, killing two officers and an enlisted man and wounding three others. A Sansapor P-61 shot down this or another intruder about 10 miles inland. Two alerts on the 3rd-4th totaled an hour and 35 minutes and another on the 4th-5th an hour and two minutes, but no action ensued, and thereafter the only hindrances to sound snoring were the Guinea insects or noisy neighbors.
The second day of the month brought good shooting. The 69th led by Captain Hedlund, 70th led by Major Paxton, and 75th led by Captain Thorndyke bombed Laha. Leaving the target, the 70th sighted a 75-foot two-masted schooner 25 miles southeast of Amahai. Major Paxton sent the last element, Lieut. Harry W. Devlin, Robert J. Weston, and Sherod Santos, down to strafe. Eleven strafing runs sent 4800 rounds into the mahogany deck house and gunwhales, cutting off the mast and almost sawing the craft in two. Three of the crew dived over-side and started the 15-mile swim to shore after futilely directing light machine gun fire at the attackers. When the final strafing run pulled off, the vessel was listing badly, its decks were awash, and it was sinking fast. Weathered off Manado on the same day, Major Carmody led the 390th's three trios over Jefman-Samate to drop 500-pounders, drawing moderate and inaccurate heavy fire from Doom Island.
Lieut. Lawrence J. Ruff of the 390th was in the lead of a pair of searchers over Ambon, strafing a 150-foot boat at Loehoe Village and the AA positions at Piroe Town.
Lieut. S. R. Wadsworth of the 390th ruined a night's rest for Japs at Haroekoe and Ambon on October 3, dropping a ton of bombs in the course of his nocturnal snoop. Lieut. George J. Manuche and R. E. Overmyer of the 69th drew an interesting assignment and some unusual passengers this day. A native had discovered a Jap encampment near Asbokin, not far from Sansapor. The native, who knew neither English nor Dutch, told 13th Air Task Force officers about his findings by diagrams. The discoverer, another tribesman who spoke Dutch, and an English-speaking N. E. I. officer flew as observers with Lieutenant Overmyer. In a Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance play, the first native indicated the target to the second native, who reported it to the Dutch officer, who informed Overmyer, who radioed Manuche, who strafed 200 rounds, and dropped a Rube Goldberg bomb made of a full gasoline drum rigged with phosphorus and a hand grenade and some leaflets. The bomb, unfortunately, did not explode.
Surprisingly enough, the outstanding mission of the month for the 100th was a weather recon and photo mission flown by Major Henson and Capt. Charles W. Wolfendale on the 4th of October. Each plane carried a full load of ammunition and bombs in case a worthwhile target was found. After photographing some 27 planes in the revetment areas on either side of Langoan Runway, they decided to strafe. Maj. James D. Henson took the east side of Langoan Runway and Captain Wolfendale, the west. The Major's crew reported at least seven good bits, Captain Wolfendale's score being four. At the beginning of Captain Wolfendale's run, bombardier Fred F. Foxx dropped one quarter-tonner directly on a camouflaged fighter at the north end of the strip. The explosion got another parked 50 feet away. Light AA fire from the southeast of the runway ceased on Major Henson's strafing. Confirmation was requested for 12 planes damaged and one destroyed.
The 70th's night hecklers, Lieut. Harry W. Devlin and Lieut. Robert J. Weston, augmented their bomb load with ten cases of empty (naturally) beer bottles over Ambon, Haroekoe, and Sorong.
Not only the most unusual event of October, but one of the most thrilling in the Group's history, began on October 5th when Lieut. Col. Spencer took off on a night heckle of Ambon Town. On the return leg Colonel Spencer was forced to ditch by lack of fuel, after losing his way in weather.
When radio contact with Colonel Spencer was lost and it became evident that he was not going to return in the normal way, if at all, a continuing search immediately got under way, which went on until the 13th. Anxious eyes probed every inch of ocean and island that might possibly reveal the Colonel's party in rafts or ashore. The effort put forth produced another rescue not counted upon, when Lieut. John R. Sathern of the 69th, returning from Ambon, sighted a wrecked P-40 on tiny Zeven Island. "This island was so small." one of Sather's crew commented, "that the fuselage and wings divided it into thirds." An emaciated naked figure jumped up when he saw the Mitchell overhead, and, evidently a modest man, disappeared into the brush, re-emerging clad in blue shorts and waving. Sather's crew bundled chocolate bars cigarettes. jungle kits, and even a "Reader's Digest" with a note wishing the downed flier a pleasant time in Sydney on his furlough after the rescue, and Lieut. Leland M. Swanson employed his bombsight to drop the package within a few feet of the survivor. Sathern's radio report brought a PBY quickly to the scene. All Crusaders hoped that Colonel Spencer 2nd his party were faring equally well. Lieuts. John W. Weeks and Grover H. Chamberlain in the 69th's two weather planes to Ceram on October 13th found Colonel Spencer and his party. "Help-Spencer-Food" had been outlined on the Ceram beach. Unknown to us, the party had been sighted by P-47s on the previous day and a Dumbo was already on the way.
Captain McClelland and his Special Services cohorts always had the movie operating as soon is possible. Those bomb fin crates made hard seats.
The following is a narrative account of a water landing in a B-25J airplane, and the subsequent rescue of five survivors after an eight-day sojourn in enemy territory. The airplane took off with an eight-man crew from Mar Field, Cape Sansapor, at 1906 October 5, to execute a night heckler mission over Ambon Town located south of Ceram Island. The crew was comprised of the following personnel:
Pilot Lt. Col. Truman A. Spencer, Jr.
Co-pilot Lieut. Joe D. Ivey
Navigator Lieut. J. N. Burns (Went down with the plane)
Bombardier Lieut. Mark J. Ingram
Radio Operator S/Sgt. N. J. LoPresti
Gunner S/Sgt. R. J. Joyce (went down with the plane)
Engineer S/Sgt. T. N. Sutton
Intelligence Officer Lieut. C. A. Fiezl (disappeared in jungle)
The plane arrived on station at 2130 and by 2334 had dropped their total load of four 500-pound bombs on targets throughout the area. The last bomb was dropped on Namlea airdrome which was clearly recognized and a course was set for base. No enemy opposition had been encountered over the target area except for a few scattered bursts of AA. The weather was entirely clear over land with a few scattered thunderheads over water areas in the vicinity of the target. The moon was full. An in-flight report stating that the mission had been successfully completed, and including an ETA at 0145 was transmitted and receipted for by Sansapor prior to 2400.
When flying at 10,000 feet over Dampier Straits approximately 90 miles from base, the pilot was on instruments spasmodically and had started a gradual let-down hoping to find improved weather conditions. At 3000 feet, still unable to get into the clear, the descent was stopped and he climbed back to 5000 feet. It was now 0137. The plane was on a magnetic course of 80' and the exact position unknown. The radio operator asked for a (what is magnetic course to steer with zero wind to reach you?) from Sansapor. A reply gave 165' (The approximate magnetic course is 165'). The pilot was hesitant to follow this course as it did not seem correct for the position in which he believed he was, but on the advice of the navigator, he turned to the new heading. This decision started the trouble. After 45 minutes without making a landfall, it was apparent that they were not near base, and their position was entirely unknown to them. An (I intend to ask for a series of bearings) was sent at 0215 while flying at 10,000 feet. Here the second misfortune occurred. Three stations started sending and in spite of the plane's request for all stations except Sansapor to stay off the air, various unknown stations continued to send, and jammed the frequency. Finally a course of 240' was understood although the transmitting station was unknown. One hour's gas remained at the time the new course was taken up. At 0240 a light was spotted to the south and a course set toward the light. A water landing seemed inevitable so the waist windows were chopped out and guns and ammunition were jettisoned in preparation. During the chopping the radio receiver was damaged, so the operator, observing that his transmitter was still functioning, tied down the key in hopes that the ground stations would get a fix and arrange a rescue. At 0250 from 20 feet the light was discovered to be a burning oil tank. The plane flew down a near-by landing strip and observed a flashing green light evidently inviting a landing. The strip looked serviceable and one crew member suggested landing although all now realized that the strip under them was Boela airdrome. The pilot vetoed this suggestion as he did not feel they could destroy the airplane in time to prevent compromise. A 90' turn to the left carried them out to sea and into a rainstorm. No anti-aircraft fire was received from Boela which, along with the flashing green light, suggests that the enemy was expecting one of their planes or knowing the predicament of this plane, hoped to capture it.
The fuel gauges now indicated empty, but the pilot decided to continue until he was out of the rain and had the benefit of visibility before attempting the landing. With only occasional glimpses of the water beneath, he was unable to judge his altitude. Altitude was lost and before he wished, the fuselage was dragging through the water. The pilot called for flaps, but before he had more than 10', the water landing was underway. The plane hit at 0308 on a 90' course into easy ground swells approximately three feet high. The position was just east of Boela. The landing was rough and was made without a warning to the crew.
The tail section was torn away in the crash and could not be seen. Although both the co-pilot and radio operator pulled the life raft release, the raft was not out of its compartment when the radio operator made his exit. He re-entered the plane, which was rapidly filling with water and again gave the release a series of violent tugs, but the raft still refused to break out. He climbed on top of the fuselage and finding the door of the raft compartment unlatched but jammed, forced it open and pulled out the raft. The pilot, the co-pilot, and the radio operator boarded the raft immediately and, guided by the cries of those still in the water, started picking up survivors. The Intelligence Officer and the engineer were picked up in the immediate vicinity. The bombardier was a poor swimmer and in addition had a defective life vest. He expended all his efforts in remaining afloat without regard to his position and had drifted approximately 250 yards away from the plane when picked up 20 minutes later. (One cartridge in the life vest was lost in the plane prior to landing, when he was checking the apparatus; the valve was open in the other compartment and the gas escaped when the cylinder was punctured).
The plane sank approximately 45 seconds after landing. The fuselage was so badly damaged it could not possibly have remained afloat for so long a time except for the buoyancy furnished by the empty tanks.
As soon as all were certain beyond doubt that there were no more survivors in the water, the raft was allowed to drift southeast approximately five miles off the coast. All personal kits were lost in the crash. The emergency equipment in the raft and four pistols were the only supplies salvaged. All were well clothed with shoes and leggings. The entire crew except the pilot vomited from the salt water which they had swallowed. Two syrettes of morphine were administered to the engineer and his wound was sprinkled with sulpha powder and bandaged.
At daybreak all hands had recovered physically and were in good spirits. Various Allied planes passed overhead and the party felt they would soon be spotted. During the morning hours the engineer suffered considerably and at noon the pilot decided to land and attempt to set the leg. The sail was raised and the raft took up a westerly course in a good breeze that carried the craft through the Bay of Boela within a mile of shore. No activity was observed on the coast, except that the fire in the oil storage tank which served as a beacon the previous night was still burning. While approaching the beach, several of the crew thought they saw a native watching them, but he was hidden in the fringe of the jungle and they were not positive on this point. In view of later events it seems likely that they were observed at this time.
A beachhead was made at 1730 at a point midway between Bay of Boela and Ingelas Bay on the northeast coast of Ceram. just prior to landing, a K-ration was opened, but the contents were soaked in salt water and after a cracker per man had been rationed out, no edible portion remained. Three emergency water cans were on hand. On landing, the injured gunner was carried to the beach, the equipment was stacked nearby and the raft was hidden in the mangroves which bordered the beach.
The pilot made a short reconnaissance trip, and on return posted a sentry 75 yards on either side of the party. The bombardier was on the east flank and the Intelligence Officer on the west. The co-pilot and radio operator administered the last remaining syrette of morphine to the engineer and under the supervision of the pilot attempted to set the bone. This caused excruciating pain and after pulling the leg with all their strength in an unsuccessful attempt to position the bone properly, it was given up as an impossible job. They decided to splint the leg with sticks to prevent movement of the bone. They were engaged in this when the sentry on the east gave an alarm, calling out the single word "Japs".
The pilot immediately ran to the west flank and asked the sentry there to rejoin the party. The party gathered around the injured member with pistols drawn; a hurried conference was held with some members wishing to fight it out while others felt it would be best to be taken prisoner of war. The pilot decided on the latter course, as flight with the injured man was impossible and the small party with only four pistols and limited ammunition could not hope to hold off an attack if unable to retreat and hide.
Meanwhile a party of five Japs and one native had jumped the bombardier from the rear as he was guarding the eastern approach to the beachhead. A bayonet was placed across his throat but be managed to give the alarm in spite of increased pressure applied to the bayonet. The Japs did a great deal of unintelligible jabbering as they tied the bombardier's hands crossed behind him with the straps from his Mae West. During the short struggle before he was subdued he attempted to fire his pistol but it would not operate although he operated the slide manually several times. One of the Japs was identified as an officer by his Samurai sword and his complete uniform, including a cap upon which was pinned a bar similar to our First Lieutenant's insignia. The remainder of the group was dressed in nondescript clothing with no uniformity. One was armed with a pistol similar to a Luger; the officer carried the large Samurai sword which all identified, having seen similar weapons previously among battle trophies; the balance of the intruders were armed with bayonets, and all the fliers agreed that each had one more of those weapons. The native wore only a pair of shorts and was bearded. He was described as light-skinned compared to the natives previously seen in the Solomon Islands. He communicated with the Japs by hand signs only. All seemed mostly concerned about the disposition of the American's jungle knife which was attached to his belt, but it is believed that it was finally given to the native, possibly as a reward for his duplicity.
After the capture was completed, the Jap officer asked the captive in good English how many were in the party. When the American hesitated in his reply, the Jap, perhaps uncertain of his English, hold up two fingers and pointed toward the beachhead. The bombardier nodded affirmatively; this underestimate of the strength of the survivors possibly accounts for their defeat in the ensuing fight. One Jap and the native were left with the captive and the remaining four approached the American party in single file down a narrow footpath.
As the Japs approached, the pilot again cautioned his crew against resistance; all had their hands up (three had pistols in their right hands) and several called out that they desired to surrender. For some reason the enemy showed no inclination to take prisoners. Perhaps they were confused by a larger group than they expected and suspected a trap; perhaps they felt the one officer captive was sufficient for interrogation, and for the glory of the Emperor decided to annihilate the invaders.
They attacked on the run, brandishing their weapons. Several of the defenders fired, but only the pistol held by the radio operator functioned. He shot the Jap officer through the forehead after the officer had hurtled the injured engineer lying on the sand and was about to strike with the sword. The action during the next few seconds is confused. Drawing from the mental pictures retained by the survivors, the following facts are established. The pilot was knocked off his feet and the co-pilot deflected a bayonet plunge aimed at the pilot's back. Meanwhile the radio operator had shot a third Jap through the chest and the fourth in an unobserved spot, but both were out of the struggle. Seeing the party struggling on the ground, he went to their help and shot the last of the attackers point blank under his right shoulder, causing him to relinquish his hold.
The last seen of the Intelligence Officer was at the beginning of the action. He was standing on the edge of the jungle pointing his pistol, which failed to fire, at the oncoming party. All agree he must have attempted an escape in the jungle. Some believe the Jap armed with a pistol fired at him; the bombardier believes he heard only .45 caliber shots, which discredits the belief that the Intelligence Officer was fired upon.
The bombardier was sitting on the ground during the battle with the guard of two nearby. The native seemed unhappy and ashamed about the whole affair and dropped his eyes each time the captive glanced in his direction. The Jap did not speak. After the action was over, the bombardier, certain that the Americans had been taken, arose and walked down the trail with the Jap following. The beach party, equally certain that the bombardier had been executed, were rapidly proceeding to evacuate in case additional patrols were near. As the two approached, the Jap, possibly shocked by what he saw, offered no resistance as the co-pilot stepped forward and connected with a very accurate and very hard blow to the chin, knocking him to the ground. The radio operator now stepped forward to administer the coup de grace with the muzzle resting on the Nip's head. The pistol misfired; the radio operator then struck him on the head with the muzzle but the blow was not sufficient to drop him and he scrambled off into the brush at a speed reported by all as amazing. The radio operator, in a last offensive gesture, threw the pistol at the retreating shape and the engagement was concluded.
The Japs were described as appearing well fed and in excellent condition. One carried a pair of binoculars. The pilot ordered the party to take no souvenirs and make no further examinations of the bodies or effects, as a hurried retreat seemed discreet.
By 1810 the raft had been pushed to sea with the five survivors aboard. When darkness fell the craft was about two miles off shore; the sea anchor was dropped, and the party prepared to spend the night with no definite plans laid for the following day. This night was the most torturous period of the entire eight days. The engineer was delirious most of the night. The sea was rough, making it impossible to remain dry, and the air and water were very cold. The survivors huddled together to furnish a little warmth to each other.
Daybreak of the seventh was welcome. An inventory was taken and it was found that almost the entire meager supply of emergency equipment had been lost on the beach. No rations, no water, and no first aid equipment were on hand. The raft was discovered to be leaking gas and losing its buoyancy. At 1000 it was decided to try the beach again, but at a different spot. The sail had been lost and all day long the party struggled to make progress on their course. One paddled while two stayed in the water and swam, pushing the raft ahead of them.
Shore was reached after dark, at about 2000. The last 50 yards to shore against the swells was described as a nightmare, and exact details are lacking. The raft was almost entirely deflated, and it was feared that the injured member might be lost.
On landing, the party, completely exhausted, left the raft on the beach and made their way 50 yards inland, where the burden of the incapacitated member became too great and they dropped on the spot, falling to sleep immediately. At 0200 they awakened and made another 50 yards inland, but again they found their burden too exhausting and were forced to stop the trek. At this stage a simple litter was constructed and thereafter movement was easier. Before daybreak another 100 yards was covered. All hands retired again, but were awakened at daybreak by a wild pig wandering near their location. This was daybreak of the eighth, the third morning away from base.
The jungle was not dense. Visibility through the trees was at least 25 yards. The bombardier and co-pilot left at daybreak to forage for food, returning about noon with three cocoanuts and a quart of water from a nearby stream. This expedition also picked up a good idea of the neighboring terrain. After lunch the party again moved in an effort to find a camp spot near the stream from which the water had been obtained. A native trail was discovered, and this facilitated the progress. At 1430 a large sheltering tree was spotted 15 yards off the trail and it was decided to make an overnight camp at this point. The two lieutenants again went after water and the party settled down to rest.
At about 1630 voices were heard on the trail and two apparently unarmed Japs were observed plodding along the trail laden with large packs. Hunger almost overcame discretion and an attack on the two with clubs was taken under consideration, but realizing their obligation to the helpless engineer, the men discarded the thought.
The party rested well that night and awoke the morning of the ninth much improved in spirits. In discussing their situation all concurred in the opinion that they could hide out and live in the jungle until help came. A valuable contribution to the improved morale was the attitude of the engineer, who declared he was feeling much better and that a great deal of his pain had subsided. He joked about his predicament, and this spirit was an inspiration to the rest.
After daylight they again hit the trail and made their way to the stream, which they followed downstream to within 150 yards of the beach. Here their final camp site was established. On the second day at this location a crude lean-to was constructed as a shelter against rain.
From this time to the morning of the 13th their life was comparatively uneventful. Cocoanuts were found in an adjacent grove, along with a few lemons. The lemons were reported to have furnished a decided pick-up. The radio operator was ill for several days as a result of eating a green cocoanut, but had recovered before their rescue. The engineer's wound showed no sign of infection, but was infested with maggots, which possibly explains the lack of infection. It was powdered daily with sulpha which was becoming so scarce that the others did not use it on their less serious cuts. Water from the stream was convenient for drinking and bathing. Drops of iodine were added to the water for several days, but the vial was lost during the trek, and it was drunk thereafter without treatment and without any ill effects. Chiggers, ants, flies, and mosquitoes were abundant and bothersome. Game was plentiful but could not be killed without weapons. Two watchers were dispatched to the beach each day and on the approach of friendly planes scratched out a sign reading "HELP-FOOD." Late one night the party believed they heard a motor-driven barge or a float plane landing at or near Boela.
Many planes passed overhead during the four-day period of waiting. Twelve P-47's flew low over their position on the morning of the twelfth, and they were certain their message had been seen by at least two. This later proved to be correct. Their greatest disappointment came later the same day when a Catalina searched up and down at low altitude only a mile off shore. Despite a mirror which was flashed at the plane as long as it was in sight, they were not seen.
On the morning of the thirteenth at 0900, two B-25's flew over the area and spotted the survivors. These planes stayed in the area for about 20 minutes dropping candy bars, an Australian jungle kit, and a signal flare.
At 1000 a Catalina landed, protected by the two P-47's which had made the sighting the previous day. The two pilots, unable to contact a rescue plane the preceeding day, had returned to base and volunteered to lead the rescue plane to the spot the following day.
A boat was sent ashore, and by 1130 all were aboard ready for take-off. The co-pilot attempted to swim to the plane to avoid overloading the small boat, but did not count on his diminished strength and was saved by the Catalina pilot, who dived into the water and assisted him to safety. The narrative ends with the five survivors receiving hospital treatment at 1430.
|Preface||Chapter 15||Chapter 17|