|Preface||Chapter 25||Chapter 27|
Front Row, left to right: Capt. R. J. Walker, Capt. W. F. Bretzke, Capt. R. H. White, Maj. R. B. Harris, Capt. J. E. Morrison, Lt. C. H. Fassinger, Capt. J. F. Blackburn, Capt. P. M. Lighty, Capt. R. E. Eliasen, Capt. H. E. Workman, Maj. T. R. Waddleton, Capt. F. H. Parker, Chaplain G. F. Ivey, Lt. R. L. Proctor, Capt. W. E. McLaughlin (front), Maj. A. H. Deters (front).
Second Row: Capt. W. D. Trone, Capt. E. Lutes, F. 0., D. L. Matthews, Lt. I. Brinn, Capt. W. W. Williams, Capt. N. C. Napier, Lt. H. J. Krummel, Lt. K. Chambers (A.L.O.), Lt. R. L. Smith, Lt. G. F. Meeder, Lt. Col. R. J. Koster, WO. L. Stumbles (A.L.O.), Lt. M. C. IVachs.
Back Row: Capt. H. J. Zahrndt, Maj. R. M. Clark, Lt. W. D. Flora, Capt. B. G. Fendall, Maj. D. W. Lyon, Lt. Col. T. H. Whitneybell, Capt. A. F. Bohnhoff, Capt. C. W. McClellan, Col. P. F. Helmick, Capt. E. L. Chapman, Lt. R. E. Grabenhorst, Capt. J. H. Brownell, Maj. W. C. Lindley, Maj. H. E. Goldsworthy, Maj. T. R. Weymouth, Lt. S. Sokler, WO. D. E. Holloway, Capt. W. W. Stone.
C H A P T E R 2 6
There were other missions in early June. A final mopup was flown to Cebu at the request of Ground forces there; Tuaran Town, Borneo was blasted with geepees and burned with Napalm. It was one of the first times that the 165-gallon Napalm wing tank was carried. To carry it, another modification was made on the "Jack of all Raids", the Mitchell Baker Two Five.
Racks were built under each wing from which could be hung a pair of wing tanks. Filled with gasoline, these tanks added another two hours' flight to the airplane, and could be salvoed when empty. Filled with Napalm, the hottest fire-producing material man has produced, and armed with an "any which way" fuse, the tanks were a devastating missle The mix would engulf a gun position, would spread over a wide expanse of defended ground sticking to whatever it hit, and, when used against cave defenses, would suffocate the inhabitants, even when the tank exploded outside the cave.
British Intelligence learned the japs were using Belait, Borneo, as a supply center and bivouac, so on June 6th, Napalm bombs and wing tanks were caried to the town. Three pairs of wing tanks and 204 hundred-pound bombs left the village a flaming hell. Brunei bluff, a Nip strongpoint, also got worked over the same day, as did the personnel and supply areas at Sibu airdrome.
Elements of the British and American fleets were seen in Brunei Bay June 9th, with another force of landing craft spotted near Balabac, heading southwest. The Crusaders were a part of the invasion force that swarmed onto the Brunei beaches that day. Twenty-four planes worked over two areas with 96 quarter-tonners and 40,000 rounds.
Their first target came as the initial wave of landing boats approached the beaches. Lieut. William B. Tanner, 1315 East California Avenue, Gainesville, Texas, led his six-plane element in a bombing and strafing attack on mortar and machine gun positions burrowed into a hill in back of the landing beaches.
One brigade of the famous Australian Ninth Division, the "Rats of Tobruk", had hit Tarakan; the "Rats'" 48th Brigade went into Brunei.
On the tenth 24 more Mitchells were put under tactical command of the Air Support party. Lieut. Thomas M. Cockrell, Kansas City, led the outstanding example of
close support that day. His mission was to bomb and strafe the north side of a main Jap supply road near the beach. Aussie patrols were working up to the south side of the road, and it was Cockrell's job to see to it that none of his munitions crossed the road. None did.
The Aussies had enormous faith in the Crusaders, according to Australian Liaison Officers. On numerous occasions when ordered to withdraw from a "Margin for Error" area before a bomb run, they said, "The hell with it. Those bloody blokes woiit hurt us. They put 'em where they're supposed to." Once two men were injured from bomb fragments, but it failed to dampen the remainder's enthusiastic regard for our aim.
Lieut. Ralph A. Gill, Hollywood, California, led his element over a grove full of Jap reinforcements, and then strafed five loaded boxcars on the "only railroad in Borneo." The ASP called the attack "Beautiful."
Colonel Harvey was still with the Group at this time, and led one of the air support missions. After completing his attack, the bombing and strafing of a column of japs fleeing along a jungle trail, lie was told by the Liaison Officer to stick around. When he asked why, he was told he would receive a very important message to take back to his headquarters. -
For 15 minutes his flight circled the area. The pilot said later, "We had just worked over a trailful of japs, and there's nothing that makes you feel quite so useless as flying over hostile Country like a big-eared bird after you've expended your bombs and ammunition."
Finally a voice with a veddy British accent came into his earphones, "Here is your message; please take it verbatim:
"Mary had a little lamb; its fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go."
At midnight that night, Colonel Harvey was still trying frantically to find out what the message meant so that he could go to sleep.
The support work at Brunei continued. On the 12th, 24 planes hit Menumbok village, Binsulok Village, and Kimarut Town. The first two were shattered and burned-, the latter was completely destroyed. The mission report notes that two japs were seen running toward a house in the south end of Menumbok. They ran a dead heat with two 100-pound bombs.
Six planes from the 100th squadron on the 12th had more fun than anybody. They found the hidden engine on the Jap-used railroad between Weston and Beaufort. They didn't exactly find it. They diced the track along its entire route without success. This led them to believe the locomotive was hidden in the tunnel at Baun.
They attacked in line astern, skipping bombs into the eastern end of the tunnel. When the bombs exploded, steam and the nose of a locomotive were seen to emerge from the western end, according to the interrogation.
From then until June 20th daily support missions were flown to the Jesselton, Weston, Labuan, Miri areas. Frequently the flyers were unable to observe the results of their bombing and strafing, but it was evidently satisfactory. In instances where damage assessment was possible, either through observation or ground troop reports, results were uniformly good.
On June 21st the ASP asked to have an artillery emplacement near Pujut knocked out. It was difficult to locate the target, but while the planes were stooging around looking for it, the gun obligingly located itself by firing a couple of rounds at the planes. It was dug in between two buildings. Thirty 250-pound bombs were deposited in the area and a few thousand rounds from the nose guns. Both buildings were destroyed, the gun position was destroyed, a nearby MG position was silenced.
From time to time Australian headquarters were able to forward reports of actual damage and numbers of counted dead. After a smashing raid with geepees, napalm, and .50s near Labuan strip in the latter part of June, the Diggers walked through the area next day standing up. They found 395 dead japs, 20 who were too dazed and shocked to offer resistance, and one confused, but live, Geisha girl. The 70th and 75th got credit for that one.
On July 8th, near Miri, the Aussies again encountered fierce and fanatical counterattacks. After smashing six of these in one day they concluded the Nips were pretty well decimated and started an attack of their own. It ran into a stone wall defense. The Crusader fire department was called. The raid was pulled at dusk. A few days later the Australians radioed a report. The raid had cost the enemy heavily in men. It had taken 36 hours for them to evacuate their wounded. The area was covered with bodies. Four food caches and an ammunition dump were destroyed. The survivors were without food for 24 hours.
While out on his "paper route", as the propaganda leaflet missions came to be known, Capt., William F. McLaughlin, assistant Group S-3, test-fired his guns into a building north of Samarinda. The building erupted japs from every exit, including a few that were ad-libbed. It apparently was high noon in a Nip mess hall. Mac baked a cake with his thumb on the trigger. Sgt. Billy Penn, in the turret, iced it on about 15 who were still moving after the pass.
The softening-up process for the July 1 landing on Balikpapan started on June 22. For this series of raids the photo missions had been dress rehearsals. The job was of such importance that the 38th Bomb Group of the Fifth Air Force was hauled down to Palawan to augment the 42nd's force.
The Sunsetters, before take-off on the 22nd, were still a bit nervous at the long and rough prospect ahead of them. Briefing had been thorough the night before, and they had been exposed to all the poop acquired by the Crusaders on their previous flights. Nevertheless, the Sunsetters were inclined to believe it was no tea party.
The entire Balikapapan area was bombed and strafed in three waves of 18 planes each. Colonel Helmick led the entire formation, taking off into a low overcast, and
Several Crusaders accompanied a Navy "expedition" to pick up some Jap prisoners on the west side of the island. Gas trucks were carried on LCT's to refuel the PT's. Balabac Island south of Palawan was the rendezvous. Guerillas and troops of the 93rd Division made the capture.
Tojo, a Navy mascot, wasn't especially fond of anyone, and had a particular dislike for photographers.
The Japs were somewhat bedraggled and docile. A naval commander who had lost his ship in Suragaio was among them.
wading through a thick squall line when only 150 miles from Palawan. General hell was raised throughout the entire area with 648 100-pound napalm bombs and 150,000 rounds of ammunition.
"Pilot Special," the controller, nearly snafued the strike when he asked that the attack be delayed just as the planes reached the I. P. To make matters even worse, the leader of each 18 planes had to turn into his formation to start one of the most memorable 360's ever made. Somehow, with the outside man fire-walling and the inside man doing push-ups, the turn was made and the attack completed.
On the 23rd, 24 Crusaders and 18 Sunsetters duplicated the mission. Two news releases on this raid will describe the Crusaders' part in it.
HEADQUARTERS 13TH AAF, PHILIPPINES-lst
Lieut. Harold R. Sherman, New Bedford, Mass., pilot with the Crusaders, 13th AAF B-25 outfit, is ready to admit that willingness to help a friend in trouble pays Off.
While over Balikpapan, Borneo, on a strafing attack, he hit a tree. The plane flew all right; he completed his mission and returned toward base. On the same mission Lieut. George E. Davis, 505 E. Kingston Avenue, Charlotte, N. C., a fellow pilot, had his plane badly holed by fire from Balikpapan's fierce anti-aircraft defenses. His oil line had been hit and one engine seemed ready to quit.
He radioed his flight leader that he was about to go into Sanga Sanga airfield, and requested that another ship convoy him in the event he had to ditch in the Pacific. Sherman overheard the conversation and offered to cover Davis into Sanga, and to ferry his crew back to base in the event the plane was unflyable.
Both planes landed and taxied up to the base engineering officer's tent. He inspected both planes.
"Who", he inquired, "escorted who?"
When told, he laughed. "Lieutenant Davis' plane is all right. Lieutenant Sherman's plane is unflyable. Leave it here for junking and spare parts."
Sherman's crew, which up till now had remained in the ship, got out with surprised outcries. Inspecting the ship, they found the following damage: nose bashed in, tall assembly badly mangled, radio compass antenna holed right engine nacelle bashed in, all radio antenna torn off, bomb bay doors so crushed they couldn't be opened. The engineering officer was of the opinion that it would not have made the long trip back to its base.
Lieutenant Sherman and his crew rode back to their own base on the ship they had so carefully shepherded into Sanga Sanga.
Other members of Lieutenant Sherman's crew were: 2nd Lieut. William E. Davies, navigator, Rome, N. Y. Sgt. William C. Rehfield, New York City, S/Sgt. William H. Parkinson, Forrestdale, Philadelphia.
From the 23rd until D-Day, July 1, the Crusaders worked over Balikpapan and its defenses. Again, as at Tarakan, the beach and surrounding waters were choked with mines and obstacles. Double rows of wire, zig-zag rows of coconut log and steel rail barriers were half buried in the surf so that they would stop or rip the bottom out of a landing boat.
These barriers had to be removed by dynamiting. When the small boats of the demolitions crews moved up to the beach, Crusader planes swooped down to strafe adjacent gun positions. Smoke, bombs, and ammunition kept Nip heads down as the sappers set their charges, lit fuses, and backed off.
Such was the efficiency of the aerial cover that not one man was lost in the demolition crews. Every landing beach was cleared.
In back of the beaches the japs had set up road blocks, food and fuel caches, strong points, pill boxes, and the thousand and one defenses with which they hoped to delay the Digger advance. One defense in particular was a series of hidden, camouflaged gasoline and oil storage tanks which were to be released on to roads and beaches in a roaring flood of flame after the Aussies had established their beachhead.
It might have worked had not bombs and bullets sieved and burned the tanks before the invasion.
At the samie time the Balikpapan strikes were continuing, other formations went to Samarinda, Redeb, Tawao, and any other supporting areas from which the japs could effectively regroup and refit.
The climax to all this came with a dull thud. On D-Day, not a single combat plane was able to penetrate the weather that lay between Palawan and Balikpapan. All hit secondary targets at Redeb and Tawao. One plane got through. Major Robison of the 75th flew instruments for two hours and, intermittently, at altitudes ranging downward from 50 feet to carry correspondents and photographers.
The Aussie assault teams hit the shore standing up, and moved forward. Manggar and Sepingan airstrips fell within hours, and as the communiques say, from there on the issue was never in doubt.
For a week after July I the only missions going to Balik were radar ferrets and those Death Defying Terrors, the bug-dusting DDT missions.
Meanwhile the Aussies had completed the strips at Tarakan and Labuan, and were furnishing their own air support. Four ground support strikes between the 7th and 11th completed our activity at Balikpapan.
And so ended another period in our history. As it developed, it was our last major campaign, for the sands were running out for the japs in every theatre of war.
Okinawa had fallen with fearful attrition. The japs in a semi-all out effort to stop the invasion of their home islands had thrown in everything but the kitchen sink. The Kamikaze Corps that first went into action in the Leyte campaign struck at Okinawa in huge numbers. The japs lost thousands of planes, and they sank or damaged more than 200 of our ships. It was their only and final chance to stem the tide of war, and it failed because we were able to replace our losses instantly while they could not.
At Palawan life was reduced to "box top" missions to Jesselton, Itu Aba, Keningau runway, and Bantanyan, on semi-training flights.
Life, however, was not boring for the ground personnel. Something new had been added. After two years of watching rotation plans come and go, the men welcomed the Redeployment system with its accompanying "point" system. One point for each month's service; one more for each month overseas, five for each medal and/or battle star, 12 for each child (up to three). And 85 was the critical score.
The Group was eligible for five battle stars: the Northern Solomons, the Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea, China, and the Southern Philippines. For some there was the anti-sub campaign either off the Fijis and New Cal, or off the West Coast. Claims developed, and counterclaims. The only debatable point was in battle stars. There was one other thing that influenced the first scores, the "old army" idea of "claim everything in sight and see what happens". Until the first lot got out, this system worked as expected.
Then came the reaction. Battle Stars were interpreted to count only for those organization who had appeared on General Orders. GOs had been cut for the 42nd on only three stars, Northern Solomons, New Guinea, and
Freckled Capt. William (Dog) Trone was the 70th's Intelligence Officer when lost on a flight to Manila.
Maj. Arthur M. Taylor, Group Intelligence Officer, was lost with Captain Trone on the Manila flight.
the Southern Philippines. From 15 to 20 points came off scores.
Five officers and 103 enlisted men were the prize winners in the first quota. All enlisted men with more than 113 points, and all officers with more than 123 were on the list.
Several "30-year men" who had voiced a somewhat incomprehensible yearning to make a career of the army found that, despite their high scores, they had been taken literally and would be allowed to remain in the overseas branch of their chosen service. Most of these men left a partial vaccum behind them in an effort to change the records.
Nearly all the men chosen in that first quota were members of the old army who had a child or two and who had come over with the Group. Some 100th personnel with numerous Stateside months and a family made the grade.
Group planes ferried the men to Leyte, and reports filtered back that all of them had got out within 24 hours on a Liberty bound for Frisco. The ship's estimated time en route was 28 days.
Weeks later a letter came in from Colonel Whitneybell. After being waterborne for 38 days out of Leyte, he had got as far as Guam.
During July the Fifth Air Force, whose mediums had been supporting the ground action on Luzon, moved up to Okinawa, and on July 27 the Crusaders took over their chores. The missions were repetitions of hundreds that had gone before, with one innovation. Rocket mounts had been developed for the Mitchell, and we had acquired a few for our planes. When these were first used on Luzon, the Cub-borne controller whooped gleefully, and
requested they be brought back the next day-he already had a target.
Also on July 29 an incident occured that resulted in a sizeable chunk of publicity as purveyed by the PRO. It was good schmalz and even FEAF's General Kenney read it and liked it:
HEADQUARTERS, 13TH AAF, PHILIPPINES
They named her "Forever Amber" and she believed it.
For 118 times Amber, a B-25 owned and operated by the Crusaders, famed 13th AAF medium bomb group, took off, completed her mission, and returned. She flew for 916 hours over New Guinea, the Halmaheras, Celebes, Philippines, China and Borneo. She bore a charmed life, and seemed indestructible.
Her eight nose guns, four package guns, two waist guns, two turret guns and two tall guns spewed something over a quarter of a million rounds of .50 caliber ammunition into Jap airfields, supply dumps, barracks, and quite often, into japs. She had her nose into the invasions of Morotai, Cebu, Zamboanga, Tarakan, Brunei Bay, and Balikpapan. From her bomb bay she dropped around 200 tons of high explosives.
Amber paid her freight, with heavy interest, and she was on the verge of being retired as a "war weary".
Her crew claims she knew she was about to be turned out to pasture, and wanted no part of it. She was built to fight; she loved to fight. She liked to get down on the tree-tops at 275 miles an hour and raise hell. When she quit the war, she quit in a magnificent blaze of glory that the real Amber and the Stuartian court would have loved.
She was a sleek ship, and no matter how old she got, she kept her shape.
Captain Samuel Beall, 69th S-2, acted as Group photo officer when Lt. Proctor picked up his Purple Heart.
Capt. Thelmer Smith, 100th S-2 Officer, had an apparently limitless stock of T-shirts, which he traded to the Filipinos for frying chickens and other potables.
When the war's end halted our move to Okinawa, Group Headquarters were reestablished in quonset huts, and all hands fell to erecting the huts, grading, and building walks.
Then one day her engineer and crew chief hung a pair of wing tanks on her. Two tanks that could be filled with a 1000 pounds of jellied gasoline mix. It made her look like a woman carrying a sack of potatoes under each arm. Definitely not ornamental.
For a few missions she took it. This was war, and war is, well, war.
For her 119th mission she was sent to Northern Luzon to bomb and strafe the japs still holding out in the hills. She carried her wing tanks full of the hottest fire-producing material known to man.
She carried two new pilots who had never flown her before. Amber was regular. She wouldn't double-cross her old crew. She had on board Maj. Harry E. Goldsworthy, Rosalia, Washington, as pilot, and Maj. William C. Lindley, 405 Ridge Drive, Greenville, South Carolina, as co-pilot. In the back were Sgt. Robert B. Krantz, radio operator, 635 East 211th Street, of the Bronx; Sgt. Oscar B. West, 3914 Becker Street, Austin, Texas, engineer; and Sgt. John H. Graybill, 1310 Pitt Street, Wilkensburg, Pennsylvania, tail gunner.
Goldy took her in over the target and punched the btittons that tripped her guns, dropped her bombs and should have dropped her wing tanks. She let go everything but one tank. An airplane with a half ton more under one wing than under the other has a tendency to act like a drunk who has just stepped off a merry-goround. The right wing dropped, her nose went down, and she took off across country like a turpentined dog.
Goldy, however, hadn't lived long enough to be a Major without learning how to control obstreperous aircraft. He righted her, rolled in "enough trim to tilt a battleship" and took off on a bee line for the nearest airfield, Clark, near Manila. He wanted to set Amber down and get that half ton of potential flaming death off her before she got temperamental.
He got into the Clark Field traffic pattern, cleared to land, dropped his wheels, and discovered Amber still had an ace in the hole, or at least a typical Amberian trick. Her nose wheel came out, refused to lock down, and also refused to retract. The crew coaxed, wheedled, tried to pump the wheel down by hand, and finally cursed her for an obstinate hussy.
No one in his right mind would land a B-25 with that tank still hooked on, and his nose wheel waving in the breeze.
Again Goldy went off up country, picked out a bare spot and tried to salvo the wing tank.
Amber said, "No tank you," with obvious corn.
She also said, "Isn't my new nose wheel a killer?"
Goldy knows when he's whipped. That was the way Amber wanted it, in cards, spades and big casino, and it was her prerogative. No boneyard of has-been glory for Amber.
Goldy called all stations on the interphone. "We're returning to Clark. I'll level off at 2000 feet. Prepare to bail out."
For the first time in 20 months a crew prepared to bail out of a Crusader B-25.
Graybill went first. He hit in a rice paddy north of Clark, went up to his knees in soft mud, did two back flips before his 'chute lost its buoyancy, and came up looking just about like anyone would who had done two back flips in a rice paddy. Before he got the mud out of his eyes, two friendly and curious Filipinos bit him full in the face with the contents of a large bucket of water.
It cleaned his face. "It damned near decapitated me," Graybill said later. When he was properly sluiced off, he thanked his willing helpers, walked 200 yards to a road, and hitch-hiked back to Clark. He made it in an hour. He was unhurt.
Krantz went second. He hit in a sugar cane field, tumbled, released his chute, and stood up undamaged. Two Filipinos who had captured three japs in the same field three days before eyed him coldly, with cocked rifles. Krantz took off his Mae West, waved it weakly, and said, "Hiya."
Two hours later he was at Clark.
West dropped third, landed in an open field, unhurt, was cared for and delivered to Clark by a Signal Corps outfit. Lindley and Goldy went in that order. All were at Clark getting bruises painted within two hours.
Amber, released of her burden, drifted off hillward. Goldy had trimmed her nose heavy before leaving. With her engines roaring, the wind slamming through her open escape hatches in a throaty whoosh, she skimmed a weeded hill and in a rising crescendo of hell-bent noise, she crashed on the valley floor and exploded. A mighty mushrooming pillar of flame leaped a thousand feet into the air as her gas tanks and wing tank went up. Smoke poured high into the air, advertising her pyre to the countryside.
"She wanted it that way," said her crew chief, T/Sgt. Joseph E. Robinson, 4721 Court Street, Birmingham, Alabama. "She just had to be Forever Amber."
|Preface||Chapter 25||Chapter 27|