March 9, 1944

Thursday

Dearest:
Another day shot full of French 751 holes. We sweated out a flight again this morning, but the General screwed us up. So we went up this afternoon for 2 hours and 30 minutes of zero altitude flying. Fired 10 rounds in any one run and 35 rounds in all. Had a ground crewman with us who was sitting in the tail turret when the first shot went off. I was standing by the radio compartment window. Looked back just a second before we fired, blinked and he was right beside me.2 Laugh, I thought I’d die! Russell was tuning his radio when Seehorn got a funny thought and threw an empty shell over the bomb bay. Russell thought the airplane fell in around his ears when the case conked his konk! Ha! Gee! It seems you’re suspended in mid air while coming into the island.3 After you get past it though and can strafe hell out of it, it isn’t quite so bad.

The water is beautiful and one can almost touch its grandeur from the tail end. Beautiful! On the way back we did contour maneuvering, which means that we follow the coast line, which is very rugged around the island of Guadalcanal. Where a ridge runs too far out to follow the coast, we barreled in low and jumped the ridge like the kids used to play leapfrog. It’s fun but also hair-raising to say the least. We roared just above natives’ settlements, providing them with a temporary fan. Flew over native canoes. Our slipstream gives them a boost and sometimes threatens to swamp them.

Oh, it’s great fun all right! Four ships coming in on a target with flames playing around their noses, as they each fire 15 times at the target over a distance of 3 miles, all this at a speed in excess of 200 mph. Spine chilling? Yes, indeed.

It looks as if several of us are being groomed to blow hell out of islands as pre-invasion tactics after the Navy has softened the island with their ships’ guns, slightly before or just overhead of the actual invaders. Nice but dangerous! Point blank is beautiful tactic to Japanese antiaircraft and that’s what it is when one comes in at zero altitude on a straight and level course. Coordination with a dive-bombing attack would do wonders. Get those anti’s elevated and then sneak in with a terrific shelling. Just as the torpedo bombers did after flying down that hellish lane of fire devised by Jap ship guns at the beginning of the war. That is until the boys got wise and coordinated their attack with that of DBs.4 It seems that we’re doing the cannon experimenting in this area. The Fifth A.F. seems to have worked up some marvelous stunts but evidently they aren’t revealing them to the 13th, or we do not choose to use them.

Saw a show tonight, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon.5 Our pilot was called out at its mid point. Wonder why?

Au revoir, Baby

Notes & Commentary:

1 The 75 mm cannon of the B-25H bomber was derived from the French 75 cannon used in World War I and adopted by the U.S. Army. See http://www.airpages.ru/eng/us/b25h.shtml.

2 Wayne once recalled that when the B-25H’s 75 mm cannon was fired the recoil was such that it felt as though the plane had stopped in mid-air. Some reported that it felt as though the plane had hit a brick wall. Facing rearward, the tail gunner did not always know when the cannon was going to be fired, and the effect was disconcerting to say the least. For a ground crewman along for the ride and sitting in the tail gunner’s position, the effect must have been terrifying indeed.

3 “the island”, Rua Dika against which practice bombing and strafing missions were flown.

4 DBs, dive bombers.

5 Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce starred in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon which was released by Universal Pictures in December 1942. According to the plot summary, Holmes and Watson protect a Swiss inventor of an advanced bomb sight from the Gestapo. See http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0035317/?ref_=ttpl_pl_tt.

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One Response to March 9, 1944

  1. markgray08 says:

    These last few weeks I have been looking over documentaries of the So. Pacific war zone. More and more each day am I astounded at what these men, “just out of childhood” did for their country as well as their families to secure freedom as we know it.

    Like

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