May 4, 1944

Thursday

As per briefing last night, we took off at 7:00 a.m. for Talili supply dump near Rabaul on New Britain.1 Hit target at 9:30 a.m., left three columns of white smoke with our magnesium incendiary clusters.2 Marupai Island which was hit by dive bombers was smoked up. Simpson Harbor completely covered with smoke, rising 2,000 feet in the air. The run was fairly rough with lots of 90 mm flak.3

A nice day over the target. Rough weather coming back but we weathered it. Each clump of mist was rainbow hued. Very lovely. Lots of blue sky and sun was blinding under turret dome. Couldn’t get into the turret with chute and flak vest on. Discarded chute and fitted a little better. No close flak bursts on our ship, though two others were holed. I thought for a minute we lost a plane when one flak burst assumed an aircrafts shape, and trailed a feather of black smoke behind it. Was much relieved to find this untrue.

I took the doll along with me, Bonnie. She swayed gently in the turret cockpit and looked half asleep. After 4 hours and 10 minutes in the air, we landed. Had two shots of liquor and nearly got tight.4

Sure was a grand feeling to get Bonnie’s picture finally. She’s twice as beautiful as ever and I adore her and love her with all my heart. Must write our story soon.

Notes & Commentary

1 On May 4 on New Island, 24 B-25s bombed the Talili Bay area while 43 fighter-bombers hit Vunakanau Airfield. “Thursday, 4 May 1944, South Pacific Area (Thirteenth Air Force)”, Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces May 1944. database (http://paul.rutgers.edu/~mcgrew/wwii/usaf/html/May.44.html : accessed 04 May 1944)

2 A bomb used extensively against supply dumps was the 500-pound incendiary cluster, which consisted of 126 four-pound incendiaries. These scattered after release and caused widespread fires. The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-1945. J. M. S. Ross, “The Assault on Rabaul, Operations by the Royal New Zealand Air Force December 1943 – May 1944”, Episodes & Studies, v.1. New Zealand Electronic Text Collection (http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2-1Epi-t1-g1-t4.html : accessed 04 May 2014).

3 The standard heavy antiaircraft guns of the Japanese Army were the Model 88 truck-drawn 75-mm antiaircraft gun and the Model 14 truck-drawn 105-mm antiaircraft gun. The 75-mm Model 88 gun had a maximum vertical range of 30,000 feet and a horizontal range of 15,000 yards or 8.5 miles. The 105-mm Model 14 gun had a maximum vertical range of 36,000 feet and a horizontal range of 20,000 yards or 11.3 miles. The 3-inch (76.2-mm) Model 10 Japanese naval gun was also used for antiaircraft defense. The 3-inch Model 10 had a vertical range of 26,000 feet. These weapons were present at all Japanese airfields. According to the War Department, Japanese heavy antiaircraft fire control equipment seen to date [early to mid-1944] has been outmoded with readings from various fire control instruments being shouted to gun crews. These guns were also employed for coastal defense. War Department. Handbook on Japanese Military Forces. Technical Manual TM-E 30-480. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1944. digital image (https://ia801900.us.archive.org/1/items/TME30-480/TME30-480.pdf : downloaded 03 May 2014) pp 235-238 & 283.

4 After his first mission on April 8, Wayne donated his two shots of liquor to another crewman. He also did not drink beer. His attitude has changed.

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3 Responses to May 4, 1944

  1. Lloyd Marken says:

    Remind me Allen, what was the doll? Also interesting that you note that he took his shots now. I’m trying to remember, Wayne always seemed to be writing or watching movies when some of his fellow airmen got drunk. Was it due to his beliefs or did he generally just not understood why people would drink having seen how they behaved when they did or was it a particular personal experience? Apologies if this has been covered previously. I’m reading bits when I came over time and it does mean you forget things. If I recall correctly this is only his second or third combat mission and what I found interesting is how matter of fact he is about some details. I also love how effusive he is in his love for his wife. It really brings home the tragedy of war. Here’s a guy far away from home facing possible death and all he wants to do is get back to his gal and live a good life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • a gray says:

      I don’t know anything, Lloyd, about the doll Wayne references in this post. I can only suppose it was a “good luck” charm given him by his wife.

      When Wayne arrived in the Southwest Pacific two months ago, he maintained an abstemious pattern of behavior and was critical of others who swore, talked about women, and drank beer. He was a prig, and he must have been a terrible tent mate.

      His description of today’s mission is very casual, almost nonchalant: A nice day over the target. Rough weather coming back but we weathered it. Each clump of mist was rainbow hued. Very lovely. The fact he had “two shots of liquor and nearly got tight” during the mission debrief belies his mission description. That the run [in] was fairly rough with lots of 90 mm flak hardly describes a nice day over the target.

      The gung ho attitude displayed upon his arrival on Guadalcanal is fading as the war becomes real to him. He is scared, as he should be. As you noted, all he wants to do is get back to his gal and live a good life. He has, though, many more missions and days to go.

      Liked by 1 person

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