October 22, 1944


All the days pile upon each other in endless array.

Not much has happened these past five days. Lt. Miller, my present pilot, returned from Sydney and rest leave. This happened on Sunday. Should get more missions now. Hope so, at any rate. Before Sunday, though, had a good many visits with Lt. Fincham and Lt. Tolhurst. We haven’t had much time to get together the past few months but will do so in the future. Both of them are a couple of swell fellows. Seehorn, my engineer, is in the hospital in Sydney. Miss him too. A boil on his hand was the cause. A nice place to have it. Very restful, which I can’t say the same for this place tonight. A big argument is on over who goes home first, radio operators, gunners or engineers. Radiomen fly more often so naturally they usually get home sooner. Rough, but that’s the war, I guess.

Finally caught up on my mail, thank heavens. Started a letter to Bonnie this morning which I must finish tonight. We’ve had no mail since the Yanks invaded Leyte, Philippine island of the Visayan group on the 14th. That will be a memorable day for the Filipinos. Today, they captured Tacloban town. The U.S. Sixth Army is doing the spearheading with tanks and infantry. Gen MacArthur is personally directing the attack.1

Flew another mission to Ambon Town, Ceram, today; and search just after. Whole trip was 6 hours and 20 minutes. Surely am tired tonight as a result.2

The other day, the boys went up there and got hell shot out of them.3 One ship came back on one engine with the hydraulic system shot out. They couldn’t quite make the revetment and had to use the emergency air brakes to stop the ship. Higgins, one of my tent mates, was the tail gunner on the ship. The plane had 47 holes in it. Three coming awfully close to Hig. His face had nothing on the very whitest of sheets. He flew with me today, and not one burst of flak did we get. Good! We can stand many more like that. These Japs are too accurate. Out of the same formation, they knocked two of the other squadron’s ships down. One crew was saved, however. The whole war isn’t worth the life of one man, though, no man will say so.

Yesterday, two Chinese boys came over. One is a Chinese who interrogates Jap prisoners. The other boy is a Formosan member of a Jap work gang who was captured when Sansapor was taken. The Division Colonel and one of his orderlies. Both boys signed my short snorter. The colonel was a fine conversationalist and would that I had his command of the English language. He has everything including the correct inflection that causes the beauty of language to come forth.

Well, Baby, that’s all for these five days. Remember that you are my only love.

Notes & Commentary

1 Weekly Activity Reports prepared by the 69th Bombardment Squadron noted that Philippine situation maps, updated daily, were maintained at the line and that recent enemy aircraft information was posted on the situation board in the intelligence office. The activity reports also noted that a European situation map was maintained on the line and in the camp area.

Weekly Activity Report, 26 October 1944. 69th Bombardment Squadron (M), Office of the Operations Officer. 26 October 1944, microfilm A0560, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frame 183.

2 On 22 October 1944, six B-25Js of the 100th Bombardment Squadron joined with six B-25Js of the 75th Bombardment Squadron in an attack on Piroe industrial installations. They departed Mar Airfield between 08 45 and 0850 and recovered between 1345 and 1350.

The bombs dropped by the 100th Bombardment Squadron did not start any fires nor cause any explosions. The squadron was, however, able to verify two fires caused by bombs dropped by the 75th Bombardment Squadron. One of the fires sent white smoke to 2,000 feet and another sent brown smoke up to 1,500 feet.

Medium and heavy antiaircraft artillery fire was generally in accurate but modern but moderate to intense on the bombing run. This fire was observed to be without any type of pattern because it was at least 1,000 feet above and 1,000 feet below and leading, trailing to the right and left. The last three planes had four heavy guns tracking them during the run in and retirement. These guns were located in the clearing approximately 500 feet west of the square supposedly some kind of athletic field in the target area.

Final Mission Report, Mission No. 127, 22 October 1944, 100th Bombardment Squadron (M). Office of the Intelligence Officer, 22 October 1944, microfilm A0576, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frames 1172-1173.

3 Six B-25Js of the 100th Bombardment Squadron led a medium altitude bombing strike on Ambon Town. The 100th Bombardment Squadron aircraft departed Mar Airfield between 0930 and 0935 and recovered at the same airfield between 1455 and 1500. One plane, however, landed at 1435.

The 100th Bombardment Squadron’s bombing formation consisted of one 6-ship element. It encountered heavy, slight and trailing antiaircraft fire over Amhal and Liang. Over the target medium and heavy, intense and accurate antiaircraft fire was received as the formation turned into its bombing run. This intense fire continued throughout the run and was of the barrage type. Three planes were holed. The bombing run was 30 seconds in duration.

In the target area, one large four engine seaplane identified as a “Mavis” was observed approximately 500 feet southwest of the target area anchored about 200 feet off shore. It was also noted that the usual amount of small shipping vessels normally present in Ambon Bay were missing.

The pilots of the 100th Bombardment Squadron which led this mission were critical of the formation prescribed. The follow-on squadrons have too long a bomb run and after a few rounds of antiaircraft fire, the Japanese gunners have the formation bracketed for both altitude and deflection.

Final Mission Report, Mission No. 124, 20 October 1944, 100th Bombardment Squadron (M). Office of the Intelligence Officer, 20 October 1944, microfilm A0576, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frames 1181 – 1183.

The bombing mission against Ambon town was summarized in the 42nd Bombardment Group (M) Consolidated Mission report number 625, dated the 20 October 1944. Six B-25’s from the 69th, 70th, 100th and 390th bombardment squadron’s, each, for a total of 24, attacked Ambon Town. The attack was from a medium altitude with a group formation of four 6-plane sections, each with two elements of each stepped down 200 feet and echeloned left. The 100th Bombardment Squadron led followed by the 390th, the 69th, and the 70th squadrons in that order. The attack commenced at 1239 from 11,500 feet.

Cloud cover prevented the detailed observation of bomb patterns. There were four or five scattered small fires observed along with two fires with black smoke up to 2000 feet within 1000 feet inland from the main wharf.

One B-25 from the 70th Squadron was shot down during the bomb run. It’s left engine exploded and the plane disappeared through the clouds. The following personnel were listed as missing in action:

1st Lt. Harold F. Watts, Pilot
1st Lt. Francis S. Dunigan, Jr., Co-pilot
T/Sgt. Jerry G. Leath, Radio Operator-Gunner
S/Sgt. Joseph E. Brough, Armorer-Gunner
S/Sgt. Stanly M. Mettz, Engineer-Gunner

Three men were seen to jump from the plane that went down and disappeared in the clouds no parachutes were seen one plane from the 70th squadron and a PBY with P 38’s searched the area surrounding Ambon with negative results.

Moderate intense, accurate heavy caliber antiaircraft fire was received the full length of the bomb run. The first of bursts received by all squadrons were very accurate and continued until retirement. Some crewmembers reported seeing some dull green bursts. Others reported white bursts about the consistency of phosphorus without the tentacles. A fragment brought back by a crew has been established as coming from a 105 mm gun.

During the attack on Ambon town 144 250 pound general-purpose bombs were dropped and 950 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition was expended.

Two aircraft from the 390 Bombardment Squadron which did not drop bombs over Ambon subsequently attacked the oil storage tanks at Boela at 1348 from 9000 feet. This attack resulted in the destruction of an oil storage tank which produced a large fire and black smoke up to 2500 feet.

Consolidated Mission Report #625, 20 October 1944. Headquarters 42nd Bombardment Group (M), 20 October 1944, microfilm B0131, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 2197-2198.

The final Mission report from the 70th Bombardment Squadron reported as follows:

Our formation received AA fire from Amhall, Ambon, Laha, Liang and Haroekoe. One aircraft received a direct hit it was shot down on the bomb run. Intense heavy caliber extremely accurate fire was encountered over the primary target. AA bursts were in triplicate building up from 9,500 feet – 10,000-10,500 feet almost simultaneously. One exceedingly large white burst was seen and most of the rest of the heavy AA bursts were reported to be of a green color.

Final Mission Report, Mission No. 200, 20 October 1944. 70th Bombardment Squadron (M). Office of the Intelligence Officer, 20 October 1944, microfilm A0560, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frames 649.

Further details concerning the loss of aircraft 42-64946 and its crew are provided through statements contained In the Missing Aircraft Report filed by the 70th Bombardment Squadron’s Operations Officer, Captain Andrew T. Elliott, on 21 October 1944.


Maj. Smith of the 70th Fighter Squadron was interrogated upon landing. He was with the Dumbo and stayed in the area an additional 30 to 40 minutes and searched Latimore Peninsula thoroughly over land and noted a fire in the vicinity of Mt. Tola which he investigated closely and found it definitely to be a brush fire. He saw Lt Watts’ ship get hit, which was over water off Cape Seri. He states he searched the Banda the sea area thoroughly for an area 8 miles southwest, of Cape Noesannie, east approximately for 10 miles with negative results.

S/Sgt. Pushnik observed what he believed to be three bodies leaping from the aircraft. No parachutes were seen to open, due to an undercast into which they disappeared.

William D. Trone,
Capt., Air Corps,
Intelligence Officer


I received permission to leave the formation to search for the lost aircraft at that time. In the meantime Lieut. Stevens (Squadron Leader) contacted Dumbo, and the Cat with four P-38’s for cover joined me on the east coast of Ambon island and together we searched the east coast of Ambon areas south of Ambon bay, studying the coast and terrain carefully. We observed two areas at 03° 45 S. and 128° 10 E which were colored dark green blue and circled there for some time trying to ascertain if it was dying marker from the plane. We then made a sweep up the east side of Ambon bay to Ambon town at altitudes ranging from 500 to 700 feet thence West to west coast of Ambon bay making circles to get complete coverage of same. After 45 minutes we abandon the search leaving the four P-38’s and Dumbo still searching.

Edward E Johnson,
1st Lt. Air Corps,


We had been on Bomb Run will over one minute when a burst of a A/A through me on one wing. I looked to my right, seeing A/C #946 burning and coming in toward me. Lt’s Watts and Dunigan were both looking at their burning right engine as they passed over above me. The last I saw them, they were on a reciprocal heading of our Bomb Run heading for the open sea.

Walter B Spicer,
1st Lt., Air Corps,

Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs) of the U.S. Army Air Forces, 1942-1947, digital image, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com/image/28632048/ : accessed 19 October 2014), B-25, Aircraft Serial Number 42-64946, Andrew T. Elliott, Capt. Air Corps., Operations Officer.

After the war, the Australian Army 16 Graves Registration Unit found the crash site and recovered the remains of the crew. Lt. Watts was subsequently buried at Memorial Park Cemetery at Pontiac, Illinois; Lt. Mettz at Fort Roscrans National Cemetery at San Diego, California; Sgts. Leath and Dunigan at Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines, and Sgt. Brough is likely buried in a private cemetery in the U.S. [Note: S/Sgt. Joseph E. Brough is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery at Peru, Indiana.]

“B-25G-5 Mitchell Serial Number 42-64946.” PacificWrecks.com (http://www.pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/b-25/42-64946.html : accessed 19 October 2014).

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4 Responses to October 22, 1944

  1. suchled says:

    “The colonel was a fine conversationalist and would that I had his command of the English language.”
    I’m not too worried about Wayne”s ability to express himself. I’ve been an English teacher for 40 years and what he might not have in command of the language he sure makes up for with a great way to draw his reader into the feeling and the heart.


  2. gpcox says:

    The men, whether land or air service, as a rule wrote home seemingly upbeat; but then you look at all the battles going on and the damage and lives it cost – you really must give admire them for their ability to endure the constant influx of death and destruction. Excellent research as usual, Allen.


  3. How did they sustain such pressure and grief and handle their experiences with grace –their letters ache to go home and seem so upbeat. Unusual, interesting, and revealing post. Nice work, Allen


    • a gray says:

      The losses of the 13th Air Force’s 42nd Bombardment Group, thus far, have been very mild when compared with those of, say, the bombardment groups of the 8th Air Force which faced both enemy fighters and antiaircraft artillery. That is not to minimize the losses of the 42nd Bombardment Group for they are tragic indeed. A half century ago and more, I asked the men who flew these missions how they did it day after day. The response, more often than not, would be for them to stare into my eyes and say, “You did what you had to do.” That was not the response of an old men at the end of their years, but the responses of men in their 40s only 20 years removed from battle.


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