Half of another day is ended.
Went to go on my 44th mission this morning, but never got there. We were half way down the runway at 85 mph when the right tire blew out.1 We ended up alongside the runway in deep sand. Looked out the window and saw gas spurting from the nacelle overflow pipes. Made three passes at the escape hatch handle, dropped through and ran for dear life. Sparks may have caused gas to ignite. Was moving so fast the tower thought me an airplane and gave me a green light for takeoff. Any track coach in the U.S. would like to have me on their team today. Where else can they find a man who can do the 100 yard dash in soft sand in two seconds flat, one second without the sand.
The pilot did a masterful job holding the ship down. The copilot, a new boy, forgot to feather the props.
Jack Hanley went along with us to get his first mission it. Two hundred and fifty lbs of man can move faster than I ever dreamed possible. Don’t know who was funnier putting out the speed. Jack or myself. He lumbered, though, whereas no grass grew under my feet.
In some ways the crack up was funny too. Stan Seehorn, engineer, and Lt. Burnett seemed to have an argument as to who would be last to leave the ship. They were both in the pilot’s escape hatch at the same time gesturing each other away from the plane. An Alphonse and Gaston comedy to be sure.
Will have to sweat out no. 44 all over again now. Too bad. Today’s target turned out to be a milk run, though no run is milk on a 4 hour 30 minute flight over the vast Pacific Ocean, not knowing at any one moment what’s in store for you at the next one.2
On return had a letter from J. W. Robinson.3 Has 56 missions and expects to be home by Christmas, he hopes. Indeed, a lucky fellow. Have been over longer than he has and just have forty three. Move power to J. W., though, he’s a grand guy, even if he does hail from Jersey. Seems anxious to get home to “Bea” who has a bee in her bonnet for J. W., I hope. He’ll be really heartbroken for a while if it isn’t so. He’s seen Roland and Whipple. J. W. had just returned from a 14-day trip to Rome and Malta. He’s back in Corsica now.4 Says the food was swell. Must compare favorably to our constant menu of C and K rations that we’ve been getting. It has news of the other boys. Long time no see.
Letters also came from Bonnie (4) Dad (1) Bob (1). Just like old home week with the two from Mom yesterday. How about that. Would surely like a sample of home, believe me.
Now for a siege of letter writing, a shower and a shave.
Notes & Commentary
1 Eight B-25Js of the 100th Bombardment Squadron were tasked with bombing the south half of Namlea Runway #2 on Boeroe Island from medium altitude. Each B-25 was was armed with four 500 lb general purpose bombs and a full load of .50 caliber ammunition. Each had sufficient fuel to make the four and a half-hour trip to Boeroe Island and return. As the B-25Js were taking off from Mar Air Field between 0755 and 0800, B-25J #977 (a/c 327977) blew a tire. The other seven B-25Js proceeded on without her.
Final Mission Report, Mission No. 175, 22 November 1944, 100th Bombardment Squadron (M). Office of the Intelligence Officer, 22 November 1944, microfilm A0576, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frames 1410 – 1411.
2 The weather to and from Boeroe Island was clear. The mission bombed from 10,500’. During the bomb run, the aircraft encountered slight, heavy and inaccurate antiaircraft fire which caused no loss or damage.
Narrative Combat Report, 22 November 1944, 100th Bombardment Squadron (M). Office of the Intelligence Officer, 22 November 1944, microfilm A0576, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frame 1406.
3 James W. Robinson, best man at Wayne and Bonnie’s wedding, did return from Europe, and he married Beatrice. James W. Robinson. Obituary. 2013. Powers Funeral Home, Lugoff, South Carolina. (http://powersfuneralhome.net/DisplayObituary.aspx?id=1185 : accessed 20 November 2014).
4 The 310th Bombardment Group, the 321st Bombardment Group and the 340th Bombardment Group, all equipped with B-25s, were stationed on Corsica at this time. These Groups were part of the 57th Bombardment Wing, XII Bomber Command, 12th Air Force.
Joseph Heller, author of Catch 22, flew 60 combat missions as a B-25 bombardier with the 340th Bombardment Group. Catch 22, published in 1961, was made into a movie which was released in 1970.
Joseph Heller. Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Heller : accessed 21 November 2014)
Wayne has a sharp sense of humor with his – 100 yard dash in soft sand in 2 seconds! He makes it sound like the Keystone Kops were running away from that plane!
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It would be interesting to find out how they held onto those letters. They accumulate after a while. I kept mine in a coffee can and bundled them up with rubber-bands in my footlocker, then later, in a big box in the closet.
Nice the way he thinks of the fun side of things – so different from his dreams.
A nice humorous side to what could have been quite a tragedy. I wonder how frequently this sort of event happened.
I don’t think it was uncommon. The aircraft were heavily used.
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Agreed, it wasn’t an uncommon event. They’re very lucky they got away without a huge fire and exploding bombs.
It’s nice to see the funny side of the situation