December 22, 1944

Friday

Where in the world have the past five days gone to?

Consulting my mission sheet, I find three missions. One, the 18th, a job of medium altitude on Haroekoe. Two on the 21st, one Lolobata supply1, Halmahera, and two on Waigeo Isle2. Both strafing jobs. Two planes hit on # 1 and the same two on #2 targets. The latter was a thriller for us. Opened our bomb bays, toggled all bombs out and salvoed to make sure. On checking them, we discovered the four parachutes on the remaining four had opened; but the bombs were still in their racks. Couldn’t tell whether they were armed or not. We debated whether to bail out or land and decided to do the latter.3 We really sweat that one. Believe me, I had the shakes.

Received letters from Bonnie and Dad. Will finish answering all of them today, so will wrap it up. As it looks now, I’ll go on May orders. A lot of boys are being transferred so we’d all get home quicker. Result I am more down on the list. What a business. The rumor is the group will send five crews extra home as a Christmas present. Hope so. That would put me back to sixth on our squadron list and send me home in March. No such luck is expected however.

By golly, I was lonesome for Bonnie last night. Blue as the devil. The tent mates and I finished half a quart of Bourbon. Was lonelier yet so went to bed and thought about Bonnie until dropping off to sleep. Golly how I’m beginning to miss her more and more each day. Guess I’ll stop writing here in a moment and begin a long letter to her.

The last enlisted man on the crew that I came overseas was transferred to the 70th Squadron. Stan Seehorn, my best pal4. Damn it. I don’t like it, even though he’ll go home more quickly as a result. He’s sixth on their list. Was ninth on the squadron list.

Lt. Tolhurst, my former crew’s navigator/bombardier was sent to the 75th. He also gained, going from fifth to second and will no doubt go home on January 1st orders. Am awfully happy for him after being best man at his wedding to a Florence, South Carolina girl, however, doggone it, anyhow!

Took another kidney x-ray, a few days go; but haven’t obtained results as yet. Our flight surgeon is a nice fellow; but moves slowly, though he grinds exceedingly fine.

Am looking forward to two more strafing runs tomorrow, with dread. That Lolobata and Hatetabaco run is a solid minute over the target. Two airfields and a huge supply area with, am told, heavy guns, 48 medium positions and heaven only knows how many guns. Will go through because it’s my duty, besides a bit towards winning the war.5

There’s supposed to be a planned Jap invasion of Morotai and our Sansapor on Christmas Eve or Day. We’re doing our damnedest to break it up as soon as possible, at any cost. We’re not only fighting this war for our lives, our country; or freedom; but also for our families. Our group has even been named the “Crusaders”, which is indicative of our feelings!

Well that’s all for today, so will bid adieu for the time being adios angel face, sugar puss, wife of mine.

Meanwhile in England, Wayne’s brother, Verne, would write in his diary:

12-22-44

Bad weather. Did laundry today & also sewing. Sure wish Aileen were here to do it. She does mighty fine job. Fog is lifting so perhaps I’ll get in a mission.

Notes & Commentary

1 Although Wayne wrote that the attack had been on Lolobata, he actually participated in a 44-plane attack on supply and gun positions at Goeroea Bay. Each of the squadrons of the 42nd Bombardment Group participated with eight B-25s of the 69th Bombardment Squadron attacking six heavy gun positions and a fuel dump at 0800. The fuel dump was set on fire and bombs walked through the gun positions. The fuel dump fire sent dense black smoke up to 2,500’ and was still burning eight hours later, at 1600.

This was followed by an attack at 0804 by nine B-25s from the 70th Bombardment Squadron on supply areas along the west coast of Goeroea Bay extending in a southerly direction. Six minutes later, at 0810, nine B-25s from the 75th Bombardment Squadron attacked the same target area. During this attack, a camouflaged 50–60’ barge tied up to the west coast of Goeroea Bay took a direct hit and was seen to disintegrate.

At 0814, nine B-25s from the 100th Bombardment Squadron attacked supply areas along the west coast of Goeroea Bay extending in a northerly direction. The 390th Bombardment Squadron attacked the same area six minutes later at 0820. One explosion sending gray smoke up to 500’ was noted. Other results were obscured by the dense jungle of the target area.

Consolidated Mission Report #42-940, 21 December 1944. Headquarters 42nd Bombardment Group (M), 21 December 1944, microfilm B0132, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 607-610.

2 In mid-afternoon after refueling and re-arming at Pitoe Airfield on Morotai, the eight mission aircraft of the 69th Bombardment Squadron returned to Goeroea Bay to attack the gun positions. The remaining 36 mission aircraft from the 70th, 75th, 100th and 390th Bombardment Squadron departed for an attack on the supply, personnel and antiaircraft gun positions between Lolobata and Hatetabaco Airfields on Halmahera Island. North of Lolobata, these aircraft encountered a heavy weather front that engulfed the Halmaheras. Unable to penetrate the front, the B-25s of the four squadrons, while dodging heavy weather, attacked alternate targets at Andai and Karabei on Wageio Island.

Consolidated Mission Report #42-941, 21 December 1944. Headquarters 42nd Bombardment Group (M), 21 December 1944, microfilm B0132, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 611-613.

3 The rather casual statement, “Four 100 lb. parachute demolition bombs hung up in one of the aircraft on its run over the target and were returned to base”, that appeared in the Squadron’s Final Mission Report, Mission No. 212 for December 21, is belied by Wayne’s comments. The prospect of returning home with four armed 100 lb. bombs had to have been daunting.

4 Stan Seehorn was a close friend of Wayne’s as was Robert E. Russell. Wayne, Seehorn and Russell had trained together at Columbia Army Air Base along with Lts. Tolhurst and Fincham. They came out to the South Pacific in mid-February as a combat. The crew was broken up to fill vacant positions, but they remained friends and occasionally flew missions with one or another on the same crews. Wayne and Stan Seehorn were baptized together at Hollandia and they and Lt. Tolhurst attended church services together. Wayne had served as best man at Lt. Tolhurst’s wedding. After breaking his arm in early October, Russell was evacuated to Finschafen for hospitalization. He has not returned to the 42nd Bombardment Group.

4 Wayne was grounded for a week after telling the Flight Surgeon, Dr. Avakian, of his nervous condition. He returned to flying status on December 11. Since then, he has participated in a number of missions. Fellow crewmembers during these missions have been his friends, S/Sgts Louis Miller, James Higgins, and Stan Seehorn. In addition to a change in his ranking for rotation home, the transfer of men among the 42nd Bombardment Group’s squadrons removes some of his friends from the crews with whom he flies.

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2 Responses to December 22, 1944

  1. Wayne’s frustration and loneliness for Bonnie is so often mentioned–I bet that’s the hardest part about being a war pilot. That and the bombs on board causing his shaking!

    Like

    • a gray says:

      Alas, Wayne was not a pilot. He was a S/Sgt. with the MOS of an armorer/gunner. Be that as it may, he had been in flying long enough to know what could happen to a plane and its crew when they were landing with armed bombs aboard, especially if there had been mechanical problems with their release from the bomb bay of the aircraft.

      His loneliness for Bonnie is nearly palpable. I imagine it was so for many men thrust into the ugliness of war. As we’ve seen so far in his journal, Wayne knows what happens when planes have trouble landing, disappear in thunderstorms or crash into the jungle. His missions are generally short, but there is no room for error when you are travelling at 240 mph and at an altitude of only 100 feet or less.

      Liked by 1 person

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