By 0601 on December 26, 40 B-25s from the 42nd Bombardment Group (eight each from the 69th, 70th, 75th, 100th, and 390th Bombardment Squadrons) had taken off to attack personnel and supply areas at the Galela Airdrome on Halmahera Island. Each plane carried twelve 100 lb. general purpose bombs plus a full load of ammunition.
At 0750 enroute to the target at 4,000’, two men were seen attempting to flash a signal with a shiny object the size of a dish pan. Planes attempted to return to the location after the attack on Galela, but weather had closed in on the site.
At 0815, 15 small native boats were noted anchored off the west coast of Kahatola Island.
As with other multi-bombardment squadron missions, the attack on Galela Airdrome was carefully choreographed’ At 0829, the 75th Bombardment Squadron opened the attack with a minimum altitude strafing and bomb run at an indicated air speed of 260 mph. The 100th Bombardment Squadron made its run at minimum altitude and at an indicated air speed of 240 mph at 0830. At 0834, the 390th Bombardment Squadron made a minimum altitude run at 240 mph. Nine minutes later, at 0843, the 69th Bombardment Squadron made a minimum altitude strafing and bomb run at an indicated air speed of 260 mph. The squadrons’ attacks were made in elements of two planes abreast attacking at 20 second intervals. Antiaircraft fire was moderate, light and inaccurate. No planes were hit.
The 70th Bombardment Squadron encountered heavy showers on its approach to the target and turned back without attacking.
A column of black smoke rising to 5,000’ from the Lolobata area was noted at 0900.
At 1000, one plane from the 390th squadron sighted a type F Japanese barge with four yellow-skinned men in uniforms and a cargo of burlap rolls or bags, heading for the south shore of Boni Bay, three quarters of a mile off shore. As the plane approached, the barge stopped and the occupants crouched among the bags and made no effort to identify themselves either by making a “V” sign, saluting, or showing a Dutch flag. After circling three times to verify that it was not a native boat, the plane made one strafing pass, expanding 100 rounds with unobserved results.
At 1030, three miles east southeast of Manoeran Island, a 20’ – 30’ boat with square ends resembling a landing barge was observed. It was in open water but not underway when the planes examined it from a minimum altitude. There were five persons aboard, apparently Javanese, one of whom wore a T-shirt, who made no attempt to identify themselves but lay down on their faces when the planes approached. There were two bales in the vessel, apparently of hay.
During the attack on Galela Airdrome, one plane was badly damaged and two were slightly damaged from hitting trees over the target. The tops of burned-out trees are difficult to see during a minimum altitude attack. No personnel were injured.
All of the mission aircraft, except two, recovered at Marr airfield by 1205. The two aircraft that did not recover at Mar Airfield landed at Pitoe on Morotai. One had been badly damaged from hitting a tree during the attack on Galela Airdrome; the other had lost its formation due to heavy weather.1
During the attack on Galela, Wayne flew as a member of the aircrew of B-25J #126 piloted by 1st Lt. Kenneth E. Miller. In addition to Wayne, the other members of the aircrew were 2nd Lt. William R. Florance, S/Sgt Frances E. Dreazy, and Cpl. Walter C. Stallings.2 They made their bomb and strafing run with the 100th Bombardment Squadron at 0830. The eight B-25Js ot the the100th Bombardment Squadron which were participating in the mission departed Mar Airfield between 0534 and 0539, shortly after sunrise. After departing Galela, the eight B-25Js of the 100th Bombardment Squadron conducted a search for the B-25 and crew that missing on December 25. The results were negative.3. Similar searches were conducted by the squadrons returning to Mar Airfield after this mission.
While eight planes of the 100th Bombardment Squadron were attacking Galela Airdrome, six other B-25Js of the squadron continued the search of B-25J #013. Among those flying with the search aircraft as an observer was the 100th Bombardment Squadron’s Flight Surgeon, Dr. Vaughn A. Avakian,4 on B-25J #979. The six search aircraft of the 100th Bombardment Squadron took off from Mar Airfield between 0817 and 1245, each to search a prescribed area. After searching for up to six and a half hours, the aircraft recovered at Mar from 1440 to 1805. Sunset was at 1754. The squadron’s search results were negative.
The search missions flown by the 100th Bombardment Squadron on December 26 were but a part of a 42nd Bombardment Group effort to locate the missing aircraft. On December 26 a total of 20 B-25’s were dispatched on search missions: four each from the 69th and 70th Bombardment Squadrons, six from the 100th Bombardment Squadron, seven from the 75th Bombardment Squadron, and six from the 390th Bombardment Squadron. All search results were negative.5
The first search aircraft to take off from Mar Airfield sighted a Japanese type C armored barge approximately three quarters of a mile north of Lawak Island at 0853 from 2000’. The barge, headed north, was calm in the water apparently attempting to escape detection. Three passes were made over the barge to properly identify it, and on the third run the barge opened up with the machine gun on the stern. The plane, having identified it as Jap and having received fire from the barge, made seven strafing runs at minimum altitude all from different directions. Approximately 1,200 rounds of ammunition were expanded and the barge was left in the sinking condition as disinterment by additional dry runs over the boat before leaving. Of the six occupants, all were killed or so severely wounded that they could not move when the plane made its last strafing run. Four the men jumped over overboard when the strafing started and were left floating lifeless. The other two stayed with the boat firing the guns until they too were killed. The area was searched by the plane while returning to base and there was no sign of anything there. The attacks were made between 0853 and 0912.6
There are no entries for December 26, 1944 in Wayne’s journal.
In England, Wayne’s brother, Verne, wrote in his diary:
Had several false starts at a training mission, but it was finally cancelled.
Notes and Commentary
1 Consolidated Mission Report #42-956, 26 December 1944. Headquarters 42nd Bombardment Group (M), 26 December 1944, microfilm B0132, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 649-652.
2 Operations Order No. 139, 26 December 1944, 100th Bombardment Squadron (M). Office of the Operations Officer, 26 December 1944, microfilm A0576, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frames 1703-1704 & 1711.
3 Final Mission Report, Mission No. 222, 26 December 1944, 100th Bombardment Squadron (M). Office of the Intelligence Officer, 26 December 1944, microfilm A0576, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frames 1706-1708.
4 “Vaughn A. Avakian” Chicago Tribune, November 3, 2002 (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-11-03/news/0211030091_1_il-vaughn-palos-heights : accessed 26 December 2014)
5 Final Mission Report, Mission No. 223, 26 December 1944, 100th Bombardment Squadron (M). Office of the Intelligence Officer, 26 December 1944, microfilm A0576, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frames 1700-1702.
6 Consolidated Mission Report #42-959, 26 December 1944. Headquarters 42nd Bombardment Group (M), 26 December 1944, microfilm B0132, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 657-658.