On Palawan in the Philippines, Wayne sweats out orders home . . . .
Six more days pass of sweating those orders. Moonless nights, days that cause the nerves to twang. Japs usually come at such times. That ain’t good to say the least. Otherwise, little has been done. Three days of line guard duty and there is the second of CQ.
A couple of the crews flew a shipping sweep to the China coast, French Indochina. On the shipping sweep, they poked their noses into a wide bay. Received antiaircraft which wounded the navigator. Then they got their noses out of there.1
Some more of my buddies went down over Cebu the other day. Went in from 1,500 feet. Cause unknown.2 Later, after the Infantry moved up, they found only two bodies in the plane. Erhardt and one unidentified. Therefore, four men must have gotten out. Among those on the plane were Lou Miller my old radio operator; George Winkler, engineer; Lt. Orcutt, pilot. A gang of swell guys. Their plane was seen to wing down just before the target area, and then it was righted again and so did the rest of the 1,500 feet to earth. Upon striking, it began to fall apart; but infantry reports say it’s bombs didn’t explode or burn and four men definitely left the ship.3
It is late, am tired and now it’s time to close for the night.
Lt. Finchum, of course, has gone home and I will miss him.4 A swell egg and the best pilot any ship ever had.
My eyes are swimming and I’m nodding my head, so goodnight all until tomorrow.
In England, 10 crews of the 392nd Bombardment Group were briefed at 0330 on a mission to bomb the marshalling yard at Plauen in support of advancing Russian forces.5 Kenneth E. Cline took off on his 9th mission at 0645 with the other mission aircraft, but aborted and returned to Wendling. The crew of B-24 #240 received no mission credit. B-24 #589 of the 576th Bombardment Squadron also returned and did not receive mission credit.6
Notes & Commentary
1 On April 2, 1945, B-25s from the 69th, 70th, 75th and 100th Bombardment Squadrons conducted a shipping strike along the coast of Indochina from Cape St. Jacques to Cape Padaran. During the mission, two small Japanese warships were sunk. Intense, medium and heavy, accurate antiaircraft fire was received from Cape St. Jacques as the planes left their search of the bay. Dual purpose guns were firing from the northwest side of Cape St. Jacques, along the ridge paralleling the west coast. Two planes were holed and one man wounded.
A hospital ship with a red cross on the side was observed just west of Cape St. Jacques as were several large junks.
Standard Mission Report, Mission No. 42-1186, 2 April 1945. Headquarters 42nd Bombardment Group (M), 2 April 1945, microfilm B0132, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 1653-1656.
2At 0740, one plane, the 100th Bombardment Squadron flight leader of the first element, crashed just east of the Pilogo River, east of Consolacion. No antiaircraft fire was observed a the time. The plane did not burn or explode.
Standard Mission Report, Mission No. 42-1189, 3 April 1945. Headquarters 42nd Bombardment Group (M), 3 April 1945, microfilm B0132, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 1661 1663.
3On Apr il 3, 1945, the following men were listed as missing when their plane went down near Consalacion on Cebu Island. Their plane crashed but did not burn during a ground support attack:
1st Lt. Leonard E. Orcutt
2nd Lt. Robert S. Emerson
2nd Lt. Harry L. Bedard
S/Sgt. George L. Winkler
T/Sgt. Louis H. Miller
Sgt. Willis W. Ehrhardt
History 42nd Bomb Group Apr 1945. Headquarters 42nd Bombardment Group (M), 5 May 1945, microfilm B0132, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frame 1644.
All of the crew were listed as missing in action with the exception of Sgt. Ehrhardt, the armorer/gunner, whose body was found in the wreckage of the plane, B-25 #44-29760. The crash may have been caused by a power stall out as Lt. Orcutt was getting ready to make his first strafing run. While no antiaircraft fire was observed, it is possible the aircraft was hit by small arms fire. The plane nosed into the ground and was broken apart. No one was observed leaving the ship.
100th Bombardment Squadron (M) Historical Report, 1 April 1945 – 30 April 1945, Office of the Commanding Officer, 1 May 1945, microfilm B0577, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frames 431 & 527.
All of the men aboard the plane were lost. Their remains were first buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. Each was subsequently disinterred and reburied at different locations across the U.S.
“Airmen Missing in Action from WWII Identified.” U.S. Department of Defense (http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=14595 : accessed 2 April 2015).
4 Wayne last wrote of Lt. Fincham on March 5. At the time, Wayne was confined to the 155th Station Hospital1 on the Cape Gila Peninsula of Morotai Island with a fungus-infected ear. Lt. Finchum with whose crew Wayne had come to Guadalcanal dropped by with a carton of cigarettes and some beer. They ended up drinking three or four bottles a piece. Of the original crew, Wayne is the only one left: Stanley Seehorn was killed on January 1, 1945; Russell was evacuated in October 1944 with a broken arm; Lt. Tolhurst was transferred to the 70th Bombardment Squadron at the end of 1944; and now, Lt. Finchum has gone home.
5History for the Month of April 1945, Headquarters 392nd Bombardment Group (H), 7 May, microfilm B0445, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frame 1872.
6 “Mission #274, Target: Plauen.” http://WWW.B24.NET (http://www.b24.net/missions/MM040545.htm : accessed 02 April 2015)
Another very interesting post, thank you. And sad, of course, as men’s lives are lost ,a few here, a few there. Isn’t language interesting. How many people nowadays are “swell eggs” ?
Lt. Fincham married my grandmother before I was born. The thought that he and I were not related by blood never once crossed my mind growing up. My siblings and I called him “Papa” until the day he passed away. He was and always will be, my idol…my grandfather. I have enjoyed reading through this website and cannot express how much it means to me to read the part he played in another great man’s life, however briefly.
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After the war, perhaps in the summer of 1947 or 48, Wayne and his wife, drove from South Carolina to Colorado to visit relatives. They arranged their trip so as to travel through Pratt, Kansas to visit his old aircraft commander, Lt. Finchum.
It was hot and those were the days of cars without air conditioning. They checked into a motel at the edge of town to freshen up and change clothes. After that, they went to Harold’s house. They mentioned that they had checked into a motel before coming over. Without giving it a second thought, so the story goes, Harold said “Get in the car. No friend of mine is staying in a motel.” They went to the motel, retrieved their luggage, and went back to Harold’s house where they stayed for several days.
They stayed in touch over the years through letters and Christmas cards. Eventually, only through Christmas cards . . . . and only occasionally. The War over and life moved on for each of them.
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