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A little background and explanation
I spent 3 years in the SWPA with the 3rd Bomb. Gp. A year of that time was with the 13th Sq., the rest of the time with Hq. Sq. I was a Photographer/Labtech. Three years ago the 13th Sq. was reactivated and now flies the B-2 Stealth Bomber. I was invited to attend the ceremonies. Sometime later the Sq. Comm., Col Eldridge asked me if I could provide him with some WW II incidents, or events, that he could use at the Friday Pilot's meetings. Over a span of a couple months I sent him around 30 complete with photographs.
Gd'morning Col. Eldridge;
I don't know whether I can have one for you every Friday - my memory ain't what it used to be. But I'll send them as they come to mind. That way you can use as you want to. Hope they don't get boring.
April 11, '43 was not a good day for the 13th Sq. Reapers. The 10 months we were at Charters Towers, we had never experienced an air raid. The 3 months we had been at Port Moresby we had experienced night raids, but never a daylite raid.
The morning of the 11th Marvin and I were working in the darkroom at about 10:30 when the 'red alert' siren sounded off. We quickly closed things up, grabbed our cameras and headed for the top of a hill next to our camp area. The 13th Photo Shack was in the camp area, rather than on the hanger line. We got to the top; from there we could see the air strip about a mile away. We scanned the skies and suddenly saw the biggest formation of planes we had ever seen - friend or foe - (photo attached, look close you can see about 35 little dots at 20,000 ft.) and they were headed right for our hill. We both decided we'd be better off in a slit trench at the bottom of the hill, and started down. About half way down bombs started exploding and we both hit the dirt. When I was a kid going to WW I movies and bombs dropped they always whistled. These bombs did not whistle, it sounded like somebody rushing thru a wheat field.
When they quit exploding we got up and headed on down the hill, grabbed a jeep and headed for the air strip. The planes we saw veered off and hit 14 Mile Field where the 13th had their 8 B-25s. The main body of the formation headed on down towards Moresby and hit 3 Mile Field where the 8th & 89th Sqs. were.
We got out to the hangar line, and things were a mess. "Baby Blitz" and "Fair Dinkum" were heaps of burning rubble (photos attached). All told 7 of our 8 planes were out of commission, and the Sq. would sit idle for several weeks. When we did get resupplied with planes they were the modified low level straffers. Up to that time we were still flying the high level B-25s, which is what we flew in the Bismarck Sea Battle. The 90th B-25s and the 89th A-20s had been modified and they were the stars of the Bismarck Sea Battle. But that's another story.
The amazing part of the day was the casualty list. Counting mechanics, armorers, commutations guys, etc. there were probably 100 personnel amongst those 8 planes that morning. We had one man suffer shrapnel wound. Those slit trenches really paid off that day, for all the sweat and cussing that went into digging them.
As I mentioned the main part of the formation (there were approx. 100 planes, total in the raid) headed down to 3 Mile Field. Hqs. Sq. was camped on a hill overlooking the air strip, and beside their camp was a gasoline dump. My good buddy "Tack" Tackaberry had been on nite duty in Operations and was sleeping in his tent. When the siren went off he ignored it and stayed in bed. The planes laid a string of bombs thru the gas dump and thru their camp area. When the bombs started exploding Tack just rolled out of bed and hit the dirt. When it was over his tent was full of shrapnel holes. Just wasn't his day to die.
A little WWII History
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
It's good to know that I wasn't intruding on a busy man's time, and that the present crop of "Reaper Pilots" appreciated the story of a "Reaper" of by gone days. A little back ground on this little bit of history I'm sending that includes the 13th Bomb. Sq. of WW II.
The nephew of a 5th Air Force Hq. Photo Lab Photographer inherited his Great Uncles photo collection when he died. The nephew put the collection in book form, added captions and explanations, and it will be hitting the book stores before too long. About a year ago he asked me to write an Introduction for the book. That is what I have included in this Email.
incidentally, Mr. Heyn died 45 years ago, I'm his son, Jack.
[“From an introduction I wrote for an upcoming book on the 5th Air Force from Schiffer Publishing titled “Combat Recon".
THE FORGOTTEN FIFTH
The Far East Air Force was renamed the Fifth Air Force in February of 1942. It did not function as an Air Force until Sept., 1942 when General George C. Kenney took over as Commanding General. My outfit, the Third Bomb Group . (L), arrived in Brisbane, Australia February 25. I was a member of the 5th Air Force from its inception until I boarded the General A.E. Anderson troop ship on February 18, 1945 to return to the States.
Shortly after Pearl Harbor President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill made the decision to defeat Germany first. It became very evident to the troops in the S. W. Pacific that the Pacific was to be the step child of WW II. The bulk of men and materiel was sent to the European Theater. We got the hand-me-downs and the left overs and were left to fight a war with one arm tied behind us. 1942 proved to be extremely costly to the 5th in both men and aircraft. Case in point: my outfit the Third Bomb Group. On December 7, ‘41 we consisted of 5 tactical Sqs.; Hq., 8th, 13th, 89th and the 90th. The 8th was equipped with the A-24 Douglas dive bomber. The other four were equipped with the A-20 Douglas light bomber. In their haste to get us overseas (we left the States seven weeks after Pearl Harbor) the powers that be failed to provide aircraft for us. On March 10. 1942 we arrived at a new air strip at Charters Towers, Queensland, Australia. ready to fight a war, but had nothing to fight with. In March we received 42 pilots and 64 enlisted men from the 27th Bomb. Group in the Phillipines along with 24 A-24s. The aircraft were assigned to the 8th Sq., the pilots and enlisted men were spread through out the other Sqs. Also in March we begged, borrowed or stole 25 B-25s from the Dutch that were divided between the 13th and 90th Sq. The 89th went begging for a while.
There were times when we could only put six planes in the air for a mission. Were it not for the borrowed men from the RAAF we would have been hard pressed to man those planes. It was not unusual to lose two or three of the those planes to enemy Zeros. May 25, 1942 we sent six (some sources say 8, my memory says six) over Lae on a mission and 5 of them were shot down. For the next two years there were times when one of the Sqs. Would be inactive for the lack of aircraft. Almost two years after our arrival we finally received a full compliment
of A-20s in January, 1944. The Fifth has been know as the "Forgotten Fifth". I’ve heard the question, why, since we read a lot about them. The reason you read and see more about them to day is two fold.
WW II was not only the greatest armed conflict in the history of mankind - it was also the most documented on film. In the case of the Fifth Air Force each Bombardment Group had some of their bombers equipped with still cameras, When they started a bomb run the camera would make an exposure every three to four seconds on a 150 ft roll of film 9 inches wide. Fifth Bomber Command had a Photo Section with some cinematographers. They would assign one or two of them to a Bombardment Group and they would record the mission on 16 mm movie film. In addition to this an awful lot of the troops carried their own personal cameras. Fellows, like myself, being in a Photo Section had an additional benefit. We were able to get a lot of the mission photos for our personal collections. Since the coming of computers and the internet (World Wide Web) a lot of these personal collections have found their way onto Websites. Also a lot of the 16 mm movie film has found its way onto documentaries on the History Channel and other channels. The second reason you read and see more is that 60 years after the fact more of the surviving Veterans of the Fifth are opening up and talking about their time in the "Green Hell" The "Forgotten Fifth" refers its war time service - when it was a step child of WW II.
Dick Walker's Rabaul Mission
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
I got this favorable response from Dick Walker, Col., A.F.Ret. WW II 13th Sq. Commander. It will probably be the only one you get from him, but it's a good one.
The Raid on Rabaul, 2 November1943
Late in October 1943, the Japanese began to assemble a major naval force at Rabaul New Britain. The purpose of this assembly was probably to reinforce their positions on New Guinea or Bouganville where they had suffered earlier defeats and loss of territory. On the 2nd of November, the Fifth Air Force was directed to attack this force which was assembled in Simpson Harbor at Rabaul. We earlier had success in attacking shipping by low level bombing using converted B-25 medium bombers equipped with eight forward firing 50 caliber machine guns plus bombing mechanisms that us allowed us to drop our bombs at tree top level. The plan by the Allies was to use this force to attack the Japanese armada at Rabaul.
I was a member of the 13th Squadron of the 3rd Attack Group, one of the two converted B-25 groups designated to carry out the attack. Rabaul was a heavily defended Japanese installation, probably second only to the bastion at Truk. Reconnaissance reports indicated that there were about 200 fighters based at Rabaul and these had been reinforced by 200 or more additional fighters flown in from the Japanese base at Truk. There were numerous anti aircraft artillery batteries stationed all around the harbor and there were several heavily armed warships in the harbor itself. About the only way you can defeat a determined air attack is to destroy all the attacking aircraft before they get to the target. It takes a lot of defense to accomplish this, but the Japanese were obviously going to try.
The morning briefing conducted prior to takeoff was a very somber affair. Hearing the latest word on the extent of the Japanese defenses was pretty much a prediction that all of us would not be coming home. The twelve crews that were assigned to fly the mission sat grey faced and quiet during the briefing. The attack was to be carried out by waves of bombers attacking by Squadrons in file with twelve airplanes per squadron flying in a line abreast sweeping across Simpson Harbor. My Squadron was the second Squadron scheduled in. . Our approach was “up the chute” the channel between New Britain and New Ireland.. We formed up from four three ship elements into an eleven ship line abreast while going northeast using the hills in that area to shield us from anti aircraft fire prior to turning south to attack. We were under fighter attack as we approached our turning point. Major Wilkins, who was the leader of our three squadrons was shot down while we were still approaching the turning point.. I was the inside man in my Squadron line and there were only two ships in my element because the leader of our three ship element, our Squadron Operations Officer, had turned back to home shortly after take off.. Wheeling a line of eleven airplanes into a wide turn while flying line abreast puts a lot of pressure on the inside man. Carrying a heavy bomb load and making a tight turn without stalling out or getting ahead of the rest of the line is tricky, so just before we reached our designated turning point, together with my wing man,(because our element leader had turned back, I was now the element leader) I initiated a turn. When I completed my turn and started my bomb run I looked for the rest of my squadron and the only thing I saw was my Wing Man going down. Our Squadron Commander for some reason, never turned in to attack. Instead he circled the city and dropped his bombs somewhere other than against the shipping. The rest of the squadron followed him and none of them never hit the target. By that time I was out in the harbor alone. Prior to this, my heart was in my mouth. To say I was scared, would be an understatement, but for some reason, at this point I was now more calm. Maybe it was because I was resigned to my fate or because I was fully occupied concentrating on my bomb run, I don’t know, but I quickly reasoned that my best chance to survive was to stay low where I was a difficult target while flying between ships rather than above them. I maneuvered among the ships flying as low as I could concentrating on staying between the ships and then lined up on a merchant vessel. That ships superstructure looked like the empire state building towering in front of me, but I drove in, released my bombs and hauled back on the yoke, the plane zoomed up in a steep climb and barely cleared the ships superstructure. We made a good hit and photos taken from the rear of my airplane show smoke and debris in the air as my bombs exploded. I immediately got back down on the deck and after a minute or two I was out of the harbor and on my way home. Later photos from following aircraft show the ship I attacked sinking stern down (photo attached). In reality however, I think that I was fortunate to be the only attacker in the harbor at the time because I was not easily spotted by the Jap fighters while I was flying among the ships and as a result, they focused more on the large incoming flights following mine. I don’t know what happened to my squadron. I never saw them again until I got home. I made the return trip alone.
According to one report, on that day, we lost 45 airmen killed or missing. Eight B-25s and nine P-38s shot down and several more suffered major damage. A couple made crash landings on the way home and were rescued, but the rest of my flight was uneventful and my only damage was a couple of bullet holes from small arms fire. I believe that we survived in spite of the confusion and danger because there was an unseen hand in the cockpit that gave us confidence and guided us safely through this “Valley of Death“. To this day, for some unknown reason, I believe that I was protected.
Shortly after this event, as a result of the Squadrons poor performance, our Squadron Commander and Operations Officer were sent home and a new Commander brought in from another Squadron. I was appointed as the new Operations Officer and promoted to Captain. I eventually became Squadron Commander and at the tender age of 24, was promoted to Major.
The Realities of War
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
Here is another for your files. Any time you want me to cease, just let me know.
After the Coral Sea Battle stopped the japs from taking Port Moresby by sea, they started coming across the Owen Stanley Mts. from the Buna Gona area via the Kokota Trail. During this time the Gp. was based at Charters Towers in Aust. Their main targets were shipping, air strips and air support for ground troops. Moresby was too hot a target for jap Betty bombers for the planes to spend any lenghth of time their. They would fly into Moresby, refuel load up bombs and take off on the mission. They would then return to Moresby refuel and return to base at C.T. Along about Nov. we got a little better control of the air around Moresby and we started alternating Sqs. We would send 2 Sqs. up for a two week period, then bring them home and send the other two up.
It was during this time that the japs were pushing across the Owen Stanleys. They got within 30 miles of Moresby before the Aussie 7th and 9th Inf. Divs. and the U.S. 32nd and a little later the U.S. 41st Divs. stopped the japs and drove them back. This ended with the final battles of the Buna-Gona-Sanananda Point compaign. This entire campaign was supplied by air. The C-47s flew out of 4 Mile Field. They would take off at daylite, fly across the hump, drop their load by parachutes and return for another load. This went on all day until dark. At this time 4 Mile Field was considered one of the busiest air ports in the world.
It was during this campaign that the 13th Sq., and the others, flew a lot of air support missions for the ground troops. But it proved to be a dicey situation at times. Between Moresby and the Buna Gona area is nothing but jungles. The ground troops were fighting under the canopy of one of the densest rain forests in the world. The pilots would never see their targets. They would be given a certain sector to drop their bombs, at a given time. Ninety nine percent of the time this worked fine. But on a couple of occasions there was a problem. The ground troops would break thru ahead of schedule, maybe at the last minute, but the pilots would not know it. The results "friendly fire". Some of our own troops were caught in our fire. It is one of the many hazzards of war, but nobody felt worse than the pilots.
It ended in the early weeks of 1943 when the Aussie and U.S. Divs. finally defeated the japs in the Buna Gona Sanananda Point battles. We visited the area after we moved over to Doba Dura in May of '43. There were some grim reminders of some of the bloodiest fighting of the war. The Saputa Cemetary with row after row of White Crosses where the 32nd and 41st casualties were buried. (photo attached). There had been a Palmolive Peat coconut palm plantation in the area. The trees had been stripped by shell fire (photo attached). On the beach at Sanananda Point were several bleached out skulls (photo attached).
Realities of War
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
Old Sherman hit the nail on the head when he proclaimed "War is Hell". They are started by old men, but fought by young men - I was 18 when we went over seas.
Here's another one for your file.
When we left the States the Gp. consisted of 5 tactical Sqs. - Hq. was also a tactical unit. Having been shipped over sans aircraft, 6 months later we were still woefully short of aircraft. The 13th & 90th were struggling along with the B-25s they acquired from the Dutch, getting a replacement occasionally; the 89th was gradually getting some A-20s. On July 29th the 8th had lost the last of the A-24s they had inherited from the 27th Bomb. Gp. Hq. had yet to see any aircraft. So it was decided to deactivate Hq. as a tactical unit, and it became strictly an administrative unit - Gp. Operations, Gp. Intell., etc.
All combat crews were transferred to the other 4 Sqs. It was decided they had one more clerk in Operations than needed. Being the low man, I was transferred to the 13th Sq. Operations. I ended up in a four man tent with S/Sgt. Larry Giles. One of the finest guys I had ever met (photo attached). He became Crew Chief on the B-25 "Not In Stock".
Jan 7, '43 "Not In Stock" dissapeared over the Coral Sea on the way to Port Moresby. The first time you lose a good friend, even at age 19, it’s a little rough. But one's feelings do get calloused. Over the next 2 years I would lose 2 more tent mates, 3 photographer buddies and countless mess mates. Four months after returning to the States in '45 I attended my Grand Mothers funeral - couldn't even shed a tear.
There is one big advantage to being a 'ground pounder' in the Air Force, as opposed to being an Infantry man. When you lose a good buddy it is not so traumatic. He just climbs aboard one of those magnificent flying machines and flys off into oblivion. You don't share a fox hole with him and see him get his head blown off with a mortar shell. He is just as dead: he will never marry a beautiful young lady, never raise a beautiful family and never celebrate a Golden Wedding Anniversary. But you didn't have to witness his death.
The Coral Sea Battle
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
Our participation in the Coral Sea Battle was minor, but the Battle itself was major for the area. Had the japs been succesful in taking Port Moresby Australia would have been in dire straits.
Here's another one for your file.
The Coral Sea Battle in early May, 1942 was strictly a Naval affair. I do believe it might have been the first Naval engagment carried out entirely by aircraft. The 3rd Bomb. Gp. played a very miniscule part, they shadowed the jap convoy for a couple days. Capt. Harold Maull, (photo attached) 13th Sq., flew one of the B-25s that participated. I recently received a phone call from Steven Kozloski. He had read the article I wrote for the 13th Sq. Assn. magazine "The Invader". and just felt the urge to converse with a fellow Reaper from long ago. Turns out he was the Radio/Gunner on one of those recon flights. When they had spotted the convoy thru the cumulus clouds he had radioed the position.
The Coral Sea Battle was an early turning point in the war. The jap convoy was headed for the invasion of Port Moresby on the south coast of New Guinea. Had they been successful it would have been a major blow to the allied cause and a definite threat to Australia. It was the first defeat of a jap move. After that effort to take Moresby failed, they started the trek across the Owen Stanely Mts. to take it by land. And that's a whole 'nother story.
The Bismark Sea Battle
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
Here's another one for your file.
In Jan., '43 the Group moved up to Port Moresby, and the 13th was based at 14 Mile Field. On Feb., 28, '43 a convoy of jap naval ships, supply ships and troop ships left Rabaul on New Britain headed for Lae on New Guinea with 6 to 7 thousand troops to reinforce the garrison at Lae. Due to bad weather it wasn't spotted again until Mar. 2.
At this point the Heavies started working on it, with small results. It is a little difficult to hit a moving target on the water from 15 to 20 thousand feet, even with the Norden Bomb Sight, since this was before the advent of "smart bombs". On Mar. 3rd they came in range of the B-25s and A-20s of the 3rd Bomb. Gp and the weather had cleared. The 3rd Bomb. Gp. had a field day.
Thanx to the initiative and driving force of Col. P.I. "Pappy" Gunn (3rd Gp. Materiel Officer) the A-20s of the 89th Sq. and the B-25s of the 90th Sq. had been modified to low level straffers. For some time the pilots had been honing their skip bombing skills on a derelict ship in Port Moresby Harbor.
From early morning till dusk on Mar. 3 the planes of the 3rd Bomb. Gp. would attack the convoy. The A-20s of the 89th and the B-25s of the 90th at mast high altitude (photo attached). The 13th's high level B-25s attack from medium altitudes (photo attached), That was a busy day for every body involved. When the planes returned from their first mission it was a hectic time getting the planes refueled, the bomb bays reloaded with 500 lb. bombs and the 12 forward firing 50 cal. guns reloaded. That was 4 in the nose, two in nacelles on each side of the fuselage, and two turrets swung forward. If memory serves me right they all flew 3 missions that day.
The convoy had consisted of, some say 20 some say 22 ships, of varrying kinds. When the day was done they were all either sunk, burning in the water or disabled. and the 6 to 7 thousand troops dumped in the water. I never did hear any of our guys mention it, but it has been said that a lot of those troops were straffed in the water. Considering the fact that a lot of our guys had seen buddies straffed in rubber rafts after being shot down, and others shot dangling in parachutes by the japs - it's not surprising. Besides it was essential that those troops not reach Lae.
I think this was the first naval victory achieved entirely by land based bombers.
For all practical purposes that battle ended the jap advance in the S.W. Pacific and started our two year trek back to the Phillipines,. In May we packed up and moved across the Owen Stanleys to Doba Dura on the N. side of New Guinea.
Nadzab - Dick Walker's decoration
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
Another one for your files. I'm afraid after Col. Walkers contribution anything I send is going to be pretty dull; but here's another for your file.
After a nine month stay at Doba Dura, from whence they pulled the Rabaul missions, the Group moved up to Nadzab in Jan. '44. Nadzab is about 30 miles up the Markham River Valley from Lae. It was the air strip at Lae that Amelia Earhart took off from in July, 1937 and flew off into oblivion.
It was at this point in time and place, after two years, that the Group finally received a full compliment of A-20s. For the first time all four Sqs. would be flying the same airplane. Targets were pretty much the same, shipping, air strips and air support for ground troops. Wewac and Hollandia were prime targets. MacArthur would leap frog Wewac, leave it to die on the vine, and Hollandia would be the next landing.
While at Nadzab Gen. Kenney paid us a visit and we had a decoration formation. Capt. Rich. Walker, later to become 13th Sq. Comm., would be one of the recipients (photo attached). I don't remember what it was he received, but I expect it was for the Rabaul mission. Like Moresby, Nadzab would be one of our shorter stays. In May we moved up to Hollandia two weeks after the landing.
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
Here's another one for your file,
In May 1944 the Group would pack up, once again, and move to Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, two weeks after the initial landing. This would be our last stop on the worlds second largest Island, New Guinea. Not affectionately referred to by many who had spent any time on it as "The Green Hell". The beach we landed on was about 50 yards wide and backed up on a swamp. It was a very congested area and had but one road leading off to the airstrips inland. We would spend that first nite on the beach among 500 lb. bombs and 90mm artilliary shells. The beach had been hit two or three times by jap air raids. Fortuneatly we did not have any visitors that nite.
Targets were pretty much the same with one exception. I was back in Hq. Sq. with the Gp. Photo Section, processing mission film from all the Sqs. We started seeing something new in the photos - oil well derricks at the Bolio oil field (photo attached). I still manged to get out around the 13th on occasion, photographing their A-20s lined up one day. Also caught Maj. Dick Walker, Sq. Comm., briefing his pilots before a mission one day (photos attached). Compare that to the 8th Air Force breifings depicted in war movies.
While at Hollandia we had several U.S.O. troupes visit us. The most noteable being Bob Hope's troupe. Bob was always good for laughs but his dancer, Patty Thomas, and singer, Frances Langford, were much easier on the eyes (photos attached). It was also while at Hollandia that we suffered a blow to our pride - the WACs caught up with us. The Officers threw a big party for them, but they weren't off limits to E.M. Nothing like a K-Ration picnic in the N.G. rain forest (photos attached).
Up to this point the 3rd Gp. had always been the first Bomb. Gp. to move into a new area. When they landed on Leyte in the P.I. the 38th Bomb. Gp. got the honor. It was another blow to our pride, but we dodged a bullet. While sitting in the harbor the 38th suffered a direct hit in an air raid and suffered many casualties. In mid Nov. we would follow - and that's a whole 'nother story.
Gd'morning Col. Eldridge;
The old memory has come up with another episode that had no bearing on the out come of the war. But made the celebration of one of our Nat'l. holidays a little more pleasant, altho half way around the world from home fires and family.
Our 13th Sq. Mess Sgt. had made arrangements with a turkey farmer to get turkeys for our Thanxgiving dinner. Just one problem, the farmer lived in MacKay and we had to pick them up. MacKay was a sleepy little town on the East coast about half way between Townsville and Brisbane - roughly about 300 miles from Townsville. Early in Nov., '42 the Mess Sgt., his assistant, a driver and myself (with my trusty Speed Graphic camera) climbed aboard a G.I. 6x6 truck and headed for MacKay.
In the 1940s the hiway systems in Australia left a lot to be desired. The road between C.T. and Townsville (about 80 miles) was two lane, hard surfaced. The road between Townville and MacKay was non existant. In the Dakotas we called them cow paths. One of us had to ride in the back and it was a rough ride, to say the least. There were times when we weren't sure we were on the right path. But eventually we did find our way into MacKay. It was a pleasant town pretty much untouched by the war or the military. It would later be turned into an R&R center for Air Force ground pounders. The combat crews got to go to Brisbane - and they damned well earned it.
For some reason it took almost a week to cut the deal, get the turkeys and head back home. But it was a pleasant week, and none of us were complaining. We stayed in a nice hotel, with a handy "Pub" down stairs. At the age of 19 I still wasn't into drinking, but the other guys took advantage of the "Pub". Had plenty of time to explore the town and sort of get acquainted with some folks. The main street was lined with palm trees and very neat and clean. (photo attached). They had a nice Botanical Gardens with a palm tree line road leading into it (photo attached).
They also had a Photography Studio, which I visited. They had a couple of nice Aussie Lasses working, that made me welcome and showed me around the place. This was before the days of color photgraphy. You could get Kodachrome slide film, but it was before the days of Kodacolor print film. So if you wanted a color portrait the studio had a colorist that colored it with oils. This studio had one (photo attached). The town also had a very nice Catholic Church (photo attached) which I made a point of finding so I wouldn't miss Mass on Sunday.
Finally we had a load of turkeys and headed back to C.T. One of us having to keep the turkeys company. Why I didn't take a picture of that load of turkeys with a G.I. chaperone, I don't know. I guess at the time I was more interested in people and points of interest. I wasn't looking 65 years into the future, so that load of turkeys didn't seem worth a piece of 4x5 film.
I'm sure the 13th Sq. Reapers enjoyed their Thanxgiving turkey dinner that year. I wouldn't know. I spent Thanxgiving day in the hospital with my first bout of Dengue Fever, 4 days of 104 temps, and droping from 180 to 160 lbs. I was told I would be immune for 2 years. Thanxgiving day 1944 on Leyte Is. in the P.I. I was in the hospital with my 2nd bout of Dengue Fever. This time I only lost 15 lbs.
I don't know whether you have felt every thing I've sent you was worth relaying to your Pilots, and any time you want me to quit sending, just say the word. I trust every body enjoyed a nice quiet 90th anniversary yesterday.
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
Here is another one for your file, and may be the last one. Unless I think of some individual events that may be of interest.
In mid Nov. 1944 we packed things up and loaded up an LST for another Island hopping cruise. This time is was a beach on Leyte Island in the Phillipines. As it turned out we would sit on that beach spinning our wheels for six weeks. It was the rainy season on the east side of the archepelago and there were no air strips available for our A-20s to operate from. So the planes and crews stayed at Hollandia and continued to fly missions out of there.
Those six weeks were not entirely uneventful for those of us that were there. The first problem was a personal one. I spent Thanxgiving Day in the hospital with my second bout of Dengue Fever. I spent Thanxgiving Day '42 in the hospital at C.T. with my first bout. At the time they told me I would be immune for two years - they should be so damned accurate.
About the time they released me for limited duty and I returned to the Sq. a typhoon blew in off Leyte Gulf with 90 mph winds in the middle of the nite. It flattened just about every tent in the camp. Least ways that gave us something to do the next day, putting the camp back together.
About a mile inland from us was a fighter strip. One nite the japs dropped some paratroops on it. We threw perimiter guards around the camp area, and I just don't believe anybody got any sleep that nite. There was a Quartermaster out fit down the beach from us, and we kept hearing small arms fire from them most of the nite. Really don't know what they were shooting at. When daylite arrived the Infantry made short work of the jap paratroopers.
Another earth shaking event occurred during those six weeks. We were issued beer - good old American beer. I guess somebody figured that after 3 years we had earned a free beer.
Needless to say Christmas, 1944, was no big deal. I did get to Mass and as I recall we had canned turkey for dinner. No mince meat pie, no exchanging of gifts and no carload of kinfolks came to visit.
On Dec. 28 some of those old reliable LSTs floated up on the beach and, once again, we loaded every thing for another pleasure cruise. About midnite we pulled away from the beach and were on our way. The next morning we were headed west thru the Phillipine Straits headed for Mindoro Island on the west side of the archepelago. Where it was supposed to be the dry season. About 10:30 the next morning four of us were playing cards top side. Three jap planes came in low over an island on our right, under the radar. One flew right over our ship and dove strait into a Liberty ship one lane over and two ships back. Ammunition ship, it went strait up and mushroomed out like the Abomb pictures. No survivors. We had come face to face with the "devine wind", kamakazis. The next 48 hours they would come at us nite and day. One will never forget that blast over the speakers "Man your battle stations". The navy gunners knocked 25 of them out of the sky, 3 of them close enough for me to photograph (photo attached). But they succeeded in sinking 8 ships out of our convoy.
About midmorning New Year Eve we made landfall. By nitefall we had all our equipment out to our camp site. We prepared to spend the nite on the ground under a shelter half. I expect that was one of the best New Years Eves that bunch of "Reapers" ever spent - they were just damned happy to be alive. Twelve days later I received my rotation orders for home. Caught a C-47 back to Hollandia where I would catch surface transportation back to the states. On board that ship were the 500 "Ghost Soldiers" that had been rescued from the infamous Cabanatuan POW camp. They were a sad looking group; many had to be carried aboard on liters, many were missing limbs and all were malnourished. But thanx to their being on board we ate the best chow I had seen in my four years in the service.
My next personal contact with any Reapers would be the 2003 reunion at Springfield, Mo.
Where 13 of us showed up. It was the first reunion I had attended, and unfortunately the last. As they decided to discontinue formal reunions. But as the saying goes "once a Reaper, always a Reaper"; and I thouroughly enjoyed meeting the 21st century Reapers and the monster B-2 they fly at the reactivation two years ago.
Regards, Jack Heyn, Reaper, WW II Version.
Insignificant Citizen Soldier
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
I don't know that you can use this one for your Pilot's Meeting. In some of these naratives I have mentioned the 13th Sq. Photo Shack. You may be wondering what the "Devils Own Grim Reapers" were doing with a Photo Shack. It involves one insignificant citizen soldier, myself, and one hell of a fine Sq. Comm., Maj. Alexander Evenoff (The Mad Russian).
I got interested in photography in High School. My Jr. & Sr. years I took all the year book photos except the formal Sr. portraits. I wanted to make a career of it. Being a product of the depression there was no money for higher education. The Army Air Corp had a program whereby if you enlisted you could pick your school. They had an excelent Photography School at Lowry Field in Denver. Aug. 31, 1941 I enlisted with the promise to attend that school.
When I finished basic training in mid Oct. there were no openings at the school. I was assigned to Hq. Sq. 3rd Bomb. Gp. (Light), Savannah Army Air Base, Savannah, Ga.; and scheduled to attend school in Jan. 1942. Having some typing skills I was put in Gp. Operations as a clerk typist. Dec. 7, 1941 had a profound effect on a lot of lives, not the least of which was mine. In Jan. I was on the USS Ancon with the 3rd Bomb. Gp. headed for points unknown.
In Aug. 1942 when I was transferred to the 13th Sq. Operations Office, I discovered that Maj. Evanoff, the Sq. Comm. was an avid shutter bug. In the office was a C-3 Camera kit (4x5 Speed Graphic) that nobody knew how to use. I didn't hesitate to let the Maj. know that all I needed to use that camera was some film and the where with all to process it.
He made a flight to Brisbane and came back with equipment for a complete darkroom, chemicals, film, the works. He set S/Sgt. Marvin Culbreth and myself up in the "13th Sq. Photo Shack". His rationale was that the men needed a place to get their film developed with out depending on the locals; and, of course, we were always at his beck and call. Very unortodox, very unautherized - but it put me where I had joined the Air Corp to be.
In Oct. '42 the 13th had 13 B-25s in operation. Maj. Evanoff lined all 13 of them up on the runway at C.T. with combat crew and ground crew standing in front of each plane. I photogrpahed them with the Speed Graphic and the Maj. photographed them with his movie camera (photos attached: El Aguila was the Majs. plane, front row right end is Col. John Davies Gp. Comm. - next to him is Maj. Evanoff. The other photo is the Maj. with his movie camera and RAAF W.O. Soundy looking on. Soundy was lost on "Not In Stock" )After we were done with the planes and crews we took to the air for some in flight photos. I photographed "8 Ball Esq." flying over the Burdikin River, and one of him banking away, and shot one thru the wind shield that caught my eye (photos attached).
In July 1943 at Doba Dura, N.G. The Maj. decided he wanted some group photographs. We photographed each section, Ordnance, Communications, etc. The most important one was a group photo of the original Ancon survivors (photo attached) - numbering 64, from approx. 200 that came over. A few had flown their 50 missions and had returned to the States. Most were KIA or MIA. Those first 15 months of combat had been very costly in men and aircraft to the 13th Sq. and the 3rd Bomb. Gp.
This story will never be found in the annuls of WW II. But the 13th Sq. is one of the oldest units in the Air Force. It has served honorably in every war since WW I. Among it's many accomplishments it may, very well, be the only Sq. that had its own Photo Shack. To me that is of the utmost importance. Thanx to Maj. Evanoff, I got headed in the right direction - a photographic career that lasted 43 years.
All work and no play, Charter Towers
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
There were days when for one reason or another there were no missions to fly. Days when the guys did have time on their hands, and they were looking for something to do. I am going to break this into segments; a story & photos for each base we were at.
Charters Towers, Aust.
One of the more popular pastimes was sightseeing, since where ever we went it was new country for us. C.T. was a turn of the century gold mining town. Not too far distant was the Burdekin River, with some rather scenic areas. At one point there was a weir crossing the river. To us it was a dam, but they called it a weir (photo attached).
M/Sgt. Moose Owens, never did know his first name, and I made a couple trips out around the river. Moose was one of our Bombardiers; an old army man, old enough to be my Dad. He would provide the jeep and I the camera. He tried his luck at panning for gold in the river (Photo attached), but never had any luck finding nuggets. The river also provided a cooling off place, the old swimming hole so to speak (photo attached).
Another activity was getting acquainted with the native wild life, the likes of which were never seen in the U.S. The most amazing to a lot of us was the "Roo", kangaroo. Some of them taller than a lot of us. Then there was the wallaby, a pint sized kangaroo (photo attached). The Emu was an ostrich like bird, just not quite as large. There was the darling of down under, the koala bear. It was a cutie.
Leave us not forget the most popular past time of all - around pay day, the ever present poker games (photo attached). For about a week after pay day many a poker game was broke up to go eat breakfast. After about a week most of the money was in a few hands, and would be sent home. From then to next pay day it would be bridge and pinochle. At C.T. we could always get passes to go into town. There were two roofless theaters, in case of rain - no movie. But I really don't recall it ever rained while we were there. Then too there were lots of "Pubs", and they didn't card G.I.s. I was only 19 at the time, but hadn't got into drinking. But more than once I helped my buddy Tack find his cot after a nite on the town.
Next stop, Port Moresby.
All work and no Play, Nadzab
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
Nadzab, Papua, N.G.
Once again sight seeing was popular. Nadzab sits about 30 miles up the Markham River Valley from the port town of Lae. The end of the air strip at Lae ended on a rise about 100 ft., or so, above the ocean. This is the air strip that Amelia Earhart took off from in July 1937 an flew off into oblivion. When you got to the end of that runway, there was no second thoughts, you either flew or ended up in the ocean. Amelia's plane was loaded to the brim with fuel, and there was some question whether she would get it in the air, but she did.
Due to the historic value of the place, it attracted a lot of interest. Strewn along the side of the runway were a lot of bombed out jap planes(photo attached). Also there was the remains of an old Ford Trimotor plane(photo attached) with the corregated metal fuselage. I took special interest in that since it was the first plane I had ever seen close up. When I was 5 yrs. old my Dad took me out to the air port in Rapid City to see Clyde Ice's Ford Tri, close up. Clyde was a well known barnstormer of the day.
A deck of cards was always available in just about every tent in camp. If there was no money left for poker, and you could'nt find a foursome for bridge or pinochle there was always solotaire (photo attached), with a kabitzer.
Letter writing was always an option. On about any evening in the Operations Office you might find somebody on a typewriter knocking out a page or two. If you had a beautiful young wife at home, letter writing was mandatory (photo attached). Nadzab was one of our shorter stays, so we didn't have that much time to kill at that base.
Next stop, Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea.
13th Sq. Cement Mixers
Gd'morning Col. Eldridge;
Any time you want me to stop, just say the word. I'm really racking the old brain (and it is getting old) to come up with something worth while.
Shortly after Christmas 1942 we started to prepare for a move. For about the last three months of the year we had enough control of the air over Moresby where it was fairly safe to leave the planes there. We had been alternating Sqs. about 2 weeks at a time up there. In mid Jan., '43 we packed up and headed for Townsville on the coast. I volunteered to drive a truck so I could be there to take photographs along the way (photo attached). When we got to Townsville we loaded onto a Tramp Steamer (photo attached). Since you were'nt supposed to photograph the dock area, I shot from the back of a jeep.
About 3 days later we pulled into the harbor of the beautiful resort city of Port Moresby, Papua, New Guinea (photo attached). It took about 24 hours to get the equipment off the ship and out to 14 Mile Field, which would be our new home for the next four months. The camp area was about a mile from the Air strip in a sort of valley. The first thing we did was clear off Kunai grass. If it wasn't jungle it was usually Kunai grass, a rather tall rugged type grass. Never did see anything like it in S. Dak.
After clearing areas we started a new career. For about the next two weeks we became the Grim Reaper Cement Mixers. I don't know where 1/Sgt. Cates came up with a cement mixer, but he did. We laid cement floors for just about everything: the Orderly Rm; and other offices (photo attached); the Mess Hall (photo); the Photo Shack even got one (Photo) that’s Lt. Christensen, Photo Officer in the shorts and S/Sgt Marvin Culbreth killing time; and we definetly wanted one for the Showers (Photo). Being far removed from the opposite sex, there was no need to have them enclosed, but it was nice to have a concrete floor under them rather than the N.G. mud.
We had been in combat for about 11 months at this point; and they had been costly months in both men and aircraft. Our roster of MIAs and KIAs was getting altogether too long. So after we got fairly well settled in, and while we still had a cement mixer we built a Memorial for our lost Reapers. Marvin Culbreth was also Sq. painter so after the concrete was poured and set up, he did the lettering (photo). And came up with a finished product (photo). It was the base for our flag pole (photo). What better place for their Memorial than under the Flag they died for.
Port Moresby was not a very popular place to be. It was just as hot at midnite as it was at noon; and the mosquitoes were just as thick at noon as at midnite. I was thought by many to be the ass hole of the universe. It was at this base that we participated in the Bismark Sea Battle. Also it was here that we experienced our first daylite air raide, in which we lost 7 of our 8 B-25s. and would sit idle for several weeks. When we did receive more aircraft they were the modified straffers (photo), This would be our shortest stay, in May we would move over to Doba Dura on the north side of the Owen Stanley Mts.
This is the first time I've tried attaching this many photos to an Emai. I hope it doesn’t louse up both of our "Infernal Machines".
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
I don't know if I've overloaded you on these stories, but here is one more I've got for you - before I run out of memories. Hope you find this one good enough for your meetings.
After a short four month stay at the inhospitable Port of Moresby, once again we packed up for a move. This time we boarded an LST (landing ship tank) run by our Navy, no more Tramp Steamers. We sailed down around the East end of the Island and came up the North coast to the Buna-Gona area. Our new home for the next nine months would be the Doba Dura air strips.
We were about to get an up close, intimate acquaintance with the New Guinea rain forest - jungle, never did see anything like that in S.Dak. Our camp area was right in the jungle. Due to the humidity and dampness everything had to be up off the ground, including our tents. The only thing on the ground was the mess hall (photo) and our Photo Shack (Photo). Orderly Room and other offices were up off the ground (photo).
The jungle provided the raw material for all this construction. It was a bamboo like tree snaked out of the jungle (photo). It was used for the uprights, floor joists and beams. For the flooring it was split in half. This all required considerable manual labor and construction skills (photo), which a lot of us were not used to. Like the cement mixing at Moresby, when the camp was completed a lot of us had lost a little weight. But the finished product (photo)
Was the nicest home away from home we had had. Complete with electric lights, and screened in top and hessian cloth bottom. A nice place to relax in when one could find the time (photo).
We had now been in combat for a little over a year. Had lost many men to KIA and MIA, plus most that had survived had flown the required 50 missions and sent home. So we were getting a steady influx of replacement combat crews. One was a gunner from Philly with pure white hair, hence the nick name "Whitey" (photo). Don't remember, if I ever knew, his real name. Shortly after he arrived we had an altercation in a poker game. But after that became very good friends. He was about 6'3", about 200 lbs., but all muscle. His gunner partner was a little skinny guy about 5'6". They came back from a mission one day with the plane all shot up, especially the controls. There was no way they were going land the plane safely. The pilot flew over the camp area to let the crew bail out. The little guy froze over the hatch; Whitey picked him up and threw him out, then followed him. The pilot flew out over the water where his intention was to bail out himself and let the plane crash in the sea. Apparently when he turned loose the controls, the plane went into a spin - the pilot never got out.
Whitey had come down out in the jungle and wanted to retrieve his parachute. So we borrowed a vehicle and headed out in the general direction that he went down (photo). After searching a while we finally gave up and came back empty handed (photos). It was about this time that Maj. Evanoff decided he wanted a group photo of the original Ancon 13th Sq. members (Photo). Of approx. 200 original members there were 64 in the photo - probably all ground pounders.
That was in July and in Aug. they transferred the Photo Section that handled our mission film from the 35th Air Base Gp. to Hq. Sq., 3rd Bomb. Gp. I immediately asked for a transfer back to Hq. Sq. and the Photo Section. The only way they would do it was a mutual transfer. I lucked out as there was a guy in the Photo Section that wanted out. And so ended a one year service with the Original Grim Reapers. I say original because it was while at Doba Dura that the Group usurped the name and "Oscar" for the Group. The Sq. never gave up their prior claim and after the war they, once again, were the sole possessors of Oscar.
That will do it for this episode. Not sure how many more I can come up with.
13th Sq. as of Pearl Harbor Day
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
Don't know why I haven't thought of this one before, I definetly think it is a vital bit of Reaper History.
On Dec. 7, 1941 the 13th Bomb. Sq. was a part of the 3rd Bomb. Gp. (Light), based at Savannah Army Air Base, Savannah, Ga. The 3rd was one of the 3 oldest Gps. in the Army Air Corp. There were four Sqs. of the Douglas A-20 Light Bomber (Hq. Sq. was a tactical unit at the time) and one Sq. of the Army version of the Navy Douglas Dauntless Dive Bomber, the A-24. Three of its Sqs. had seen action in the First WW. It had taken part in the summer maneuvers in La. and was about as ready for war as they could be. They were a prime candidate for deployment to a war zone.
Two weeks after Pearl Harbor they started to pack. Jan. 19, 1942 they boarded a troop train and headed West. But the powers that be, in all their wisdom, did some strange things. The Gp. was stripped of all its Ranking Officers, and many of its Ranking Noncoms. They were left at Savannah to form a new Group. Which turned out to be the 312th, and followed them to the S.W.P.A. in Oct.-Dec., 1943. They also left all their aircraft at Savannah to pull sub patrol on the East Coast. The Powers made one more major SNAFU - they failed to arrange for aircraft for the Group.
Mar. 10, 1942 they arrived at a base at Charters Towers, Q'land, Aust. with runways under construcion (photo attached) They had lst Lt. Strickland (Photo Attached)Gp. Commander, and five 1st Lt. Sq. Comms. And no AirCraft with which to enter the fray. During March they received 42 Officers and 64 E.M., members of the 27th Bomb. Gp., that had been evacuated from the P.I. Col. Davies (photo attached) became our Gp. Comm. and other high rankers became Sq. Comms. We also received 24 A-24s which had been on the way to the P.I. but never got further than Java. They were assigned to the 8th Sq.
On Mar. 27 Capt. Pappy Gunn advised Col. Davies that he heard that there are 25 B-25s sitting in Melbourne belonging to the Dutch, but they had no pilots to fly them. The Col. took 24 pilots with him to Melbourne and came back with the B-25s - having begged, borrowed or stolen them from the Dutch. Half were assigned to the 13th Sq. and half to the 90th Sq. None of these pilots had flown B-25s, so there was checking out to be done. As I recall 2 or 3 of them cracked up on landing from Melbourne. Pappy, working at the C.T. base (photo of 13the dispersal area attatched) proceeded to get the planes ready for combat but discovered they were lacking bomb sights. Pappy made another trip to Melbourne and came back with bomb sights. Pappy would become a living legend in the SWPA.
On April 4, '42 Col. Davies with 12 of the B-25s from the two Sqs. would take off from the base at C.T. and head for Port Moresby on the S. coast of New Guinea (photos attached). That afternoon they touched down at Jackson Drome (7 Miles Field) where they met RAAF Capt. James Hewett, 9th Operational Gp. Comm. Hewett took Davies and his Flt. Leaders into the Operations Hut, and asked Davies if his B-25s could make an 800 mile round trip. They had word from the Coast Watchers that the japs had brought in a large number of aircraft to Gasmata on New Britain; these planes to be sent on down to bases on N.G.
At 6:15 A.M. Apr. 5 (Easter Sun.), 1942 Davies and his 12 B-25s took off with only 4 300lb demolition bombs, due to the extra fuel load, and headed north over the Owen Stanley Mts. Over the Mts. they picked up their escorts: 12 P-40s from the RAAF 75th Sq. and 12 P-39s from the U.S. 35th Fighter Sq. The japs at Gasmata had never seen anything but 3 or 4 B-17s come over at high altitudes. The runways were lined with Betty heavy bombers and Val dive bombers. When these 12 B-25s came in over the field at 4,000 ft. it caught them completely by surprise. Later air recon reports that we had destroyed 40 aircraft. Post war jap reports admit to 30 planes put out of commision.
The japs did get 20 zeros in the air that caught up with our planes heading for home. Our fighter escorts downed 6 of the zeros, two more were shot down by the B-25 gunners. No B-25s were lost,, but some of them did suffer some damage, but all made it back to Moresby. It was the first Combat Mission of the war for the 13th & 90th Sqs. and proved to be a good day in the air for the Sqs. and the Gp.
Col., my memory isn't all that great on finer details - I did have to refer to other references to get them. But this is a pretty accurate discription of the 13th's first combat mission of WW II.
The Royce Mission
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
Here's another event from the early days of the war when we didn't have much to fight a war with. In April of 1942 B-25s and B-17s from the Far East Air Force (later to become the Fifth Air Force) carried out missions from obscure fields on the Island of Mindanao in the P.I. It was overshadowed by the Doolittle Raid , which followed four days later, and never received the attention of the news media that the Doolittle Raid got.
The day after the Gasmata mission Col. Davies (photo attached), Capt. Gunn (photo attached) and Lt. Strickland (photo attached)were summoned to Melbourne. They figured they were being called on the carpet for comandeering the Dutch B-25s Such was not the case. In late March Gen. Wainwright had requested a Sq. of bombers be sent to try to break the jap blockade long enough for supplies to be moved from Cebu to Corrigidor.
On April 7 a conference was held in Melbourne attended by Gen. MacArthur, Gen. Brett (Comm. of U.S. Forces in Aust.), Gen. Ralph Royce (Comm. of U.S. Air Forces in Aust.) the three from the 3rd Bomb. Gp. and others. The 3rd Bomb. Gps. B-25s and the 19th Bomb. Gps. B-17s (what was left of them) were the only bombers available for such a mission. Gen. Royce (Photo attached)was given command of the mission and it became known as the "Royce Mission".
On April 11, '42 ten B-25s (from the 13th and 90th Sqs.) equiped with auxilliary fuel tanks
#112441 Lowerey Walker
#112443 Smith Talley "Mortimer"
#112442 Heiss Townsend
#112511 Maull West
#112472 Peterson Mangan "Lounge Lizard"
#112496 Schmidt Birnn
#112498 "Pappy" Gunn Bender
#112480 Strickland Hipps
#112466 Feltham Linn
#112455 **Wilson Keeter
and 3 B-17s took off from Darwin, Aust. for the 1500 mile trip to Mindanao. The B-25s led by Col. Davies, and the B-17s by Capt. Frank Bostrom arrived at Del Monte on Mindanao. The B-25s were relocated to nearby auxilliary air strips.
Over the next two days the aircraft would attack the many ships and docks at Cebu, the air and harbor facilities at Davao and Nichols Field on Luzon. Capt. Bostrom had earlier piloted the B-17 in which Gen. MacArthur had left the Philipines, to take over in Aust. The japs managed to destroy one of the B-17s in an air raid. The other two were seriously damaged. Prior to this the B-17s had only completed a mission to Nichols Field and one mission to attack ships anchored in Cebo harbor. The B-25s were involved in over 20 sorties. They sank one jap transport and possible two others. They also shot down 3 jap planes. They escaped damage in air raids as they were dispersed to more obscure airfields.
When Gen. Royce learned that the jap ground forces were within 24 hours of the field, he decided it was time to leave. The pilots loaded as many Amercian airmen as they could on their planes, and the B-25s departed for Australia. Pappy Gunn was the last to leave and the last to arrive back at C.T. His auxilliary fuel tank had been damaged by straffers in an air raid, and he had to make emergency repairs. He used long range cruise techniques to nurse the plane home. Attached is a group photo of the combined 13th & 90th crews that made the mission.
I hope this and the Gasmata mission have been good enough to use at your meetings.
Times Do Change
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
I'll try to give you some idea of the make up and nature of the 13th Sq. as of Dec. 7, 1941.
As your Guys and Gals know the Sq. was activated during WW I (one, that is) and adopted Oscar as their mascot. The first plane Oscar flew with was the French Spad. He now accompanys you on your flights with he latest thing in aviation technology the B-2. But due to stealth technology he no longer adorns the plane in a place of prominence (photo attached), he has to ride in the wheel well (photo attached). But I'm sure it's comforting to know that Oscar with his 90 years of experience is still riding with you.
Over the years the Sq. has been deactivated and reactivated many times, as dictated by the Nation's needs. In 1929 it was reactivated, and along with two other WW I Sqs. the 8th and the 90th joined the 3rd Attack Gp. In 1939 it was redesignated 3rd Bomb. Gp. (Light) and in 1940 moved to Savannah Army Air Base, Savannah, Ga.. I believe it was at this point that the 89th Sq. was activated and joined the Gp. Along with Hq. Sq. this was the make up of the Gp. in WW II (two, that is).
In 1933 a little guy from Austria, with a small mustache and a big mouth became chancelor of Germany. If memory serves me right the name was Hitler. He immediately started ignoring the Versaille peace pacts, and world opinion, and started rebuilding Germany's military might. By the time The Reapers had settled in at Savannah in 1940, it was obvious that this guy was spoiling for a fight. The U.S. started preparing for what was inevitable. Many Nat'l Guard units were mobilized and existing units were strenghened.
The country was just coming out of the Great Depression and jobs were still not that plentiful. The draft had been started, so a lot of young fellows out of High School. started enlisting, that way they could pick the branch of service they wanted. The Army Air Corp had a program going where by if you enlisted you could pick the school you wanted. This was an opportunity for them to get training in A/C mechanics, communications, photography etc.
The 13th was heavy in career Army men, and heavily from the South. When we arrived at C.T., Aust. M/Sgt. Adams, Line Chief; M/Sgt. Simpson, Eng. Chief; and T/Sgt. Deemie, Crew Chief of "Deemie's Demon" between them had almost 60 years service. (photo attched) Then they started getting these new recruits, some fresh out of schools. By the time I joined the Group in Oct. 1941 the make up was about 50% Southeners and 50% New Englanders - with a few maverics, like myself from the midwest. Needless to say the Civil War was fought, verbally, many times. And the Maverics, just stood by and enjoyed.
Pearl Harbor, and a liesurely cruise on the Ancon to a war zone, put the Civil War out of every ones minds - as we had a full blown war of our own to think about. As we started loosing men KIA and MIA, and others flew their 50 missions and were sent home; and we started getting replacements the Sq. became more universal in its make up. For about a year it was even international, as we borrowed pilots and gunners from the RAAF. Without the help of the Aussies we'ld have been hard pressed to man what few aircraft we had in those early months. But the 13th Sq. and the 3rd Gp. went on to 41 months of continous combat duty, and one of the most decorated Groups in the 5th Air Force.
Hope you find this good enough to use. I'm going to have to stir up this old memory to see what else I might come up with.
Letter regarding Brisbane, Australia
Gd'morning Col. Eldridge;
I reckon you are on that long deployment you mentioned a while back. Am Fw. a little human intrerest exchange with an Aussie mate. He is a policeman in a Melbourne suburb.
[Actually been meaning to ask you, how did you find us
over here...were we hicksville, simple, or rude to the point or just ..different. My skin is kind of thick so I don't mind you telling it as you saw it.]
When we arrived in Brisbane I was 18 years old. Arrived in CT Mar. 10, I celebrated my 19th birthday 2 days later. How did I celebrate? - digging slit trenches in the hardest earth I ever encountered, before or since. You didn't dig them, you picked every inch of them with a pick axe.
When we got off the ship and onto trucks (lorrys ?) for the ride out to Ascot Race Track, the first thing we spotted was a huge bill board atop a building - "DRINK COCA COLA". That was a welcome sign. My buddy, Tack, was quite a drinker and quite a ladies man. He frequented the local pubs in C.T. and had a steady girl friend (Sheila?) all the time we were there.
I hadn't got into drinking yet and having joined up right out of high school I was carrying a torch for my high school sweetheart. So I steered clear of the Pubs, and had no interest in the local lasses. About my only ventures into town was to see a movie.
The only personal contact I had with the locals was the ticket seller at the movie; and the pilots and gunners we had borrowed from the RAAF so we could man what few aircraft we had in those early days. A finer group of men you will never find than those RAAF guys. With a couple minor differences it was pretty much like being Stateside. The locals looked like us, and spoke English like us - albeit with an English accent. I would learn that there is a bit of difference between the Limey accent and the Aussie accent - altho I still can't distinguish the difference. The other difference was that these blokes drove on the wrong side of the road. And that was something we had to get used to - or get killed.
So I had no problems getting along with the folks down under. But I found out, second hand, that they can be down right mean when rubbed the wrong way. We had a photographer who was quite a drinker and frequented the pubs on a regular basis. He was on furlough in Brisbane and visiting one of those pubs. He had taken on quite a load and feeling pretty good. The clientele was mostly locals, bad timing on Roger's part. He jumped up on the bar and yelled "when Rogers drinks, every body drinks". Every body bellied up to the bar. A little later he jumped up on the bar again and yelled "when Rogers pays, every body pays". They damned near killed the poor guy.
Sgt. Rogers had a penchent for the saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He was scheduled to fly a particulary rough recon mission. The nite before he called Maj. Maul, Gp. Operations Officer, and asked him if he was going to fly that mission. When the Maj. told him no, Rogers reply "Maj. I think you got shit in your blood, if you don't fly, I don't fly. The next morning PRIVATE Rogers flew the mission.
Kinda got off the subject, but by and large I found the folks down under, not much different than the folks next door in S.Dak. I like the country, and the people. Had every intention of returning on our 50th wedding anniversary. Had my daughter (travel agent) look into a trip for us. She could have got us two weeks for $5,000, but we would have been on the go for 15 days. Only had two nites in the same place. We felt that was a little much for a couple in their 70s. So we settled on a week on the Garden Island of Hawaii with two daughters and a son in law - for the same price. We had a ball.
All work and no Play, Hollandia
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea.
Our stay at Hollandia was 6 months, and while there we were visited by 3 or 4 U.S.O. troupes. The most noteable was Bob Hopes (photo attached). He had with him Jerry Collona (photo attached), a pretty good comedian in his own right. Also had dancer, Patty Thomas, and singer, Francis Langford. Another troupe was Judith Anderson, I'm not sure you're old enough to remember her. She was a Shadespearian actress and had 3 ladies with her, singers and musicians. There was another group of girls, no celebrities, but they put on a good show for the guys.
There really wasn't much to see in the town of Hollandia, pretty well shot up - including a chapel (photo attached). Nothing is sacred in a war zone. Not too far from our camp was Lake Sentanni (photo attached) another example of God's handiwork when viewed thru the view finder of a camera. It was also good for swimming, and I think some tried fishing. The natives used be seen on it with their native water craft. One day a couple guys dedicded to try one out (photo attached} with not too good results.
Every place we went the Officers always had their Officers Club, and periodic parties (photo attached). The Officer talking to the young lady on the left is Col. Rich. Ellis. He was Gp. Comm. when I left to come home and was on his second tour after 6 months at home. I believe he flew one of the A-26s that escorted MacArthur to the surrender ceremonies. Col. Ellis stayed in the service and ended up a 4 star General SAC Commander at Offut field in Omaha. They carried the bar with them where ever we went (photo attached). I had an Email from the 3rd Wing Historian at Elmendorf in Alaska not long ago, wanting to know the history of the bar. I couldn't tell him much about it. I understand it is in the rec room of the Comm. General up there. The WACs did catch up with us about a month before we left for Leyte. They were dateable, and I tried it once. Once was enough.
Next Stop Philipine Islands.
Gd'morning Col. Edlridge;
I've thought of another happening that you may want to relay to your Gentlemen - and Ladies. I keep forgetting that they have changed the "make up" of some of your pilots. It had no bearing on the outcome of the war, but boosted the morale of a bunch of Reapers - and undoudtedly caused a lot of hangovers the next morning.
With the help of Capt. "Robbie" Robinson, Eng. Officer of the 89th, and his crew of volunteers from all the Sqs. We had an A-20 "Steak & Eggs" (photo attached), and a B-25 "Fat Cat" (photo attached) that were used for chow runs to Brisbane. They had been put together from several washed out planes, and were'nt on the records as serviceable aircraft. Every man in the Gp. donated a half pound (Aussie) to a chow fund. The money was used to bring back fresh food for the group: potatoes, eggs and meat mostly.
On one trip they brought back fresh milk. Since there was no refridgeration to speak of, it had to be used up at dinner the nite it came in. Every body got all the milk they wanted. Not having had any fresh milk for a good long time, needless to say several over indulged; and paid the consequenses with sick stomachs.
But Fat Cat's crowning acheivment was the day it brought back a load of Aussie beer, when we were stationed at Doba Dura. It came in quart bottles, and Aussie beer was 12% alchohol content. There was enough for every man in the outfit to get two bottles. That was like drinking two quarts of wine. There was a hot time in the jungles of Doba Dura that nite. Many .45 cal pistols and .30 cal carbines were test fired that nite. Fortuneately there were no casualties, but there were an awful lot of head aches the next morning.
Like I said, the incident had no bearing of the outcome of the war, but there was a temporary boost in Reaper morale for a nite.
Reapers First Combat Mission Apr. '42
If you are reading these as you go, you will find the WW II stats for the 3rd Bomb. Gp. in this one. Other than the Units that were in the P.I. we were the first Group to be deployed overseas after Pearl Harbor.
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
The 3rd Bomb Gp. did suffer a worse day in the air, but the 13th Sq. was not involved. In March of '42 the 8th Sq. received 24 A-24s, the Army version of the Navy's Douglas Dauntless Dive Bomber. They were headed for the 27th Bomb. Gp. in P.I. but never got any further than Java. They were pulled back and assigned to the 8th Sq. at C.T.
On April 1, '42 5 of them took off from Moresby on a mission to bomb the air strip at Lae. Lae was socked in so they diverted to Salamau and dropped 5 500lb. bombs on the air strip there. A very inauspicious start for a Group that would compile the following record in WW II:
41 - months of continuous combat duty
2 - Pres. Unit Citations
1 - P.I. Pres. Unit Citation
1 - Cong. Medal Of Honor
10 - Campaigns
642 - Ships sunk
2,000 - Planes destroyed
200,000 - Tons of supplies destroyed
1,500 - Bdlgs. destroyed
40,000 japs killed (Aprox.)
372 - Men KIA (Aprox.)
28 - Men died of desease
2,500 - Men wounded
174 - Aircraft lost
July 29, '42 the last seven serviceable ones took off from Moresby on a mission to attack a jap convoy approaching Gona. They lost their P-39 escorts over the Owen Stanley Mts., but attacked the convoy with out protection. One A-24 returned. The plane was slow, under armed and no match for the jap zeros. To the best of my knowledge they never made another appearance in the Pacific.
May 25, '42, a bad day in the air
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
Apr. 11, 1943 was a bad day for the 13th on the ground. They lost 7 out of 8 B-25s on the ground in their first daylite jap raid.
May 25, 1942 was a bad day for the 13th Sq., and the 3rd Bomb. Gp. in the air. The facts and figures have taken a beating over the years, depending on who you talk to. Michael Claringbould in his "Forgotten Fifth" states that on May 24, '42 seven B-25s from the 13th Sq. attacked Lae on the north coast of N.G. Five of them were shot down. L. Cortesi in his history of the 3rd Bomb Gp. puts the date May 14, '42 and six 13th Sq. B-25s, 5 of which were shot down (Cortesi's book is not noted for its accruacy. On page 29 he has a photo of our Dick Walker, but I.D.s it as Lt. Lee Walker, who flew one of the B-25s that shadowed the Coral Sea convoy) I have heard some claim there were 8 planes on the mission, 5 of which were shot down. One thing they all agree on is the number shot down, 5, and it would be the worst single day loss the Gp. would suffer (%wise)
Actually it was a combined 13th/90th Sq. mission. 3 90th planes were shot down, 2 13th planes were shot down. One 13th plane would limp back and crash land at Moresby. Jack O. Methvin was on that plane and attended the 2003 reunion. I'm going to attach an artist rendition of that mission. Don't ask me who the artist was.
INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH & PUBLISHING CORP.
PERSONELL KILLED, MISSING OR DIED WHILE ON SERVICE WITH THE THRID BOMB GP. DURING WW II
MAY 25, 1942 13
B-25 C #41-12466 D.C.MITHCELL RETURNED
RULISON, 1/Lt. Arden M. Pilot
OLIVER, M/Sgt. Raymond A.
CLANTON, Sgt. Guy E.
FRIDAY, Arthur L. RAAF
MUTCH, Cpl. William A.
MAY 25, 1942 13
B-24 C #41-12441 met a strong force of Jap fighters and was shot down on a combat mission to Lae. 5 B-25s were shot down and a sixth crash landed at Port Moresby The red "Reapers" book says Lowery went down on May 14th OUR MACR
LOWERY, Maj. Herman F. Pilot
JACOBSON, 2/Lt. Sidney W. (89th) CoPilot
SPILLER, Sgt. Carlos E. (89th) Eng.
WHERRY, T/Sgt. Wm.B. Bombardier
FRESQUEZ, Cpl. Noah Aerial Gunner
MAY 25, 1942 90
B-25 C #41-12448 on a bombing raid against Jap installations, Lae vicinity, was last seen engaging zero type fighters. Crashed in flames. OUR MACR (Pilot was promoted the day of his death)
HASSELBARTH, 1/Lt. John E. Pilot
FERGUSON, 2/Lt. Joseph W. (8th?) Co-Pilot
WRIGHT, T/Sgt. Ivan M. (89th)
THIGPIN, Cpl. George E.
DOUGLAS, Cpl. Hugh W.
SMITH, Cpl. Albert H.
MAY 25, 1942 90
B-25 C #41-12498 crash landed south of Lae with (? )/Lt. Irving H. Shearer piloting. All returned except Kelly an 89th gunner flying with the 90th.
KELLY, T/Sgt. Arthur G. Gunner.
MAY 25, 1942 90
B-25 #41-12450 was shot down in the vincinity of Lae. Claringbould says wreck site under 1999 investigation by CILHI. Is this the one that crashed into a river bank?
WILSON, 1/Lt. Bennett G. Pilot MIA
SMITH 2/Lt. Luther P. Jr. Co-pilot
WORD T/Sgt. Luther E. Bombardier
SHEPPARD, Cpl. Henry T.
BAILEY, Sgt. MIA (not on memorial list)
MYERS, Cpl. Leaburn D.
On Col. Walker's Rabaul mission the Gp. lost 5 aircraft, the 13th lost 1, but there were 35 planes involved.
So out of 41 months of continuous combat duty May 25, '42 was the worst day of the war for both the 13th Sq. and the 3rd Bomb. Gp.
You may wonder why I always refer to it as the 3rd Bomb. Gp., when a lot of people refer to it as the 3rd Attack Gp. When I joined it in Oct. '41 at Savannah, Ga. it was the 3rd Bomb. Gp. (Light). Sometime during our stay in N.G. it was changed to 3rd Attack Gp. - but to me it has always been 3rd. Bomb. Gp.
I don't know if this is worth mentioning at your meetings, but I thought that particular day stood out in the history of the Sq..
All work and no Play, Doba Dura
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
Doba Dura, Papua, New Guinea:
It was at Doba Dura that we had our first visit by a USO Troupe. It was Gary Cooper (photo attached) and his troupe. It included Phyliss Brooks and Una Merkle (photo attached) and some lesser lights. The day of their appearance they spent some time on the 90th Sq. hangar line. Hence the photo of Gary by the B-25. The photo of Una includes two cinimatographers from 5th Bomber Command and yours truly. I figured that would be the only time I would every pose with a celebrity -- I was right. She was a very down to earth woman and a delight to converse with.
As usual sight seeing was a major time killer for slow days. We headed for Buna Beach which was the scene of some pretty bloody fighting a few months before we got there. Photographed an abandoned jap barge (photo attached) and an abandoned jap tank (photo attached). I'm no tank man but it struck me as being a very small tank, I doudt that it would have held its own against one of our Shermans.
For all of its shortcomings New Guinea did have one major asset. When viewed thru the viewfinder of a camera it had its share of Mother Nature's natural beauty. You couldn't see the malaria carrying mosquitoes, the 90% humidity or the 100+ degree temps, all you saw was God's natural beauty. On the way to Buna Beach we traveled along the palm tree lined Oro Bay road, and there were some ptetty scenes along the way (photos attached). On that same outing we made another native village. This time it was Gona village (photos attached). It was not as neat and clean as the one over by Moresby, but always interesting to see when you consider these people are not too far removed from the Stone Age. At the time of WW II there were tribes in some interior areas of N.G. that had never seen a white man, and still practiced head hunting. It was not too long after the war that one of the Rockerfeller clan was lost an expidition to the interior.
Then for the Officers there was always the Officer's Club, where they could relax over a high ball; or maybe catch a crap game (photo attached). We never did find an olympic size pool to swim in, but there was usually a river, lake or ocean to cool off in (photo attached). Since there were never any women within shouting distance, birthday suits were permissable.
All work and no play, Port Moresby
Port Moresby, Papua, New Guinea.
One of the most popular past times was soft ball (photo attached), followed by volley ball. Just about every nite after supper you could find a volley ball game going. We also had a number of fishermen (photo attached). If you were fishing for sport you used a fishing pole. If you wanted a fish supper for the Sq. you used hand grenades. A couple well placed grenades in the water would usually produce enough fish for dinner.
About 40 miles up the coast west of Moresby was a native village (photo attached). It was a target for a lot of sightseeers, never having seen any thing like it. This particular village was a very neat and clean one. But once you got an up close look (photo attached) you really appreciated that nice policed up 4 man tent back at camp. Judging from the photo you might think it was a windy day, not so. Apparently the prevailing winds coming in off the Coral Sea had had an effect on the trees. The native Belles made for nice photo-ops, but not exactly the belles you'd like to take to the prom (photo attached). I've heard it said the longer you stayed in N.G. the lighter they got. I spent two years on that "Green Hell" and they were just as black the day I left as the day I got there. The kids were cute, but one wondered about the over sized bellys on most of them. I expect that had something to do with nutrition.
One of the most popular spots for sight seeing was the Ruona Falls (photo attached) about 30 miles north of Moresby, along the Kokoda Trail. You could get to within about a mile of the Falls, the rest of the way was on foot - all up hill. The hike required more than one rest stop for some out of shape G.I.s (photo attached). It was rather late afternoon when we got there, didn't have too much time to scout around. But I never did really get a good angle to shoot the falls from. Needless to say B&W film did not do them justice. But color was something we did not have available, so we made do with what we had.
Next stop, Doba Dura.
My Jonnie, 63 years of marriage and counting
When I enlisted in the Air Force out of H.S. in 1941 I was carrying a torch for my H.S. sweetheart, Annie Atkinson. Six months later I was 10,000 miles from home in the Land of Oz, Down Under. I would spend the next three years traveling from N.E. Aust., up the lenghth of New Guinea, and on to 2 Islands in the Philipines. During this time I had lots of time for letter writing, and there was always a typewriter handy in an Operations Office. Along the line I picked up a couple "pen pals", Jean Richards of Thief River Falls, Minn. and Beth Stoye of St. Louis, Mo.
Mar. 15, '1945 I was turned loose on a 21 day furlough from Ft. Snelling in Minneapolis. My first stop, Thief River Falls to visit Jean. I spent 2 days with she and her family, good Scandinavian Lutherns. They were scared to death Jean was going to get serious with this Roman Catholic. Didn't happen, Jean was a great girl, good dancer but I still had Annie on my mind. After 2 days I got on the bus headed for home in S.Dak. and rode out of her life.
After a week in the home town it was on to Omaha where I had two sisters, and Annie had moved to and was attending U. of Nebr. I wasted no time in contacting her and the next nite took her out to Peony Park for an evening of dancing with my dream girl. Just one problem; I had left a 16 yr. old Jr. in H.S. came back to a 20 year old Jr. in college. Just wasn't the same girl, and the torch was extinguished. I would leave Omaha in a few days and ride on out of her life.
I was due to report to the Redistribution Center in Santa Anna, Calif. April 5. Left Omaha early enough to spend a couple days in St. Louis to visit Beth. She was a good dancer we spent one nite at a night club dancing to Ted Louis' Band. He had a guest artist with him, Patty Thomas, the dancer that had been with Bob Hopes troupe at Hollandia. Beth was a nice gal, but she really didn't appeal to me, so I boarded the train and rode on out of her life.
I would spend two weeks in Santa Anna. The first week I went to a USO dance and met Jeanette Johnston. She had been engaged to a gunner in the Pacific who had been lost six months earlier. This was the first time she had been out since. We hit it off pretty good, and we made a date for a movie. After standing roll call every morning I was pretty much on my own, so I spent a lot of time with Jeanette and her family that last week or so. Spent the last weekend with her and family. Told her when I got back to base that Sun. nite I'd see if I was on a shipping list. Sure enough I was scheduled to ship out the next morning. So I boarded a train and rode on out of her life, headed for Page Field in Ft. Meyers, Fla.
Sixty three years ago the first Sun. in April I was sitting in a bus station in Ft. Meyers, Fla., waiting for a bus to take me out to Page Field. This perky little brunette walked in and sat down across the room. She did catch my attention. She got on the bus to Page Field but I couldn't get any where near her. A couple weeks later I was in town for a movie, got back to catch the last bus to the base, and there she was again. This time I got the seat next to her. She wasn't too anxious to strike up a conversation with a strange G.I., but I got out of her that she was a Radio Operator (photo attched) and headed out to the field to pull the graveyard shift.
She was from Kansas, her name was Evelyn Johnson, but called Jonnie, from the Johnson bit. Talked her into letting me walk her across the field to the Radio Shack. Before I left that evening I had talked her into a date for a movie. That started a whirlwind 7 months courtship in balmy (mosquito ridden) Fla. Spent a lot of time together that summer dancing, swimming & just enjoying ourselves.. (photos attached). Along about the middle of July I decided I would like Jonnie to be My Jonnie and asked her to marry me. She had a couple other G.I.s and a home town boy that had been pressing her for a commitment. I lucked out, she accepted my proposal.
Aug. 15 the war ended, the last week in Aug. I was on my way to Camp McCoy, Wisc. for discharge. She had asked for a transfer to Jaxonville, and got it. We rode the train together to Jaxonville where we parted, temporarily. It was my intention to attend Photography Sch. in NYC, a six month course, and we would get married when I got out. Turned out that I couldn't get in school until Jan. '46, so I headed back to Fla.
At 7:30 Mass at Holy Rosary Church in Jaxonville, 63 years ago this morning Jonnie and I were Married (photos attached). Tonite we will go out and enjoy a steak dinner. At 84 and suffering the after effects of her broken hip, she gets frustrated because she can't do what she did 10/20 years ago - but she's still My Jonnie. For 63 years I have thanked the Good Lord that the torch went out and it was me Jonnie picked and not one of those other 3 guys.
All work and no play, Phillipines
On the the Philipines. This will give you a little insight as to the more primative conditions in the P.I. as compared to our country at the time. Also touches on a 15 day furlough I had in Jan. 1944 at Melbourne, Aust.
Gd'evening Col. Eldridge;
Leyte & Mindoro, P.I.
My stay in the P.I. was short and a part of that was spent in the hospital with Dengue Fever. We did have our first issue of beer while sitting on the beach at Leyte. But I have never been a fan of warm beer, so that was no big deal. Other than that, more sight seeing, and on Leyte we had plenty of time for that. Got into Tacloban, capitol city, and it was pretty well shot up - including another church (photos attached).
As one moved around the areas you noted a lot of differences from the old home town back in the States.
In your old neighborhood most houses were either shingled with cedar shingles or asphalt shingles. Sitting in front of the house would be the family sedan, Ford to Cadalac depending on the neighborhood. Over there most houses had thatched roofs, and sitting in front would be an oxcart (photo attached)
When we left Savannah heading for Frisco our troop train was pulled by a monster steam locomotive. Over there we spotted a locomotive (photo attached) that probably wouldn't have pulled the baggage car. Another thing we noticed was that war, or not, the kids still had to go to school (photo attached).
Then there was leave time, or as they call it these days R & R. Combat crews got to Brisbane, Ground pounders got to McKay.
I got to McKay in Nov. '42 with the 13th Mess Sgt. to pick up Thansgiving turkeys. Spent a few days there, but had no desire to go back after they turned it into an R&R haven for GIs. In Jan. '44 they came up with a deal where you could get 15 days in Melbourne, but had to take surface transportation. I hadn't had a leave for a year and half, put in for the Melbourne deal and got it. Had a great time. Melbourne skyline across the Yarro River (photo attached). St. Kilda's Beach, any day of the week lots of Aussie beauties. Before the day of Bekinis (photo attached) . Spent a good bit of time on the dance floor of the Am. Red Cross Club with a pretty hostess, Monica Lynch (photo attached).
And that about takes care of the play part of all work and no play.