Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Army 1
1923 1
Minnesota 1

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Personal Details

John F Heyn 1
Level of Education: 4 years of high school 1
Marital Status: Married 2
Marital Status: Single, without dependents 1
1923 1
Minnesota 1
Place: Codington County, South Dakota 1

World War II 1

Army 1
Enlistment Date:
29 Aug 1941 1
Army Branch:
Air Corps 1
Army Component:
Regular Army (including Officers, Nurses, Warrant Officers, and Enlisted Men) 1
Army Serial Number:
17031267 1
Enlistment Place:
Ft Crook Nebraska 1
Source of Army Personnel:
Civil Life 1
Actors and actresses 1
Race or Ethnicity:
White 1
Source Information:
Box Number: 0241 1
Film Reel Number: 2.98 1

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Air Raid

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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. 



New Guinea

11 images

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.


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