On Dec. 28 an LST pulled up to the beach, and once again we loaded up.  About 10:30 the next morning 4 of us were playing cards topside.  3 small planes came flying in low over an Island on our right.  One flew right over our ship and dove into a Liberty Ship one lane over and 2 ships back.  Ammunition ship - went straight up and mushroomed out, like the A-bomb photos - no survivors.  We had come face to face with the "divine wind", Kamakazis.

I dashed down stairs, grabbed the Speed Graphic, and camped out under a twin 40mm turret.  There I sat for the next 48 hours with a Mae West on, and we were under attract both night and day.  I went down stairs only to go to the pot, and grab a bite.  There were some that wouldn't  come up, didn't want to see what was going on.  I wasn't about to be below deck if we got hit - I was going over the side. 

During the next 48 hours they sank 8 ships out of our convoy.  But none of them (except that first) were with in site of our ship.  The Navy Gunners, bless their hearts, did shoot 25 of them out of the air, 3 close enough for me to photograph hitting the water. 

We made landfall about mid morning Dec. 31.  By night fall we had all of our equipment out to our camp site, and prepared to spend the night on the ground under a shelter half.  I expect that was one of the best New Years Eves about 1200 men ever had - just damned happy to be alive. 

When we arrived at a new camp area it was customary to scrounge around the area looking for things to make our living quarters a little better.  After we had every thing out to the camp area Col. Ellis, Group C.O., called a Group meeting.  The only thing I remember was one statement he made.  He didn't care what we stole from other outfits; but if he caught anybody stealing from another of our Squadrons - he'd Court Martial them.

Jack Heyn

LEYTE TO MINDORO    

 

In 1944, about a half dozen enlisted and myself were the last remnant of the 3rd  Attack Group to leave Leyte for the move to Mindoro. Space in the boat for the 3rd had been totally exhausted. There was no room for us, a pile of small gear and a tent or two. Somehow we got access to a Jeep and since one of the men was a professional scrounger, we were kept going with C & K rations which he obtained. We literally belonged to no one and spent four days of boredom and concern.

We had heard that the small convey our 3rd Group members were on enroute to Mindoro had been attacked by Japanese aircraft. Supposedly an ammunition ship was blown up taking out a neighboring vessel, but we had no idea if our 3rd Group contingent had been lost or not. We finally got word that we were going to board a ship for a destination unknown.

First we had to load on small personnel craft. We quickly discovered that the small crew had lifted some of our important personal items. I made a quick trip up to Tacloban to see the Harbor Master. He sent military police down to our craft and the lost items were summarily returned to us. Sometime later that day or evening, we loaded onto a large ship, probably an LST.

The next morning we were astounded to find ourselves in the middle of a fleet of nearly 1000 ships, accompanied by 3000 landing craft with over 200,000 men aboard these vessels. Baby aircraft carriers ringed the fleet and 40 U.S. vessels were sunk or damaged by Kamikaze suicide attacks. Enemy submarines also stalked the fleet. In a day or so, our ship had worked its way to the edge of the fleet and after a 300 mile or so trip, we were dropped on the beach at San Jose, Mindoro. The fleet we were in was the mammoth Lingayen, Luzon invasion force, which was larger than most of Eisenhower’s invasion fleets in the European theater.

So that is the saga of a remaining remnant of the 3rd Attack Group that finally made its way to Mindoro. Shortly after our arrival, our planes flew up from Hollandia making our Group whole again. We quickly had missions assigned as this was the start of the 3rd’s Philippine operations that saw us ranging all over Luzon, Panay, Cebu, Negros and Legaspi. Although the Japanese were in retreat, the Group had its share of losses as well as the other Groups in operation.

On a personal note, I finished my 52 missions in July and was on a ship in the middle of the Pacific when the A-Bombs were dropped and the Pacific war finally drew to a close. The San Francisco Bridge was a beautiful sight as we arrived at the U.S.A.  The joy was, of course, dimmed by the thoughts of friends who were lost forever.

 

Robert Bucholz

The Navigator

90th Squadron  3rd Attack Group

 JOHN F. HEYN COLLECTION

 894th Chemical Company  Napalm Mixing & Loading  Elmore Drome  April 1945

 SUPPLY SHIPS


Ernest Santariello Collection

 John I. Wheeler Collection

 John I. Wheeler Collection

 B-25D 41-30772

John I. Wheeler Collection

 Fred Hill Collection