Robert H.  Elliott

89th & 8th Squadrons Quartermaster Supply


This covers my service with the 3rd Bomb Group in both the 89th & 8th Squadrons Quartermaster Supply from approximately March 1942 until my return from the SWPA near the end of 1945.

 My reference books used in writing this are:

The Reaper's Harvest - 3rd BG

Altitude Minimum - 89th BS

'Valor in the Sky' by Lawrence Cortesi

'Pacific Siege" by Cortesi

'Saga of Pappy Gunn' by General George Kenney

'Reluctant Admiral'  (Admiral Yamamoto) by Hiroyuki Agawa


The first three are excellent accountings of the 3rd Group and the Squadrons in which I served during WWII, although some of it happened before I arrived.  The pilots told me of many things that happened before my arrival.My memory is rapidly dimming and I may be a bit in error on some dates and some actions.Some of the dates I have firmed up from other written sources.

I enlisted in the US Air Corps as an aviation cadet and was inducted at Chicago on March 1942.  I was sent to Santa Ana California immediately via troop train and was issued gear and  started training there.  The camp was not finished.  Roads were pure mud and we tracked mud an inch thick into the new barracks hallways.  I do not remember much of this time except marching and taking physical tests again.  I do remember an inspirational talk by a regular army officer to the squadron.  He reminded us that the U.S.  was at war and that we would suffer inconvenience many times.
In due time I was called and assigned for transfer to Minter Field at Bakersfield California.  I had been washed out of the aviation cadet program, for reasons that still aren't clear to me.  I have always been sure that it was because I admitted to some dizzy spells. These occurred on extreme lack of sleep one day at work at the steel mills where I worked in Chicago prior to enlisting.  I was working in the mills combined with part time college work at Illinois Tech at the time.
We were a bunch of misfits at Bakersfield.  I don't think they knew what to do with us and we had few duties.  By now it was June and extremely hot and dry.  A thick towel washed out would dry in the sun in  twenty minutes and the temperatures approached 115 degrees.

In a month or so they decided to send us to Air Force Officer Candidate School.  We had to go before a board of officers, presumably to convince them why each of us should be sent to OCS.  I plainly told the board I thought it was crazy to send me to OCS to be an administrative officer.  My skills were mechanical and that I had worked at mechanical things all my life.  Thereupon the board convinced me I should go to OCS, be in the top 10% of my class and ask to get into technical supply in the Air Force. Actually I ended up in Quartermaster supply and never asked to be put in Tech supply. The ways of the military as always can be extremely baffling.

We were put on a troop train and sent to Miami Beach.  The government had taken over a bunch of luxury hotels on the beach for quarters for us and had stripped out much of the luxury furniture.  We marched on the Golf courses during the week, had classes in the hotels, and each Sunday we marched in a parade.  By now it was July and August and extremely hot.  I guess Bakersfield heat had been a good training for those of us that were there, although I remember standing at attention or parade rest during one Sunday parade and hearing thump after thump of people fainting and collapsing to the ground from the heat, twenty or more, and they laid there until the parade was ended.  I think a lot of those who fainted were hung over.  I believe we were denied liberty the following Sunday as a result.  It was not usual for more than one or two to faint in ranks on Sunday.  There was not a lot of hazing, but we had very few minutes each day to ourselves.  It was two weeks before we were first given open post (liberty) on a Saturday.  The fainting mentioned above came after an open post.
Many coastal ships, especially tankers, were being sunk by German subs and the beach was entirely blacked out.  We did not have good blackout curtains and had to use very dim lights in our rooms.  During the 90 days (we were called 90 day wonders) I was transferred to a different hotel, I believe it was the Grovenor, farther from the beach.  I remember being stunned when told that these hotel rooms rented for $25 per night, more than a week's wages for an average entry level worker in 1942.
We always marched in formation to anywhere we went including to the mess hall by squadrons.  Returning from mess to hotels we would wait till about 8 or so were gathered ready to return to quarters, and someone would take command and march the group.  This gave all of us a chance to direct close order drill.  In large formations we usually sang in unison in rank.  Songs like "I've got sixpence" and rather corny patriotic songs like:
"Fight, fight to Victory, leaders of old wing one, We'll march right down that Nazi line and set the rising Sun.  We'll fight the battle for freedom men, the world will be free again, We'll fight fight fight till the battle is won, let's go wing one."
After a test one day there was time left over and as I thought of more answers I wrote them down while waiting for the tests to be picked up.  Apparently someone was verbally grading tests within earshot, although I was unaware of it.  I was later called before an honor board charged with cheating.  I told them I was completely unaware of the verbal grading.  Apparently I was convincing because I heard no more of it and graduated.  One cadet was in the stands for graduation and was called out and so far as I know did not graduate.  I have no idea of the charge against him.  I don't remember ever thinking before of what per cent graduated but I suppose it was 85 percent or more.  There were a few times I wondered if it was worth all the pressure to be in OCS, though it clearly was and made my life later much better.  I graduated as a second lieutenant in September 1942 .

My first assignment was at Jefferson Barracks Missouri where I spent something like 4  or 5 months, basically through the winter of 1942-43, and winters are cold in Missouri.  Our job was training Air force soldiers, marching, overnight bivouacs, gas mask training, and camouflage.  While marching they always carried gas masks and I was a bit noted for getting upwind of a marching column and throwing a tear gas grenade to train them to get their masks on quickly in a surprise situation.  I'm not quite sure why I was so zealous on that, boredom perhaps.  They had been through a tear gas chamber with their masks on to show them that they could breath easily.  Just before they exited the gas chamber they were required to remove their masks and stand until tears started to form in their eyes.  We as officers had been through this too.  There was a story that one person removed his mask and stood so long without tears forming that the supervising officer lost his nerve and waived him out anyway.  The story was that the man had contact lenses.  I don't know if this was true. At JB, we received secret orders.  I was to go to Hawaii.  In due time the orders were changed and I was sent to San Francisco, along with a bunch of other second lieutenants, again by troop train.  We were there a few days and then boarded a troopship in February 1943.  My memory is that it was the U.S.  Frederick Funston, but that could be the ship I came back on.  In any case it was a good new ship that was built for the purpose.  We officers had staterooms that were quite comfortable, four to one room.  The enlisted men had more typical troopship quarters below, but it was a clean ship and the food was OK.  We did not know until we were on the high seas that our destination was Australia.  We traveled unescorted, had a 5 inch gun on the rear.  We relied on travelling fast so that a sub could get us only if they happened into our path.  I don't think they could overtake us. There was one incident when we spotted another ship that did not immediately signal back who they were, and our captain changed course drastically.  We saw lots of flying fish and saw phosphorescence as the waves broke against the side of the ship in the tropics.  We saw an island once.  I believe we were told it was Cook's island.  Took 15 days to arrive at Brisbane Australia, and we were all glad to get off.  There were lots of crap and card games enroute.  I don't recall any officers in the games but officers certainly gambled in the squadrons in the field.  When we left San Francisco in the evening and hit the first swells I got sort of woozy and promptly went to bed and to sleep, and was fine the next morning.  The captain said it was the quietest passage over the first swells that he had ever seen.  We had good weather and I don't recall any seasickness, but I imagine there was a little.


We unloaded in Brisbane.  The group of second lieutenants I was in stayed about ten days in a primitive camp near Brisbane.  I remember riding in G.I.  trucks to the camp and how we cringed as they wheeled along on the wrong (to us) side of the road.  It was especially scary when we turned  at intersections since the trucks went so fast.  I remember going horseback riding and being thrown over the front of the horse twice when someone spooked the horse by stepping out into the horse's sight from behind a building and he balked with both feet set.  I also remember pinched spots on the calves of my legs because I didn't have breeches and pieces of me got caught between the stirrup straps and the saddle when I bounced (English saddles).  We also went into Brisbane.  I remember it as a very primitive town and small.  The stores were equipped in the fashion that reminded me of what I thought the U.S.  was like twenty five years earlier, more things in bulk and less packaged things than the US in the forties.  I felt it had the atmosphere of a frontier town.
The battle of the Coral sea between New Guinea and Australia was fought in May of 1942, about a year before our arrival, but the Aussies still welcomed us as heroes.  They had expectied to be invaded and the battle of the Coral sea had taken away this threat.  The other thing I remember of Brisbane is seeing and hearing an anti aircraft shell fired and exploding in the air for the first time.  Obviously a practice shot.
We were next put on a train for the 800 mile trip North to Townsville.  This was a narrow gage train and went, at most, about 20 miles per hour.  It stopped at every little town or sheep station and every one got off to get tea at almost every stop.  It took us four days and four nights to go the 800 miles and we were sure glad to get off.  There were no bunks and people slept on the seats, car floor, or luggage rack or wherever they could find room.  I  later made this trip the other way in 4 hours (200 miles per hour) in a B-25 on the way South for leave in Sydney.  I had three leaves to Australia while in New Guinea
I am sure my first leave was to Brisbane.  I managed to meet a rather pretty and very young girl.  I had dinner with her family and went to church with the family.  It was my first experience of communion with everyone drinking out of the same cup in the
Anglican church.  They did wipe the lip of the cup in between worshipers.  In Brisbane, I wandered off the beaten path and encountered some enlisted Aussie soldiers.  Some of the Aussies were pretty angry that American soldiers had all the money and glamor.  There were stories of Aussie soldiers coming home and finding American soldiers in bed with their wives and tossing the American out of 3rd story windows.  In the event, my encounter with the 'diggers' was quite a friendly and pleasant and satisfying encounter.
In Sydney, I believe the Red Cross or USO or some such group provided quarters at a nominal cost for Officers on leave.  I think there were USO type dances where we met girls.  I saw a strikingly beautiful girl and got a date for the evening, and we went out as part of a group of several couples.  She was a planters daughter from Rabaul who got out just before the Japs arrived and whose father, I think, did not get out.  I thought I had a terrific date but was completely disillusioned within the hour.  All she could talk about was herself, and how great life had been with natives to do everything for her.  By the end of the evening she realized how turned off I was.  I was glad to be free.

Later in New Guinea I met Captain Newt Hagar who shared a tent.  He knew a Sydney family thru mutual friends and had visited them.  I got him to give me their name and address and I looked them up on one leave.  There were two daughters, Meg and Bette.  I had a couple of dates with Meg and perhaps one with Bette.  This made for a pleasant leave.  Newt married Meg after the war.  Newt and I both worked in the paper industry and kept in touch.  He now lives about 50 miles away and the two couples had several dinners together until Meg died.  I saw Bette at Meg's funeral.  We  have had dinner a time or two with Newt since he remarried.
I remember little of Townsville which is much smaller than Brisbane and even more primitive.  What I do remember was that they put 35 second lieutenants, each  with 35 pounds of baggage into an old B-17 bomber, a C model with the straight tail.  The later D model had the front vertical tail fin faired into the fuselage so it wouldn't break off so easily.  The ship was stripped of all bomb racks and armor.  All of us and our luggage were stuffed into the plane wherever there was room.  As I write this I calculate the load at about 6,500 to 7,000 pounds which isn't as bad as I supposed.  (note: I am writing this from largely from memory, which isn't so good any more.  My 1988 notes say it was 70 second lieutenants with 70 pounds each.  That strains my credulity.  I would guess the 35 now, but research could establish how much a B 17 could carry.  In any case, the plane was really maxed out to what it could lift rather than what the book said.  I should have written this sooner) It was my fortune to be first into the plexiglass nose (guns and bombsight all removed) so I was into the most forward position of anyone on the plane including crew and had a terrific view of the trip and technically I suppose I was the first into New Guinea, which was our destination.  When loaded, the pilot took the plane to the very end of the strip, set the brakes, revved all four engines to maximum, released the brakes and we just made it over the fence at the other end.  There was a story which I think was probably true that a few weeks later, on a similar ferry flight that the same plane crashed on takeoff and killed a whole bunch.  If the plane had crashed my forward spot might not have been advantageous.

This day Margaret called my attention to an article in the July 2005 MILITARY OFFICER Magazine that my sister Robin still gets. The articles is now in my military notebook.It tells of a June 14 1943 crash of a B17C (flying fort) at Bakers creek Australia, in which 40 American service members died.
It was of note because the circumstances of death was with held
from their families and the circumstances only recently came out as a result of Robert Cutler, a retired air force major,reading the diary of his father who shut the hatch of the B17 before takeoff.  I am sure that this is the plane that tooki me to New Guinea.  It was an old B17 C which hd a straight tail, unlike the later models with a faired in tail,and it highly doubtful that they had two of these doing ferry service between Australia and  New Guinea. The time frame in June 1943 would be about 4 months after my flight, and the 40 killed seems to confirm my account of 35 second Lieutenants with 35# luggage each.

There wasn't much to see over the Coral Sea until we approached New Guinea after three hours or so.  I remember the gorgeous variable colors of the water as we reached shallow water and the land, and the Port Moresby wreck in the harbor.  This was a ship wrecked before the war and was used for target practice at times.  The people stuffed in the bomb bays saw nothing.
In New Guinea we were promptly assigned to squadrons and mine was the 89th squadron of the 3rd Bomb Group.  My duty was assistant quartermaster supply officer to the squadron which normally would have only a supply officer and no assistant.  In other words extra baggage till I was needed somewhere.  Lieutenant Dietrich was my boss and he was pretty much a book man except he could also be pragmatic.  I exchanged letters with him in 1997.


Later I was transferred to Headquarters Squadron without any discussion or warning.  I do not remember if I had a title, but my  work was in supply.   The squadron people all hated headquarters who sponged off the squadrons for supplies and got the best of lots of things and my thinking was still a bit on the way the squadrons thought.  After six or eight months I sounded off a little , and was then transferred to the 8th Squadron as Quartermaster supply officer, the same job Lieutenant Dietrich held in the 89th squadron and I finished the war with the 8th.  I never had any advance word of either transfer.  Somewhere along the line I was promoted to first Lieutenant, I would guess, about a year after I arrived.
In March 1943 the 3rd group was in tents on a hill overlooking Port Moresby and also overlooking the 3 mile Airstrip that our planes used.  It was also called Kila,  and could be seen from our squadron area.  This was a tricky strip in that it was low in the center and pilots landed downhill from either direction.   There were other strips more inland called 6 mile 7 mile etc.  up to 12 mile.  The heavy bombers were on the inland strips.
Squadron life was quite comfortable.  Meals were pretty good and we had a small officers club on the bluff overlooking the bay and the town which was mostly a small bunch of huts and a few permanent buildings with tin roofs.  The enlisted men had a similar larger club called Club Lackanuke.  The meaning might be clearer to you if I spelled it Lackanookie.  The two clubs had cement floors and were enclosed with screen and with burlap and had electric lights.   The group had two airplanes put together of salvage parts which they flew to Australia to get airplane parts, fresh meat and eggs and liquor as well as transporting people back for leave or training.  The A-20 was called "Steak and Eggs" and the B 25 was called "Fat Cat".  Pictures of these can be seen in the two books I brought back of the squadron and group.  The group flew A-20 and B-25 airplanes from my arrival essentially through the war.  The A-26's the group got later in the war were much like the A 20's.  These were twin engine airplanes intended to be medium bombers.  Cigarettes were a nickel a pack and during the boredom I got hooked on smoking.  I eventually kicked the habit in the 1950's.  My tent was small, dirt floor and used mostly for sleeping and changing clothes.  It was already up and I believe it had been used by a pilot, Lt. Kendrach who had gone down.  This sounds ominous, but we really lost very few personnel during the time I was in the group.  I would guess the group of four squadrons might have lost 15 or 20 pilots and the same number of gunners in the 2 1/2 years I was in the group.  However, the losses had been very high in the first year of the New Guinea campaign before the Allies began to gain the upper hand.  Captain Good, whom I knew, was in a flight of 6 who were jumped by Jap zero airplanes and only two planes escaped by finding cloud cover.  At that early time the planes were still medium bombers instead of strafers, with a bombardier in the plexiglass nose.  He had a little 30 Caliber machine gun  which did not amount to much, and the Japs quickly learned that was the case.  Donald Good said the Zeroes hit them head on with a bunch of large forward firing fixed guns, and here was this poor bombardier trying to shoot back with one little 30 caliber pea flipper.  Captain Good's airplane and one other out of the six planes escaped by finding cloud cover to get into.  After the conversion to strafers with six or eight fixed forward firing 50 Caliber guns, they did not worry about head on attacks from Zeros any more, but were still vulnerable from other angles, somewhat protected by the rear gunner, or, more importantly by fighter cover.  I have to assume that one or more Zeros made a bad mistake of trying a head on pass on a strafer before they learned that the planes had been converted.  When I arrived there were still a number of officers in the group who had flown out of the Philippine Islands after the defeat there.

One Pilot, Captain Wilkins, was awarded the Congressional medal of honor posthumously for bravery in a raid on Rabaul while I was there.  Some of the people were lost to accidents rather than combat.  Probably almost as many people were lost over the Coral sea flight to Australia as in combat.  A fair number of planes just never arrived and no one ever know what happened.  I remember an officer who complained and begged to go on leave and finally got permission  and left on a plane that never arrived in Australia.  I also remember that about twelve crew chief's (the crew chief was the mechanic assigned to keep one specific airplane in repair) were put on a plane to go back to Australia for special training.  The plane never arrived, but other men stepped into their places and the planes continued to fly.
It was hot and we showered every evening.  In all the other spots where I lived in the tropics, it cooled down at night, but it stayed pretty warm at night in Moresby.  I have included a Map of the area with these notes because I felt it would help understanding of where I was and of the targets hit.
We tended to spend our evenings in the officer's club.  I did not drink but played some cards there I think.  My daytime duties were things like issuing tents, cots, and  uniforms, and exchanging new things for old, and getting new supplies from a depot.  I also had, at times, a duty to try to trade a bottle of gin for a load of lumber to build a mess hall.  Gin commonly sold for $30 a bottle in the islands at a time when a Lieutenant earned $150/mo.  As told later, my work also involved supervising the loading of our equipment on Ships for movement on two or three occasions.  I was also commander of a detached group for a short time.
The squadron was doing ground support for troops driving the Japanese back, and also attacking shipping.  The battle of the
Bismarck sea occurred March 2 and 3, 1943 shortly before I joined.  I am sure I was in Moresby prior to April 12 because of the 100 plane daylight attack that I witnessed, details mentioned later.  The Bismarck sea battle was a small but decisive one where the Japanese made a last desperate attempt to resupply their forces on the north side of the island with men and supplies.  The Japs came with 8 transports and 8 destroyers and lost all but 4 destroyers, which escaped into sea fog.   Several groups hit them, and our group claimed 13 hits on 8 ships.  One of our pilots dove for a ship with another plane was on his wing and the pilot screamed over the intercom "This one is mine, find your own"  At the time I knew the name of the pilot.  Many Jap soldiers were lost on the transports that were sunk.  


Going back in time, to August 1942, the Japanese had taken almost all  of New Guinea, coming down to the east along the north side of the island and then crossing the Owen Stanley mountains on foot toward Port Moresby.  The battle of the Coral sea  a year earlier, had denied them a sea assault on Moresby.  They were over the high part of the pass and within 30 miles of Port Moresby and seriously threatening to take all of the island.  Our planes were striking to support the Allied troops that were trying to stop them.  The fighting conditions were almost unbelievably difficult for both sides in the jungle and the passes, with supplies being mostly hand carried in extreme hot and dense humid jungle growth on narrow tracks with slippery footing up and down steep areas for miles and miles.  Bugs and jungle diseases made things even worse.  The allies had some air drops, but it was hard to drop accurately enough for troops to find the supplies in dense jungle.  The Australian troops carried the primary infantry burden and our squadron still had an Aussie officer  attached to coordinate our strikes when I joined.  He was still with the squadron when I joined.  And the ground officers told us how worried they had been that the Japs would over run Port Moresby and take them prisoner.  They were expecting to have to fight as if they were infantry if the Japs broke through.
I believe the things that turned the tide were three.  One was the battle of the Coral Sea, mentioned before, won sufficiently by Allied carriers to stop the threat of a landing on the mainland Australia and also stop the threat of landing at Port Moresby on the south side of the island.
The second was the conversion of the light bombers from medium altitude bombing to surface strafing and dropping of parafrag bombs and delayed action bombs from altitudes under 200 feet.  The medium altitude bombers sent from the States were ineffective dropping bombs from 5,000 feet with poor accuracy, even using a bombsight as they were originally designed to do.  From 5,000 feet they could not even see Japanese troops or stores in the jungle.  The planes were much less vulnerable to anti aircraft fire from the ground at the low level after they were converted.
This conversion in itself is a great story told in one of my books and was spearheaded by Colonel Pappy Gunn who is also a good story by himself.  I saw Pappy in the mess hall and at parties and said 'good morning' to him a few times, though he never knew me.
See  "The Saga of Pappy Gunn", written by the General he worked under, General Kenney.  The best account of the conversion of the airplanes is in the book 'Pacific Siege'.
With bomb sights taken out and converted with 8 fixed forward rapid firing 50 caliber machine guns on each A-20 and 10 on  each B-25, our planes were able to largely neutralize anti aircraft fire from either land target areas or the decks of ships and barges being attacked.  The pilot spread the fire around by swinging the tail of the airplane around and the guns typically fired incendiary, tracer, and armor piercing bullets in rotation from each gun.  This attack was also extremely effective against ground installations and anti-aircraft guns, though it did not hit ones far to the side of the path of the aircraft.  Typically the planes came in fifty feet or less above the treetops on land so that they were heard only 10 or 15 seconds before they appeared.  This sudden appearance and sudden departure made it tough to hit our ships with ground fire.  I know this having been overflown in friendly circumstances many times.  You hear the airplanes for maybe ten seconds but see them only for one or two seconds before they are out of sight.

Against airdromes the strafing destroyed aircraft and trucks and stores.  Parachute fragmentation bombs worked well too,   against aircraft, personnel, and other targets.  Conventional high explosive bombs with delay fuses were used against oil tanks, buildings, etc.  The books mentioned have pictures showing parafrags drifting down toward target.
On the ocean, the primary weapon to destroy shipping was skip bombing.  The pilot came in low, trying to get broadsides, say 30 feet above the water, dropped a bomb perhaps 100 yards from the ship and pulled up over the top of the ship and away.  The pictures in 'Altitude minimum' will give you an idea how the plane barely cleared the top of the ship.  The bomb hit the water and bounced into the side of the ship.  The fuse had enough delay to let the plane get clear.  It was hard to evade such bombs and it was deadly to shipping.
  Thanks to Colonel Pappy Gunn and his leadership, the conversion from medium bombers to strafers took place in August and September of 1942, just when the Japs were about to take Port Moresby.  This low level strafing and parafrag bomb attack strategy was first used against the Japanese massed 30 miles from Moresby and took them by complete surprise.  It took our pilots by surprise too, to have such devastating effect on the Japanese who were not used to any need to spread out there supplies and to camaflouge them when they were under jungle cover.  It had been frustrating to our pilots to brave enemy fire to drop bombs from medium altitude and rarely see anything or hit anything.  It was a real thrill to actually see the targets from 50 feet and the gunner watched out the back as the parafrag bombs drifted down to the target.  The parachutes stopped the forward motion of the bombs almost immediately so they could be placed accurately.  The deadly attack on the massed Japs and stores ready to take Moresby was something they had never seen and took the Japs by complete surprise and put the Japs into retreat almost immediately.  The conversion completely changed the course of the war in New Guinea.
It was also at this time that fresh allied ground troops arrived in Moresby to help stop the assault.  And of course by this time the Japanese supply lines over the narrow jungle tracks were something like 40 miles while the allies lines were more like 30 miles and much of that actual roadway for the allies.

The third was a daring strike by allied aircraft which crippled the Japanese air force on the other side of the pass from Port Moresby on the plains around Buna and Dobodura and also at Lae, Salamaua and Gasmata.  Both sides were poised to strike, but there was a ceiling of clouds about a thousand feet above the surface and on up on both sides of the island.  The Japs had massed their planes from afar at these bases for a knockout blow to the allies, but were trapped by the weather.  The allied planes were partly in revetments, but were also massed and vulnerable to a strike.  The Japs assumed flight was impossible.  They also knew that the weather changes came from the southeast, which they controlled, so they would have the first knowledge of clearing weather.
The allied planes took off under the ceiling, negotiated through and over the clouds and the high Owen Stanley mountains by dead reckoning, dropped through the clouds on the other side of the island to the open sea underneath the 1000 foot cloud cover, turned around, and caught the Japanese by complete surprise.  The Japanese planes were all massed on the ground, loaded and lined up on the runways ready to attack the Allies.  The Japanese losses were very great.  The allied attack was timed to hit all four airstrips, Lae, Buna, Gasmata, and Salamaua simultaneously so the Japs were surprised at all four places, although one squadron of fighters got off at Gasmata.  Beside the strafers on this mission were B-17 heavies that dropped 1000# bombs from about 900 feet elevation using delayed fuses.  This was unheard of just as the parafrags and strafing by twin engine bombers had been, but the big bombs really cratered the runways.  The surprise and destruction were so great that anti aircraft fire did hardly any damage to our planes.  This action was shortly after the first Allied strafing attacks on the Japs near Port Moresby in September.  Because we got the first blow and destroyed great numbers of airplanes and cratered the four landing strips mentioned, the Japanese needed to replace the airplanes at these forward bases to be able to hit us effectively, but could not do so because the strips had the huge craters.  The Allies largely kept this advantage of keeping the Jap forward strips out of service by bombing them repeatedly, while keeping their own serviceable.  It is also interesting that the weather had just started to clear at Gasmata at the time the Allies struck.
Another major item at the time of the four strikes mentioned above was the arrival of P-38 fighter planes in the theater.  For the first time the Allies had an airplane that could out climb, go higher, and out dive and out run the Japanese zero airplane.  It could not maneuver as tightly, but the Allies didn't try to, and quickly developed tactics that gave a big kill ratio of Allied planes to enemy planes.  The P-38 also had far longer range than the P-39 and P-40 planes that preceded them and could cover longer range attack bomber strikes.  Still another advantage was that the twin tail boom twin engine P-38 could easily be distinguished and our bomber pilots could be sure that those airplanes high above were friendly, which our pilots told me they greatly appreciated.  The P-38 would climb to 40,000 feet, higher than any other plane in the theater and was great for diving on Jap fighters.  The P-38's participated in the raid on the four landing strips described above and we lost hardly any planes at all while destroying most of the flight of fighters that got off the Gasmata strip before it was bombed.  P-47 Thunderbolt fighters entered the theater a bit later.1
  The Jap column attacking Moresby had to retreat back across the mountains toward Buna, and our ships later caught a great mass of soldiers crossing the Wairopi (pidgin language for wire rope) bridge  and killed a great many, increasing the defeat and accelerating the retreat.  Our pilots did not like shooting these soldiers caught out in the open, but they knew these same soldiers would be killing out troops shortly after if they were allowed to escape.  The battle for Buna on the north side took place in December 1942.  The  Allied troops routed the Japs in a long difficult battle against the dug in Japs who chose to die instead of surrender.   In any case, the Japs were being rather consistently defeated, and were driven out of the Buna Dobadura area and gradually driven back up the coast to the northwest.  The Japs still held Lae and Salamaua and Gasmata when I arrived.
If anyone is interested in the account I recommend the book "Pacific Siege" by Laurence Cortesi, copyright 1984, Zebra books, Kensington Publishing Corp.  475 Park Ave South, N.Y.   N.Y.  10016.   I believe it also includes the fascinating account of How Pappy Gunn roughly doubled the flyable airplanes by unorthodox salvage.  Later, as mentioned, he converted the medium bombers to strafers in a matter of a month or two by unorthodox methods and against belief by most of the observers.  Even the pilots who flew the strafers were at first shocked at how effective they were.  He also "obtained" twenty four new B-25s from Australia under questionable pretenses, risking court martial, at a time when they  were desperately needed.  He got them converted to strafers in two  weeks and they roughly doubled the striking force of B-25s available for strafing the Japanese near Moresby and then on the four fields in the surprise attack.  The planes had been consigned to the Dutch forces but had been in Brisbane unused for many weeks.  Pappy Gunn was later returned to the US for some weeks to show the factories how to build in the guns and bomb racks when the airplanes were built at the factory.  One of the engineers started to say how this could not work and General Hap Arnold showed this engineer the results of a bomb raid with planes thus converted and had the engineer thrown out of the meeting.  I think it was factual about the engineer.  There were some real skeptics in New Guinea when he started the conversions and they were called "Pappy's Folly" until people learned how effective they were.  Pappy himself had some trouble with nose heavy planes until he put a gas tank in the rear and moved the guns back.  This book is fiction in the sense that it quotes Japanese commanders.  It may well be similar to what they were saying.  The dates and numbers and names are all factual.  In some cases it even quotes from Japanese records, available post war, which are at odds with Allied records on how many Japanese planes were lost in particular engagements.  There is some reason to think the Japs admitted less losses than actually occurred, just as the Allies may have overstated Jap losses at times.  A similar account covering somewhat the same period is "The Reluctant Admiral" published 1979 by Kodansha International/USA Ltd. 10 East 53rd Street, N.Y. N.Y. 10022.


I remember going out on my first mission to the kitchen Creek area up the coast northwest of Buna on support for ground troops.  I was dead weight with no duty, allowed to go because I was an officer and a friend and because no one said no and not that many were asking to ride along.  I am not aware anyone else in the squadron ever did this.  I saw no ground fire and no planes were hit by anti aircraft fire on this mission as the planes strafed and bombed areas identified by US or Australian ground troops as enemy concentrations or supply dumps.  Enemy air attack was not expected on these missions and there was none, although we could not be sure and each plane had a gunner in the rear.  This was the first of four missions I went on, all uneventful except the last, of which more later.
The A-20 airplane has a single pilot and a single gunner in back.  There is no connection between the two occupied spaces, each entered separately.  The bomb bay separates the two.  The gunner enters through a hole in the bottom of the aft part of the fuselage, and shoots from an open hole on the top of the fuselage above this spot with a free swinging 50 Caliber machine gun.  On many missions a camera man went along in this compartment and shot pictures of the target out the hole in the bottom.  There was a free swinging 30 caliber machine gun that could be fired out through the bottom hole.  I occupied the spot that was often used by a photog on one of the planes in the flight.  On at least one of my missions, I fired the 30 caliber gun down into the target area as we passed over.  I never knew if I hit anything or not.  I think that it was on the first mission that the pass over the mountains clouded up and our airplane had to go to 19,000 feet to get back over the mountains to Moresby.  This must have been somewhere near the service ceiling of the plane.  I didn't have any oxygen mask, but the gunner shared his oxygen with me  trading off.  It was very unusual for our planes to be so high.  I would not have suffered any serious effects without oxygen since I had no duties and since we were high for only twenty minutes or so.
A couple of other items about the Moresby camp.  It was common practice to cook up some cocoa or coffee mid morning, using a can of gasoline to heat it, very smoky.  We called it having "smoko".  The other recollection is that there was a loudspeaker that played popular songs in the squadron area through much of the day.  I remember "Chloe" and 'Simmery Summery day".  This did not happen at later camps.
Before  I leave  discussion of the Moresby time, I wish to mention air raids.  I believe my first air raid was the last daylight raid on Port Moresby April 12, 1943,  and which had 100 Japanese planes.  I was away from the squadron area at 6 mile drome picking up supplies when it occurred.  The signal was always a pistol shot and the number of shots showed if it was a yellow (imminent) alert or a red alert.  What I mostly remember is being scared, finding a slit trench to get into and seeing the hordes of Japanese airplanes overhead at about 20,000 feet.  I also remember seeing all the ack ack and never seeing one Jap plane hit.  This was also typical of many night raids I later watched in which there was gobs of ack ack and I never saw one plane hit by it even after the searchlights had picked up the planes.  I believe our fighters took a serious toll on that raid because the Japs never again raided Moresby in the daylight.

I returned to the squadron area to find lots of excitement.  A small flight of three planes split off to hit our (Kila) drome and were not noticed immediately by squadron personnel.  The three planes dropped bombs that hit a pile of gasoline drums in the squadron area and set a good fire which was still blazing when I returned.  They had also hit our drome with some daisy cutters but had not done much damage as our planes were in dirt revetments.  I was told one of our airmen got caught by surprise as the bombs started falling.  He couldn't find the slit trench and lay in a ditch.  After the raid he found that the trench he was looking for had taken a direct hit.  None of our personnel were hurt in that raid.
After maybe 3 to 5 months the group moved to Dobadura across the island so that our planes did not have to negotiate the mountains to hit targets on the north side.  This is the same general area as Buna.  The engineers built more and bigger airstrips in a slightly different location.  We were driving the Japs back northwest along the north side of New Guinea, having driven them out of the Buna Dobadura area.  I do not remember much about this move and probably had little responsibility for it.  I believe that most of our equipment was transferred by Ç-47 cargo airplanes, but I am sure our vehicles went by LST (Landing ship, tank, that had doors that swung open in front and a ramp that lowered onto the beach so trucks could drive in).  Our new camp was several miles from the drome and we were in a grove of trees along the Girua river.  The river was our source of water and I am sure we purified it.  The river was more like a creek, but was maybe twenty feet wide and six inches deep rather uniform across it with a bottom of shifting sand.  (picture of it in one of the books)  We sometime went into the river, but you can't call it swimming.  I never saw it flooded.  A few people got fungus in their ears from local water, but I don't think it was serious.  It rained for a short period  almost every day rather consistently.  We occasionally saw flights of huge numbers of some batlike creatures

At Dobodura we lived in grass shacks built by native labor.  The buildings were made of poles with a floor elevated a foot or so.  The floors were of poles or split poles and the roof was thatched with sago palm leaves.  Pictures of these shacks are in the two books I brought home.  Aside from perhaps a hand rail the sides were open.  The roofs never leaked a drop, but eventually bugs lived in them and you got some sawdust like dust from the roof.  Generally quite satisfactory and I believe we had electric lights in them so a lot of us spent evenings in our quarters.  This area was so wet that these huts were much better than tents.   The mess hall had a cement floor and was closed in with burlap and screening.  Tables in the officers mess were like park picnic tables.  I remember a time that we went for an entire week having bully (corned)  beef three meals a day.  This included breakfast of willie burgers made up of shredded beef mixed with dehydrated potato and fried.
Because we were under trees we worried about aerial bursts if hit by bombs.  Because we were in sand the slit trenches had to be dug out and lined with poles to keep the walls from caving.  We worried about bombs hitting the trees above and also put poles over the tops of the trenches except at the entry end and covered the top poles with sand.  I believe we were there about 8 months and while we heard bombs falling and went to the trenches lots of times no bomb fell in our area.  We slept under mosquito nets.  At first I would get up for every red alert and go to the trench.  This got old and then I waited until the ack ack opened fire before I got up.  Even that got old and I started staying in.  One night during the ack ack I heard the swish swish of a falling bomb and I really made tracks for the trench.  If I had hit a tree in the dark I would have killed myself or knocked the tree over.  I took a flying leap into the trench--- and kicked sand onto the squadron commander who was in there.  Fortunately he didn't make much of a fuss.  I never found out where the bomb fell.  It might have been a quarter mile away.  It was terribly humid and you could wipe the mold off a pair of spare shoes in quarters and have mold on them again in a day or two.  Oddly enough I only saw two snakes in New Guinea.  One day I heard a heavy thud and on the ground was an Iguana or Lizard or some such creature that had fallen off a branch, fairly high up.  He probably weighed at least a pound and was 18  inches or so long.  He survived the fall and ran away.
It was on the banks of the Girua river that the group built an officers club called "tropical paradise".  It was constructed similar to our quarters but with a cement floor, and on opening night the open sides were all hung with palm fronds and it looked super.  We had liquor and the pilots had invited nurses from somewhere and I am sure had music of some sorts and it sure seemed impressive to me.  It continued in service but only had the hanging palm fronds for a day or two.  The picture in the book shows the fronds.  After the first night, officers sat around and drank or smoked and played cards and shot the breeze, or maybe shot crap.
I was a little depressed and one night I took a walk along the road to the strip from our camp.  I suppose I walked a half mile from camp and all of a sudden I became aware from noises that I was not alone.  A family of New Guinea natives was also walking the road on the other side, same direction.  These natives of Papua are generally harmless, certainly these were no danger to me, but in the darkness it sure a gave me a start.  In remote parts of New Guinea, however, there were still head hunters who ate human flesh.

During this time another turning point in the war occurred.  Lae had been pretty well bombed and the next big base was Wewak.  Wewak was too far from Dobadura for fighter planes to be able to protect bombers and this made it impractical to bomb Wewak.  By stealth the Allies built a fighter strip up behind Lae in the hills, entirely by air transport.  They managed to provide a dummy strip for the Japs to bomb and kept the Japs from finding the real strip at Tsili Tsili until it was just about ready.  It was a close call, but the Allies got planes on the strip, with supplies sufficient that the local planes could protect it from bad bombing raids and keep it operating.  This enabled the allies to Stage a big bombing raid on Wewak while protecting it from Japanese fighters using our fighters flying, or staging, from this Tsili Tsili.  We managed to hit the Japanese at Wewak on August 15,1943  with complete surprise before the Japs realized that Tsili Tsili was really operational and did some deadly damage.  They had ships lined up on the runways ready for a raid on us and did not even have enough warning to man the ack ack guns until after the first elements hit.  I remember that our pilots were really high when they got back from this raid.   The A-20 and B-25 bombers of the 3rd group had range to hit Wewak from Dobadura, and of course the heavy bombers could too.  The Japs suffered another enormous loss of aircraft at Wewak from this raid and from which, again, they never really recovered.  By this time we had destroyed so many planes that the Japanese had difficulty replacing them.  This story is well told in " The reluctant Admiral"
There was action in September 1943 to take Lae and Salamaua, the next strong points.  This was the only Parachute attack that I remember hearing about.  Our squadron laid a smoke screen in the Markham river valley for the paratroops on Sept.  5, but I don't think there was much resistance anyway.  It was probably in September that we moved to Nadzab, an air base in the Markham river valley above Lae, after Lae was captured.
  Again I don't remember much about the move but we located on the plains which were covered with Kunai grass.  The squadrons were back into tents again from the time they left Dobabura.  The officers quarters were on the hill adjacent maybe 70 feet above.  I was in headquarters squadron at the time and shared quarters with Newt Hagar and Lt.  Blair.  I built a platform for our pyramidal tent and a frame to slip the tent over and hold it square and steady.  I also built a platform and we had a wall tent and frame  maybe 8 x 10 feet adjacent for living room for evenings for the three of us.  We had electric lights and were quite comfortable.  I don't remember having an officers club at Nadzab but we may have.  We also had some parties in the Colonel's house atop a hill just above the others.  Pappy Gunn attended a party there and nearly tore the roof off the Colonel's house with a buzz job (which I saw) as he left the next morning.  I think several pilots killed themselves trying to Buzz  things and fly like Pappy.  Pappy had a wife and four children interned at Santo Thomas in Manila, and was unbelievably aggressive in fighting the war to get back to them.  His family survived the war but in poor condition.  We are still friends with Newt Hagar who lives in Portland now.
I did the actual labor of building the platform for our two tents.  We were on the side of a hill and I did not have a level.  I was worried about the slope or level of out platform, and finally realized that my steel roll up pocket tape was concave and that I could lay it out and put a few drops of water in it.  I had a very hard time believing what I saw, but finally decided the law of gravity applied in New Guinea and went by it.  Someone across a gully from us in another squadron built a platform by his eye, and it sloped downhill so badly he had to rebuild it.

I recall going on another, uneventful, mission on Christmas day of 1943.  It was raid to soften up a landing spot where our troops would shortly land on Arawe in New Britain.  Sundays and Christmas day were just another day as far as missions were concerned.
I will relate a couple of things that happened.  I can not remember which camp they happened at.  One was that one day Sgt.  Ole Larson  was in his tent resting on his cot when it suddenly went flat.  He found an unexplained hole and patched it.  When he tried to inflate it, he found another hole.  Only then did he realize that an accidental firearm discharge that had occurred in the squadron had sent a bullet thru his air mattress.  Boy was he mad then.
Another occurrence about this time was the whine of an Airplane engine running away.  We often heard an engine winding up faster and faster.  Usually it then throttled back to ordinary speed.  On this occasion it kept going faster and faster and ended in an explosion.  I ran out of the tent and saw a P-38 fighter in a flat spin above and saw a parachute, so the pilot had been able to get out.  I remember a lieutenant looking up and saying "you lucky bastard"  This was not the end of the story.  The plane crashed in a 3rd group tent area and killed a man.
It was from Nadzab that I went out on my fourth and last mission, and it  was fairly eventful.  At the last minute they changed me from one plane to another.  The one I was at first scheduled on had a parachute frag bomb hang up in the bomb bay.  Apparently the parachute got loose before it dropped and the chute caught on the bomb racks and the parafrag bomb was swinging in the wind banging against the bottom of the plane.  The bomb had a mushroom head so that side pressure or end pressure would set it off.  There was no entrance to the bomb bay except through the bottom doors.  To get rid of the bomb, the gunner cut through the aluminum bulkhead in front of his compartment with a knife and cut the parachute free.  They were fortunate that the bomb did not detonate while banging around.
This mission was a big one.  The Japs had a big air base at Hollandia.  After Wewak was heavily damaged they moved most of their airplanes back to Hollandia.  Hollandia was further north and west than Wewak.  The three airfields at Hollandia were bombed by flights of about 70 high altitude heavies on March 30 and 31.  On April 3 the heavies dropped 246 tons of bombs on anti aircraft positions and then shortly after, 96 strafers from the our 3rd Group and from the 38th Bomb Group hit the airdromes.  (96 planes was a lot of planes at this time in this theater.  The plane I was in came over in a flight of twelve abreast.  This was kind of uncomfortable because in the center of the twelve if your wingmen started crowding toward you, the only escape was to move up, or down.  Down wasn't so good because we were maybe 50 or 75 feet from the ground.  The pilot had to watch ahead, control the strafing and bomb drop and also watch to avoid colliding with wingmen.  Again I was in the tunnel position, and I watched as we streaked over the airdrome.  I could see tracers from the flight behind us hitting airplanes on the ground under us and saw some planes burning.  It was all over rather quickly.  I include a picture of the attack on one of the three Hollandia dromes.  There is an account of this in my diary, and it says that the plane I was in was on one end of the flight of twelve.
We stopped to refuel on the way home at Gusap, another small air base that was entirely built and supplied from the air.  I crawled off the plane and Dub Carper, with whom I graduated from high school in Buda came up and said "Are you Bob Elliott?"  We had a nice chat.  In 1988 at the 50th reunion of my high school class Sheldon Sutton related the incident.  (Dub Carper was in the 1938 class too).  In rehearsing Sheldon was talking abut how I came in all shot to hell.  When I said it wasn't so he said "you will be tonight"  Also while on the ground I discovered that there was a photographer in the tunnel position on the plane that was on our wing.  He was dead in the plane with a 40 Millimeter slug through his body.
I got in a little trouble back at the base for having gone on this mission and never went on another.  I was also getting a bit more nervous about getting home intact.

Because my memory about a lot of this was pretty hazy, I have pulled out and filled in some dates by referring to a book, "Fifth Air Force Story" by Kenn C. Rust and published by the Historical Aviation Album, P.O. Box 33, Temple City, Cal.  91780.  I was having trouble from my memory of figuring out which year it was that I went out on the Christmas day mission, etc.
  By now, we had essentially by-passed Wewak, since we were bombing the next major base, Hollandia, behind it and had control of the sea lanes,  Planes from Wewak pestered us a little but the Allies never spent much more muscle on it,  We were told that the Japs, anticipating an attack on Wewak, had moved 1,000 marines from Hollandia to Wewak shortly before our major bombing of Hollandia.  The Japanese at Wewak sat out the war living as best they could off what supplies they had and off the land, although recent reading tells me that they were kept under surveillance by Allied troops around the perimeters.  The terrain was so rugged and devoid of roads that they really could not very well go overland to harass the allies at Hollandia or elsewhere.

The next major item in my life was the move from Nadzab to Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea.  On 22 April, 1944 Allied forces invaded Hollandia and took it in just a few days.  The Japanese had assumed that Wewak was the next target and the contingent at Hollandia was mostly service troops for airplanes and they did not put up much of a fight.  I don't know how soon after the invasion that my squadron put ashore at Hollandia, but would guess at D+ 20.  What I do know is that the road inland was still so primitive yet that it took our trucks about 24 hours to go something like 12 miles inland to the campsite near the airfields.  I have to think it was fairly soon.
By this time I had assumed quite a bit of responsibility for the loading of the LST's with squadron materiel.  I usually stayed at the entrance to the LST directing, throughout the period of loading which was 18 or so hours continuous.  We had lots of square boxes of technical supply and squadron supply items, but we also had lots of sloppy stuff like tents that did not stack well.  I learned that we loaded much better if I directed the stacking of the square boxes and made sure it stopped at about 2/3 of the ceiling height and kept the remaining space available for the sloppy stuff.  I never knew when the sloppy stuff would arrive but it was usually later and the men often had to slide it over lots of boxes in the front.  They did, though, have a place for the sloppy stuff that I had preserved.  In the latter moves I usually had a jeep to myself for the duration of the move and had it unit loaded with my footlocker, tent,  and other items, and it was driven onto the LST along with trucks and other vehicles.
The beach near Hollandia was interesting.  It was about a mile long, maybe 200 or 250 feet wide with a swamp immediately behind it.  It was blocked on the southeast end with a cliff and the only access to the main part of the island was at the northwest end of the beach-- one two lane track, possibly wide enough for four lanes.  The beach was also extremely soft sand, and LST's were lined up along the whole beach as far as I could see.  We discharged from the LST's late in the day and you better believe the LST captains were anxious to get all of us off and get out to sea lest they be attacked by Jap aircraft while they were beached.  We got every thing off and the ship left, but it was clear that we were going to spent the night on the beach.  I had a jungle hammock which I stretched between two G.I.  trucks for the night and everyone bedded down where they could for the night.  During the night the tide came in and washed around the wheels of the trucks and I got a little spray up into my jungle hammock.  I suspect that lots of airmen had to move their sleeping bags farther inland during the night to stay dry.   Most of our officers were pilots who would fly their planes in sometime later, and just a few administrative officers of our unit were on the beach.
I do not know if any units nearer the exit end of the beach moved out  during the first day or during darkness.  In any case it was later the next day that the beach was gradually cleared from the exit end and we were able to leave.  The trucks and other vehicles were all stuck in the sand and we only got them out by pulling them with big bulldozers.  These tracked dozers sat easily on their broad tracks atop the soft sand and went around various units by going out into the sea to get past stuck trucks, and went chugging along with the surf waves completely covering the tracks.  We would have been helpless without the dozers.  They were diesels with no electric ignition and none of them showed any problems.  I assume they got the entire beach cleared that day, but as I said, the trip to the airfields was very slow.
A few days after our arrival the scene was repeated.  The difference was that as they spent the night a couple of Japanese planes got in, dropped bombs on some fuel and Ammunition, and the whole beach went up in explosions and fire.  The people on the wrong end of the beach were trapped between the sea, the fire with its exploding of allied bombs on the beach, and the swamp behind.  Most of them went to the southeast end of the beach where the cliff  blocked access, and were taken off by navy ships, but a few were forced into the swamp and had a bad ordeal, though they did survive.  I saw the beach later and it was a mess with huge bomb craters, wrecked trucks, etc.  Again, pictures in my books of the beach.

In due time we got inland, set up a good campsite with rows of tents lined up as shown in the pictures in the squadron books.  Most of the Japanese service troops took to the hills.  They weren't really fighters.  They soon got hungry and kept coming into camps trying to steal food and some of them were shot, quite inappropriately, as they could have been captured fairly easily.  The camp raiding went on for some time.
My main memory of this camp was of making wrist watch bands out of stainless steel metal salvaged from planes.  I did it to fight boredom and a certain amount of depression.  I think I still have somewhere a band that I made and used.  Because of the moisture and heat, a leather band didn't last long, and these metal bands were popular.
There was a stream that ran thru the area and it was possible to see the falls on this stream high in the cliffs perhaps two or three miles away.  We had a cloudburst one time and the falls were enormous for an hour or so.  I hankered to go up and see these falls and later attempted to do so.  I suppose it was two months or so after our arrival and it probably was not too smart for me to go off up the bed of this stream alone.  I did take a carbine and had it loaded and ready.  Along the banks I saw huts that had been built by the troops that took to the hills, but if there were any Japs there, I did not see them.  I could not see the falls at any time along the trip up the stream.  I think I may have been fairly near them, but I don't know.  I ran into a boulder about the size of a house wedged into the canyon and it stopped my progress.  There was a ladder of sorts up over the rock made of wire about 3/16 inch diameter with foot/loops twisted into it every 18 inches or so.  I tried to go up it, but my weight pulled the loops tight around my boots so it was hard to get my foot back out.  I was up maybe 6 feet when I thought that if the wire broke and I fell, there was no help, so I climbed back down.  I considered going under the rock but would have had to go underwater and did not, and walked back to the camp area without getting to see the falls.

Hollandia had a huge lake trapped in the mountains nearby, Lake Sentani, maybe 25 miles long.  There were native dwellings on pilings over the water in spots.  One day after a training flight, the group broke up into a rat race which means follow the leader.  The lead plane spotted two natives in a dugout canoe on the lake and buzzed it.  Each plane in the flight came over them a little lower and my tentmate, Lt.  Shrum, in the last plane said that just as the dugout went out of sight under the nose of his plane he saw the natives dive into the water, one on each side of the canoe.  He said he laughed so hard he had to pull out of the flight.  That may seem a little cruel now, but these guys were under a lot of pressure and I can understand their actions.  Shrum was the best buzz artist I ever knew.  I saw him clear a power pole in the squadron area by about 6 feet at 180 miles per hour.  On that occasion he buzzed the squadron area to get someone to come to the strip to pick him up.  I was in my tent cleaning up on his first pass and all of a sudden the tent raised up about two feet as he buzzed it.  I rushed out and saw him coming back and was so afraid he would hit the power pole that I ran to the side to be out of the way if he crashed.  He was a little guy, but could surely fly.
I can no longer remember for sure which station this occurred, but my other tentmate, Bill Roe, had built high tension power lines before service and he was a fairly rough character.  There was no romance in flying for him.  He said, I'm only a truck driver.  And on occasion he said " I have to go haul a load of bombs today.  I flew with him a couple of times on training flights.  The A-20 was a single place plane, but there was a rubber life raft behind the pilots head.  This could be taken out and a person could lie prone in this area as a passenger, which I did.  Bill let me reach past him and control the wheel and to a considerable extent fly the airplane.  Later he said that after a training flight some time, he could land, trade places with me, and let me fly the plane around the pattern.  I asked how we could manage this, since I was no pilot.  He said he could reach the throttles and wheel.  I asked about the rudders.  He said he could tell me which one to push.
The last time I flew with him, he landed and asked if I wanted to fly it.  I thought of how hard it would be to explain if I wrecked the plane and chickened out.  I was also a little nervous of getting killed by this time.  I learned to fly long after the war, and knowing now that the plane had a nosewheel with the main wheels behind the center of gravity, I probably could have managed the parts he couldn't reach, and sort of regretted not being able to say I had 'flown' an A-20.  But on balance, I did what seemed right to me at the time.
Throughout the service in the islands, late afternoon volleyball or other sports was a lifesaver as far as breaking boredom and preserving sanity was concerned.  I remember that after one game I went to my tent, undressed and wrapped a towel around me and went to the showers.  I stopped at the officers latrine which was small.  The seats were half an oil drum with a wood seat on top and there were only two, close together.  I sat on one and lit a cigarette and dropped the match down the other.  There was  a fair explosion that lifted me off my seat, but didn't really hurt me, and I was on my way to the showers anyway.  I had heard jokes about this, but it did happen to me, twice.  The second time was in a huge latrine on Okinawa that had one end blocked off for officers.  It was late morning and the orderlies used to pour some gas in and light it.  I was the last one out and being slow.  I suspect the orderly poured in some gas intending to light it after I left, but that there was a lighted cigarette that set it off sooner.

The other item I recall is that I was transferred from Headquarter squadron to be the supply officer of the 8th Squadron during the stay at Hollandia.  I had been transferred from the 89th to headquarters while at Dobodura, still doing the same general sort  of work.  As mentioned earlier, there was lots more C.S. in headquarters and I sounded off to someone about it and hence the transfer.  I think I was better suited to a squadron.    I don't remember that our planes were in as much combat or as important and hence exciting missions during this time.  It was a period of consolidating positions and taking out island stations owned by Japan preparatory to invading the Philippines.  One thing I do remember is the immense mass of shipping, mostly cargo ships, in the harbor off the coast of Hollandia.  Ships as far as you could see, and this was a big harbor, maybe fifty or more ships in sight.
Leyte island in the Philippines was invaded near Tacloban on October 20 1944.  The 3rd Group ground echelon went in on D plus 18 and we were camped within a few miles of Tacloban.  Again we came in on LST's, and for what reason I do not know the captain asked me which spot near already beached LST's I wanted.  There were only about three choices so I took one.  We unloaded without particular incident and our camp was close to the beach.  As I recall we had no showers for a week or two and bathed in the surf each day.  Ordinary soap will not lather in sea water.  We did have some salt water soap, but even if we came out clean, the salt that dried on us made us feel a little sticky.  I remember driving around and seeing Tacloban and Dulag.  These were both basically villages and torn up from fighting.
I will quote my diary for Dec.  6, 1944.  Quite a raid about dusk.  I was Officer of the day (in charge of guards) just bringing guard back from guard mount when raid got under way.  Saw two planes high   ack ack shooting way wide.  Short lull.  40 mm Bofors shooting low over camp area from 3 sides and Navy from the 4th side.  Tracers skimming over the trees.  Really hit the foxhole-- lull  Heavy AW  fire over Dulag strip    Lt. Ransier  on the roof of his shack yelling about seeing planes shot down.  Got my field glasses and got up on his roof with      40 mm bullets so low I could hear them ping  Cussing myself for being on the roof and no chance to get down Saw a plane low with lights on going east (to the sea) undecided ours or enemy          hell of a cross fire  didn't need glasses to see it - plane was hit about opposite us 500 yards north - saw only a blinding explosion.  Group OD came and told us that one plane load of parachutists had been shot down and that they believed two others had landed.  Two killed so far and that two native canoes offshore had been seen signalling with lights during the attack.  XXIV corps had sent for infantry to help guard.   With Mac's (acting commander Mc Dowell) approval I kept the story quiet to keep men from getting trigger happy.  I stayed up all night except for 0400 to 0500    took coffee to guards on last two shifts.   Ordnance men heard noise to the south between us and 345th group.  I drew a pistol and ventured about 30 yards but saw nothing and was afraid to go further for fear of drawing fire from 345th.  They are jittery as hell, possibly from having so many men killed when nip plane dove into their ship in the harbor.  After all this,    Tour of OD turned out to be uneventful.  (There is more detail on this incident in the diary)


We were told that the engineers were trying to build an airfield for us on the rice paddies and were blasting rock from a mountain and watching it sink in the rice paddy mud where they wanted an airstrip.  For whatever reason, our planes never came to Leyte and within about five weeks we were moved again to San Jose on the island of Mindoro.  However, we had some excitement during the five weeks.  The Japanese counter attacked.   There was talk of organizing squads for ground defense, though it never came to that for us.  About a week later I was on the beach and came across the body of a Japanese soldier who had just washed ashore.  Someone just ahead of me got his pistol.  I took off his belt a can of oil for his weapon.  I think his canteen was also gone.  The oil can I took was shaped to fit in a pocket on his belt and had a screw top lid.  I think I still have it.  We were told that our forces had shot down into the ocean the plane full of paratroopers and that as the bodies swelled up with gases over a few days that his body had floated out of the smashed plane and come ashore.  For sure, certain parts of his body were grotesquely swollen.  This would probably have been the plane that I saw flash into an explosion as mentioned above.
We were trying to build a mess hall, and I traded some liquor to some US engineers for some lumber.  It had to come across a river and they were bringing it across the river in an amphibious truck (DUKW)  The truck got stuck in the river, which was near their camp area and the engineers really sweat it out, but got another DUKW to give them a pull.
We loaded onto LST's again for the next locations, which turned out to be the Island of Mindoro.  What I did not know was that the Japanese owned all the islands between Leyte and Mindoro.  If you look at the map, you will see what I mean.  On the trip there was a general quarters alarm which didn't mean much to me until I heard the ack ack open up.  I then stepped out of the wardroom on the deck and immediately saw a Jap plane dive into a liberty ship on our port side in the convoy.  An instant later the ship blew up and when the smoke cleared there was nothing left where the liberty ship had been.  In another minute or two another Jap plane dived on another liberty ship within sight.  This one did not blow up but dropped out of the convoy.  I turned an ashen grey from fear and I think I stayed pretty much that way through the trip.  My thought was "Two minutes, two ships, this may not take very long"
We had several more raids on the trip, but I did not see any more ships sunk, though I believe I saw one afire in the distance.  One of the suicide planes came over at maybe 1,000 feet elevation and appeared to start a dive on our LST.  It looked to me like he took a hit, because he went into a steeper dive around 1000 feet elevation and splashed into the water on our port side near enough that I could clearly see the pilot in the plane.  He did not explode on contact with the water.  We were told that we got some fighter cover.  In any case the latter part of the trip was better.  Up to this time I had envied the navy the better food that they usually have.  This trip made me realize that on land you can get in foxhole and the bombers have to hit that little hole to get you, whereas on the water all they have to do is hit the ship you are on.  Thereafter I no longer envied the navy.

We landed at San Jose on Mindoro and stayed until about June 1945.  I do not remember any particular items except that shortly after landing we were told of a possible attack from the sea which never affected us much.  I believe the Japs tried to attack us with battleships but were driven off without much damage on land.  It was indeed the dry season and we camped out in the middle of a rice paddy that had tiny dikes around it.  I put up a tent 16 x 16' pyramidal tent as best I could.  My tentmates, Lt.  Bill Roe and Lt.Shrum did not arrive for several weeks.  The tent was poorly supported on a makeshift frame, and I dug a slit trench.  Every night the wind came up and I slept poorly afraid the tent would blow down and forgot about it the next day.  Eventually I fixed it more securely.
We had night raids and they were so frequent that one or two nights I slept (poorly) most of the night in the trench.  I kept hearing firecrackers after the planes went over.  Eventually I saw little pocks in the hard dirt of the paddy, and realized the planes were dropping anti personnel bombs or grenades but they must have been little bitty ones.  I never heard of anyone hurt by them.  Maybe they were just big firecrackers.  My tentmates, Lt. Bill Roe and Lt. Shrum arrived eventually.
I believe that the missions declined for a few months and I do not remember a lot about them.  I had leave to Manila once or twice, and the town was really shot up.  The group or some such had rented a house out of town where I stayed and there wasn't a heck of a lot to do in the city.  I do remember walking down the streets of the city and young Filipino men would accost  soldiers aggressively trying to sell the services of prostitutes.  Street vendors also sold "coke".  We service men hadn't had much coke for years and I suckered on a regular glass bottle of coke for a Peso which was then 50 cents and ten times the US cost.  The vendor quickly took off the bottle cap and kept it, and I am sure used it again.  It wasn't the real thing, but it wasn't too bad either.  We were paid in Shillings in New Guinea, Guilders in Dutch New Guinea (Hollandia), and Pesos in the Philippines.
I believe it was on Mindoro that Ike Culshaw looked me up.  He was the fiancee of Pat Gaskill of Buda, who got my address so he could find me.  It would be an APO, but that seemingly was enough.  With Dub Carper, these were the only two previous acquaintances I saw during service and I am not sure I met Ike before the war.

I believe it was on Mindoro that We had not one, but two refrigerators in our tent of three officers.  Bill Roe scrounged up a refrigeration compressor and some copper tubing from somewhere and managed to make a cooler for beer.  The box he built was metal lined and had water in it and the evaporator tubes went around the edge of the box in the water and it worked fine.  A little later, Lt. Shrum found the skeleton of an old refrigerator that used a kerosene lamp to power it.  I can't recall the brand name any more.  It was just the metal frame with no enclosure, door, or anything but the elementary working parts.  He made a box of wood around the frame, insulated with sawdust, door and all.  He had to stand the thing upside down and then invert it several times to get it to cool, but cool it did, using an electric element in place of the kerosene burner.  It would freeze things solid, and I managed to trade the Navy something for  some ice cream mix, and we enjoyed the ice cream.  I think we had the only two refrigerators in the squadron beside the mess hall.  I caught a flight in a little observation plane similar to a Piper Cub that was going to an outpost across the mountains.  While there I was able to trade an old khaki shirt for a whole stalk of bananas, and we had banana ice cream.  Later on Bill Roe farmed his refrigerator out to an enlisted man who could trade two cold beers for three warm ones or some such, and then he shared the extra beer with Bill Roe.  It was late in the war that they started giving service men a beer ration and boy did they have trouble protecting against raids the areas where the beer was stored.  Soldiers can sure get creative with this sort of incentive.
I guess I will recount an incident that as best as I can remember happened at San Jose on Mindoro.  I was pretty depressed and even thought of suicide.  One night Bill Roe came home roaring drunk and stumbled into his bunk in our three man tent.  I waited a couple of minutes till I heard him snore and then got out of bed to go the latrine.  When I came back in Bill awoke when my feet hit the board floor and demanded to know who it was.  I replied it was just Bob.  He roared out "Oh no, Bob never comes in this late"  I was a little ticked and said " If it isn't Bob who do you think it is"  He sat bolt upright, grabbed his 45 Caliber automatic, pumped a shell into the chamber and waved it around.  I sensed I had a perfect situation if I wanted to commit suicide and decided I did not want to.  I reached over and turned on the light and soft talked a little, and Bill was satisfied, dropped the gun on his bunk, and laid back down on top of the 45 and went back to sleep.

It must have been about May or June of 1945 that we again loaded on an LST for Okinawa, though I doubt we knew where we were headed when we loaded.  As usual, I am sure I directed the loading of the 8th Squadron gear.  While we were at sea, weather got very heavy from a big typhoon.  I am pretty sure we were diverted to keep us out of the worst of the typhoon, but I believe this was the big one that capsized a bunch of Navy ships and caused lots of Havoc.  I could probably look up in some books to verify the dates.  In any case the weather built up slowly enough that most of us, including me, got sea legs and survived without getting seasick.  But we took a pasting and were certainly glad to go ashore.
I don't remember a lot about Okinawa.  I can no longer even visualize the campsite, although I can still visualize the latrine.  I do remember seeing one section of paved road.  It impressed me because it was hardly wide enough for one car, let alone two meeting.  I was getting to be fairly depressed by the long period of overseas service and this may be a reason I do not remember more.
It was reported to us that the US now had radar controlled guns that were deadly and were knocking down enemy planes with one shot.
The thing I remember most vividly was the peace rumor in August.  It sort of swept over the island by word of mouth like breeze going by.  Every one was immediately overjoyed and most of the troops fired into the air whatever weapon they could get their hands on.  In some case it was individual troops firing rifles, or pistols in the air.  It was also anti aircraft guns, 40mm Bofors, machine guns and whatever, with abandon, no concern if they burned up the barrels or not, and I have never seen anything like it.  The sky was lit up.  I was told that the navy had not heard the peace rumor quite as soon and thought it was a Japanese suicide attack and so they opened up too.  The story was that they dropped a star shell in a fuel dump and killed 16 soldiers.  I don't know if either was true, but it was some show.  There was so much shrapnel whistling down that I crawled under a Jeep for protection.
In due time I was rotated home under the point system, but not before my tent mates flew into Japan and back after the signing of the peace.  Bill Roe duly reported his visit to a house of prostitution and how if there was a pair of slippers in the hall, then there was a vacancy.
I came home on a fairly good troop ship.  Two days out from Tacoma I got a chill and then a fever.  The next day I felt better.  The day we landed I carried my barracks bag and other stuff ashore and had a recurrence of the chill and fever and blamed it on overdoing.  Next day OK.  Following day chill and fever and I knew it had to be something, malaria, of course.  I was sent to Madigan hospital and stayed there two or three weeks in November 1945.  I believe I was mustered out technically in Chicago.  I had a 30% disability for Malaria for some months, reduced to 10% and then cut off, but it did put me under public law 16 which handled my G.I. benefits a little differently.  I got home to Buda in November 1945.  Dad asked me to do chores for a couple of days while he visited his mother, Lucy Miller, in the old soldiers home at Quincy Ill.  It snowed while he was gone and I got stuck in a drift going over to the farm, but was promptly pulled out by a snow plow.
I knew Mother was dying of cancer and really wanted to get away.  I had learned that the Seattle area had mild winters with little snow and lots of rain and that sounded good to me.  I determined to go there to the University of Washington.  I had 150# or so of stuff I wanted to take.  Dad suggested I revive the Model A Ford in the yard at Esthers farm.  He had bought if for $35 and run it out pretty much, but said if I ground the valves it would get me to Washington.  He had bought another Model A for $35 and was running it.  I did overhaul the motor and hand painted the outside and did drive it to Washington.  Tires were a problem and I blew one enroute.  A kind service station man sold me a new one during a time of real scarcity.  I thought it pretty great that he would befriend a service man in need when he had plenty of regular customers who would like to get one.

I ended up attending the University of Washington on the G.I. Bill starting in February 1946, where I met my wife, Margaret.  I would mention one more thing.  I did not know when I left Illinois that out of state students  had to have a 3.25 GPA to get into the U of W.  Fortunately I had a 3.27 average, thanks to a professor at Wesleyan university who gave me an undeserved A in Physics in 1940.
I wish to mention a few more memories here.  I got hold of a crate of hand grenades from somewhere while in New Guinea.  I had never seen grenades or been trained in them so I was curious.  I set off several.  One or two I dropped in the ocean from a dock.  Another one or two I threw over a pile of dirt where I was protected.  I sort of enjoyed the experience.

I will relate the experience of one of our pilots, Captain C. S.  Brown.  He was hit on a raid, probably Rabaul.  He was able to get back across the water to New Guinea, but had to put the plane down on the beach on the north side a long way from Moresby.  This was while the Japs still owned the north side.  He was unhurt, so he took his pistol and found a trail and started down it.  Pretty soon he heard a voice saying, "Captain Brown, Captain C. S. Brown.  He jumped into the bush to hide and pretty soon a native came down the trail still calling out.  Brown jumped out of the bush and held the pistol on the native.  Turned out the native had been taught to read at a mission, had found the plane and found Brown's name in it and come looking for him.  The native took good care of him and got him back to civilization, but we all thought it a bit bizarre.  There were cases of Natives betraying allied people to the Japs.
Another item.  Many planes started across the coral sea between Australia and New Guinea and never arrived as I mentioned before.  We never knew what happened, and when we flew across to go on leave we were well aware of this.  I was in Fat Cat, headed for leave, middle of the Coral sea.  Everyone was tired of the heat and the terrific noise level these planes made, half dozing off when all at once both engines quit at once.  I never heard such devastating silence, nor woke up so quickly with so much adrenalin, and I'm sure others felt the same.  In a few seconds the motors were full throttle again.  The pilot had run a tank empty and changed over, but boy did he wake us up.

At Dobadura and Nadzab I learned to ride a motorcycle.  It was a lot more comfortable to ride the cycle to Oro Bay over the bumpy roads than to take a jeep.  I also rode at Nadzab.
When I first arrived there were still pilots in the group who had been in the Philippines and managed to get out.  Of course Pappy Gunn was one, but there were others.  And some of them from the Philippines had good tales.
I remember an occasion when we were At Dobadura and the Japs were getting short of good airplanes.  They sent out 45 dive bombers, to Milne bay I believe, and our fighters shot down every one of them.   A few hours later, the Japs sent out a reconnaissance plane to see what happened to the others and we shot down the recco.  This was a heady success to the people who had been there during the time the Japs were supreme and the allies took such pasting.
About 35 years after the war, while working at Longview Fibre company, I was talking to another engineer, Perry Felver and discovered that he was in service and had served as a control tower operator at the airstrip at Lae New Guinea.  I have been on the ground and seen the strip at Lae.  In fact, that is where I cannibalized some metal for souvenirs.  Perry told me a story which I think worth recording.  Perry was on duty one day when the strip was closed in by heavy fog.  He had a radio call from a B-17 pilot who was overhead and without enough gas to go to a different strip.  His options appeared to be for he and his crew to bail out with the main decision as to whether to do so over land or over the jungle, neither one with a high chance for survival.  Perry told the guy he thought he could get him down safely if the pilot wanted to try it.  The pilot considered the alternatives and chose Perry's offer,  and Perry said, OK shut up and do what I tell you and do not reply to my calls.
I should tell you that the strip started (or ended depending on direction) right at the waters edge, just higher than water level and was at right angles to the water.  As I said, I have been on this strip. 
  Perry could hear the plane and directed him out to sea.  He ran him out several miles, giving him heading corrections based on Perry's directional hearing.  Perry then turned him around, gave him barometer setting to make the altimeter as accurate as possible and told him to lower to 150 feet altitude.  Perry monitored the sound and gave heading corrections as needed to try to get him lined up with the runway, had him cut speed to normal approach.  At the lower speed Perry had more time to correct headings and line him up.  Perry told the pilot lower to 50 feet, and finally told him to cut his engines.  The pilot obeyed and shortly after this Perry heard the squeal of tires on the runway.  Perry said the fog was so thick that they chose not to taxi and towed the plane off the runway.

I can not prove this story, but I knew Perry for fifteen or more years and from his personality I do not doubt that this was a true story.  I thought it a good one.

Another story that I heard post war, in 1999 in fact.  Irving Lynn who attends our church, was a Lt. Commander in the navy serving as supply officer on an LST (landing ship, tank) the kind that is mentioned in some of my stories.  He told me they were off the southern coast of Italy when Bill Mauldin came aboard.  Bill Mauldin was famous as the cartoonist who drew the pictures of Willie and Joe that appeared in the war magazine "YANK".  Irv is also very artistic and sought out Bill, found him on deck drinking out of a canteen cup.  Irv said "Are you Bill Mauldin?".  Bill replied "Yes, so what".  Irv said, well it happens that I draw and that I have great admiration for you work.  This softened Bill a little.  Irv guessed that Bill was drinking medical alcohol, and said " Would you like some grape juice to soften that drink a little?  Bill said "sure, you got some?  Being in charge of ships stores, of course Irv did.  In the end Irv and another officer
'Hot bedded" in order for Bill Mauldin to have a sheltered room to draw, rather than be on the open deck with the rest of the soldiers.  Hot bed means they worked different  watches, and each used the same bed while the other was on watch.

Another item I choose to tell is when our group was at Dobodura.  Our planes were out and just for fun they buzzed a US Navy ship or group of ships.  The Navy opened fire on them and while we took no hits, our pilots never did that again.  My sympathy is with the Navy.  And I will add that I think the Navy anti aircraft gunners were miles better shots than the Army ever had.  Of course the Navy had a better incentive program.
Still another story I like is from Captain Gossam.  Coming off target his gunner told him he had been hit.  The gunner could see oil running back along the plane.  Gossam disagreed.  He told the gunner he still had full hydraulic pressure.  They sniped at each other a bit on the way home.  In the landing pattern, Gossam put the landing gear down and it went normal and locked so Gossam gave the gunner an " I told you so"  On the roll out Gossam hit the hydraulic brakes and they were out.  I think Gossam rolled off the end of the runway, but the gunner sure got the last word.
Another story that I think was also by  Lt. Gossam.  He was in the plane getting ready for a mission, the armourers were readying the bombs and all of a sudden Gossam saw that there was no one in sight.  By radio he was advised that one of the bombs was accidentally armed and everyone had scattered.  Gossam got down very slowly and light footed it till he was clear.  Meanwhile some poor armourer had to carefully remove the fuse from the bomb and dispose of the fuse without setting it off.  This scenario is illustrated in one of my books by a cartoon under the heading of 'Live Bomb' showing the mechanic 10 feet from the airplane before his wrench could fall to the ground.  Normally the fuse was armed after dropping the bomb by means of a propeller turned by the passage of air around the bomb in its fall.  My friend Newt Hagar was in ordnance and had to  disarm a live bomb in an airplane a few times.
I realize that the stories are getting less important as they go along, but I have a few more in case anyone gets this far.  I flew to Australia for leave in squadron Steak and Eggs plane with Lt. Johny May and we were both sitting in what had been the bomb bay, just a floored spot from which we could see nothing.  We thought the landing at Brisbane was kind of rough.  Then when we got out, Johny discovered a hole in his dress blouse (coat).  The cables that control the tail surface (and the pitch of) of the airplane run back to the tail on the side of she airplane and one ran over a pulley right where John was sitting.  When the pilot pulled back to raise the nose for landing, John's coat tail had got pinched in the pulley where the cable ran through.  The pilot had enough strength to force the cable thru the jam (which put the hole in the blouse).  If he had not been strong enough to force the cable through we might have been in some trouble with the landing.
Another story on Johny May.  He and I were on another flight in the same blind spot in the plane, and Johny was getting air sick and barfed as soon as we landed and got out.  I think he was blue in the face, but he also had a real atebrine tan from the yellow die we took to suppress malaria.  Yellow and blue added together make green and for all the jokes about turning green when sick, this is the only time I ever saw a face that really was green.

The A-20 was an extremely rugged airplane.  One of the squadron pilots got too interested in the target he was strafing and did not pull out quite soon enough.  He hit the top of a palm tree that made a big dent in the leading edge of she wing between the fuselage and the right engine.  Obviously it cut off the top of the palm tree because we could see where the stub of the palm tree damaged the underside of the wing as it went by.  In trying to pull up, his tail was low, and the tree scraped the bottom of the right horizontal tail surface enough to completely cut the aluminum skin on the bottom surface.  The pilot was scared and put down at the nearest emergency field, where there were no repair facilities.  We desperately needed airplanes, and our operations officer, Captain Harvey Brown, a Texan, walked around it, flexed the cut section of the tail up about six inches at the tip, said "Ah think it will fly" and flew it home.  I saw the plane and flexed the tail section up myself so I know this story is true.
Thinking of these stories keeps bringing others to mind.  You may not care to read them all.
My tentmate, Bill Roe, told me about strafing a target and pulled up a little late so he pulled up hard and went right into cloud.  He looked at his artificial horizon and the hard pullup had put his horizon on tilt.  He told me he said to himself "Oh what did the they teach me about needle ball and compass for flight in clouds.  Obviously he got out OK, but disorientation in clouds has killed a lot of pilots.  Lt. Kendrach whose tent I occupied when I first arrived was last seen just before entering a cloud on the wing of another pilot.  When they emerged, Kendrach was not on this other pilot's wing and no one ever knew what happened to him.
Lt. Shrum and Bill Roe were on a mission and Lt. Harvey took a shell under his right wing, and the explosion turned him upside down.  It is lots harder to recover from inversion when you are near the ground.  Shrum heard a voice on the intercom which he recognized as being Bill Roe's voice saying "Hard Fu--ing luck.  However Lt. Harvey succeeded in righting the plane and flew safely home on one engine.
From one of my books I read s tory of a fighter pilot who shot down an enemy fighter just off the coast of Hollandia.  However, there was not photo proof or confirmation from another US plane and authorities would not credit him with the kill.  When we occupied Hollandia, he took an Intelligence officer to the spot and said "there is a Jap fighter in the water right there".  According to the story, a diver confirmed and the pilot belatedly got credit for another kill.
One person told me about seeing a plane headed for New Guinea with supplies so heavily loaded that it just barely lifted off at the very end of the runway.  He exclaimed about it and someone said to him, "he might as well take off.  There wasn't any more runway any way"  Planes were loaded to what they would lift rather than rated load, and a few crashed on takeoff.
I mentioned how urgently Pappy Gunn prosecuted the war because his family was interned in Luzon.  He took great chances many times but had lots of skill and survived.  One time when a plane from Australia was bringing in supplies he needed, the plane never arrived.  Pappy is reported to have fumed that "You can't trust these young pilots with these planes.

Like lots of others, I consider service a great experience that I wouldn't want to have missed, although I wouldn't have done it entirely voluntarily either.  Having the means to finish college under the G.I. Bill was certainly a boon to me.  I had about worn out my spirits trying to earn a college education on my own with virtually no help prior to the war and at that time only had 1 1/3 years credit.

Bob Elliott




April 12, 1943

Here is my account of the 100 plane raid on the 89th squadron on April 12, 1943.

 I believe my first air raid was the last daylight raid on Port Moresby April 12, 1943,  and which had 100 Japanese planes. I was away from the squadron area at 6 mile drome picking up supplies when it occurred. The signal was always a pistol shot and the number of shots showed if it was a yellow (imminent) alert or a red alert.  What I mostly remember is being scared, finding a slit trench to get into and seeing the hordes of Japanese airplanes overhead at about 20,000 feet.  I also remember seeing all the ack ack and never seeing one Jap plane hit.  This was also typical of many night raids I later watched in which there was gobs of ack ack and I never saw one plane hit by it even after the searchlights had picked up the planes.  I believe our fighters took a serious toll on that raid because the Japs never again raided Moresby in the daylight.  

I returned to the squadron area to find lots of excitement.  A small flight of three planes split off to hit our(Kila) drome and were not noticed immediately by squadron personnel.  The three planes dropped bombs that hit a pile of gasoline drums in the squadron area and set a good fire which was still blazing when I returned.  They had also hit our drome with some daisy cutters but had not done much damage as our planes were in dirt revetments.  I was told one of our airmen got caught by surprise as the bombs started falling.  He couldn't find the slit trench and lay in a ditch.  After the raid he found that the trench he was looking for had taken a direct hit.  None of our personnel were hurt in that raid.

After maybe 3 to 5 months the group moved to Dobadura across the island so that our planes did not have to negotiate the mountains to hit targets on the north side.  This is the same general area as Buna.  The engineers built more and bigger airstrips in a slightly different location.  We were driving the Japs back northwest along the north side of New Guinea, having driven them out of the Buna Dobadura area.  


Bob Elliot