Korean War

CHAPTER VII
THE KOREAN WAR

After the War College, which lasted a year, my headquarters in Omaha was deeply into the Korean emergency. They were charged with manning three groups ofB-29 bombers for the Korean War. This included all full colonels. The Korean War was heating up and suddenly they needed bomber pilots, and I was a highly educated one. The air staff in Washington told General Le May that they didn’t need more full colonels, which I fully agreed with. To resolve this problem, the military did a typical maneuver, they transferred the problem to General Emmett “Rosie” O’Donald. I was assigned to his command on the West Coast.

General O ‘Donald had the assignment of manning the three B-29 wings in his command to assignments in Korea. I was directed to report to General O’Donald at March Field in Los Angeles, California. There I was assigned to Spokane 98th Bomb Wing. In the meantime, I had sold my outdoor advertising business in Lincoln.

I ran into some more typical military maneuvers, being assigned to Spokane while I was at March Field, presented a logistical problem for me. Not only logistical. I had to call home and explain to my wife why I was going to Spokane. I was trying to explain to her that it wasn’t Spokane, it was Japan. I already was cruising around Los Angeles with a car full of lampshades, wall hangings, etc. And the reason the military said I had to go to Spokane was I had to sign in. Couldn’t be done by phone. This trip is something like 900 to 1,000 miles.

I had agreed to meet my wife with the children at a hotel in Spokane. There I found no evidence of the hotel in Spokane that we had agreed on. I was informed by a cab driver that it had burned down the summer before. I said, where is the second best hotel. He told me where it was. When I walked in the front door of the hotel, my wife and the children were sitting in the lobby. They had deduced the same
solution.

In Spokane, I was told that I had been reassigned to Japan and was issued high-priority orders to match mine. I was to leave from Travis Air Force Base, which is outside San Francisco. At Travis, when I signed in, my orders caused quite a stir. I had not been in San Francisco before, and I thought it would be appropriate for me to stay overnight, see the town and go the next day. The sign-in sergeant said that was impossible; that my order said immediate, and I was to get on this next airplane.

This was an interesting decision because this plane was a United plane leased by the state of California by the governor of California. And on the plane was the governor, Earl Warren, and the balance of the passengers were California national guard going to join the California guard unit that was in Tokyo, Japan. Governor Warren and I were the only two non-Gls in uniform. I sat beside Governor Warren from Travis to Hawaii. We had a very fascinating conversation, because he was at that time being considered by the Republican National Committee to run for president of the United States.

Further, on this bazaar trip, when we were coming in to land in Hawaii, Governor Warren informed me that he was having a noon luncheon with the Republican National Committee in conjunction with a cocktail party and I should join them. So I became an Hawaiian Republican for the delicious, as you can imagine, luncheon. Never saw so much fresh fruit in my life! I thought, considering where I was going, I better make good use of the luncheon, which I did. Some of the top republican representatives at this luncheon in Hawaii were Governor Dewey of New York, Richard and Pat Nixon, and Robert Taft of Ohio.

I had a further jolting experience, because when we arrived in Tokyo, there was a big band, marching soldiers, cannons going off — all of this was not for my benefit. It was for Governor Warren, of course. And way at the back of the line of the people waiting was an air force GI and a staff car which picked me up and swept me away to the nearby air force headquarters at Kanita Air Base.

This, of course, was not the end of this adventure, but the beginning. At Kanita Air Force Base I reported into a general there, and he was a general I knew from England, Bob Terrill. And he explained to me this strange war. They had assured me that I was not going to fly any combat. I didn’t understand a war like that but. … He said, “Well we’re just doing individual B-29 bombings at night — too much anti-aircraft in the area for day-time bombing. We have to provide three bomber units, and we have one in Tokyo and two in Okinawa.” I wondered how Okinawa got involved in this. He said that they were trying to build up the unit in Okinawa, and that I would be assigned to this unit. I didn’t think of myself as the build-up for the war but.. .. And he looked at his watch and said, “In fact we’ve got a shuttle plane leaving that you can still make.” I didn’t tell him that I wasn’t fully checked out on a B-29; that I didn’t have a current instrument card; that I didn’t know who we were fighting. I hadn’t been briefed on any of this, and I didn’t have my shots. Everyone down the line said, “We’ll take care of that later.” All the above, I thought, convincing, convincing reasons why I shouldn’t be going where I was obviously going. I didn’t get to stay overnight in Tokyo. I had this shuttle plane to catch.
This was a short flight from Tokyo to Okinawa. I was the only passenger on this shuttle plane. The buildup must have been someplace else. We landed in Okinawa. I stepped off the airplane. The sergeant there, who met me, said that the wing that had been on a mission that day was coming in to land and that he could take me out to the wing commander’s plane. We drove across the runway to a parking area, and a B-29 was just turning into this parking spot. The crew was getting out of the plane. One of them was the wing commander. I was to be the deputy wing commander. This wing commander was a West Point graduate, and I had known him in England in the Eighth Air Force. Breckenridge who was nicknamed “Broken Bridge,” naturally.

I introduced myself, and he looked tired, as he should, having flown that mission that day. But he said to me, “You were in England, right?” “Yeah.” “Well”, he said, “it’s the same thing over again — same thing.” And he said, “You can take them tomorrow.” I said, “Take them where?” I had no idea what this whole thing was about. Now, I haven’t told this story to very many people, because it is so unbelievable, that our fine, organized, efficient military could possibly have put me in such a situation.

So the wing commander said, “I’m sorry that your living quarters are not ready yet.” They were building some new huts on a runway parking area. The only other thing that was available was where the crews were living in old quonset huts left over from the last war. So the sergeant took me up a winding road into the mountains of Okinawa to these quonset huts. And inside were the crews that had just come in. They emphasized the fact that you had to use the mosquito netting — I had never seen mosquito netting before — because there were no screens on the windows in the quonset hut.

And the sergeant said, “Now, here’s your flight bag. Everything is in there.” I thought everything — now let’s see what do these guys have. They had jump boots, parachute, armor plating, head sets, etc. That was my new military assignment.

I was staying with the combat crews in this quonset hut, what was left of it, for about a month when they finished my quarters which were reasonably deluxe. Also I was assigned two Okinawan maids for work in my home. They spoke very little English, and I spoke very little Okinawan. So with a lot of sign language, I taught them how to sing “You Are My Sunshine.” The Okinawan words that they used didn’t really fit the tune, but there weren’t too many people who cared one way or another. The maids were very good and very careful about all my things. I finally taught them how to put the emblems on my uniform. The eagles on the collar gave them the biggest problem. They couldn’t get the nose facing the right way– the beak. It was too much for them. They also couldn’t quite understand too much starch in my uniforms. By the time I had finished my tour, they had just about gotten the uniform situation figured out. They brought fresh flowers every day and arranged them carefully on the one piece of furniture I had beside my bed. My mother mailed me some clothing for them. I took some pictures to give my mother an idea of the fashion she was creating on the island of Okinawa.

The B-29 was a wonderful, wonderful airplane. It was big, had four good engines, carried a lot of bombs and a lot of fuel. It was fast for the time — 300 miles an hour at 25,000 feet. It was the first of the big planes that were pressurized in the cabin. So it was not necessary to wear oxygen masks, but to have them handy, because one hole took care of pressurization. The problems were that the B-29′ s we were flying were aged machines. They had never been back to the U.S. between wars. As a result, from living in the tropical jungle, they had ailing and frequent electronic malfunctions. The salt water air didn’t help either. For instance, if you pushed the button to open the bombay doors and release bombs, it was not infrequent for the bombs to get released before the bombay doors opened — an obvious hazard for the crew and anyone in the area. These electronic malfunctions required frequent and long maintenance. A wing of B-29’s constituted 36 planes. We were lucky to get ten a day flyable.

We flew four planes in a cell, and this was massive fire power. The B-29 was equipped with twin 50-caliber guns in the front, in the back, on both sides, in the top and the bottom. In addition, we had fighter escorts in the target area. Each plane had basically ten crew members. Our schedules, for the most part, were to fly — out of the total number of planes — ten aircraft. We would fly every third day. Our targets were pretty far away. Okinawa by B-29 was fourteen hours in the air round-trip to Korea. No place to land in the target area. The primary job of the wing commander who flew on every mission was contact directly with the fighter escort. The fighter escort rendezvoused with us at whatever level, primarily 23,000 feet, over the target or near the target. Unfortunately, our fighter escort were not yet in the jet stage, except for one wing. The balance were French Mirages and F-84’s.

To get to kind of the interesting part of the mission, the primary target area was one railroad bridge that crossed the Yalu River. This bridge was made of bamboo poles tied together with vines to suspend two tracks across the Yalu valley. This made a target that was eight-foot wide — two railroad tracks 1,500 feet long. It was the sole supplier of munitions and military personnel for the North Koreans in the battlefield. This we were supposed to bomb out of commission from 23,000 feet.

From 23,000 feet an eight-foot wide bridge is not what you call a huge target. So we bombed it anyway, including the river below and adjacent rice paddies. We were able to hit this bridge, in spite of a 110 anti-aircraft guns, the equivalent of Berlin’s defenses. Enemy fighters were based on one side of the Yalu River in China and the target area. To give you some idea of the fighter force, all MiG-29 jets lived in this safe haven in China. They required from take-off to target area six minutes to intercept our formation.
They had a unique system. They had so many airplanes, they organized them in flights of 50 to 100 at a time. They took off wing-tip to wing-tip in what we called trains. When a train left a station — when it took off — our reconnaissance people announced: “Train leaving the station.” Well, you get the picture. The MiG’ s formed a racetrack pattern over the target area. They had a controller in charge of this racetrack, and he peeled off flights of three and four against our formation, as soon as we were out of the anti-aircraft area. They had no wish to shoot down their own aircraft. Our defensive aircraft, propeller driven, were unbelievably courageous as they attacked these flights of enemy aircraft. We were losing planes, both fighters and bombers, each mission.

We flew four planes in a cell and this was a massive fire power. The B-29 was equipped with twin 50 caliber guns in the front, in the back on both sides, in the top and the bottom. In addition, we had fighter escorts in the target area. Each plane had basically ten crew members and our schedules for the most part was to fly — out of the total number of planes — we would fly every third day ten aircraft. Our targets were pretty far away. Okinawa by B-29 was fourteen hours in the air round-trip to Korea. No place to land in the target area. The primary job the wing commander that flew on every mission was contact directly with the fighter escort who rendezvoused with us at whatever level, primarily 23,000 feet over the target or near the target. Unfortunately, our fighter escort were not yet in the jet stage except for one wing — the balance being French Mirages and F-84’s.

To get to kind of the interesting part of the mission, the primary target area was one railroad bridge that crossed the Yalu River. This bridge was made of bamboo poles tied together with vines to suspend two tracks across the Yalu valley. This made a target that was eight-foot wide — two railroad tracks 1,500 feet long. It was the sole supplier of munitions and military personnel for the North Koreans in the battlefield. This we were supposed to bomb out of commission from 23,000 feet. From 23,000 feet an eight-foot wide bridge is not what you call a huge target. So we bombed it anyway, including the river below and adjacent rice paddies. We were able to hit this bridge, in spite of a 110 anti-aircraft guns, the equivalent of Berlin’s defenses. Enemy fighters were based on one side of the Yalu River in China and the target area. To give you some idea of the fighter force, all MIG-29 jets lived in this safe haven in China and required from take-off to target area six minutes to intercept our formation. They had a unique system. They had so many airplanes, they organized them in flights of 50 to 100 at a time. They took off wing-tip to wing-tip in what we called trains. When a train left a station — when it took off — our reconnaissance people announced “Train leaving the station.” Well, you get the picture. In the target area, they formed a racetrack pattern over the target area. They had a controller in charge of this racetrack, and he peeled off flights of three and four against our formation as soon as we were out of the anti-aircraft area. They had no wish to shoot down their own aircraft. Our defensive aircraft, propeller driven, were unbelievably courageous as they attacked these flights of enemy aircraft. We were losing planes, both fighters and bombers each mission. Time magazine, on the day of my first mission, announced in the headlines of the magazine that we were winning the air war. It was not quite that obvious to me at 23,000 feet over the Yalu River!

Further, as the leader contacting our fighter escort, the escort were requesting our bomber formation to fly at a lower level because their aircraft could handle the opposition more effectively at a lower level, but the lower level was occupied by heavy, heavy anti-aircraft. The sky was virtually black. We went into target from the ocean side to take advantage of the prevailing winds which were up to 100 miles an hour in the jet stream. The bad part, the other bad part, was that once we dumped the bombs, we had to do a 180 and fly back out over the ocean because to fly straight ahead after the target was more anti-aircraft and not so prevailing winds. Besides, back out over the ocean was the Seventh Fleet, positioned for pickup of falling aircraft. From then on, it was survival. So if, as Time magazine said, we were winning the air war, it didn’t seem so from my perspective.

I broached the subject of going at a different time with Bomber Command in Tokyo, which was hopeless, of course. They had their ideas and I had mine and MacArthur was winning. Actually, MacArthur was losing. Things were not going well on the ground. We were keeping the North Korean women busy in the target areas, but the North Korean ground troops were giving ours a lot of trouble.
The reason we had to continually bomb the Yalu bridge was that the North Koreans rebuilt it amazingly quickly. Our enemy had fishing nets downstream to catch the bamboo poles that we bombed on the bridge. They carried these back upstream, tied them together again, and were running train traffic across them the next day. This was not your average train. The bamboo bridges were not strong enough to carry very much weight, so all traffic was in handcarts, whether it was ammunition in small amounts or personnel — no heavy artillery. These were hand-pushed carts across this fragile bridge which were able to haul only small amounts but amounted to totally enough to feed an army.

The other target for frequent bombing were the airfields in North Korea. Again our intelligence people said that these fields built near a river were not satisfactory for jet aircraft — inhaled to much of that river sand, I guess. However, that bit of information was soon diffused because our reconnaissance aircraft took pictures of, sure enough, jet aircraft parked at the airfield. These airfields were interesting targets because, like the Yalu River Bridge, they were reconstructed quite quickly.

First our intelligence said, well you just area bomb the airfield. You will knock out the concrete mixers and stop the production. Unfortunately, it turned out these cement mixers were five Korean women with paddles in a circle mixing water, which was in the stream right beside them, and sand, which they mixed with cement which was hauled in. And then after we bombed, they had their bomb removal squad. Our bombs were fused with variable timed explosions — instantaneously and up to seventy-two hours. Their bomb removal squad was all on instantaneously. Different women dug this bomb out not knowing whether it was on a 72 hour or instantaneous or 15 minutes.

The ladies that we were keeping busy had some additional tricks of their own.
Once they had dug the bombs out and carried them away to the river, they piled the dirt from the runway, that we had blasted out, into donut shaped mounds on the rest of the nmway. When our reconnaissance flew over, they photographed these mounds, and it looked like the runway wasn’t usable. They were tricky enough to pile these mounds at random, but leave enough space for their jet aircraft to land.

The runways for the jets that they built near the water were made up of eight to ten inch concrete blocks and laid interlocking in a mosaic pattern to form the runway surface. Therefore, our bombs blew these octagon shaped blocks out of their space and for repair they were replace again back in at the surface. This method enabled our reconnaissance to claim we had blown these craters in the runway and therefore it wasn’t usable. But subsequent photographs showed jets taking off and landing on this so-called disintegrated runway.

They had used methods of this type previously on the Yalu Bridge. In addition to catching the bamboo poles and putting them back in position, they had one section of the railroad on floats so that after our bombing runs and strikes on the bridge, they would float one section of the bridge upstream and park it waiting for our reconnaissance flight which would record the bridge out of commission. At night they floated this section of the bridge back into position and pushed the loaded train carts across in the night. By morning they floated the section of the railroad bridge out of position upstream. Our reconnaissance photos therefore were misleading to say the least.

I thought for awhile after I hadn’t gotten any mail that I had totally escaped the U.S. Post Office. But suddenly mail appeared. Some of it had been delayed substantially. Nothing was changing at home and a lot was changing on Okinawa. In some of the mail, I received one interesting letter from the IRS advising me to come to their office and to bring all of my business records for the past two years with me. I thought it was time I informed them that I was not available and why, but I pointed out that each time I crossed the 38th parallel, I earned a $2,500 tax deduction. So I thought I was actually making money for the U.S.

The commander of the base and I divided up the business of running this wing of B-29’s. I was the deputy and Breckenridge was the Commanding Officer, but he liked administration — handling court marshals, transfers of troops. I liked flying -operations and the maintenance and training of the combat crews. So we just naturally split the job on a day-to-day basis. Day to day went pretty fast. Breckenridge still stuck to his idea of what was fair. I led a mission and he led a mission, and we took turns, and our wing was flying every third day to the same target. We went in from the ocean side at the same time — 12 o’clock noon we dropped bombs over that same railroad bridge, so they knew we were coming. They had six minutes to get their jets up in the racetrack pattern.

One of the valuable lessons I learned was that there were many ways of dealing with
a hurricane. Okinawa was located in what they referred to as … ? Everything that was headed towards Japan passed right over Okinawa. The first Hurricane I experienced there, the decisiion had been made to ride it out, because it was not a very strong storm. We rode it out by putting the airplanes up on the tarmac with bombs and put the crews in the planes. With the engines running the planes were aimed into the wind as they sat on the parking sites. This required us to give the crews food and water in the planes and wait for the storm to pass through which it did. We had little damage to the aircraft.

The next hurricane was a different story. It was to be huge. The alternative to riding the storm out was to get out. Getting out was easy, but where to go out the path of the wound up to be Guam. The island of Guam is far south of Okinawa. Alar e navy base was there. Getting there was quite an ordeal. We flew 30 airplanes single file in the middle of the night. This was a unique formation because because we had radio silence except for various check-in position reports only by number. It’s hard to hide 30 bombers flying at 15,000 feet in the middle of the night. The locations for the position reports were located on small islands.
There was nothing other than these radio contacts. We didn’t want the enemy to know where such as large formation of planes were, even in the Pacific area.

Coming into land at Guam, it was a real shock to see this naval base and surrounding area lit up like a Christmas tree. We were used to the blackout of Okinawa. The facilities at the base were more than adequate until we got around to telling the commanders there that we required several thousand 500-pound bombs. This was all ammunition left over from WWII, and for the most part buried out in the hills at ordinance depots in underground positions. It also meant digging these caves out in the middle of the night. Getting the ordinance people, who were not used to handling ammunition, out of bed on a Sunday morning did not go over well.

Although this was in the late fall, from the standpoint of the people on the island, they were getting ready for Christmas. But the navy came through with the bomb delivery to the aircraft. The navy was famous for having good food whenever one became a visitor. I was amazed at the beauty of the island, which was called “The Pearl of the Pacific”, and for good reason. It was like arriving at the Riviera after Okinawa. This being a permanent navy base, there were cars, heavy traffic, and big homes with ocean views because families were permitted.

The second day, we were ready to leave. The navy was glad to see us go, I’m sure. Our orders from Guam were to fly our regular bombing mission to North Korea -that same familiar little railroad bridge across the Yalu river. Yes, we were going in at the same altitude, the same target that we had been to before. This target was so valuable because it provided access from China across the Yalu river. China was thus able to feed supplies to the North Korean army. But as a result, over a period of time, the North Koreans had built up the defenses around this target.

Anti-aircraft was very heavy — comparable to what we had seen in Europe in WWII. They also had a number of air bases featuring our old combat enemies, speedy, leathal MIG fighter airplanes. Further, we had evidence that the MIG’ s leaders were Russian experienced fighter pilots. In contrast, we had limited two to three squadron fighter planes in defense. Flying from Guam to North Korea was a very long flight. It didn’t help to know that this build-up defense awaited us.

One of the obvious solutions to doing away with the bridge was to bomb the air bases the Chinese were providing for the MIG’ s as well as the anti-aircraft facilities. This was proposed a number of times by MacArthur. MacArthur said that he wanted to bomb the air fields in China and stop military supplies coming across the Yalu River. And each time, he was turned down by then President Harry Truman. Our political situation stayed highly concerned about the entry of China into the war. The U.S. military, or I should say Washington, Congress and general sentiments were convinced that to bomb these airfields located in China would cause the Chinese government to get directly involved in the war. To reinforce this, President Truman met with MacArthur on Wake Island. This meeting resulted in Truman firing MacArthur as commander of Far Eastern Forces and appointing General Matthew Ridgeway as MacArthur replacement.
Well, winter was moving in and right at the moment, it was to be my last mission. It was a beautiful October day — clear blue sky You could see every rock in China. Ideal gunning weather for these MIG jets that were ready for our next formation of bombers. That October, we were still losing planes, and they were still increasing the number of jet fighters. Our ground troops had been driven back across the 38th parallel several times. They went as far north as the Hamhung Reservoir where my cousin, Lynn Myers, was with a heavy artillery division. They were reversed, rejected at the Hamhung which was on the Chinese border just close enough to concern our politicians that the Chinese were going to enter the Korean war.

At this point I was sent to Seoul, Korea to work with the ground radar to coordinate our flights at night with their radar. It was a pretty tricky setup. They used a triangular system. They had offshore radar in one location and they had onshore radar in Seoul. These radar stations projected beams over any target we wanted to hit — airfields and the Yalu River. So at night, our night bombers flew a path of their own and when we crossed these incoming radar beams over the target, it released the bombs in our plane. Extremely accurate. But if the ladies had done a good job on that runway, we weren’t sure where the runway was.

While I was at the headquarters in Seoul, my host there thought it would be jolly good to go pheasant hunting, which was at the peak. Never mind that those pheasants were Chinese. Four of us were handed twelve-gauge shotguns and a jeep and a South Korean guide. We drove to a little town on the edge of town and our

While I was at the headquarters in Seoul, my host there thought it would be jolly good to go pheasant hunting, which was at the peak. Never mind that those pheasants were Chinese. Four of us were handed twelve-gauge shotguns and a jeep and a South Korean guide. We drove to a little town on the edge of town and our guide darted into an old shack, came back out carrying a bird dog in his arms. It was almost as big as he was. And they were rapidly explaining to me that this was their hunting dog which was to flush up the pheasants and off we went into the hills.

This is very hard work going up and down these hills. Our guide literally carried his dog to save its feet, and then he would put the dog down in a ravine. The dog would then flush out any pheasants. It had been a long time since I had used a shot gun, but I found that the gun I had been given had a choke with a small bore that gave it great range; therefore, when the pheasants got up pretty far away, I could still hit them with this gun. I turned out to be the lead pheasant killer of our group. We moved around the hills away from the villages that were made up of grass shacks with corrugated iron roofs and had to be very careful where we went because the anny corps of engineers assured us that the area was well laced land mines, but that they were well marked. The only thing was, those markers were wooden stakes that the South Koreans found useful for firewood. But we managed to finish our hunting without disturbing any land mines. My new found skill with a shotgun guaranteed me to have pheasant dinners for the time I was in Korea.

My assignment in Korea was to meet with the ground crews there that were in charge of radar bombing. We were going to move from formation flying to individual aircraft at night and bomb by radar. Radar bombing was new and needed careful coordination between the aircraft and two ground stations that projected radar beams. These beams were aimed at the target area and were extremely accurate. The aircraft were flying another route to the target area. When they crossed a combination of beams being projected from the ground and the water, it automatically released the bombs.

My tour of duty in Okinawa was rapidly ending. After ten days in Seoul, I returned to my base in Okinawa to fly what became my last mission. The weather in October was beautiful, very clear — so clear you could see every rock in China from 23,000 feet. Our target was the same as before — the Yalu River Bridge. Time 12 o’clock noon bomb drop, downwind from the ocean side we were to anticipate the same defenses both in anti-aircraft fire and MIG 29’s with the same defense system from our fighter groups.

As my career in Okinawa was coming to a close, I worked in a vacation to Hong Kong. This was difficult to do, but we had an arrangement with Flying Tiger Airlines for using their transportation, and they used our facilities. Since a B-29 was too big for Hong Kong, we used Flying TigerAirlines and flew first to Manila in a DC-3 .. Clark Air Field was under heavy pressure from guerrillas, and we had to go to Manila Air Force Base. Manila had its normal problems with guerrilla warfare To get into town safely, we had to ride in tanks. In Manila, the dangerousness of the city did not seem to reduce the social activity there. The first night in town, I attended an upstairs nightclub with some of my friends. Our dinner was interrupted by gunfire in the hall and stairway. The next day, after escaping this, we took off for Hong Kong in another smaller aircraft.

The runway in Hong Kong was very short, but adequate for this plane. Hong Kong was an interesting place to visit and for shopping — good food. A friend of mine back in Okinawa had urged me to buy his wife some jewelry. Stories of cheap rings were many. Shopping in the shops, it was extremely difficult to know the good from the bad. My one experience at bargain hunting: I had seen a pendant shaped like a donut of jade. I watched this for a couple of days and finally decided that was the bargain I was looking for. I had all of twenty dollars from my friend, so this had to be the bargain of the century. I bought this trinket, walked outside the shop, was holding it in my hand in the daylight to get a better view of what I had purchased. And standing beside me a Chinaman said: “You buy peel — you know potato peel? You buy jade peel.” I wasn’t going to tell my friend in Okinawa the end of this tale. I faithfully returned this bargain to my friend. Today, I can still visualize it hanging on his wife’s throat! Peel. You know peel? Now I know peel. It cost me twenty dollars.

Okinawa is a beautiful place. The weather is terrible. It rained at least once a day — very hot, very humid — a typical tropical island. Something like eleven big beaches surrounding the island. Good fishing, good food — my favorite, albacore was available. The only big city was Nahah. Anything was available in Nahah -big black market. Among other things, the air force had a big training base there to train the upcoming new jet fighters, the J-33. Among the instructors was an old friend of mine who offered to check me out on a jet fighter. I was very enthusiastic about learning to fly the new jets. My experience equaled my enthusiasm. How I yearned for trading in my B-29 for a new jet fighter, but that was not to be.

That fall we had pretty much reduced formations flying in daytime to flying only at night, single aircraft and bombing by radar. Therefore, they didn’t need a formation commander.

I returned to the States in a commercial aircraft, United, I believe. And one unscheduled thrill happened between Hawaii and San Francisco. This plane lost an engine. Ironically, I was seated beside a brigadier general, young one, that was an ace fighter pilot just returning to the states from his tour with the Fifth Air Force in Korea. As the captain of the aircraft crew informed us passengers that we had passed the point of no return.. We both looked at each other in amazement that we would face such an ironic ending to our tours — doomed to land in San Francisco on three engines — which we did.

This entry was posted in Story. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *