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15. Ask the Man Who Owns One

Phil Scearce University of North Texas Press PDF

Chapter 15

Ask the Man Who Owns One

The role of the 42nd Squadron as a replacement crew training unit gave the old timers in the squadron the feeling that they were more in business than in combat. New crews came through and went to the front, but the 42nd stayed put, at least for now. The old timers, men who had arrived a full year before, been in combat and returned to Hawaii, understood that the 42nd was also gradually being rebuilt around a core of experience, and as that core they knew that sooner or later they would be called upon to lead the squadron into battle again.

In March 1944, Capt. Joe Deasy got sick. He was feverish, didn’t have much appetite and felt tired all the time. His symptoms were like a mild case of dengue fever, similar to flu symptoms, except that they wouldn’t go away. Dengue fever was spread by mosquitoes in some of the forward areas where the 11th Group operated, and the crew had assumed Deasy would recover from it in a week or two. But on April 10 Deasy was admitted to Oahu’s Tripler General Hospital and diagnosed not with dengue fever but with tuberculosis, and as the next most senior pilot, Capt. Jesse Stay assumed command of the squadron.1 Deasy’s crew was shocked by the news and they were concerned about their pilot’s welfare, but they were also very worried

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19. Halfway to Forty

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Chapter 19

Halfway to Forty

Bing Crosby was one of the most popular performers among men in the service.1 His radio broadcasts raised morale and inspired Americans at home and overseas. He often broadcast his Kraft Music Hall radio show from military bases across the United States, and during his shows, Bing talked to America about rationing plans, helped people understand them, and won their support. He toured with war bond drives and traveled to the front to sing for American troops. Bing performed songs written especially for branches of service and sometimes certain units, and while two fine new radios intended for the 42nd Squadron’s

Officers Club and Enlisted Men’s Day Room lay at the bottom of the

Pacific Ocean, Bing broadcast a song saluting the Seventh Air Force.

The song was rough, and Bing said so just before singing it.2 The song described unbounded death and destruction rained upon the Japanese by the Seventh Air Force. The lyrics were written the day before recording for the broadcast, so it was quick and unpolished, but the men of the Seventh who were lucky enough to hear it were thrilled.

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13. Back to Hawaii

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Chapter 13

Back to Hawaii

The 42nd Bombardment Squadron lost five aircrews between late

May 1943 and the end of the year. A low-level search mission on May

27 claimed Lieutenant Phillips’ Green Hornet, then in July Lieutenant

Cason’s plane and crew took a terrifying final plummet after colliding with a Zero on a mission against Wake Island. Lieutenant Friedrich and his Virginia Belle couldn’t find Funafuti after a Tarawa raid in November, and Lieutenant Dechert was lost on a mission against Mille in early

December. Finally, Lieutenant Smith was shot down trying to get back from Maloelap on the twentieth of the same month. Five complete B-24 crews lost, fifty men, fifty out of 110 airmen in the squadron.

Maloelap also claimed Capt. James Irby’s 98th Squadron crew in

December while the crew flew with a substitute pilot because Irby was hospitalized with pneumonia. Irby’s men were the ones surprised by the

Marine stowaway on a Tarawa mission back in September. Irby’s plane,

Tuffy, with Li’l Abner’s Hairless Joe on its nose, was being flown by the

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6. Chance

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Chapter 6

Chance

Chance is defined as something that happens unpredictably, without discernible human intention, a purposeless determiner of unaccountable happenings, the fortuitous or incalculable element in existence.1

The role of chance could be depressing to a bomber crewman if he dwelt too much on it. It was better to believe that proper training and good equipment, sound strategy, and smart decisions would keep him alive. Chance played a capricious role, fickle and reckless, and whether its results were good or bad might be entirely a matter of perspective.

Any one of countless, seemingly insignificant variations might have made the difference between men living or dying. Harold Brooks was killed and Clarence Douglas badly injured, but Douglas survived. What if the two men had not traded places? Speculation on such things could go on endlessly and could drive a man to fear making the slightest misstep which might change his destiny. A turn this way or that, an extra step or a short cut? What if Super Man’s take-off time had been a moment later, or a moment earlier?

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7. May 1943

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Chapter 7

May 1943

There was a different feel to Honolulu now. Oahu was the same, and familiar, but it wasn’t as exciting and novel as it had been in February when the Air Transport Command navigator so capably guided the nameless B-24 number “two one four” to Hickam Field. It was strange to think that it had been just weeks since then, and the island hadn’t changed, except that the men of Dogpatch Express saw how clean and fresh the new arrivals from the States appeared, and it dawned on them that they had looked that way just a couple of months before. New crews, giddy as tourists, stood out until they realized, self consciously, that it wasn’t good to be so obviously inexperienced and untested.

After just one mission, after shooting and being shot at, witnessing death and losing friends, the men of Dogpatch Express were veterans.

They understood that the price of a single combat mission could be quite high, and they knew firsthand that the Japanese were skilled, capable adversaries. They felt the prickling awareness of being spared in a very close brush with their own mortality, realizing that tomorrow, or next week, or next month, they could be less fortunate. Al Marston, veteran of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl, had already been changed by such an experience.

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