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4. Nauru

Phil Scearce University of North Texas Press PDF

Chapter 4

Nauru

Scearce and Yankus unplugged their interphone headsets and moved toward the rear, as they had practiced a hundred times before.

They stepped into the bomb bay, Dogpatch Express’ four massive radial engines howling in unison, much louder than they had seemed from the flight deck. Moving along the narrow catwalk, indifferent to the thousands of pounds of high explosives just inches to their right and left, waist gunners Scearce and Yankus gripped the framework of the bomb racks as they went. The vibrating metal felt cool.

After Scearce and Yankus passed, Bob Lipe took his position in the top turret, just behind the flight deck, and rotated the turret clockwise, then back, out of habit. Ed Hess settled into the nose turret. Elmer

Johnson, already in the aircraft’s rear section with Al Marston, stepped back from the piss pipe and stretched himself before jacking up the belly turret with the hand pump just enough to release its safety hooks.

Johnson opened a hydraulic valve and allowed the turret to slide down into the wind stream beneath the plane. He glanced back at Scearce and

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20. January 1945

Phil Scearce University of North Texas Press PDF

Chapter 20

January 1945

The Gambler’s Paradox is a product of our tendency to see patterns in events. The gambler might make his wager based on a pattern he sees in the turn of a roulette wheel, just as a child might guess that the next coin flip will land heads because the last two were tails. But the patterns aren’t really there; the odds don’t change on each successive turn of the wheel or flip of the coin. Winning streaks in games of chance are illusions, and the loss that ends a streak is heartbreaking because the momentum of winning felt so real, it seemed bound to continue.

On January 22, Lt. Charlie Pratte and his crew took the nameless

B-24-J #42-109871 on a mine-laying mission to Chichi Jima, staging through Saipan. Pratte and his men were old timers, around as long as anyone in the squadron, averaging thirty missions per man. When

Pratte’s crew went overseas, and before the rules were changed, thirty missions earned a ticket home.

Scearce’s buddy Joe Hyson, radar operator on Pratte’s crew, was with them when they crashed the Navy’s dedication party at Mullinnix Field a year before, landing Belle of Texas with brakes out, no hydraulics and hundreds of flak and bullet holes, using parachutes to slow the plane.

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5. Air Raid

Phil Scearce University of North Texas Press PDF

Chapter 5

Air Raid

Intelligence information gathered from each aircrew just returned from the Nauru mission was compiled and compared, and photos developed and analyzed, until an accurate accounting of the bombing results was completed. Maj. Gen. Willis Hale endorsed the final report, which was then sent to CincPac, the office of the Commander in Chief, Pacific Command.

The report described a highly successful mission:

All bombs dropped hit target except eight . . . Damage to installations and material was heavy. Personnel casualties were extremely heavy. Large fires were observed in all bombed areas . . . a group of approximately twelve buildings in the center of the runway were destroyed . . . Phosphate Plant #3 was completely demolished by at least two direct hits . . . at least three direct hits were made on

Phosphate Plant #2 . . . this plant was completely destroyed. Six bombs destroyed at least three large warehouses, thirteen buildings, eleven small railroad cars, stock storage pile, two water tanks supplying plant . . . Diesel power plant, main plant elevator building, one water tank, five cisterns, seven buildings and water distillation plant badly damaged. A train of six 500-lb bombs burst in residential

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16. The Meaning of Boxes

Phil Scearce University of North Texas Press PDF

Chapter 16

The Meaning of Boxes

In late July 1944, the 42nd Bomb Squadron had been on alert for a return to combat for almost three months. The unusual length of their alert status caused it to be largely forgotten, so for most of the squadron’s men, the arrival of shipping boxes in each squadron section caused quite a buzz.

A letter from Headquarters dated May 1 had placed the ground echelon of the squadron on alert and led to rumor and speculation about their next combat station.1 With no follow-up orders, interest waned until late June when the alert status was modified to include the air echelon. The June orders also relieved the squadron of its training duties, significant because this was an important step toward returning the 42nd to true fighting trim. It wasn’t that they had been idle, but for most of the 42nd’s crews there hadn’t been a combat mission in six months and there is something unquantifiably different about flying strike missions, something which focuses the mind and sharpens skills unlike any training or patrol mission ever could, possibly the awareness that another nation’s fighting men were committed to shooting you down, killing you on the ground, denying you your objective any way they could. Being relieved of training duties meant that the 42nd could focus on preparing themselves for combat, and the knowledge

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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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