21 Slices
Medium 9781574413168

6. Chance

Phil Scearce University of North Texas Press PDF

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?

See All Chapters
Medium 9781574413168

2. Hawaii

Phil Scearce University of North Texas Press PDF

Chapter 2

Hawaii

Six B-24 Liberators approached Hickam Field on the morning of

February 9, 1943, arriving from Hamilton Field, California. Aboard aircraft number 41-24214, Sergeant Herman Scearce got up from the radio operator’s table for a better view.

From the southwest, Hickam Field lay directly ahead. The dark green mountains of the Koolau Range rose in the distance, wispy clouds hanging close to the ridge line. To the left, beside the air base, were dozens of fat, round, fuel storage tanks, and beyond those, Pearl Harbor’s aquamarine water seemed to glow.

“There’s the Arizona,” Deasy said.

On final approach, Scearce and the crew had just a moment to put eyes on the battleship, resting beside Ford Island, its gray structure rising above a shining, luminescent pool of oil.

“Sons o’ bitches,” Sgt. Jack Yankus muttered, from his fold-down jump seat on the flight deck between Deasy, in the left seat, and Catanzarite on the right. Yankus was ready to call out the aircraft’s speed, the flight engineer’s job during landings. His comment resonated for a moment, hanging there, profound. “Okay . . . 130,” he said next.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781574413168

21. Endings for Some

Phil Scearce University of North Texas Press PDF

Chapter 21

Endings for Some

It was never more clear how alone an aircrew was than when they were in trouble. Men flying a stricken plane had only their aircraft and all the skill and resourcefulness they could muster, but sometimes the plane was too broken for any heroic effort to save it. At the moment the aircraft could no longer fly, and its crew could no longer function as pilot, navigator, engineer, radio man, gunner or bombardier, the crew became individual men with their own thoughts, reactions, and emotions.

Bailing out was the last resort, but even bailing out was sometimes hopeless. Injured men might be unable to get out, or violent forces acting on the tumbling, spiraling, falling wreckage of a plane might make it impossible for a man to take any action at all, and his survivors would shudder to imagine his feelings and fears as the plane went down. If the stricken plane was in formation with other aircraft, the contrast was gut-wrenching. Men aboard a struggling aircraft were in a completely different world, alone.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781574413168

17. Guam

Phil Scearce University of North Texas Press PDF

Chapter 17

Guam

On August 21, 1944, 183 men, the ground echelon of the 42nd Bombardment Squadron, climbed aboard freshly painted green troop trucks and drove across Oahu from Mokuleia to the docks at Honolulu.1 Men breathed the strong smell of the trucks’ new enamel coats and the scent evoked a powerful sense of renewed purpose. The aroma of fresh government paint mixed with rich truck exhaust smelled like readiness for combat.

By 8:00 that morning they were aboard the transport ship Cape

Perpetua, right on schedule, and most of the squadron’s equipment was loaded aboard another ship, the Joseph Priestley.2 The squadron’s ground support was ready to ship out and set up another forward base while the aircrews and planes were left behind, waiting at Mokuleia for the new base to be ready. No one in the squadron knew where that next base would be, though bets were on Saipan, Tinian, or Guam.

Eight months had passed since the 42nd was deployed to a combat zone. Their mission on Oahu made important contributions to the war effort in a strategic sense, reorganizing and rebuilding while training replacement crews for the other three squadrons of the group, but it wasn’t the same as being in action, doing what a bomber outfit is trained and equipped to do. Relieving the 42nd of their training duties back

See All Chapters
Medium 9781574413168

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

See All Chapters

See All Slices