"Now It Can Be Told"

The Story of the 73rd Bombardment Wing's Last Battle Alone
January 27, 1945

"But, though wing after wing has been added to the growing air war against Japan,
none has a battle story to equal the one which the 73rd wrote on January 27th."
If you've arrived here from a search engine, please go to the Introduction
to find out more about this document.

This log is presented below exactly as it was written in 1945.
Nothing has been changed.  
Nancy Brister
HQ, 73rd Bomb Wing, Saipan

This is a "now-it-can-be-told" war story; a story which, for months, Superfortress crewmen of the pioneering, Saipan-based
73rd Bombardment Wing have been hoping would be told eventually.
Now, with the relaxing of certain phases of military censorship as the Japanese are being beaten back further and further into
the confines of their homeland; as the B-29, more and more, becomes a solidly established air weapon, the story can be told.
This is the story of the 73rd's final lone-wolf bombing strike against Tokyo on January 27th, 1945, when B-29 missions were still
in "short pants"; when Superfort fliers were giving their minds, their hearts, their lives to the task of putting the Superfortress in
full dress, preparing Japan for a shroud.
It's the story of how 73rd Wing crewmen, flying 62 B-29's, along met and fought off the greatest aerial attack the Japanese have
ever been able to moun t against Superfort task forces, went on to bomb their assigned target and returned to base sincerely
hoping, but not realizing, that what they went through that day, other fliers would be spared.  They had met the measure of
Japan's homeland air force.  Never again were the Japanese able to put up a defense as severe as that which battered at the
comparatively tiny force January 27th.
Crewman who flew on that mission will be spinning this combat yarn alongside fireplaces, over bars, and in shops and offices
as long as any of them are alive.  Tokyo, January 27th, is to men of the 73rd Wing what the Iwo Jima battle is to the Marines;  
what the "Battle of the Buldge" is to European ground troops; what the "Anzio Beachead" is to men of the Italian campaign;
what "Schweinfurt" is to American men who bombed Germany.
Today, in talking to crewmen still on Saipan who flew on that mission, one has only to ask, "Which was your most difficult
mission?" or, casually, in an ice-breaking manner, mention the January 27th strike and crewmen either gesturing wildly with
their hands to describe the fighter attackes which their bomber had to witstand or they stare off into space blankly,
remembering with squinted eyes and clenched jaws -- but saying nothing.
Major Walter L. Geyer of Hena, Arkansas, now a veteran of thirty-five B-29 missions, summed up the average crewman's
opinion of the mission:  "Over the target I clearly remember saying to myself as we ploughed through fighters and flak, 'If I ever
get out of this one, I'm through flying' --- and at that moment I really meant it."

Why 73rd Wing Fliers Want the Story Told

Crewmen want the story of this mission told for two reasons.  First, they are subsconsciously proud of the courage which they
displayed that day -- they took all that the desperate Japs could slam at them and went back for more.  Their courage put the
B-29's on a "paying" basis.
Secondly, they are determined and anxious that the real, true story of what the first B-29 crews to bomb Tokyo and Nagoya
encountered be published -- just for the record.  And they do have a story -- probably one of the most courageous tales of the
Pacific War.
Today, as fleets of 700 and more Superforts pound at Japan from the Mariannas, Nip anti-aircraft fire is comparatively light;  Jap
fighter opposition practically negligible and Superfort forces today smash at dozens of cities and lose no bombers; at the most,
one.  This air warrior's dream was not always the case.
January 27th was the last day that the 73rd Wing bombers struck at Japan alone.  On the very next mission the 313th Wing,
based on Tinian, joined with the 73rd to bomb Kobe.  But, though wing after wing has been added to the growing air war against
Japan, none has a battle story to equal the one which the 73rd wrote January 27th.
Alone, for 15 long, grueling, 3,000-mile over water missions, the 73rd Wing had bombed Japan from Saipan.  Its crewmen flew
through all kinds of weather, tested all types of air battle and bombing tactics, stored up all kinds of experiences and
information to be passed on to newcomers in this newest of wars:  the air war against Japan proper.

3,500 Fighter Attacks in Two Months

Mission after mission as the wing flew on alone the intensity of Japanese fighter plane and anti-aircraft gunfire increased.  
December 4 wing crewmen fought off 75 attacks at Tokyo and bombed their target.  december 27th they blasted their way
through 508 attacks, shot down 9 fighters and dropped their bombs on another Jap war plant at Nagoya.  January 23rd they
again hit Nagoya after smashing aside 626 attacks and shooting down 32 fighters to get to the target.
In its first two months of operation from Saipan, between November 24th and January 23rd, the wing fought off more than 3,500
fighter attacks.  There was an average of four attacks against each plane bombing during this period; wing gunners shot down
106 fighters.
On January 27th the peak in jap fighter attacks against B-29's was reached.  Sixty-two Superforts of the wing ploughed through
984 Jap fighter plane attacks to bomb the dock area of Tokyo through heavy undercast.  Of the more than 350 Jap planes which
attacked, sixty were shot down and fifty-six were probably shot down or damaged.  Nearly, one-tenth of all the fighters shot
down by Mariannas-based B-29's in approximately 300 missions were destroyed that day.
Nine B-29's were lost during the mission; the greatest number of planes the wing has ever lost on any mission; the greatest
number any wing has lost to enemy aircraft on a single strike.
Destroyed Superfortresses were spread from Honshu to Saipan.  Five B-29's were lost over the target; two, badly battle
damaged, "ditched" in the Pacific; one more crash-landed at Saipan after being rammed twice by Jap fighters, and the ninth
had to be "junked" when, after making a "slide-in" landing at base, it was found to be so full of Jap bullet and flak holes as to be
useless for combat.

Current Losses Low       

Current B-29 losses in the entire 20th Air Force emphasize the sever opposition which the 73rd Wing encountered January
27th.  In twenty-five Air Force missions during a two-week period in July, involving more than 2,000 Superforts, only seven were
lost to all.
January 27th the lead group over the target crossed the Japanese coast and turned to make its bomb run with fifteen B-29's.  
Two were sent down by Jap fighter bullets before the final turn was made for the run;  a third just disappeared over the target; a
fourth plunged into the ocean 250 miles off the coast of honshu on the return flight and a fifth crash-landed at base and was
destroyed.  Eleven of the fifteen crews in this first formation got back.  Of the ten planes landing successfully, eight suffered
battle damages.
The 15-plane formation had to fight off 544 separate attacks for an hour and a half along a 150-mile route.  Of the more than 260
enemy planes attacking the first formation, thirty-four were shot down and twenty-one were probably shot down or damaged.  
This first formation fired upwards of 70,000 rounds of ammunition.

Japanese Air Force Was Waiting

The Japs were waiting for the force.  They knew it was coming even before Superfortress crewmen spotted the towering
heights of snowcapped Mount Fuji.  About 300 miles from the coast of honshu the tight formations of low-flying Superfortresses
were detected by two Jap patrol boats.  three of the formations poured by the two boats but a fourth was dispersed by gunfire
from the ships and reassembled further up on the course.

"When the boys saw the boats they knew they were going to get a different type of shot at Tokyo that day," said Major Pershing
L. Yon of Tallahasse, Florida, who piloted a B-29 on the mission.
The patrol boats, which had been cruising on the exact course to be followed to Honshu that day by the B-29's, were able to
radio an hour's warning that B-29's were speeding in to smash at the homeland once again.
That was word enough for Jap fighter pilots.  With a whole hour in which to warm up their planes, check ammunition, gasoline,
and climb to the five-mile altitude of the incoming Superfort force, planes from all over the Tokyo-Nagoya area were alerted in
time to speed down Nip runways well before the first wave of B-29's even sighted land.
Hundreds of Jap fighters of all types and with all manner of markings were thrown into battle that day.  Fighters from the slick,
new jet black Irvings, the Jap twin-engine, cannon-firing version of the U.S. P-38, all the way down to single-engine, obsolete
craft boiled skyward to smash into the fast-arriving Superforts.  The Japs even tossed in a medium bomber for good measure.
"I saw an Irving up there that I'd have given a month's pay to own," declared Pilot First Lieutenant John F. Kangas, Floodwood,
Minnesota.  "It was shiney black, with pin-stripes on the wings and with huge, bright-red meat balls' surround by a ring of silver
paint near each wing edge.  It was a honey."

Scout Plane Selects Tokyo for Target

As Jap pilots jabbered last-minute instructions to their ground crewmen for readying their planes, two B-29's, flying an hour
ahead of the main force, were already scouting Nagoya and Tokyo to determine which city had the best bombing weather.
The lead scout bomber, piloted by Captain patrick Calhoun, Augusta, Georgia, carried Lieutenant Colonel Willis E. Beightol, an
assistant wing operations officer from Mount Clemens, Michigan, who was to make the decision:  Tokyo or Nagoya?  Tokyo was
selected and word was radioed to the main force by code.
As the first formation of B-29's crossed the coast-line they could see in the distance two separate "clouds" -- one was caused
by hundreds of bursts of heavy Jap anti-aircraft shells; the other by the Jap fighters, which were already at b-29 altitude, waiting
for the force to move down toward the target area.
"Heavy guns were spotted all along the very patch we had to travel to the target," said Major Thomas J. Hanley, III, Manefield,
Ohio, one of the commanders of the first formation.  "That was the day that course into the target got a name which has stuck
with it ever since:  flak alley."
But not all of the Jap fighters were patient enough to wait for the Superforts to fly down to where they were.  Just as the first
formation broke into sight of the coast-line, five Jap planes pounced on it, fired a few shots at it, as if in formal opening of the
two-hour aerial battle which was to follow, and then radioed vital information concerning the B-29 force to the waiting fighters
and flak batteries.  Speed, altitude, number of planes in the formations, all this was neatly set in the mind of each Jap pilot and
lanyard-yanker before they ever saw a Superfort.

First Formation Heads for Target

The bell clanged and the first B-29 formation stepped out of its "corner" in a fist-cocked, determined manner as it wheeled
around Hammamatsu and plunged for the city of Kofu, last turn before the target.
Fighters and bombers met head-on.
In ones, two and threes they came, some whining in from below to spray the bellies of the bombers; others diving vertically from
high above the formation to cut off and strafe the Superforts from wing-tip to wing-tip.  As many as eight or nine fighters dove in
at once to attack a single B-29, spinning, turning, gliding, firing, some skimming within inches of the wings and fuselages of the
giant planes.
A Jap "Tony" fighter attacked Major Hanley's plant from high on the right side.  All guns were on him and blasting away when a
Zeke roared in from below the bomber on the same side and strafed the entire right side of the fuselage.  Inches lower and his
bullets would have dug into every one on that side of the plane.
Lieutenant Alvin Garver, flight engineer in Hanley's formation, from Hartford, Connecticut, decided to sit only on his life-raft that
day -- instead of a heavy pillow AND the life-raft.  Jap fighter bullets crashed into his plane two inches above his head.
Flames leaped from the loaded bomb bay of a B-29 which had sustained fighter and flak hits.  It shuddered, slowed down.  Then
its pilot, Lieutenant Walter S. McDonell, Duluth, Minnesota, tried to speed it forward to gain the protection of the formation.  It
dropped back once more.  Flames found the bombs and the giant bomber exploded and broke in two.  The front half of the plane,
completely engulfed in flames, plunged quickly to earth while the rear half seemed to float in the air.  Then it, too, exploded.
The fighters pounced on a second plane in the formation, flown by Captain Elmer G. Hahn, Idaho Falls, Idaho, which was
straggling.  Its entire front section burst into flames as it disappeared into a cloud.

Gunners Cool, Accurate

Thousands of rounds of ammunition from hundreds of Superfort guns ate into the attackers and as the thirteen remaining
planes of the first group moved deliberately forward toward their target.  The air was filled with earthwardbound pieces of
broken planes -- both Jap and American.  Some Jap pilots, in typical suicide fashion, ignored the sledge-hammer-like fire
directed at their planes and flew straight down the streams of smashing Superfort bullets to explode within a few yards of the
target-bound bombers.  In rapid succession, five fighters were sent down by the guns of a single B-29.  Jap flak got another and
guns from three different airplanes blasted a seventh Jap from the sky in seconds.
The Japs were good, but the B-29 gunners were better and the intricate and new central fire control systems of the huge planes
were living p to their pre-battle praise.  "In spite of the tension, when we ran into the Japanese fighters the crew was so calm
and matter of fact that I shall never forget it," remembered Lieutenant Colonel Gerals Robinson, Los Angeles, California, who
piloted a B-29 on the mission and is now a squadron commander.  In a more forrmal manner, an official wing report says of the
gunners' work that day:  "When considering the confusion that must have resulted from the attack frequency, it is believed that
gunners displayed excellent control."
A gunner would no sooner finish off one Nip plance than another would speed in to take its place in the attacks.  As a juggler
keeps his eye on a dozen plates in the air at one time, so did B-29 gunners on January 27th have to follow the determined Jap
fighter planes -- only plates don't spit ugly 20 millimeter explosive shells, belch hundreds of rounds of smashing, high-caliber
bullets.  And you have to smash fighter to drop them.
One gunner described his predicament to be "like trying to watch a half dozen hard and fast tennis games at one time and keep
your eye on all the balls."

Red-Hot Gun Barrels

Gun barrels were red-hot and some of them were burned into uselessness even before the planes got to the target, so intense
were the Jap fighters.  In some cases, too, guns ran dry of ammunition in a vital turret and airplane commanders had to flip their
mammouth planes from side-to-side to allow guns still having full bullet-belts to be brought into the battle.
With two of its planes already gone, the small formation, still under fierce attack, flew steadily forward.  Fire burst from the
bomb bay of a third plane in the first group.  It pulled out of formation, its crew trying desperately to bring the fire under control.  
It continued to fly away from the formation and was not seen nor heard from again.  The attack formation was reshuffled to
make up for the loss of that plane's guns.
The formation rounded Koju, a small town east of Tokyo, and bore down on the capital, 100 miles away.

Superfort is Rammed Twice

In lightning fashion two Jap fighters rammed another Superfort in the dwindling formation.  One dove straight down on the
bomber and sliced off eight feet of its aileron; antoher ploughed into the tail and sheared off the entire left stabilizer.  The B-29,
flown by Captain Lloyd Avery, Long Beach, California, dropped 8,000 feet out of control, was finally pulled out of its dive and it
scooted for the coast-line and out to sea, fighters attacking it all the way.
With bombs away, the group of planes swung to the right and in precision flying procedure followed the prescribed course out
over the coast-line and headed back for Saipan.  About 250 miles from Japan on the homeward run the courageous little group
lost another of its planes.  Jap bullets had caused a leak in one of the giant plane's gas tanks and because of lack of fuel it had
to be "landed" at sea.  A week-long, eighteen-hour a day search for the crew, which was commanded by Captain Dale W.
peterson, Portland, Oregon, proved futile.
By this time, the second bombing group was over the target and was undergoing sever attacks from the remaining force of Jap
planes in the first defense group with sufficient fuel and ammunition left to press attackks.  This unit suffered about 200 attacks
as compared with the first formation's more than 500 attacks and it lost no Superforts.  Jap pilots were below refueling and
reloading and some fresh planes were already climbing skyward when the second group bombed.
Though it lost no aircraft on the mission, eight of the second group's planes were damaged, one so severely that its pilot, First
Lieutenant Frank Carrico
[spelled 'Carrigo' in other places-NB], Avon, Illinois, wounded by an exploding Jap bullet, had to
perform one of the outstanding flying feats of the Pacific war in order to get his giant craft safely home.
Two engines on the same side of the bomber were knocked out of commission and, for the first time, a B-29 was flown
hundreds of miles back to Saipan in such condition.  Carrigo's co-pilot, Lieutenant Morris Robinson, Riverside, California, and
the Superfort's bombardier, Flight Officer Rosenda L. Hernandez, of Kansas City, Kansas, were also wounded by the explosive

Fitzgerald, Superfort's "Saint Bernard"

Guiding light of several of the mission's crippled bombers was Major Robert J. Fitzgerald, B-29 pilot from Ridgewood, New
Jersey (lost on March 17th incendiary strike against Kobe) whose Superfortress "Saint Bernard," repeatedly responsible for
seeing cripples home, at one time had three damaged B-29's under its "wing" during this mission.
Major Fitzgerald was awarded the Silver Star medal, third highest of the army's combat decorations, for guiding Carrico's
"two-engine" B-29, Avery's double-rammed Superfort and a damaged bomber, flown by Major Harace E. Hatch, Woods Cross,
utah, who still has a piece of a Jap bullet in his foot, safely out to sea through attacking Jap fighters.l
Just after bombs were dropped on the target by the second group, Carrico and Hatch reported trouble almost simultaneously.  
Carrico's plane was hit by fighters and it was forced to drop back, otu of formation, with one engine on fire.
After ducking by inches an attempted ramming by an "Irving" fighter, Hatch's plane received a hit by an explosive fighter bullet,
pieces of which dug into the airplane commander's left foot; started a fire in the cockpit.
Imeediately Fitzgerald's plane, carrying the second group's commander, Colonel John Dougherty, Robbinsdale, Minnesota,
pulled out of formation and swung back to protect the damaged Superforts.
Fighters poured smashing bursts of lead into the two crippled planes as Fitzgerald's "Saint Bernard" swung in between the
cripples and the attackers, turning all of its guns in their direction.  Coaxing, guiding, shepherding, fighting, "Fit's" plane, after
beating off the attackers, got the two planes safely out to sea.

"I Suppose I Can Handle a Third"

But Fitz's fame as a "Bernard" had spread to another group and Avery's twice-rammed bomber, trying desperately to keep in
the air as it flew far below the three homeward-bound bombers, pleaded by radio for help when the staggering formation came
into sight.
"I've got two to take care of now, but I suppose I can handle a third," Fitzgerald radioed.  When the extent of the damages to
Avery's plane were learned by Fitzberald, Hatch, despite his wounds, took over the shepherding of Carrico's plane and
Fitzgerald turned all of his attention to Avery's torn and barely-flying bomber.
Seventy-five miles from Japan teh two formations split.  Carrico's plane lost its second engine 150 miles from Japan when the
Jap-damaged engine tossed its prop and it smashed into the next engine.  Hatch hugged the cripply closely and saw it safely
into Saipan.

Fresh Fighters Enter Battle

As the third group sped down the bomb run attacks from freshly airborne Jap fighters became more intense the closer the
formation got to the target.  By the time it arrived over the target it had suffered some 80 attacks.
The 18-plane formation of this third attack group swung right and started for the final turn before the bomb run.  Just then the
lead bomber in a three-plane element slowed down because of engine trouble and the whole element lagged behind the
Jap fighters moved in for the kill, sprayed the three-plane unit and knocked out the number one engine in each bomber.  The
small element was forced to pull further away from the protection of the main force, moving in close to one another for mutual
A Jap "Zeke" dove in from high and in front of one of the planes, firing as he dove.  Captain James C. Rebota, Cleveland, Ohio,
broke away from his bomb-dropping preparations, fired three rapid bursts into the fighter and it blew up.  Another fighter moved
in, smashed some 20 millimeter bullets into the tail gun compartment.  Tail Gunner Staff Sergeant Clinton B. Rogers of Venture,
California, today has a badly twisted sheath knife to prove that the bullet almost hit
Then the Jap fighters gave an adequate display of the quality of their tactical ability.  After making repeated attacks from the
fronts of the bombers, the Japs suddenly slipped to the left of the crippled element and placed it between themselves and the
guns of the main force.  Then they charged in.
The freshly fueled and armored planes smashed their bullets into a second engine of the lead bomber.  The engine burst into
flames and the bomber, flown by Captain Pierce R. Kilgo, Laurens, South Carolina, lurched forward and went ahead and down
with twenty fighters trailing.
The fighters turned their attention on the second cripple, piloted by Lieutenant William F. Boyahn, Gallup, New Mexico, strafed it
and set another of its engines afire, too.  Lieutenant James L. McDonald, of Boston, Massachusetts, piloting the third bomber in
the element, although he had only three good engines, attempted to swing over to cover the second badly damaged bomber.

How Fighters Go Down

McDonald's control gunner, Technical Sergeant Henry h. Allen, Bloomington, Illinois, tracked a Jap Zeke fighter as it dropped
down in a turning fall after attacking the lead element.  Just as the fighter began to spray the second cripply with all its guns,
Allen, with all of his Superfort's six top guns oh him, squeezed the trigger.  There was a bright, orange flash, black, oily smoke
rolled out from where the fighter used to be and pieces of it drifted to earth.
Many of the fighters followed the first crashing B-29 down and now more of them left the main formation and dived after the
second cripple as it turned crazily and slowly out of formation.  Fighter after fighter pulled away from the main formation as it
flew swiftly and relentlessly on toward the target and followed after the two plunging Superforts.  kilgo's plane was never seen
again; Boyhan's bomber was seen to ditch in the ocean.
McDonald's plane was now alone.  The main formation had pulled several hundred yards ahead of it during the air battle and
was continuing on its way to the target.
The twin-engine Irving fighters now bore in on the lone B-29 from high and in front.  They winged voer and dived straight for the
bomber, spitting explosive and high caliber bullets.
Allen picked out the first one.  Gave him a short burst as he dove to within 600 yards of the plane.  The lead Irving kept coming.  
Allen gave him another, logner burst and the left wing started to smoke behind the engine.  Then a third burst, as the fighter
came within 400 yards of the bomber, and the right engine caught fire.  Then the entire fighter burst into flames as it peeled off
to the right, spiraled in and went down.  "It all happened in a few second," Allen recalled.
"Mac poured on the coal now," said Bombardier Roberts, "and, though, because of our damaged engine, we were a thousand
feet below the formation when we caught up, we got into position under it just at the right split second and dropped our bombs."
The plane's crew had still other worries:  where would the propeller of the damaged engine hit when it finally burned itself off
and spun wrecklessly away?  Far out to sea on the return trip the pin-wheeling, sparks-tossing propeller snapped off its shaft
and with crewmen watching and hoping that it wouldn't crash into the side of the bomber, it hung crazily in space for a few
seconds.  Then it dropped harmlessly, straight down into the ocean.

Last Group Bombs

When the final group of B-29's appeared over the target, nearly an hour behind the first, more fresh fighters had climbed into the
air and, as this last section of the task force fought its way into and over the taregt, it beat off more than 200 fighter attacks; had
to fly through a "cloud of flak."
Jap fighters sent bullets into the number four engine of the Superfort flown by Lieutenant Edmund G. Smith, Oak park, Illinois,
shortly after bombs were away;  then the number one engine broke into flames and the huge bomber turned, out of control, into
a half-roll and then into a dive.  The crew struggled to bring it back into the formation.  As it screamed down, dozens of pairs of
eyes in other bombers skipped rapidly from attacking fighters to crashing bomber.  Fifteen enemy fighters swarmed voer it and
sent it crashing into an open field without explosion or fire.

Flak Pounds A B-29

An ugly burst of heavy Jap flak sent a piece of shrapnel crashing through the nose compartment of Bombardier First Lieutenant
Oliver A. Wallace, Riverside, California, as he had his eye glued to his bombsight.  He sweated; kept sighting.  First Lieutenant
Caleb H. Dana, Gulfport, Mississippi, bombardier, squirmed back in his up-front seat as flak "walked" right up to his position in
the nose and then turned off and smashed into another plane in his formation.
The plane, piloted by First Lieutenant Prentiss Burkett, Kerrville, Texas, lurched as the flak ripped into its right wing.  Then a Tojo
fighter, coming in from high above and in front of the bomber dived down, sending bullets into the plane's number one engine
just as Bombardier Edward Kasun, Phoenix, Arizona, barked into the interphone that boms were away.
The strafed engine went out, the Tojo zoomed down and more heavy flak pounded into the plane's right wing, tearing a gaping
hole in the center.  Other bursts tore into the right landing gear and another can-openered a two-foot hole in the side of the
A Gony fighter skimmed down from high above and in front of the bomber and opened fire when it came within 800 yards,
spraying the entire front end.  An exploding bullet wounded Copilot Second Lieutenant Rid E. Pace, Hanford, California.  
Bombardier Kasun, firing his twin-fifties from the nose, blew off the cowling of the fighter and it went down.
At Saipan the nose wheel buckled when the damaged right landing gear refused to hold and the plane slid in for a landing,
gearing up the nose section and bending three props.

Battle of Imagination

Staff Sergeant Clayton N. Carter, Savannah, Georgia, whose job as special instrument operator requires him to work in a
darkened compartment with no view of the outside, fought through his own little imaginary war as flak and fighters punched at
the final formation.
"I died a hundred times in that dark room back there.  Though I couldn't see a thing, I was sure we were hit.  With all those
fighters streaming in, so much flak around and knowing other planes had gone down around us, when our plane gave a lurch
and sort of shuddered, I figured that was all for us.  I found out later that the pilot had been forced to hold back the plane
unexpectedly when another B-29 pulled over too close in front of us in turning to head for home."

Week-Long Search for Ditched Crews

The mission didn't end with the landing of the last plane that was able to get home.  At dawn thenext morning B-29's were
already scouring the waters off honshu for the two Superfort crews that were forced down at sea because of damages.
Both planes were seen to have made successful ditchings.  Undamaged planes that followed them down to give assistance
saw crewmen standing on the wings as the bombers rocked in the water; saw men crawling into life rafts.  Then, for five days,
a storm ripped along Japan's eastern coast.  The crewmen were never seen again.
For a week after the ditchings, planes from the squadrons to which the men were assigned flew from Saipan to the spots
where the planes and men were last seen and made patrols which lasted fifteen to eighteen hours a day.  They flew at altitudes
of 500 to 1,000 feet, between and around thousands of Jap-held islands in the area, all eyes canning the waters for some trace
of the missing crews.
[word here is illegible NB] been on Iwo Jima at this point in the B-29 campaign, the men might have been saved; might have
been spurred on, as have many crews since, to wring a few more impossible miles out of their heavily damaged craft and
sputter into air-field packed Iwo.

End of an Era

The January 27th mission to Tokyo was the last one which the 73rd Wing flew alone and it marked the end of a B-29 era.  The
wing, commanded by Brigadier General Emmett o'Donnell, Jr., had, from November 24th (date of the first Tokyo mission)
through January 27th, absorbed nearly one-half of the more than 10,000 Jap fighter attacks which have been thrown against all
Marannas B-29's in the eight months of operations.  It had shot down nearly one-third of all Jap planes shot down by
Mariannas-based Superforts.  It had bombed every major Jap target at least once during this 65-day period, many of the targets
several times.  It had acted as the shock absorber for the Jpas' only major punch against B-29 forces, rode with the desperate
blow and then led other B-29 wings on their starts against Japan.

End Of Part One

Continue to Part Two of the LOG: Final Flight of the Irish Lassie          

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