V1945G20PW2.DOC

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Russians Keep a B-29
Rescue Yaucht a Pleasure Cruiser
Change Engine in Japan
Ham Radio
Inspector General Tales
Typhoon Hits
Supplies to Okinawa
Cylinder Change at 20th AF Hdqs
Wave #1, Nov 1945, Old Timers Go Home
Feather Test Shuts down Field
Cowel Flaps stick shut
Ailerons Torn Out
Maintenance Stands
Generals Jeep
Strikes Across Pacific
Keep Planes Fit to Fly
Wave #2, Jan 1946, Last of Orig Ground Crews
Increased in Rank -- Then Ship Home
I let Scottie Down
Start Diesel Power Plant
Down to Clerk & EO


Russians Keep a B-29

            Flying continued at a heavy pace. There was an excess of flight crews all trying to fly the minimum number of hours to draw 50% extra flight pay.  Those scheduling flights continued as there was no maintenance cost.  There was an uneasy feeling when it was learned the Russians kept some of our B-29s.   One, perhaps two, of the B-29's had landed in Korea which the Russians had occupied. The Russians released the crew but kept the planes. Some had talked with those who'd been on those planes. They expressed concern about Russian behavior, they didn't trust their intentions.  It was later learned that Stalin ordered that the planes be duplicated in every detail.
 
Rescue Yachts

Rescue Yacht a Pleasure Cruiser

            I was pleased that Keough and others were able to let up and enjoy opportunities available.  The Rescue Yacht, used to pick up crew members ditching from planes, was converted to a Pleasure Cruiser; people could sign up for a fishing trip. Keough made a point to let me know.  I joined others for a day of fishing, there were about a dozen of us, half being nurses.  I recall the event as nice but not fun and I’m not sure why.

Change Engine, in Japan

            Engineering  Officer 1/Lt “X”, new to the group, inform me that a B-29 landed in Japan with an engine out, and he’d been sent to have me arrange for persons to install a new engine.  That arrangements had been made for C-46 to pick up a new engine and he needed people to change the engine.   He said I’ll be going and you can send yourself as well as others you choose.  I was tempted to send myself but instead sent Buck Slocum, a Flight Engineer assigned as my Assistant Engineering Officer, Crew Chief Jim Parks and three from Parks crew.  The fellows were there about 10 days.  When they return everyone gathered to hear about the trip.  A first thing they did was remove their 20th AF patches.  The 20th patch meant B-29's identifying them as special enemy.  They expressed genuine concern for their safety but felt perfectly safe without them.
            Their GI audience was most interested in hearing of their experiences at Geisha houses. The listeners would quiz them in great detail savoring the images and recreation of the experience in this strange land and first contact with their customs and girls. The most humorous was telling of the public baths and their embarrassment, finding themselves bathing nude with a Japanese family. They delayed the engine replacement as long as they could so they could stay longer. One of the youngest “fell in love” with a Geisha girl. He hadn't held hands with a girl in over a year, the fellows smiled, saying was a beautiful young thing.  They had to practically man-handle him to get him back on the plane for the return.
            Parks, crew chief of M-15, brought me a Jap rifle and thanked me for sending him. It's a crudely made rifle issued to the home guard. I've wondered how old it is. Some parts look hand forged, others hand filed and crudely machined.

Ham Radio

            Radio and Radar engineering officers modified some of the radio transmitters to operate as short wave ham radio sets. We'd sometimes join them in daily conversations with guys and nurses in the Philippines. It seemed strange to chat with girls in a Quonset hut even further across the Pacific as if they were on the other end of a local phone.

Inspector General Tales

            A new officer moved into our end of the barracks. He was assigned to the Inspector Generals office. After we became acquainted he told some of his experiences. Most common was apprehending those selling supplies to natives.  The most involved was organized and operated by the Commander of one of the Pacific Islands. A bus pickup system, set up to provide transportation for personnel on the island, was used for a Red Light Operation.   A normal looking buses was The House and specific bus stops used as pickup and drop off points. He said it had been very difficult to crack the system and determine who was running it.  An operation uncovered on our base was a radar officer, a Major, who set up a Quonset building and some GI's to build radios from aircraft electronics parts, which they sold to the Marines at high prices. I believe he was given a dishonorable discharge, but don’t know what kind of sentence.

Typhoon Hits

            A typhoon hit the Pacific. It moved north and caused heavy destruction on Okinawa. Guam caught the edge of the storm. We were told to stay in the officers club which was a Quonset hut with concrete floors and short side walls with a steel top. Our  plywood barracks were in danger of being blown away.  We tied things down on the flight line as best we could. Flight crews were assigned to sit in the planes, orient them into the wind and set brakes. During the peak of the typhoon some chose to run the engines and apply aerodynamic controls to “fly” them into the ground.
            Considerable damage was done to tent covered structures, items that broke loose  were blown into equipment as if tumbleweeds. We had expended much energy preparing for the heavy winds, with little more I could do and needing sleep I headed back to the Club. The place was full of people so I went back to my barracks and hit the sack almost not caring if the whole thing blew away. I was periodically awakened by the whole barracks trembling and lift about a foot when caught by the strong gusts.
            One of our planes was flown to Australia, kind of a path finder to see if that was a good option to escape a Typhoon. When they returned they had nothing but praise for the Australian beer and girls. They brought back lots of Aussie beer which like Japanese beer had a 12 to 14 % alcohol content. However, the beer was not the most prized by the ground crew.  The men were eager to hear of the Aussie girls. One of the crew chiefs took some girls out on the airfield to show them a B-29. One planted a big lipstick marked kisses on the front landing strut. The fellows covered it with clear sealant so it couldn't wash off. A few years later the strut was probably unceremoniously melted as scrap.

Food Supplies to Okinawa

            After the Guam to Okinawa storm ended, 6X6 trucks of food supplies were hauled to the planes and loaded on homemade bomb bay floors. These were flown to Okinawa which had received the storm's full blast. Some ground crew went along to help unload. This effort was sustained around the clock for about a week. The fellows brought me some Japanese dishes and a flag as souvenirs from Okinawa.
            One of the ground crew on those flights came to me saying he wasn't getting any sleep. He was taking care of the plane before leaving and after arriving, help load and unload the cargo and then he was told by the flight crew to sit up front and be look out while the flight crew slept!
            Reports at the time indicated many Navy ships were caught in the worst of the storm while at sea away from protective harbors.

Cylinder Changes at 20th AF Headquarters

            I received a surprise call, a request to take some top mechanics to 20th AF Headquarters to change some cylinders on two engines on an airplane they were preparing for a special long distance record making flight.  Col Bill Irvine, in charge of experimental testing, didn't want to use new engines and was reluctant to trust the Harmon Field mechanics to change cylinders.  I asked how soon and was told right away.  After saying yes sir I paused, 28th was picked due to Keoughs preventive maintenance record, and changing cylinders was a bitch. 
            I grabbed Johnson and two of his crew, and told them what had to be done.  They loaded some tools in the Jeep and we took off to Harmon Field. Others had removed the ring cowl which saved time.  I left them and returned at the end of the day to pick them up.  The fellows had changed the cylinders and the regular crew was replacing the ring cowl.   Johnson and I went back the next morning to check it out. Johnson inspected what had been done, when he signaled OK I started the engines and checked them out.  The 20th AF Engineering Office was near by across the highway.  I smiled at the irony, the Col’s plane had been checked out by the youngest, least experienced EO in the 20th AF. 

28th Sqd Ground Crew, over half were gone in the first wave home.

Wave #1, Nov 1945, Old Timers Go Home

            New flight crews continued to arrive even after the war ended. The pipeline was continuing to provide replacements for crews nearing original crews nearing their 35 mission tour of duty.  A point system had been established and some of the original bunch were way up there, some had already served hitches in North Africa or Europe. The B-29 went into service immediately without the normal debugging process.  Thus they most capable and experienced ground crews were placed in the new B-29 outfits. These top notch personnel taught newcomers like myself our jobs.  High point Engineering Officers like Major Keough returned at this time.  I don't know if Keough flew or returned by ship, he made a quick trip to say goodby and left me his roll of K-20 film. It didn't occur to any of us to exchange addresses, I never knew where Keough lived.  There was no record of Keough being in the 19th BG Assn though I’m sure he would be if he knew of it and was able.
  
          Newly released 19th POW’s             1941-1942 Aus. 19th part of 1945 19th on Guam          C Marvel
19th BG POW, flown from Japan to Guam
            Some POW's were flown from Japan to Guam enroute home. Some of the old timers visited with them.  M/Sgt Marvel, 28th Sqd Guam, was on Clark Fld when Japanese bombed Dec 1941, was a lucky mechanic, flown to Java, Australia.

Feather Test Shuts Down Field

            We received orders to do a full feather test on all engines, a feather mechanism failed on a state bound flight, thus the order.  B-29's used a Hamilton hydromatic propeller. A large dome at the center housed a piston which was pushed forward or backwards by engine oil under pressure. The piston was connected by gears to rotate the propeller blades. An engine is most efficient at a given rpm. B-29's used 2800 rpm and 48 inches of mercury manifold pressure for takeoff and 2000 to 2200 rpm and 30 to 35 inches of mercury for cruise. The pilot would set a control for the speed he wanted. This set a force on a spring in a prop governor. Flyweights in the governor were spun by the engine and these moved a valve which would control the porting of engine oil to the big piston. The spring force and flyweight force would balance and result in setting the propeller blades to hold the rpm constant by biting into more or less air as the throttle was changed to achieve more or less power while rpm remained constant.
            If an engine failed in flight, the propeller, acting as a windmill, would keep the engine turning over. This was not only a drag but could cause severe vibration if the engine was damaged so it wouldn't turn smoothly. This was solved by driving an inner “feather” piston to one end and turn the blade parallel with the wind. This was known as feathering the prop.

Flight Engineers console, primer switches are at top out of sight
Since I’d never seen a B-29 before arrival I had to teach myself how to use and repair these controls.
            Our feathering tests had just got underway when a Line Chief came up to me and said several had stalled the engines at full feather and couldn't get them start and keep running to unfeather.  An engine had to run to pump oil in order to reverse motion of the feather pistor.   If the engines couldn't be kept running the only solution would be to pull all the props and reset them by hand, that would have the air base shut down, there not enough hoists available.
            When airborne the wind would help turn the engine to unfeather.   I sent word to not feather any more engines till we figured how to do this.   I discussed the situation with some of those who'd tried, in order to understand what was happening.  Crew chiefs were gathering at M-3 to discuss what to do.  I sat down at the flight engineers consol and tried to start the engine, they were right, the engine would not start.  I relaxed and though a bit.  I used to start a Model-A by pouring raw gas from a gas cap into the carburetor, I could keep an engine running this way.  At the upper part of the engineers panel there were four “primer” toggle switches.  That was it, I should be able to manually squirt fuel into the carburetor and keep it truning over and pump oil to move the feather piston.   That’s what I did and it worked, with carburetor mixture control cut off I could tease the engine along causing it to pump oil.  By the time the prop was half unfeathered I could let the normal carburetor controls take over. 
            I explained what I did to those who could not see, and by noon we had all the feather mechanisms checked.  Had I not been there I’m sure others woud have thought to do the same thing.  None of the mechanisms failed.
Cowel Flaps stuck shut   One engine looked like it might just last the rated life of 450 hours when it reached 400.  However the flight engineer couldn’t get the cowel flaps to open, it had blown a fuse.  The crew chief simply replaced the fuse and it worked fine, there are spare cowel flap fuses at the right end of the flight engineers control panel, the above photo reminded me of that event.

M-44 Ailerons Torn Out!

            Driving down the taxi strip something caught my attention, a plane was landing at high speed?  A relook revealed it was and “M” plane, one of ours?  I watched it turn off the runway and into a near by hard stand.  I followed bringing my jeep to a hault under the left wing, I could hardly believe what I was seeing, the aileron had been partly ripped loose, parts missing  and the underside of the outer wing panel was rippled – whow, what happened?
            As I got out of the Jeep, Mac the Navigator dropped out of the plane, saw me, walked over and laid his hands on my shoulders and with real meaning said "Ol Buddy, I didn't think I'd ever be seeing you again!"  This was Felton’s crew, I knew these guys. Others tumbled out and inspected the wings.
 
1-7-46 201-2 UR Damaged Aileron A/C M-44”    “314 WP 1-7-46 210-1 UR Damaged Aileron A/C M-44”
                                                        
Bob Felton    Buck Slacom
B-29 AC Airplane Commander = Airline Pilot,       Pilot = Airline CoPilot
            Bob Felton, the AC, joined Mac and I, I asked, “what the hell happened?”   Still living the event Bob said, “she righted herself, we couldn’t pull her out, she just righted herself.”   The Pilot joined us saying, “it was all my fault, it was all my fault.”  A Capt I didn’t know joined us saying, “I watched till it went over 450 and quit watching and tried to help pull on stick.”
I said, “whoa, start from the beginning, tell me what happened.”
They were on an Instrument Check Flight for the Pilot with a Capt passenger, a pilot sitting on the central control panel between the AC and the pilot.  The Pilot was under a hood so he couldn’t see out, requiring that he fly the plane by use of instruments.   The Felton put the plane in an “unusual positon” and turned control over to the Pilot, using the Flight Indicator as reference.  The Flight Indicator had a gyro stabilized horizontal line and an airplane image attached to the airplane, the idea being to rotate the airplane to align with the horizon. 
 However the pilot rotated the horizon indicator to align with the airplane image, causing the B-29 to roll over upside down.   All others found themselved on the ceiling, the Pilot was the only one with his seat belt fastened.  I Immediately understood the pilots error, I’d made the same mistake when checking out a flight indicator in mechanic school, the guys kidded me for moving the line to the airplane rather than the airplane to the line.
M-44 went into a vertical dive and by the time the Pilot realized what he’d done wrong he was not strong enough to pull the column back to level out, the engines on automatic powered a faster and faster dive, engine controls were unattended.   The Fight Engineer was sitting on the John at the back end when abruptly upside down with the bucket of crap dumped all overhim.  Felton on the ceiling reach up and grab the control column, trying to get in place to help pull back on the stick.  The Bombardier managed to get between the instrument panel and the contol problem and push with his back.  The pilot passenger, once in the vertical dive, managed to help pull back on the control column.  While four were trying to pull the plane out of the powered dive the Flight Engineer made his way down the vertical tube to his place at the the engine control panel. 
Felton said I don’t know how close we came to the water, after we pulled up and leveled off we were at 2000 feet, when the scaners called in saying don’t wiggle this thing because parts of both ailerons are missing.  They had gone from about 10,000 feet in a powered dive, till the planes natural aerodynamics caused it to level off – “she pulled herself out.”
 Felton said, since the ailerons were damaged I bought her down in straight level landing at about 125 mph.  I said yeah that’s what caught my attention.
            I thought it stange the way Buck Slocum held back at the fringe,  until he explained the crappers content had dumped all over him. 
            Mac, the Navigator, found himself on the ceiling against the upper gun turret with his papers all over like confetti. He said the Radio Operator, diagonally opposite him on the other side of the turret had managed to grab the edge of his table and was hanging on upside down.  The radio man kept asking Mac if they should ditch through the bomb bay.  Mac yelled back asking how he expected to jump out when the bomb bay doors were not down but up.
            The relief of being safely back on the gound change to thoughts of disciplinary action, telling me what happened was the easy part.  I called the crew chief aside and asked if there was any chance that the flight indicator was bad. He said he didn't know. I told him to pull it and take it to the service center for a check.  We discussed how the AC and Pilot could be in a lot of trouble and how sensitive those instruments were to shaking or shock. They returned with a new Flight Indicator saying the old one was “red tagged” as erratic. 
            The Boeing Rep took an interest. No one had ever heard of a B-29 being rolled over before by intent or by accident.
            In 1994 I told Vern Chandler of this envent, which happened after he’d returned.  Vern the prior instructor and check out pilot, expressed concerned about the lack of discipline with only the Pilot buckled in.   I have no idea idea what happened to the crew after that because within a week they and other crews of the same vintage returned to the States and I never saw them again.

Maintenance Stands arrive, After the War was Over
            New Maintenance Stands   During the last three weeks of the war we’d been too busy with maximum efforts missions to be aware new crated maintenance stands  had been left by one of the hard stands.   I decided we should set one up to see what it was like.  I called out to some near by guys to stop what they were doing to set one of them up to see what was like.   Three guys came over and two started pealing off carboad crating material to see what they look like.   A Cpl Pete  (not his real name) said, to hell with those things the war’s over we don’t need them any more, and started to walk off.   I knew what was bugging him, two weeks before Pete became upset with me when I said no he couldn’t use flashlight batteries in lieu of wood plugs to cork off bomb bay tank hoses.   I called out, Pete I didn’t ask your opinion, I asked you fellows to assemble one so we can see what they are like.   He whirled about saying, your not so smart I can whip your ass!  Hmm, that flash light battery thing had been eating on him, I’d squenched his good idea by saying no.  It probably was a good idea but I didn’t want to gamble, one might break and leave residue.  This was the first, and only time, I had trouble with one of the mechanics. He'd been a hard worker and capable mechanic but now the war was over and he didn’t give a damn.  The hot head impulse got out of hand.   I paused not sure what to say.  He said, see your afraid to fight. 
I said, Pete, I really don’t give a damn if you could whip my ass on not, and I don’t think anyone else gives a damn, but the military says Cpl’s and 2/Lts are not allowed to settle a difference by fighting it out.  Even if you whip my ass, you lose.  I paused again,  Pete, you’ve lost your temper and need to cool off before you say any more.  I suppose I could come back down here at night and take my shirt off with nobody about and you find out if you really could whip my ass, it’s been tried before.  For that to work only you and I would know about it.   I turned to the other two, who’d been listening to all this and said, to hell with the maintenance stand for now, you can do that tomorrow after Pete cools off.  When I checked the next day the maintenance stand had been assembled as if the prior event had not happened.  Not too long after when orders came for Pete and the others to prepare to ship out Pete was all smiles and expressing best wishes with the rest of them.  Pete was a good man, just human.
 
19th BG Officers Club
The Generals Jeep  As the pace of the war let up it seemed to leave a void. This resulted in pranksterism. Some of us were walking past the 19th Group Officers Club when we saw three jeeps with high ranking insignia. The one that caught our attention had a flag on the front bumper with two stars for a General. Someone of us thought it would be fun to find out what would happen if the General came out and found that his jeep was gone.  I said I thought all vehicles were supposed to be kept overnight in the motor pool.  Other said that’s right.  I said perhaps we should help the General and his companions by putting their jeeps in the motor pool for safe keeping.
            The motor pool was a clearing surrounded by bulldozed tree trunks that served as a fence. Beyond the entrance were fuel pumps and repair sheds and at the far end a storage area for unused or broken vehicles. We figured that the far end would be a good place to park the jeeps.
            There must have been a dozen of us giggling about such a caper.  Since nobody acted I got in the first jeep and soon others pilled in.  Seeing me do this another got behind the wheel in the other jeep and remainder pilied in with him.  I was driving the first jeep and paused to remove the Generals Flag from in front and put it in the back seat, the other jeep did the same and followed me to the motor pool.
            I drove past the gate, waving a salute to the non-com in charge, and proceeded as if to fuel up. Then out of sight of the gate I maneuvered the jeep into the far part of the storage area.  The other jeep followed and we parked the jeeps against a log curb facing the motor pool entrance.  While suppressing our lauther stumbling around in the dark when some called out, "MP's"! The attendant suspected something was wrong and his call was relayed to MP's in radio controlled jeeps.
            The MP's had entered the motor pool and had stopped to talk with the noncom at the entrance. We all scattered every which way while the MP jeep then came toward us!
            I was running headlong for the far end when my toe caught on something and I sprawled headlong flat on my face. I could see the headlight beam searching as the jeep worked its way back. I didn't have time to get up and run so I rolled over several times and hid among the trunks that formed a fence on the side toward the airfield. I swung myself around so I could see what was going on and found two other guys beside me.   We watchied one guy had started to run toward the barracks area, the opposite direction from where I was. This required that he pass in front of the jeeps headlights. He didn't make it and stopped half way across and hid behind an oil drum, he was a captain I didn’t know, in fact I didn’t know any of these recent beer drinking buddies.
            I watched as the jeep came to within a jeeps length of the oil drum and stopped. Headlights straddled the drum. I was covered with red dirt, was out of breath and trying to keep my gasps for air silent as the MP's got out of the jeep and walked about aiming their flashlights into the darkness. I had to bite my lip to keep silent as I was struck by pangs of hilarity by the near misses of seeing the guy behind the drum. The guy didn't dare poke his head around to see where they were but he kept trying to become smaller in the oil drum shadow.  The two MP’s were between the Jeep and the oil drum, so close yet they did not see him.  I was amazed at how he kept himself hunched so small and so quiet, the sound of the jeep motor hid his heavy breathing.  After several minutes of looking about the MP's got in their jeep and drove out. The guy ran for the perimeter and out of sight.
            I soon found myself in the company of a couple of others as we made our way over a big pile of tree trunks on to a perimeter road.  We heard a jeep coming and walked casually away from our quarters area.   The MP jeep pulled up and asked us if we'd seen anyone running by. We said no and asked what was up. They said they were looking for some guys that might have come this way.  They ignorted out sympathetic chatter and went on.
            When we got back at the barracks others had arrived and were excitedly describing and laughed how each had made their undetected escape.
            About two weeks later I was called to attend an engineering meeting at Northwest field, 315th Wing hdq building.  The fellow in charge called roll before starting.  When I answered here, he smiled and said, so you’re the guy that put the Jeep in the motor pool.  When I said nothing he smiled and continued with his meeting.  Someone must have thought the story too good to keep quiet about.  None of us had been caught so how in the world did this guy know?  The meeting was to inform us they were closing 315 wing, perhaps some of those guys I didn’t know had been 315 wing guys?  I have no idea what prompted that outburst of pranksterism – but it was excitingly different. 

Strikes Across the Pacific

            As the weeks passed the ground crews became more restless and irritable. After the very high point men had gone home there was a long period when no ground crews were released. Most of the remaining ground crew enlisted personnel had more points than their flight crew counter parts who were being returned. This rankled and hopes that had risen were dashed by the latest rumors.
            An eventful day began as a quiet peaceful beautiful morning. The air was still cool and fresh but the tropical sun was already at work accumulating the afternoon's heat. All the more reason to enjoy the moment. A steel helmet's worth of rainwater from the bomb barrel, located at the focal point of slanted strips on the plywood roof of our hut, was warm enough for shaving and cool enough to be refreshing. The freshly laundered but damp and unironed clothes were cooling, causing me to relax and delay lacing my GI shoes until after morning chow.
            I stepped into my Jeep and drove to the mess hall to join other informally attired officers and chatted over a second cup of coffee. It seemed good to not feel the urgent pressures of a new day.
            I stopped by the motor pool and gassed the Jeep on the way to the flight line. As I arrived things seemed strange. Normally the area was alive with activity and the roar of engines being tested. It was quiet. I rounded the service center hangers and saw the men gathered in random fashion on the apron in front of the Quonset huts at Group Headquarters. Could it be a sit down strike! Word had spread this was happening in other parts of the Pacific.  Military personnel on a sit down strike!
            I cut the engine and let the Jeep roll to a stop among the men. All the remaining ground crew personnel were there.  They were tired of living with airplanes seven days, and often nights, a week for months on end. Since the wars end thoughts focused on home, wives and girl friends; now only a trip away. Instead it had been more days and weeks of hard work. They didn't want to look another engine in the face.
            They had a relaxed manner that couldn't hide a touchy mood of defiance. They were waiting, just waiting for this twenty one year old 2/Lt to order them to go to work.
            I put my feet on the dash and mimicked their relaxed posture while mentally trying to size up what to do. I knew how they felt, what was on their mind, and I sympathized with them. But this was the military and nobody was going to allow these top notch ground crew to sit on their fannies with only a few planes fit to fly. As a minimum I had to get them back around their aircraft. Some stiff necked high brass who didn't understand the situation might start giving orders. Things could get nasty as the fellows didn't give a damn. I looked at them and they looked at me. I looked at the sun and clouds and with a wave of the arm said it looked like a great day for ducks.
            With that irrelevant remark a few sauntered up to the jeep and more abstract conversation followed as the whole crew began to mass around. Finally one pent up spirit announced they were through working on those -beep-beep- planes just so those -beep-beep- fly boys can collect their -beep-beep- flight pay!
            This released pent up emotions and soon they sounded like a mob endorsing the loudest proclaimed discontent. They were being caught up in irrational thinking and false strength. They'd become belligerent.
            I sensed that a mob doesn't think but that the individual soldier does. If I could get them to think as individuals I might be able to figure what to do.
            I elevated my hands in a signal for silence and commented that it was too nice a day to get steamed up. Why not sit down, relax and just shoot the bull for a while. Surprisingly they did. My mind generated and rejected various solutions. I couldn't hit on what to do. What could one do?
            Then an idea began to evolve. As a lead in I asked if there was anyone they knew in the last plane that went in the drink. Some of the men had gone on the search planes a few days before. The crew of the downed plane had been given up as lost. It was particularly ironic because they were on their way home. One of the fellows said the plane he was with had sighted an empty life raft. After the first sighting they'd lost track of it and had a terrible time finding it again.
            As it turned out it was empty and probably not from the downed plane. The men didn't think much of the chances of finding people in life rafts using B-29's as search aircraft unless the survivors had a radio, flares or mirrors as a means to attract attention. I remarked that I certainly hoped another plane didn't go down. After a suitable pause I asked how many of the planes could fly a search mission? I could only think of two. The estimate was more acknowledged than answered. A few moments before they flaunted complete disinterest in the planes ever flying again. At least it was some progress, they didn't react to talk of aircraft maintenance.
            We took an informal inventory of who had the most points. One of the high point men asked if some of them might be flown back with "their" planes? Many had been flown to Guam. I'd been waiting for this trend of thought. I answered that I didn't know and asked if they'd heard anything? This was kicked around. Wishful thinking more than logic whetted rationalizations for a quick trip stateside. I indicated it might be a blessing in disguise. It would be tragic to go down on the way home. Who knew better the conditions of the planes. We couldn't even put up a good search mission let alone fly the planes back.
            My pessimistic tone was challenged. They were quick to point out that if there really was a chance to fly back they could get the planes fixed even if they had to work around the clock. This sentiment was endorsed by all, even the low point men.
            They discussed how much notice they'd have. Many of the planes needed two to three engines changed, at least they wanted good ones if they were going along. A flight half way around the world could see the loss of more than one engine per plane. The men knew the odds, they also knew that pre flight checks using the aircraft instruments wouldn't necessarily reveal anything wrong. The image of burned off exhaust valves hammering the engine apart while over thousands of miles of ocean made for an uneasy trip.
            One could sense the crews were thinking about what they'd do to fix their own planes. Yet they held back. One said it for all. There was no point in fixing them because they'd be flown to the limit on training flights.
            It had taken superhuman effort to keep them safe during and thus far after the war. The prospect remained of more hard work for nothing.
            I had to agree with them There was no reason to expect things to change until the flight crews shipped home. The incentive was there, the circumstance made it futile. I had to come up with something better. They weren't adverse to flights that had a purpose, just the joy of riding at the expense of their tired sweat.

Keep Planes Fit to Fly

            After considerable silence on my part I told them I knew of a simple solution, if they promised to do their part. The proposition was that they get all the planes in top shape except for some item which would take only an hour or so to fix. For the record the plane would not be fit to fly. They were to keep me informed of the true status. I'd rotate the planes to show a few on flying status each day. This would permit a limited amount of flying that operations would demand. If a real need existed I reserved the right to place all on flight status. I also made it a condition that after the planes were in shape, activity was to continue to look normal in case of any curiosity.
            As I completed the proposition I could tell from their expressions that the idea appealed to them. There was a bit of sport in the idea of sham activity, particularly if it protected the plane they might fly home in. After a few grins at each other they said I had a deal.
            They dispersed and went back to work. The Line Chiefs lingered. With a smile one of them said, "I didn't think you could get out of that one, a while ago they were hell bent against the very thing they're now doing."
            I grinned and said, "all they needed was incentive. They're good men, they know what's right."

Operations Sunset

            "Operation Sunset" had been planned for some time. Certain aircraft were designated as Sunset Airplanes and sent home with war time flight crews. Some aircraft had in fact been used to fly home Prisoners of War flown from Japan to Guam. Eventually, except for about two groups-worth of planes, the remainder were flown back to the States. It had become recognized that extra planes could not be maintained or mothballed in the tropics. Most of the planes had gone by the time us frozen engineers were released.
            It was with mixed emotion that some of us watched the beginning of the migration of these magnificent graceful birds. We didn't realize these birds were on their last migration. This species, some only months old, were destined for extinction by destruction.  After a few years storage in dry Arizona they were melted down as scrap. There are only a few fossils, just film remains of this once dynamic twentieth century bird. Only a small % of AF people in one human generation would know her. The ingenuity poured into her wartime genesis was remarkable. She represented a tremendous jump in aircraft performance. She was shrouded in wartime secrecy in her early phase. Her proficiency accelerated the end of the war and the end of the war terminated peoples interest in her. The public was to know her predecessor the B-17 better as it was documented in film and story during the war and in TV series after the war. It has seemed an unfitting end that the subsequent generation of young people would mistake films of her as a B-17, 1/5 as capable and technically more primitive. However, the B-29 herself was scrapped because man, her creator, had already found the means to make further step improvements in aircraft performance. The advent of the jet engine voided her power plant and style of air frame. However, some of the technical innovations incorporated in her are still underlying principles used in today's manned and unmanned vehicles.

Wave #2, Jan 1946, Last of Original Ground Crews

            Those of us left visited, we knew that when the next bunch left there would not a pool of experienced men to fall back. These men had acquired skills that would take years of peacetime training to replace, we estimated that no more than 10% would return to aircraft related activity, what a waste.
            We visited of how we’d need to learn how to speak polite company again, after several years of semi isolated male life we spoke in four letter words with cruded adjetives for emphasis the doubly emphasized.  What had become instinctive was not tolerable by our own civilian standards.
They weren't parade ground soldiers, their grease covered clothes and carbon marked finger prints and cuts tarnished their true quality. Most had above average IQ's and were persons of substance. They reminded me of linemen on a football team, the accolades went to others, they just did their job making it possible for the others to do theirs, I was proud of them.
            About four weeks later a list was posted in the barracks area and in two days 80 % of these men shipped home by boat, there were no regrets.

Increased in Rank -- Then Ship Home

            I was requested to turn in the names of all those deserving an increase in rank. This was a clue that more high point men would be going home soon. I was hardly prepared however for the abrupt release of almost all the original ground crew enlisted men.
            Their names were posted one day and they rode away in trucks to board ships the next. They were all excited, like kids before Christmas eve. They came down to the flight line to have a last look and say good-bye. They had been packed and ready to go for several weeks. Their planes seemed to draw them as if they'd been their home, a part of the family, another being to whom they were bidding farewell I have no idea what went through their individual minds. Each would seek his own moments of solitude in the surroundings that had been the setting of dynamic activity and of great impact on their lives. Their hardstand, barren as it was had become their home. The movie "12 O'clock High" began with one of the men returning to the abandoned airfield on which he had once served. It conveyed how the setting and solitude permitted his memory to recreate the sights and sounds of prior events. I'm sure these men recreated and relived those events most meaningful to each of them. I was very pleased that almost all of them lingered for a last one-on-one visit with me and exchange farewells before they left the flight line for the last time. It seemed strange, me the last to arrive, was the only old timer left for them to say good-bye to.

I let Scottie Down

            I've carried a feeling of guilt ever since for not looking after Scottie, one of the Electricians. Somehow Scotties name had not been put on the list for increase in rank. Scottie came by and asked why? I looked at the list and said your name should be on the promotion list, I'll take care of it.  I should have taken care of that then and there, but put it off till the next morning on the way to the flight line.  However unknown to me orders had already been cut, the fellows were shipped that morning.  I apologized to Scottie as he waved a hurried good-bye.  Scottie just grinned and said, "Aw forget it Lt, I’m happy to be on my way home."   But I knew he cared, he deserved more than I'd given in return. I felt particularly bad because he’d been busted and fully deserved his prior rank at least.
            Scottie had triggered a freak accident. A plane was loaded with 500 lb bombs and Scottie, an electrical specialist, was all alone in the plane trying to check out an electrical problem when all of a sudden  Ba Room!  Scottie had somehow crossed wires commanding the release of all bomb shackles and the bombs crashed through the bomb bay doors and spilled rolling out on the hard stand!  Scottie, a tall slender red head, an intelligent but somewhat high strung guy, came tumbling out of the plane shaking like a leaf. This had happened before I got there, but Scottie and others told me about it. Scottie confided to me not long after I got there that he sure hoped he could regain Keough's confidence. I came to hold Scottie in high regard, the regret lingers that I let him down.  Keough busted him to set an example, yet I know Keough considered him to be one of the best electrical specialist.  I’ve never forgiven myself for not taking care of that, the correction could have followed.  

Start Diesel Power Plant

            The day after they left the squadron seemed denuded of manpower. Perhaps 20% of the personnel remained. I was in the process of trying to take inventory of our remaining manpower assets when some fellows from the group service area came by to say that those in charge of the electrical power plant had shipped out. That no one knew how to start the big diesel engine that powered the electrical generators. I told them that I'd never worked on or around diesels and knew nothing about them. They continued to insist that I come take a look anyway because they hadn't been able to find anyone and had been told to find me, that I'd take care of it.
            They directed me to a Quonset building set back from others. I entered and found myself looking at a huge diesel engine coupled to a big alternator. At one end of the Quonset was a circuit board full of very large switches and circuit breakers. I felt like I'd walked into a section of the power plant in my home town.
            I began to take inventory of what was there. I knew that a diesel engine did not have spark plugs. That it was high compression and the heat of compression was what ignited the fuel. That it didn't have a carburetor to meter fuel and air but injected an oil like fuel into the pistons with a pump. I found a large fuel tank, it was half full of fuel, and followed the line to the engine. There was a valve ahead of a pump which had lines that fanned out to the cylinders. I shrugged my shoulders and opened the valve.
            On the side of the diesel was a large gasoline engine. It had its own battery, starter, ignition switch and fuel tank. I concluded I could start it. I found a large lever, about 5 feet long, mounted in the region where the gasoline engine and huge alternator connected to the diesel. It was marked "clutch". I looked to see if it clutched the gas engine to the diesel. It did, the diesel and alternator were fixed together.
            I wanted to unload the alternator so it wouldn't be loading down the diesel when I tried to start it. I could do that by disconnecting the electrical load, then the armature of the alternator would then act like a flywheel to help maintain momentum when starting the diesel. I pulled all the electrical switches and put the clutch lever in the disengage position. I asked the guys if they had followed what I'd done so far. They nodded they had so I said here goes and started the gasoline engine. It ran smoothly but noisy inside the sheet metal building, nothing else happened.
            Then I took hold of the large clutch lever and moved it to engage. The governor on the gas engine responded to deliver more power as it was slowed down but the diesel and alternator began to turn over. I found that if I let up on the clutch it would disengage itself. I was going to have to keep pushing on it with considerable force, this explained the long lever arm.
            I shoved again increasing pressure as the moving parts came up to speed and was greeted with an increasingly loud clatter, knocking and banging of parts! It sounded like a huge high compression engine car designed for premium gas trying to burn kerosene while trying to pull a mountain grade in high gear! It clattered and knocked like the very guts were being torn out. My mind swirled in a tug of war of thoughts to disengage the clutch or keep it engaged, it's cold, it has to heat up to be able to ignite, give it a chance. I was about to give up and pull the clutch back when the knocking and clattering smoothed out and rpm increased. I pulled the clutch out of the way, stepped back and gave a sigh of relief. The two guys were grinning ear to ear. I then walked over and threw on the electrical switches one at a time and watched the voltmeters hold their reading as the ammeters increased with each new load. I was now reasonably convinced it was set to run itself and waved the guys outside so we could talk without shouting.
            I told them I had probably made a mistake in turning on the fuel valve before turning the engine over long enough to let it warm up. The unburned fuel was probably trying to ignite on the up stroke which made it knock and clatter so bad. I also recommended that they find out who had the manuals and other instructions so they could properly service it, and to leave a set of instructions for the next guy before they shipped out! The experience had been exhilarating.

Clerk and EO Change Prop

            For the next several days the Operations officer continued to call for planes to fly as if everything was the same. I told him to forget anything but emergency flights unless they brought in replacement ground crews.
            The Form 41B, maintenance record clerk and I changed a prop on one engine to be able to put up a search plane. This underscored the reality of our status.