39th Bomb Group (VH)
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S/Sgt Russell Forbes
Left Gunner

Russell Forbes 1944

Among the experiences recalled by Russ Forbes was a daylight mission (their 3rd mission) against Tokyo in late April of 1945. He recalls the instructions repeated so many times in gunnery school - fire only in short burst to avoid burning out the 50 caliber gun barrels. In theory, it was good advice, but it wasn't always heeded. This day as the flew over the target in formation, they were jumped by "the most enemy fighters that P-3 had ever seen on any of their missions." It was a constant engagement with plenty of accompanying flak. Luckily they were not hit and returned safely to Guam. Soon after landing, it was found that the gunners had burned out 11 of the 12 gun barrels! Furthermore, they had, in the fury of the attacks, exhausted all their ammunition ! The news was not surprising though it indicated a close call.

One other incident that comes to Forbes mind: P-3's first bombardier was Lt. Bob Battlin. He was a competent bombardier, but after the first few missions, developed a respiratory ailment - possibly asthma. For this he was hospitalized and later sent home. There were replacements thereafter none permanent. During this time another B-29 limped home from a particularly rough mission and crashed on the runway. Only a few crewmembers escaped this holocaust - one of them was the bombardier. After months of rehabilitation, he was assigned to Crew 3 for his first post-accident mission. Though thorough in his pre-flight checks, he was understandably nervous as we took off on night mission to Tokyo. The target area was lit up with fires and searchlights, and flak and fighters filled the skies. The bomb bay doors were opened and "bombs away" sounded over the intercom. However, no bombs were released, leaving the crew dumbfounded. A discussion took place in the front of the plane. It was decided a toggle switch in the bomb bay was not in the "on" position and a volunteer from the center section was needed. "For some unknown reason, I volunteered." This required taking off all protective equipment: parachute, life vest, flak vest, helmet, etc. He then entered the bomb bay, which was ladened with napalm cluster bombs. He squeezed himself between the bombs and the skin of the aircraft to reach the toggle switch. All the while was a panorama of Tokyo - indescribable fires and thick retching smoke; flak bursting under the plane and enemy fighters whizzing by. Petrified, Russ quickly activated the switch and hurried back to relative safety. But another thrill awaited, it was decided to make a 180-degree turn and approach the target from the opposite direction to make the bomb drop. By doing this, there was not only the repeat danger of flying over the heavily defended target a second time, but there was the added peril of B-29's coming head-on toward them. An angel must have been the twelfth man on the crew that night as "Weddin Belle" dropped its bombs and escaped unscathed from this arena of Hell on earth.
Frobes 1996
Dee and Russell Forbes

Russel Forbes was born in Philadelphia, PA. He was resident of Florida for 24 years having lived in Port St. Luicie and Fort Pierce.

He was married first to Jane Forbes. He was married a second time (to) Dolores (Dee) (pictured right); they were married for 37 years until Russ' passing.

Russ had two children, Glenn (deceased) and Deborah; and 2 grandchildren.

Russell Forbes took his Final Flight on Feb. 24, 2013.

Crew 3 Main Page
60th Squadron Crew Index

Sources: "History of the 39th Bomb Group"; Obituary of Russell Forbes, appearing in the TC Palm 2/27/13.