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5

The following is from the dairy
of S/Sgt Richard G. Curry, Tail Gunner
as found in Dick's book "Butler County Veterans of WWII"

“We were assigned a B-29 Bomber at Clovis, New Mexico A. A, B., where we had just completed out Combat Training. We named our plane “OLD EIGHTY-ONE” since we had good luck training in an airplane with the serial number ending in “81”. The plane we were to have in combat also ended in “81”.

We then left Kearny, Nebraska where we were issued over-seas equipment consisting of a “Mae West” life preserver, 45 caliber side-arm weapon, parachute etc. We stopped in Sacramento, California where we spent our last two days in the States.

May 5, 1945

We left the United States by flying over the “Golden Gate Bridge”. It took us a total of 36 flying hours to reach our destination, Guam. We had a stop-over at Hawaii and the Kwajalein Islands. Our day in Hawaii was spent on the beach, an evening show in Honolulu. At Kwajalein we had our first experience at viewing the damage that war causes. The fighting had ceased many months before, but the wreckage was still plentiful.

May 9, 1945

We arrived at North Field, Guam.

May 17 & 20, 1945

We flew bombing missions on the Island of Rota, a member of the Marianna’s Island group. Although this Island was not secured by American Forces, it was not considered a threat. The missions were completed, primarily, to familiarize ourselves with combat conditions.

May 24, 1945

TOKYO – Our first combat mission was a night raid on the capital of Japan. The raids at this time were plenty rough and this one was no exception. Our Commanding Officer, Col. Sturdivent, did not want to break us in on a night raid but since this was a Maximum Effort, nothing could be done about it. The Chaplain, Capt Pelt, Col. Sturivent, and a few others came to our plane and wished us good-luck. It seems that if a crew does go down, it is either the first or second mission.

It was 3:00 A. M. when we reached the target area. As we approached we could see heavy bursts of flak that lit up the skies. ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE AS WE ENTERED THE FLAK AREA. During our bomb run we had 12 search-lights concentrated on us. They frightened me as much as the flak exploding all around. It was an eerie sight looking down on blue-white lights. We knew that, though these lights, the anti-aircraft guns were being sighted by means of Radar. We knew that it would not be long before flak would be coming at us. This was happening during our bomb-run and we could not take evasive action until our bombs were away. It seemed like an eternity until our bombs were dropped. Capt Wren immediately put our plane in a dive to the left and not a second too soon. Flak came directly in the path of our bomb run. If we had not taken evasive action when we did, we most assuredly would have been hit. There were some fighters in the area, but they pressed no attacks. They did fly over us and dropped some phosphorus bombs. These bombs would explode above us and they would hope that the white-hot streamers would land on our plane and burn holes in the fuselage.

May 25, 1945

TOKYO – On David Curry’s first and only mission, I went to the plane with him to see him off, wish him good-luck and to return safely. I was a gasp when he said, “This is the last time that I will see you. I know that I will not be returning. I want to thank you for all that you have done for me and wish that I could have been more like you”. I answered him saying, “Don’t worry too much. I just flew my first mission and I returned O.K.” I tried to further him that everything would be all-right, but I could see by his somber expression that I wasn’t getting through to him. I always had a very optimistic outlook on life and that only “other” people got killed.

Both David and I were in the process of helping build a more permanent church to replace the tent that we had at the time. We were friends with the Chaplain, Capt. Pelt, and I was there when he said a prayer and blessed the crew prior to their take-off.

The rest is history. David’s premonition had come true. As the days and months went by I would think of things that may have happened to him and his crew. My most positive hope was that they did survive the crash and were safe somewhere. This was realized when one of the crew did show up after the war was over, in a prisoner of war camp in northern Japan. He was, Harry Slater, the Central Fire Control gunner. He related that he was able to bail-out through the open bomb-bay doors. The plane exploded as he left. After the war was over, David and the rest of the crew were later found outside of the Tokyo area buried in a common grave by a Japanese farmer.

May 29, 1945

YOKOHAMA – We arrived in the target area during the day. The sky around us was polka-dotted with bursts flak. Several of these bursts rocked our plane. There were several Japanese fighter planes in the area, but they did not press any attacks. I used my guns for the first time, but the fighters remained out of range. After dropping our bombs, one of our engines caught fire and had to be feathered (A process that would keep the propellers from turning and not causing further damage). Captain Wren then radioed for emergency instructions. We received word back that the airfield at Okinawa had been secured and we could land there. Shortly after this, one of the other engines started leaking oil badly and had to be feathered. We were able maintain altitude with the two remaining engines and make it to Okinawa. As we landed on the runway, a third engine started throwing oil and also had to be feathered. You might say that we were lucky to make it back. I left with rest of the crew to survey the damage. We received damage to the wing and tail areas. One hole was in the tail section about one foot over my head. I didn’t like wearing my flak suit and helmet, but this indicated that it was well worth it.

The trees at the end of landing strip had been cut in two by previous bombings and artillery. As I was about to leave the strip to view the area more closely, a marine came out of the brush and ordered me to stay on the strip. He showed me some of the tunnels that the Japanese were using and stated that they were not all cleaned out yet. We returned to our plane and slept while repairs were being made. The next morning we returned to Guam. Out of our group of 30 planes only 2 returned without any damage.

At the de-briefing room we were always greeted by the Red Cross. They would have coffee, doughnuts, and whisky available for us. After the first mission I could not rest or sleep soundly, so I decided to take double shot of whisky even though I didn’t like the taste of it and still don’t. After cleaning up, I went to sleep and slept the best 12 hours of my life. After each mission I continued to take this “medicine” since it made me sleep well.

Continued
60th Squadron Crew Index
Source: Butler County Veterans of WWII by Richard G. Curry