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39th Bomb Group (VH)


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"City of Toledo"
"One Weakness"
B-29# 42-94031
5

Crew 45 flew 26 missions in a plane named the "City of Toledo". Their missions were as normal as most missions flown in B-29's. A burned out engine, the loss of two engines, landing gear problems over Iwo Jima, electrical malfunctions and gas shortages were the usual things.

They had an unusual experience of being fired upon by the Japanese fleet in the Inland Sea. The crews had just bombed an oil refinery on Kyushu and were headed home. To the crew's amazement the fleet was under them and firing with every gun. The aircraft was hit several times with holes as large as basketballs. The crew thought the Japanese believed they were going to bomb the fleet.

Crew 45 did receive the Distinguished Flying Cross as a crew, some members receiving it the second time. They were awarded the Air Medal 5 times.

The Osaka mission of June 1 found 15 aircraft of the 39th in the air. Air opposition was almost nil as the result of a fighter escort by the VII Fighter Command from Iwo Jima. Flak was neither too heavy nor too accurate although two of our planes sustained battle damage from flak. One plane was that of Captain Orr, P-30.

At landfall that day, Orr and his crew had trouble with an engine but refused to leave the mission. They continued on to the target with the others. Just after bombs away, a direct flak hit struck another engine and put it out of commission. Just after land's end, the propeller broke from the first troublesome engine and struck the fuselage tearing a gaping hole in the plane. After flying several hours, it was necessary for the entire crew to bail out. They were able to give a fix of their position. The Navy sent a sub immediately in search and a B-17 dropped a Higgins lifeboat to the crew in the water soon after the report.

Captain Robert Laack and his men took off to locate Crew 30's survivors the following day from Iwo Jima. The weather closed in to such an extent that the entire search mission, which lasted about ten hours, was flown on instruments at altitudes varying from 100 to 500 feet. Laack's radio operator made contact with the submarines in the area, one of which was eventually directed to the survivors.

Orr and his men were close to Sofu Gan Island, a rock jutting straight up out of the ocean. Maps available did not show its altitude so it was a dangerous obstruction. It could be seen on radar and shortly thereafter an SOS was picked up from the Higgins boat. Laach was at low altitude and couldn't see a thing. He homed in on the SOS until the signal would fade out, and he would circle in that area until he could pick up the signal again. They would continue this for several hours until they were sure of the correct position.

2nd Lt. Edward Coon, Laack's radar observer, plotted the position and the information was transmitted to the nearest sub. They continued to circle the area until the men were safely aboard the navy vessel. Although the elapsed time from the first signal until the rescue was about four hours and their plane was at extremely low altitudes, the men in the Superfortress made no visual contract of the crew they were instrumental in saving.

For their expert work on this occasion, Captain Laack, his radio operator Dunnett, his Navigator 2nd Lt. Wiley and 2nd Lt Edward Coon, Bombardier were all given the Distinguished Flying Cross per General Order 24 dated 6 August 1945.

Crew 45 also had an usual experience of being fired upon by the Japanese fleet in the Inland Sea.  The crew had just bombed an oil refinery on Kyushu and were headed home.  To the crew's amazement the fleet was under them and firing with every gun. The aircraft was hit several times with holes as large as basketballs. The crew thought the Japanese believed they were going to bomb the fleet.


Standing L to R:
John Dwyer, Bombardier, P-45; Ed Coon, Radar, P-45; Owen Whitefield, LG, P-45; James Schwoegler, Radio Op P-30 (holding the kite that carried the antenna of the gibson girl into the air); James W. Wyckoff, RG, P-30; unknown and David C. Smith, TG, P-31R

Kneeling: Back to Front:
Robert Weiler, LG, P-30; Lewis Jackson, CFC, P-45; William Costa, Nav, P-30

The above photo courtesy of Lewis Jackson - Dayton 1995

"Our crew never knew who we rescued until a meeting in Dayton, Ohio 1995. Four members of crew 30 (Orr's Crew) were in attendance and had an emotional time.

"They bought us drinks and their wives hug us!" reported Owen Whitfield.


The account of their rescue of 10 members of Crew 30 appeared in the 28 August 1945 issue of "Brief" page 8. 56 yrs later, Elmo Huston from Crew 7 circulated several issues of various "Brief" to members of his crew. I was fortunate enough to have these publication sent to me. Now what are the chances that among these issues would be an article entitled "Rescue on Instruments". Furthermore, not only did this article interest me because it was aboout a Crew of the 39th Bomb Group .. but Crew 45's actions on 2 June, 1945 directly affected me for among the 10 Army Fliers of P-30 that they were decorated for was my father, Bob Weiler, Left Gunner, Crew 30. Special Thanks to Elmo for not only saving the issues after all this time but sharing them with me. When I told Elmo about the article - he graciously told me to keep the issue with the article in it. 

To view the airticle that appeared in Brief, click here - webmaster

Source: "History of the 39th Bomb Group"; 1945 Aug issue of "Brief"; Lewis Jackson