39th Bomb Group (VH)

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Yokahama Mission
29 May 1945
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The following is an excerpt from the WWII Diary of S/Sgt Herbert L. Greer, Radio Operator on "City of Monroe" Crew 59
Source: Fire From The Sky - A Diary Over Japan by Ron Greer, son

Their mission was to fire-bomb Yokahama and destroy the main business district which lay along the waterfront. One hundred and one P-51's accompany 454 B-29’s (from the 58th, 73rd, 313th/314th Bomb Wings) on the mission, which would see nine square miles of Yokahama razed to the ground.

Herb Greer's entry reads:

May 29,1945, Honshu. Target: Yokahoma industrial section and warehouses at the docks. Flak was heavy and fires were thick. But we fooled them today. We had P-5i escort and they sure raised hell with the Jap Air Force. They were down shooting the hell out of the Jap planes before they could get off the ground. We saw one .Jap Zeke with two P-5i’s after him. He started rolling after one P-51 had made a pass at him, and a second P-5i rolled after him and gave him a big burst and the Jap never stopped rolling until he hit the ground. We hit the target at 18,500 feet with incendiary. Big fires were started in the Yokahama dock warehouse and industrial area. We got two flak holes while over the target. After we left the target, we escorted ship P-46, Lt Grear, out to sea. He had number 3 shot out over the target and lost number 4 about i~o miles out; we stayed with him, calling the super dumbos when he ditched.

The ship broke into three pieces, all we saw survive were four men. We had to land at Iwo Jima to get fuel and then returned to Guam. 18 hours in the air and was I tired, the ASR (Air Sea Rescue) had arrived when we left P-46. We learned later seven were saved.

59 +/- yrs later Herb recalls the mission:

This was an interesting mission as it was the first time we had been escorted by fighters. It was really good to see them attacking the lap planes on the ground before they could even take offl They prowled the docks and the waterfront, strafing the aircraft before they knew what hit them. Any that did get airborne were immediately attacked and brought down. Our boys flew in pairs so that they could protect each other. They would get on a lap Zeke and bound him until he was down and then go hunting for another.

It was busy over the target and the flak was all around us. The warehouses and industrial areas were burning and the P-51‘s were doing their job. It looked just like another day at the office when all of a sudden we were hit. At first it sounded like someone, or something had hit the side; it was far too loud of a ‘thunk’ for a bird. We all knew that this was shrapnel, and that we had been hit by flak. The gunners quickly scanned for damage and reported back. We had been hit, that was for sure; there were several holes in the aircraft, but nothing serious had been damaged or so it seemed for the present.

It was then that we saw one of our group in serious trouble. Crippled, with four Japanese fighters closing in on them, things didn’t look good.

The aircraft the crew saw was P-46; they had run into heavy flak and their number three engine had been hit hard, seconds later number four engine was also hit as were the bomb bay doors just as they were closing. The co-pilot’s throttle cables were severed and direct hits on the radio room,
the vertical stabilizer and the fuel transfer system had all but crippled it. Number three engine was feathered and number four was losing oil. Their radio operator had been hit by flak entering the aircraft from below.

They headed for open sea but shortly after leaving land, number four engine was feathered before it could seize up and this, along with the tremendous drag due to the open bomb bay doors, meant they had to make plans to ditch. All this with enemy fighters on their tail.

In the event that an aircraft was in trouble we were briefed that the deputy lead ship would drop out of formation and protect it, escorting it to safety. However, as Major Jones looked across he could see that they had trouble of their own, and were engaged with several Japanese fighters so were in no position to help anyone else.

The P-51 ‘s could not protect P-46 due to lack of fuel and had to follow the navigational B-29 back to Iwo Jima, otherwise they would have had to ditch in the ocean.

1st Lt. Edgar B. Grear, the Aircraft Commander of the crippled bomber, was calling for help. He needed the protection of our guns. At this point we had to move fast. Major Jones called Holt, our bombardier, and told him to pick a target that wasn’t burning and put the bombs on it pronto and
let the Japs rot in hell. As soon as we dropped our load we pulled out of formation and positioned ourselves alongside P-46.

We had to lower our flaps, to stay with her because “Slic Chic’ P-46, was struggling to maintain the necessary air speed to fly. The lap fighters had moved to the other side so we assumed a position above and to the right rear where we could protect the ship, and as they maneuvered around the crippled ship so did we. They would seldom attack a fully gunned B-29 with all four engines fully operational. The amazing B-29 could out- maneuver a fighter and with its state of the art gunnery systems, it would have been like taking a knife to a gunfight, as far as the fighters
were concerned.

The pilot called us and said he was going to have to ditch. Major Jones urged the pilot to try to make it another 100 miles, but he said he didn’t think they would make it with both engines on the right side lost. They were down to between 8,000 to 1 0,000 feet and struggling to maintain altitude using only the two left engines. To add to the problem their fuel transfer system was damaged to such an extent that they were not able to transfer fuel to the operational engines.

I contacted Iwo Jima and told them that we were escorting an aircraft that was about to ditch and relayed the aircraft’s coordinates. In doing this I had to use the code of the day and challenge the receiver and be challenged by them in return. All normal procedures to ensure we were who we claimed to be and they were as well. A short while after, the Slic Chic went down and we circled to protect it until a B-17 ‘dumbo’ showed up with a boat. The boat, containing maps, food and water, a motor and a first aid kit, was dropped. The maps revealed, for navigational purposes, winds as well as currents and were made of silk so that seawater would not destroy them. We circled afrw more times and saw four men get into the boat and thought that was all that survived. Later we discovered that three more made it and were picked up by a submarine. Had we not accompanied them and notified Iwo immediately, the crew may have perished.

The crew of the Slic Chic as P-46 was nicknamed, dumped as many loose items as possible overboard before ditching; they opened all escape hatches and made a beautiful landing with full flaps. However, the plane broke into three pieces on impact and the nose started to go under. The crew, sporting various injuries, made for the life raft, but once on board they realized that there were only seven of them. The B- 17 dropped the boat about 60 yards upwind of them, but it took them four hours to reach it through rough seas. There was a note onboard telling them that a submarine was 110 miles away and coming for them. The boat had dry clothes aboard which they immediately changed into.

They could have been forgiven for thinking that their troubles were over. However, the ocean, in the form of a twenty-foot wave, had other plans and sent them all back into the water. Eventually everyone managed to get back into the boat, but it was raining hard and the waves were growing
in size. The men were continually thrown overboard all night and in the words of one of them, “we don’t expect to get through another hour... the sea is beating us to death and we expect the boat to break up... everyone is praying”

As Herb headed back to base, the next several hours were traumatic for the seven people he had helped. Howard Howes, the navigator, was thrown twenty feet from the boat, but as the next wave brought him back into reach he was grabbed by the hair and dragged back on board.
The survivors were indiscriminately thrown from the boat and on one occasion the radar officer, Ralph Hayenga, went overboard and was hauled back by his broken arm. Apparently he never flinched.

It was six hours before they spotted the submarine heading toward them at full speed. Of the eleven man crew only seven survived. They were one of seven B-29’s lost on that mission. (Replacement Crew 1 - Killpack Crew was another of the seven B-29's lost).

After our detour, we were low on fuel and headed for Iwo Jima. It took quite some time before we could get refueled because at that time the underground fueling system wasn’t in place. The fuel trucks had plenty of B-29’s to service so we had to wait our turn.

The crew of "City of Monroe" was awarded The Distinguished Flying Cross for their actions on this 29 May 1945 mission. Click here to view order

62nd Squadron Crew Index
Source: Excerpt from "Fire Over Japan: A DIary Over Japan" by Ron Greer, son of Herb Greer, Radio Op, P-59