39th Bomb Group (VH)

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Gifu Urban Area

The Gifu Urban Mission is one that Crew 3 participated in.
The following is from Rowland E. Ball, Nav, P-03

Mission Date:
09 July 1945
Group Mission Number: 37

When we went to briefing on July 9, 1945, they said that we would be going to Gifu. Gifu? What is a Gifu and where is this Gifu located. They said that it was a mid-sized town and it had some manufacturing facilities there, but it wasn't high on the list of important targets and it would not be heavily defended. This was to be a night "go it alone" mission. There was a major highway that ran through town and the factories were on the north side of this highway and the workers lived on the south side of the highway. Parts of us were to bomb the factories and part of us would bomb the workers.

So, off we go to Gifu. We had no mechanical problems and we made landfall on time and on course. Gifu is an inland city, which is rather rare because all of the major cities and industrial centers were along the coast. The interior was too mountainous. We had to fly over land for quite a distance. Some of the crews that had taken off before us were already there and we could see the town burning as we neared it. What startled us, though was the fact that there was a searchlight battery operating. This wasn't supposed to happen. Japanese searchlight batteries consist of either four or five lights. Four of them would have white lights and the fifth light would have a bluish tint to it. The white lights were manually operated and the bluish one was radar operated. The blue one would find the target plane and lock in on it and then the manually operated ones would swing over and lock in. We had flown through searchlights before and we were not too concerned because they had never picked us up.

Just before we reached the IP that blue light made two passes at us and on the third pass he found us. He locked in on us and the others did the same. This really got our attention and was scary. You could not see a thing if you looked out of the window. It was like someone was standing right in front of you shining a flashlight in your eyes. The gunners could not see a thing.

We turned onto our bomb run at the IP and it was an extra long bomb run for some reason. As I recall it was about ten minutes long. The bombardier was hunkered over his bombsight doing his thing. We had a substitute bombardier because Bob Battin had an asthma attack and was in the hospital. This guy was the staff Group Bombardier.

While we were flying straight and level on this bomb run I suddenly felt our plane being hit. After you have been hit a few times you learn to feel when a bullet is hitting your plane. I looked out the window and there was a steady stream of tracers going right through our left wing.

A night fighter was below us coming right up the light beam and was shooting us up real good. I think that what he had in mind was that if he did not bring us down with his shells, he would ram us and bring us down. As I was watching our left wing getting chewed up this night fighter passed by our left side. He was so close that I could actually see the pilot's face as he zoomed past us. The bombardier calls out, "Bombs Away". As this happens, our radio man, Monk Marcusson is supposed to get up and go to the front bomb bay bulk head door, turn on the light in the front bomb bay and be sure that all of the bombs had fallen clear and none of them were still hanging. Russ Forbes, right waist gunner, was supposed to do the same thing for the rear bomb bay. Mong says "The bombs are still in the front bay". Russ says, "The bombs are still in the rear bay". The bombardier reaches over and hits the salvo switch and calls out "Salvo". Monk says that the bombs are still in the front bay and Russ says that they are still in the rear bay. At this point we were all getting pretty up tight about all of this. For no good reason at all I got up and went to the front bay door where Monk was and we were looking out into the bomb bay when right in front of us was a big explosion. We looked at each other and said, "What the Hell was That?" I called Kozik and told him that the bombs were still in the front bay and that there had just been quite an explosion. We could not see what had happened because the bombs were obstructing our view. We knew that we were under attack again because we could feel the bullets hitting us. Kozik was hollering at the bombardier to do something to get rid of those bombs. We were getting hit again real hard and we were a sitting duck with our bomb bay doors open and lit up like a Christmas tree by the searchlights. Russ calls up the bombardier and asks him if he threw the safety switch before we took off. There was a long pause and he answers,"No".

Source: Rowland E. Ball, Navigator, P-03
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