12 April 1945
Group Mission # 01
the gears thought that the group would be given at least a month
of warm up flying before it took part in the big show over Japan.
But within a couple of days after the B-29's arrived, word spread
around that we would run a few practice missions and then hit
the big time with all fans turning And that was the case.
combat crews had time to run a few missions to the Maug Islands
- three dots of land at the northern tip of the Marianas chain
where there was evidence of some Japanese - and to bomb Rota several
times. Actually, they had time to learn all the names of the islands
between Guam and Tokyo when the order came to get ready for the
virgin flight to the Empire.
and Intelligence had worked like mad to convert one of the unfinished
mess hall buildings into something that would pass for a briefing
room, and on the night of 11 April 1945, about a week after some
of the fly boys had arrived, the whole group assembled for briefing
for their first combat mission - the long ride to Koriyama.
was a small town about 125 miles north of Tokyo. Located there
was the Hodogaya Chemical Plant, engaged in making vital tetraethyl
lead for use in high-octane gasoline. Evidence had been accumulated
that the Japanese's supply of tetraethyl lead had become critical,
and higher headquarters decided to strike directly at this primary
source of the product. Both the 313th and 314th Wings were used
on this project. All aircraft carried 500-pound GP bombs.
mission to Koriyama was outstanding for the boys of the 39th for
several reasons. Excitement would have been high enough merely
because of the fact that for many combat crewmen it would be their
first taste of the real thing over enemy territory. But what a
target to fly a first mission to! Koriyama was 1,506 miles from
North Field, and the total round trip of 3,041 miles would constitute
the longest bombing strike in the history of aviation. Likewise,
Koriyama was enough to Tokyo to be within range of her defenses,
known to the toughest of the Japanese Empire. In the minds of
many men who were concerned with the attack, it was going to be
at least interesting! On the night of the eleventh, practically
every member of the 39th who was not flying in one of the group
planes was out on the field to see the big birds takeoff. At 03:09
hours Guam time, they began to roll down the more than mile long
runway. There were twenty-two aircraft in all - seven from the
60th, nine from the 61st and six from the 62nd.
George W. Mundy from San Antonio, Texas, who had taken command
of the 39th when it arrived overseas, was in the lead plane with
Major Leo Lewis and Crew 8 of the 60th Squadron.
the twenty-two B-29s that took off, two were forced to turn back
and land because of mechanical difficulties, but twenty went all
the way and bombed the target.
the potential of the Japanese defenses, no enemy fighters attacked
the formation. Approximately twenty-five single fighters were
seen, but none ventured within 1,000 yards of our planes.
enemy flak on the strike was negligible and what fire there was
the called meager and inaccurate. So far as a not fight went,
the whole mission was not too exciting. More than one crewmember
mentioned at the debriefing held after the mission that it was
a whole lot like bombing the range at Osago.
39th Bomb Group came through the strike with no casualties and
no battle damage, a record in itself. However, the Japanese came
through the same experience with very different results. All the
main buildings in the portion of Hodogaya plant assigned for destruction
to the 314th Wing were damaged. The area affected totaled 555,000
square feet or 73% of the whole roof area. The XXII Bomber Command
summed up the damage with the statement: "The plant was probably