39th Bomb Group (VH)
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Mission Date: 12 April 1945
Group Mission # 01

Everyone among 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.

The 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.

Operations 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.

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.

The 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.

Colonel 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.

Of 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.

Despite 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.

Likewise, 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.

The 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 inoperative."

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Source: "History of the 39th Bomb Group" by Robert Laird, (crew 5) and David Smith (crew 31)
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This page was revised on 12 April 2001
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