Mission # 03
Mission Date: 15-16 April 1945
planes of the group returned to Guam early on the morning of
14 April. The crews were tired and plenty ready to hit the sack
after debriefing was over. As after all missions, the girls
of the Red Cross were on hand to serve up hot coffee and doughnuts
to the returning combat men.
there had been any doubts on the minds of anyone that we were
really putting out an aerial blitz of the Japanese major cities,
that doubt was quickly dispelled when, the following day the
first attack on Tokyo, the 39th joined the rest of the wing
in a night fire strike at the suburban city of Kawasaki. Kawasaki
was just across the Tama River from Tokyo and was actually a
part of the greater Tokyo area. The suburb was important as
a transportation center - the Tokaido mainline railway from
Japan's capitol of Nagoya, Osaka and points southwest went right
through Kawasaki. In addition, there were plenty of inflammable
targets in place.
planes each from the 60th and 61st and five from the 62nd Squadron
were off on the attack. Eighteen B-29s were listed as bombing
opposition was heavier at Kawasaki than had been seen before.
There were only about fifty enemy fighters in the air, but the
flak was fairly heavy. For the first time returning crewmen
reported the famous Japanese "Balls of Fire." These were believed
to be jet propelled fighters of some sort, perhaps the notorious
Bakas, such as were later captured and identified on Okinawa.
Three of the group's planes received minor damage from flak.
are some - including engineers and other people who should know
- who say that a B-29 cannot execute a loop. But there were crew
21 of the 61st Squadron, Airplane Commander Captain
William "Buck" Senger. It was on this night mission to Kawasaki
that the think was done. The "City of Pittsfield, Mass., " went
into target at 6,900 feet. Just after bombs away, the plane was
caught in the down draft of the thermal. With nose down, it plunged
toward the ground out of control. Senger and his pilot, Lt. Gavin
W. Kowalke, worked frantically to right the aircraft. Then suddenly
they passed toward the center of the current and were seized by
an updraft that carried them upward and flipped them over on their
back. Then in order to get back into a right-side-up position,
Senger pulled the ship through the rest of the loop and headed