(Reproduced with permission by the author, Clyde Durham; Dec 1, 2007)

At 1000 hours Sunday, 25 June 50, Far East Air Force Headquarters received word of the North Korean attack on South Korea.

About six hours earlier the North Koreans had slashed across the 38th parallel and the South Koreans were being totally routed.

That afternoon the United States Air Force was at war again. President Truman ordered Gen. Douglas MacArthur to send the Air Force and the Navy to battle.

First USAF bombers on the offensive were 12 Douglas B-26 attack bombers from the 8th Bomb Squadron. They hit rail yards at Musan early on the 28th of June. That same afternoon four B-29s from the 19th Bomb Group out of Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa hit roads and railroads just north of Seoul.

The 19th BG was made up of the 28th, 30th and 93rd Bomb Squadrons and was permanently based at Andersen AFB, Guam. Less than 24 hours after being alerted, the 19th BG was at Kadena and preparing for their, first combat mission over Korea.

They had been told to take enough clothing and personal items for " a few weeks." No one dreamed that 37 months later the 19th would still be at Kadena, the only one of the three original B-29 bomb groups to fly combat for the entire war.

As the war began, in addition to FEAF's 19th, SAC sent the 22 "d and 92"d Bomb Groups, also equipped with B-29s.

In May of 1952 the three B-29 groups flying combat were two at Kadena, the 19th and SAC's 307th and the 98th, also SAC, which was based at Yakota AFB near Tokyo.

That same month a replacement crew, headed by Aircraft Commander Capt. H.M. Locker, prepared to fly from California to Kadena AFB, reporting for a tour of duty with the 28th Bomb Squadron. I was the left gunner on that crew.

We had orders to fly a re-conditioned B-29 from McClellan AFB to Kadena but after waiting 10 days with no plane being ready, our orders sent us to Travis AFB and a day later we left on a C-54 ambulance aircraft that shuttled between Korea and the states. They flew wounded GIs home and returned to the Far East with replacement personnel.

We spent about 24 hours at Hickam AFB in Honolulu, then made the remainder of the trip in a couple of hops. After reporting in at 2e Bomb Squadron headquarters, we were assigned barracks, flight gear and attended orientation. This all took the better part of a week and then we began flying training missions. The training included very little formation flying, which was unexpected by us, but was long on navigation and radar bombing using SHORAN as well as LORAN. We soon were told why.

Up until a few months prior to our arrival, most B-29 missions were during the daylight hours, but now that the Chinese Communists were into the war their better experienced MiG- 15 pilots were really beginning to take a toll on B-29s. On one mission a few months before we got there, we were told that on one five-plane B-29 raid, four of them were lost to MiGs.

As a result strategy was changed and now we were flying almost 100% of our combat missions at night. In fact the undersides of less than half our B-29s had been painted black. It wasn't until after we had flow four or five missions that all the B-29s at Kadena had been coated with black paint on their undersides.

After flying the orientation training missions we were cleared for combat and told that our first mission would probably be in the next three or four days.

The procedure in the 28th was to post the names of crew members and their aircraft on the bulletin boards in the barracks daily for the following nights mission. This was done about 24 to 28 hours prior to scheduled takeoff.

Since we knew we would soon be on a mission we were joking about flying it on Friday, the 13th! On Thursday afternoon, 12 June 52, word quickly spread that Friday's combat roster had been posted.

A friend stuck his head in my room, we were bunked two to a room, and told me my name was on the list. I made a fast trip to see for myself and there it was! It was as though my name was typed in inch-high capital letters and highlighted with a spotlight.

I'm sure my heart paused for a few seconds. My first combat mission and on a Friday, the 13th!

As was the custom, crew members on their 'first" combat mission were flown as extras or replacements on a veteran crew. Not until the second or third mission did a new crew fly as a unit together. With us it was our second mission that we flew as a crew with only an experienced pilot as observer. It was on a B-29 named `.`Island Queen".



I remember very little about my first mission other than it was relatively routine. A total of nine hours and 35 minutes were logged and we encountered a little light flak. Otherwise it was uneventful except for the fact it was my first combat mission and that alone made it memorable for me!

Takeoff was around 1800 and we touched down back at Kadena at 0335. We went to debriefing at 19th BG headquarters then back to the hardstand to remove and clean all our. 50 caliber machine guns. Even though on that mission we never fired them at a MiG, all guns had been test-fired before we reached landfall over the South Korean coast.
Back to the barracks shortly after daylight. Sleep finally came but I was so keyed up it took awhile to drop off. Our routine soon settled in with the only variable being briefing, station and takeoff times.

With the exception of one daylight raid, the order for a combat mission went something like this: Notification of being scheduled for a mission was posted about 24 hours prior to the mission. The morning of the scheduled mission we four gunners would catch the 6x6 shuttle truck to the 28th BS Headquarters/Operations quonset huts. Then we caught a different shuttle that ran to all the 28th BS hardstands. These were World War II hardstands and were really spread out to minimize damage from bombs or strafing attacks.

Once at the hardstand of our aircraft we would road and/or check the ammunition in all gun turrets, inspect our, .50 caliber machine guns, set head spacing on them, then install them in the turrets. Following that we did a complete ground check of all our electrical equipment and computers that directed our remote-controlled gun turrets. The final stage of our gun preflight was to arm the guns and then point the weapons in the upper turrets at about a 45-degree angle upward and the lower turret guns about 45-degrees down. This told everyone that all the guns on the aircraft were "hot" and to be very careful in turning on any electrical power or fooling with the turrets in any way.

The B-29 had five remote controlled turrets that contained a total of 12 .50 caliber machine guns. The upper forward turret held four guns and there were two weapons each in the upper aft, lower forward, lower aft and tail turrets.

The gunnery system on the B-29 incorporated switches that allowed a gunner to control not only his primary turret but take over certain other turrets in the event another gunner was knocked out of action.

Primary turret for the bombardier was the upper forward turret but by flipping a couple of switches, he could take over the lower forward, controlling both or either one.

The right gunner had primary control of the lower forward but he could also fire the lower aft and/or the tail guns. As left gunner, I had the lower aft as my primary turret, but could also fire the lower forward and/or the tail guns.

The CFC, or top gunner, had the upper aft as his primary but could also control the upper forward. The tail gunner had primary control of the tail guns.

Once we gunners finished our early preflight, which usually took two to three hours, counting travel time, we went back to the barracks area, ate lunch in our 24-hour mess then tried for a nap and a shower before getting ready for mission briefing at group headquarters.

Briefing was usually between 1400 to 1600 hours and following it our aircraft commander, navigator, bombardier, radar operator and radio operator went to shorter, specialized briefings. The pilot, flight engineer and four gunners went to the aircraft for another preflight, this one concerning checking and running up the engines and inspecting the airplane in general.

After the arrival of the remainder of the crew and the completion of their individual preflights, we lined up for crew inspection. Each crew member had a parachute, Mae West life jacket, one-man rubber dinghy, oxygen mask, helmet, head set, hand held and throat mike, flak jacket plus the individual's choice of fleece-lined boots, jackets, pants, etc. Even though we were pressurized and had heat for the crew compartment, it still got pretty cold at altitude.

Flight lunches and thermoses of water were delivered to the aircraft as we were preflighting. The meals consisted of two per man. One was fresh (sandwiches, piece of fruit, bag of chips, sometimes a cookie or candy and a bag with salt, pepper, sugar and a packet of instant coffee) plus an emergency ration box, called the IF-4, containing a can of meat or cheese, a can of fruit, stack of crackers and salt, pepper, gum, coffee, toothpick, etc.

The fresh lunches were all the same (pretty good most of the time), but the IF-4 boxes varied from pretty good to terrible. The ones containing a can of cheese, boned chicken or ham were the favorites of most of us as was the cans of fruit and those of crackers.

Over a period of time we would_. build up a personal supply of IF-4s that we kept in our rooms and ate at times when we didn't feel like making the hike to the mess hall or the times when we were confined to barracks for a few days because a typhoon was doing its best to drown or blow away everything on the island. I remember one time when a typhoon hit and our plane was not flyable so we rode out the storm on the island. They had sent word the mess hall would close in an hour and would not reopen until the typhoon passed.

We decided to try for one last hot meal. Boy, was that a mistake. It was raining so heavy and the wind blowing so hard that we were soaked and had some of our clothing blown away before we went 20 feet. The rain, driven by the wind, felt like someone was shooting pellets of gravel at us. We finally gave up any attempt to make the mess hall and staggered back to the barracks and ate IF-4s for the next two days. We later found out the weather station had recorded winds of 198 MPH!
On our third combat mission we were assigned to fly an aircraft named "Command Decision", arguably the most famous B-29 of the entire Korean War. "Command Decision" flew many combat missions over Japan in World War II and over Korea but it became famous for the five MiG kills it was credited with.

The 28th Bomb Squadron's "Command Decision" was the only B-29 of the entire Korean War to shoot down five MiGs. This occurred, of course, before we arrived at Kadena, but the aircraft commander when all those MiGs were shot down was Capt. Donald Covic.

When his crew's tour of duty was up, Capt. Covic signed up for another tour and was the Operations Officer (and had become a major) when we became a part of the 28th.

There was a popular story told in the squadron about the MiG victories. It was said that Capt. Covic and the crew were on a daylight mission when they spotted a MiG1.5. They shot at two MiGs, claimed three, got credit for four and then painted five kills on "Command Decision

Of course, this was said with tongue planted firmly in cheek! Observers outside the crew verified all five kills. Perhaps even more amazing was the fact that three of those five kills were scored on one mission, two by the right gunner and one by the tail gunner.

There is a photo on the wall at 28th Bomb Squadron Headquarters at Dyess AFB that shows John Cosmato and Clyde Durham standing by the nose art on the aircraft as we preflighted for our third mission. In May of 1998 a good friend and I visited the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB and I had my photo taken by the fuselage of "Command Decision" which is on display there. The museum photo was taken 46 years and two months after the one taken the day of our third combat mission.

On Maj. Covic's desk in the 28th Operations there was an incredibly detailed model of a B-29, painted exactly as the real "Command Decision".

Almost a week after our third mission on "Command Decision" four crews, including us, flew a two-hour training mission in the local area. We were the first aircraft to land and the current crew of "Command Decision" followed us. All four planes landed and followed each other on the taxi strip heading to the 2e hardstands. We were about half way there and I happened to be looking back at "Command Decision" and at that moment I saw the nose of the airplane plunge to the taxi strip and all four props on the big 3350 Wright-Cyclone radial engines dig into the taxi strip.

We found out that the taxi strip had given way under the nose gear and dropped about 10 or 12 inches. The sudden stoppage of the nose gear and the forward motion of the airplane collapsed the nose, gear.

Major Covic was at his desk when word of the accident reached him. He immediately hopped into his jeep and went to the scene of the accident. It was several hours before he finally got back to squadron operations and when he walked in the first thing he saw was the "Command Decision" model resting on its nose on his desk. Someone had pulled off the nose gear! Maj. Covic left it that way until the real aircraft flew again, almost three months later.

John Cosmato (L) and Clyde Durham as we preflighted
COMMAND DECISION for our third combat mission.

Clyde Durham w. Apache just after we werer told this would be our aircraft following the present crew's crews last mission that night. Aircraft had already been preflighted and bombs loaded when we took this photo. Note position of guns in upper and lower forward turrets which indicates "hot guns", meaning all turrets had been loaded with belts of ammo and guns were loaded and charged.

Our crew had flown a different airplane on each of our first three missions but shortly after that we got word that we were assigned our own aircraft. (At that time the Air Force still had a team concept of a unit consisting of an airplane, with the same ground crew and flight crew. The only time this varied much was if a plane was down for maintenance, the flight crew would make their scheduled mission on another aircraft.

The aircraft first assigned to us was one named "Apache". It featured a voluptuous Indian maiden perched on a tom-tom. We got word of the assignment shortly before lunch one day and after chow we went to the squadron area and found "Apache". Her regular crew was flying a mission that night and the "hot guns" position showed the gunners had already completed their preflight and left the hardstand.

We found out from a member of "Apache's" ground crew that the mission that night was to be the last of that flight crew's tour. The next day they would begin processing for their return to the states. We hung around the hardstand for awhile, took some photos and visited with a couple of oguys' on `the ground crew. They were very. proud of "their" airplane.

We did not know any of the flight crew but intended to try to meet some of them before they left for home. The next morning we got the news.

"Apache" had gone down the night before with the loss of all men. The crew of the plane following "Apache" in the bomber stream related this story. "Apache" had passed the IP and was on the bomb run. The crew following them said that "Apache" was maybe half way between the IP and the bomb release point when suddenly the night sky was lit up by a gigantic fire ball. "Apache" had apparently suffered a direct flak hit and the 20,000 pounds of bombs and the approximately 3,000 gallons of high-octane fuel exploded and consumed the airplane and its crew instantly.

Two days later we were assigned "Top Of The Mark", named after the cocktail lounge on the top of the Mark Hopkins hotel in San Francisco. Our fourth combat mission on 24 June 52 was number 112 for "Top Of The Mark". Almost half of those were over Japan in WWII in 1945 and the rest over Korea a few years later.

We flew her on 14 combat missions before she was sent back to the states for overhaul. This was after our 17th combat mission on 25 September 52.

 


Almost the entire length of one of those missions was flown on three engines. There is a reason why they hung four of those 2,200 HP Wright-Cyclones on a B-29! We took off on this particular mission grossing 140,000 pounds, which was normal for all our missions. (The original design called for a maximum gross takeoff weight of 120,000.)

We had the usual bomb load of 40 500-pounders (20 in each bomb bay) and every pound of fuel we could cram in. Normal procedure *as to fly at 4,000 feet (to conserve fuel) from Okinawa until we made landfall over the southern coast of Korea. Then begin our climb to bombing altitude.

About 45 minutes after takeoff number three engine began running rough and we had to shut it down and feather the prop. After a brief discussion in the cockpit the AC decided to continue the mission on three engines, at least until something happened to make him change his mind. We managed to maintain our altitude and even gain some, but there was no way we were going to get up to 20,000 feet, the scheduled bombing altitude for our primary target.

The AC decided to divert to the secondary target and bomb from as high as we could get which was somewhere near 6,000 feet. The secondary was just over the 38th parallel in North Korea and we managed to drop our bombs and head back to Okinawa without further incident although I'm sure the remaining three engines didn't appreciate it very much.

Our AC was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for this and the other 10 of us were rewarded by aging a few years each in a matter of hours.

Several missions later we were presented with the opportunity to duplicate the three-engine mission feat. We lost an engine about 30 minutes after take off and the AC again decided to go for it on three. This time his/our luck didn't hold. Shortly after shutting down the first engine, another one began running rough. Just before feathering the prop on the second bad engine we quickly dumped our bombs in the ocean (we hadn't even armed them yet) and made a 180-degree turn and headed back to Kadena.
We made it back, declared an emergency and made a straight-in approach to Kadena on just the two remaining engines: o.We' landed without any further incidents and . taxied up to our hardstand. Our ground. crew had been alerted and was waiting for us. Tears were running down the cheeks of the crew chief, a Master Sergeant veteran of W WII.

He said this was the first abort of a combat mission for "Top Of The Mark" in almost 100 scheduled combat flights dating back to Japan in WWII. Obviously he was sad, but quickly stated he did not blame us. He said, "We'll just start a new string."


Clyde Durham at 28th BS sign, Kadena AFB, Okinawa. Note headquarters hut at back, left center.


Our combat missions averaged about nine and a half hours flying time with our longest being 12 hours, and the shortest 8:05. Since all but one of our missions was flown at night and the North Koreans and Chinese Communists didn't have a lot of radarequipped MiG-15s; we didn't have to worry too much about fighters.Anti-aircraft fire was another story. Depending on the target, the enemy's radarcontrolled guns and searchlights ranged from very light to very heavy. From our crew's point of view our worst mission was our 18th one on 30 September 52. Our target that night was the Namsam-ni Chemical Plant.

A total of 45 B-29s made up the main bomber force. Three B-29s attacked before the main force hit, dropping airburst bombs in a flak-suppression role, then orbited the area above the main force using ECM against the radar-controlled guns and lights. In addition seven B-26s flew low-level searchlight suppression attacks prior to the main force attack.

Our aircraft was well back in the main bomber stream. We were flying for the first time since "Top Of The Mark" had been sent back to the states. Our aircraft was a recently reconditioned B-29 fresh from the states and his was its first flight since arriving at Kadena.

The aircraft was in good shape but it felt very strange after flying "Top Of The Mark" on every combat mission and training hop for over four months.

On this mission our bombing altitude was 27,500 feet, the highest of any of our missions over Korea. Since we were so far back in the bomber stream the guns and searchlights were pretty well zeroed-in on us, even though all aircraft were not scheduled over the target on the same heading, altitude or time separation.

As we turned on the IP we could see the lights and guns picking up each B-29 as it neared the target area. As we closed on the target we began picking up anti-aircraft fire and searchlights. At first they weren't real close then they rapidly began getting our range, speed and altitude.

We could hear shrapnel rattling on the skin of the airplane and suddenly searchlights locked on us. We immediately felt very vulnerable and exposed, as though the whole world was looking at us. The interior of our B-29 was brighter than the brightest day we had ever seen

Just a few minutes from the bomb release point we felt, heard and some of us saw a huge explosion in the left wing near the rear of number one engine nacelle. A large stream of smoke poured back from number one engine and the left wing went up and the right down from the force of the explosion. I reported the smoke just as another explosion hit us on the underside of the plane between the lower aft turret and the tail compartment.

This was immediately followed by a flak burst under the right wing. The second and third hits were not as strong as the first one but they were strong enough to get the attention of all of us instantly.

We were locked in searchlights and the anti-aircraft guns were right on our altitude and course, so the AC gave the order to salvo the bombs "so we can get the hell out of here!"

The bombardier had a salvo switch in the nose and we had one in the gunner's compartment. Capt. Mohr immediately hit his switch and nothing happened. The CFC gunner had climbed down from his position and flipped our switch. Still not a bomb dropped.

We were still locked in lights and catching shrapnel, so the AC gave the order to prepare to bail out. The next command would be, `Bail out". We were deep in North Korea, hundreds of miles behind enemy lines, searchlights and guns were locked on us and with 20,000 pounds of bombs and probably 3,000 gallons of fuel remaining the airplane along with all of us could cease to exist any second.

I was anxious and worried but the only thing really on my mind in those few seconds was this: We're going to have to bail out and as I'm floating down in my parachute one of those numerous anti-aircraft shells on the way up is going to go right through me on my way down!

It wasn't until much later, after we were out of danger that I realized there were many other unpleasant things more likely to happen to me than being pierced in mid-air by an anti-aircraft shell!

It has taken a lot longer to read all this than it took for it to happen. The actual time could be measured in seconds. Fortunately we never got the final bailout command.

Suddenly one ' of the salvo switches worked and all 40 of our 500-pounders dropped instantly. Relieved of ,that 20,000 pounds of weight in a split second, the B-29 surged several hundred feet upward and at the same time the AC racked the plane hard over on its left wing and into a sharp descent.

We lost three or four thousand feet very quickly and equally as fast lost the searchlights and guns. The AC quickly began a crew check as he leveled off and no one had a scratch!


Our crew at Lake Charles AFB, LA. as we finished advanced Combat Crew Training and Prepared to go to Korea.
 
(Standing, from L) Lt. George Collins, Nav., TSgt. Walter Ragsdale, FE, Capt. H.M. Locker, AC, 1Lt. Robert Sills, Radar, A1C Clyde Durham, LG.
(Front, from L) A2C John Cosmato, CFC., 2Lt James King, P., A1C James Eckols RG., Pvt. Ed Smith, TG. A2C James Cowart RO. (Not shown is Bom. Capt.Orville Gross on Emer. Leave)


The smoke was still streaming back from the left wing, but the flight engineer, in checking his instrument panel, reported an almost total loss of fuel from number one wing tank, which was immediately behind number one engine.

We realized then that it was vaporized fuel and not smoke that had been streaming back. The miracle was there was no further explosion after the hit and no fire!

Examination the next day revealed a four-foot by two-foot hole blown completely through the left wing, almost directly through the center of the number one fuel tank. God was truly protecting us that night!

With all the fuel lost from that tank we didn't have enough remaining to get back to Okinawa so we diverted to Itazuki Air Force Base near Fukuoka on Honshu, the southernmost island of Japan. The next day we kinda got the shakes after seeing the extent of the damage. We later heard that the Air Force decided to cannibalize the aircraft because of structural damage.

We really missed "Top Of The Mark" but at least it was proven again that a B-29 could be pretty tough, much like its older sister, the B-17.

Another 19th BG B-29 was at Itazuki, having landed there a few weeks prior and needing minor repairs. They told us it would be ready to fly again in o a few days and we. could fly it back to Okinawa. Itazuki was a jet fighter base and a lot of the F-86 pilots were kidding our AC and pilot about that "big old obsolete bomber pulling down the reputation of their sleek fighters by sitting there with them on the ramp."

Capt. Locker and Lt. King suggested those fighter boys come watch us take off in that "big old bird", which as it happened occurred the next day at 1000 hours. Twenty or 30 pilots and assorted personnel were on the ramp watching our engine start up.

If I remember correctly the main runway at Itazuki was about 8 or 10,000 feet. The B-29 we were flying back to Kadena was relatively light. No bombs, no ammunition, only enough fuel to get us home and just our parachutes and the weight of the crew.

After engine run-ups and checks, Locker positioned the B-29 at the very end of the runway. He held the brakes and applied takeoff power to those big radials. He let the plane shudder and shake until he was assured he had maximum RPM.

Then he released the brakes and that light B-29 surged down the runway and about the halfway point he pulled it off the ground and with maybe 10 feet of altitude gave the gear-up command. The gear sucked up and he held the plane just feet off the ground for the last half of the runway.


Clyde Durham at left gunners position. This was taken on one of our last training flights before heading for the far east.

Just as we neared the end of the runway he pulled the wheel back and began a pretty sharp left turn. He got up to a couple hundred feet and roared over the assembled pilots on the ramp. I looked down and saw big grins and waves as we passed over them. Locker said, "That ought to show those guys what a real airplane can do."

Our flight back to Kadena was uneventful and on our next mission we flew another newly arrived re-conditioned B-29.

Our longest combat mission was #14 on 12 September 52. It was 12 hours and 40 minutes long and the target was the huge Suiho Hydroelectric Plant.

Our longest combat mission was #14 on 12 September 52. It was 12 hours and 40 minutes long and the target was the huge Suiho Hydroelectric Plant. The dam was across the Yalu River, the dividing line between North Korea and Manchuria.

We were forbidden to violate Manchurian air space because the Russians might take offense. As a result anytime we bombed such a target we had to fly a bomb run from west to east or vice versa, which meant a run along the length of the river rather than along the north-south length of the dam.

Rather poor results usually occurred, but we didn't violate Manchurian air space. As usual, North Korea was completely blacked out. That night as we flew our bomb run from west to east I could see an airfield on the north bank of the Yalu inManchuria. Runway lights were on and the ramps and surrounding buildings were well lighted.

Many dozens of MiGs could be seen on the ground. They weren't worried about getting their airfield bombed. They knew we wouldn't violate their air space.

Exactly one week later we flew the only daylight mission of our tour. It was a maximum effort by all three B-29 groups, the Far East Air Force's 19t, SAC's 307', also based at Kadena with us and another SAC group, the 98th flying out of Yakota AFB near Tokyo.

The ground crews did a fine job and the three groups together put up over 90 B29s in one formation. This was a remarkable feat for maintenance, considering the maximum number of B-29s allowed in the Far East at any one time was 99. Something about not offending the Russians I guess.

B-26s went in low on flak suppression attacks and we had a high cover of F-86 Sabre Jets for protection against the MiGs.

The target was a troop, material and rail marshalling yard center and went off pretty well as planned. We got some light to moderate flak but were never hit by the MiGs. Some MiG-15s tangled with the Sabres, but we never heard the results.

It was a beautiful sight to see so many B-29s in one formation. Our aircraft was in the far left group of the formation, but as we formed up and later looking out the right blister I could see most of the planes. A three or four plane flight was about the biggest I had ever been in prior to that daylight raid. We logged 10 hours and 40 minutes that day.


28th BS Headquarters and Operations huts, left-over WWII quonset huts.
The bottom was green, the color of the 28th BS.



A day or so after our 12a' mission on 29 August 52 our crew got a three-day R&R in the Philippines. The 28th BS commander, Lt. Col. Raymond Buckwalter, took his R&R with us as we all flew on a MATS C-54 to Clark Field near Manila. We then went up into the mountains by bus to Camp John Hay at Bagio City.

On our crew, as on most other crews that we were aware of, the officers and enlisted men got along well even though there was a fairly wide range in rank as well as age. Our AC, Capt. H.M. Locker was 33 years old and had 31 combat missions over Europe as a B-17 pilot with the 8th Air Force. He, along with two of the other officers, had been recalled to active duty for the Korean War. Our flight engineer was 30 and I was next oldest among the enlisted men at 21. The radio operator and two gunners were 20 and the tail gunner 19.

At the R&R camp, as we did many times at Kadena, we all dressed in civvies and went out as a group. Col. Buckwalter was right along with us.

One of my most unusual, and sometimes scary, times was one in which the B-29 we were in never left the ground. Typhoons hit Okinawa on four different occasions during our tour. On most of them we evacuated the planes to Guam.

But one time, for some reason unknown to me, we and our planes were still on the ground at Kadena when a typhoon hit the island. As usual it was raining so hard you felt as though you were under water. I was born and raised in Louisiana where we usually had heavy rains and hurricanes, but I never went through anything like I experience on Okinawa.

We got word at the barracks for the left and right gunner and the flight engineer of all crews to report to their aircraft immediately bringing every thing we normally took on a mission except the flak vests

When we got to "Top Of The Mark" the rain was getting heavier and the wind stronger. Our AC and pilot had just gotten there and they told us what we'd be doing for the next 24 hours or so.

The five of us, along with three or four of our ground crew, would quickly preflight and board the aircraft. We would then start the engines and "fly" the plane on the ground, keeping it headed directly into the teeth of the typhoon. Controls were unlocked, engines were running and the AC and pilot were using the flight controls as though we were airborne. On occasional trips to the cockpit I observed the air speed indicator touching on close to 150 knots and blipping higher while we weren't moving more than a foot or two at the most backward or forward. They controlled that with the throttles.

I found out this was a technique developed late in WWII when there were hundreds and hundreds of B-29s in the Far East theatre of operations and the only bases large enough to handle the big bombers were crammed with them, leaving no place to go when a typhoon hit.

We spent about 24 hours at this, getting a few breaks when the wind lessened and later when the eye of the typhoon passed over the island. It was one of the stranger experiences I ever had involving a B-29 but it saved our aircraft when the potential for large damage was clearly there. Only minor damage occurred to any of our planes, mostly when the savage winds blew objects into a plane.

Our final eight missions were mostly rather routine without any severe or terrifying happenings. But I must admit the closer we came to the end our tour the more apprehensive I was.

We flew four missions in October and four in November. In early November another typhoon hit Okinawa and we evacuated all flyable aircraft to Guam, staying a day and a night before returning to Kadena.

 


Clyde Durham at the Air Force Museum, Dayton, Ohio, kneeling by the Memorial to 19th Bomb Group-Wing personnel


Close up of the 19th Memorial

The final combat mission of our tour was on the night of 27 November 52, Thanksgiving night. The food in our 24-hour mess was usually pretty good but the noon meal that day was especially fine: turkey and dressing with all the trimmings, ham, lots of good bread, a good variety of vegetables and desserts... even salted nuts and other snacks. It tasted great!

But we were apprehensive ... we knew our mission that night was our last scheduled combat flight and tomorrow we would begin processing to clear the base and return to the states. Naturally we thought about our first assigned B-29, "Apache" and what happened to her and her crew on their last scheduled mission before going home.

Attempts at some gallows humor by some of our buddies about how "you should eat well because you never know ... this may be your last meal" did absolutely nothing to ease our concern.

The fresh flight lunches delivered to our plane were the best we ever had! Turkey and ham sandwiches, ambrosia, nuts, candy and cake and other snacks assured us that we eat well once more that evening.As usual, but seeming to be larger in number this time, there weremen in groups at different spots along the taxiway, waving to us as we moved toward the runway and takeoff.

That final mission was anti-climatic... a real milk run with no problems. No flak, no searchlights, no fighters. The flight back from Korea to Kadena was a pleasant one.

We brewed some hot instant coffee in our hot cups and ate sandwiches and desserts we had saved.

Flying time for the mission was eight hours and 40 minutes. On 3 December 52 we took off from Kadena for the last time. We were flying a B-29 back to McClellan AFB in Sacramento, California. Before heading out over the ocean we gave the 28th Bomb Squadron Headquarters and Operations huts a buzz job to end all buzz jobs. Guys standing on the roofs of the quonset huts bailed off and hit the ground as we passed so low over them they thought we were going to hit them. Frankly, so did I.

Clyde G. Durham
1016 Hwy. 3128
Pineville, LA 71360
318 445-3247
August 1998

My tour of duty in the 28th Bomb Squadron only lasted a little over six months but as long as I live the 28'h and its personnel will hold a very special place in my heart. Over the past two years I have had the privilege of meeting a number of current 28th people and. visiting squadron headquarters. It has been an experience I cherish.


NOTE...It wasn't until 1999 that I found out that APACHE;, the fast aircraft assigned to our crew, had not exploded on the bomb run on the night of 10 June 52. It did indeed go down that night but another aircraft (squadron and aircraft name unknown to me) was the one that was hit and exploded over the target. We had been told that afternoon that APACHE was to be our primary aircraft following the present crew's last mission that night.

Quoting from the VFW magazine, August 1999, in a story entitled 'IN KOREA WE SPED THE RUSSIAN AIRFORCE', "Even nighttime raids proved deadly. On June 10, 1952, four B-29 crews of the 19th BG found themselves in Soviet searchlights over Kwaksan in the southern end of MiG Alley. Attacked by 12 MiGs, three bombers went down: one exploded in mid-air, one hit the ground in North Korea and one crash-landed at Kimpo Airfield in the South.

Verne Gordon, Jr. was with the 28th Bomb Squadron aboard' the Apache that night. "We were engulfed in searchlights," he said, and "were hit by 20mm cannon shells. The aircraft immediately lost altitude. Although the plane was badly damaged, we were fortunate to make it back to K-16, a base near Seoul. This was the first time B29s had been hit by night fighters."

Not long after that story in the VFW magazine came out I was able to make contact with Verne Gordon and talked to him on several occasions. He confirmed the story in the VFW magazine.

[Back] to Hyatt-Amari Gallery photo #066


original web source: http://216.219.175.113/durham/apache.html
ClickOkinawa.com
S. A. Mick McClary, P.O. Box 6245, Great Falls, MT 59406