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Dean S. Allan
Mapleton, Utah -
"I had my Argus C-3 camera with me so I took four pictures of the crash. An air police officer came up to me and said, "Give me your camera. You cannot take photographs here." I turned to him and said, "I was on that airplane and I want these pictures to show what this crew went through." He turned around and said no more to me."
- Dean Allan
This story is told from the perspective of the Left Gunner, Dean S. Allan. The other crew members would certainly have their own view of the experience. Dean was nineteen when he joined the crew and is now 78 years old, writing this story from recall.
This is a true story about eleven men assigned to a B-29 bomber crew during the Korean War. The eleven men came from varied walks of life and several different states throughout the USA.
The man who organized the crew and became the key player in putting it together was Don Funk, a captain in the U.S. Air Force and a previous pilot of B-17s. Don Funk was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons. When he was given the assignment to form a B-29 crew, he asked his commander if he could try and find crew members that were L.D.S. His commander told him that he could do that.
This story will tell how the crew was formed and will give a background of each crew member before they were selected for this crew, where they came from and the training they received prior to being assigned to the crew. Once the crew is established I will then tell about their training and preparation to go to and fly combat missions over North Korea.
The angel that became their twelfth man from the time the crew was formed in 1951 until they were disbanded in 1953 was always with them. The story will go into great detail as to how this twelfth man (angel) saved the day on more than one occasion during their military tour.
After the crew disbanded in 1953 their lives will be summarized as to what happened to them career-wise and where they are now.
I would like to give a special thanks to my wife, Jean, for suggestions and helping me recall parts of the story. Thanks to Ken Russell, Joe English and Don Robb for their input and a very special thanks to Bob Freeman for his unselfish work to bring this story to a published conclusion.
Over the years, Korea has been overrun and ruled by the Chinese, the Japanese, Russia and Manchuria. Each of these countries have raped, robbed and pillaged this Korean peninsula.
At the end of World War II, 1945, Korea was divided in half with the Soviet Union and the U.S. taking control of each half. Both countries had run the Japanese invaders out of Korea. The Soviet Union set up a communist government in North Korea and the U.S. set up a democratic government under the leadership of Syngman Rhee in South Korea.
In 1950 the communist North Korea decided to invade South Korea with the help of Russian military equipment as well as Chinese help. President Truman asked the United Nations to send military support to South Korea and dispatched American troops to help the South Koreans. The President reinstated the draft and all young men from the age of 18 to 26 (I think 26) were eligible for military service unless they had good reason to be deferred. That same year the L.D.S. Church closed the mission home and no missionaries were called for the next three years. Men who had served in the Second World War and were in the Reserves were called back to active duty. Young men just graduating from high school became eligible for the draft and were joining branches of the military of their choice rather than having the government decide what branch they would serve in.
It was not a happy time for families who had husbands and fathers in the reserve being called back to active duty after serving in World War II. The same could be said for the young men just graduating from high school and asked to stop their pursuit of a college education or a career in some field of their choice. Leaving girl friends and family at the age of 19 or 20 years of age for a period of three or four years was a very large sacrifice for these young men, to say the least. So you can see that the Korean War had a major impact on the lives of young men in the early 1950s.
The Men Who Made Up the Original Crew
These were the men who made up the original crew formed at Randolph A.F.B. in Texas in August of 1951.
Left to Right: Don Funk, Aircraft Commander; Robert Sorensen, Co-pilot; Lee Reasor, Navigator; Horace Crandall, Bombardier; Donald Robb, Radar Operator; Arthur Grimm, Flight Engineer; Gerald Gerber, Radio Operator; Joe English, Central Fire Control Gunner; Dean Allan, Left Gunner; Kenneth Russell, Right Gunner; "J" Lindroth Lundell, Tail Gunner.
Crew Training on the B-29
The B-29 Super Fortress was much different from the B-17s and B-24s of World War II. The airplane was designed with a remote control gunnery system rather than the hand-held guns of the B-17s and B-24s. Each gunner used a pedestal gun sight at his position. This gunnery system was extremely effective against the Japanese zeros in World War II. The airplane was divided into several compartments. The forward compartment housed the bombardier, two pilots, engineer, navigator and radio operator. In back of the compartment was the forward bomb bay with a three-foot round bulkhead door to the bomb bay. This door provided entry into the bomb bay to fuse bombs and an exit for bail-out in case of emergency. A tunnel ran from the forward compartment along the top of the aircraft to the gunner compartment. There was a bulkhead door opening to the rear bomb bay from the gunner's compartment. The C.F.C. (Central Fire Control) gunner sat on a 360-degree rotating chair in the middle of the compartment.
The left and right gunners sat on both sides of the C.F.C. gunner facing backwards to the direction of the aircraft. They had a large hemisphere window for a clear 180-degree view up and down, as well as forward and back. They also had an excellent view of the two engines on each side as well as flaps and landing gear. Immediately behind the gunners' compartment was the radar operator's table and chair. Behind that was a bulkhead leading to the rear entry and the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit). Beyond that was the lone tail gunner compartment with a door to seal his compartment when the airplane was pressurized. The unique thing about the B-29 was that it could be pressurized for high altitude flying. B-17s and B-27s did not have this capability. All crew members on those airplanes had to wear oxygen masks at altitudes, where we were very comfortable without masks in the B-29. We did decompress the airplane any time we were in a combat situation. I hope this gives you a feel for what the inside of the B-29 looked like.
All members of the crew had been previously trained for their position on the B-29 with the exception of the Aircraft Commander and the Co-pilot. Captain Funk and Lieutenant Sorensen had never flown a B-29. During the next month, August of 1951, a flight instructor began to teach Captain Funk and Lieutenant Sorensen how to fly the airplane. It required other crew members to be on board while they learned: the flight engineer, Sergeant Grimm, and two gunners, left and right, called scanners, to watch the engines, flaps and landing gear for the pilot.
I had already spent two weeks flying transition with the crew I was first assigned to, so when Ken and I began flying transition with Captain Funk and Lieutenant Sorensen, I gave Ken a heads up on what we were in for.
It was mid August in San Antonio and the temperature was 100 degrees plus. Needless to say, the inside of the airplane was nearly unbearable. There was no air condition system on the B-29. We opened all of the vents and the bulkhead door to the bomb bay to get some circulation of air where we were seated in the blisters of the airplane.
The pilots were learning how to take off and land the B-29, which was not as easy as the B-17 or the B-24s used in World War II. The curved windshield on the B-29 gave the pilot a different perspective of the runway than a flat windshield. Consequently, the first few landings were father rough and bouncy. For Ken and me in the back of the airplane, with the heat in excess of 100 degrees and the rough landings, it was difficult not to get air-sick. The other problem was no bathroom relief. One day when we couldn't hold it any longer, Ken and I went into the bomb bay to relieve ourselves, thinking the water would drain through the crack in the bomb bay doors. To our surprise, the air blowing through the crack in the doors blew the urine back up in our face. We didn't try that any more.
The transition for the pilots lasted for a month, with three engine takeoffs and all kinds of emergency procedures for pilots to learn about the B-29. Ken and I spent our time telling the pilots via intercom: "Gear up, sir." "Flaps at 25 degrees, sir." "Flaps full up, sir." On landing: "Gear full down, sir." "Flaps at 25 degrees, sir." "Flaps at 45 degrees full down, sir"--and then the jolt of a rough landing or the gentle squeal of a smooth landing. Once the pilots soloed in the B-29, they were then ready for the rest of the crew to come onboard and begin training with all of the crew involved in their specialty.
A Crew Comes Together
After the successful transition of the pilots to be able to fly this huge B-29 Super Fortress, the entire crew came together to fly their first training mission. It was the first of September 1951 and eleven men met in the front of a B-29 for their first flight together as a crew. Captain Funk introduced all of the crew to each other for our first time together. When you bring eleven different personalities together it is interesting to see how they bond and evaluate each other--especially where five are officers and six are enlisted men.
The four gunners bonded right from their first get-together and have remained very close friends to this day. It was apparent from the start that the flight engineer, Sergeant Grimm, would be difficult to blend with the gunners. The Radio Operator, Private Gerber, came from another planet. He would practice his Morse code with an electrical short to his radio in the barracks while the rest of us were trying to sleep. We called him "dit da, dit da, dity dum dum" because he was so irritating while practicing Morse code. This was a bit mean of us gunners, but we did it anyway.
One night at our barracks when Private Gerber had entertained us with his Morse code practice, he went into the bathroom to get ready for bed. Joe, Ken, "J" and I picked up his bedding, all of his clothes and foot locker, then moved them to a vacant spot on the other end of the barracks. We then quickly jumped into bed and played like we were asleep. Needless to say, when Private Gerber came out of the latrine he was very surprised. He asked us where his stuff was and we told him that we didn't know--we were asleep. After a lot of fuss he finally found his gear. Only nineteen and twenty-year old kids would do something like this to one of their crew members.
Captain Funk was the officer in charge and the Aircraft Commander, but very much the father figure for the younger enlisted men, as was Lt. Lee Reasor, the navigator, and Lieutenant Robb, the radar operator. Lieutenant Crandall was somewhat outspoken and let you know where he stood on any particular issue. He knew how to use the Norden bomb sight and was a very effective bombardier. Where Crandall was outspoken, Lt. Lee Reasor (Navigator) was very unassuming, friendly and easy to like, always willing to give words of encouragement and a smile to go with it. We all loved Lieutenant Reasor.
Lt. Bob Sorensen (Co-pilot) wished he was a fighter pilot rather than a heavy bomber co-pilot. He was fresh out of flight school and wanted his hands on the controls of the B-29. Unfortunately for Bob, Captain Funk did most of the flying. When Bob would get a turn at the controls he often tried a fighter approach to a landing or a takeoff. Bob was always full of energy and a very excellent writer of prose or poetry.
Lt. Donald Robb (Radar Operator) was very quiet and reserved. He was good friends with the gunners because his position was in the dark back room of the gunners' compartment. He was one of the best Radar Operators in the Air Force. Lieutenant Robb was well-versed in the outdoors and loved fly fishing. I found Lieutenant Robb as one of us and all of the gunners felt the same way about him. He was highly respected for his ability and sincere friendship.
Pvt. Joe English (Central Fire Control) gunner, was tall (6'2"), easy-going, and a friend to everyone. Joe and Dean became good friends when they lived in the same barracks at Lowry AFB and went through turret mechanics school and gunnery school. We all had great respect for Joe and his values, as well as his work ethic. It was easy to like Joe anytime, anywhere. Joe controlled the four 50 caliber machine guns in the forward upper turret and the two 50s in the rear upper turret. He could bring six 50s to bear on an enemy fighter.
Cpl. Dean Allan (Left Gunner) had a great love for flying airplanes and wanted to be a pilot, but had to settle for gunnery to be on an airplane. Dean enjoyed making new friends and this is how he and Joe English, as well as Jim Kinchi, pulled together back at Lowry AFB in their training schools. Dean loved athletics, football, basketball, track, tennis, and any kind of contest that was a challenge. He especially loved girls, especially a cute little girl in Springville, Utah named Jean Averett. He wrote to her every day, as she did the same for him. Mail call was very important each day!
Cpl. Kenneth Russell (Right Gunner) had control of one of the lower twin 50 caliber turrets while Dean had control of the other lower turret. These lower turrets could be shared by either left or right gunner. If the action switch was open on the right gunner's gun sight, the left gunner would have control of both lower turrets and the reverse was true for the right gunner. The right and left gunner could actually control the tail guns if the tail gunner was immobilized. Ken was a quiet and reserved member of the crew and took his right gunner position very seriously. Ken was close friends with Dean, as they were classmates at Springville High School in Utah and joined the Air Force together in January of 1951. Ken and Dean often double-dated with their girlfriends. Ken was dating Carma Clyde and Dean was dating Jean Averett. The co-pilot, Bob Sorensen, called Ken and Dean, the Bobbsey Twins because they were always doing things together.
Pvt. "J" Lindroth Lundell (tail gunner) was short and stocky, full of energy and laughs, and enjoyed life to the fullest. We called him "Short Round" because of his height. "J" had the responsibility of starting and stopping the A.P.U. before takeoff and before landing. The A.P.U. was a gasoline-powered engine in the back part of the airplane that supplied power to start the engines on the airplane and supply power to lower and raise the landing gar as well as the flaps. It took a lot of electrical energy to take care of those functions. "J" was very conscientious and responsible for his position. The heat supplied by the airplane to the different position was in short supply and by the time it got back to the tail gunner there wasn't much left.
The First Practice Mission
Early in September 1951 the crew flew their first practice mission. The crew met at a designated aircraft and Air Force protocol had the crew line up in front of the left wing with all of the needed gear laid out in front of them. Captain Funk then came down the line to inspect each crew member and their readiness to fly.
The crew lineup had a specific order: the air craft commander first, the co-pilot second, the navigator third, the bombardier fourth, the radar operator fifth, the flight engineer sixth, the radio operator seventh, the CFC gunner eighth, the left gunner ninth, the right gunner tenth, and tail gunner eleventh. Later on, while flying our combat missions over North Korea, the twelfth member was added to the crew. He was called an E.C.M. operator and his purpose was to jam the radar-operated anti-aircraft guns (88s) and the spotlights that were trained on our airplane as we went over the target.
Back to the training mission. After the crew lineup, we all loaded into the airplane and then went through an intercom check. The A/C checked with each crew member in order over the intercom. Engine start was next, starting number three engine, then number two, then number one, and finally number four. My job and Ken's was to tell the A/C that we were clear for taxi and watch the clearance of each wing tip as we moved from our parking area to the active runway. When we reached the end of the runway, the engineer went through an engine run-up for each engine, insuring that they were in good running order. The control tower would tell the A/C that he was clear for takeoff and we then rolled out to the end of the runway turning into the wind. All four engines were wound up to maximum power; then the pilots released the brakes and we began our takeoff roll. Once the airplane reached 120 mph, it started to fly.
One thing about B-29s--it was always nice to get them off the runway and into the air. There have been many that have crashed on takeoff. One of the crews in our squadron at Yakota A.F.B., flying their last combat mission, crashed on takeoff and only three of the eleven crew members lived to tell about it. During their takeoff, just as the airplane started to fly the number three engine caught fire. The crew immediately salvoed the bomb load (40 five-hundred pound bombs) and began to bail out of the burning craft. Their altitude was not high enough for all of their parachutes to open. Of the eleven men on board, three didn't get out and went down with the airplane. Five were killed because their parachutes didn't have time to open, and three were lucky enough to have their chute open just before impact. We took off right after this crew and flew over the burning wreckage. This is something that stays with you forever!
Once we were airborne we climbed to 20,000 feet and flew a simulated bomb run on Houston, Texas. We then headed for Omaha, Nebraska, and on the way we were attacked by P-51 fighters. All of us gunners had gun cameras on our gun sights and we shot at the P-51s with our sights and camera, which could be and was graded when we got back to Randolph. This was good practice for us. We then went to a bombing range in Kansas that had 500-foot circles for the bombardier to aim at with the Norden Bomb Sight. He dropped a 100-pound black powder bomb on the 500-foot circle and came very close to the center of the circle. All members of the crew were challenged during the mission at their particular position. These are the kinds of missions we flew for some three and a half months. We flew simulated bomb runs over most of the major cities in the U.S. during this training period.
Everyone was given a two-week leave at Christmas time with orders to report to Forbes A.F.B. in Topeka, Kansas on January 2, 1952, for combat crew training. Everyone left Randolph A.F.B. for Christmas with the family. For me, it was so good to be home with Mom, Dad, and especially to be with my sweetheart Jean, who I hadn't seen since our engagement.
Combat Training at Forbes AFB
Ken, "J", Gerber, and I left Salt Lake City on the train, January 2, 1952 for Topeka, Kansas and Forbes A.F.B. This base was the training center for all B-29 crews being sent to the Korean War.
While we traveled by train to Topeka, Kansas, we entertained ourselves with some cards, mostly pinochle. When they served us dinner in the dining car we put our dessert under the table so that we all got two desserts. The waiter just didn't notice!
The entire crew met together January 3, 1952 at a briefing room on Forbes A.F.B. The colonel giving the briefing informed all of the air crews present that they would be required to go through a ten-day survival training program at Camp Carson, Colorado. All crews were to fly out to Camp Carson on January 7th for the ten-day adventure.
That night after our briefing, some of the crews that had been through the survival training talked to us about their experiences. They let us know that it was one difficult ten days and that hunger and physical discomfort would play a major part. They suggested that we hide small packages of raisins and dried soup in our rolled up socks to help us get by. They said we would be given a Pemmican Bar for the 20-mile trek through the mountains around Pike's Peak and would be expected to live off the land and the Pemmican Bar for the entire trek. They would have ground troops looking for us the entire time and if they caught us two times, the entire crew had to go through the survival training again.
As we listened to these guys in our barracks that night, we decided we better prepare ourselves for the worst and hope for the best. The next day, Ken, Joe, "J" and I went to the PX and loaded up on 5-cent packages of raisins and packages of dried soup. We neatly folded these in our extra pair of socks as we packed to leave for Camp Carson, Colorado.
The entire crew was sent to the Medical Dispensary for immunization shots for the overseas duty. The Yellow Fever shot put me right in bed for a day with chills and fever. I was really sick! The other crew members didn't have the reaction that I had, lucky for them.
We left early on the morning of January 7, 1952 in a huge four-engine Globemaster for Camp Carson. there were ten crews of eleven men each. On board the Globemaster, we all had to wear ear plugs because of the noise inside the airplane.
When we arrived at Camp Carson the military bussed us up to a campground near Pike's Peak. Captain Funk divided the crew into groups of three, with one officer and two enlisted men in each group. Lieutenant Crandall had Gerber and Grimm assigned to him and Lieutenant Reasor had Joe and "J". Lieutenant Robb had Dean and Ken. Captain Funk and Lieutenant Sorensen made up the four groups of our crew.
Each group was given a double mummy sleeping bag, each person a Pemmican Bar, and one third of a parachute canopy with the nylon cords attached. Each crew was taught how to make a tent out of their parachute and how to make a pack out of the nylon cords to carry our sleeping bag and gear. Each crew was assigned an instructor who would follow along with the crew as they made their way across the mountains to a designated site for pick up at the end of the trek. The guy we had was not very personable.
Each crew was also given a 30-pound generator with two crank handles to use for our radio operator to send a report each night back to Headquarters. The generator was small, not much bigger than a 16-pound shot put, but, oh, what a bugger to carry on top of our pack. We all took turns carrying it for one hour at a time. Everyone dreaded their turn!
Before heading out on our trek, they had all crews attempt an emergency front line penetration. They had armed guards posted along a valley to prevent anyone from going to the other side. It was our challenge to cross the line and not get caught. If we were caught, the guards would take us to an interrogation tent where professional interrogators worked them over. Each of us was given a fictitious airplane and target, and the interrogators would try to get that information out of us if we were caught.
The snow was a foot deep in the valley and there were pine trees for us to hide in on each side of the valley where the guards were marching back and forth. Ken and I went halfway down the valley keeping hidden in the trees, and watched several guys cross and some get caught. One guy just took off running across the bottom of the valley with the guards after him in hot pursuit. They had blanks in their rifles and they were firing at the guy as he ran across the bottom. They caught him and hauled him up to the interrogation tent.
We decided, after watching for awhile, that we would wait until the guard was practically to the place where he turned around, then we would crawl on our bellies through the snow to a patch of willows that would hide us from the guard until we got into the trees on the other side of the valley. It worked to perfection, although we did get a bit wet and cold.
After making our penetration of the enemy line, they let us watch an interrogation of one of the guys that was caught. I could hardly believe what I was watching. The interrogators had the guy so frustrated and upset he was crying and gave them all the information they wanted to know. It was very eye-opening and they let us know that if we were shot down over North Korea and taken prisoner, the interrogators would know our girlfriend's name and address, as well as our family name and address, and would tell us that they would be harmed if we failed to tell them what they wanted to know about our mission and organization. This was an interesting learning experience for all of us. So ended the penetration of enemy lines.
The next day our crew headed out on our 20-mile trek across the Pike's Peak, Colorado mountains. We all crawled out of our homemade tents the next morning to Lieutenant Crandall's call to rise and shout and Boy Scout the fires (which meant to pee on the fire). Captain Funk led the way with all ten of the crew following behind. They had given each crew member a map of the area and the location of our destination and pickup point some 20 miles west through the Pike's Peak mountain range. The instructor who would grade us followed several yards behind.
We walked most of the day through heavy pine trees and finally stopped for camp well before dark. It was a dry camp, no fresh water available except what we had in our canteens. Each group built their own separate campfire and prepared their evening meal of pemmican. (YUK!) We put up our parachute panels for our tent, laid out our sleeping bags on pine boughs to keep them off the snow, and hit the sack.
When we woke up the next morning we could smell bacon and eggs cooking. Our instructor was cooking a first-class breakfast for himself while we were preparing a piece of our pemmican bar for our breakfast. Pemmican is an Indian concoction of mutton tallow and a little ground meat. Needless to say, hunger began to be a big part of our experience.
We broke camp and headed down a long ridge toward the bottom of a canyon that had a creek running through it. We were all out of water and were anxious to fill our canteens. As we got closer to the bottom of the canyon, we could hear trucks coming down the road to the bottom of the canyon. After scouting the situation, we decided we would cross the road one at a time immediately after a truck went by. The creek had a lot of willows along its banks, and we figured if we could get into the willows we could fill our canteens without anyone seeing us. The trucks were full of army personnel and they were posting guards up and down the canyon, looking to capture air crews that were on their trek headed out west.
All of our crew crossed the road and hid in the willows, filling our canteens with fresh water. We had to break ice to get water in our canteens. Just then a truck came down the road and stopped just above the creek where we were hiding. Several army guards with rifles got out of the back of the truck and we could hear them say, "This is where we saw them cross. Everybody check the willows along the creek."
We were laying flat on our stomachs on the ice and were well-hidden, but when they walked into the willows they easily spotted us, put their guns in our backs, and marched us up to the back of the truck. They took our names and then let us go. Normally we would have been taken to a C.P. (control point) for interrogation, but the army didn't have their C.P. set up yet. If we were caught again we would have to go through the experience one more time. We didn't want that to happen!
We left the bottom of the canyon and headed up a long ridge toward our destination. After hiking most of the day we found a campsite in the heavy pine where we could build a fire without the enemy finding us. Don Robb, our Radar operator, set up a snare along a game trail in hopes of catching some game for dinner. Lo and behold, later that evening, Robb came into camp with a cottontail rabbit. He skinned it and gave each crew member a piece of the rabbit. I got a piece of the leg and promptly put it in a Billy Can with some water and cooked it over the campfire. After boiling it for several minutes I had the best rabbit soup you could ever taste! Everyone enjoyed the dinner that evening thanks to Robb and his snare.
That evening while we were setting up camp, "J" (Short Round) climbed a peak close to camp and gave an Indian war hoop from the top of the peak. We all decided "J" the tail gunner was tough as a billy goat. To hike all day and then go climb a peak before dark was too much!
The next morning after breaking camp we were hiking up a long sloping ridge when one of the crew spotted an army guard coming up the trail behind us. We all scattered in different directions to avoid being caught. Ken and I went down a steep draw into the bottom of an adjacent canyon and hid up for an hour or so hoping the guard wouldn't find us or the rest of the crew. When we went back to find the rest of the crew, there was no one in sight. We went back to the bottom of the canyon and sat down to eat three or four raisins for lunch and talk over our situation. We checked our map and decided the direction we were headed was the way to go. So we struck out on our own and were thankful we wouldn't be taking our turn with the beastly generator.
By now we were suffering with diarrhea and we had to be quick in releasing our pack when the prompting came. We found a camp site that evening and set up our tent just as it began to snow. The dried soup we had put in our socks saved our lives, as well as the nickel pack of raisins. The mummy sleeping bags putting one inside the other kept us warm at night even though it would get very cold and on this particular evening we had a heavy snow storm. The parachute panels made a surprisingly good tent.
Ken and I took turns leaving the tent several times in the night with diarrhea problems. The next day we hiked through a valley and paused at a ranch house. We were tempted to go knock on the door and ask for a bite to eat, but we didn't. We could tell from our map that we were close to "Sailor Park" our pick-up point. We proceeded up the road into the camp ground and found the rest of our crew. They were glad to see us, thinking we were lost somewhere in the Pike's Peak wilderness.
An Army six-by-six drove up and we loaded in the back of the truck and headed back to Camp Carson for a shower and a good meal. When we went to the mess hall they had a great meal for us, but we were so dehydrated and had gone so long without food that it made us sick to eat so much good food. Steak and potatoes, rolls, cherry pie and we were sick.
After completing our survival training our crew did a lot of flying from January through March 1952. When we were not flying the individual positions on the crew we were given specialized training for our particular job. Ken, Joe, "J" and I were sent to a disbanded A.F.B., Smoky Hill, in Northern Kansas for live gunnery practice. They flew 15-foot drones that we would shoot at with twin 50 caliber machine guns each time they flew past us. When we shot the single engine drone a parachute would pop out and let the little airplane drone drop to the ground without destroying it. We were having trouble hitting the drones, so I decided to lead them like you have to do when shooting pheasants and ducks. I shot two of them down by leading the drone several feet before firing. The gunnery instructor came over to me and said, "Allan, you're through for the day."
Intensive training for combat included many simulated bomb runs and long navigation missions up to 14 hours long. Gunners used gun cameras, as fighters would attack our airplane any time we flew near Air Force bases that had fighters. Most of them were P-51s and F-80s.
One mission we flew to South America, and on our way back to the States we made a crash descent to 500 feet from an altitude of 25,000 feet. The purpose was to try and penetrate U.S. air defense along the Caribbean coast line. When the pilot cut the power and we started a steep dive to lose altitude, the aircraft lost pressurization. "J" Lundell was sitting in the gunnery well with Ken and all of a sudden he fell over, unconscious from lack of oxygen. We quickly placed an oxygen mask on him and he came right back up to the sitting position. He didn't know that he had blacked out. That is what a lack of oxygen can do for you!
Yakota AFB Next Assignment
Our crew had trained for nearly three months at Forbes A.F.B. in Topeka, Kansas to prepare for combat over North Korea. We had gone through survival training, long training missions, gunnery practice, radar and visual bomb runs--you name it and they had put us through it.
The crew received orders to fly a new B-29 from Travis A.F.B. in California to Yakota A.F.B. in Japan. We were all given a week's leave to get to Camp Stoneman in the San Francisco Bay area for clearance to overseas duty. Captain Funk and his family were driving from Kansas to Ferron, Utah, and they invited me to ride with them and share in the driving. We left Topeka and Forbes A.F.B. in mid March and promptly ran into a Midwest blizzard. The main highway to Denver was closed due to major snow drifts, so we headed south and found a highway open going west. It was a wild day of driving going from Topeka to Denver. The road had been plowed, but it was like going through a tunnel of snow in many places. Snow drifts got large out in the Midwest when it snowed, and they always had wind to enhance the problem.
It took us two days to get to Price, Utah, where Captain Funk let me out with my duffle bag and B-4 bag. They went on to Ferron, Utah, just south of Price, and I put my thumb out and caught a ride to Mapleton. The man that picked me up gave me a ride to 1600 South, the Lindsey Corner in Mapleton, three-quarters of a mile from home. Elmer Wiscomb gave me a ride from the highway to home. On the way he said, "Dean, I thought you just left!" Little did he know that I felt like I had been away from home for a long, long time.
Mom, Dad, David and Jeanne were glad to see me and I was equally glad to see them. I immediately called my sweetheart, Jean Averett, and told her I would be down to see her in ten minutes. It was so good to hold her in my arms again! We hadn't seen each other for three months, but had been writing each other every day.
After spending a couple days at home with the family and my sweetheart, Mom and Dad decided they would drive me to Camp Stoneman and make a vacation out of it. I asked Jean if she would go with us and she was excited to go. We left the next day and drove to Bakersfield, California, where Uncle Kenny Allan and Aunt Dorothy lived. We spent the day there and then drove back to Oakland, where my Aunt Bernice lived. We stayed overnight there and then the next day they took me to Camp Stoneman, where we said our goodbyes.
It was extremely hard to leave my parents and especially my bride-to-be. Jean and I had decided that we would get married in the Salt Lake Temple when I returned from overseas, so we departed with tears in our eyes in hopes everything would be alright and we would see each other in six or seven months. I really enjoyed the few days Jean and I had together and appreciated her taking time out of school to be with me. She was my sweetheart and I couldn't wait to get this tour of duty over with and get back to her and our life together.
Our crew went through physicals and final checks at Camp Stoneman before overseas duty was cleared. We were then bussed to Travis A.F.B. where we were to pick up a new B-29 to fly to our new base in Yakota, Japan. When we got to Travis A.F.B. they put us up in guest barracks and let us know that we would do a test flight the next day of our airplane to make sure everything was in top condition. The next morning our crew went out to the flight line and did our regular pre-flight inspection of a brand new B-29. After pre-flight and crew inspection, we boarded the aircraft and taxied out for takeoff. We left Travis A.F.B. and flew around the San Francisco area. Captain Funk climbed the airplane to 35,000 feet and all aspects of the airplane were checked by the crew members to make sure everything was in good working order before we flew it to Japan.
After five hours of flying around the bay area we landed back at Travis A.F.B. and concluded that the B-29 was ready to go to war. The plan was to leave the next day for Hawaii and Hickam Field. Captain Funk had decided to change Radio Operators before we left for overseas. Jerry Cox was the replacement for Gerber. It was decided that Private Gerber was not ready for the rigors of combat.
It was April 4, 1952 when we began our journey, leaving Travis A.F.B. California for Hawaii, the first leg of our trip. We took off late in the evening and waved goodbye to the Golden Gate Bridge and the U.S.A. After flying two or three hours, the pilot tried to radio the communications ship that was stationed halfway between the mainland and Hawaii, but got no reception. After several tries it was concluded that the radio on the aircraft was faulty and we should return to Travis A.F.B. to get it replaced. As we flew back toward the U.S., two F-89 fighters pulled up alongside of us and wanted to know who we were. They were Air Defense and we had no radio to talk to them. Ken and I used our Aldis Lamps (a spotlight) to signal to them, but they stayed right with us until we landed back at Travis A.F.B. This caused us to be delayed two more days while they replaced the radio system in our airplane.
April 6, 1952 we took off from Travis A.F.B. a second time for Hawaii. This time everything worked fine and we arrived at Hickam Field without any problems. We had a great view of Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor on our way into landing. After landing and taxiing into our parking spot, it was determined that the number three engines needed some major work before we could fly our next leg to Kwajalein. The mechanics said it would take three days to repair the engine. The military at Hickam A.F.B. loaded us into a bus and took us to our barracks where we would live for the next three days.
Needless to say, we were not disappointed to spend three days in Hawaii. The gunners got together and rented a car so we could tour the island. We went to Waikiki Beach to swim in the ocean. We went to the Coconut Groves, the Blow Hole, and then swimming in Waimea Falls. We toured the entire island in the three days that we were there and had a great time. One experience that we had while at Hawaii was going to Pearl Harbor and seeing the sunken ship Arizona and knowing the many men who are entombed in that ship underneath the water. It was a sobering experience.
While we were there the Navy was about to take a P-T boat out for a test run and they asked Joe, Ken, "J" and me if we would like to go. We all said, "Sure", and jumped on the boat for the test run. They went out of Pearl Harbor to the ocean and spent about an hour touring the coastline of Oahu, Hawaii. All of us really enjoyed that experience. One of those memories you never forget.
On the morning of the 10th of April we got ready to fly the next leg of our flight to Kwajalein Island, an ink spot out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This is one of the islands our Marines captured from the Japanese during World War II. There were two B-26s parked on the ramp next to our B-29 and the pilots talked to Captain Funk and asked if they could follow us to Kwajalein and Guam. They had more confidence in our navigator, Lieutenant Reasor, than themselves. Of course we invited them to follow us. Some ten and a half hours later we arrived at the island of Kwajalein. We all applauded our navigator for finding this little piece of dirt out in the middle of the Pacific. The island is just big enough for a good runway. You could nearly throw a rock from one side of the island to the other. Needless to say, the B-26 pilots were glad to be with us.
We had an engine problem again and had to spend three days at Kwajalein. This island wasn't as exciting as Hawaii. Ken and I walked to the east end of the island to check out the large waves we could see breaking on that end. We started to wade out through the shallow water and found it was cutting our feet, so we started to swim and walk with our hands. We soon determined that we were crossing a coral reef and it was not a good place to swim. It was sharp and cut our feet. (Ken and I both have coral sores on our feet to this day.) We paddled back to shore and decided that was a bad idea. When we got back to our mess hall, one of the guys there told us that we shouldn't go swimming because there were sharks all around the island. Ken and I looked at each other as if to say, "What were we doing?" After dinner we took a loaf of bread out to the beach and threw a large chunk into the ocean. We could hardly believe our eyes when a huge shark grabbed that piece of bread almost before it hit the water. No swimming was a good idea there!
On the morning of April 13, 1952, we left Kwajalein for the island of Guam. The Pacific Ocean is a very "Big Pond"". We flew over several small atolls where no one lived and where the hydrogen bomb was tested. Seven hours later we landed at Anderson A.F.B. Guam (a U.S. territory). We had engine problems again and spent three days at Anderson A.F.B. There was not a lot to do there. We did see some of the damage and remnants from World War II when G.I.'s took this island back from the Japanese.
We left Guam on the 16th of April 1952 and headed for Japan and Yakota A.F.B. On the way we flew over Iwo Jima and I was able to get pictures of that infamous island. As we flew over Iwo Jima I couldn't help thinking of the tremendous sacrifice of our American soldiers when they took this island during World War II. Thousands of our young men were killed on this volcanic rock to secure a place for B-29s that were in trouble on their way back from bombing Japan--a lot of history there that we should never forget!
It took us about eight hours to fly from Guam to Yakota A.F.B., about thirty miles west of Tokyo. When we landed at Yakota they loaded us in a six-by truck and took all of us and our baggage to our quarters. We, the enlisted men, were dropped off at a Quonset hut, a half metal cylinder that would keep us out of the rain. It wasn't the best quarters, but not bad. We checked out our building, hung up our clothes, filled our foot lockers, and then went to the mess hall for chow. The food was really good. The next day we checked into the 345th Squadron ready room with the rest of the crew. We were now part of the 98th Bomb Wing, which had three squadrons of B-29s and their crews (343rd, 344th, and 345th).
Our crew had thought that we would get the airplane we flew over from the States, but that was not to be. We were assigned to an older B-29 named "Trouble Brewer". It's interesting to note that the new B-29 we flew to Yakota was assigned to another crew. On their first takeoff to check out the airplane, they had a runaway propeller and the airplane veered off the runway, went through a ditch, and bent the air frame. It sat on the sideline for a couple of months. It never was flown in combat and was finally flown back to the States. When our crew finished our combat tour and was assigned to Barksdale A.F.B. in Louisiana, we found this same airplane on the flight line.
It was April 15, 1952 when we arrived at Yakota and it would be a couple of weeks before we would fly again. We spent our time getting settled in to our new base and airplane. We went to several training meetings and found out that each one of us needed a bicycle to get around the base and out to the flight line where our airplane was parked. When crews had their 25 missions in and left for the States, they put their bicycles up for sale. I was able to buy a good bicycle for 15 dollars. Ken, Joe and "J" Lundell found good buys as well. The officers were transported to the flight line by Jeep or truck, so their need for a bicycle was not too great. We had some time on our hands the first couple of weeks so we went into the little town of Fussa that was close to the base to see what was going on in this little Japanese village. They had several small shops with trinkets for sale, but the smell of meat, fish, and chicken hanging out in the open was a bit hard to take.
We were told by the old air crews to ride the train into Tachikawa if we wanted to find good shopping. On our next time off base we caught the train into Tachikawa and had a good time shopping. We always figured we had to bargain with the shop owner until we could get the item for half of what the shop owner was asking. The Japanese love to dicker and bargain. If we made an offer and they thought it was too low, they would say, "No chop chop, G.I." If we went to leave the shop, they often would follow us out the door and say, "Okay G.I. dijobe, sell to you." We bought all kinds of stuff, but one of the big things were sets of China. They had beautiful sets of China (Noritaki) for 35 dollars a set. I sent sets home to Jean and Mom and my sister Beverly.
The Reality of Flying Combat
We met our crew chief, Sergeant Snyder, early on when we found out our airplane was "Trouble Brewer". The crew chief took care of all the maintenance of the aircraft and made sure all four engines were in top condition. Needless to say, this was a vital part of flying any mission. We soon found that Sergeant Snyder was one of the best crew chiefs and gave our crew a lot of confidence in the reliability of our aircraft when we were flying a mission.
Between May 5 and May 23 we flew seven training missions. Most of that flying was to acquaint the crew with the new bombing method of "SHORAN". This method of bombing a target involved following a radio arc to the target. It took great coordination between the pilot and the radar operator to get the bombs on the target. Visual bombing would only happen on daylight missions when the bombardier would use the "Norden Bomb Sight" to drop the bombs. We only flew one daylight mission. All the other missions were flown at night to avoid the Russian-built MiG-15 fighter aircraft.
As a crew we went out to the flight line and watched crews take off for their missions to North Korea. Before we flew a combat mission, we could tell that takeoff was going to be a frightening experience. As we watched other crews leave, we could see that they were using almost every foot of the 7000 foot runway. The reason for concern about takeoff was because each B-29 had ten tons of bombs on board plus 6,5000 gallons of high Octane fuel and twelve fifty caliber machine guns with 500 rounds per gun. If you add all this up plus the weight of the airplane, you're asking seventy tons to start flying after a 7000-foot run. Standing on the sidelines watching this take place made us wonder if we really wanted to be a part of this kind of danger. We knew our turn was coming very soon.
Our first couple of missions were on the front lines along the 38th parallel in Korea. We were told in our briefing that a radar controller on the ground would vector us to a particular target and tell us how many 500-pound bombs to drop each time. He also cautioned the pilot to get the proper code word just prior to the bomb release. The North Koreans were clever in intercepting the radio message from the ground to the airplane and would use perfect English to try and vector the bomb drop on our own troops; thus the reason for a special code word prior to bomb release.
The two days before we flew a mission were always very busy. The four gunners on the crew, including me, would get up early and go to mess for breakfast, then ride our bicycles to the flight line and across the active runway to our airplane. We checked our 50 caliber machine guns and loaded the cans that supplied 500 rounds to each gun. While we were doing that, the ordnance people were loading forty 500-pound bombs in the two bomb bays. The fuel crew came by and loaded 80 gallons of oil for each engine and 6500 gallons of high octane fuel in the wing tanks. Each crew member had specific things they had to check and prepare for the upcoming mission. One of the things that was important to the gunners was to clean the windows and blisters at each position. We would make sure they were spotless inside and out.
The day of the mission was a little more relaxed. We tried to get a few hours of rest, knowing that we would be flying most of the night. The squadron had us wear night vision glasses so that when we got over the target we could see objects in the dark much better. We went to chow in the early afternoon and had a good dinner. (The food was excellent while we were at Yakota A.F.B.) After dinner the entire crew met at the Squadron Briefing Room with eight other crews to get the low-down as to what our target would be, what the weather would be like en route and over the target, what we could expect as far as flak and enemy fighters, and the call sign we would use when we went over the I.P. (The I.P. is the initial point where we started our bomb run down the arc.) Our call signs were words like "Shelter 45" or "Tango 1", "Lefty 48", "Silver 125", and so on. Our altitudes were staggered from 30,000 feet for the first airplane over the I.P. to 33,000 feet for the second airplane, then 32,000 feet for the third airplane, and so on. This way we could keep the enemy guessing as they fired their German 88s at us. There would be a three-minute interval between each aircraft over the I.P. After our briefing we loaded in a six-by truck and they hauled us out to our aircraft. Our first duty was to go through a crew line up in front of the lift wing of "Trouble Brewer". Captain Funk addressed each crew member to see that they had a parachute, flak vest, 45 pistol, one-man dingy, survival suit, and flak helmet.
I need to say at this point in the story that our Flight Engineer, Arthur Grimm, was taken off the crew just after we arrived at Yakota. Captain Funk replaced him with Alex Justice, a Master Sergeant and a big Texan, six foot two and a good 240 pounds. Justice had flown several missions already and agreed to fly twenty-five more with our crew. He was a great addition to our crew and we were pleased to have him. There was quite a bit of friction between the gunners, Joe, Ken, "J" and me with Sergeant Grimm. The officers on the crew didn't get along with him that well either.
Back to our mission. After the crew inspection we proceeded to load into the airplane. There were two base chaplains, a Catholic and a Protestant, that came by as we were boarding to wish us luck and a safe return. We appreciated their blessing. After engine start we proceeded to get in line with eight other B-29s and taxi toward the end of the runway. My position and Ken's position had a great view of the outside world. Our blister gave us a 180-degree view horizontally and vertically as well as observing the two engines on each side of the airplane, gear and flaps. As we taxied out for our first mission, I couldn't help but notice how the tires were so compressed with the load of 70 tons on them.
We were third in line for takeoff and the control tower was starting each B-29 at three-minute intervals. All of us on the crew were able to hear the communication from the tower to the pilot. When we heard the control tower say, "Shelter 45 prepare for takeoff" and the airplane turned off the taxi way to the very end of the runway and powered up all four engines to maximum power, we knew we were on our way to our first combat mission. Ken and I confirmed the flap position to the pilot by saying, "A/C left flap at 25 degrees, sir." Ken would repeat the same for the right side.
The control tower said, "Shelter 45 begin your roll." We started out very slow and as I observed the landing gear on my side of the airplane, I could see the tires come up from their compressed look as we gained speed down the runway. Taking off with a loaded airplane was much different than a takeoff with an unloaded B-29. I anxiously watched the runway pass quickly by and we were still solid on the ground. Finally as we neared the end of the runway, we began to fly. The pilot had used nearly all of the 7000 feet of runway available.
We slowly gained altitude and flew south to the ocean, then west several miles before cutting across Japan to the Sea of Japan and our destination, North Korea. Halfway between Japan and Korea there was a location designated for the gunners to test fire their machine guns. The A/C gave us the okay to fire our guns and all were in working order. We just fired a short burst from each turret.
We left Yakota A.F.B. at 7:00 p.m., 1900 hours military time, and when we tested our machine guns it was now 9:00 p.m., or 2100 hours. An hour later we entered into North Korea and listened to the pilot make radio contact with the ground controller as he gave us directions for our first bomb drop along the front lines of the 38th parallel.
The Ground Controller gave us a vector and asked for us to drop 15 of our 500-pound bombs on the first drop. The bombardier opened the bomb bay doors and prepared for the drop. The radar operator gave the pilot directions to the target and just prior to bomb release the pilot asked for the ground controller to give the code word to authenticate the drop. The ground controller said, "Mickey Mouse two" so we knew it was not a North Korean giving us direction and the bombardier released fifteen 500-pound bombs. Ken and I were able to watch the bombs leave the aircraft, and not long after they left we watched them explode along the enemy front line. The ground controller confirmed our strike, thanked us, then gave us a new vector with a different heading. This time he asked us to release ten bombs on this heading and the last vector he asked us to release the remaining fifteen bombs. As the bombs left the airplane, the lighter loads made the B-29 rise up several hundred feet.
Ken and I had a good view of the action along the front lines with our ground troops and the North Korean Army. We could see artillery fire and spotlights that were used by our troops to try and see enemy targets. The North Koreans fired 20mm at us, but it would only come up halfway to our altitude. Fortunately they didn't have their German 88s to fire at us on the front lines.
We left the front line area and proceeded east out over the Sea of Japan and home. The engineer throttled back the engines for slow cruise and efficient fuel conservation and the pilot began a slow decent for the coast of Japan. The tail gunner left his post and came up to our compartment to warm himself up. It was now 1:00 a.m. or 100 hours and it would be hard to find anyone awake on the airplane. We had been in the air six hours and everyone was dead tired. We had one more hour before we would be back in the landing pattern at Yakota.
It seemed like our approach and landing at Yakota from most every mission was cloudy and often foggy. G.C.A. (Ground Control Approach) picked us up as we entered the landing pattern. Those of us in the back of the airplane could hear the G.C.A. operator talk the pilot down to the runway for his landing. He would tell the pilot that he didn't need to acknowledge further transmissions and would say, "Bring your aircraft left. You're now on center line. Bring your aircraft up. You're now on center line." And he would continue this conversation with the pilot as he flew the airplane down the flight path. It was Ken's and my job to confirm with the pilot that left and right flaps were at 45 degrees for landing and that the gear were full down. When our airplane passed over the fence, the G.C.A. operator told the pilot to take over his aircraft and land. Hopefully we were over the end of the runway and the pilot had a good full view of the runway.
We would taxi back to our hard stand and shut all four engines down, then we loaded into a six-by truck and went back to operations for a de-briefing. Two officers met our crew in a private room and let each one of us tell what we saw and observed during the mission. They recorded everything we had to say and had liquor available for any of us that would like to drink. I think that was to loosen us up so they could get as much information as possible out of us. I don't think any of our crew tried the liquor. After our interrogation we went to the mess hall for breakfast. The cooks let us have whatever we wanted: eggs, toast, bacon, fruit, juice, and whatever else we like. Air crews were treated very well when it came to grub.
After eating we went back to our little Quonset hut and sacked out. It was now 4:00 a.m. or 4000 hours. All of us were dead tired and sleep came quickly. Most of us slept until noon, then went to the mess hall for dinner. After dinner we went back out to our airplane to do a Post Flight where we cleaned and checked our guns and made sure everything was in good order for the next time we flew. The ground crew were going over all four engines to correct any mechanical problems. This concluded our first combat mission flown on May 25, 1952.
Each day we would all check the blackboard in the Operations Room to see if our crew was on the board scheduled to fly the next mission. Our next mission came on May 31 (call sign "Apricot 69"), then June 3 our third mission (call sign "Sonny boy 28"), bombing a bridge. Our fourth mission was June 9 (call sign "Good Book 45"). Our target was the Huichon Rail Bridge. The fifth mission was the Huichon Rail Bridge again on June 12 (call sign "Paper doll 32"). The sixth mission was June 15 (call sign was "King Cole 49") and we dropped 40 five-hundred-pounders on "Sing Hung Dong RR Bridge." This was our first mission with spotlights and heavy flak. The seventh mission was on June 17, 1952 with our call sign, "War River 50." The target was Chinnampo marshalling yard. June 19 was our eighth mission (call sign "Lefty 38P). The target was the Huichon RR Bridge again, flak but no spotlights.
June 24 was our ninth mission and we called this a "milk run" because it was a "Primer Mission" where we dropped on the front lines. Our call sign was "Hopscotch 53." We took off at 1830 hours from Yakota (6:30 p.m.) with forty 500-pound bombs. We arrived over the front lines along the 38th parallel of Korea at 2230 hours. The pilot got directions from the ground controller for our first drop. He requested five bombs on our first drop. After dropping five bombs, the ground controller called for ten bombs on the next target. When the pilot asked for the code word just before the drop, he couldn't give it to us so we aborted the drop. The controller then gave us another vector to a new target. This time we dropped 15 bombs. We now had 20 still on board. The controller gave us another vector and when we were about ready to drop the controller couldn't give us the proper code word, so we didn't drop again. We had been over the front lines for over an hour and we needed to head back home for lack of fuel. The controller told us to go north of the front lines and drop our remaining bomb load on a target of opportunity. The bombardier zeroed in on a light and salvoed the remaining bomb load. We then headed for home across the Sea of Japan. It was now 2400 hours or 12:00 midnight.
When we approached Yakota A.F.B., we were told that weather conditions made it impossible for us to land because of dense fog. We were directed to go to Haneida airport in Tokyo to land. When we got there they informed us that we couldn't land because of dense fog and to fly south looking for an open air field to land at. The pilot found a fighter base in Southern Japan that was open. They had light rain but plenty of visibility for landing. The base we were going to land at was Ashiya, a fighter base with a 6000 foot runway. We had been flying for more than ten hours and we were just about out of fuel. The flight engineer informed Captain Funk that we would have to land on our first try because there was not enough fuel to go around and make another attempt.
As we approached the field to land, the wing flaps were set at 25 degrees rather than the usual 45 degrees. Those of us in the gunner's compartment saw a lot of runway pass before the main gear touched the runway, then we saw steel matting pass underneath us, which caused us great concern. Wham!! The aircraft came to a sudden stop with everything loose on the floor boards flying at us in the gunner's compartment. Ken, Joe, and I sat stunned for a moment, then hearing a hissing sound, we jumped up and all three of us said, "Let's get the hell out of here." We proceeded to the radar compartment where we found all of the floor boards were up exposing the electrical amplidines and other equipment that lies beneath the floor of the airplane. In among this mess we found Lundell and Robb. Ken, Joe and I picked them up out of the debris, and helped them through the bulkhead door to the back door of the airplane. All of us were very anxious to get out of the airplane because we could still hear the hissing sound and we thought the airplane was ready to explode. When we opened the back door to get out we found we were ten feet above a roadway. We said never mind the height, jump! We all jumped out of the aircraft. Joe, Ken, "J", Robb and I ran out across the field away from the airplane. This took all of about 30 seconds. As we looked back at the airplane, we could see the propellers bent back around the engine nacelle and heat rising from the engines. On top of the wing was a rubber raft filling with air and apparently was the hissing sound we could hear.
All five of us ran around to the front of the airplane to see how the guys faired up front. The bombardier, Lieutenant Crandall, had both feet go through the plexi-glass in the nose of the aircraft and consequently broke the bones in his feet and ankles. The pilot, co-pilot, navigator, engineer, radio operator and bombardier all escaped through the engineer's window. Justice, the flight engineer, hurt his back, but other than that the rest of us got out without any severe injury.
As we walked around the crash, it was easy to see that the twelfth man, our guardian angel, was with us today. Our airplane had run into a dug way at the end of the main runway and the landing gear as well as the four engine propellers had stopped us from going over a 500-foot embankment. Had the airplane gone over the embankment, it would have surely killed all on board. A big thanks to our angel!
Fire trucks and ambulances quickly got to the scene of the crash and took Lieutenant Crandall and Sergeant Justice to the hospital. They checked the rest of us for injury, then found us quarters to clean up and rest. Captain Funk came to us gunners and asked us to go back out to the airplane and take the flash suppressers off all of the machine guns. They were a top secret piece of equipment and screw onto the end of each barrel to prevent gun fire flash. While we were taking the flash suppressers off, Joe checked the fuel tanks on the airplane and found them all nearly dry. We would not have been able to go around the pattern one more time for a second landing attempt.
I had my Argus C-3 camera with me so I took four pictures of the crash. An air police officer came up to me and said, "Give me your camera. You cannot take photographs here." I turned to him and said, "I was on that airplane and I want these pictures to show what this crew went through." He turned around and said no more to me.
The Red Cross gave us a toothbrush and a razor for our evening toiletries, then we went to chow. Captain Funk informed us that Yakota was sending a C-47 down to pick us up and take us back to our home base the next morning. We stayed overnight at Ashiya A.F.B. and left the next morning on a C-47 for Yakota A.F.B. Lieutenant Crandall was kept in the hospital and was going to be rotated back to the U.S. as soon as he could travel.
When we got back to Yakota it was June 26 and our crew needed a bombardier and a flight engineer. Lieutenant Crandall had broken ankles and Justice had a hurt back and figured he had flown enough missions to still be alive. Captain Funk was grounded due to an investigation of the accident. It was determined that the flaps should have been at 45 degrees rather than 25 degrees for the landing. So now we needed a new aircraft commander. The wing commander, Colonel Palister, assigned Lieutenant Kinnard as our new aircraft commander, Lieutenant Zitano as our bombardier, and Sergeant Eversall as the new flight engineer.
It was July 13, 1952 before we flew another combat mission. Needless to say, we needed an airplane and they flew a new one in from the States. We got together as a crew and decided to name our airplane "Police Action" because they called this war with Korea a United Nations Police Action. We hired a Japanese painter to paint a pretty young lady on the front of our airplane. She wore a bolero and had a six gun on her hip. This airplane was a great airplane and had the best-looking picture and name in the 98th Bomb Wing. Our entire crew was unanimous about that! We flew a local test flight with our new B-29 and then got ready to get back in the rotation of flying combat. We were all very impressed with Lieutenant Kinnard and his ability to fly the B-29. He was one excellent pilot, for sure. Lieutenant Zitano and Sergeant Eversall fit right into our crew.
On July 13, 1952, we flew our tenth combat mission. Our call sign was "Silver 42" and our target was the "Kowan Marshalling Yards." We had flak and searchlights on this mission. There were no hits on our aircraft, thank goodness! On July 19 we flew our 11th mission (call sign "Hopscotch 66") against the Chosen Hydroelectric Plant. July 25 we flew our 12th mission (call sign was "Island 28") against Kowan Marshalling Yards. July 30 we flew our 13th mission (call sign was "Saloon 22") against the "Yangsi-Oriental Light Metals Plant". Heavy flak and spotlights. Not a fun mission! August 1 was our 14th mission (call sign "Gunner 11") against "Huichon Marshalling Yards". Some flak and no spotlights. August 6 was our 15th mission (call sign "King Cole 28") against the "Singosan Marshalling Yards." No flak or lights. Our 16th mission was August 9 against the "Pyongyang Supply Area" (call sign was "Silver 59"). August 18 was our 17th mission and our crew was assigned wing lead, so we were first over the target. This target was tough, with a lot of flak and spotlights. We went over the target without dropping our bombs to check the weather and then radio the other airplanes of our wing that it was okay. We then turned around and made a second run on the "Nakowan Munitions Factory." They had reloaded their German 88s and got to shoot at us a second time. We all thought we should get credit for two missions because we went over the target twice. No suck luck. Our call sign for this mission was "Phantom 125." Our 18th mission was on August 21 against the "Hamhung Supply Area" and our call sign was "Smokey Stover 15."
On this mission, after dropping our bombs, Joe, Ken and I always turn the light on in the rear bomb bay to see that all of the bombs had left the airplane. To our surprise, there were three bombs that hadn't dropped. When we got out over the Sea of Japan and radar couldn't see anything below us, Ken, Joe and I had the bombardier open the rear bomb bay doors, then we went out on the narrow catwalk to release the bombs from their shackles. It took a screwdriver to trip the bomb release. This was a very dangerous operation with bomb bay doors open and 200mph wind blowing in on us.
Our 19th mission was August 25 against the "Anju Supply Center" (call sign "Shelter 9"). Our 20th mission was August 29 (call sign "Tango 1") against the "Chosen Hydroelectric Plant". Colonel Palister flew with us on this mission. He was wing commander for the 98th Bomb Wing. We had heavy flak and spotlights on us over the target. Sergeant Jensen was an ECM operator with us this night and he was able to jam the 88s and spotlights' radar so they couldn't zero in on us. When we approached the target and the flak was coming up thick enough to walk on, Colonel Palister turned to Lieutenant Kinnard and said, "Do we have to fly through that?" Reply, "Yes we do!"
After our 20th mission all of the gunners were recommended for promotion. Joe and "J" were awarded another stripe making both of them Sergeants. Ken and I were interviewed by a board of officers to see if we were worthy of another stripe to become Staff Sergeants. We all passed and looked forward to an increase in pay.
Our 21st mission was September 3 (call sign was "Orangeade 10") and our target was the "Suiho Hydroelectric Plant." We had four 2000-pound cement-penetrating bombs with 1/10th second delay fuse in each bomb. Lieutenant Robb dropped them dead center on the target and obliterated this plant. We had no opposition on this bomb run.
Our 22nd mission was September 6 (call sign was "Flower 19") against the "Pyongyang Supply Area." Our 23rd mission was September 9 (call sign was "Patrick 17"). The target was "Sopo Supply Area." Our 24th mission was September 19 (call sign "Penetrate 10"). Our target was "Chigyong Supply Center." The 25th mission, supposedly our last mission, was a night training mission at 16,000 feet, call sign "Sickbay 53." We flew this mission on September 23.
We quickly found that we had to fly one more mission. A maximum effort by the two wings from Okinawa and our 98th Bomb Wing. September 30 we flew our 26th mission against the "Namsi Chemical Plant" just five miles from Antung, China, across the Yalu River. There were 245 MiG 15s and 50 piston-type aircraft based there. Our call sign was "Suspicion 25." Our crew Police Action, was the only airplane to get good strike photos and our 500-pounders went right through the middle of the plant for a perfect drop, again by our Radar Operator, Lieutenant Robb. We had a lot of flak and spotlights, but our E.C.M. operator kept them off of us. The MiGs were up looking for us, but fortunately they didn't get to our airplane. We always dropped three magnesium bombs to give us pictures of the bomb strike. It was concluded by the Wing Intelligence people after seeing our strike photos that our bomb strike completely destroyed the target and the other 97 B-29s would not have been needed. Our Wing Commander recommended the "Distinguished Flying Cross" for our crew because of the excellent strike. Unfortunately, the colonel left our wing for another assignment and the medal was never given to our crew.
On October 4 we were told this would be our last mission, number 27. Our target was the "Pongchongol Supply Area" and our call sign was "Riprap 56." We had no opposition on this mission. We were resting in our barracks waiting for our orders to be sent back to the States when we were informed we had to fly one more mission. General LeMay was going to fly this mission with us against the "Kowan Supply Center" and it would be a daylight formation mission. Our call sign was "Ocean Liner 34." We had navy fighters protecting us over the target. The MiGs were up, but couldn't get to us due to our fighter protection. Thank goodness! Our gunnery system was not a match for the MiG 15. Early in the war, several B-29s were shot down by the MiGs when they were flying daylight missions, thus the change to night combat.
When We Were Not Flying
We moved into a barracks from our Quonset hut after the crash landing on our 9th mission. Joe, Ken, "J" and I hired a Japanese house boy to make our beds, shine our shoes and wash our clothes. I think we each paid him 1000 yen a month. That was about three dollars. His name was Mike and we took him on a picnic to roast hot dogs one evening. We went up into the hills a ways from the base and built a fire to cook the hot dogs. On the way to the picnic, Mike kept saying, "Hot dog!! Hot dog!! Hot dog!!" I think he believed we were going to cook a dog. We got some sticks and stuck the hot dogs on them and showed Mike how to cook his dog. We then put it on a bun with some mustard and everyone enjoyed the hot dog, but not Mike. I saw him off in the dark scraping the mustard off his hot dog. I don't think he ever did eat it.
One other incident with Mike our house boy. Our flight engineer had some pull and they shipped his convertible Buick over to Yakota for him to use while he was stationed there. One day when the four gunners were coming back from the flight line, we saw Justice's convertible go by. We couldn't see anyone driving it until we looked closer, and then we could barely see this little black head peering over the steering wheel. Guess what, it was Mike driving Justice's car around the base. That would be his last time doing that.
Our radio operator, Jerry Cox, never slept in our barracks. He had a girlfriend in Fussa, the little town next to the base, and stayed with her every night. Jerry was not L.D.S.
On one occasion when we had a three-day pass, Captain Funk and I decided to ride the train to Yokohama to get a tailored suit. We were told that a tailor shop there could measure us for a suit and have it ready the next day--cost around $30. We caught the train at Fussa and left for Yokohama. We got there in the evening, so we looked for a hotel. Each place we went into had a girl in the bedroom. We kept telling the Mama-san we did not want girls! Finally we convinced her and found a room with two straw mats and two rice pillows. Not the most comfortable quarters. Around midnight the room next to us became a brothel. Some guy had a Japanese girl in the next room and they carried on for most of the night. The walls were very thin, so we got very little sleep. We did get our tailored suits the next day, however.
When we had time off we went to the gym and played basketball. We had a Japanese masseur work us over, which felt good. We took extra turns shooting skeet because some crews didn't want to fire 12-gauge shotguns at clay pigeons. All gunners were required to do this assignment every so often and we really enjoyed that assignment. Ken built a remote controlled C-47 in his spare time, so we all watched him fly it for the first time. He had a little trouble on the maiden flight and put it into the dirt.
The 98th Bomb Wing had several parties for all the crews. We had steak fries and all kinds of cookouts for us. These were nice, but the drinks provided were always beer. Most of us on our crew were not beer drinkers. On the Fourth of July they had two pro football teams come and play a game for us. At the conclusion of the game they had a great fireworks display. Most of us had never seen fireworks like these. It was a spectacular sight for us young lads from the sticks.
Ken, Joe, "J" and I played a lot of Pinochle in our spare time. In fact, we wore out a deck of cards while we were waiting for orders to go back to the U.S. We had to stay close to the barracks, so we spent our time playing cards. We sold our bicycles to the new replacement crews that were coming in to take our place. We put some money in a pot and gave it to our house boy Mike because he had done such a good job for us.
Ken and I had been writing to our girlfriends the entire time we were overseas and during that time we both planned to get married when we got back to the States. Jean and I set our date for October 29 and Ken and Carma planned theirs two days later for October 31. We both were planning a temple marriage in the Salt Lake Temple. Neither of us were Elders, so we had Captain Funk ordain us Elders at the Tachikawa Branch in Japan. This is a requirement for temple marriage in the L.D.S. church. We didn't want any delays for our marriage when we got home.
We went out to our hard stand where our airplane "Police Action" was parked and thanked our crew chief, Sergeant Snyder. We let him know how much we appreciated his good work on our airplane. We never had engine problems while he was in charge of our airplane. That was an accomplishment for a B-29. We said our goodbyes and thanked him again.
After waiting for more than a week since our last mission, w finally received our orders to go home. All of our crew were anxious to leave for the States after flying 28 combat missions over the past seven months. There was no question in the minds of all eleven crew members that the twelfth man (our guardian angel) was with us the entire time. Thank goodness for our belief in spiritual protection and guidance. All of us could have bought the ranch when we crashed at Ashiya. Thanks to our angel, we didn't go over the embankment. There were several missions where flak was extremely heavy and very close to our aircraft, but we received only one hit from flak in all of our missions and that was in the base of the vertical stabilizer, so no one got hurt--again, our guardian angel looking out for us.
We reviewed our orders for departure and our new assignment. The orders gave us two weeks leave and we were to report at Barksdale A.F.B. in Shreveport, Louisiana in the first week of November 1952. The orders also told us to meet an Air Force bus the next morning at 1100 hours with all our gear. The bus took us to Haneda airport in Tokyo, where we boarded a Flying Tigers C-54 cargo aircraft for the U.S.A. and home.
We didn't sleep much the night before we left. We had everything packed the night before we were to leave. The bus picked us up promptly at 1100 hours and after several delays we arrived at Handa Airport where we unloaded our duffle bag and a B-4 bag which carried all we owned. The Flying Tiger crew helped us load our gear and find a place to put our bottom for a very long flight home. The C-54 was a four-engine cargo plane so that all seating was along both sides of the airplane with canvas bucket seats. None of us complained about the accommodations, however, because we were going home.
We left Haneda Airport at 1800 hours and headed for Wake Island, where we would refuel and get breakfast. After some eight hours of flying the bucket seats began to be a bit uncomfortable, but they were good! We landed at Wake Island, where they took us to their mess hall for breakfast. Bacon, eggs, pancakes and all the trimmings. It was 0200 hours, but we were hungry anyway.
The Flying Tiger crew refueled their airplane and we were on our way to Hawaii and Hickam Field by 0400 hours. While we were on Wake Island we talked about the role this island played in World War II and what took place there. It was dark all the time that we were there, so we couldn't walk around the island to see what it was like.
After another ten hours or so we landed at Hickam Field in Hawaii. We got to live the 20th of October one more time because we crossed the International Date Line on this leg of our flight. After refueling and some rest, we left Hawaii for Travis A.F.B. in California. We were all very tired and looking for someplace on the airplane to rest. Some of us just laid down in the walk space between the bucket seats and the cargo that was stacked down the middle of the cabin. After traveling for two days and some thirty hours in the air, we were beat.
We landed at Travis A.F.B. late in the evening. We unloaded our gear and called San Francisco Airport to see if we could get a flight to Salt Lake City. Lucky for us they had one going out in about one hour so we booked it, then called home to let our parents know when we would be in Salt Lake. I asked Mom and Dad to see if Jean would come to the airport with them to pick me up.
Ken and I boarded a United Airline DC-6--which was much nicer than the C-54 we had spent some 30 hours on coming from Japan, and headed for Salt Lake. We landed at 11:00 p.m. in Salt Lake and walked down the steps from the airplane to our family and girlfriend. Oh, how good it was to be home and on U.S. soil! It smells so much better in the U.S.A.
Jean and I rode in the back set of the car on the way home. We just hugged and kissed all the way home. It was so good to see her again.
The deer hunt opened the next day, Saturday the 23rd of October, so I picked Jean up at her place and drove up to Tie Fork to hunt deer for the day. Jean wasn't too excited about that event. The next couple of days we put final touches on our wedding plans for the 29th of October 1952. We left for Salt Lake Temple early that morning. By Orton and his wife, along with my Grandmother Allan, went through the temple with us. It was a very special ceremony with Jean and me holding hands across the altar. After the marriage ceremony we met Jean's parents and my parents for dinner, along with Grandmother Allan and the Ortons. It was a special day for Jean and me. We stayed in Salt Lake for the night, then went home the next day to set up the church for our wedding reception. I had saved most all my military money, so I had enough to buy a new car. I bought a brand-new 1952 Ford Fairlane.
Our wedding reception was held in the 5th ward chapel at 7:00 p.m. on the 30th of October 1952. We had a good crowd and after the reception we held a dance for everyone. Jean and I had the first dance and then one of Jean's friends cut in and danced her right out the door. They loaded her in the car and off they went. My friend, Paul Cherrington, and I took off after them and finally rescued Jean at the Provo Boat Harbor. It was 2:00 a.m. before we got back together. This is how a charivari ruins your whole evening, thanks to Jean's good friends!
Ken and Carma were married two days later and held their wedding reception at Carma's parents' home. They were married on Halloween, October 31, 1952. After all of the wedding ceremonies we loaded our new 1952 Ford with our wedding gifts and prepared to drive to Shreveport, Louisiana and Barksdale A.F.B. "J" Lindroth Lundell called me and said he would like to follow us in his car. I told "J" we would leave November 2nd and to meet us at Mom and Dad's at 8:00 a.m. It took us three days to drive the 1800 miles to Shreveport. It was a long way!
Our Crew at Barksdale AFB
When we arrived at Barksdale A.F.B. we were a day late according to our orders. The Air Police at the gate told me to get in their Jeep. They were taking me to the officer of the day for being AWOL for one day. Jean was left in the car and didn't know what was going on. I tried to explain to the Air Police that I had called ahead to our new squadron that I needed an extra day and they approved my request. After doing some checking the Air Police cleared me and took me back to my car and Jean. She was a bit beside herself not knowing what they were doing with me. After checking in to our new squadron at Barksdale, the officer in charge gave me time to find an apartment off base.
Ken and Carma had come a day before us and they found an apartment in Bossier City across the river from Shreveport and close to the Air Force base. They told us there was an apartment across the road from theirs that was for rent. We checked into that possibility and sure enough it was available, so we took it. It was a duplex and we had a 1st Lieutenant living next door. They were good neighbors; we never saw them. Joe and "J" settled into their barracks while Ken and I settled in to married life. The remainder of the crew found homes and apartments not too far from where we were living in Bossier City, Louisiana.
Our crew assignment at Barksdale A.F.B. was to get combat ready. Hello!! We had just completed 28 combat missions over North Korea and now S.A.C. (Strategic Air Command) wanted us to get combat ready. The Air Force had reinstated Captain Funk to flying status, so he was back in the left seat as our A/C--Aircraft Commander. Lieutenant Kinnard, who had been our A/C ever since our crash at Ashiya, left our crew when we came home from Japan. He was without a doubt one of the finest pilots I have ever flown with and I believe the rest of the crew felt the same way about his skill. Our co-pilot, Bob Sorensen, loved the guy because he gave Bob a lot of first pilot flying time which he didn't get with Captain Funk.
Lieutenant Kinnard was slight of build, maybe 5'8" and 160 pounds, and very quiet and unassuming. I don't think I ever had a one-on-one conversation with him. Lieutenant Kinnard commented before he left our crew that we were the most professional individuals he had ever flown with. We took that as a nice compliment. We were sorry to see him leave, but happy to have Captain Funk back at the helm.
We didn't do much flying through November and December--just enough to get our flight pay. It really helped us to get back to life without fear of the rigors that combat placed on us. Flying fully-loaded B-29s with fuel and bombs, long missions and flying all night take their toll on you physically and mentally. We were glad to have that experience behind us.
Those of us that were L.D.S. went into Shreveport to church. The branch met in a small room above the fire station. There were spittoons in each corner of the room. Two families made up the branch, so it wasn't a crowded meeting. Don and Shirley Funk with their two kids, Paul and Karen; Lee and Wanda Reasor and their girls; Ken and Carma; Jean and me with (Short Round) "J" Lundell outnumbered the regular branch members. All of us helped them build a new branch in Shreveport through the months of January, February, and March of 1953.
We spent Christmas in Louisiana for the 1952 year. I surprised Jean by buying her a nice rug for our living room. Jean got a job at the PX wrapping Christmas gifts for the Airmen. She worked from the 1st of December until Christmas and enjoyed helping the Airmen with their Christmas presents. She often received nice gratuities from the airmen.
On Christmas Day we went to Reasors for Christmas dinner. Ken, Carma, "J" and the Funks were all there. Don Funk, our Captain, was given a golf set by his wife Shirley. We went out on the back lawn to swing the golf clubs to see how they felt. Don was swinging the driver when his daughter Karen ran in front of him. The driver hit her in the back of the head and literally lifted her right off her feet. It knocked her unconscious and caused a minor concussion of the skull. She was rushed to the hospital and recovered from the accident without any serious problems.
Jean and I got a big surprise when my mother and dad drove up to our apartment on Schex Drive with Cornell and Edna Clyde (Carma's mother and dad). They stayed overnight with us and then went on to Mobile, Alabama for vacation. It was good to see them and visit about what was happening back home. It was a long way to drive 1800 miles from home to Shreveport, Louisiana.
In January they sent the four gunners to Tampa, Florida, McDill A.F.B. for gunnery training. The Air Force flew us down there in a C-47. When we arrived at McDill A.F.B., we got to see the new B-47 that was going to take the place of B-29s for S.A.C. (Strategic Air Command). It was a very sleek looking airplane and kind of squatted as it sat on the ramp, nose high!
They loaded us on a bus and sent us out to Lake Okeechobee gunnery range. We were again shooting 50 caliber machine guns at a 15-foot drone that they flew by remote control. We had gone through this training at Smoky Hill, Kansas before we went to Korea, so it was old hat to us. Each one of us had a turn firing twin 50s at the drone as it flew by. They kept them so far away from us it was hard to hit one.
While we were at Lake Okeechobee, one morning an airman had gone to the back of a barracks to relieve himself and came back to the group his face chalk white. We asked him what was the matter and he said he nearly ran into a huge rattlesnake. The instructor went around the building and came back with the largest rattlesnake I have ever seen, before or since. He had the snake by the back of its head and he could hardly hold it up because of its weight. The rattler must have been five or six inches in diameter and must have weighed some forty or fifty pounds. It was unbelievable. I don't think I will ever forget the sight of the rattler. If he bit you his fangs would probably go clear through your leg.
Wile we were stationed at Barksdale A.F.B., Jean's mother and her younger sister, Joan, came by bus from Springville, Utah to visit us. They stayed with us for three days and we really enjoyed their company. We took them around the Air Force base and showed them the B-29s we were flying. We also toured Shreveport and Bossier City, where our apartment was. Jean's sister Joan was a dancer with Jean when they were growing up, so they had a close bond. Joan was visiting Lloyd Madsen, a high school classmate of mine, and they were getting pretty serious. Joan was a cute girl and two months younger than Jean. She had a bubbly personality, lots of laughs.
After our gunnery experience in Florida, our crew was assigned to Eglin A.F.B. in the upper panhandle of Florida for a special assignment. The Air Force did a lot of flight testing at this base. Our assignment was to fly low-level navigation. We had been flying for about an hour when the number three engine quit. The pilot feathered the propeller on number three and we flew back to the base, making a smooth landing with three engines. That's not always easy. When we got out of the airplane and checked the number three engine, we found the main drive shaft had broken and we could spin the prop with one hand. This was a problem we had never experienced with the B-29s we had flown.
Around the first of March orders came down that stated all B-29s were being phased out and the new B-47s would be taking their place. This meant the disbanding of our crew. The four gunners, Joe, Ken, "J" and I, were given two choices for a new assignment. We could go to Boom Operators School and learn to be a Boom Operator on KC-97s or we could go to Supply School and learn the business of being a Supply Sergeant. Boom operators flew a long telescoping boom out the back of a four engine KC-97 and hooked up with aircraft that needed fuel. "Gas stations in the sky."
Ken and I had a long discussion as to what would be the best assignment for us. After much deliberation we decided to go to the Supply School. Our reasoning was that the Supply School was in Cheyenne, Wyoming and closer to Utah and home. We also thought about the fact that Hill A.F.B. in Ogden, Utah was a supply and maintenance base for the Air Force. With some luck, they might assign us to Hill A.F.B.
These options made going into supply more enticing than being a gas station attendant at 30,000 feet in a KC-97. Ken and I figured we had done enough flying in military aircraft to last us a lifetime. Joe and "J", however, thought the idea of being a boom operator would be a great experience, so they signed up for that program.
The Air Force gave Ken and me one week to make our move to Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was March 1953 and we decided to go to Cheyenne by way of Utah to visit our families and spend a couple of days at home. It was a long drive from Shreveport, Louisiana to Mapleton, Utah, but we made it in two days. It was good to see the family again and visit with friends.
Jean and I left for Cheyenne, Wyoming the first of April. I had bought Jean an automatic 22 at the P.X. in Barksdale. While we were driving across Wyoming on Highway 80 there were hundreds of jack rabbits along the road and crossing the road. I had Jean drive, and when there was no traffic behind or ahead of us I used her 22 to shoot at jack rabbits. I don't think I ever hit one because she drove so fast.
When we arrived at Cheyenne, I checked in at the Francis E. Warren A.F.B. Then Jean and I bought a newspaper and began the search for an apartment. We found a basement apartment in Northeast Cheyenne. They actually had two separate apartments downstairs with a common bathroom for both apartments. It was not very convenient, but it was the best we could find at the time, so Jean and I took it. I asked the guy we rented from if the wind blew like that all the time in Cheyenne. He said, "What wind? We don't call it wind unless a log chain on the post is hanging straight out." Yes, they have wind in Cheyenne most all the time. You can count on it.
Ken and Carma found an apartment not too far from where we were. We got together quite often and played cards. We went out for treats together and we were glad to have their company. Ken was not in the same Supply School class as I was, so we didn't see each other at the base. When I went to my first class they told me to be the flight leader because I was a Staff Sergeant and had more rank than anyone else in the class. I had never been in charge of marching a group of airmen, but I had plenty of experience being in the group that was being drilled. I had thirty airmen that I was in charge of marching to class, to mess and back to their squadron at the end of the day. I stood before the group and called them to attention, dress right dress, right face, and forward march and away we went to class with me calling cadence, left, right, left--although you don't pronounce them the way they are spelled when you march with a group. Only those of us that have been involved in military marching know what I mean.
The Supply School classes were more of a bookkeeping type class and the school was twelve weeks long, so we wouldn't be out of this school until July 1952. We had to learn the tech numbers of all kinds of equipment used by Squadrons and Wings in the Air Force. It wasn't the most interesting kind of school to be involved with for me.
Halfway through our schooling we were given a three-day pass, so Ken, Carma, Jean and I decided to leave for home Friday evening as soon as we got out of class. We decided to travel home in Jean's and my car, a 1952 Ford Fairlane. We left at 6:00 p.m. and drove through the night. I noticed the fuel gauge getting low, so I kept looking for a service station. When you drove across Wyoming at night, there weren't very many villages, and what there were closed shop early. I kept driving and looking at the gas gauge bouncing on empty. Ken, Carma and Jean were all sleeping and it was now near midnight and no stations in sight. You guessed it. The car sputtered a couple of times and then stopped. We were out of gas in the middle of nowhere.
Ken, Carma, and Jean came awake very quickly and asked what was wrong. I informed them we had just ran out of gas. I told Ken to stay with the girls and I would try to catch a ride into the next town for fuel. A trucker came by and picked me up, thank goodness, and took me twenty miles into Rawlins. A service station attendant let me take a can of gas and I was able to catch a ride back to my friends and the car. I had been gone about an hour and they were starting to worry. We put the gas into the car and drove to Rawlins where we filled up at the station that loaned me the can. We thanked the owner and headed for Springville, Mapleton, Utah. It was now 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning.
We got home about six hours later and spent a couple of days with our families before we had to head back to Cheyenne and Francis E. Warren A.F.B. We didn't run out of gas on the way back. I learned to do my flying on the top half of the tank from now on! When we finished our twelve-week Supply School, it was now July 1953. Ken and I were both hoping for an assignment to Hill A.F.B. in Ogden, Utah, close to home. No such luck. Ken got his orders to go to Rapid City, South Dakota and Ellsworth A.F.B. My orders were worse than Ken's. My assignment was back to Louisiana and further down the road than Barksdale to Alexandria, Louisiana and Alexandria A.F.B. Neither one of us was very happy with our new assignments, but you do what you have to do. We packed up our stuff and decided to go by home in Utah before going back to Louisiana. Jean was pregnant with Sherry and had a bad case of morning sickness. Traveling in a hot car without air conditioning only exacerbated the problem.
After visiting with our folks in Utah, we bought a box of saltine crackers and headed for Alexandria, Louisiana. The problem was having to stop every few miles for Jean to get out of the car and loose her crackers. It was not a fun trip for her. When we got to Shreveport, Louisiana, we stopped to visit Don and Shirley Funk and Lee and Wanda Reasor. They were still stationed at Barksdale A.F.B. We enjoyed our visit and let them know what our new assignment was as well as Ken and Carma's new assignment.
After visiting with our former crew members, Jean and I left for Alexandria, Louisiana and Alexandria A.F.B. One of the things we noticed right away as we entered the city of Alexandria was the river being above the city. The dikes must have been twenty feet high and the river ran right through the city. If ever the dikes should break, this city would be under water in a hurry. We quickly found a newspaper and looked for an apartment that would fit our needs. The one we looked at first was the one we rented. It was in a nicer part of town and had three rooms and a bath. We had no air conditioning, but it did have a ceiling fan in the hall between the three rooms. The temperature and humidity were almost unbearable there during July and August.
After we got settled in our new apartment I went out to the base to check in and meet my new squadron and assignment. The captain in charge of the squadron told me I would be the new supply sergeant and showed me my desk and responsibilities. The guys that I would be working with were very nice and personable. I felt like I was well received by the new squadron. One of the sergeants that I worked with and his wife became good friends with Jean and me. Pat and Sis Patterson were our new friends. They invited us out to their cabin for a sleep-over. We had some enjoyable times with them. They had a two-hole outhouse for use at their cabin and Pat had installed a speaker under the seat unbeknown to the visiting ladies. When one of them went to the outhouse, Pat got on the microphone about the time they would sit down and said, "Would you mind moving over to the other hole. We are painting under this one." Out through the door came the lady screaming! We had a good time with a lot of good food and laughs.
When we got home from the outing, Jean noticed a bug on me. We got checking it out and found it to be a wood tick. We started checking each other and found several ticks on both of us. It kind of gave us the willies, but we were able to get them all off and we didn't come down with any kind of fever. So much for that experience. Lots of ticks in the bayous of Louisiana.
One other thing we found to be a bit unnerving. We often went out to a drive-in movie that was in town. When we came home and turned on the light in the kitchen, cockroaches scattered into the woodwork from all over the floor. We often could hear them scratching their way out of the pots and pans in our cupboards. We never did have any of them in our bed, thank goodness. Other than the heat, humidity, wood ticks and cockroaches, things were just great.
Jean and I went up town shopping and we found that we were a minority in Alexandria. The black people ruled and would run us off into the gutter when we were walking down the sidewalk. There were a lot of poor areas around the city with people living in rundown shacks. Not the greatest community to live in. We decided we would do most of our shopping at the base commissary, go to the movies at the base theater, or the drive-in movie outside of town.
Many evenings when we had nothing to do we would play "Ship". We would draw up a 10x10 graph and label the top A through J down the columns and 1 through 10 down the side for the horizontal columns. Then we would place five ships in calculated places without the other person seeing what you have done. Then we would shoot at each other's board by calling out A-5 or D-10, etc. The five ships were submarine-two square, a P.T. boat, one square, a destroyer, three squares, a cruiser, four squares, and an aircraft carrier, five squares. The first one to sink all five ships would win. We played that game many times for entertainment.
I was given a three-day pass around the first of September, so we decided to go to New Orleans and see the sights. We walked up and down the famous Bourbon Street and saw a lot of wild people. We rode on a ferry up and down the Mississippi River. We visited their above-ground monuments at their cemetery. There was too much ground water to bury people in the ground, so they put them in above ground monuments. It's easy to see how the Hurricane Katrina put the city under water. The entire city is below sea level, dikes all along the river and ocean. Not a city we need to go back to.
Jean was now three months into her pregnancy and she hadn't seen a doctor. I checked with the captain of our squadron to see if the base had doctors that dealt with pre-natal condition. The captain told me to call Camp Polk, which was about fifty miles west of Alexandria. I called and made an appointment for Jean and we drove there one morning in early September 1953. The doctor was an army doctor and not very personable. When Jean came out from the examination she told me we would never go back to that place again. And we didn't!
In September the base newspaper said they were having tryouts for the base basketball team. I have always loved sports and especially basketball so I went to the tryout at the base gym. After two weeks of practice with some thirty players trying to make the team, the coach cut it to twelve and I was one of the team. I was a bit surprised because I was the lonely white guy with eleven back guys. We worked out every day through September and into October. The league play with other military bases didn't start until November.
The first week of October I came down with serious shin splints. I could hardly walk, let alone play basketball. I told the coach that I could no longer play basketball. I had no idea how long it would take to heal my shins. The basketball court we played on was a hard composition rather than a wood floor that had some give in it. I think this caused my problem. This ended my Air Force basketball career.
During the second week of October the captain came to me and said the Air Force had an overage in Supply Sergeants and anyone who wanted to be released early could do so. I told him I would like to be released. He went through my records and told me that my test scores were very high and he would like to recommend me for Officers Training School. He said, "You would make a good officer for the Air Force." I told the Captain I had other plans for my career and appreciated his confidence in me. I went to the base Finance department and they gave me a check for $300 mustering out pay. I was released from active duty on October 27, 1953 with a six-year obligation in the Inactive Reserve. In other words, the Air Force could call me back into service if the need came about in the next six years.
Jean and I went to the P.X. and bought some things that we felt were a good buy, loaded our car, and said goodbye to our friends on our way out of the gate. This ended my time in the U.S. Air Force.
In 1990, I retired from Nebo School District as an educator and decided I would try to get our B-29 crew together for a crew reunion. I wrote a letter to each member of the crew asking them what they thought of the idea and where would they like to meet. You guessed it, no answer.
I wrote another letter and told them we were going to have a crew reunion at Alta Ski Lodge in Little Cotton Wood canyon and to let me know if they wanted lodging. The plan was to spend three days at Alta and tour Hill Field, as well as other places of interest. Guess what? I received seven replies that they would come and to schedule lodging for them and their wives. Those coming were: Don and Shirley Funk, Bob and Noni Sorensen, Lee and Wanda Reasor, Don and Vi Robb, Joe and Orel Lene English, Ken and Carma Russell, "J" and Kay Lundell, and Jean and me.
It's interesting to note that when you put a group of men together for three years in a military combat situation they become very close--literally a Band of Brothers. And that is what this crew became. We had a very enjoyable time together sharing pictures and stories of our experience together. We had great food and excellent lodging at the Alta Lodge. We spent one day at Hill A.F.B. going through the Air Museum and having dinner at the Officers club on base.
The reunion was such a success we decided to have more of them. Consequently, in the past twenty years the crew has had reunions at Dayton, Ohio; Branson, Missouri; San Antonio, Texas; Sun Valley, Idaho; Lake Tahoe, Nevada; and several get-togethers at Little America in Salt Lake City for dinner and breakfast. Each one has been an enjoyable experience to meet together again.
Where Are They Now
Capt. Don Funk - Captain Funk stayed in the Air Force and became the Maintenance Officer for Mather A.F.B. in California. He and Shirley built a home in Folsom, which is next to Sacramento. Don retired from the Air Force and soon after his retirement he came down with Alzheimer disease. Shirley and the family had several years caring for him which was extremely difficult. Shirley said the last couple of years of his life he didn't even know them. He passed away from the disease a few years ago. Don was a great leader, an excellent pilot, and a good friend--one that all of us on the crew looked up to.
Lt. Robert Sorensen, our co-pilot - After our crew disbanded, Bob went into flying B-47s for the Air Force. He loved this airplane because it was a medium bomber but could be flown like a fighter. He had always wanted to be a fighter pilot and when Captain Funk assigned him to a B-29 as a co-pilot, he was not a happy camper. On the other hand, Bob is always happy and up-beat. He looks for the best in people. He loves Noni and his family and especially sporty, fast cars. Bob comes to Utah at least once a year from his home in McKinney, Texas near Dallas. He has family in Logan and usually calls Ken to see if those of us around here can get together for dinner.
Lt. Lee Reasor, our navigator - Lee stayed in the Air Force after he left our crew. He ended his career at BYU as the officer in charge of the ROTC cadets. Lee was a friend to everyone and the father figure for those of us who were just nineteen when we joined the B-29 crew. There was never a time when we didn't know where we were or how long it would take to get to our destination. He was without a doubt the best navigator in the Air Force! All of us on the crew had great respect for Lee Reasor, not only for his ability but because he was such a kind and caring person. Lee and Wanda built a home outside of Spokane, Washington, and lived there for several years. Lee passed away a few years ago and Wanda is living with one of their children.
Col. Donald Robb, our Radar Operator - Don stayed in the Air Force and went on to fly combat missions in Vietnam. He retired from the service in San Antonio, Texas, where he and Vi lived for many years. He earned the rank of colonel before he retired. Don was an excellent crew member and Radar Operator. I don't think there was ever a target in North Korea that didn't get hit dead center when Lieutenant Robb was on the Shoran scope and directing the bomb run. He understood the Shoran Method of dropping bombs by following a radio beam arch. The coordination between the pilot and the radar operator had to be perfect for the bomb to be accurate. Don saw to it that we were on the money every time. Our crew was recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross because of Don's accuracy. Don's background in engineering led to an outstanding and distinguished career in the Air Force. The Distinguished Flying Cross award was never given to our crew because our squadron commander left and didn't follow through on the paperwork. As gunners in the back of the airplane where Lieutenant Robb did his work, we became very close to this guy. After a bomb drop he would often come up to Ken's position to see the fireworks: Flak and the bomb strike! Don was highly respected by our crew and other crews in the 345th Squadron. Don's wife, Vi, passed away a few years ago and Don still lives in San Antonio. He is a season ticket holder of the San Antonio Spurs, a basketball team in the N.B.A., and never misses a game. He is a great sportsman and life-long friend.
Sgt. Joe English, C.F.C. Gunner - When the crew disbanded, Joe and "J" decided to become Bomb Operators rather than Supply Sergeants like Ken and I. They were sent to Florida to a boom operator's school. They then went on to be gas station attendants on KC-97s where they refueled all kinds of aircraft in midair--not an easy thing to do! As I mentioned before, Joe and I became good friends when we lived in the same barracks at Lowry A.F.B. We had started our training in Turret Mechanics School together along with Jim Mecham and Jim Kinchi. The four of us stayed together through Turret Mechanics School and Gunnery School where we became very close friends. Jim Mecham went to B-26s as a gunner and Jim Kinchi went to Savannah, Georgia. Joe and I were both sent to Randolph to join a crew. This is where I was able to tell Captain Funk about Joe and get him on our crew.
Joe met his bride to be while at Barksdale. Orel Lene Cooper was a school teacher from Monroe, Louisiana After being honorably discharged, Joe held several jobs and completed his Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from Louisiana Tech. He later joined Ford, Davis, and Bacon, a world-renown engineering firm. After several years with the firm Joe became president of this organization. What a great accomplishment for our C.F.C. gunner. I'm not surprised at Joe's success. He is a most likeable, dependable, honest, hardworking person you could ever meet and a joy to be around. Joe has since retired and owns a large cattle ranch in Northern Louisiana. He and Orel Lene have four children and several grandchildren. They have come to all of our crew reunions, and on occasion have come to Utah to stay overnight with us local folks at the Little America in Salt Lake City. Joe was highly respected by all members of the crew and one I can proudly say is a best friend of mine.
SSgt. Kenneth L. Russell, right gunner - As mentioned before in this story, Ken and I were classmates at Springville High School, the "Mighty Red Devils" our school mascot. Ken was discharged with an Honorable Discharge from Ellsworth A.F.B. in Rapid City, South Dakota and went to BU for pre-dentistry. Their children and ours came along about the same time and we would get together taking the family camping and other outings. After pre-dental school, Ken and Carma moved to San Francisco to go to Dental School. After completion of dental school, Ken set up his practice in Salt Lake City and they bought a beautiful home in the Avenues of East Salt Lake. Ken has been my dentist ever since. We worked out a deal where I take him hunting and fishing and he does my dental work. This has been a blessing to me because he was able to straighten my crooked front teeth early on. Up until a couple of years ago we always went deer hunting and pheasant hunting together along with our kids. Since we have aged a bit, we are not able to climb the Maple Mountain into Ram Rod Draw where we always got a big buck. We get together with Ken and Carma for dinner every so often and appreciate their friendship. Ken and I share books, videos and CDs of military information on B-29s and the Korean War. We have enjoyed many good hunting trips together and a lot of onions in the Dutch oven (Deer Hunter Potatoes).
"J Lindroth Ludell, tail gunner - A short round in a 50 caliber machine gun will not fire. We nicknamed "J" "Short Round" because he was the only one that would fit in the tail gun compartment. "J" went on to be a Boom Operator on KC-97s and received his honorable discharge after four years in the Air Force. "J" went through college and became a school teacher. He and his wife Kay live in South Jordan, Salt Lake County. "J" and Kay have attended most of our crew reunions. "J" was highly respected by all members of the crew, especially for his service in the cold, far reaches of the tail compartment. He always has a smile and an infectious laugh. "J" has retired from teaching. He and Kay have raised a wonderful family. You can't help but love this guy.
Dean S. Allan, Left Gunner - After leaving the Air Force I went to BYU and graduated with a B.S. degree in Math, Physics and Chemistry. I taught Math for 13 years, then went to the University of Utah and earned a Masters Degree in Math, Physics, and Chemistry. Three years later I was appointed as a school counselor and spent nine years counseling in a secondary school. In 1980 I was appointed principal of Springville Junior High where I served until 1985. I was then appointed by the Board of Education to be the Director over all Secondary Schools in Nebo School District. I retired from education in 1990 with 33 years of service. Other interests: I got my pilot's license in 1967. I was a river guide on the Colorado, Green, Yampa, and Salmon Rivers. I was elected to six years on the Springville City Council and was elected to two terms as Mayor of Mapleton. I have been involved in several church positions. Jean and I have four children, Sherry, Val, Greg, and John. We have 10 grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren. The most important part of this life is my wife and family!
There is no doubt in the minds of this crew that the twelfth man was with us on every mission we flew over North Korea. Maybe it was a lady Angel. Whoever it was, we thank our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ for that protection. It was surely there in our behalf.
To the members of the crew that I share this story with: Remember I am 78 years old and have drawn from my memory to write this. It's my hope that you enjoy reading the story and not be critical of your Left Gunner. It was my privilege to serve with such honorable men. Someone asked, "Would you do it again?" I said, "No, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to go through the experience."
It's my hope and prayer that all of our military men and women have a twelfth man looking out for them as we did!