2nd Lieutenant Merlin R. Allen
Aerial Combat Photographer
Killed in Accident, 15 Jul 45
Born 5 January 1922, Merlin Allen, a native of Washington, D.C., attended the University of Maryland, College Park for a few years and then George Washington University. prior to joining the US Army in 1943. In the US Army Air Forces, Allen was trained a combat/aerial photographer and assigned to the 16th CCU, which was attached to the 14th Air Force in China. He had been in China nearly 2 years when, on 26 June 1945, the Unit received a radio message from Chihkiang reporting he was missing in action while participating in an Office of War Information (OWI) information/propaganda leaflet drop.
A later message provided some details - "At 1520 hours, 25 June 1945, 322nd T. C. (Troop Carrier) Sq. ship # 458 took off on routine drop mission to Liuyang, Hunan Province, China, with secondary mission to drop leaflets in the Changsha area on return trip." An included statement by Lt. David Olds (OWI) related, "The cargo drop at Liyuang was completed and the pilot headed for Changsha. At about 500 feet altitude, shortly after 1730 and perhaps a mile west of the air strip at Changsha, light flak was encountered, most 40mm. The pilot put the plane into a shallow dive to get on the deck. During the initial flak, I was sitting on the floor at the cargo door with a Thompson sub-machine gun, looking for a flak battery. Capt. Blackwell, Lt. Bunt (both OWI) and Lt. Allen were throwing leaflets out of the door over my head. As the dive started I fired one full clip at a flak battery.
"The speed of the airplane reached two hundred mph indicated or better, still in a shallow dive, and I got up to get another clip. As I turned back towards the cargo door, I saw Capt Blackwell on his side, apparently pulling himself out of the door in an attempt to bail out. I stepped to the door as his feet disappeared, and immediately Lt. Allen brushed by me and went out the door in a long jump. For the next few moments, no one moved or said a thing, because of the suddenness of the two bail-outs. We judge the plane was about on or two hundred feet above the terrain, just a few blocks west of the heart of Changsha when the two officers jumped. By this time flak was thinning out and we were over the river, on the deck before we could fully realize what happened. Why Capt. Blackwell, an experienced combat parachutist with jumps in Europe, should jump is a matter of speculation. There was no bailout signal given, the airplane was at all times under control and the altitude was such that a jump was almost certain to be fatal. It is assumed that Lt. Allen became panicked and thought the ship was crashing when he saw Capt. Blackwell jumping, so he followed him right out the door. The return to Chihkiang was without further incident."
This was the last news the 16th CCU heard of Lt. Allen, however, he had bailed out safely. A Supplemental Battle Casualty Report set Lt. Allen's status as "KIA" based upon an O.S.S. report which, quoting Japanese sources, related "... the subject officer was captured on 25 June 1945. He was subsequently injured in a train explosion on 2 July 1945 about 1.5 miles from Tatoupu Station while he was enroute to Headquarters (Japanese) at Hengyang. He later died at 0530 hours on 16 July at Changsha. He was buried behind Japanese Gendarmerie Headquarters at Changsha."
Lt. Allen's remains were returned to the USA in late Sept. of 1945, and were buried in Cedar Hills Cemetary, Suitland, Maryland.
Several articles in the Washington Post between July and October of 1945 detail his life during the period.