Nee Hao? Ding Hao!
Staff Sergeant Carl K. Cannon
Aerial Combat Photographer
POW - 10 Jan 44 - 15 Oct 45
Carl K. Cannon, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was twenty-three years old when he enlisted on 20 July 1942. What he did or where he was assigned prior to the 16th CCU is unknown. He was a member of the original 16 CCU cadre as it made its way from "Fort Roach" (F.M.P.U.) to Kunming, China, in the fall of 1943. Carl was promoted to Sergeant on December 1, 1943.
He was sent to Suichwan, China, on combat assignment as motion picture photographer with the detachment of the 11th Bombardment Squadron on temporary duty there.
On Monday, 10 January 1944, a three-plane mission of 11th Bomb Squadron B-25s (341st Bomb Group) departed the airfield at Suichwan, China to perform a low-level sweep for targets of opportunity on the Middle Yangtze toward Kiukiang, China. Lt. Col. Wells was leading the flight, 2Lt. Skelton was flying number two position and 1Lt. Jack H. Potter was flying position number three.
They approached the river from the south, turned right and proceeded up the river, strafing and bombing all the river craft encountered. The three B-25s were coming down the river from Anking to Kiukiang, when they saw two large boats anchored by the north bank of the Yangtze river, opposite the town of Kiukiang. Two planes were to strafe and bomb the boats and the third would stay to one side to observe the effect of the bombs and to come in and bomb if the others missed.
Lt. Skelton was leading this time with Col. Wells behind and Potter staying off to the right. The two attacking ships started a run but realized the ships were destroyers. Skelton made a sharp turn to the left which headed him directly over town. He then made another right turn while still in the middle of the river and flew past the destroyers. After gaining altitude, up to about 1000 feet, he made a 180 degree turn to the left and started a dive on the town. He dove down to about 500 feet and released some bombs which hit the edge of town, right by the river there was a terrific explosion. Red flame and black smoke shot up at least 100 feet high.
Immediately after the explosion Lt. Skelton made a right turn over the town but kept losing altitude. Headed approximately south and going very slowly, he lost altitude until he was only about 20 feet above the ground. Then heavy black smoke came from one engine and the plane skidded into the ground as if he were trying to bring it in on its belly, but the plane hit the ground nose on, right side down, and immediately exploded. The plane burst into flames and continued to skid for about 150 to 200 yards, just a ball of flame. The plane crashed between two and three miles outside of town.
Observers thought it was most probable that all of the crew of five died in the crash. However, on the 9th of September, 1944, two men of the 16th CCU, who were working in the lab at the time, were listening in on a program from "Tokyo Rose", who periodically gave out messages from American POWs being held by the Japanese. Suddenly, the boys were quite startled to hear mention of Sergeant Cannon. A message from him was given in which it was stated that he was in good physical condition and had received but minor injuries from the plane crash. Authenticity of this message was substatiated from a verbal message received from 14th Air Force Headquarters a few days later.
At a later date, a letter from Carl's mother reported she too had received word of his status. Because of the broadcast message, his mother and the men of 16 CCU all had high hopes for his eventual safe return. He had been transferred to a POW camp in Tokyo. Carl Cannon was able to survive, and on 15 Oct 1945 he was repatriated to the United States of America.
All crew members on board B-25D, 41-30438 were 2Lt. Thomas L. Skelton, pilot, KIA; 2Lt. John T. Schmidt, copilot; KIA; 2Lt. Stanley A. Szczepanik, navigator, KIA; S/Sgt Franklin G. Miller, engineer-gunner KIA; and Sgt. Carl K. Cannon, Photographer (16 CCU), POW.