"Preserving the memory of their Sacrifices!"
(490th Bomb Squadron)
I am sure that all of us GIs remember the dreaded "Dear John" letters that some of our buddies received during the big war. This is a true story, only the names are changed.
Shortly after the 490th Bomb Sqd moved from Burma to China I was the line chief. One of the crew chiefs, "Smitty", came to me with a " Dear John " letter along with a photo of his girl friend (a real knockout). She gave Smitty six weeks to get home or she was going to marry some "feather merchant". I informed him that his chances of getting an emergency leave was zero to none. I suggested that he go talk to the "First Shirt" and the C.O. At that time and place, the death of a mother or father was no ticket home and that was the result of his request.
Smitty devised the following plan. He would walk around the Sqd area herding an imaginary flock of geese. He would also throw an imaginary baseball into the air and run through the motion of catching it and applaud himself for making the catch. At night, he pretended to hear snakes in the thatched roof. He would take his carbine and fire off a magazine load into the roof. Lights out was 10 PM and about 9:55he would shoot out the lights. His final move was to place a pistol to the head of a Nun at the church up town.
The last time I saw "Smitty", he was strapped to a stretcher. I was assisting the medics, who were loading him on a B-25. They were taking him over the hump to India. I held the end of the stretcher near his head and as we lifted him up through the bomb bay he look at me and gave me "BIG WINK", saying without words, "I AM ON MY WAY"! I am sorry I donít know whether or not there was a happy ending.
Must have had his name on it.
While I was stationed in Hanchung, China in 1945, a B 24 made an emergency landing. I believe this was in June 45. The pilot, a young major, was dead in the pilot's seat with a single bullet wound that entered under his chin. This bullet came up through the floor between his feet. Upon inspection of the plane this was the only hole made by a bullet on the entire plane. I cant be certain of which outfit the plane belonged to. I believe it was the 308th group. Does anyone out there have any more information than this?
Donít mess with my camels!
I have debated a long time where to record this incident that happen almost 54 years ago. I have decided to go ahead and write it out changing the names of the people involved, to show what can happen during a war when stationed thousand of miles from home.
The 490th Bomb Sqd was stationed at Warzup, Burma, in the spring of 1945. Having run out of worthwhile targets, we were ordered to move into China. The advance party flew to Hanchung to check out our new base of operation. The word came back that it was very primitive. There was one grass runway running east and west with no buildings on the flight line. There was an old monastery in town for troop housing.
The American GIs were at their best and most resourceful when our orders came to move to Hanchung. At Warzup we lived in the famous British desert tents that were developed over the years in the tropics and desert operations. Their construction consisted of a tent inside of a tent with 4 to 6 inches of air space between the two layers, so that in the summer the air could circulate to keep the tent cool and in the winter it would act as insulation for warmth. The tents were a lend-lease item from the British to the Americans. The GIs did a little reverse lend lease, also known as midnight requisition. We took several of these fine tents to China and set them up on the flight line as home away from home. We kept all of our possessions in our tents.
It was a mile and half from our tents to the mess hall. At chow time, we would pile into a weapons carrier and head out for something to eat. Chinese soldiers guarded the, airstrip.
Very soon, cartons of cigarettes began disappearing from our tents. Mac, a GI, told us one evening to leave him in the tent and he would find out who was stealing the smokes. He didnít have to wait long. One of the Chinese guards entered the tent and helped himself to a carton of Mac's camels. Mac let him get away from his tent before he yelled at him to halt and drop the camels. The guard started running. Mac yelled, "STOP!" once more but to no avail. Mac then shot the guard with his carbine, killing him. The proper Chinese authorities were notified. It was their custom to disown someone caught stealing.
What to do? By this time it was getting dark. Someone suggested putting the body in the ambulance until morning. No one remembered that Joe, the medic, made his home in the ambulance, using one of the litters for his bed. Joe was up town and had been known to have several drinks of the local booze. Sure enough, when he returned, he was feeling no pain. He sobered up abruptly when he tried to wake the man sleeping in his bed and discovered that he was dead. Two or three days later the Chinese relented and took the body. Mac was sent back to the states, for his own safety, and Joe swore off drinking.
The moral of this story is: "Donít mess with my Camels." BUT, it is truly too bad a human being had to die!