Fred Byars 1944

Memories of my B-29 Experiences over Japan July 28-29, 1945

My squadron (484th of 505th Bomb Group 313th Wing -20th Air Force) was scheduled to bomb the eastern port city of Ujiyamada at midnight. My aircraft carried 40 500lb bombs, 20 in each bay. All aircraft were to rendezvous on land and fly east and individually hit the target.

I setup the Norden bombsight and we were on our way. I opened the bombay doors and using the bombsight guided the aircraft to the target. The time to drop was set automatically and impact spacing was automatic. As the bombs were falling I could see a dense fog moving in from the sea. I was ready to close the doors when the radar-navigator yelled into the intercom "THE FRONT BOMBAY IS STILL FULL OF BOMBS!!"

 

Astonished, I rapidly moved between the pilot and co-pilot to the window looking into the bay. In the darkened interior I could see the bombs hanging on the racks and the bay doors were flopping back and forth - apparently not in the locked open position. Then the pilot yelled "GET IN THERE AND KICK THEM OUT! " I wanted to reply "NO", but I turned around and told the radar-navigator, "I know what to do now!"

I crawled forward to my seat behind the bombsight. On my left was the toggle switch. It was a Iong wire with a hand held holder with a thumb button on the end. I had no idea when the flopping doors would be open and be in a live position. All I could do was hit the button as rapidly as possible until all the bombs were gone. In about ten minutes all the bombs were out. We were safely on our way to Iwo Jima.

 


Each crew drew a different airplane for each mission. As a rookie crew fit file squadron we did not get the best available. In reality we got the most experienced airplane.

Regard less, this airplane could carry enough bombs but not enough fuel to go the entire flight. The reason Iwo Jima was captured in early February 1945 was to establish it as a refueling base for the B29's. This would increase the weight load of bombs.

Lady be Good

 

As the morning passed, the planet Venus was a beacon all the way. The rest of the crew took a nap.The co-pilot awakened us when the said, " here it is, ahead!"

We could see the western peak of the island sticking up out of the smooth Pacific Ocean. Of course we had been briefed on the mission; but some important information had been omitted We did not know the western peak of the island slanted toward the eastern edge. Nor did we know the height of the peak.

SUDDENLY THE SKY DISAPPEARED FROM IN FRONT OF THE PLANE!!

We were heading straight into the mid-section of the peak. I could see wrecked ships in the water below. With no time to spare the pilot pulled the nose up and into what I thought would be a stall. But the plane majestically pulled over the edge of the peak and we landed solidly on the end of the runway. The pilot said he never saw anyone exit the front of the plane as fast as I did!

The runway was short and we came to a stop quickly. The ground refueling crew motioned for someone to get on the wing and open the wing tank cover. I volunteered and while holding the nozzle, I looked westward to see about twenty aircraft on final approach some other planes were rolling down the runway, since we had taxied onto a ramp. Still others were taking off on the final leg home. Thirty two aircraft started and finished the mission.

The cruise control experts had calculated that 1200 gallons were all we could get at Iwo. So we spent the rest of the night at 1000 feet to conserve our fuel. At 100 miles out of Tinian we began our final approach, gradually lowering to 10 feet above the water. Tinian's runway went to about 30 feet front the water's edge and the edge was 10 feet above the water. We flew straight in and touched down.

What a night it had been!

We taxied back to our parking area. We were driven back to be de-briefed. We were among the last to return. We sat down and relaxed.

Col. William (Hoot) Gibson stood up holding a paper and said, "WHO IN THE HELL HAS BEEN DROPPING BOMBS ON ADMIRAL HALSEY'S FLEET?" Immediately there was complete silence. No one said a word. My crew was silent - as were all the rest.

So far as I know, the silence is still holding --- to this day.




Standing L-R: Sgt. Richard W. Benjamin-flight engineer, Sgt. Gilbert - radio operator, Sgt. Longcore - central fire control, Corp. Weikel - right gunner, Sgt. Lewis G. Sherwood - left gunner, Corp. Kenneth G. Stoll - tail gunner.
Kneeling L-R: Lt. Verle W. Byars - bombardier, F/O Jacob F. Marshall - co-pilot, 1st Lt. William T. Murray, Jr. - aircraft commander pilot, 1st. Lt. William O. Campbell - navigator, 1st. Lt. Robert W. Miller - radar navigator.

Reflections

Admiral Halsey has gathered a fleet of warships and troop ships of the east coast of Japan This was accomplished just prior to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The invasion did not happen. We were not told the location of the fleet before our flight. We were not told if any bombs actually hit ships of the fleet.

Perhaps God stayed the hand of the Devil that day.

 

You can reach Fred at lfbyars@swbell.net

 


Page 2| Page 3