Co-Incidences- I Can't Believe It!
By Sam Parks

MAY 23RD 1945, we, a B29 Bomber crew, flying "Uncle Sam's Milk Wagon", took off from Tinian Island in the Marianas, sixty miles north of Guam. Destination: Tokyo

Lt. Parks and his crew were members of the 24th squadron, 6th Bomb Group, 313th wing of the 20th Air Force, based on Tinian. The flight crew was made up of:

Lt. Sam A. Parks, Airplane Commander and pilot (wounded)
Lt. Jo Novak, Co-pilot (killed)
Lt. B.E. Downing, Navigator
Lt. W.T. Hutson, Jr., Bombardier
Lt. Clifford W. Huhn, Flight Engineer
Sgt. Walter L. Maryanski, Radio Operator Sgt. Clinton P. Bond, Radar Operator
Sgt. J.E. Farrell, Jr., Central Fire Control Gunner
Sgt. Willis N. Gross, Right Gunner
Sgt. Herman L. Anderson, Left Gunner (wounded)
Sgt. A.H. Bienert, Tail Gunner

All went well on our 7-hour flight to Tokyo, everything was routine. When we started our bombing run, for some unknown and unexplained reason, I did not put the Automatic Pilot on 11 standby" and take over the controls and fly the plane manually over the target as I had done on all 16 previous missions. Instead, I flew by using the control on the autopilot. Just after we released our bombs on Tokyo, Japanese night fighters put one cannon shell into the right outboard engine, another into the cockpit, just in front of the co-pilot, Lt. Joe Novak; and another in the gunners compartment with a fragment of it hitting Sgt. Anderson, breaking his leg; another fragment cut the left rudder cable in two.

Thank the Lord! We were on Automatic Pilot, because it had a separate set of cables going to each control surface from the regular airplane cables. Consequently, when the right outboard engine was knocked out, we needed the left rudder to keep the plane from rolling over to the right and crashing. We were only at 8000 feet, which doesn't allow much time for action. The co-pilot was killed instantly by the shell exploding in front of him, and I was saved by the shell exploding on the other side of his control column from me. I only received flak in my right arm, my right leg and right side of my face, none serious.

The shell came through the large group of electrical wires on the side of the cabin next to the co-pilot and this knocked out the entire electrical system. It also set fire to the hydraulic fluid that operated the brakes. The flight engineer, Lt. Huhn, using the fire extinguisher, put the fire out. The oxygen bottle that was just behind the pilot's seat was punctured in several places by fragments of the shell and bright orange-colored flames were coming out of it in several directions. Lt. Huhn handed the burning oxygen bottle to me and I tossed it out the window next to me. It evidently got by the #2 engine. The time was 2:20 am. By using the control buttons on the autopilot we were able to get back out over the ocean, and then by using his wonderful knowledge of celestial navigation, Lt. Downing directed us back to Iwo Jima. Flying time-6 hours. The #2 propeller had a hole in one blade that you could put your hand through and it caused the plane to shake so bad that we were afraid we wouldn't make it to Iwo Jima. (I thanked again, all those brave Marines that were wounded and those that were killed capturing Iwo Jima.)

We wanted to land on the 8000 ft. center runway but it was obscured by the smoke from the volcano, Mt. Suribachi, so we continued south, hoping to land on the 5000 ft. southern runway, but it too, was obscured by smoke. So we continued around the island to the 5000 ft. north runway, which we saw was clear when we passed it. Lt. Huhn, the flight engineer, had cranked the landing gear down so we landed and hoped to collapse the nose wheel and skid down the runway to a stop. However, upon landing, the right main gear came up instead, and we skidded down the runway like a bird with a broken wing for a short distance and then off the runway in the soft sand which stopped us instantly. Everyone was in crash position, except me and Lt. Huhn, who was serving as co-pilot. (Lt. Novak's body had been wrapped in his parachute and placed in the aisle between the pilot and co-pilot's seats.) The sudden stop of the plane threw Lt. Huhn upside down into the nose of the plane, but he managed to get up and crawl out my window and almost landed on top of me. Sgt. Bond, who was 5'2" tall and weighed about 120 lbs., picked up Sgt. Anderson and carried him to the back door of the plane and jumped out with him. When they landed in the sand, they both fell, but Sgt. Bond again picked up Sgt. Anderson, who weighed 170 lbs., in his arms and carried him up the 10 to 12 ft. embankment of loose sand and then down the runway about 200 feet away from the plane. He could not pick up Sgt. Anderson that way when he tried it later.

Although the engines were torn from their mountings and rolled up under the wing, the fuselage broken and buckled in front of the wing and again back of the wing, we had no fire. I don't remember ever seeing an airplane as completely demolished without burning. Coincidences??

We went over the target on autopilot instead of manual controls. With the loss of the left rudder and the right outboard engine at the same time, I feel sure we would not have been able to get right side up before crashing. If we had landed on the center 8000 ft. B-29 runway, and skidded off either right or left, we would have hit parked airplanes. If we had landed on the southern 5000 ft. runway and skidded off to the right, we would have hit parked planes. If we had skidded off the north 5000 ft. runway to the left, we would have hit park planes. But we skidded off the north runway to the right, which had no parked planes. Coincidences- I do NOT think so! I have wondered thousands of times which man or men on that crew did God have a special use for in later years. I cannot believe that we could have that many co-incidences on one mission, every one of which was vital to the safety of the crew.



LT. SAM A. PARKS was awarded the Silver Star in addition to the Purple Heart.
SGT. HERMAN L. ANDERSON was also awarded the Silver Star in addition to the Purple Heart.
LT JOSEPH NOVAK received the Purple Heart. According to Historian Larry Reineke (see Historical Notes), Lt. Parks and his crew had the distinction of being the first B-29 to land on Iwo's North Field.
-Harry H. George, 6th Bomb Group Assn. Historian

Back to Table of Contents