My name is Joseph Majeski and I was a tail gunner on Captain Percy Tucker's crew based on Tinian. We completed 35 mission which earned some of us the DFC, including myself.
I am reminded of my
recollections of the Enola Gay . . . We were loading ammunition one day
and noticed a B-29 landing - it stopped midway. To our surprise, we found
out that it was equipped with reversible pitch propellers and that the
only armamant was a tail gun position. Our curiosity overcame us and we
went over and asked them what they were going to do -- flying missions
with only a tail gunner.
One of their crew replied, "We are
here to win the war."
We flew from Mather Field then called Muroc in California to Hawaii. This was our second attempt. The first time we were several hours out over the Pacific ocean when we had engine problems. We had to turn back back and make a emergency landing. Colonel Kenneth Gibson, Commanding Officer of the 6th Bomb Group was flying overseas with us. The second time I remember seeing the island prison of Alcatraz and the Golden gate bridge as we flew over. It was quite a sight from the air. We landed in Hawaii and the next day flew to another island called Kwagalein. We were treated royally by Marines who were stationed there. They were ecstatic that we were going to bomb Japan. My first taste of island life was visiting the latrine.
It was a small wood building with the upper half being screened. Inside was a plank about two feet wide, twelve feet long. There were circular holes cut out on the plank. This building was extended out over a cliff. Looking down into the circular holes I could hear and see the waves breaking against the cliff. What an ingenious way to set up a sanitation system Upon arrival on Tinian we were taken by truck to the 6th Bomb Groups area On the way we passed barbed wire fenced in areas where the Gooks lived. That's what we called the natives. They were living in metal made boxes about 3 or 4 feet high , Next to the metal huts they dug trenches. It was quite a sight to see them squatting next to trench relieving themselves. We were told not to eat any vegetables grown by them as they used human excrement as fertilizer.
We finally graduated from the pup tents to what we called squad tents and then to the Quonset huts which we constructed ourselves, One of the crews living in the tent with us did not return from a mission. The mission was flown on March 27, 1945. It was to Yawata, Japan for the purpose of dropping mines. This was our seventh mission and in my dairy that I kept I noted that it was the roughest mission yet. Flak was thick and accurate. Our squadron lost two men - Lt.Grounds and Lt. Steel. We packed their belongings to be sent back to their relatives.
Over the target I saw a B-29 behind us caught in a searchlight beam. A Japanese fighter was climbing up inside the beam of light. I saw the B-29 burst into flames and go down. Reconnaissance photos showed ten Japanese ships bottled up in the inland sea. We dropped the mines at 12:30 AM at an altitude of 5000 ft There were search lights everywhere searching the sky for us. I was wearing goggles that were tinted so that I could look down into the searchlight beam for fighters that would use the beam to hide in.. The lights from the beams were constantly moving , searching It was an eerie sight.
(Andy Doty in his book notes that on Guam they had a public address system to alert the crews about a pending mission. We had a bulletin board which we scrutinized constantly for a pending mission.) I recall being in the Quonset when I heard someone shouting, "Mission posted!" Today I say without shame that was when that awesome feeling took over. Call it fear or whatever.
We had about ten missions under our belts when our right gunner went to the Colonel and said, "I don"t care if you shoot me but I will never step foot into that airplane again." He was stripped of his rank and reassigned to a ground unit. It was best that this was done. My fellow gunners told me that he had rosary beads in his hands over the target and not paying attention to what was going on. Remember, we were a crew and our lives depended on each other. I was shocked at his refusal to fly. However, in retrospect I now realize that we are all not alike and all have a different tolerance to strength and weakness .I thank GOD that he gave all of us that fought the strength and the courage to endure all of this.