As a boy, my dad didn't talk a lot about his WWII experience, but enough for us to know that he flew in a B-29 in India and China, and that they had named their aircraft Ding How, which, he told us, means "good luck" in Chinese. He was the flight engineer, and I remember stories about jury-rigging tricks they used to keep the planes flying. We knew that Ding How's pilot was Nicolas VanWingerden, because my folks and the VanWingerdens had stayed in touch for awhile after they started their families after the war. My youngest brother is named after Nicolas VanWingerden.
We also knew that there had been a crash during takeoff at some point, and that only three men had survived: Nicolas, Uline and another crewman. Over the years, I became involved in my career and my family and did not see much of my dad, but I still kept an interest in WWII history and military aircraft. When my dad died suddenly in 1978, I realized that a lot of knowledge had passed away with him, but many years went by without any action on my part to pursue these interests.
Then a few years ago, I was killing time in Topeka and happened to visit the air museum at Forbes Field. After the tour, I was browsing the books in their shop and came across B-29 Superfortress in action by Larry Davis. I thumbed the pages, starting to remember my dad's stories, and then was amazed to see a picture of Ding How, with my dad in it, on page 14. The caption said that it was October of 1944 in Kwanghan, China and that Ding How was s/n 42-6225 of the 444th Bomb Group.
I bought the book, and showed it to my mom and two brothers. My mom still
had all the memorabilia saved by my dad from his military service, so
this was a catalyst to get it out and look it over. We found, for example,
three bomb tags from three different bombing missions, with dates and
targets penciled in. The aircraft number was 42-6225. Early this year,
we got a call from a WWII vet from my home town, Gib Dunning, who also
was with B-29s in the Pacific. He told us about the Memorial being planned
in Great Bend, and urged that we commemorate Uline and the rest of his
crew, if we were able. He knew about the takeoff crash, and he felt that
these serviceman deserved more than just a marker in a cemetery.
Row L to R: Cpl Marvin Cooper, 2/Lt Uline
Miller, 2/Lt Norman Bersanti, Capt Stanley Polsk, S/Sgt Louis
Daubenspeck, Sgt Roy Larkin
From Gib's information, we knew that we needed names of all the crew members if we were to continue. I turned to my favorite research tool, the Internet. And here I am, thanks to the help of all the webmasters and group members who have provided so much information and guidance. My mom had a military "lost personal items" report my dad had saved, with an aircraft serial number on it. Knowing this and the date of dad's crash, we were able to obtain an accident report, so now we know all the crew members' names and will be able to properly salute these brave men, many of whom died in the service of their country. We also now know that dad's first assigned aircraft, 42-6225, was not the one that crashed on 12/24/44.
According to the AFHRA interpretation of Ding How's record card, she was returned to the US in January of 1945 and became a trainer, then scrapped in 1948. Sometime between October 25th and December 24th, VanWingerden's crew was reassigned, because they crashed in aircraft 42-63458, assigned to the 676th BS of the 444th BG. After the accident, the survivors returned to the US. My dad went through Officer Training School, and in 1946 was assigned to the 58th Wing Air Photo Unit (Task Unit 1.52) on Kwajalien. We have a booklet from this unit, saved by my dad, which contains crew photos, with names, along with other pictures. The following web pages are scans from this booklet.
Anyone with answers to these questions please email, Mark R. Miller, son of Uline C. Miller.
The history of the unit goes back to 10 January 1946, when Col. P. T. Cullen was told in Washington he was being assigned to the staff of Vice Adm. W.H.P. Blandy, Task Force 1, and that he had until 15 April to assemble, organize, equip, and train an organization capable of taking more feet of correctly-exposed film in a shorter space of time than any organization in history. In less then three months, that organization was to be operational on far-off Kwajalein, in the Marshall Islands.
That was when the bomb dropping date was 15 May. Later, the date was postponed until 1 July, but by the time of that postponement, much of the ground work already had been laid, many of the personnel already were at their advance Pacific base, and enough training flights flown to prove that the unit could have been ready and operating on the original date.
Activation of Task Group 1.5, and its various units, was made effective at 0001 hours, 21 January, with verbal instructions from Brig. Gen. Roger M. Ramey, commanding general of the 58th Bomber Wing, and later confirmed in a letter from headquarters of the Continental Air Force dated 29 January.
In the meantime, Colonel Cullen already had begun picking his key men, orders had been placed for 10 B-29s to be especially modified for use as photographic planes, and headquarters was being set up at the Roswell Army Air Base.
Men who had been screened for essential MOS qualifications began to trickle in from all air fields in the nation. Problems of billeting, mess, transportation, communication, and supplies grew with every arrival, but before 1 March, most of these were being whipped and the unit began taking shape as a tightly-knit organization. Arrival of the modified planes from Tinker Field, Oklahoma City, added training programs to the schedule, and transportation of men in small groups to the advance base on Kwajalein meant the screening of men needed at the two bases so that each could operate with efficiency.
On Kwajalein, bad weather and forecasts of worse, lack of adequate buildings for headquarters and billeting, and finally the delayed date that was such a blow to morale for those who thought the assignment might be completed quickly and they could return to their home stations, only added to the problems that had beset the organization from the first. However, these were ironed out, and long before A-Day, rehearsal missions were functioning with a smoothness believed impossible weeks before.
There is more to the organization than installing cameras in planes and circling a target area while trained photographers take pictures of an exploding bomb. All units had to have pictures taken for historical and record purposes, both movies and stills. A huge laboratory, capable of handling all this film, as well as the great amount exposed on Able Day, had to be set up-and this meant whipping the problems of tropical heat and the shortage of adequate water and power.
Above all towered the need for security. Since the atomic bomb was America's top secret, and one piece of all that exposed film falling into unauthorized hands could give away information that had been guarded with such great care and expense, elaborate precautions to guard against such an accident were taken.
Personal cameras were forbidden after 1 May, and all personal photography was forbidden. Every foot of movie film and every sheet of still camera film issued for official photography was checked and double-checked to see that each piece was accounted for. Every negative, aerial as well as still, was screened and classified as to whether it contained restricted information before a print was permitted or before it could be viewed by persons not authorized to view restricted material.
How well this organization has been formed must be judged by the amount of work accomplished, and in the tons of film that have been exposed and which are being placed in the hands of military heads and scientists for study. Every member of Air Photo Unit, whether he operated a camera from a plane or helped with the less-glamorous clerical work at the Kwajalein base, can feel he had a hand in providing this photographic report that will prove what the world's most potent explosive does when it is released above a fleet of vessels that until a year ago were masters over all their guns surveyed.
Command Staff - Front Row: L to R: Capt. Loren Straw, supply; Maj
Donald Yeager, Intelligence; 1/Lt Lloyd L O'Neil, adujant; Capt. William
F. Joyce, photo operations; Capt. Len C. Kappil, analysis; Capt. William
W. Robinson, still photo, air operations.
Row L to R: Lt. Col Richard J. Cunningham, Major Perry M. Thimas,
WO (jg) Alfred J. Ward, M/Sgt Leonard F. Meldhal, T/Sgt Loran Reichle,
M/Sgt Philip N. Phillipson, Capt. Thomas Lewellyn
Row L to R: Cpl Donald Russell, 1/Lt Gordon Vikan, Pfc Edward Johnson,
Cpl William Bumpers, Cpl Gene McCook, 2/Lt Edwin Kellogg, Harry Perry
Row L to R: Richard Hagen, 1/Lt Clement Kinkald, M/Sgt John D Meeks,
2/Lt William Phillips, Cpl James Bruss, Cpl James Long, Capt Charles
Row L to R: 1/Lt Jack D Lander, T/Sgt Herman J Braunstein, M/Sgt
Charlie D Crow, Cpl Brian J Donnelly, George A Bertram, PFC Donald L