On January 27, 1945, B-29 bombers of the 73rd Wing, based on Saipan, flew a high altitude mission against the Nakajima aircraft plant located at Musashino on the western fringe of Tokyo. It was known to all B-29ers as target 357. Nine superfortresses were lost on that mission; one of them was V Square 27, known affectionately as the Rover Boys Express. I was the navigator aboard this aircraft.
Our plane was critically damaged while we were attempting to complete our bomb run. A twin-engine K-45 nick came at us from directly ahead and hit us in the nose with a 37mm cannon shell. Despite considerable damage we managed to stay aloft on an east/southeast course passing over cloud covered metropolitan Tokyo and then east over Chiba prefecture towards the coast/ocean. Our crew parachuted at intervals prior to the actual plane crash site near the coast. Our plane came down at Ikisu village in Chiba prefecture near Konoike Naval Airfield.
I managed to bail out at altitude and did a long free fall. Temperature at altitude varied from 48 to 50 degrees below zero. I was wearing khaki flying clothes, which accorded minimal protection. At about 2500 feet I pulled my ripcord and my chute blossomed. Wow! I was approaching enemy soil. I was numb from the cold and shock. I was frightened and so alone.
Suddenly I saw three Japanese fighter planes at my altitude headed directly for me. They moved in closer. I felt totally hopeless and expected the worst. Later I learned these were fixed landing gear advanced trainers of the army's 39th regiment from nearby Yokoshiba Airfield. They had just completed a phosphorous bomb dropping training exercise in that area.
The third plane in that formation was flown by corporal Hideichi Kaiho. The planes moved in closer, throttled back and circled me as I floated down. Had they sort of waved to me on that first pass- "Hardly", I thought. After another close in circle two of the planes left. Only the third plane remained. "What were his intentions-" Again, I feared for the worst.
Then a wonderful thing happened. The pilot of the third plane moved in closer and saluted me. I attempted a response with my arms above my head. A positive feeling of hope engulfed me. I breathed a sigh of relief as this plane circled me and left the area. Corporal Kaiho had spared me. That was almost 56 years ago.
I have never forgotten that fateful day. I have always recalled and spoken of this episode in subsequent interviews, books and speeches. I wanted people to know of this chivalrous act by an enemy pilot; a pilot who "saluted" me at that critical time in my life; on that cold winter day of January 27, 1945 over enemy soil.
In recent years I have communicated frequently with certain Japanese historians via fax and later e-mail. Strangely, we had much in common with specific interests in B-29 activities over the empire in the 1944 and 1945 WWII period. As the months passed we exchanged information and developed friendships via e-mail. The topics and inquiries and information exchange concentrated on B-29 activities as viewed through their and my eyes. They had accumulated massive information regarding B-29 activities.
In several books and interviews over the years I made references to "the saluting incident"'. One day in spring of 2000, Koji Takaki, a retired president of a large textile manufacturing company and an avid WWII aviation historian, decided to investigate this incident in depth. We had been communicating on a regular basis for sometime. He mentioned that a friend of his, Hideichi Kaiho, had mentioned over the years of an unusual incident. The former combat pilot recalled circling a B-29 crewman and waving to the figure as he floated down in his parachute. Now the book segments and other articles that mentioned "this salute" became meaningful. After months and months of active pursuit of this incident, including personal interviews to develop and confirm related facts - things started to mesh together.
After continuing communications and fact gathering confirmed this incident to my satisfaction, and after much thought, I ultimately expressed a desire to return to Japan to meet and thank the former enemy pilot who exhibited uncommon chivalry toward a B-29 crewman almost 56 years earlier.
Additional details were forthcoming regarding Hideichi Kaiho. A few weeks after the "saluting" incident, Hideicih was nearly killed in combat with US Navy carrier hellcat fighters. He was still flying the advanced trainer that was only armed with one 7.7mm machine gun. He was chased by four hellcats that inflicted heavy damage to his plane. He crash landed on the grounds of a shrine; coincidentally name the Kaiho shrine. He was subsequently aided by a woman and her daughter. He eventually married the daughter and smilingly commented, "I found a great wife thanks to the Grummans and God". He became a flight instructor after the war and a noted professional aviation artist.
I accomplished a significant post war mission on October 23, 2000. On that day I was escorted to Funabashi, Chiba prefecture, southeast of Tokyo. There at the home of his son, I met Hideichi Kaiho. My friend, Koji Takaki, arranged this reunion. Hideichi and I embraced -- two warriors two former enemies - I thanked him for his noble act of January 27, 1945. He is now 75 years of age; I am 78. Both of us recognize how fortunate we were to have survived those long ago days of WWII. We held hands in a feeling of appreciation. That was a memorable occasion.
Hideichi Haiho, Koji Takaki, Hap Halloran
My memories of January 27, 1945 and October 23, 2000 now blend together in a very positive way; a closing of another open circle in both of our lives.
As I left this joyous reunion I also felt a sadness as I thought about my other crew members and fellow B-29ers and others who did not survive those days of war.
- Hap Halloran
To view Hideichi Kaiho's beautiful art please click here.
For another success story based on this same trip of Hap's, please click here and read Ex-POW Brings Closure to Another