Hap's Victory . . .
The Rover Boys Express. Taken at Lincoln, Nebraska in October 1944,
As a boy growing up in Lockland, Ohio, during the Great Depression, Ray "Hap" Halloran dreamed of flying planes. After graduating from Roger Bacon High School in 1940, he was given his chance when World War 11 began. He joined the Army Air Corps, becoming a navigator and bombardier on a B-29 crew called the "Rover Boys Express."
But Jan. 27, 1945, the Rover Boys Express was shot down. Captured by -the Japanese after parachuting into the outskirts of Tokyo, a different kind of war began for Halloran: A war against beatings solitary confinement, sickness, open sores, starvation and the fear that he And his fellow. captured B-29 pilots might be executed for "war crimes. Physical liberation finally came in late August of 1945, but the effects of war lingered for years in the form of nightmares. In the 1980's, a series of visits to Japan helped liberate Halloran emotionally from his experience.
Halloran give's God all the credit for his survival. "Faith. and devotion " he said, helped pull him through
Halloran, who received his nickname, "Hap" during the service because of his good spirits and constant smile, grew up on Arlington Avenue in Lockland. The second oldest in a family of five sons, he attended Sts. Peter and Paul Church and School in Reading. His father worked for the railroad, and his mother worked hard at home. For Halloran, it was a wonderful time, and church was an important part of family life. "We were a religious family from day one," he noted.
During Hap's time as a POW, he fought to keep his mental balance. In the same row of cages was a 19-year-old tail gunner, said Halloran. "He kept saying, over and over again,'OK, Mom, I'll be fight down for breakfast."' He was taken out for violating the no-noise rule. In another cell was an officer who kept demanding pencil and paper so he could make out a new will. On a couple of occasions, Halloran saw within himself how thin the line between survival and loss of sanity was.
The Japanese soon transferred Halloran to a stable stall where he was in solitary confinement for 67 days. Sometimes "bad guards" would hit him in the head with their rifle butts. He was later placed in a truck and driven to the Ueno Zoo. The Japanese stripped him and put him on display in a cage. It was, said Halloran, the most humiliating time in his life.
After that episode, the Japanese transported Halloran to Omori Prison, where he was to spend the rest of his captivity. While he and other B-29 pilots were not allowed to mix with the rest of the population, which totaled about 500 men, Halloran and the others exchanged furtive communication with other prisoner-pilots. One of them was the legendary Marine pilot Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington. Halloran became a good friend of Boyington's after the war and delivered the eulogy for the Congressional Medal of Honor winner when he was buried at Arlington Cemetery in 1988.
Sick, emaciated and starving, Halloran and his fellow prisoners struggled through their captivity until they were liberated Aug. 29, 1945. The Cincinnati native Was placed on the hospital ship, Benevolence, where he had his first shower in months and consumed 18 Milky Way candy bars over a period of several hours. He was transported back to the United States and a reunion with his family before being sent to a military hospital in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. He spent time in other hospitals before being discharged in 1946.
Halloran married and embarked on a successful business career. However, he suffered from vivid nightmares, sometimes twice a week, that tested him and his family. He resisted the idea of visiting Japan but decided to go there in 1984 in hopes of putting the past to rest. During a second visit to Japan in 1985, he met Isamu Kashiide, the pilot who shot down the Rover Boys' B-29. It was an emotional but friendly meeting. At long last, Halloran's pain began to heal.
In the past 15 years, Halloran has given a large number of speeches about his ordeal, sometimes at the request of the federal government. He appeared in a CBS special with Dan Rather in 1995, "Victory in the Pacific." He has been featured on TV stations and in newspapers throughout the United States and Asia. He has also-co-authored Hap's War: The Incredible Survival Story of a PO. W. Slated for Execution.
Halloran still cherishes his hometown and visits about once a year'. He always makes a special tour of the places important to him growing up including Roger Bacon High School.
Halloran enjoys "doing things for other people" and sharing his experiences with others. It makes him feel good to have a sixth-grader tell him she appreciated hearing his story and how it inspired her, or how a woman in a wheelchair, despondent about her life, told Halloran that "I'm going to make it, I'm going to try' after hearing his story.
For Halloran, each day on earth is a "bonus day." In his book, he writes that, "We live in a great country. I appreciate freedom. I thank God every day for another bonus day."
"Now I'm 76," said Halloran, laughing. "So you could say that these are the super bonus days."
The media, remarks Halloran, "knows we're all dying and there aren't many of us left. But they want to hear firsthand from somebody who was there."
An accomplished motivational speaker and a retired senior vice
president of Consolidated Freightways in Menlo Park, Halloran tells his
story of survival as a POW to hundreds of business, community and
military organizations and schools in both the United States and Japan.