"My uncle Bob's story has always been an inspiration to me.His generation had a oneness, a goal, that could only be achieved by everybody pulling together to get the job done. Sadly that sense of patriotism and national dedication has long left our society. The "me generation" is here to stay. My uncle's writings and diaries would go a long way in explaining to today's younger generation what being an American is all about.
He was only 20 years old at the time of his death but to read what he had to say about almost any subject you would believe him to be much older. A sad loss for our family and country. This loss in our family was to me a personal thing. However as time has marched on I've come to realize that this loss was spread throughout our land and what was to me a family thing was in truth being dealt with by thousands of others. I had not even considered finding others who had an interest in all things flying and in particular B-29s. . . ." - Bill Copeland
Lt. Robert E. Copeland was a member of the 500th Bomb Group, 73rd Bomb Wing, and 881st Squadron
2 Nov. 44 Had a dry run today and didn't get off. Bad solenoid leak held us up. I think Fitz's wife was happy about it even if I wasn't.
3 Nov 44 Another dry run. Weather held us up this time. I'm getting slightly burned up because I want to get over and see what this war is all about.
4 Nov 44 Well, today everything ran smoothly enough and we got off the ground at at 0919. We had a nice trip with a solid undercast to Albuquerque. Ran into clouds over Calif. and picked up some ice over Bakersfield. We used the boots. We landed at Mather Field at 1650 after a 71/2 hour trip. Mather is our POAE and the first stop on our way to combat. I'm anxious to get there and see if I can't realize my ambition of getting my own crew and ship.
5 Nov 44 We briefed all morning on our trip from here to John Rogers Field on Oahu Island in the Hawaiian group. We're scheduled to leave around 0500 tomorrow afternoon.
We were processed againWe went thru our ditching procedure also but I hope we never use it. The food here at Mather is wonderful to say the least.
6 Nov 44 Today we left Mather at 0630 and after 11 hrs. We arrived at John Rogers Field, Hawaii. It was a rather uneventful crossing and we had an Undercast most of the way so we saw very little of the ocean. We broke into the clear just before reaching Oahu and we were able to get a good look at Koko Head and Diamond Head. Also, we were able to see Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor which were supposedly fighting to revenge. From the short look I had at Hickam Field I couldn't see any of the marks the Japs left Dec. 7, 1942. Saw the anti-aircraft batteries firing at a sleeve target which was well framed by the island searchlights.
44 It looks like Roosevelt will win the election. We briefed today on
our trip to Kwajalein Atoll from here. We now know we are at least on
our way to the Marianas, probably Saipan. We will pass pretty close to
some Jap held atolls in the Marshalls on our way into Kwajalein so I guess
the war is getting closer all the time. After waiting so long for it I
think I'm rather glad though. I saw the navy "Mars" today and it sure
is a big airplane. There are quite a few guns spread around this field.
We are steadily getting away from civilization as evidenced by the lack
of things that we're always taken for granted, such as milk.
10 Nov 44 'We took off at 0900 and arrived at Iseley Field, Saipan 6:35 hrs. Later. It's a swell field with 1 asphalt runway and another under construction. We were quite impressed with the amount of construction that has been done in the Squadron area. We are eating the E.M.'s mess at present but will soon have our own. The food isn't bad considering everything. We are living in Quonset huts which are very nice and a lot better than I'd ever expected. Tokyo Rose announced today at 1600 that every man on Saipan would be dead in 6 hrs. So we're kind of expecting an air raid. There have been two so far since our outfit moved in. The Japs made preposterous claims as to the amount of damage done, altho 11 men were killed when a Betty hit a tent after shot down. A few incendiaries hit the runway.
11 Nov. 44 Well we're still alive and I was a little disappointed in that they didn't pull an air raid. We worked on the plane most of the day and we spent an hour censoring mail. What some E.M. don't write. The 500th went on it's first raid today down over Truk. The flak they said was from level to low and behind. Very little fighter opposition. Only one closed in near enough to fire at it and it smoked when Boren shot at it. Fires were started in the target area. 10,000 lbs. of bombs were dropped at 25,000 Ft. 60 to 70 percent hits were estimated. No one was lost on the 6 hour mission. 10 ships
12 Nov 44 No raid last night either. We cleaned our airplane today or rather continued the job. We worked on our Quonset this afternoon and put up a tarpaulin roof in front. Louis Charest helped us. He is in the 881st now. We are planning to do a lot of improving on our hut.
13 Nov 44Today we had an air raid alert but as yet I don't know whether the Japs ever got near the island. The F4U's TBF's and P-47's all dived at something on the other side of the island and really put on a show. I have never seen so many fighters in all my life. And I don't see how any Japs could get thru in the daytime and then there are P-61's for night fighting. Nothing much happened during the rest of the day. The raid lasted form 0700 to 0855
14 Nov 44 We cleaned the airplane and guns today and the guns are a little screwed up. There is a big mission coming up the next few days with the choicest target of all as our destination ,"TOKYO"' I hope we do a good job. This will be the first official raid on Japan by 29's. There have been Photo recon ships up there from here. We are supposed to carry 10 500 bombs and 500 rds of ammo per gun and 8000 gals. of gas.
15 Nov 44 We loafed around most of the morning and I did some of my back laundry. This afternoon we test hopped our ship for 45 mins. I got to make both the takeoff and landing from the left seat. I enjoyed this flight more than any I've made in a long time. We got a good look at Tinian. It seems to be well cultivated. There are about 3 strips on the island. It is rumored that we'll make a milk run up to the Bonin's before the big raid. Probably the day after tomorrow.
16 Nov. 44 We were briefed today on our Tokyo trip. It shouldn't be to bad as far as flak and fighters are concerned. We are to bomb the Nakajima engine plant along with two other plants which make nearly 40% of Japan's combat engines. Weather prevented us from going tomorrow. Four of us took a trip around the island in an jeep today. I enjoyed it very much. We went thru Charan Kanoa and Garapan. Both were beaten up horribly during the fighting.We looked at the sugar mill et C.K. The one that was mentioned prominently in the newspapers during the fight. The Marines were out in force today cleaning up the Japs left on the island. We also went swimming at the beach at C.K. The Water was swell and it was the nicest beach I've ever seen. 3
17 Nov 44 We didn't do a great deal today. Made a trip after some bananas though and they do grow upside down. We had our specialized briefing on the Tokyo raid. Today and it was lousy. We will encounter 400 to 500 fighters in the Tokyo area. Zekes,Oscars, Nicks, ' Franks, Jacks and lrwins. There are possibly 2300 fighters in the home islands. The air-sea rescue facilities are well set up and anyone forced down at sea has a good chance of getting back. The closest sub is only a few miles off the coast of Japan and they are strung out at various points between here and there. There will also be one airplane out, namely Dumbo. We drove near some of the graveyards on the island and it's plain to see that it took a lot of hard and bitter fighting to take this place.
18 Nov 44 Maybe we'll go tomorrow, I hope. If we do. Hirohito is going to be rather upset after we cut loose with 5,000 lbs of bombs from nearly 90 airplanes. Toured the island again today. We went to the far end and I can see now how so many Japs can be holed up yet because it's a plenty rugged island. This raid is to be announced to the U.S. by the President himself so it's going to really make history and I wouldn't miss being on it for the world.
19 Nov 44 1 had expected this to be our big day but the mission was called off because the wind was blowing the wrong way. Maybe we'll go sooner or later. I spent part of the day building myself a shelf to put odds and ends on. It was a rather dull day for the most part. We got up at 0300. It rained considerably harder today than it ever has before. I saw a helicopter today. The first one I've ever seen. It flew along quite nicely.
20 Nov. 44 Getting up at these ungodly hours just to bomb Tokyo is getting very monotonous. We arose at 0430 this morning and after we got all prepared they called the mission off. I didn't accomplish a thing this morning but in the afternoon I managed to write seven letters. It's been raining hard most of the day. There seems to be a tropical storm or two running loose in this vicinity and that's the reason for our not going. I hope we go soon because this inactivity is beginning to get everyone.
21 Nov 44 We crawled out at 0500 this morning and had everything in the airplane before the mission was called off. I'M getting slightly bitter about this whole thing. We laid around the rest of the day writing letters. We wont go tomorrow . We had pork chops for dinner and boy did they taste good. This evening Bob checked me out on his A-14 sextant.
22 Nov 44 Ray and I went over to East fighter field today and I ran into Brunner and Bennett over there. Brunner was at Marana and Bennett was at Thunderbird Two. Had a big talk with them and we discussed old times and old friends They've been on the island since D Day plus 12 and were brought here on a carrier. In the afternoon we went swimming at Blue Beach. The water was swell. I saw a woman down there for the first time since I left the states. She was a nurse.
23 Nov 44 Thanksgiving Day. Today was another dull one. We had a nice dinner with chicken, potatoes, peas, fresh butter, and pumpkin pie. I went to church and was glad I did. It was a good sermon. This afternoon we did nothing but clean the rocks out of the recreation field they're fixing up out to the side of out hut. Fitz said today there is some talk of making ours a lead crew and if that happens I'll have to ride in the tail. All I can say is, why did they give me wings?
24 Nov. 44 This will be a day to long remember. We made the first raid over TOKYO today. It was also my first combat mission.We arrived over the target in the early afternoon soon after the first groups had bombed the primary. I could see a large pillar of smoke rising from it. Clouds covered the target when we closed in and we went to the secondary. Boren said he saw his bombs working over docks so I guess we may have done some some good. The formation was generally poor altho we were together over the target. The flak was from meager to moderate and most of it was accurate as far as altitude was concerned. We didn't lose a ship from our group. A ship from one of the other groups was reported to have ditched just off the coast of Japan. One tail gunner died of anoxia and a bombardier was shot in the leg so we had very few casualties. We had a few shots at fighters. Vince got at one but didn't knock him down. He came in at 11 o'clock low. Another came in from the front but no one got a shot at him. Another came in at 7 o'clock high but no one got him either. Ten to 15 sat out of range but never came in. The first one was a two engine job and the second was probably a Tony. Saw Mt. Fujiyama today. The island of Honshu is quite mountainous and very pretty with the snow on the peaks.
25 Nov. 44 Went to a critique on the mission today and we decided our bombs definitely must have hit around the dock area of Tokyo. Apparently bombs hit all over Tokyo. Went up this evening to East Field and had a few drinks with Bennett and Brunner. Had a big talk with them and a couple of their friends. There is liable to be another mission in the next few days according to the rumors.
26 Nov 44 Helped on the ball diamond this morning and then went to church. Spent most of the afternoon up at the airplane. We have a blister out and screwed up bomb racks. We briefed this evening for another trip to Tokyo and another try at bombing out the original primary target. Photos said that we didn't get but 12 hits in it. I'm not particularly anxious to go back there because I think the target was hit worse later on. We also aren't going to use any sort of evasive tactics and sooner or later someone is going to get it.
27 Nov 44 At 0007 we had an attack by 3 Betty's. Tracers flew right over our heads. 3 B-29's were lost and 3 men. At 1227 from 8 to 10 Zero's strafed the field. The AA was terrific and they got two for sure. I saw one of them get it right near the cockpit and he burst into a flame that trailed way behind him and he dove into the ground near the 883rd area and exploded. One 29 is burning in it's hardstand on the hill above us and two more to the right down the taxiway. We built our air raid shelter this morning and we're darn glad of it. I went down and saw the Zeke near the 883rd and the biggest part left was a prop blade. Saw the remains of the pilot and it was the first dead man I've ever seen. Four ships were shot down by a fighter. They shot hell out of our ships. Lucas put out the fire caused in the No. 2 engine and as he and another fellow were doing this the Japs strafed the place again and very nearly hit them. They shot up the cockpit badly and the center wing section, tanks and bomb bays and all the gas leaked out but the ship didn't catch fire. We're out and airplane for a while now.
28 Nov. 44 last night at 2230 we took Maj. Goldsworthy's ship down here to Guam. It was a very pretty trip with a full moon above the clouds. It reminded me of my first solo night X-C in Basic. It was a 45 min. flight and it's purpose was to get the ships out of Saipan in case it was raided by the Japs again. Guam isn't quite as mountainous as Saipan and here at Depot Field it isn't badly battle scarred. It's very pretty with lots of vegetation and plenty of coconut palms. Climbed one of the palms and got a coconut. The meat tasted good but it sure was job husking it. Capt. Irvin ditched his plane on the Tokyo mission yesterday but we've had no report on him as yet. The boys on the raid didn't encounter any fighters of flak and bombed thru the overcast by radar. 5
29 Nov. 44 We flew back from Guam today and found everything essentially the same as when we left. Two Japs came over high last night but the AA boys didn't get them. We saw Rota and it has a landing strip on it. I flew the ship back and made the landing. Saw some battleships out in the harbor. We had an alert at 1930 but nothing materialized. I suppose we'll have another one tonight. On the raid of the 27th I heard that six ships were shot down by fighters and seven by AA guns at various parts of the island. Ten B-29's were burned up or damaged badly according to the rumors.
30 Nov. 44 Payday. Nothing today but I was up to East Field today and Brunner said there were 30 Jap bombers at Iwo Jima and they expected them down tonight. The B-24's just got back from there at 2030 though so maybe they knocked them out, I hope. Was over to the 24 outfit tonight and found out that Gallagher, Auerback(Charlie) and Garlock are over there. Garlock is in Oahu on a rest leave and the other two were on the Iwo raid so I'll have to see them some other night. We're going to have a big reunion on the fifth up at East Field of the 43- boys. The boys bombed Tokyo last night with 17 incendiary clusters and three frag clusters. 10 ships took off from this squadron. Maj. Hansen was never heard from from the time he took off and Capt. Irvin hasn't been found.
1 Dec 44 Well last night we were routed out of bed at 2305 but nothing showed up over the island altho some flak was tossed up at something. The Japs said today that our boys started a number of fires in Tokyo on there Weds. nite raid. They were unable to see anything themselves and bombed the ETA as their radar was jammed. The Japs dropped window on their raid of the 29th and that's why the AA wasn't able to get at them. Saw Brunner last night and the 38's are going to follow any Japs that come down back to Iwo and get them there as they go in to land, Good deal. Bennett flew top cover two days ago on a strike against Pagan and the low ships got two in the air.and a two engine job in an underground hangar. Tokyo Rose promised that we wouldn't sleep tonight and with a full moon I wouldn't doubt it. She dedicated the song "I Didn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" to us. Saw a man yesterday who is scared to death of these air raids and I really feel sorry for him. I don't exactly feel comfortable but when it's over I get quite a bang out of it, talking about it and I'm not bothered particularly.
2 Dec 44 Found out today that the raid last night was merely a B-24 with his IFF off. I didn't do a thing that was exciting today. I did try to dig a foxhole though and would have succeeded except for the coral.Wrote a couple of letters and now that we can say something I can write fairly good notes. Nelson was an eager beaver today and did his laundry. I'll try to do mine tomorrow. I beat around in our backyard today also.
3 Dee 44 It was a sad day for the 881st Maj. Goldsworthy and crew were lost over Tokyo. Col. King was riding with him. Fighters shot away parts of his No. 3 and when last seen he was trailing either smoke or gas and his nose wheel was down as though he were going to jump. McNamer took a 20 mm shell in the rear as he was over the target and his gear started down but he brought it back up with the normal switch. When he landed though the nose gear collapsed. The nose took it beautifully. The boys met a lot of opposition but very few got hit. Maj. Luman had his nose shot up and a 50 cal. shell casing came thru it. A blister also blew out. The boys are beginning to crack. Capt. Field started for the cliff last night before he was stopped and taken to the hospital. I'm wondering what'll happen to Sollock (Maj. Goldsworthy's co-pilot). Sollock was kicked off so King and the Wing A-3 could go. The AA was still moderate and inaccurate. The bombing results as far as our Sqdn. was concerned were lousy. Some groups reported 50% bomb hits on the target. I didn't do much today except work on our backyard and also do some laundry. I went to church too.
4 Dec 44 Another dull day. For excitement I worked on the backyard again. Went to the line and saw "old 692". They're rapidly patching it up and getting it ready to fly. Capt. Hatch sighted a raft on the Tokyo raid and Curtiss and crew searched for it today in a B-24 but were unable to find any trace of it. It may be Capt. Irvin. Saw Kimmet and Parker today. They're in the 499th I can't help but be bitter about the matter of fact way the radio commentators speak of the loss of Just one B-29 yesterday. It really brings home the war to us though. It's a sad thing about Capt. Field. He'll probably be sent home. If so I hope Dodds gets the crew,
5 Dec 44 The only exciting thing I did today was to go to our 43-K get together up at East Field. Saw "Fat Boy" Bennett and Halpin for the first time. Charlie A. was there playing beat up piano and a big time was had by all. Brunner took care of everything very nicely. Bivins, Dodds, Craig, Bennett and Gallagher were the other fellows that I knew who were there. We had an alert in the morning and a 38 shot down a Jap Mert at 27,000'. The Japs dropped funeral wreaths on parachutes to there honorable comrades who died on this island. They should have used them themselves.
6 Dec 44 It looks like were getting set for another mission. This time it will be up to the Bonins where we'll probably help with an invasion of the place. We're scheduled to fly group lead with me in the tail gunner's position. We'll be carrying 40 500 lb. bombs.
7 Dec 44 I'm tired this evening after four hours of baseball. We were routed out of bed at 0400 this morning by bullets and planes going over the hut. Fitz said he saw one get shot down just after he passed over here. I sure took to the shelter in a hurry and without shoes, helmet or clothes. Nelson went out naked. At 0450 another Jap came in and I saw him catch fire and go in and explode. He hit on a taxiway and when I got there at 0700 the body's were still lying around and there was very little left of anything. It was the most horrible sight I had ever seen and all my illusions as to the grandeur of war vanished.
8 Dec 44 We raided Iwo Jima today with 20,000 lbs of 500 lb. G.P.'s We were flying group lead with Col. Doughtery riding with us. He is now Group Commander. We bombed by radar and our bombs missed the island but the rest of the squadrons hit on it. The formation was slightly improved, I rode in the tail gunners seat and it's really horrible back there. We made a practice run on the Pajores on the way. It's an active volcano that rises out of the sea 326 miles north of here. It was smoking some today. I saw about four fighters today and no flak. The fighters didn't bother us. We had to make two runs before we dropped our bombs. The lst run was on the wrong target and it was only luck that the bombs didn't drop.
9 Dec 44 This morning at 0412 we were awakened by the air raid alarm but nothing materialized down here. Went to a mission critique at 0930 and yesterdays mistakes were quite thoroughly discussed. Col. Dougherty seems to he making progress on the errors present within this group. The formation problem is being attacked in particular. This afternoon we censored mail and attended a chemical warfare lecture by Lt. Craig. We have another airplane now but I haven't seen it yet. 7
10 Dec 44 We spent the day giving our new ship an acceptance check. We flew up to Pagan and dropped 5 bombs. Four by radar and one visually. Canfield said he saw three Jap twin engine ships on the field, but I think they are all shot up. I don't know whether any bombs hit the island or not. Pagan isn't too small and has a fairly large strip. 'When we came back we calibrated our airspeed indicators. We had turkey for supper. McKinney seems to be more or less going on the rocks since he got the news that his wife and Mother-in-law were murdered. He hasn't eaten in three days.
11 Dec 44 Worked on the guns with the boys today. They're in pretty good shape. We'll probably go on another Tokyo raid soon'. Didn't do much this afternoon but went to a movie this evening. We acquired a new radar operator today. His name is Cookson.
12 Dec 41 Spent the morning washing our airplane to see if we can't get a few more mph out of it. Didn't do a darn thing this afternoon except sleep. Some of the crew briefed this evening on the Nagoya mission. They are to bomb an aircraft engine plant up there. By quirk of fate we aren't going. There's a rumor going around that the "wreaths" the Japs dropped on Dec 5 were not wreaths but heads of some of the men from a captured crew, probably Goldsworthys. Wish we knew for sure, because if we did we could go up there with a vengeance from now on. I wouldn't give a darn then whether we bombed indiscriminately or not.