Cut in Half Over Tokyo
Standing L to R: S/Sgt Jack L. Heffner (Radar), 2/Lt William A Shauck (Navigator), 2/Lt Edward Porada (Co-pilot), Sgt Richard A. Landsman (Gunner), 2/LT Edward A Meeder, Jr (Flight Eng), 1/Lt James M. Pearson (AC)
L to R: Maj. Robert Fitzgerald, 2/Lt EdwardMeeder, 1/Lt James Pearson, 2/LT Edward Porada, 2/Lt Robert E. Copeland.
Maj. Fitzgerald and his co-pilot, Robert E. Copeland, were lost over Tokyo on March 16, 1945.
Combat Diary Notes of S/Sgt Jack L. Heffner
February 19, 1945
Mission #10. Destination - aircraft plant in Tokyo.
Longest and toughest mission for me as yet. We were lead ship of the extreme right element, low element, with Lt. Samuelson on our right (Evans, Radar) and Lt. Rouse (Johnston, Radar) as tail end Charlie, Calhoun on left wing. Picked up a few attacks after I.P., we being the first formation in. Right after bombs away, an Irving came in from the front and high, the ring gunner shooting at him. He went on back and crashed into Sammy on top, almost halfway back. We think it was a deliberate ramming. The plane broke in two and burst into flame immediately, the Irving going into smaller pieces with it. Six parachutes were seen to open from the 29, one was burning and collapsed This happened directly over Tokyo at 26,000. Evans was one of my closest buddies, he, Burkie, and I traveling together ever since Scott Field. He may have been one of the parachutists. He gave me his leather jacket to send home in case something happened. I knew every man on the crew very well, and it sure is hurting.
Rouse then pulled into Sammy's position on our right wing, and soon after was seen spiralling down to earth, no one knows what happened to him. Johnston was also one of my .closest buddies since Scott Field. Taught me lots of songs. During all this, we were getting plenty of attacks and expecting any-thing. No. 3 engine was bad and it started throwing huge chunks of frozen oil. The prop then ran away and the engine started burning. Unable to feather it, we soon dropped back from the formation, losing altitude fast. Course took us out of the Mainland and Maj. Fitzgerald went into a dive to follow us down. We all expected a ditching or a crash off the mainland, but the ship leveled off at 3000 feet and the fire was put out. However, not knowing how long we'd last, everyone prepared to ditch and started throwing all loose stuff into the sea. We proceeded in ditching position for some time, Fitzgerald alongside of us (Cookson, Radar) and No. 3 whining at a high pitch. Later, the prop flew off and tore a huge gash in the fuselage, in the fore bomb bay section, tearing a bomb bay door off. We were down to 150 indicated, and limped all the way back, expecting to ditch at any time, or the nose to drop off. We steered clear of high islands by our Radar and our ETA seemed far beyond our gas limitations. After nearly 18 hours of flying, we came in sight of our base around midnight, a few hours overdue, Fitzgerald still aiding us. Can't commend him enough. We were leery of our landing gears and the nature of our landing, made a beautiful approach and soft landing. We were just a short ways up the runway, still clipping it off, when something happened, due to lack of hydraulic pressure for brakes, I think . We ran off the strip, smashed into a truck, hit a cleat truck, turning if over, tore through an embankment and smashed into a parked B-29 (Z9) on its hard stand. I was standing up in the Radar room, got thrown clen up into the CFC (Central Fire Control) compartment, not missing anything and nothing missing me. Got out with banged up nose. Two other gunners in back with me didn't get hurt either, nor the remainder of the crew in the front. Driver of the truck was seriously injured, cleat truck man killed instantly. I'll never know how the boys in the front got out, the nose was ripped off completely to the wings and twisted around, the fuselage battered on all directions, cowlings, landing gears and everything imaginable lying all over. The tail was at least 20-25 ft. in the air, the tunnel twisted, making it impossible to get thru. We had to wait for a rope to climb down. Z9 was knocked off its stand and into the embankment. It was also cut in two, the tail lying all over and the fuselage flattened By the time we got out, they were washing the blood away with a hose and a huge crowd had gathered. Our crew was intact, the pilot injured slightly and we got out of the scene immediately. Taken to the dispensary for slight treatment, received a double shot, wonderful stimulant, ate a meal and a very tired and jittery crew called it a day. Three planes out of the four in our formation, or rather element, will never fly again, but one of the crews will be back another day, less exciting, I hope.
Longest mission recorded (17 hours, 13 minutes), 1500 miles with 2 engines out on same side.
February 20, 1945
Got our pictured taken in front of both of our sections of the plane now being salvaged. Lt. Pearson said we were put in for a rest. Took Lt. Samuelson's crew's belongings out of their quonset today. Four and a half crews gone out of twenty.
February 22, 1945
Got issued clothing that was lost on the last mission. Pearson said there's a good chance of going to rest in Hawaii. Lewis, my old co-pilot got his own crew today (Capt. Brown's).
881st Squadron patch from A-2 flying jacket
I would like to thank Mike Heffner for sending me his Father's combat diary notes and the above photos. This makes a very fine addition to our growing collection of candid stories and photographs. You can email Mike or his Dad, Jack Heffner, at: JKMHEFF@aol.com