Matt in 1944
I was a student at the University of Minnesota when war was declared after Pearl Harbor. I enlisted in the Air Corps on August 12, 1942. I was trained at various schools, for many months before leaving Mather Field, Sacramento, California on July 29, 1944.We left on a troopship U.S.S. Fair Isle (previously a freighter carrying fruit). We arrived in Hawaii on August 8th, 1944 and finally arrived at Tabapag Harbor, Saipan Island on September 17th after 59 days on board ship.
Our convoy escort left us there, as something had happened to our ship’s boilers and it was pouring out black smoke that could attract submarines. We had to sail around Saipan alone, except for a small naval vessel, for one more day, as the Marines had not
been able to secure the island yet! We debarked on September 18, 1944.
All personnel worked with the Army Engineers who were the first construction unit on Saipan, after the Marines finished securing the island. Working 24 hour shifts – except for necessary blackouts & no alert raids, we blasted the coral bed to get a 2 mile airstrip for the B29 planes.
Isley Field was ready to receive the first B-29’s on October 12, 1944. Retaliation Japanese raids were continuous after our first bombing of Truk Island. “Tokyo Rose” immediately beamed her daily reports to us; that our bombs had missed their target and thanked us for all the fish they now had to eat.
It was necessary to keep a close check in the B-29 area, as there was a strong possibility that the 8,000 Japanese soldiers holed-up in the jungle-like mountainous areas, would attempt an attack on our parked B-29’s at Isley Field. There was a good deal of guard duty for all personnel. I soon discovered that I was trained as a remote-control gunner, I was grounded because of my Specialized training (state-side) It was my responsibility to keep all the remote-control guns on my plane (Waddy’s Wagon) in perfect working order. I worked on them as soon as my plane came back to the field, so they would be ready for the next mission. “Waddy’s Wagon” never had a gun turret that misfired on a mission.
One night around midnight about the first part of November, I was returning from our shop tent to our -bivouac area (near a hardstand where a B-29 was being topped-off with fuel.) Tall metal lamps flooded the area with bright light! We jumped out of the weapons carrier to try to find some air-raid protection and someone remarked “they must not know that there is a raid?” I said, “Someone has to warn them to turn off their lights.” Without any regard to my own safety, I took off running toward the plane, yelling at them “douse the lights” “douse the lights”.
Just as I reached the wing of the aircraft, I heard one crew member say to the other – “tomorrow we’ll” – and then there was an explosion! The next thing I remember, I was in our infirmary tent with our squadron clerk, who was taking care of some of my wounds. He was putting disinfectant on my chest. I asked where the medics were and he said they were all out on the field helping the other wounded etc. He told me to lie down on a cot. I was confused and felt dazed and felt I could not lie on a clean cot with the blood and dirt on myself. To this day, I don’t know how I ended up in the infirmary tent! I finally found my way back to my tent and collapsed on my cot. I continued trying to go to duty each day, the best I could.
Sometime later, there was a huge raid and the area was strafed thoroughly, they came in over the bivouac
areas and the Island in general. (Fortunately most of the planes were airborne on a raid against Tokyo.) I lost control of my actions – and my 1st Sgt. brought me to the hospital on Saipan, and I was hospitalized until later, evacuated to Hawaii. Then later to U.S.A. to Bushnell General Hospital, Brigham City, Utah. Where I was discharged, and finally back home to Minnesota.
After I left Saipan Island, my plane “Waddy’s Wagon” left formation during a mission on January 9, 1945. He tried to ride herd on his buddy’s plane that had been rammed by a zero. Both planes disappeared in the clouds and he radioed he was ditching! All were lost!
General Paul Tibbett was briefly assigned to the 73rd Bomb Wing for a “special mission” August 6,1945. He was flying the special B-29 plane the “Enola Gay” (named after his mother). The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan August 6, 1945.