by Chester Marshall

I knew when I left Saipan in June, 1945, after completing g a tour of 30 combat missions against Japan, that one my goals was to write a book about our B-29 crew's (# 25) experiences during our stay at Saipan. We had weathered the storms and the 15-hour long trips over notoriously furious water, beginning with the first B-29 raid against Tokyo November 24, 1944 and including the first low-level fire raid March 9-10th 1945. These did more destruction than either of the Atomic missions that followed later.

Our crew was disbanded and split up at Saipan and as we left on two B-29s returning to the State for major overhauls, we would never see three of our crew members again.

With 30 required missions completed June 7, 1945 Crew # 25 turned V-27 the Mary Ann over to another crew to finish out the war with. This picture was taken June 8, 1945 showing missions flown and ten Japanese symbols representing the number of enemy planes the crew was credited with shooting down. Standing from left: John Cox, Airplane Commander; Chester Marshall, Pilot (co-pilot); John Huckins, Flight Engineer; Jim O'Donnel, Navigator; Herb Feldman, Bombardier. Seated, from left: Robert Slisewski, Radar Operator; Alvin Torres Radio; Kendal Chance, Central Fire Control; George Koepke, Right Gunner; Arle Lackey, Left Gunner; and John Sutherland, Tail Gunner. Sutherland was credited with shooting down 5 of the 10 victories. The airplane was named after Ground Crew Chief Fred Reed's daughter, who was born after the crew left for overseas.

Each of the returning crewmen carried with them a copy of an abbreviated copy of a diary we kept while at Saipan. Herb Feldman, our Bombardier, was assigned the duty of making sure insertions, with help of others, were in place. When I began my first draft of what would be called: "Sky Giants Over Japan", these notes were a great help in putting the book together.

Back in the States, with the war still going full force, I was assigned to Roswell, New Mexico, Air Base, as a B-29 flight instructor. As the war ended I was offered the opportunity to remain in the Air Force which I gave serious consideration. I passed up that opportunity, because while attending Bowling Green Business University in Kentucky prior to my military service, I got ink in my blood while serving as one of the editors of that school's "Student Weekly" newspaper. I found myself longing for a newspaper job rather than further military duty. After all I had a book to write.

 

That chance came at my hometown of Belzoni Mississippi, with my friend W. L. Toney's weekly newspaper, The Belzoni Banner. I entered the Job Training Program like so many ex-WWII service men did under what was called the G.I. Bill of Rights.

I began my training program under the tutelage of an intelligent man by the name of A.B. Lowe, a part time actor, and an exceptional newspaperman. He could do it all: Set type on a linotype, make up ads, write news, sell advertising, make up pages for the paper, and he could run the presses. Thanks to AB it wasn't too long before I was on my way, from the ground up to a newspaper and publishing career.

With Mr. Toney's encouragement, I immediately started putting my book together. I accumulated all the facts I could about the B-29 and our operation against Japan. In this way I was able to separate the rumors (which we sometime had in our diaries) from the historical facts. We decided that I would name this endeavor "Thirty Combat Missions Over Japan", and every week I would write that story of our missions in sequence. The year was 1947, with memories still fresh.




Chester Marshall all dressed up for the Wild Blue Yonder at Coleman, TX Primary Training School. Date of this picture was September,1942. His pilot training Class was 43-F and graduated June 29, 1943.



In early 1948 I got a telephone call from Hap Halloran. He had heard that I was writing a newspaper column about our WWII experiences with the B-29s in the Pacific. Hap and his Rover Boys crew had gone through combat training with my crew at Salina, Kansas and we had become close friends. We were in the same B-29 squadron at Saipan, and because of a shortage in B-29s overseas at the time, he and his crew were assigned to fly a mission inn V-Sq-27, the B-29 that was permanently assigned to our crew. The date was January 27, 1945, and the mission was to target # 357 in Tokyo. Hap and his crew were shot down over Tokyo that day, and this was the first knowledge I had of what happened to their crew that day.



Marshall snapped this picture from the right cockpit at the exact time flak from antiaircraft guns from a Japanese ship in Osaka Bay hit the nose of Captain Wilkinson's B-29, see, just below the propeller blade on plane to our right. The boiling smoke in the picture is coming from the city of Osaka, during a daylight low level raid on Osaka, April l, 1945. All perished in the Wilkinson crew.

 


I sent Hap clippings from the newspaper, giving him an idea of what happened at Saipan after they went down. We talked for than two hours on the phone that day in which he gave me a detailed account of the suffering he and his crew endeavored during the remaining months of the war. From that moment on I was determined to start putting my real book together and tell the story that needed to be told about the war in the Pacific, and the roll of the world's largest bomber at the time, the B-29 Superfortress, accomplished in bringing the Japanese war lords to the surrender table.



Hap and Chester

 

 

 

 

 

 

The newspaper columns graduated to a full-blown effort to put together my dream book. The book was easier that the newspaper columns, because so much research had to be done for the first writings which naturally brought back a little of my first person experiences. I decided on the name of "Sky Giants Over Japan" for the title, and subtitled it the "Diary of a B-29 Combat Crew in World War II".

By 1980 I was ready to go to press, that is if I could find a publisher. Someone suggested I send the manuscript to a publisher in Pennsylvania by the name of "Tab Books". That's where I first learned about the waiting game in publishing. Tab thought the manuscript had potential, but a decision to publish would have to come later. Just as I was about to give up, Tab called with a positive answer. They sent a small advance royalty check assuring me that they really did plan to publish "Sky Giants". The young lady assured me that things looked rosy, but since the publisher always scheduled their books to published on a 6-month schedule. The first six months came and passed, and they said for me to not get discouraged, they would try to my book on the next 6-month schedule. They did however, send me another small check. And I was told that a mild depression was hurting the book publishing business.

Two more six-month schedules passed me by, the last one while I was in the hospital for an operation. When that news reached my bedside, I said the heck with this. If and when I get out of this hospital I'm going to return the two small advance payments and find a publisher that does "self-published" books for a price. This was accomplished in 1984. Since then altogether 11 more books about the B-29 operation against Japan have been published. Some have been best sellers by royalty publishers.

I'm proud of the reception my books have received, but on May 10th of this year, a happening took place in Japan, when my "Sky Giants Over Japan", was published in that country in Japanese. The reception by the Japanese people is beyond our expectations. One month after publication the publisher has completed three printings.

The photo on the left is "Sky Giants Over Japan", the Japanese edition.

(This book is absolutely beautiful - even though it is written in Japanese, it is a collector's dream ---Sallyann)

Some of Chester's books are now out of print, but many are still available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following are still in print.

Sky Giants over Japan
- the story of the 20th Air Force's B-29 Superfortress assault on the Japanese homeland 1944-45.

Final Assault on the Rising Sun - combat diaries of the men and machines which over a 9 month period would bring to an end the war with Japan.

B-29 Photo Combat Diary - the Superfortress in WWII and Korea.

Hap's War - Life as a POW in Tokyo in WWII by Chester and Hap

Great American Bombers of World War II - a must have book for any WWII enthusiast

I had the pleasure of meeting Chester in Wichita at the 73rd Bomb Wing reunion. Chester is a very warm and charming man which shows in the books that he writes. I was so impressed by this Japanese edition of his book that I wanted to share it with you all. If you do not have any of these books, try one and you will see what I mean. -- Sallyann