NEW GUINEA COMBAT FLYING

The year was 1944. I was 21 years old at the time and assigned as an Attack Bomber pilot with the United States Army Air Force’s 3rd Attack Group. Our airstrip was inland a few miles from the coastal settlement of Hollandia, New Guinea, in the South West Pacific. Our mission was attacking Japanese troops, airfields, and shipping at Japanese bases along the north coast. Early one morning, on a day off from flying, I took a Jeep and went on a little exploratory trip, by myself, further into the jungle to the south of our airstrip. I stopped at a big lake and was watching a male New Guinea native rowing a small canoe (hewn out log); seemingly coming toward me. It looked as though his body had been dusted in gray ashes, he had fuzzy hair, and a wrap of some sort around his waist. The land on further south from that lake showed on our flight maps as "Unexplored", so I felt like I was at the edge of civilization in the first place and from the looks of this guy coming in the canoe, I did not know--I thought he might be a head hunter. I watched him closely and had my 45 pistol cover unlatched. As he came nearer though, I could hear him  singing. As he got real close, I could clearly understand what he was singing:                                                                                    
Jesus loves me this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
we are weak but He is strong...
Yes, Jesus loves me...
The Bible tells me so.

And he rowed right on by.  How many times in church, in later years, when we sang that song, did my mind dart back to that New Guinea scene?  Praise God for the work that missionaries do!

BUTCH DOG ON B-25 COMBAT MISSION

(First) The B-25 Mitchell 'Doolittle Tokyo Raid' plane and (Second) My favorite airplane :The Douglas, single seat,  A-20 Attack Bomber, with six 50 calibre guns in the nose and two gunners in the back manning twin 50s . Not as good and powerful a weapon as it's big, brother the Douglas A-26 Attack bomber with 14 forward firing,  50 calibre guns in the nose, and two gunners in the back ( which I flew later in WW II and Korea), but the nicest plane to fly "feelwise" of any of the 100 different models I have flown. And,(Third) a map of New Guinea, of which I still have dreams  (not good ones).


 

I was a 21 year old 2nd Lt., A-20 pilot , when I first arrived, in June 1944, at our squadron area in Hollandia, New Guinea; half way up on the northern coast. New Guinea is below the equator and just north of Australia., I was most pleasantly surprised to see two cute little Cocker Spaniel puppies and a big, although, still a puppy himself, German Alsatian Shepherd, named "Butch" (see attachment). Prior to my time of arrival at Hollandia, some of the pilots had gone down to Sydney, Australia for R &R, after they had flown a certain number of combat missions, and brought these dogs back with them. Butch was owned by a pilot named John Fields. John was quite a character in that he walked around the squadron area with a white Cockatoo on his shoulder like a pirate, most of the time. I guess he also got that bird in Australia. I hated that bird because he was noisy and mean, but I loved Butch. Of course everyone loved Butch because he loved everyone right back.

A NOTE TO EXPLAIN HOW WE GOT A B-25 IN OUR A-20 SQUADRON===  Five of us in the squadron volunteered (they requested volunteers) for a night flying attack on Japanese ships in and around Leyte, Philippines, just prior to the invasion there, which in fact took place in Oct,1944. To make this hair brain scheme possible, a B-25 ( The Doolitle Raid Type Plane) with a Navigator, was shipped in to our squadron. The deal was that the B-25, with a Navigator, would fly (at night) to the general target area, with us A-20s flying night formation with the B-25. The B-25  was then to stay, at that point, while we would go out on our own, find and attack ships, then home back in on some kind of low frequency radio signal transmitted by the B-25. The B-25 (yeah, right on)) would then take us back to our base. It does not sound like too bad of a plan (with modern equipment) except it would have been suicide if we had actually tried it with our equipment. BECAUSE, (1) the A-20 was a single pilot seat airplane with little to no Navigation equipment in it and no place for a navigator, (2) cockpit lighting that had long ago worn out and not much good in the first place (3), a single point failure (all of us would have been lost) if the B-25 had crapped out while on station, (4) there were no weather forecasts available and you can't find B-25s or fly night formation in weather conditions (imagine trying to find the B-25 in the dark then have 5 airplanes trying to join up on him near the same time----in the dark----( I had a chance to try that much later in my career, a fiasco which I have devoted several paragraphs to in later sections of my book)  (5) the low frequency signal, the B-25 would have been putting out, would have been unusable in thunder storm conditions, and on and on. I somehow cannot see anything but bad results (for me) in the A-20, with no flare suppression on our guns at low level we would have looked like a single car coming down the interstate taking on a carrier, cruiser, or a battle ship single handedly at night--- no matter how good we thought we were. AND, I volunteered for this. ---- We did some practice night formation flights in the local area and that part worked out OK except I found out you really cannot get down to a few feet (like 10 feet) at night, over a big body of water, and really know just how much clearance you have. BUT, but for some unknown reason they canceled the whole program. That has always been amazing to me  because usually the Military will try out the plan and then discover it was a bad plan after they kill a bunch of people. This time. they recognized it ahead of time---- I think it was just so I could be here writing this story 65 years later.  
Now back to the BUTCH story

After the "Suicide Mission” was canceled they left that B-25 still assigned to our squadron as well as the poor Navigator. I say poor Navigator because you would just have to know the conceit of pilots with relation to Navigators and Bombardiers to understand it.  Well, "Our Navigator" was in a particularly bad position in that he had no soul mates to help him fight back at all from our abuse, because there was not another navigator around for miles and he was thus out numbered about 20 to 1; consequently, that poor guy caught pure hell for the whole time he was assigned to our squadron. After about two months they shipped him back to a unit that used Navigators but while in our squadron his life was not good. I cannot even remember his name but I have always felt bad about the hard time we gave him. If he had been a nerd it would  not bother me, but actually he was a nice guy, a good navigator, and I admired how he stood up to the harsh treatment he got while being stuck with 20 A-20 pilots. 


 ---  Well, I was scheduled to fly a single ship bombing mission in the B-25, on one of those days the B-25 was still in the squadron. Since I had flown that type plane in Flying School, there was no check out required; you just got in it and went. This mission was to be at medium altitude (at about 10,000 feet -- not a good altitude for flak avoidance) as opposed to our normal tree top level bombing and strafing missions we flew in the A-20. Our target was a Japanese airfield at a place called Manokwari, on the north coast of New Guinea, out on a peninsula like thing that constituted the western most part of New Guinea (See Map).
 

It seems entirely stupid, as I think back on it now, but I decided I would take Butch with me on that bombing mission.  I think Morgan was the copilot and of course we had that poor navigator along. Flying strictly along the coast in daylight made the need for a navigator nil but he also served as a bombardier so I needed him for that. What seems so strange now, as I recall the mission, is that I can't remember ever asking John  Fields if I could take Butch along. It was not even a good idea to take a dog along on a mission but to take some other guy's dog into harms way and not even ask him is almost beyond belief. But that is how I did it. Naturally there was no parachute equipment for Butch, in case we got shot down, but I did not have any faith in those parachutes we had for ourselves anyhow (they opened mine up one day and it was a bag of mold) so I figured if we got shot down; that was it (what the ground did not take care of the Japanese would). So I had just resigned myself to my fate ahead of time and I guess in my mind Butch just fell under the same philosophy, as erroneous as that thinking seems today. 

                                   

In any event, I took Butch on the mission and all went well. He was nice and relaxed and enjoying the cool air at 10,000 feet on the way to the target.  As we turned on the bomb run the Japs started sending up the flak. I suppose we were a little tense at that moment but it did not last long. For when we opened the bomb bay doors to release the bombs, with the attendant racket of the doors in the air stream, Butch, who was snoozing, thought something had him for sure . He sprang off of the floor, started barking, and thrashing around in every direction possible back there in that relatively small area where the navigator would normally be sitting  (the navigator was up front in the glass nose aiming the bombs at the time). Butch's barking even over powered the sound of the engine noise and that of the bomb bay doors out in the air stream. He was trying to get up there in the cockpit with me but there was just not enough room.  As stated above, the tension was relieved immediately. It might not have always effected me that way but on that particular day it simply struck me as hilarious. Here I was  getting shot at, trying to blow up a bunch of airplanes and people below (very serious business), and I'm in hysterics, looking back at Butch and his antics. The only dying that went on that day was me dying, laughing at Butch. The bombs probably went into the ocean. We used to call that "bombing the sea plane runways."

 

Bob

Robert L. Mosley