I wasn’t alive during World War ll but remember hearing the stories while growing up. The era of Pearl Harbor and America’s entrance into World War ll may be difficult for those of us who were not alive to understand……. but it was a time of national unity which I have only seen for a few days after September 11th, 2001.
The better question is, why aren’t we unified in these dangerous days?
My Uncle Max served as a tailgunner in the Pacific Theater during WWll. Ironically his birthday is December 8th so when I remember the day we were attacked by Japan I also think of my late Uncle who volunteered to serve his country just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. While fighting the war from above Uncle Max took photos out his back window. His plane received ack ack and direct hits several times but each time he survived. Here is a letter that he wrote home to his folks…….
SGT Max E. Fletcher, Army Air Corps, 500 Bombardment Squadron, Pacific theater.
The following letter was read aloud on the radio after the war was over on “The Hunt Salute to Our Boys in the Armed Forces” in Fort Smith, Arkansas
I received a letter from you yesterday. As always I was very glad to hear that you were all well. Now that censorship is lifed, I can write anything I see fit. First, I’ll try to tell you all the places I have been.
I left the states on the last day of March and by the 16th of April I was in San Marcelino, on Luzon in the Phillipines. During these short 16 days and nights of constant travel, I stopped and visited several islands, Hawaii, Tarawa, Kwajalin, Bisk, New Guinea, Lae, Layte, Los Negroes, Guadalcanal, Nadjab, and the Christmas Islands.
After arriving at San Marcelino, I learned to be a radio man. I didn’t fly any there. In five weeks we moved to Clark Field and on that one I lost two very good friends, my navigator and co-pilot- Swallow and Graham. The day they went down, I had a feeling that someone on the crew would be lost.
You see there were only four ships on the mission to Formosa, and that island was just one big gun. My crew was split up into all four ships: Baker in one, Swallow and Graham in one and me in the third. I knew that if any one of the planes went down it would get one of us.
All of the planes picked up holes from ack ack. Swallow had just made Squadron Navigator and was flying lead ship. I was third over the target. Beker was second. I was riding in the tail strafing houses and gun positions when I spotted their plane on the ground, burning. As far as I know, no one got out, but of course, I couldn’t look too good as I was covering our tail as we were leaving the target.
You can imagine how I felt. I knew it was one of my crew, and I didn’t know which one for several minutes. Our plane got 57 holes from ack ack. Our upper turret was blown away. The gunner had just bent down to get his flak helmet. Lucky! More than luck.
It sure is hard to think of your buddies being killed every day, but we must all die sometime and we can’t all die for something. After leaving Clark Field, we moved to Ie Shima. On this island, Ernie Pyle was killed. It is only a mile and a half from Okinawa, the closest of our possessions from Japan. I flew four combat missions to the Japanese sea, searching for Japanese shipping.
We found it too. My plane sank several ships. In all, over two each mission. In all, I only flew five combat missions and I’m thankful I don’t have to fly anymore. I will fly patrol for a while. Pray? I thought I had prayed before, but now I know I hadn’t. I have received four combat stars and have been put in for the Air Medal, but it hasn’t come through yet.
It was to be awarded for outstanding performance. In my case it was for participating in sinking several ships. I don’t see why I should get it- I didn’t drop any bombs. I don’t have enough points to come home just yet, but I hope it won’t be too long.
I think we are going to Korea. I wondered if you heard the program directly from here about our group leading the Jap planes to Ie Shima? I have some good pictures I made of them. Hope they come out okay. We worked on the point basis. When we collected one hundred points we got to go back to the states.
It worked this way: For every ten hours you get three points, for fighter interception, without fighter cover, we got three points. If a plane in our flight went down, we got two points, and for holes we got one point. If we got one hundred holes we got only one point. If we got one hole, we got one point.
Doesn’t sound logical does it? Our losses were very high. Since I came into the squadron we have had one hundred percent losses. Thank God the Japs didn’t have the atomic bomb. One bomb can do as much damage as six million infantrymen can do in four to five months.
I know. I’ve seen what they can do. Nagasaki looks like a big black flat piece of slate.
All the fellows you know that came here are alright excepting Swallow and Graham. However,there were only three crews of us and you didn’t know some of the ones who went down. Jack Crossland and Jimmy are okay.
Jimmy has flown one time and is still scared. He almost went to pieces. We have had several fellows blow their tops. One shot himself night before last. War is Hell! And you’ll never know it until you have seen it.
I must get some sleep. I have to get up very early in the morning to fly. Take care of yourselves, and I have a feeling we will all be together again before too long.
There doesn’t seem to be much more to write, so I’ll close for now.
P.S. Why didn’t you tell me Grandpa was sick before he was sent home from the hospital!
Hot Air has more.
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