I am pleased to welcome you to my personal blog, which I started in March 2009. I first became interested in blogging about five years ago, using old "blogger.com", which was cumbersome to use and I never mastered. About a year ago I discovered that Google had bought "blogger.com" and had revised it considerably, making it fun to use, so much so that I have devised at least 15 blogs on various subjects and frequently add posts and Gadgets to them.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The B25 Bomber and the Doolittle Raid

This morning I receved an email containing an autobiographical sketch
of the life of the late Edgar McElroy, some of which I've quoted below.
This is the only first-person account of the Doolittle I've read and I
found it very interesting. I've also included information about the B25
from Wikipedia and elsewhere.

"I was raised in Ennis, Texas the youngest of five children, son of Harry
and Jennie McElroy. Folks say that I was the quiet one. We lived
at 609 North Dallas Street attended the Presbyterian Church. ...

I graduated on July 11, 1941. I was now a real, honest-to-goodnesssome of
Army Air Corps pilot. Two days later, I married "Aggie" in Reno ,
Nevada . We were starting a new life together and were very happy.
I received my orders tog report to Pendleton , Oregon and join the
17th Bomb Group. Neither of us had traveled much before, and the
drive north through the Cascade Range of the Sierra Nevada 's was
interesting and beautiful. ....

After we got settled in Columbus [Columbia, SC], my squadron commander called us
all together. He told us that an awfully hazardous mission was
being planned, and then he asked for volunteers. There were some
of the guys that did not step forward, but I was one of the ones
that did. My co-pilot was shocked. He said "You can't volunteer,
Mac! You're married, and you and Aggie are expecting a baby soon.
Don't do it!" I told him that "I got into the Air Force to do what
I can, and Aggie understands how I feel. The war won't be easy for
any of us." ....

Within a few days of returning to our base in Florida we were
abruptly told to pack our things. After just three weeks of
practice, we were on our way. This was it. It was time to go. It
was the middle of March 1942, and I was 30 years old....

After having our plane serviced, we flew on to Alameda Naval Air
Station in Oakland . As I came in for final approach, we saw it! I
excitedly called the rest of the crew to take a look. There below
us was a huge aircraft carrier. It was the USS Hornet, and it
looked so gigantic! Man, I had never even seen a carrier until
this moment. There were already two B-25s parked on the flight
deck. Now we knew! My heart was racing, and I thought about how
puny my plane would look on board this mighty ship. As soon as we
landed and taxied off the runway, a jeep pulled in front of me
with a big "Follow Me" sign on the back. We followed it straight
up to the wharf, alongside the towering Hornet. All five of us
were looking up and just in awe, scarcely believing the size of
this thing. As we left the plane, there was already a Navy work
crew swarming around attaching cables to the lifting rings on top
of the wings and the fuselage. ...

I was reading through the April 18th day plan of the
Hornet, and there was a message in it which said, "From the Hornet
to the Army - Good luck, good hunting, and God bless you." I still
had a large lump in my throat from reading this, when all of a
sudden, the intercom blared, "General Quarters, General Quarters,
All hands man your battle stations! Army pilots, man your
planes!!!" There was instant reaction from everyone in the room
and food trays went crashing to the floor. I ran down to my room
jumping through the hatches along the way, grabbed my bag, and ran
as fast as I could go to the flight deck. I met with my crew at
the plane, my heart was pounding. Someone said, "What's going
on?" The word was that the Enterprise had spotted an enemy
trawler. It had been sunk, but it had transmitted radio messages.
We had been found out! ...

We continued inching forward, careful to keep my left main wheel and
my nose wheel on the white guidelines that had been painted on the
deck for us. Get off a little bit too far left and we go off the
edge of the deck. A little too far to the right and our wing-tip
will smack the island of the ship. With the best seat on the
ship, we watched Lt. Bower take off in plane number 12, and I
taxied up to the starting line, put on my the brakes and looked
down to my left. My main wheel was right on the line. Applied
more power to the engines, and I turned my complete attention to
the deck officer on my left, who was circling his paddles. Now my
adrenaline was really pumping! We went to full power, and the
noise and vibration inside the plane went way up. He circled the
paddles furiously while watching forward for the pitch of the
deck. Then he dropped them, and I said, "Here We Go!" I released
the brakes and we started rolling forward, and as I looked down
the flight-deck you could see straight down into the angry
churning water. As we slowly gained speed, the deck gradually
began to pitch back up. I pulled up and our plane slowly strained
up and away from the ship. There was a big cheer and whoops from
the crew, but I just felt relieved and muttered to myself, "Boy,
that was short!"....

When we were close enough, I pulled up to 1300 feet and opened the
bomb doors. There were furious black bursts of anti-aircraft fire
all around us, but I flew straight on through them, spotting our
target, the torpedo works and the dry-docks. I saw a big ship in
the dry-dock just as we flew over it. Those flak bursts were
really getting close and bouncing us around, when I heard
Bourgeois shouting, "Bombs Away!" I couldn't see it, but Williams
had a bird's eye view from the back and he shouted jubilantly, "We
got an aircraft carrier! The whole dock is burning!" I started
turning to the south and strained my neck to look back and at
that moment saw a large crane blow up and start falling over!...
Take that! There was loud yelling and clapping each other on the
back. We were all just ecstatic, and still alive! But there wasn't
much time to celebrate. We had to get out of here and fast! When
we were some thirty miles out to sea, we took one last look back
at our target, and could still see huge billows of black smoke.
Up until now, we had been flying for Uncle Sam, but now we were
flying for ourselves. ....

Looking for my flashlight, I groped through my bag with my right
hand, finally pulled it out and shined it down toward the ground,
which I still could not see. Finally I picked up a glimmer of
water and thought I was landing in a lake. We're too far inland
for this to be ocean. I hope! I relaxed my legs a little, thinking
I was about to splash into water and would have to swim out, and
then bang. I jolted suddenly and crashed over onto my side. Lying
there in just a few inches of water, I raised my head and put my
hands down into thick mud. It was rice paddy! There was a burning
pain, as if someone had stuck a knife in my stomach. I must have
torn a muscle or broke something...

Well, the five of us eventually made it out of China with the help
of the local Chinese people and the Catholic missions along the
way. They were all very good to us, and later they were made to
pay terribly for it, so we found out afterwards. For a couple of
weeks we traveled across country. Strafed a couple of times by
enemy planes, we kept on moving, by foot, by pony, by car, by
train, and by airplane. But we finally made it to India...
Edgar "Mac" Mc Elroy, Lt. Col., U.S.A.F. (Ret.) passed away at
his residence in Lubbock , Texas early on the morning of Friday,
April 4, 2003.]

The B-25 first gained fame as the bomber used in the 18 April 1942 Doolittle Raid, in which sixteen B-25Bs led by the legendary Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, attacked mainland Japan four months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The mission gave a much-needed lift in spirits to the Americans, and alarmed the Japanese who believed their home islands were inviolable by enemy troops. While the amount of actual damage done was relatively minor, it forced the Japanese to divert troops for the home defense for the remainder of the war. The raiders took off from the carrier USS Hornet and successfully bombed Tokyo and four other Japanese cities without loss. However, 15 subsequently crash-landed en route to recovery fields in Eastern China. These losses were the result of the task force being spotted by Japanese fishing vessels forcing the bombers to take off 170 mi (270 km) early, fuel exhaustion, stormy nighttime conditions with zero visibility, and lack of electronic homing aids at the recovery bases. Only one landed intact; it came down in the Soviet Union, where its five-man crew was interned and the aircraft confiscated. Of the 80 aircrew, 69 survived their historic mission and eventually made it back to American lines.

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