Cromie [Chicago Tribune Press Service]
SOMEWHERE IN NEW GUINEA
Oct. 12 [Delayed].-- In the Liberator "Satan's Sister" I went on
today's raid on Rabaul.
We took off shortly after dawn. The crews and pilots had
been thoroughly instructed in the plan of attack and each given
designated targets. Their spirits were extremely high, despite the
usual warnings to land on alternate fields if crew members were
wounded. There was the usual ritual of intelligence officers collecting
wallets and other valuables of those going on the raid---just in case.
After the briefing was completed the men climbed into
trucks and headed for their planes. A couple of men were singing---one
song starting: "It was on the 31st of May, 8:30 in the morning." Others
laughed and joked as if leaving for a picnic.
"Spare the Geishas"
"Don't bomb the geisha
houses" some one yelled.
"Why not?" a companion asked. "You can kill more Japs
there than anywhere else.
"Yeah," the first speaker said, "but the last time we did
they got awfully mad."
Lt. John E. Bond, 24 years old, of Scarsdale, N.Y.,
piloted "Satan's Sister". The co-pilot was Lt. Elbert M. Rice, 24
Paris, Tex.; Navigator 2nd Lt. P. O. Van Keuren, 22, Lincoln, Neb.;
Bombardier Lt. James W. Smith, 25, Hayes Store, Va., and Staff Sgt.
Ralph W. Powell, 35, of Greenville, Pa., the tail gunner. With
them and the rest of the crew I climbed aboard.
Moves Into Bomb Bay.
As we taxied on the
runway I moved into the bomb bay and stood between rows of 1,000 pound
bombs. We had plenty of respect for the 1,000
pounders---Staff Sgt. Fred C. Whitney, 22, Independence, Mo., Staff
Sgt. John G. Shaffer of Logan W. Va., and I. We didn't return to our
comfortable posts in the waist until Bond had plenty of time to get his
plane on an even keel.
Other heavy bombers were all around us. I could count more
than 50 at one time.
We gradually got into formation and headed for Rabaul,
soon running into heavy fog which hid the wingtips and sent tiny drops
of water running on the windows. Then into the sun once more. The
morning was all blue and gold and blinding white.
I went forward and stood behind the pilot's
seat. Tech Sergt. H. V. Milarski of 3800 Diversey boulevard, Chicago,
was working on the radio.
As he smoked a cigaret he looked as bored as if
riding down State street in a street car.
Tech Sgt. Joseph A. Gosseaux, 23, of Grindstone, Pa.,
the engineer, was busy writing down the names
of the personnel. He did this with ease
from long practice, even to putting down each man's serial
number from memory---some numbers containing eight digits.
Planes Fill the Sky.
Dead ahead of us were
nice planes flying in beautiful V formation, and others far to our
left still were jockeying into position. The whole sky---well,
almost the whole sky---seemed to be filled with hallied planes. It was
a lovely sight.
I returned once more to the waist to
check my parachute size and watch Powell and Shaffer
test their guns. Far below ---we now were high enough to use oxygen---
were some of the most beautiful clouds I have ever seen. It
was possible to imagine them as many things---a threadbare white
carpet, melted snow, a layer of marshmallow flavoring, or huge
Someone spoke over the interphone.
"Are we supposed to join fighters somewhere?" he
asked, cheerfully, "because this damn course is
taking us right for Rabaul."
Fighters Cheer Him Up.
A little while later we
were joined by fighters, and I felt much happier.
The bombardier and pilot were discussing how to make the
run, and concluded their conversation with "Then go right over Rabaul
Shaffer, hearing this, said "Who-o-o-o," and made a sign
with his hands like ack-ack coming up and grinned happily.
I grinned weakly.
We passed swiftly over water whose coral reefs were
amazing shades of blue and green and then over land checkered jungle
and open spaces and an occasional muddy river. From an extreme height,
New Guinea looks like one of those funny paper lands
where the sun always shines, everyone always is happy, and no one
Then we were fairly near Rabaul, and I suddenly developed
an intense desire to go home. But I wanted to go home after having
been to Rabaul, if I make myself clear. I looked at a river far below
and thought it would be possible to walk along it to the sea if
necessary. But then we were over New Britain and I began to wonder how
friendly the natives were. It is amazing what things it is possible to
think of in such circumstances.
Anyway, Chocolate Is Cold.
Powell and I broke out
some chocolate, pulled our oxygen masks out far enough to get the
pieces into our mouths, and
chewed them with some difficulty. The
only virtue of eating chocolate in these conditions is that it is
cold enough so the candy doesn't melt all over your hands.
A few miles ahead I saw what looked like smoke
hanging low along the water's edge. It was Rabaul. By leaning a
little way out into the slipstream, I could see a couple of
Jap ships beginning to circle frantically in the outer harbor.
From the other window I saw dozens of Jap ships, most of
them still motionless, and a number of bombs bursting among them,
throwing water high into the air and leaving black smoke hanging where
the bomb had split the water.
As Powell and I watched, we could see one ship disappear
momentarily as some sharpshooting bombardier scored a direct hit.
Then, as we came over the harbor, I lay down and peered thru the bottom
turret to see our brown beauties of bombs drop into space to begin the
long trip down.
Someone's bombs---either ours or those of the plane
ahead---landed very close to two large ships which still were side by
side, perhaps caught as they were fueling. The bombs made a brisk
pattern of near misses, but perhaps even then they did grave
damage to the ships.
Ack Ack Discolors Sky.
The sky became discolored
with bursting anti-aircraft fire, which came from a few ships and
also from some ground guns near an extinct volcano. Then we
turned over the harbor and began to leave the target area.
Behind I could see the town of Rabaul---which from a
height of many thousands of feet looks like a delightful vacation
spot---the harbor, where at least two and perhaps more ships were
burning with a pleasant persistence, and a couple of air
fields, one of which was almost completely wreathed with smoke.
The ack-ack guns were still firing at the last six of
our bombers. Two Jap planes, apparently bombers, and the only Jap
planes I saw all day, were flying far below along the shore line
as if their only desire was to get away from there.
Then we moved far enough away from Rabaul so that
the only indication that our raid was a success was a heavy
irregular line of dark smoke, in startling contrast to the
pure white clouds.
The allies' two attacks were less than an hour apart. The
first caught the Japs thoroughly napping and did a viciously efficient
job knocking out many Jap planes on the ground, and silencing much
ack-ack. The second smash was directed against the harbor and shipping
as well as waterfront installations.
Opposition Faint Hearted.
The Jap air opposition
was faint-hearted, their fighters breaking off their attack in most
cases after a few passes. The ack-ack was far less than usual. When the
last of our bombers left Rabaul, several ships were burning in
the harbor and a smoke pall hung over the whole area,
heaviest in the vicinity of the airfields.
As we turned for home, our only worry was a
possible lack of gasoline to get us there. As a
precaution we dropped off at an alternate field---where we found
that many of the other pilots had the same idea---to get a fresh supply
of gasoline after a long wait.
The final stage of the homeward trip was made in the
moonlit dusk, a beauty of a night which caused Lt. Rice to remark
"I sure could make sweet talk tonight."
We made a good landing on the lighted runway and taxied to
a revetment. The first man to greet us was Staff Sgt. Tom A. Moody of
Springfield, Ill., the regular gunner, who had been grounded.
Fond of the Sister.
sweating you out," he said. "I tried to sleep; but I
couldn't, so I've been sitting here waiting.
I think I'll be able to go tomorrow."
Moody is like the rest of the crew, including Staff Sgt.
Henry L. Sermons, 27 years old, of Fort Barnwell, N. C., very fond of
"Satan's Sister", whom they have had since bringing her from Topeka,
Kan., last May. She had flaunted her beautiful figure---reclining on
the side of the ship---on 29 missions to date and accounted for three
Zeros. The fact that a pair of panties have been added to her in
recent weeks seemingly has not hampered her.
That is about all, except to report that painted
beneath the waist guns are a pair of dice and the words
"You're faded." Satan's Sister, as the name implies, is a hot