|K e n s m e n : 4 3 r d B o m b G r o u p (H), 5 t h A A F|
From an article written by Lee G. Miller, Scripps-Howard Staff writer
43RD HEAVY BOMBARDMENT GROUP, Clark Field, Luzon, P.I. (by air mail)
The B-24 that made this particular reconnaissance mission to Hainan doesn't even have a nickname. It's a new ship and nobody has got around to naming it.
Maj. ALBERT W. BROWNFIELD, the commanding officer or
"Wheel " of the Seahawks Squadron, 43rd Heavy Bombardment Group, Fifth Air Force, sat a little sleepily on the edge of his cot and told about it.
We were five hours out, and near Hainan. It was about 4 P.M. when we broke out of a cloud right on the tail of three Nells. ( A Nell is a two engine Jap fighter-bomber)
They opened up with their top guns, I don't know whether they hit our ship or not----it was dark when we got in.
When our 50's opened up the Nips scattered and ran, two of them were smoking.
Three or four minutes later several single engine fighters got on our tail. We ducked in and out of the clouds for about fifteen minutes and finally gave them the slip.
Welch was piloting at this time.
A couple of hours later we were going up the west shore of Hainan Island when we sighted a tanker---one of the biggest I have ever seen---she must have been 7,000 tons---and some smaller ones. We circled---I was piloting now---and definitely identified them as enemy ships.
So we made a skip bombing run. We went in at 50 to 100 feet and dropped two 500 pounders with delayed action fuses. At the same time our .50's strafed the deck---the Japs were throwing some small arms fire at us---and probably some 40mm stuff
One of our bombs hit amidships and one on the bow. The tanker caught fire---bad!
We took some pictures. She started listing, and in eight minutes she sank. We saw no survivors. There was hardly time for them to get their lifeboats off.
Then we went after the smaller ones.Welch was at the controls this time.
We made a run on a lugger; she was loaded with what looked like bales of cotton and she was camouflaged with grass and leaves. We skip bombed from 50 feet and hit her square in the middle---she disintegrated.
The third ship was a Sugar Charlie, that's a cargo ship of about 2,000 tons We had a heck of a time hitting her. On the first run our bomb skipped from the water clear over the top of the ship and went off in the water. But our tracers set her afire. Waller---that's Lt. John Waller of Boulder, Colorado, who was flying as nose gunner, really laid those tracers on.
We came around and strafed again, then made another skip bombing run and our 500 pounder knocked her whole bow off. Just to make sure, we made one more one and hit her smack in the middle. She blew up.
That may sound glamorous. but this kind of a boat isn't well defended---just small arms.
Another officer spoke up," What had me worried was that fighter runway on Hainan. It was right there, within sight, but they didn't send anything after us.
We had two bombs left, so we continued our search, but saw no more ships. So about 8 P.M. we dropped the remaining bombs from 1500 feet onto a seaplane base on Hainan We saw several large explosions. They threw a little flak at us , but it did no harm. So we came on home.
The nineteen B-24's of the Seahawk Squadron have already knocked off 21,000 tons of shipping this month, and the Squadron expects to beat the record it set in March---20 vessels aggregating 53,425 tons sunk (including a destroyer and a destroyer escort) and 4 vessels totaling 14,250 tons damaged.
The thing that worries the Seahawks is that the Japs may run out of ships for them to bomb.