|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|
T/Sgt. "Frank" Francis E. Tucher
Position: MOS was 748. My duties consisted of Martin Upper turret. My main crew's pilot was Hubert J. "H. J." Frank; the co-pilot was Robert T. McMullen; the navigator was Forrest E. Bouten from California (we called him "Gramps"--he was 27); the bombardier was from Wheaton, Illinois and his name was Robert Patterson (he was the next to the youngest). The radio operator was Gordon Fernald, from Maine. Morris Johnson from Baltimore, Maryland was the tail gunner. John Caproni, from Mt. Holyoke, Masssachusettes was waist gunner and the assistant armorer. James Allison, from St. Louis, Missouri, was a gunner. I was engineer.
Served: March, 1943 to June, 1945
Originally from: Indiana
Training: Basic: Clearwater, FL on the 5th floor of the Mayfair Hotel. Then to 'Tent City' near Clearwater for two weeks where half of us got dysentery. Then to Keesler Field, Biloxi, Mississippi for about 18 weeks for Airplane Mechanics School where we learned as much we could about how to maintain B-24 Bombers. From there, to Harlingen, Texas for Aerial Gunnery School--we practiced shooting moving targets from the a cockpit of an AT-6, first plane I was ever in in my life. That's when I got my silver wings as a gunner and my Buck Sgt. stripes. Got a short R&R to return home. After that, I went to Tonopah, Nevada--an abandoned goldmine with an Air Force Base--where the rest of the crew I was assigned with and I met each other for the first time. For practice, we dropped 'bombs' made of bags of flour over the Hoover Dam. After that we, as a crew, went to Fairfield-Susain Army Air Force Base in California and stayed for maybe 5 weeks. From there, went to Johnston Island (then a Naval Base), about 1200 miles from California and stayed maybe overnight then left for Hawaii where we saw the Arizona and other ships that had sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor. From there, we went to the Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal where the reality of war hit me when I saw dead Japanese soldiers for the first time. From there, went to Townsville, Australia which was a depot where the new B-24 we flew over was left---the Perry Ball turret was removed because they were no longer used on B-24s by that time. Then we flew to Port Moresby, New Guinea on a C-47. Then got to Nadzab, my first station.
Citations/Medals: 7 Battle Stars
Planes: I don't remember the planes' names. I remember seeing the plane " Bob's Hope" when it was commissioned (Bob Hope and Frances Langford, the singer, Jerry Colonna, Nick Constantino were there) but I think it might have been assigned to another group.
Number of Missions: 46 or 47
Description of Missions:
Based at Nadzab: New Guinea, missions to Admiralty Islands, Gilbert Islands. Bombed Wewak. Based at Owi Island and Clark Field: flew the first daylight raid of the Phillippines (Sep. 1st). Bombed Balakapapin, Borneo. Bombed Hong Kong, Canton, Shanghai, Formosa (now called Taiwan). On a raid to Borneo, we thought we had to ditch the plane because of a gas leak... radio operator radioed to PB2Y code name Donald Duck", we were ordered to prepare for ditching by pilot, but with repairs being made on board, we were able to minimize the leaking of the gasoline so went for it back to base and made it safe with one engine feathered (the #3 engine, the one that controls hydraulics) with just enough brake to land and the accumulators empty. The putt-putt engine (the aux, engine under the flight deck) wouldn't start. We had the speed but no brakes---hit a jeep. The poor man in the jeep didn't die, but his leg was messed up very badly. I remember one 14 hour mission with no bomb load, just looking for the Japanese Navy--our bombers were used as re-con planes. Had to use 3100 gallons of gasoline (auxiliary tanks in the bomb bays). Never found them...
Most poignant, sad or touching memory of the war:
When I first saw the dead Japanese soldiers, the reality of death hit me, when the horrors of war became real. Seeing a B-24 blow up in front of our plane when it was trying to take off...
Funniest or most fun memory of the war:
Playing poker with the guys, reading old books.. the camaraderie... using the belly tanks from P-38s as boats... seeing old movies once in a while ( remember seeing, I think, Gary Cooper's "Keys to the Kingdom" over there). When the Japanese Betty Bombers came over in the middle of the night and bombed Owi Island and hearing the whole island cheer when the P-61 night fighters shot them down.
Any odd or strange memories from the war:
None that I remember.
Most heroic thing I saw or did:
How the crew pulled together to stop the gas leak in that mission mentioned above!
Where I was and how I celebrated when I learned the war was over:
I was on an R&R at Santa Anna Army Air Force Hospital in California, ready to go back over and make the transition back to B-17s. That was the rumor, anway. But, the bombs were dropped in Japan and we were informed that it was all over---there was booze and food 24 hours a day at that hospital.
How having gone to war has affected me, what comes to mind when I think of the war:
First thing I did when I got home, was a few buddies and I went looking for girls! We were all treated like kings when we got home, like we were something special. The war made me more patriotic, in a way, more appreciative of my country.
To future generations:
This country is worth fighting for. We have so many freedoms, though they are being eroded more and more each day.