EPILOGUE: Sometime after June 8 orders came through for me to depart the squadron. Good old C-47 troop carrier planes made regular runs to and from forward areas bringing people and necessities. I got on a return flight heading back towards Nadzab and Port Moresby. Even flew co-pilot for a couple of hours to relieve their co-pilot. In front was always the best place to ride in an airplane.
In Port Moresby I found my way to the Air Transport Command terminal. Many events had occurred since ATC delivered us to Brisbane fourteen months previously. Our troops had advanced many hundreds of miles, so the transport routes had been adjusted to deliver their cargoes closer to where needed.
ATC operations put my name on a waiting list and eventually whatever travel priority I had brought me to top of the list and I was called for the next flight out.
Transport airplanes had improved during the year, and the flight home was to be on a C-54 (Douglas DC-4). A bit faster perhaps, but not really any more comfortable than the C-87 Liberator, because the cabin was fitted with paratroop type jump seats. Bare metal to sit on and only the inside of the plane wall to lean back against.
By some quirk I began to keep a travel log upon leaving Moresby, and more surprising, that little piece of pocket notebook paper has survived to give me some dates.
Our flight departed Port Moresby at 08:55 hours on 18 June, and headed easterly across the east end of New Guinea and the Solomon Sea towards Guadacanal. Two years earlier Henderson Field had been the scene of desperate battles as our army and marines were engaged in stopping the Japanese advance. Now it was the ATC terminal. Arriving there at 1445 (local time) after some five hours flying timer the flight paused just long enough to refuel and take on some more passengers. Departed Henderson Field at 1615 and, after eleven hours in the air, reached that atoll of Canton Island at 0540 in the morning; still the 18th of June since we had crossed the International Date Line flying east.
No one had any great desire to explore the coral of Canton so the flight lifted off after servicing in just one hour. Hickam Air Base at Honolulu lay ten hours ahead. Back in civilization. We landed there at 1830; again with a feathered engine. It does seem more than coincidence that the engine shutdowns occurred at the best rest stops. After an overnight rest and chance to get some good food we departed Hickam at 1450 on June 19. Flying through the night the flight touched down at Hamilton Field, San Rafael, California at 0535, June 20, 1944. My log sheet said 13:15 hours enroute.
Once landed we were issued orders granting leave for a month and given priority for an airline seat. At that time governmental priority was needed most of the time to get airline space. The DC-3 (good old gooney bird) was first class air transport at that time, and the civil version carried about twenty-one passengers. Left San Francisco at 0030 on June 21 and after several stops reached Chicago.
From there a train to Lapeer, Michigan, where Clayton picked me up for the last leg home.
After catching up on farm food and local news for three weeks I was on another DC-3 to Miami Beach, to rest and recreation center for reassignment. At that time many of the buildings along the main avenue there had been taken over by armed forces for schools or other administrative purposes. I was billeted in a hotel, the Croyden Arms, and enjoyed myself for a couple of weeks while my next assignment was being decided.
Eventually orders came, sending me to Lawson Army Air Field, Fort Benning, Georgia to begin the next chapter of my life. As I settled into duty with the 3d Composite Squadron at Lawson Field, General Orders No. 91, Far East Air Forces were received, announcing that I had been awarded a second bronze Oak-Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal, for "sustained operational flight missions in the Southwest Pacific area from 8 December 1943 to 17 May 1944.".
Dwight Turner & We Dood It
I joined the 8th Sq in May or early June of '43 at Dobodura after completing crew training in the A-20 at Oklahoma City. About twenty of we new A20 hot pilots came in as a group. But the 89th had the A-20 and other squadrons were flying the B-25 strafers. So the need was for B-25 copilots and we were it.
I was directed to a tent in the squadron area and introduced to Bob Miller and George Schwartz, who were to become my tentmates. After logging a few hours, my name appeared on the mission crew schedule and I got my first missions.
By middle of July, Bob Miller was checked out as aircraft commander and I was assigned as his regular copilot. We were then assigned an airplane as ours to put a name on. B-25C1, tail number 376, was usually ours if we were on the schedule and it was in commission. By some consensus, the bird was christened Wedoodit. On October 12th, 5th Air Force sent the first max effort B25 mission against Rabaul. Bob Miller was flying Wedoodit and I was in right seat as our whole squadron swept over Rapopo air strip at minimum altitude loaded with 23 pound parafrag bombs. Big success. Next day, we were launched again against Rabaul, but weather front across our route caused mission to be aborted. That was my last B-25 mission.
On Oct. 14, our operations officer sent me next door on temporary duty with the 89th Squadron to get current in the A-20. Those A-20s were a pretty beat up bunch of planes which had been in the 1941 Louisiana maneuvers, and through much time to and from Australia and many New Guinea missions. I got one of those birds into the air for a short familiarization and was immediately put on the 89th mission schedule. Flew two or three missions with the 89th and waited.
Another mission was planned against Rabaul for 24 Oct. and Bob Miller was assigned a new copilot--Lt Hale. It might have been Hale's first mission. I was about to be sent to Townsville to pick up a new A-20G. Those new birds were sent to Australia on the deck of a baby flattop carrier. Those were the first of the A-20s that would be a part of converting the 3d Gp to the A-20.
I do recall the somber feeling around the squadron about the missing crew and plane. That was the first loss of anyone whom I really knew. Missions had to go on and I was soon assigned an A-20 to fly regularly. That A-20G10, no. 077, became known as Wedoodit II
I do have a number of memories about John Ransier and our time in the 8th Sq. Some dates from my pilot log book. I had been in Australia during the month of Feb '44 on TDY to pick up and ferry new planes from Brisbane to New Guinea. The squadron had moved to Nadzab while I was TDY and John secured my stuff and had a tent space for me when our ferry flight arrived with the new birds on 29 Feb.
I was immediately put back on the crew schedule list and on 5 March posted for a mission to support a landing of troops at Saidor on the north coast of New Guinea. It was to be a takeoff before dawn, fly east about seventy-five miles, turn left to go by the Finschafen area and follow the coast until reaching the target area. John wanted to see and do something besides watching the ordnance being loaded and put himself on my bird as gunner. We got off OK in the dark and started on the first leg of the route. Problem was that by the time we reached Lae we began to see a serious thunder storm across our path. In that primitive jungle area there were absolutely no lights at night to guide us, and our education had been to stay away from thunder storms. Period. We dawdled in a circular pattern awhile until a bit of daylight appeared and finally picked our way along the planned route. I had lost enough time that the troops scheduled landing time elapsed before i could reach the target area, so John and I didn't get to complete that mission.
On 16 April I was on the schedule to fly on a mission against targets near Hollandia at Tanamerah Bay. That turned out to be the longest mission I ever flew in the A-20. Logged 6:35 hours and was really watching the gas gauges by the end of that flight. I have always remembered shutting the bird down and having John come by and shouting up to me at the pilots side window that we were now eligible for the "royal order of the purple shaft" for sitting in our cockpits that long. Since we were seldom ever informed of details of a mission it was decades later that I learned the trip I had flown was what became known as the "Black Sunday" mission where the 5th Air Force lost 37 airplanes--all due to weather.
After I left the 8th to come home in June of '44, our paths didn't cross again for half a century after I found my way to a squadron reunion.