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Credits

Thanks to 2/Lt Robert W. Frick (Navigator) and to James Richmond, son of Cpt Barron A. Richmond (A/C), for information about this crew.

The Air Crew

The members of crew #3918 were:

Cpt Barron A. Richmond (A/C)
1/Lt Jean A. Miller (Pilot)
2/Lt Robert W. “Bob” Frick (Navigator)
1/Lt George W. Hauer (Bombardier)
M/Sgt Harry F. Buergin (Engineer)
S/Sgt Ivan J. Strommen (Radio)
1/Lt Paul J. Eastman (Radarman)
S/Sgt William E. “Bill” Laughlin (CFC)
S/Sgt Charles W. Herring (R Gunner)
S/Sgt Worth W. Emory (L Gunner)
S/Sgt Willard E. “Gene” Hines (T Gunner)

This crew was a replacement crew.   1/Lt Jean A. Miller was original aircraft commander and F/O Richard H. Furman was original pilot.  Shortly after arrival, Furman was assigned to fly with an experienced crew in the 40th Squadron and Miller became the pilot.  Cpt Barron A. Richmond, from Crew #3916, was assigned as their new aircraft commander.  They flew with Richmond for 27 missions, starting with their first mission on March 29.  Cpt William Lemme, from  Crew #3903, was their aircraft commander for the last 4 missions.

The following is a narrative of the last mission of Crew #3918, written by Tari Miller and reviewed by Bob Frick.  The POW missions were long and dangerous, generally involving low and slow approaches through unfamiliar terrain.

#31 THE LAST MISSION OF CREW 3918

A Prisoner of War Mission to supply 9,000 pounds of food and medical supplies to the prisoners of war at Peiping Camp #4 near Weihsien, Manchuria, China.

This is the first POW mission flown by our crew and the second POW supply mission flown by the 39th squadron. Very little is known about this camp as well as the territory where it is located. The most difficult part of the flight will be to locate the camp. Also a possible shortage of gas could occur.

FIRST LEG….Tinian to Iwo Jima……..September 1, 1945.

We awoke at dawn….. Breakfasted at 06:00…. Were briefed for the mission at 06:30…. loaded on trucks at 07:15 for travel to the flight line….engines start at 08:45 and takeoff for Iwo Jima at 09:02.

We leveled off at 8500 feet with an indicated air speed of 205 mph. At 12.07 we sighted Iwo Jima 40 miles ahead and landed there at 12:20. We left the plane in charge of the ground crew to be serviced. We stayed overnight.

IWO JIMA

Iwo hasn’t changed much since we had landed here for gas on our 22 mission July 9. It will never rid itself of the drab look. Dull grey suspended clay dust greets the eye everywhere. The island only varies in monotony by the dust covered brown tents and the occasional dull grey of a few Quonset huts.

It is more than ever a beehive of activity. Most of the island is a commotion, bustling within a pall of brown dust in mixed with the black dust of the volcanic ash. Fighters are constantly roaring overhead coming and going since the 5th Air Force moved in.

SECOND LEG….Iwo Jima to China and return……..September 2, 1945

Take off at 03:17…..leveled off at 8,000 feet… 6,800 gallons of gas. Planned reserve 297 gals.

Went to sleep on a blanket on the nose wheel hatch. Awoke at 06:05. Weather at present ok.

07:04…Sighted the island of Tanega Shima just south of Kyushu.

07:10 …Weather is getting bad ahead and severe to the right of course. Have turned on the radar to find a path through the storm.

07:30… Turbulence is becoming severe, weather is closing in. Thunderheads ahead.

07:45…Turned around and are skirting the storm to the left. Weather is soupier but better

08:15 Back on course. 08:40 Have been flying in heavy rain for some time. Turbulence is letting up.

08:55… Breaking through the weather. Cold front behind us. We are on top of an under cast.

Note: We are not sufficiently supplied with food for this mission. The thought of ten more hours without food is not pleasant. Back to sleep.

09:40…Am awake. Weather has cleared up entirely. Expecting land in about 60 minutes.

10:16 Sighted land, (China.) Landmark is about 8 degrees right. Were right on course. Sighted several junks off the coast.

10:35…Coming up on Ch’ing-Tao and its bay. Ch’ing Tao looks like a nice city of about 70,000. The buildings have rust colored tile roofs and grey walls. The streets are laid out similar to an American city.

10:42 We are crossing the bay. The far side of the bay has no line of demarcation. The water continues in to the flooded rice fields. The fields beyond resembles logs floating down a river. They are long a narrow.

10:52…Sighted the railroad which will parallel our course to Weihsien. It is supposed to be at the junction of the railroad and the third river. The landscape and towns all look the same; most of them have walls around them. From the air the country looks beautiful….We have crossed the first river.

10:59…We are coming to the third river. We have let down to 2,000 feet. This does not look right. We were told at the briefing that if we were south of the course we would mis-count the river junctions. Our navigator said that our ETA made this the second river. We continued on.

11:03…Approaching another river the town on the railway does not seem large enough. We can’t mess around here too long, gas is a problem.

11:08 … This must be it. Now we have to locate the POW Camp. We were given two possible places. to find it. Then we spotted another plane dropping supplies just ahead of us.

11:14 …We are now on our dropping run behind the other plane. Now they have dropped their supplies from the rear bomb bay. What a beautiful sight. The mission compound is a small compact enclosure. The foliage is tall trees and shrubbery. All of it is dark green. The red tile roofs and white walls provide a pleasant contrast. Two story buildings predominate, but a few are three story and two or three towers stand about 4stories high. Just behind all this at the moment, parachutes of many different colors, red, blue, green, orange yellow and scarlet. Coming up on the missionary we see hundreds of people running around on the grounds.

11:17 Cargo away. Had to salvo all of it. Usually on POW supply missions some kind of damage can be done to the aircraft because the cargo is set on a large one piece rack. Sometimes when released it the slip stream sends it toward the tail, where it may hit part of the plane. However all went well.

11:20….Going around to have a better look and take pictures. We passed at tree top level . The people on the ground were running all over. They seem to think we are going to make another drop.

11:28 … As we circled we passed over the city of Waihsien, a city of 70,000 enclosed within a mammoth wall. The city square was jammed with people watching the spectacle. I don’t think they had ever seen a B-29.

12:02…Our job was done. We climbed to 15,000 feet and headed for Iwo Jima. On the way we were accompanied by two F6F’s Navy fighters one on each wing. We didn’t like them being there. Our Fire Control swiveled the guns. The fighters got the message and left. The rest of our flight to Iwo was uneventful. We hopped we had enough gas.

17:15 …We landed at Iwo. All the crew is tired. We parked in the gas line. We were 4th in line. I filed a clearance for Tinian and waited while they gassed up the plane.

THIRD LEG……Iwo Jima to Tinian

18:20 …We left Iwo for Tinian and leveled off at 8,000 feet…. The weather was good. Our ETA was 21:23

21:25 … We landed On Tinian

Total time: 3hrs25 min to Iwo, 14:10 Iwo to China and back to Iwo, 3:10 Iwo to Tinian. Total flying time 20 Hrs. 45Min we had flown a total of 4,650 miles

Tari Miller wrote the original story.
Bob Frick made changes to clarify or correct some of the material.
Submitted by Bob Frick 9-8-2011

The Airplanes

This crew generally flew “The Cultured Vulture“.  They also flew “Lucky Strike“, Anne Gary II, “Trigger Mortis II“, “Grider Gal“, “Forever Amber“, “Snuggle Bunny“.

 

Last updated 05/26/2012