South Pacific

Batten’s plane was hit by a 40 mm. in the right wing, knocking out the right aileron control and the air speed indicator. Manning’s plane was riddled by shell fragments with one gaping hole in the right wing. Miraculously, Hise and I dodged the tracers by the skin of our teeth. We came through unscathed.

All four planes made it back to Torokina.

***

In a September 1995 speech on Marine Aviation in World War II, at the National Air and Space Museum, Brigadier General Henry W. Hise, USMC (Ret.), told the story of our attack on the guns at Buka Passage. And he briefly had this to say about his bomb hitting the water:
My plan was to destroy the guns by a low level attack, sliding or arcing 2000-pound bombs with delay fuses into the Jap emplacements. In the final approach, I shifted our flight formation into a staggered column, going in on the target from over the water.

‘I opened the bomb bay, armed the bomb and the aircraft’s two 50 cal wing guns. I had just got squared away in the run, going directly for the target, when a double string of 12.7 mm tracers began going over my aircraft’s nose—coming from dead ahead. I had been shot at many times. But this was the first time nose to nose. If the gunner had dropped his aim a little he would- have hit me in the teeth. I found this somewhat unsettling. And I decided to strafe the target. I squeezed the gun trigger on the stick and in my haste I also hit the bomb button.

“My strafing suppressed the guns, but my bomb fell in the water with a mighty blast. I was greatly embarrassed.”

***

My faithful turret gunner, Ernie Linsmaier, remembered our run on the guns at Buka Passage, too, when he sent me a long letter in 1993—on the fiftieth anniversary of our tour at Bougainville.

“Those damned tracers were passing close, right along side my turret,” he wrote. “A few inches to the right and we’d of had it. Did you ever think of that?”

***

The Japs played some kind of strange but futile game with us at Rapopo.

Located inland, a few miles south of Rabaul’s Simpson Harbor, Rapapo was a single, concrete fighter strip 5,000 feet long, 100 feet wide. It was surrounded by a circle of solid revetments and anti-aircraft defenses. Outside that circle were taxiways and clusters of hangars and aircraft storage facilities.

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