On one of our missions we were extremely low on fuel and were given permission to land at Missawa AB in northern Japan. On final approach, we were trying to find the runway, but each time we made a pass the ground fog would obscure our visibility and we would loose sight of the runway. After several passes and the flight engineer telling the A/C we did not have enough fuel for another go-around, the decision was made to ditch just off the shore. The shore looked good to me, but I had no desire to get my feet wet. The alarm bell sounded for ditching and at the last minute our passenger in the jump seat, our Operations Officer, Major Crawford, told the A/C to “get out of that seat and let me take over.” He said “We will not lose this aircraft.”

Cpl. William Steele, CFC Gunner, and Sgt. Kerrin Coyne, Tail Gunner connect at a side blister position.

He made an approach and couldn’t see the runway, but made an attempt. At the last minute, he got a glimpse of the runway and side-slipped the aircraft over to the runway, making an excellent landing. I could have kissed him, but he outranked me and it wasn’t appropriate. Needless to say, we believed he should have been awarded a DFC.

Time marched on and in August 1952 we were near the end of our tour of B-29 combat crew duty. It was the evening of August 6th. We had been grounded for some time due to an accident earlier. This was to be our last combat flight. Little did we know that this would be the last flight for aircraft "Tondemoni," S.N.44-2237A. In the number one position for takeoff, we had a bad mag drop on # 4 engine. It was decided that it would burn off after warm up. We were on our take off run when # 4 began to smoke real bad.
B-29 Tondemonai
(meaning “never happen”)
on one of her better days.

Flaps were raised a little after we cleared the runway. We could see that the engine was on fire, the bombs were salvoed to try and give us a chance to gain some altitude. We were at aproximately 600 feet when the # 2 engine blew. We were on fire.

The bailout alarm sounded. We had a passenger in the rear and he was the first to go out the right rear door. I was the second person to exit this door. The fire was coming back past the door and I had to wait to pull the D-ring until I had fallen through the fire. I wore a chest pack, as I was a tailgunner. I pulled the D-ring and my chute opened as it was supposed to. I was going head first and I did receive some neck burns due to the risers jerking me into an upright position. I made a swing out, feet first, and hit the ground almost immediately. The sky was lit up due to the fire and I narrowly missed some high voltage lines. Our passenger lit on one side of the wire, and myself on the other. He somehow got on a motorcycle and took off.

We spent some time trying to find our crew. The plane landed very close to us and was burning. The ammo was exploding and it was a tremendous fire, as we had a lot of fuel aboard. The CFC, LG, and RG exited the rear door right behind us and we landed close together. The RG claims he lit on a pile of rice straw and I could see the straw pile from where I was standing. The radar operator never got out, as far as I know. As far as I know, the A/C was the first out the front, followed by the Navigator, Bombarder, and then the Pilot.

The remains of our # 4 engine, about all that was left of our B-29 Tondemonai

The pilot had to go back and and regain control to straighten up the aircraft. He also tried to get the FE to exit be he “froze” at his station. As far as I know, the radio operator did not get out. I had sprained or injured my legs, be we waded a stream and went as close as we could get to the aircraft. We came upon the others on our way to the fire. Our one time A/C was launch officer and he had seen the firry takeoff. Someone called for rescue and they arrived shortly after. I recall that I had a ride in a “meat wagon” and I told the driver to slow down going over the rice paddys or we would be in worse trouble. We were transported to the Yokota Hospital. They gave us a sedative and whiskey. Its a wonder any of us are still alive, considering our consumption of that mixture.

The Ill-Fated Crew of the B-29 Tondemonai

Rear, Standing, L to R: Right Gunner, Stephan Rotolo; Radio Operator, Howard Higley — Middle Row, L to R: CFC Gunner, William Steele; Bombardier, 1st Lt. Bob Quackenbush; Radar Operator, Orville Funk; Tail Gunner, Kerrin Coyne — Front Row, L to R: Flight Engineer, Wally Hathaway; Navigator, Doug Hassing; Pilot, Howard Bowman; A/C Richard Gardner; Left Gunner, Edward Galligan.

End of Page 4 of 5 — The Kerrin Coyne Story

go to

Page 12345

Go to Contributed Stories Table of Contents