Letter from

Fourteenth Mission

Nakajima Raid
April 7, 1945

This letter was written by Lieutenant F.H. "Pete" Reed to his parents
on April 10, 1945, and published in "The Breeze", Vol. 2, No. 4.
Pp. 9-11, the newsletter of the Southern Region
of the Weather Bureau.

10 April 1945

Dearest Mom and Dad:

Wonderful letters from you all yesterday. I am quite surprised that you enjoyed the "tale" of Osaka that much or that "FIN" would want to print it! If I'd known that was going to happen, I would have been more detailed in many respects. For instance, one of the biggest hazards on those night raids is the "milling" 29's all over the sky. They really aren't milling, but so many get there at the same time, and go busting in over target – and when you are going for a specific area at well over 200 mph – it makes for a lot of sweating. Especially on that mission, because of the thick soup everyone was in from the time they were over the coast and areas around target.

The biggest thrill in the daytime was on the Big T raid the other day with P-51 protection for the first time.

On the way up, we ran through some foul weather, and couldn't even see beyond our wing tips for a long time. Naturally we were apprehensive about the fighters getting through it, as well as our own formations, intact. In fact we were all really doubtful about meeting them at rendezvous anyway. When we finally broke out of the "stuff", we were able to get together, and climbed on up to our bombing altitude – which for daytime bombing would make your hair stand on end – it was anything but high altitude! By this time the weather had dissipated, and ‘neath a bright sun (what a rarity!) Mt. Fuji could be seen clearly, as well as the saw-toothed mountain ridges running up Honshu's back. We circled, and I have never seen so many 29's before in one place, with different groups and squadrons circling at slightly different altitudes. It was really beautiful after some semblance of order was attained.

After one or two circles, the time for the fighters to appear was only moments away. We knew it would be well-nigh suicide to go in at our altitude without them. And no kidding, for wonder of wonders, (just like in the movies), a group of small specks appeared high on the horizon – and then more and more. After a heart-stopping thought that they might be Jap fighters, we just knew they were ours.

And by golly, when they got closer that wonderful P-51 Mustang silhouette was clearly seen, and let me tell you, I felt like crying for joy! I was really carried away!! They looked so beautiful, carefree, "footloose and fancy free" as they broke into smaller groups and circled about us. Then we turned to go to the spot where we would turn on our bomb run and as the formations of 29's strung out against a beautiful background of snowcapped Fuji and the rest of Honshu, the 51's circled about and soon disappeared ahead towards Fuji and the Big City.

P-51s of the 21st Fighter Group on Iwo Jima
ready for takeoff, as seen beneath the three-story tail of a Superfortress “Mother Ship.”

Photo by Josh Curtis
Ctsy. MBI Publishing Co.
“Great American Bombers of WW II”

The B-29s provided navigation for the
P-51s. The 498th Group’s “Joltin Josi” is
leading Mustangs of the 15th Fighter Group
Ctsy Doubleday& Company, Inc.
“Saga of the Superfortress.”

A formation of B-29s from the 498th
Bomb Group, Saipan, passes near Mount
Fuji, on its way to a target in Japan.
73rd BW Photo by Harold Dreeze
Ctsy. MBI Publishing Co.
“Great American Bombers of WW II”

As I looked ahead towards the object of our trip, I suddenly saw a flash of flame at about our altitude – then a billow of white and looking again after rubbing my eyes, I saw a Jap fighter spinning in flames, the pilot way off to one side swinging from his chute, and 4 P-51's circling back up. First kill! And off the coast too!! And a few moments later some "eager" lad in a "Tony" came steaming in for the last ship in our
formation, and 4 P-51's piled all over him so fast he undoubtedly never knew what happened. Down he went in pieces. I couldn't get over the kick it gave me to try to visualize the surprise it must have been to those Japs to get hopped by our fighters when they probably didn't dream of anything like that happening – ever!

By now we were about ready to turn on the bomb run and the other groups were already on it. From a clear sky, the picture suddenly became flecked with ugly black spots – in fact, it seemed to have become filled with them! It was hard to realize that those big black puffs were ugly pieces of jagged, razor-sharp steel shrapnel. And it was equally hard to realize that the pretty puffs of milky-white stuff were in reality the bursts of a phosphorous shell, that would burn any part of a plane that went through it. And all the time, the wonderful P-51's were scooting all over the sky, pouring it to the Japs.

Three P-51 Mustangs from Iwo Jima stick
close to a B-29 during a flight over cloud
cover. The escort fighters are carrying
long-range auxilliary fuel tanks.

Photo Ctsy. Donald L. Miller
Publication “B-29 Superfortress at War”
by David A. Anderton
Charles Scribner’s Sons

Now we were on the bomb run, and here I found that plenty of Jap fighters were still "feeling fine" and very active. A twin-engine Nick came hurtling through the formation from 2 o'clock high – a beautiful silver job. His guns were blazing, and tracers were flying by us. He swished immediately underneath our ship, and out of sight. Our top gunner hadn't been able to pick him up as soon as he should have in order to get good shots at him – but he did have that upper forward turret chonking like mad.

A ten-plane flight of Superfortresses from
29 Bomb Group, Guam, heads north.

Photo by Andy Doty
Ctsy. MBI Publishing Co.
“Great American Bombers of WW II”

From here on the guns were going all the time – and the flak was bursting all the time. Way up in front, a 29 fell below his formation, and 4 P-51's went hurtling down to him – he blew up into three flaming sections. After what seemed like years, our bomb doors were opened and finally bombs were away.

As we turned from the target, I looked out on my right (the A.C. was flying this one) so I could just sit there and look – and sweat, for believe me I was scared stiff ever since we started the bomb run, well, almost stiff – and saw a ship of our formation with my best buddies in it streaming flames from the section of wing behind #2 engine. (I found out later they were hit there at the beginning of the bomb run but had gone on in anyway, thinking that it might go out – but instead it kept burning more fiercely.) He feathered the prop, but it still burned on – and big chunks began breaking off from the affected spot. By now the ship had fallen back and to the side of the formation – and fighters were jumping on him in spite of the 51's nearby. We all turned to his side – and it was obvious that they should jump – but Big T was underneath, and I guess the hope that they might make their way out to sea and ditch and somehow get picked up was overshadowing common sense. For just a minute or two later the wing came off, and the plane blew and spun down in pieces. Some chutes opened – but not as many as were in the plane – and no one knows who got out and who stayed.

I was pretty sick – and fighters were still jumping us as we passed over the coast – 3 of them whizzing through the formations and shooting out an engine and aileron of another plane, and putting holes in two tanks. We escorted him to Iwo, where he landed o.k. A few hours later the 14th mission was over. Whew!! Fifteen solid hours – it took me about 24 hours to want to go back again.



P.S. Anyone flying a P-51 should be President.

End of The Fourteenth Mission Story

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