There is so much to be said about any war. Historians say 60,000,000 people
died in WWII, about 250,000 Americans. We were relatively lucky. But try to
tell that to the parents of the deceased. Including my parents who lost a Lt.
Navigator over Germany. As to Frank Curley. I knew him and I remember him. This part is strange because
after 54 years you remember so few of your fellow flyers.
I was a 21 year old pilot flying in the right seat for the McCallam crew. We
were together with the Brasher and Bienwirth (not sure of spelling of Bierwirth???)
There were older crews ahead of us and younger crews behind. But we seemed always
together. We flew sub search out of Oahu. We moved up to Kuajalien and bombed
Watje, Millet, Truk, etc. Brasher was generally the lead plane. He was good.
We bombed Iwo Jima on Feb. 8, 1945. A jap kamikaze fighter rammed Bierbwiths
plane and created an instant ball of flame. No one could have possibly gotten
out. The reason I tell this is because Major Holland enters the picture. He
was considered a very popular officer when he flew. He was returning to Guam
from his rest leave after flying 30 missions. He did not impress the war weary
young kids who had seen tougher action than he ever saw. He seemed arrogant
and autocratic, i.e., "I'll show you guys how we did it in the old days."
He took over. He set up a mission for the 10th, two days after Bierwieth went
down. Major Holland (I always felt that he had been promoted to Lt. Colonel
about that time) then set up what we called a "milk run," an easy
mission where there would be no fighters and light ack-ack, certainly not Iwo,
9 days before the invasion.
Holland picked Ha-Ha Jima, a couple hundred miles north of Iwo. Therefore, we
needed monstrous rubber tanks for gasoline carried in the bomb bays. If we were
laurel & hardy he couldn't have fouled up the mission any worse. We flew
from the West about 15,600 feet up. We had a tail wind. We always flew at 165
MPH indicated. However, at that altitude with a strong wind behind us, we were
probably doing close to 400 MPH.
After flying in view of the island for possibly 5 minutes the Japs had good
time to figure our altitude. It was when we released our bombs that his plane
took a hit in the bomb bay…remember the gas filled auxiliary tanks: It
was an inferno. Brashers plane turned out of control and headed back into the
formation. From the distance it seemed two or three flyers got out (the tail
gunner was rescued). The others had to be the waist window gunners. No one could
of gotten out of the cabin.
What a tragedy! Here was a crew that had shown enough leadership to be the lead
crew and then have the ship taken over by an "I'll show you guys how to
fly combat" guy.. it's sick.
As to Frank himself, we were a reasonably close squadron. We lived in 16"
by 16" pyramidal tents, dirt floors, outdoor latrines, 50 gallon overhead
tanks for showers, indigestible food, warm beer (2 cans of beer, per day, perhaps).
We played softball together, but I don't remember him drinking with us or playing
poker with us.
There were about 12 crews in our squadron, some coming, some going.
We lived in a circular area, that in the tents were in a circle.
Frank was a good height, well conditioned and extremely good looking.
I remember that he had gone to LaSalle High School about the class of '42.
I went to North class of '40. Later I graduated from LaSalle College, class
Enclosed a map of the area to give you an idea of the war that "we"
had. But it was going on all over the world.
From my diary that I kept and recorded on the flight back home from every target.
It was against all rules to keep such a diary, just in case that you were captured
by the Japs. But you know us wild Irishmen. Tell us not to do something and…
"DANGEROUS CRITTER HA HA JIMA FEB 10th Another rough one. I feel a little
uneasy. No appetite. Stomach upset a little. We were supposed to have an easy
mission to-day but the lead ship (A-1) picked up some ACK-ACK in the bomb bay
tank and caught fire right after bombs away, it was just a flying torch, a few
fellows got out but some of them didn't have cutes on. That is two ships in
two missions not so good. Had some good friends on it, too. A 10 plane formation
hit HA HA at15,600. Bomb hits (word unreadable). I sweated this mission out
but good, and then to see that plane peel off in front of us aflame sure put
the finishing touches to it . I sometimes wonder if we'll ever get home. These
extra missions are sure rough. Last crew was on no. 34. We lead "B"