Pacific Wrecks
Pacific Wrecks    
  Missing In Action (MIA) Prisoners Of War (POW) Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)  
Chronology Locations Aircraft Ships Submit Info How You Can Help Donate

Letter from Harry Gibbons
Crew member aboard the B-24 behind B-24L 44-41465 when it was hit by ack-ack.

Bruce,
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 of 1948.
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.
Harry Gibbons
3/15/99

Bruce,
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…

Harry
3/16/99
"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" flight again."

  Discussion Forum Daily Updates Reviews Museums Interviews & Oral Histories  
 
Pacific Wrecks Inc. All rights reserved.
Donate Now Facebook Twitter YouTube Google Plus Instagram