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William J. Smith
B-25 Pilot 38th Bombardment Group, 71st Bombardment Squadron

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Smith 2000

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B-25D Crew Pose

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B-25D Smith is flying on a
mission out of Nadzab

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General Kenney pinning the Purple Heart, the DSC and the Air Medal on Smith

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Smith as operations officer on Morotai

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Close call over Biak: flak damage over Smith's head

 

 

Background
William Smith's overseas Service with the 38th Bomb Group including: Charters Towers, 17 Mile Drome, Dobodura, Nadzab, Hollandia, Biak, Morotai and Leyte.

Smith is the veteran of 72 combat missions. Co-Pilot of B-25D "Pissonit" 41-30370 shot down on February 15, 1944 off Kavieng after his B-25 was hit by AA fire over the harbor and an explosion ruptured the fuel and hydraulic lines causing it to ditch.

Real Audio Buzzing Australian Train 3:22 | 809k
Flying across the Pacific in a DC-6 and moving across Australia by rail to Townsville then joining 5th Air Force at Charters Towers. Smith was 21 year old at the time. He relates a humorous anecdote about a friend's B-25 buzzing an Australian train.

Real Audio 17 Mile Drome 0:32 | 128k
Dense jungle surrounded this Port Moresby strip. Smith recalls one time a crew bailed out only three miles from the base, but it took them a week to get back! Our planes had the top half of the twin tails were painted yellow, hence the Japanese called the 71st "the yellow tailed devils".

Real Audio Coastwatcher Supply Drop  0:27 | 110k
Mr. Smith Describes his most satisfying mission in New Guinea. His plane successfully dropped supplies to Coastwatchers near Rabaul. Bad weather had hampered efforts, and the Coastwatchers were out of food and supplies. The unit had made a few attempts made to drop supplies, but didn’t have much success. Smith's plane was had its bomb-bay full of supplies that he would drop onto a smoke marker. They left Dobodura flying on the deck the whole way. Finally, the clouds broke, and were able to drop on the signal fires. When they got back home, the Coastwatchers had radioed their thanks - they had recovered all the supplies.

Real Audio Ditching off Kavieng
1:22 | 337k
On this mission, flying B-25 "Pissonit" and had Disney's Big Bad Wolf caricature on the nose. After sustaining an AA hit on their 27th mission, they lost an engine and their gear fell out. The plane caught fire. Smith ditched about a mile from the shore and he and 2 others got away from the burning plane, which quickly sunk. The radioman, J. C. Healan, was swept out a lower hatchway on the impact (by the suction) of the plane hitting the water. This was merciful as Healan was behind the fire and had been hideously burned. The tail gunner, Albert Gross, died when he tried to parachute at low altitude to escape the fire. Their life raft was on fire, so Smith threw out his parachute and the two pilots and navigator clung to it.

Real Audio Rescue by PBY Catalina
1:22 | 237k
Smith was burned from the resulting fire and his leg wounded in the crash. After about two hours in the water clinging to his parachute, they were rescued by a PBY flown by Nate Gordon who rescued a total of 15 aviators that day - 4 ocean landings in ocean swells while under fire. He won the Congressional Medal of Honor for this. Mr. Gordon is alive and well in Arkansas at 82 years of age.

Real Audio Cockpit Flak Hit & Dislodged Bomb
0:43 | 174k
On a ground attack mission out of Biak, Smith's plane was hit by a nearby flak burst from AA on both sides of ridge. When he took evasive action, a bomb became dislodged from its rack. After completing the mission, he made the "most gentle landing of his life" and the ground crew carefully made the bomb safe.

References
Son Steve Smith has contributed these photographs, and interview with his father, who was a B-25 pilot in the 5th Air Force, 38th Bomb Group, 71st Squadron.

 
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