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