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Interview on experiences in World War II

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Ellis County Historical Society


Ellis County Historical Society


Veterans of WWII Oral History Project


Interview with Lawrence Dryden*

August 25, 2006


Conducted by Erin Hammer**

*Hereafter referred to DRYDEN   

**Hereafter referred to as HAMMER

DRYDEN: All right. I'm Lawrence Dryden. I was born in Jennings County, Indiana, little town of Paris Crossing in 1924, February 5th. I was raised on a farm in Vernon Indiana and graduated from Vernon High School and my dad was a permanent farmer. Everybody was poor but we didn't realize it because everybody was the same. Grew up during the Depression and I think the Depression generation was fortunate in the things that they learned during the depression, how to live, what to do, and how to act. So I think that was one of the things that really helped when we went out and did things on our own. My Dad was also the, the chairman of the draft board in Jennings County. So I didn't have much choice, I knew I was going to go sometime. I had two brothers older than I; one of them joined the Air Force, only then it was the Air Corp, a month before the date of registration for the draft and the other brother volunteered and went about a month after he registered. Of course, that was in 1940 and I was a, in high school then, I didn't have to register till I was eighteen, but I talked to Dad and we had decided that he could handle the farm if I went and I wanted to do something. I wanted to go work in the industry someplace in a defensive effort before I went to the service. I don't think there was any question about if I was going to service. And so I helped him put in the crop in the Spring of '42 and then I went up to where they were building Camp Atterbury, at Edinburgh, Indiana and it was thirty-five miles up there and I worked there for a month and they, it was about finished and I got there just in time to help finish it. I worked unloading boxcars and most of most of what I unloaded was big timbers, three by fifteen, twenty-foot boards. I don't know if it's called a board that big or something else <laughs> or a timber when its that large? Well anyway it was a good thing I had been working because handling that kind of material turned out to be hard work. One day we got there at seven o'clock in the morning and Mr. /Strawboss/ said, ``Well we've got to get this one unloaded today'' and so we opened up the car and it took us until nine o'clock to get the first board out, it had shifted and we stayed till seven o'clock that night to get it unloaded. We did get it all unloaded. Any rate then, I saved a little money in that month and decided that I would go to Indianapolis and go to welding school and become a welder, because they were in demand and I wanted to. I started in gas welding, well I'd been there, about finished my gas welding course and a recruiter from Kaiser Industry in California came through and they wanted electric welders in shipyards on the West Coast and I think every student and instructor signed up and we all went to Vancouver Washington and went to work for Kaiser Company. And we were working on the on the LSTs the Landing Ship Tank with the big clamshell doors up in front so you could just drive the tanks in and out. And we, I worked there for about three months and, and at the end of that time we were putting out one of those everyday, and I was, I'm only a hundred and sixty-five now but then I weighed a hundred and forty-nine then and I'm still as tall almost as I am now, so I could get into the small places and there was a, the hole that went through, through which the anchor chain went had to be welded or it would round and you had, it was in a compartment, you could, I could get into it, not everybody could, and it was just a round tube, went from this wall on the one end to the outside of the ship and I, the boss told me I could go in there and do that and so I took an air hose, `cause it was arc welding and there's always a lot of fumes and this is about a three by four by four, maybe not that big, compartment with this big tube running through it and I got in there and I had to stand on my head and weld overhead, now if you can imagine that to get around that tube. So I learned electric weld in a hurry. It went very well. Well, started getting letters from the draft board, just information and I said `Well it's not going to be very long and they're going to call me up. I'm not going to be drafted I want my serial number to start with a one instead of a three.'' Only draftees started with three and all the volunteers were one so I went across the river to Portland and signed up and we went to, that night we ended up in Fort Lewis, Washington. They loaded us on a train and took us up there and got there I don't know what time. They fed us and started us through the physical line. We got all out shots and got very little sleep that day, that night and woke up the next morning and started taking tests and my shots, I reacted to one of them, I don't know which one of them, maybe all three of them I don't know. But when I took the radio test, I, there was a series of dots and dashes and another series and you were supposed to tell whether those were the same series or different and I had a fever of about a hundred and three and I couldn't tell the difference of any of them. I did pretty well on my AGCT and mechanical aptitude test but that radio test I knew I wasn't going to be a radio operator. So anyway, we stayed there got orientation and then they loaded us on a train and we started, headed south and I don't know how long we were on that train that time but ended up at /Meadows Field/ California. This was at Bakersfield and this was an assembly point for, I guess, all the West Coast Air Corp guys and we did some more tests and orientation there and we were there about a week our names were called out one morning and we all got on a train and headed east and nobody knew where we were gonna go. I suppose the guy in charge knew an officer I think was probably in charge of the train, I think he probably knew but none of us did. And then we were on there a couple of day and one evening we pulled into a town that said Hobbes, New Mexico. Where in the heck is Hobbes, New Mexico? And I don't think anyone there knew, well anyway that's where we were and I think I got there in November '42 and I stayed there until August of '44. At Hobbes Air Field it started out as a navigation training base and I think they said they graduated one class and it changed to a B-17 transition field and they, where we trained pilots, some of them just out of cadets, some of them had flown other types of planes. They came there to learn to fly the B-17 and they got a hundred-five hours flight time there and from there they went to the second Air Force, picked up a crew and went to India, most of them went to India I think. And we had no recruits train, a lot of them most draftees, all volunteers too went through recruit training which was the last two or three months basically. We had four weeks basic training and the first morning that we woke when we woke up they got us all up and they said, ``Out here, this open space, is where you're gonna learn to march and this is gonna be your training field and its got a lot of rocks on it so the first thing you're gonna do, what, is pick up all the rocks. So we picked up rocks for all that day and if you've ever been to New Mexico there's a lot of rocks there. And in December then I was transferred over to the 960th bomb squadron and we had one airplane, one B-17, I think at that time there were only two B-17s on the field and this squadron had one of them. And I walked out on the ramp and took one look at that thing and said, ``It's too big to fly It'll never make it off the ground.'' I think That was the reaction of most of the guys but anyway there was a cadre of permanent party there that were mechanics and knew something about airplanes and the idea was that these recruits, of which I was one, we would go over and we were going to learn to be mechanics on the line instead of going to tech school. The Air Force, Air Corp had three mechanic schools one at /Branton/, Illinois, one at Sheppard Field, Texas and one at Biloxi, Mississippi and that was an extensive course and you got, learned about aircraft systems on any type of airplane there, but I didn't get that, I went out on the line and there was a Sergeant Ford, he was a buck sergeant and he had maybe ten years service and he had been a mechanic for a long time and he knew airplanes and he took three of us out there and he said, ``Now this is a B-17'' and said, ``This is what we do to it.'' He started teaching us about the B-17 and he was a very good instructor, they did, create a small one month mechanic school and I was in the first class to go to that and that helped a lot and I think really on the line and when the airplane was flying, I'd go in the engineering office and read tech orders. One thing that the Air Corp was very good at, they had reference material that if something was wrong you could look it up and these were called tech orders and the B-17 had a lot of them, a whole shelf of them. They were nine and a half by eleven and they described everything there was to, on a B-17 and we could read those things when we weren't flying or so. That's where I learned. I learned more on the line and then I'd go in and read about it and ask questions. There was, they had I remember three, /Berts/ and /Gilliman/, what was the other one, they were tech sergeants and they were kinda in charge of the line out there and they were all experienced men had been in several years and also they were very approachable and I became good friends with all three of them. And so that's where I learned and when the B-17 took off, it had to have one enlisted man on it and he was supposed to be a aerial engineer and it wasn't very long before I started flying because I was an aerial engineer, and that can be very exciting or it can be very dull. One of the first things the pilots had to do was to learn to land the thing and so we were flying four-hour missions and we started out morning, afternoon, and night and they were four-hour missions and if they were learning to land it why you might go out, take a touch and go and come around, make a touch and go and come around maybe thirty times in four hours. That was not exciting flying and it was surprising, some of the pilots they learned to ease them in just real well and some of them they'd bounce them al the way up and down the airstrip. One time the new class and I was out there playing and I was going to fly that day and here's two new students, new class and the instructor, and they did their walk around, got in and instructor was in the right hand seat and he started the engines and told the student how to taxi it out, and the B-17 was a tail dragger so you had to unlock the tail wheel before you taxied it, and we got out to the end of the runway and he took off and the instructor said, ``Okay take a turn to the left there.'' So he took the wheel and he turned it to the left there and turned to the other guy and said, ``Hey Joe, you don't have to correct for torque.'' I said, ``What have you guys been flying?'' He said, ``P-40s,'' a single engine pursuit plane and got into that plane with four engines and more power than he'd ever seen before and ``Hey you don't have to correct for torque!'' Cause on those light planes, you know, if you held the prop, the plane might turn instead of the prop. So we got all kinds some of them right out of cadets and one of the most interesting flights I had was one of the last ones, well, towards the last anyway. With a full colonel and I'm not just sure what his position was but he was from Western Training Flying Command at Santa Anna and he was ready for retirement. If the war hadn't come along he'd probably been retired but he wanted to be checked out on the B-17 and I guess he had asked several time to come out and go through and finally they gave him three weeks and he came out and he did it, he flew the hundred and five hours. But he didn't take the ground school, there was a lot of ground school and work that the pilots did too, a lot of classroom work and all that and he did not do any of that and the flight that I had with him was his last flight and he was one of the nicest old guys you ever met. He was a full colonel and you know he looked like somebody's grandpa but he was really a nice guy and I stood up there between the between the pilot's seats and we talked and he told tales and it was very interesting man and he was just putting in time and he said, ``They say there's a B-29 up at Clovis,'' and so we flew up to Clovis and well, a full colonel he flies where he wants to and so we was several thousand feet up, we were not down where we were interfering with the traffic flow but there was one B-17 down there and that was the first time, or B-29 down there and that was the first time I'd ever seen one. The first time I'd even ever heard anything about it and I looked down there and there were some other planes on the ramp and then here was this great big thing there and I thought, `My lands what is that?' I didn't know it I was going to flying in one of them before too long. Most of the time at Hobbes was, was really pretty hard work we flew, when we started we were flying three missions and then the demand for B-17 pilots got so big that we started flying four missions a day, we flew four hours. We took off at seven o'clock at one o'clock, night or morning, one or the other and at two o'clock and eight o'clock, one or seven, of course and night or morning, they gave you four mission and they could only take the plane out one of those missions for maintenance, it had to be flyable and the squadron commander was he was a Captain /Cason/ and this was later on, they reorganized the field and dissolved some of the squadrons and consolidated personnel. So then I was in the 915th squadron. Captain /Cason/ was the squadron commander and he had been a World War One veteran and he had stayed in and worked his way up to a warrant officer, I think he was a senior warrant officer and then the war came along and they give him a captaincy. Just transferred, I think that was his first commission was as a Captain and I think he knew what the likelihoods of enlisted men were. And he started going four missions a day Captain /Cason/ said, ``You guys keep the planes flying, don't worry about where, there'll be no inspections, no Saturday inspections or bunk inspections, you sweep the floors and keep `em decent. And that's all you have to worry about, I'll take care of that, you guys take care of the airplanes.'' And so that was his attitude and we appreciated that. Most of the flights were really dull, sometimes you got in some reeling time. One time went over went to work and my plane was in the hangar for, for fifty-hour inspection and we, that time had a B-17 G in the squadron and the G is the one that you see a lot in the picture, that's the one with the chin turret, got the guns in front and on the tail. The old Fs did not have a chin turret. This was, there was two of those on the field and one of them happened to be in my squadron. I had never had much to do with it and I walked in that night and the engineering officer says, ``We need someone to fly with the G. Would you like to, since your plane is in the hangar?'' I said `` Sure I'd like to.'' So it was a night mission, we took off at seven o'clock at night and I forget what we did. It was just night maneuver and flying and not much, that's what we did now, but came in time to land. Well it turned out that these two students were kinda at loose ends, they had not been assigned to a full-time instructor permanently and they had been, had just gone from one instructor to another and their program had not really follow the training program as it was laid out for them and they had not done very many night landings and anyway, we came in and it looked to me, I was standing between the seats and it looked to me like the guy was making a pretty good landing, pretty good approach and that thing came in about ten feet off the ground and it just quit flying. It stalled out and it went Boom <hits the table> hit the runway and the instructor hit those throttles and picked it up and it went flying again and says, ``Sergeant go down and take a look at the gear.'' So I went down to the nose and had a flashlight and looked at the right wheel and it was going like this <swings arm> broken a strut and so he called the tower told to them told them what the situation was and they said, ``Well hang on we'll send you to Oklahoma City, they've got a crash kit up there and we flew, it took an hour seemed like to find out that and the word is that Oklahoma is expecting fog about the time that we'd get there so you'll have to bring it in here. Then the instructor got in the pilot's seat, he got in the left hand seat then and he did a tremendous job, he got that wheel, when it hit the ground it went back and under the supercharger and the wing tip never hit the ground. So we had good, left gear was all right and the right side was resting on the tire on the supercharger. The wing tip never hit the ground and they had to change two engines on the right hand side, the props were both bent on that and just minimal. Well it tipped over, when it finally stopped it tipped over and the chin turret was on the airplane was on its nose and so they jacked it up and got in, set it up and changed the engines and did what repairs had to be done on it. And about that time on, my pilot went to work, and the engineer said, ``Would you like to fly co-pilot on the G?'' He said, ``It's ready to test hop.'' I said, ``Sure'' <laughs> There was a Major /Ashley/ was the pilot that was assigned to the said depot and he did all the test flying and Major /Ashley/ didn't need a copilot but I said, ``Sure I'll fly with him.'' So I went down to the sub depot and met him and we went out to the plane and he had, I don't know, eight or ten workers from the sub depot that wanted to fly so we had a whole plane full of passengers and when, when we got a brand new airplane you do not run it up to full speed, full power until it has some time on it and so we had to take a little longer to get off the ground and I did help a little on the throttles and not much he had really controlled them but I acted like I was helping anyway and we got up and we slow-timed those two engines for two hours and all those people, most of them were women, they would come up in the cockpit and we'd talk to them, what was going on and all that and we had a two-hour flight and that was that was kind of a highlight, I was, I was on the paper as a copilot, a buck sergeant. Anyway that was one of my highlights. The aftermath of the, of that landing was that I had to go before a board, an examination board that investigated the accident. I got to give my version of what happened and that pilot for that, that brought that plane in, he was Captain /Downing/, and I would fly with him any time he was really good the way he handled that and that's what I told the colonel and he said, ``Well that's what we're here to investigate, not for you to tell me.'' But anyway I let him know what I thought; the Captain had done a hell of a good job. And I think there I made two landings in all of the landings on the B-17, there were two that I did not know when the wheels had hit the ground. And one of them was with an instructor who was rather a small, wasn't over 5'8'' or 9'', just a little guy, but he could, all the engineers said this guy makes the best landings ever and I got to fly with him the one time and when we came in he made that landing and I didn't know when we hit the ground. That beats going down the runway like that <beats the table> any rate. I got, I got, well the first time the promotions came out you could almost tell, draw a line the guys who had been out there working, they made Corporal and those who had been kinda been goofing off they stayed privates. And then the next time they came out about why about half of those corporals made Sergeant and I was in that group. The next time that promotion list came out, why, I was recommended to make the first three grader I would be a Staff Sergeant and I think the first three grader had to go before a board and the engineering officer called I think about six of us in and told us that we were being recommended for Staff Sergeant and we would have to go before a board and so he warned us a little bit. At any rate the day I went over there for the interview why the board consisted of a captain from headquarters who you went in and you set with a group and answered some question and they wanted to know what kind of a soldier you were. And the second was, was Major /Tocars/ and Major /Tocars/ was the post operations officer and he had written a field order that a B-17 was not to be started without the use of an auxiliary power plant. Well those were the first ones and I was still assigned to that first airplane that was out on the field. It was number 00 and it went to 958th squadron with me and I was still working on it and there was a little power plant they had assigned to each one of those airplanes and you started the engines and you took the powerp lant over and set it along the end of the ramp and if you know New Mexico, the wind blows and the sand flies and so my auxiliary power plant would spend more time in the sub depot being repaired because of that sand than it was out there usable, and so anyway this was the background for the questions for promotion and Major /Tocar/ says, ``Sergeant you're in the Engineering officer and there's a B-17 out on the ramp. Tell us everything you do to pre-flight it.'' And so I, okay I started into everything. I finished up and he said, ``Is that everything?'' I said, ``Yes sir, I think so.'' He said ``Sergeant do you use an auxiliary power plant?'' I said, `` No sir.'' He'd signed the order that no B-17 would be started without it. I thought he was going to come right over the table. He said, ``Well why not?'' I told him ``Well, my power plant spends more time out there in the sub depot than it does there usable, so the pilots start without auxiliary power plants, so I do too.'' Any way I didn't make staff sergeant and the next day my engineering officer who was a chief warrant officer, big, tall, redheaded Texan. He called me in, I was out on the line, the guy came out and said, ``Mr. /Scarborough/ wants to see you.'' And I knew what was coming and I said okay, so I went in and a warrant officer rates one salute a day. Now a commissioned officer every time you meet them, why, you salute, but a warrant officer rates one salute a day. I didn't even get to salute. I walked in the door and he started in, he said, ``Sergeant don't you ever say anything like that again.'' I said, ``Mr. /Scarborough/, my mother taught me not to lie.'' And what could he do? He looked down at the desk and he looked up at me and he said, ``Get out of here.'' Went back to work, so I didn't get bawled out. I expect that he got bawled out by the Major, you know, that Major was saying ``Why are you letting those guys start those engines?'' So he probably got bawled out, but he couldn't bawl me out when I said that so, and he, he treated me as if I had made staff sergeant. I was promoted to crew chief and aerial engineer and so. Long about, it must've been July of '44 those pilots had to make a ten-hour flight before they finished because their combat missions were gonna be ten hours when they got overseas. Their missions would be ten hours so they had that experience and so the instructors would pick out the cities that they were gonna go to and those, those we flew ten hours and probably most of them stayed overnight, they weren't round robins, they stayed overnight and then came back the next day. So those went out on Saturday and so, I flew to New Orleans, to Dayton, Ohio, to Columbus, Ohio, to Phoenix, once to L. A. and had an overnight in those cities and this was the advantage of being a flight engineer, you got to got to got to the, see all over the country instead of being stuck in Hobbes, New Mexico all of the time. Anyway the, the flight that that I made to Dayton, we landed at /Wright Patterson/ and the instructor pilot I think lived in Columbus so he was gonna hitchhike or get a bus or something and go to Columbus and see his folks. Any rate we pulled up and parked the plane and the alert crew came out and I got out and the Master sergeant there said ``Is there anything wrong with the airplane?'' I says, ``Yes, I've got I don't know how it happened but the right strut, the right gear on my plane, the strut was rubbing on the housing and I was afraid that this would produce metal fatigue and I might make another landing like with that G, and I said, ``Sergeant, take a look at this.'' And he looked at that and he said ``We'll change that'' well I had, had reported that to the Sub Depot, the engineering officer at the Hobbes and he had called that, said sent it down to the sub depot and the said, ``No, it was alright.'' Well this guy says, ``I'll change that.'' And I said, ``Okay that'll be fine,'' and so we stayed overnight, they didn't get it done the next day so we stayed two nights and nobody said anything when we got back to Hobbes. I told them, it was on the forms when we got back to Hobbes, of course the pilot had reported it also, but anyway about a month I was transferred to B-29s <laughs>. Which didn't I'm not sure there was a correlation between that and being transferred because they were beginning to take guys with my background into the B-29 program, but I've always had the feeling that it maybe my name got up to the top of the list because of that, I'm not sure if its true or not. But any rate, we were, it took guys like me and transfer them to the B-29 program as flight engineers and so, why I went to Amarillo and went to school there and there we learned the B-29 systems and that was the first time I got to run a 33-50 /right/ engine, twenty-two hundred horsepower. These kids today their 22-60 automobile engines and they spin their wheels they think that's power, but you get a twenty-two hundred horsepower engine going, then you're talking power. Then, any rate, from there we went to Denver and there we flew in B-24s but they had, all an extra set of instruments set up and I don't know how many engineers they had in the back of that thing, but each one of us had a board and we calculated fuel consumption, and that was one of the main functions of a flight engineer was to keep track of the fuel because either you made it back to the islands or you took a drink, and so we wanted to know how much fuel, we could get back or not. And so that was an important part of the training and from there, we, I was sent to Clovis, New Mexico and there I was assigned to a crew and my airplane commander was a Captain /Bronze/, he was from Brookville, Indiana and I had grown up around Vernon, Indiana, and it was a eleven-man crew and the one, the co-pilot was from North Carolina, the bombardier was from Columbus, Ohio, the navigator was form Coffeyville, Kansas, the radio operator was from Oklahoma City, the CFC man, central fire control, top gunner was from New York, right gunner was from Kentucky, left gunner was from North Carolina, tail gunner was from Pennsylvania and the radar man was from California. So It was the first time we'd ever seen each other. It did turn out that the bombardier and the pilot had flown together. The bombardier had been a instructor at bombardier school out at Albuquerque. Captain /Bronze/ has been flying those planes to train bombardiers for a while, so they knew each other, but so I think the airplane commander kinda picked his crew and when he saw that name he said ``I want that bombardier,' because he was familiar with him. Anyway we completed our training there, and there we made two, instead of ten-hour flights on the `17, made fifteen-hour flights and these were all round robin, we came back at night, we were supposed to land at Clovis but the first one we landed at Albuquerque because I said we were running out of fuel and we got some gas and then on over to Clovis, but from there we picked up a brand new airplane in Topeka. It was one that the people in Topeka had contributed, I think, a hundred thousand dollars or something to buy a B-29 and it was titled ``City of Topeka'' and we got to fly that brand new airplane overseas. It was very interesting going over, we went to /Marshall's/ Field, California and our first flight was to Hawaii and about every fifteen minuets why somebody would call either me or the navigator. Call me says, ``Do we have enough gas?'' And the navigator, ``Where are we?'' After we had been flying over there a little while we never heard that question again. Anyway so the second flight was to /Quadulene/, and then the third leg we delivered that airplane to /Westfultinnia/ and we were assigned to Saipan, 500th bomb group in Saipan. The people in /Westfultinnia/ was a 58 bomb wing and they were the first B-28 bomb wing to see combat, they had been assigned, they had gone to India and had bombed Southeast Asia and the had some missions over the Himalayas and bombed the Japanese in China and but I didn't get to stay there. We went over to Saipan and were assigned to the the 888th bomb group, 500 bomb group and that was the 73rd wing and the 500th bomb group trained at Walker Field and they had trained as a group and they had gone over there and I had, we went over as a replacement crew. A crew had completed their missions and we took over, we got fly an old /woolwery/ after flying a brand new plane over there, but we had fun. How much time do I have?

CAMERAMAN: You have about fifteen minutes left if you'd like

DRYDEN: Fifteen, okay. The B-29 flights were, as I said fifteen hours long and everybody got to sleep except the engineer and the radio operator. The pilot flew going up, going towards Japan and the copilot then would fly it coming back so they could sleep. The bombardier could sleep both ways, he slept on the door, the entrance door right beside my seat, and so it was just a minor interruption in his sleep to, on those missions when we'd wake him up about a half an hour before we planned for and he'd get up and we'd go do our bombing and he'd come back and go to sleep and our, we had two navigators, the radar man was also a rated navigator so the navigator would go would fly, navigate going up and the radar man would sleep and then he'd do his thing with the radar over the target and then he'd come up and navigate home. Well the gunners they could, as long as one guy was awake in the back end that was all we needed. The radio operator had to be on the radio all the time and the engineer had to be awake all the time, keep track of the engines and the weight control and all of that, so everybody got to sleep and the night missions were just a minor interruption. They'd wake up and hour and do the bombing thing and then go home, but the radio man and the engineer had to stay awake for full, and sometimes we would get up say in the morning and those night missions would take off about five o'clock in the afternoon, well we'd been up all morning, all day, then we'd take off at five o'clock and then we'd get back about seven or eight o'clock the next morning and we'd still hadn't got any sleep and then we still had to be debriefed. So every mission, I slept very well when I finally got to bed and there was two or three flights that were memorable and of course I think if anyone says they weren't scared, they're lying, every, if they weren't scared they were very concerned. You got so you got used to it, the first mission, of course, was the one, you wondered what was going to happen next and how things were gonna go and then they got to be kinda routine. But we were, when the anti-aircraft shells start going off around you, you were, anybody that says they weren't scared, well they were lying to you, they were. We were, we were hit, well, twice with the reparable, that was reparable damage, we were hit twice and there was several times when we'd hit, the flack would hit the airplane and wouldn't even dent it, but one of those was on a practice mission. The 20th Air Force was given the /Island of Truck/, which was a Japanese Submarine base and they gave that to the 20th Air Force to keep under control so all the new crews got to go down and bomb /Truck/ and also /Marcus Island/, /Marcus Island/ was northeast of us and we made the flight to each one of those and one to /Truck/. Anti-aircraft was right in the middle of formation, must've been six or seven planes and those guys could shoot. I told my brother about that and he'd been over there almost three years and he says, ``They've been practicing for three years, they know how to shoot.'' Any rate we heard something hit and the right gunner said, ``Man that felt like it went off right, hit right under my seat.'' Well when we got back to Saipan we got out of the airplane and walked around and here was a hole about that long, and the long, and followed that up and the gunner went up and picked up his seat cushion and took out a chunk of flack about that big around. That was as close as any of us come to being injured. But he said, ``Why it felt like it hit just right under my seat.'' And the other time we were bombing a regular bomb mission, and a city on the Southern side, edge of Honshu and it was, it was a daylight mission and we were in formation and we were hit. I beg your pardon, this one was on the eastern shore of the Inland Sea when we got hit. The, we were on the bomb run and the plane got hit and number one engine, all my instruments just went crazy. And I said, ``Feather number one.'' And we looked around and couldn't see any damage couldn't see where we'd been hit. When we got back to Saipan, there was one hole about that big close to the number one engine on the underside of the leading edge and they took the front edge of the wing off and that chunk of flack had gone up there and hit the fuel shutoff valve and closed it. It was the only thing, they just repaired a few wire, put on a new fuel shutoff valve and patched it up the hole and put the wind section back up and we got to fly all the way back home on three engines. And the other exciting one, this one was the one on the southern edge of Honshu. It was a night mission and we turned on the bomb run and the bombardier says, ``Look at that!'' The engineer rode going backwards, I turned around and looked out the front of that airplane and there was just a wall of smoke up there ahead of us. We were at about twelve thousand feet and I says, ``Captain are we going in to that?'' You know, they tell us here to stay away from thunderheads when you're flying and to me that was a thunderhead. It was smoke instead. And the Captain said, ``Yes the orders are to drop the bombs on target. So we'll go in.'' We, we hit that at twelve thousand feet and we immediately started up we went up three thousand feet and I had braced myself, put my hands on the control panel and nothing was happening. I tried to lift my hands and look but it was like they weighed maybe forty pounds apiece. We got up to fifteen thousand feet, leveled off, got to the other side and we came down three thousand feet. We carried a Jerry can of water on the door beside me and it hit the ceiling and stayed up there all the way down. It was just like an elevator. The bombardier dropped the bombs down there someplace we didn't have any idea where they went but we, we got back to Saipan and every plane, we all had that same story. We went hoo, hoo, hoo,<illustrates with hands> and the rate of climb indicator, I don't know, if you've done any of flying you know what a rate of climb indicator is, going up it made a complete revolution and when we got to on the other side and came down, it made a complete revolution in the other direction and you don't do that except maybe if you're in a tailspin in a regular airplane. That night every crew had the same tale and the airplanes were not damaged. They were made very well. Those are probably the two most exciting flights on the B-29. How's that for time?

CAMERAMAN: Pretty good.

HAMMER: Did you ever find out what that was? That cloud thing?

DRYDEN: It was smoke.

HAMMER: It was just smoke and it did that?

DRYDEN: It was just smoke. Went in, all that heat, we were about the third group in and everything was on fire down there and everything was going up and we just, we just hit the thermal. It was just like hitting a thunderstorm.

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