The 6th Bomb Group

Mission 44. Tokyo Urban Area (May 25-26)

Thanks to Col Clarence E. Becker for finding these photos.
A photo of Tokyo taken on May 28.


This was a night incendiary mission involving 24 planes from the 6th Bomb Group:

Two nights later Sixth Superforts were again winging their way toward Tokyo with the sleek bellies laden with forty-nine tons of incendiary bombs. Almost every type of Japanese opposition was thrown against the attacking planes including ground-to-air rockets, air-to-air rockets and Baka's. A new high was set in number of enemy planes destroyed in one raid. Nine were destroyed, three damaged. Fourteen of the Group's planes were damaged, which was over half of the attacking force, and one was lost over the target. This was the airplane manned by Lt Donald M. Fox's crew of the 39th Squadron. Today only Sgt Harry D. Magnuson of this crew has been found as a prisoner of war. The others are listed as missing in action.

In addition to Lt Fox's aircraft, two other ships were lost, but their crews were rescued. Lt R. F. Moulton, 40th Squadron, was forced to ditch his battle-damaged-plane near Iwo Jima when he found the field there was closed and was unable to return to Tinian. A controlled ditching was made near a naval vessel and all crew members were picked up within a short time.

The crew commanded by Capt Arthur M. Clay Jr., 39th Squadron, had a nerve wracking dramatic experience. Its plane was badly damaged over the target both by flak and fighters, and three gunners were wounded. Despite the fact that rudder controls at all stations were knocked out, No. 2 and No. 3 engines had been hit and had to be feathered, and a fire was burning in the radar compartment, Capt Clay and crew brought the ship back to Iwo Jima. There they found the field closed in. After three unsuccessful passes at the field, Capt Clay bailed out his crew over the island. Since he was the last to leave the plane, Capt Clay landed in the water beyond the island but was picked up within an hour by a mine sweeper attracted to him by the sound of his whistle. Capt Clay later received the Silver Star for his heroic action.

The deeds of the Sixth personnel on this maximum effort mission earned the Distinguished Unit Citation for the Group. Awarded in November 1945, the Citation was presented to the Sixth by Major General James Parker and month later in an impressive ceremony at North Field.

[Pirate's Log, p. 44]

According to the Distinguished Unit Citation:

This Group was alerted for a maximum effort attack to take off only thirty-six hours after the return of their bombers from a maximum effort mission on which a large number of the aircraft had sustained extensive battle damage. Tireless and efficient work by the maintenance crews readied twenty-seven B-29's by take-off time on 25 May 1945 for this important attack against the last remaining strategically valuable industrial section of Tokyo not yet destroyed. In addition to the extreme hazards of long over-water flight and great distances from friendly bases, the bombing problem was such that the approximate route and altitude of attack were known to the enemy with consequent massing of defenses. Attacking first after the pathfinders when the defense had been fully alerted and not yet saturated by the raid, the 6th Bombardment Group's aircraft were picked up by effective searchlights and clearly silhouetted from the initial point through the target area. Extremely intense and accurate heavy anti-aircraft, automatic weapons fire, and rockets, all effective against low-level attacks, buffeted the bombers. The enemy air defenses were at maximum force with forty-one night fighters making twenty-eight aggressive attacks against the Group's aircraft. In fighting them off, the gunners destroyed eight and damaged three hostile interceptors. As many as fifty suicide planes were employed by the enemy in defense of this most important target. Three B-29's of the Group force were lost and fourteen heavily damaged in fighting their way through almost insurmountable defenses to complete successfully their assigned task.

A recent article suggests that several B29 losses may have been the work of one man, although only one 6BG plane was lost over Tokyo:

When 27 B-29s of the 6th Bomb Group struck Tokyo on the night of May 25, Sasaki took off in an unmarked Ki84-1-ko.  Flying above the American formations, he would select a target silhouetted against the burning capital, then dive at it head-on.  In that manner, he was credited with shooting down three B-29s that night (the 6th Group actually lost three planes, plus 14 damaged).
[John Guttman, "Last Deadly Gale from Japan", Aviation History (May 06), p. 22, 58]

According to the DFC Citation for Crew #2419 on "Irish Lullaby":

For extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight 25 May 1945. These individuals were combat crew members flying a B-29 based in the Marianas Islands on a low level, night incendiary attack made on important industrial facilities in the city of Tokyo, Japan. On the target approach, this plane was picked up and held by twenty searchlights, directing heavy intense flak. The left elevator and horizontal stabilizer of the tail assembly were almost demolished by hits; the two forward gun turrets, the mixture control on number two engine, eight minor control cables, and all radio equipment were shot out. The radio operator was wounded. The number three engine was hit and caught fire. In spite of this, the burning engine was not feathered because of the need for all available power and the attack was pressed home and the bombs released on the briefed aiming point, contributing materially to the burning out of more than twenty-two square miles of the city of Tokyo. Overcoming the grave difficulties brought about by the damage to the airplane, they returned over the 1200 miles of open water with one engine out and one crippled. The determination, courage and teamwork displayed by this crew, veterans of repeated assaults against the Japanese homeland reflect great credit on themselves and the Army Air Forces.

First Lieutenant RICHARD F. COONEY as Airplane Commander
First Lieutenant ARNOLD W. MEYER as Pilot
First Lieutenant HERVY H. EGGNER as Navigator
First Lieutenant EDWARD T. PELTZER (then Second Lieutenant) as Bombardier
First Lieutenant FREDERICK R. BOHL (then Second Lieutenant) as Flight Engineer
First Lieutenant HAROLD G. HARNER (then Second Lieutenant) as Radar Gunner
Technical Sergeant CECIL E. NEWKIRK as Central Fire Control Gunner
Staff Sergeant J. C. GOBER Jr. as Radio Operator
Staff Sergeant KENNETH E. JENKIN as Left Gunner
Staff Sergeant ROY JOHNSON as Tail Gunner
Sergeant ALBERT W. CARROLL as Right Gunner

[Transcribed by David Wilson, son of Sgt Bernard E. Wilson (Gunner, "Anonymous IV")]

According to the DFC Citation for Crew #3911 on "Here's Lucky" (which was a pathfinder on this mission):

For extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight on 25-26 May 1945 on an incendiary bombing mission against the urban and industrial area of Tokyo, Japan from a base in the Marianas Islands. These individuals were combat crew members of a B-29 aircraft acting as pathfinder, with the task of lighting up the target area for the main force of planes which was to follow. Although they were caught and held in a cone of searchlights all the way in on the approach and over the objective, and though they sustained hits from intense anti-aircraft fire, making their plane easy prey for attacking fighters, this crew dropped their bombs accurately, successfully locating and lighting the target area. By vigorous and successful evasive action, they withdrew for the return to home base. Although suffering extensive battle damage, including several controls shot out, these veterans of more than twenty-one combat missions successfully performed their assigned mission with coolness, courage and skill. They contributed materially to the accomplishment of a severe blow against the enemy, thereby reflecting great credit on themselves and the Army Air Forces.

First Lieutenant LEROY GOLDFINGER as Bombardier
First Lieutenant JOHN J. WRIGHT JR as Navigator
Master Sergeant LEROY E. FRISCH (then Technical Sergeant) as Flight Engineer
Technical Sergeant CARROL K. IVERSON as Central Fire Control Gunner
Staff Sergeant WILLIAM KOEHLER as Radio Operator
Staff Sergeant JAMES I. WHERRY, JR as Radar Operator
Staff Sergeant THADDEUS F. ZYCH (then Sergeant) as Right Blister Gunner
Staff Sergeant RAYMOND ALGUESEVA (then Sergeant) as Left Blister Gunner
Staff Sergeant MEREDITH L. WILLIAMS (then Sergeant) as Tail Gunner

[Transcribed by David Wilson, son of Sgt Bernard E. Wilson (Gunner, "Anonymous IV")]

A separate DFC Citation was prepared for Captain RICHARD L. SHARP, Aircraft Commander of the above aircraft.

According to the DFC Citation for Crew #4003 on "Connecticut Yankee II" (which was a pathfinder on this mission):

For extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight 25 May 1945 from a base in the Marianas Islands. These individuals were crew members of a B-29 acting as a pathfinder plane of a low level night incendiary attack against important and heavily-guarded industrial targets in Tokyo, Japan. Flying skillfully through adverse weather conditions which necessitated navigation by instrument, they made landfall precisely at the briefed time and place. Then, although their plane was outlined by more than three hundred searchlights, damaged by heavy and accurate anti-aircraft fire and attacked by enemy fighters, they proceeded to the target. Employing radar instruments, they bombed with such accuracy that the target area was clearly defined for the main force. Above the target and for miles on the homeward journey, interceptors attacked constantly, but the gunners shot down three enemy ships and damaged another, while the plane was maneuvered so expertly that it remained unhit. During this time, the bombardier and flight engineer were in the open bomb bay attempting, at great risk to themselves to close the bomb bay doors, which had malfunctioned. The navigator manned the bombardier's gun position. Heavy icing conditions were encountered on the return trip, but this crew brought the B-29 safely back to it's base. The professional skill, teamwork and determination displayed by these veterans of repeated assaults against the Japanese homeland reflect great credit on themselves and the Army Air Forces.

Major JOHN A. BIERKAN (then Captain) as Airplane Commander
First Lieutenant KENNETH F. GROGAN as Navigator
First Lieutenant JOHN M. MICKELSON as Bombardier
Master Sergeant PAUL K. TEMPLETON as Flight Engineer
Staff Sergeant JOHN C. HOLDEN as Blister Gunner
Staff Sergeant GEORGE M. LEWIS as Central Fire Control Gunner
Staff Sergeant EDWARD L. SHOCK as Radio Operator
Staff Sergeant ROBERT A. WAINIO as Radar Gunner

[Transcribed by David Wilson, son of Sgt Bernard E. Wilson (Gunner, "Anonymous IV")]

According to the DFC Citation for Crew #4009 on "Little Jeff" (which was a pathfinder on this mission):

For extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight on 25 May 1945. These individuals were the combat crew of a B-29 aircraft, based in the Marianas Islands, on a low altitude night incendiary raid against the city of Tokyo, Japan. Assigned as the pathfinder plane, to find the target and mark it with incendiaries, these flyers pressed on to the objective although their plane was caught and held in searchlight beams from the initial point of the run until after bombs away. Guided by the lights, enemy anti-aircraft and fighters attacked aggressively. Despite the fact that their plane sustained flak hits and was assaulted by two waves of interceptors, this crew courageously held to their course and destroyed two enemy fighters. They bombed the aiming point with great accuracy, contributing materially to the success of the mission. The coolness and precision under fire of these men, who have completed more than twenty two combat sorties, and their devotion to duty and disregard of personal danger, reflect great credit on themselves and the Army Air Forces.

First Lieutenant WILLIAM J. CHRISTIE as Airplane Commander
First Lieutenant THOMAS J. FERRIELL, JR, as Navigator
First Lieutenant THOMAS D. KENNY as Pilot
First Lieutenant JAMES A. MCGRAIL as Bombardier
Master Sergeant NICHOLAS CRITELLI as Flight Engineer
Technical Sergeant THOMAS A. NEFF as Central Fire Controller Gunner
Staff Sergeant RALPH J. DIBIANCO as Radar Gunner
Staff Sergeant ROBERT E. GARRETT as Radio Operator
Staff Sergeant JOHN P. OLINGER as Right Blister Gunner
Staff Sergeant CARLTON C. ROWE as Tail Gunner
Staff Sergeant BILLY B. MOORE as Left Blister Gunner

[Transcribed by David Wilson, son of Sgt Bernard E. Wilson (Gunner, "Anonymous IV")]

According to the DFC Citation for the Crew #40?? on "Battlin' Betty" (which was a pathfinder on this mission):

For extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight 25 May 1945 from a base in the Marianas Islands. These individuals were combat crew members of a pathfinder B-29 aircraft on a low altitude night incendiary bombing raid against important industrial installations in the city of Tokyo, Japan. They encountered frontal weather north of Iwo Jima which necessitated flying on instruments and greatly increased the problem of navigation, on which the success of their mission largely depended. Despite these difficulties and the fact that the entire flight was accomplished in darkness, land was reached at the briefed location. Searchlights picked up the plane shortly after landfall and carried it almost constantly from that point over the target and away, while heavy, accurate and intense flak was directed from many batteries all along the route. Despite the opposition, however, this crew flew the plane over the target with great precision and succeeded in locating the objectives and releasing their bombs, a material contribution to the destruction of twenty-two square miles of the city. Throughout the raid, these veterans of more than twenty-one combat missions performed their assigned duties with outstanding skill and fortitude, determined to accomplish their mission successfully. By their coolness and courage in the face of danger and their devotion to duty, these crew members distinguished and reflected great credit on the Army Air Forces.

First Lieutenant HARRY HANCOCK as Navigator
Flight Officer RICHARD H. FURMAN as Pilot
First Lieutenant CHARLES R. LUKE as Bombardier
First Lieutenant EDWIN C. POMEROY as Flight Engineer
Sergeant SAM S. LOMBARDO as Radar Operator
Staff Sergeant JOHN P. DE FIORE as Radio Operator
Technical Sergeant ROBERT C. JUNK as Central Fire Control Gunner
Sergeant MELVIN L. SALTZMAN as Left Blister Gunner
Staff Sergeant MATTHEW H. KOCH as Right Blister Gunner
Sergeant JOHN S. HECKMAN as Tail Gunner

[Transcribed by David Wilson, son of Sgt Bernard E. Wilson (Gunner, "Anonymous IV")]

A separate DFC Citation was prepared for Captain NEIL D. COMERFORD JR, Aircraft Commander of "Battlin' Betty".

Excerpts from Diary of Lt Don Kearney, Navigator of Crew #3909 on "Reamatroid":

May 25--We’re going in almost the same way tonight. The Reamatroid may not be ready. I just kind of hope it isn’t. The MPI of the 6th is the roughest in the B.C., just 1,800 yards from the Emperor’s palace and between it and docks. Another thing I don’t like--the mission is scheduled for the same altitude as night before last.

(Later) The Reamatroid won’t be ready! Right up until briefing time we thought we weren’t going, but we made the mistake of saying in the mess hall to Col. Osborn something about ‘Ha, ha, you can’t send us up again tonight; our plane isn’t ready.’ Osborn told Russ [Captain Edwin Russell, AC] he could too send us. So, when briefing time came around we were told we were going to fly 31V.

Briefed at 1430 [2:30PM]. Took off at 1732 [5:32PM]. It got dark when we were out just a little ways. The APN-4 Loran inverter was out. Trouble, always trouble. However, the radar did work, although it wasn’t operating on beacon.

As we passed Iwo and hit some rough weather just north of it. We flew close to the Jap islands going on up to the Empire so that we could check course with radar. We passed within visual distance of Hachijo Jima.

Heard Birddog 1, a destroyer, talk to 4V705, a superdumbo, about lights.

We made landfall on the Empire at Omaesaki at 2355 [11:55PM], turned up past the east side of Fuji again. It was easily visible outside the window. Same way we started in the night before last. Way out front Charlie [Lt. Charles Hall, Bombardier] saw a bright red light going down. At first he thought it was a ball of fire but later decided it must have been a B-29.

May 25--Made our radar controlled turn on Hachiojo at 0016 [12:16AM]. As we rolled out of the turn we hit our first opposition, still 15 to 20 miles west of Tokyo and 25 miles from the MPI. Within a minute we were in it thick. About 15 searchlights picked us up and they began throwing stuff at us. A plane out to our left--still way out at the IP--had 20 lights on him and was catching hell.

Still in the lights, we plowed on. We never had less than about 15 searchlights on us at any one time from then on. We flew though the remainder of the target area in a bright cone of lights, feeling that we were just sitting there in a bright, highly illuminated airplane waiting for the men our in the darkness to shoot at us. And that’s what they were doing. Flak was bursting all around. We could see blasts and the little clouds of smoke drift back past us.

We were to drop bombs on forward slang range so it wasn’t so vitally important to hold the course, speed and altitude yet, and, under the circumstances, we did not feel quite like flying straight and level. But I do not know that it made much difference. Someone would call, ‘Flak nine o’clock low and seven o’clock level.’ We would turn right and pull up and immediately hear ‘Flak on o’clock high, three o’clock level.’ Flak ahead, level.’ ‘Flak above.’ ‘Flak below.’ Everywhere we turned, there it was. We couldn’t get away from it nor out of the lights. Gleacher [S/Sgt Don Gleasher, Tail Gunner] was throwing out ‘rope’--‘window.’ He said later that a few of the lights would follow the rope back fro a couple of seconds but immediately swing back to us. This was worse than night before last, more lights and we were certainly under fire longer, hours it seemed. Flak bursts rattled all around us. As someone said, ‘It sounded like hail on a tin roof.’ I could swear the plane had been punctured in two dozen places right under me somewhere.

I watched the bomb release pip creep toward the river we were using for an aiming point. It hardly seemed to move. We have electrical doors, so I had to call for opening the doors earlier than usual. I had to strain consciously to keep from yelling ‘drop the damned things and let’s get the hell out of here’ before it was time. Because of the evasive action, we were not quite on the right heading most of the time. I kept requesting corrections this way and that, always fearful that the correction would turn us directly into a heavier concentration of that deadly black stuff.

The river was barely discernible on the scope, bit I could see it’s mouth. When I finally called ‘drop ‘em,’ I think is was a couple of seconds early, but as it turned out it was okay. Charlie [Lt. Charles Hall, Bombardier] hit the switch and nothing happened. ‘Are those bombs going?’ he asked. ‘No, they aren’t.’ someone answered coolly from the region of the bomb bays. It took about two seconds to hit the salvo switch, but it seemed more like half an hour. We dropped 32 M-17 500-pound incendiaries at 0021 [12:21AM] from 9,000 feet and then turned left.

We were still catching hell and continued to do so for what seemed like five years. It was popping all around--high, low and level, in front and behind, to the left and to the right, and some in between. One shell burst right under the left wing. It sounded like corn popping in an old-fashioned noisy popper.

Finally, way up at Three-Fingered Lakes, we saw our last Tokyo searchlights, three of them out to our left. We searched the coast north of Choshi at 0035 [12:35AM] but continued going east for several minutes, then southeast. Someone reported seeing a couple of balls of fire in the distance. Of course, they may have been some planes afire; we could not tell. At 0050 [12:50AM] someone called out a ball of fire quite close to us. It gave us a start, but it broke up and went down.

The gunners began telling about the holes in the rear section of the plane, but I turned to VHF to see what I could hear. At 0054 [12:54AM], a B-29 exploded at 95 Halter Post 30. That would be about 30 or 40 miles west of us in five or ten minutes, but we never saw anything. Blackjack 13 and 33 called to see if they could help. They couldn’t now. At 0100 [1:00AM] some plane was in trouble and trying to get out of the target area. He was low and three lights were trying to pick him up. Presently he said he thought he could make it. At 0103 I heard, ‘just bailed out!’ Never found out any more about it. Boxkite 413, a sub, called Boxkite 3, the superdumbo above it, to see if he had seen a flare. Someone called, ‘Dreamboat 65 Colonel Hooper 85.’ (Dreamboat was a B-29 down.) We had not been given coordinates for Colonel Hooper, so I did not know where he was.

I crawled to the rear of the plane to see the damage. A piece of flak had come through Allgor’s [S/Sgt Ed Allgor, Right Gunner] blister, missing him a few inches and shattering his oxygen regulator. A larger piece had hit the flak curtain under Gleacher [S/Sgt Don Gleasher, Tail Gunner], lifting him up and giving him quite a jolt. There was a hole in the left flap and wing and also a hole in the left rear bomb bay. A big piece had come through the side of the plane by the lower aft turret and had gong on out a little higher up.

Jeff [S/Sgt William Jefferson, Radio Operator] picked up a message from Clay [Capt Arthur M. Clay Jr., AC of another plane] saying he had both inboards feathered and was heading for Iwo with two injured men on board.

No. 2 was leaking a lot of oil. About an hour before we reached Tinian we had to feather it.

We landed at 0735. Getting out and looking it over, we found several more holes, one in No. 2--that’s why we lost the oil, one in No. 3, on in the vertical stabilizer, on in the horizontal stabilizer. The large piece that hit a Gleacher’s feet had gone right through the tail skid which is a heavy piece of metal and through the floor of this compartment. He recovered the piece, a nose ring of a shell--part of the fuse. Anyway, it looked suspiciously like the drain from a kitchen sink--and we know for a fact that they had thrown up everything including the kitchen sink.

Col. Gibson came around in his jeep, saying that finishes Tokyo. It had better. If it doesn’t, some else can finish it.”

The crew members still have that piece of shrapnel.


20th AF Mission 183

Date: 25 May 1945
Target: Tokyo Urban Area
Participating Units:  58th, 73rd, 313th, and 314th Wings
Number A/C Airborne: 498
% A/C Bombing Primary: 92.8% (464 primary and 6 opportunity)
Time Over Primary: 252338K – 260213K
Altitude of Attack: 7,915 – 22,000
Weather Over Target: 1/10 – 9/10
Total A/C Lost: 26
Resume of Mission: Aircraft dropped a total of 3362 tons of incendiary bombs on the Target with excellent results.  This mission and Mission No. 181 accounted for 18.6 square miles of area burned out.  Twenty-eight A/C were non-effective.  Enemy A/A, which was heavy and medium, moderate to intense, destroyed 3 B-29’s and combined with E/AC to down another: 2 planes were abandoned year Iwo Jima, and 20 B-29s were lost to unknown reasons.  A/A damaged 89 B-29’s and combined with A/C damaged 11 more.  E/A damaged 10 planes.  Sixty E/A sighted made 99 attacks.  Claims were 19-0-4.  Average bomb load:  13,517 lbs.  Average fuel reserve:  794 gallons.