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The Memories This Brings Back

This morning while I was checking the “Union of Americans” emails I came across one sent in by “Reader B2, FL”. The email contained a brief video clip from a movie that starred Jimmy Stewart.  If you were, are or ever wanted to be a pilot you’ll love watching this ‘monster’, the B-36, fly.

To view the video clip simply click on B-36 Takeoff

While serving in the Navy, towards the end of WWII, I found myself on Saipan, an island in the Pacific. Saipan was one of the islands in the Mariana Islands, which served as a Navy Operating Base. A little to the north and a little east of Saipan was another island carrying the name Tinian.

Tinian was the B-29 base and it was from Tinian that the Enola Gay took off for its history making flight carrying the first atomic bomb and having as a target the Japanese city of Nagasaki.

I was onboard the Intrepid flying Corsairs, F4-U4s. We were preparing for the much-discussed invasion of the Japanese home islands. I believe we were part of Task Force 38. I’m checking the history books to be certain because the United States Navy Task Force southeast of Japan was designated either ‘38’ or ‘58’ according to the Admiral in command.

In any event, we were preparing for, as I mentioned above, the invasion of Japan, which promised to be the bloodiest invasion in history. Things were fairly tense onboard the Intrepid in anticipation of “D-Day”. When the word came that the Japanese capitulated as a result of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the sense of release was tremendous.

I doubt if there ever was a better cause for a great celebration and we did our best to do the event justice. There are definite limits to celebrations onboard a Navy carrier. However, for that event there were no limits, as the well-marked logs on the Intrepid will testify.

A few weeks later we found ourselves in Tokyo Bay for the signing of the peace on the USS Missouri. I remember the event vividly as General McArthur officiated at the peace signing on the deck of the Missouri. The General was wearing khakis, no tie and his famous hat for the ceromony. The Japanese officials boarded the Missouri dressed in their official uniforms designating their status as representatives of Japan. As the Japanese officials approached the table were the peace papers awaited signing and General McArthur, the General pointed to the table and then to the chairs for the Japanese officials. The Japanese officials took their seats and General McArthur accepted the document that would be the end of WWII in the Pacific.

A short time after the signing of the peace I found myself on a Navy transport, the name escapes me. Our course was due east and our destination was San Francisco. As the ship passed through the Golden Gate a rather large pleasure boat intercepted us, made a 180 degree change in course and as she steamed suddenly a band somewhere began playing “Back in the Saddle Again”. The pleasure craft had a 20-degree list because a bevy of beautiful girls manned the rails and sang “Back in the Saddle Again”.

I don’t know who the Officer of the Deck was at the time, nor do I know who was manning the Bridge or Engine Room but our ship had a serious list to the starboard side. The response from the Navy transport on which I had a berth was overwhelming and a cheer went up for the girls that set our ship vibrating for 20 minutes or more. It was a great moment for the girls and there was no doubt onboard our ship as to the quality and depth of our appreciation based on the volume of the response.

The celebrations didn’t end there as I recall it. I got a seat on a TWA flight back to New York and went to the Waldorf where my parents were staying. I checked in with them for more celebrations. While recovering from the celebrations I was suddenly struck with the realization that I now had to get a job to support my wife, “Bunny”, and our daughter, Jody.

We settled in New York City with a job and an apartment and prepared for the years to come.  ~ dhb

NOTE: The above is as the author recalls these historical events in his role as a Navy Lt. and VBF pilot onboard the Intrepid for the year preceding the signing of the peace on September 2, 1945.

After he returned from WWII he signed up with the United States Naval Reserve and continued to fly as a ‘Weekend Warrior’ for a period of time that ended in late May of 1950. His time as a “Weekend Warrior” and his experiences in the United States Naval Reserve will be told at a later date. ~ Editor

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  1. 5 Comment(s)

  2. By Angelo Villagomez | Reply

    Cool story. Just wanted to make a point of accuracy. The Commonwealth was created in 1976. When you were on Saipan it was former Japanese territory, under the military control of the US Navy. It was foreign soil back then.

  3. By tightlynes | Reply

    Thank you for the correction. Donn had referred to it as “Saipan” and when I was proofing it I added “The Commonwealth”. I have fixed it in the article.

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