2009年9月21日 星期一

Grumman Fighter

by Cho-San

The full-scale air raid on Formosa by the task force of the United States has begun in the morning of October 12, 1944. I was a 6th grader at the Showa elementary school昭和公学校. The first wave of the formations reached Karenkou花蓮港 just after we had finished our late breakfast; so it must be around 9:30 or 10:00AM. Hearing the strange engine sound, I knew immediately that they were here finally. We ran to the shelter at once. For the whole day, the air raid by the waves of Hellcats continued endlessly. Attacked by bombing and machine gun sweepings, the citizens had experienced the fears of the air raid for the first time and what they could do was nothing but to beg for the help from Buddha and kept chanting the prayer.

Around noontime, the impatient people were already hand carrying all they could and started escaping to the countryside by trains. The trains that ran between the gaps of raiding were attacked while stopping at the Keikou Station渓口駅. Many were killed and more were injured by the sweeps of the machine gun fire from the Hellcats. I was not aware of the incident neither had knowledge that my classmate, Chen陳 was in the trains until received an E-mail from other classmate recently. After the attack, Chen successfully escaped to Houlin鳳林 on foot and was saved by a stranger, so ended the unfortunate story happily.

Not knowing the attack on trains, we went to the station while the Americans had finished a day’s work and were enjoying their dinners with favorite steaks. The trains were all fully occupied and we had to climb in through the windows and standing on feet all night long to reach our destination.

We had no way of knowing then that it was the beginning of the long evacuation period that we had to bear through until the end of war, August 15, 1945. We have read many stories written by the authors who are on the victims’ side, but not too many or none at all from attackers’ side. It was a surprise when I read an article in the Air Classic magazine recently. The story was about a pilot who had participated in the campaign of attacking Taiwan. I thought it was a good idea to translate part of the story into Japanese (then to English later) for our classmates so that we can compare the different viewpoints of the participants on both sides.

“Hellcat Ace in a day”, November 2003 issue was the story describing how Charlie Mallory became an Ace in a day. When the Navy came to West Virginia University in order to recruit Aviation Cadets, just few days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Mallory volunteered at once and finished his training successfully to become a Naval Aviator in January 1943. Mallory was then sent to light carrier USS Monterey as a dive-bomber pilot. He met Gerald Ford who later became the President of the United States. Luckily, he also met Cecil Harris who was a combat veteran with a total of 23 aerial victories. “I credit most of my success as a fighter pilot to the rigorous training of Harris,” Mallory said afterward, “he made me appreciate that I was part of the team.” Later, Mallory was transferred to USS Intrepid as a fighter pilot and left Hawaii on August 16, 1944. It was on September 21 that day Mallory had destroyed 5 Japanese enemy plans while on the mission for photo taking and became an “Ace-in-a-day.”

As one of the 24 high-speed aircraft carriers, Intrepid was commissioned in 1943. She suffered from the torpedo attack the next year and just has finished the repair works at San Francisco, and carrying a full load of Grumman Hellcat F6F-5 when Mallory boarded in Hawaii in August. Intrepid was also called the “untouchable” since she recovered and joined the battle again and again after many Japanese attacks. After serving in the navy for 31 years, she finally retired. Luckily, instead of being scrapped, she was converted as the Air and Sea Museum and now greeting the spectators at New York harbor.

The Grumman fighter F6F was nicknamed the Hellcat when unveiled to the world for the first time in August 1943, with a maximum speed of 380 MPH and equipped with six 13mm cannons. Created as the direct response to the Mitsubishi built Zero-fighter, Hellcat had established the highest kill ratio of 5156/270 at the end of war.

Commanded by John McCain Sr., the grandfather of the defeated presidential candidate, the attack on Formosa continued for 3 days, starting on October 12, 1944. The allocated area for Intrepid was northern Taiwan, the targets were Shinchiku新竹 air base, and the seaplane base located in Tamsui淡水, which happened to be my hometown. I wonder where Mr. Iwamoto 岩本was when Charlie was attacking the seaplane base. I met Mr. Iwamoto in the States years later, and he claimed that he was a Japanese Zero fighter pilot stationed at Tamsui air base.

The followings are condensed from Mallory’s diary: As expected the anti-aircraft fires were heavy. Suddenly, 4 Tojos東條 showed up and started coming behind us. After shaking the Tojos loose, I saw 3 attacking Beatley and Picken. I shot down the one chasing Beatley. Then together we shot the one chasing Picken until Beatley killed it. When we started home, the third one showed up, we chased it all over the northern part of island and finally I got it with the only remaining gun. We met the fourth one on the way home at 10 miles off Karenkou at the sea. We realized he was the best one at once. He flow low from sea to land and escaped to a valley. Beatley and I shot alternatively at the enemy plan until Beatley run out of ammunitions. While I was leading, I knew that he would come up sooner or later and followed him tightly. As expected at the end of valley he did pulling up and exposed in front, and I finished the enemy plane with my last round of ammunition.

A 12 year-old boy who ran for his life from the air raid and a pilot who flew the Hellcat at age 24 have crossed at the same spot once in their life times. It is strange that 64 years later, the boy is retired in California, and so is the Ace who seemed to have retreated to the other side of the States - at least I thought so, but was not sure.

Did not hear from Mr. Mallory since I wrote him on April 15, 2004, I started wondering what appended to him or I might have made a mistake by sending the letter to a wrong address. My question was not answered until last week when I received a voice mail, left by Mr. Mark Pieschke, the chairperson of the AFAA. To my surprise, Mark said that Charlie was invited as a guest speaker for the American Fighter Aces Association Convention 2008 in Moffett federal field in Sunnyvale, CA near S.F. on Veterans Day weekend. He asked if I was interested to participate, and also mentioned that my phone number was from Charlie.

Indeed, Charlie Mallory, the Ace is still very alive and full of zip at his age, and my letter was mailed to the right address. After so many years, my questions were finally answered.

13 則留言:

  1. Did the Americans also drop leaflets on Taiwan as a warning to civilians to get out of the way? My grandpa also flew on these raids as part of the Jolly Rogers 90th Bombardment Unit. His letters back to my grandma in Stockton, California express a kind of distress for innocent civilians and screwed up bombings (which he was able to see pics of). Interestingly, the censors let the letters pass. Either they had their hands full or they felt a kind of empathy for what was going on.

    I've often talked to my wife's grandma, who lives with my father-in-law in Manka, Taiwan about the raids. She lost a little sister here in Taipei during one of the bombings.

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  2. The leaflets called SENDEN-BIRA 宣伝ビラin Japanese were dropped later in some places at different spots but none whatsoever in the October 12, 1944 attacks as I remembered.
    Japanese were so worried that citizens may confused or learned the true news by reading the leaflets; it was strictly prohibited to read and to keep them.
    I was interesting to learn from his grand father's letter that all those participated in the Taiwan bombings were amatures in the battle fields.
    Cho-San

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  3. Chosan,

    They were very green airmen. They just wanted to go home. They were hastily trained and not prepared for the harshness of war. I asked my grandpa, upon seeing him wearing a Jolly Rogers sweatshirt that my grandma bought at K-Mart why he never went to vet meetings. I told him he could probably get a sweatshirt for free. He answered, "Who would want to listen to people talking about that stuff. Actually, I don't care to remember it."

    I've seen a couple of the leaflets, with CKS on them saying they'd liberate Taiwan. Little did the authors understand that liberation would spell 2-28 and some 30,000 murders of Taiwan's most able individuals. The men that fought for the US would have been disgusted to understand they cleared the way for White Terror, I am certain.

    I am not sure I have seen a SENDEN-BIRA 宣伝ビラ. Do you have a copy?

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  4. Examples of those leaflets can be seen here:

    http://www.psywarrior.com/B52leaflets.html

    Scroll down to see those for the Japanese.

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  5. Yes, I see it (though it probably said "Formosa".)

    People of Taiwan!

    "Residents with families should quickly find a way to remove their old and weak from the vicinity of docks, railroad stations, fortifications, shipyards, munitions factories, depots, barracks and all other buildings and installations of value to the Japanese military forces.

    Those with relatives or friends in the countryside would do well to send their parents, women, and children to temporarily live with them in order to escape the bombing of innocent people."

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  6. Patrick,
    I am not a collector of the leaflets but I can Google the Japanese sites and come up with some. See http://www.geocities.jp/kyo_oomiya/newpage2.html
    It is interesting to learn that the propaganda bills or leaflets are tossed out from the windows of the B24 bomber most of the time and it is considered very dangerous tasks for those airmen. It was like the shower of papers falling down from the sky, the eyewitness described. Anybody who finds the leaflets must submit to Military Police at once or punished if hide the leaflet.
    Among the leaflets, I have discovered one that is written with Kanji, which is prepared especially for Taiwanese. I wonder how many people are there in the island at that time who can read such a complicated Kanji documentation. Wish Patrick can read it.
    I met many WWII veterans while working at an engineering office here in the States around 70s. 7 feet tall George was a tail-gunner and Ben was a bomber pilot. My neighbor, Dr. Hutchinson was a former Navy fighter pilot. They all return to school after the war with the GI bill. Presume Patrick’s grandpa did the same though he resented the war. The mental disease called PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is not yet popular at that time or half of those veterans would be in the hospital beds instead.
    Cho-San

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  7. The one specifically for Taiwanese is quite strange. It says 粉碎日寇之殘暴武力,必需轟炸其軍事設備 - an explanation of why the bombing was necessary; although the term 日寇 was not in use in Taiwan at that time. Also, in front of the factory being bombed, there is: 日本軍用工廠 which is more a caption than a real sign.

    The US did bomb quite a few sugarcane processing plants and power plants often with atrocious aims. Many residential houses were destroyed and civilians killed as a result. One of the main objectives of neutralizing the Japanese air power certainly was achieved.

    Those air raids starting on Oct 12, 1944, came without any warning. My mother and I ran into one in Takao.

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  8. The leaflets were made mostly by those people who fought against the Japanese government and escaped aboard. Some by the native born Japanese descendents called Nisei as well as by Chinese whoever available, to them Japanese and Chinese were almost the same.
    Cho-San

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  9. 二世 or not, that leaflet was a literal failure anyway. Plus:

    "これを拾った人は、憲兵に届けなければならなかったので、これを密かに持ち帰るのは、なかなか度胸がいったようです、 もし、隠し持っているのが見つかると、大変な事になりました。"

    The mere mention of the Kempei(tai) was enough of a deterrence. The whole US leaflet dropping effort seemed a colossal waste.

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  10. Lots of comments here:

    "Anybody who finds the leaflets must submit to Military Police at once or punished if hide the leaflet." Yes, but they had to read them first to know what they were. This topic could use some work.

    On the atrocious aim, one thing of a positive note came out of this point. Pilots used to have to visually identify their bomb sights. My Grandpa wrote back that they were not able to do this in Taoyuan in July, 1945, so they were forced to turn back (too much cloud cover). Granted, the pilots often got confused and had to make last minute decisions. But it was not clinical, like the video game bombing that goes on today. They had to look at their sites, so they were unable to feel their missions were "clean, surgical hits". A lot of research has gone into the bombing that goes on today as compared to 60 years ago. Today, it is easier to disregard the civilian damage that goes on, because it can't be seen. The air force members have become a lot less emotionally involved; killing has become a lot easier for them. They are thousands of times more desensitized now than a couple of generations ago.

    "Those air raids starting on Oct 12, 1944, came without any warning. My mother and I ran into one in Takao." Sounds like a post is in these two lines somewhere. What were you doing down there?

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  11. BTW, I don't think Grandpa Cowsill suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. I am not sure he benefitted from the GI Bill either (I'll have to ask my dad - it never occurred to me).

    He already had a degree when he went to the war. He came home to a four-year-old son he'd never met and my grandma was immediately pregnant with my dad. I think he went to work right off, as a bureaucrat in California. He was trained as an accountant. That is why I find his letters interesting. There is little room for soul-searching. He writes them without a flair, a straight-forward account for the war that an accountant would. He joined a tennis club right away, played golf and raised a family. He also prospered, and he died a rich man. I don't think it fits the bill for someone who suffered post traumatic stress disorder. He just came from a different time, when people thought you didn't complain about stuff too much (actually not at all) and that you simply counted your blessings. He didn't like remembering the war because he was a peaceful man. He didn't mind discussing it with me, when he found I was interested in history either. Having said that, I can't claim to have known him too well. He wasn't the most expressive person I have ever met.

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  12. First, that was an unenforceable law - much like Danshui-ren's fishing in the no fishing zone; the problem is with the law, not the people. With the bombers overhead snowing some paper bills, people would know what they were. And after the first bombs hit, most evacuated to the countryside. There was no need to even pick up these leaflets.

    Second, even laser-guided bombs can stray. That actually brings up one point: with the leaflets, the raiders might feel that since the civilians had already been warned, they could now bomb with either clear conscience or reckless abandon. Pure conjecture on my part, of course.

    And we were there to visit my father who was waiting to be shipped out. I was only one year old at that time.

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  13. Patrick’s grandpa must be a great common guy, that kind of gentleman whom I admire most. I wish I could meet and be friend with him. Certainly he is a straight forward fellow and so is Patrick, no wonder it says “like father, like son.” Now I know why Patrick’s grandma is living in Stockton, CA, a small town not far from where I am living.
    EyeDoc’s father, Dr. Cheng 鄭子昌医師 was sent to the South Sea Islands by Japanese on board the ship named Sin-Sei-Maru 神靖丸 soon after the last family meeting at Takao高雄. The ship was sunken two months later by US air attack at Vietnam and DR. sunk with the ship, unfortunately. For detail see: http://shinseimaru.blogspot.com/
    I must be grateful that I met EyeDoc after so many years by the help of modern technology called Internet.
    It was not an easy task to drop bombs on the target just by the simple instrument during WWII even under fine weather condition. Nowadays, the smart bomb can be programmed and fly with the guidance of GPS to hit the target within a few feet radius. I read an article that many firearms are remotely controlled from US while fighting in Middle East battle fields. Much like science fiction movie, the operator uses joystick in front of a monitor and fires the weapon by pushing a button. Not bad, after a day’s work, he can then go home to have dinner with his family.
    Cho-San

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