The beginning of the end of WWII

Published 5:39 pm Sunday, August 5, 2018

On the island of Saipan it was Aug. 6, 1945. Since we had no electricity and we retired early every day and those canvas cots are very hard – most of us were up and out by 2 a.m. each day. We had special trails where we would walk and always end up at the steep cliff that afforded a view of the island Tinian just 20 miles away.

As I gazed out into the morning haze, I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Coming straight at me from the runway on Tinian was a B-29 aircraft. I checked my watch and the time was 2:45 a.m. We had not flown in three days, and rumor was going around that, yes, we were going to invade Japan. We had received some new aircraft, and we heard that the Navy had brought in more ships. What I just witnesses was the Enola Gay, piloted by Co. Tibbets on its way to drop the bomb “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. “This was the beginning of the end of World War II.” Three days later, the bomb, “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki.

The time interval moved fast as we prepared to assist in the surrender (there were 1,500 American aircraft flying over Tokyo at the moment the surrender signed). Two hundred of these were B-29’s, and I was in one of them.

Now we had to get to work and load up our airplanes with food, clothing and medical supplies that we could drop into the prisoner of war camps scattered about in Japan. We had some maps from WWI, but had to guess at the heights of the mountains. Later, we did almost crash two times — thanks to a great pilot we made it. General McArthur had ordered the Japanese to paint a white P and W on the top of the building so we could locate them. I took a photo of the 200 B-29 Aircraft lined up on the runways at Saipan being loaded with supplies for these missions.

In the middle of this serious work, I have to remember some of the distractions and laughs we had along the way. At breakfast I asked, “Why are the scrambled eggs green?” The cook said they were frozen. I did get excited when I saw we were having raisin bread, but as I bit in, I realized they were not raisins but weevils. Oh well, the cook said they were good for us, they had protein. Well, after a large slug of peanut butter, they tasted pretty good.

We flew many long 14-hour missions dropping the supplies, but it was all worth it when we saw these half naked me standing out in the camp waiving to us. We had many days without lunch, dinner and snacks, but when we were low on fuel, we made emergency landings at Iwo Jima, where they gave us a peanut butter sandwich and a slug of Scotch. Then it was back to our plane for some sleep. Next morning it was up at dawn, refuel the plane and head for home another day on breakfast. Five hours later, we were back on Saipan.

Saipan, after the surrender, some of us were walking down the road to the mess hall and suddenly we heard a strange noise. Coming down the road directly toward us was a group of Japanese. They were all  men, and very poorly attired. Some were carrying sticks and beating them together. Others had signs and copies of our American newspaper headlines stating that the war was over. They had retrieved all of this from our trash dump. When our two groups were within 50 feet of each other, we stopped as did they. No words were spoken, we just starred at them and they starred back. In a short time, thankfully, someone had called the military police and shortly a large truck and about a dozen police appeared. The Japanese were told to get into the truck. They were taken to the other end of the island where we had built a P.O.W. camp. I learned later months after the end of the war our Navy transferred all the prisoners from this P.O.W camp back to Japan. Are we not a Great Nation?

For our recreation, we had the Pacific Ocean just 75 feet away from our living quarters. One had to slide down a steep trail to our private sandy beach and swim out to the raft placed about 100 feet out into the middle of our little cove. Very nice — but getting to the raft could be a challenge. First, we had to wear shoes for the coral was very sharp, then we walked in shallow water (one foot deep) till we reached the drop off. Next, you jumped into water 100 feet deep and swam to the raft. In the raft, one removes his shoes, ties them to a nail and then has a swim. Returning to shore was the difficult part. First, put on your shoes and swim feet first toward the drop off and wait for a wave to lift you up and plant your feet back onto the shallow water so you can walk back to the shore. I did manage this maneuver many times, but one day I lost my balance and put out my hands. Immediately my palm and fingers were bleeding. I reached shore and headed for the Red Cross hut. The nurse washed my hands to remove the coral poison, then used Vaseline and gave me white gotten gloves to wear for a week. I think I gave up swimming after that, but it was great.

He beach did give us much relief after we had been on a long flight. The coral was formed into pools about four feet in size and when the tide came in, it would fill these pools.

When we had returned from a long mission, we would sometimes go to the beach (take some soap), and sit in these pools whose water had been heated by the sun. I took many baths that way. My mother had sent me some soap that would lather in salt water, so this was almost like being home.

Thanks for listening to my story.

Guy Longshore is an Army Air Corps WWII veteran