Monday, April 1, 2013

Crash and Burn

Today is my Dad's 101st birthday. He was a prolific photographer. The one who recorded almost all the family events. He bought an 8 mm movie camera in 1950 and as a result we have movies of grandparents and great grandparents and many of our birthdays, holidays and vacations up until about 1970.
Capt. B.C. Green and 30th Bomber Group Crew

Before the movies he took photographs. During his military career, that spanned parts of four decades, he took photos or had them taken of himself, so that you can really follow along with what he was doing in pictures.

Toward the later part of WWII he was in the US Army Air Force 30th Bombardment Group, Seventh Air Forces stationed in the Pacific. They were hopping from one island to another, setting up airbases closer and closer to Japan.

During that time he was no longer flying but was the Ordnance officer in charge of the bombs and munitions for a Squadron of B-24 heavy bombers. This photo was taken on some unknown Pacific island with his crew. That is him in the middle of the 2nd row with the hat.

He took many photos of wrecked planes, both American and Japanese during the war. The Japanese, leftover from when they took the islands back or shot down during raids and the American those that crashed on landing or were blown up during Japanese air raids.
B-24 Bolivar in the Pacific with 30th Bomber Group

I recently read the book Unbroken about an Olympic runner who was a B-24 copilot. His plane crashed in the ocean and he was held as a POW by the Japanese for several years. My son in law gave me the book for Christmas. It had grim statistics of how many B-24s crashed during the war, having nothing to do with combat. The B-24 had a larger payload and bigger fuel tanks than the more well known B-17 so it could go farther, faster and drop more bombs.

It also had the reputation of being difficult to keep in the air. Although the military called it "The Liberator" the men who flew it gave it the name the "Flying Coffin" and "Flying Boxcar."

One of the few photos of a airplane that wasn't wrecked in Dad's album was this one with the name Bolivar painted on the side. I assume the men in the photo were part of his crew. I decided to google the name of the plane and that told me why he had taken and kept this picture.

The B-24 Bolivar, Serial number 42-72994 was part of the 30th Bomber Group. I don't know if it was in his squadron when the picture was taken but they must have felt some ownership by taking the photo. Dad was in all five of the squadrons of the 30th Bomber Group at some time during the war so I'm sure the plane was assigned to his crew.
Bolivar crashes in Los Angeles

The Bolivar was so famous it was sent home in 1944 to help raise money on a War Bond Tour. It had been flown on 81 combat missions with three different flight crews. As such it was a very unusual veteran of the Pacific, unheard of among B-24s. The record for a B-24 during WWII was 114 combat missions for a plane in Europe but I suspect flying over the Pacific ocean upped the level of difficulty. As far as I can tell The Bolivar had the record for combat missions in the Pacific.

Someone in Washington D.C. thought it would boost bond sales for folks to be able to see and touch an aluminum clad hero so they sent The Bolivar home.

Flying in Southern California turned out to be more difficult than the Pacific. The Bolivar crash landed on November 10, 1944 at Vultee Field in Los Angeles and was trucked to a scrap yard. I figure Dad heard the story of what happened to the plane, although he was still on a Pacific island at the time and kept the photo all those years to remember how his guys helped keep it flying.

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