This is what the 500th Bomb Squadron was doing in April, some 75 years ago:

12 April, 1943:  With its intense Stateside training over, the 500th Squadron's air element departs Walterboro, SC for the West Coast. Shortly after takeoff, the heavily loaded B-25 of 1/Lt. Lester W. Shepherd crashed, killing all seven airmen on board. While aircraft were being prepared at the two depots in the Sacramento, CA area, the 500th aircrews stayed at local hotels/motels and fought the "Battle of Sacramento." By the end of April, all of the 500th aircraft were ready for their flights southwestward.

16 April, 1943:  The 500th's ground echelon, with its men and equipment, starts its long train trip to Camp Stoneman, CA. On 30 April, the ground element is loaded aboard the S.S. PRESIDENT JOHNSON for their long journey to Australia, then on to New Guinea.

3 April, 1944:  A massive attack was begun against Hollandia by the 500th squadron and several other air units of the 5th Air Force. Capt. Keith Dougherty, flying BEDROOM COMMANDO, led the 500th with parafrags on supply dumps and villages along the road leading to Tanahmarah Bay. Dougherty's element was also responsible for some excellent photos, which proved helpful in planning for the landing later in the month.

11 April, 1944:  Two dozen B-25s from the 500th and 501st squadrons hit the Wewak area again.

16 April, 1944:  "Black Sunday." After a massive 200-aircraft attack against Hollandia, the 500th and other squadrons of the 345th Group, as well as virtually all other air elements of the 5th Air Force, encountered extremely bad weather on return to their respective home bases. A total of 31 aircraft were lost or crash-landed as they fought their way back through a huge weather front. A total of 32 crewmembers died and aircraft were widely scattered at numerous bases, as a result of emergency landings.

26 April, 1944:  At Nadzab, and on a normal takeoff for a mission, a 500th B-25 flown by 1/Lt. Lew E. Francis crashed and caught fire. Trapped in the rear of the aircraft, turret gunner S/Sgt Hobart G. Binsted and radio man S/Sgt John Cellerini did not survive the crash. The cockpit crew, including 1/Lt Craig Willy struggled to escape from the burning B-25. As they ran to safety, Willy heard the navigator, 1/Lt James N. Quinn, yelling that he was trapped. Disregarding the obvious peril, Willy climbed back aboard the B-25 and quickly pulled loose Quinn's foot, which was trapped under some ammunition cans. Craig Willy was later awarded the "Soldier's Medal" for his heroic actions.

28 April, 1944:  On a mission to Sawar, 1/Lt. Ray Pannell, at the controls of PANNELL JOB, who was flying on the 500th's leader Maj. Bruce T. Marston's wing, watched his tracers ripping into several Japanese running for cover. 1/Lt. Tom Tackaberry, the other wingman, dropped a bomb directly on an "Oscar" in the dispersal area. F/O Roland Thomas, leading the 500th's second flight in The WOLF PACK, scored a direct hit on another "Oscar" in the dispersal area. His right wingman, 1/Lt. George Davis destroyed another "Oscar" and another twin-engine aircraft. The tail of 1/Lt. Richard B. Fritzshall'sB-25 received numerous holes from ground fire.

3 April, 1945:  The 499th and the 500th teamed up on a mission to the Hoi How (Hainan Island) area. The 500th was led by 1/Lt William Simpson, flying PENSIVE, which was hit in the bomb bay area by Japanese flak, The aircraft's mid-section caught fire and Simpson prepared for ditching. The B-25 came to rest in the middle of a small bay about a mile from Hoi How. Both the navigator, Capt. Merritt E. Lawlis, and the turret gunner, S/Sgt Charles L. Suey, wound up a short distance from the ditched aircraft. Radio man, S/Sgt Benjamin T, Muller went out the rear escape hatch. Copilot 2/Lt Arthur D. Blum also soon emerged and stood on one of the wings.

In the meantime, tail gunner T/Sgt Stanley R. Muniz, of another Rough Raider B-25 circling nearby, dropped a life raft to the Simpson crew. Lawlis, Muller and Suey quickly boarded the life raft and tried to coax Blum off the wing. Just before the plane sank, Blum, who may not have known how to swim, jumped off the wing into the water, but was rapidly swept from sight. Lt. Simpson never got out of the aircraft. The surviving three airmen were taken prisoner by the Japanese and were treated harshly. Lawlis and Muller were the only ones of the trio to survive the imprisonment ordeal until the end of the war.

4 April, 1945:  Six B-25s of the 500th Squadron struck military installations on Tokichito Island. Squadron leader, 1/Lt. Richard J. Lewis, had a direct hit on the KINKU MARU, which caught fire and exploded. 1/Lt. Joseph Herick hit a large warehouse in the town, which became engulfed in flames. As the second 500th element approached the target area, an AA shell exploded in the tail of B-25 #210, wounding radioman, Sgt. Malachy H. Lee1/Lt. William G. Paukovich dropped a bomb on a 150-ton cargo vessel, which was probably destroyed. Flying ALSAB on Paukovich's wing, F/O Francis B. Hart was hit by ground fire and crashed. Meanwhile, Lt. Lewis' wingman, F/O Ralph J. Van Scoyk, with F/O Charles E. Gilmore, Jr. flying copilot, was hit in the forward entry hatch by an exploding 40mm shell. The flash from the exploding shell badly burned the arms of the navigator, 2/Lt Walter W. McMahan, Jr. and shrapnel tore into the legs of tail gunner, Sgt. Robert E. Gadbois.

6 April, 1945: On a mission to the Amoy area, the 500th squadron’s 1/Lt George R. Schmidt, bringing up the rear of all the 345th Group’s other squadrons, and in limited visibility, spotted the dark shape of a ship his crew  believed to be a merchant ship. However, as they moved in to bomb/strafe it, they soon learned that it was a warship. Schmidt and his two wingmen, F/O Van Scoyk and 1/Lt. Joe Herick, were met by a hail of tracers and exploding shells. As the 500th squadron pulled away from the target area, Schmidt and his copilot, 2/Lt Roger H. Lexell began to look to the shrapnel wounds they had received. F/O Neal Ryan, now the 500th Squadron Navigator, called turret gunner Sgt Myron Mauldin over the intercom, “Hey, can you get some of this hot iron out'a me?” Mauldin’s reply broke the tension, “To hell with you! Come pick it out of my ass!”

8 April, 1945:  During an attack on Chomosui Airdrome (Southern Pescadores), the 500th Squadron was once again shot up badly. 2/Lt. Samuel W. Bennett’s navigator, 2/Lt Walter V. Wicker, was hit in a shoulder by shrapnel and bled to death on the return flight home. F/O Van Scoyk had another close call in BLOODY BARON (borrowed from the 499th), when hit in the tail by a five-inch shell. The crew just barely was able to keep the B-25 flying long enough to reach Laoag, where a safe crash landing was made.

11-27 April, 1945:  This was a period during which the 500th flew routine missions, with virtually no incidents to tell about.


To Return to the MAIN Page click here