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The following is a paper written by William H. Hydrick, Jr, a member of the 13th AF, 42nd Bomber Group, 69th Squadron in WWII. It is reprinted here with the permission of his son, Denny Hydrick. I offer my profound thanks to Mr. Hydrick for allowing me to share his father's story on this website. He writes: "(I'm) Passing along this information for any of you "old timers" who might have known/remembered my Dad, William H. Hydrick, Jr of Crystal Springs, Mississippi. He passed away Thursday, October 19, 2006. It was very peaceful as he just went to sleep in his easy chair and never woke up. Dad, a member of the 13th AF, 42nd Bomb Group, 69th Squadron, dictated to me (in 2001) some memories of his time in the service during WWII. I put these in a booklet form which some of you who were at the Valley Forge, PA reunion might remember. I have it softcopied for anyone who is interested. Just send me an email requesting it. " May we never forget... dhydrick@bellatlantic.net

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Photo of B-25 Heavenly Body

Memories from Early 1944 to end of WWII
By
William H. Hydrick, Jr
13th AF, 42nd Bombard Group, 69th Squadron


The first ground crew replacements received overseas training at Seymore Johnson Field, Goldsboro, NC and at Columbia AFB, SC during the fall of 1943. We then moved to Camp Kilmer, NJ where we enjoyed going into New York practically every night until we shipped from Brooklyn Navy Yard in late November or early December on a Merchant Marine ship. After we passed through the Panama Canal, a water condenser broke down on the ship causing an unplanned two-week stay in Panama. At the end of this mosquito-swatting, formation-standing two week stay on an air force base over on the Pacific side of Panama, we were loaded back onto the repaired ship and sailed to New Caledonia. After a weeks stay, we were loaded onto an older ship for a scheduled early afternoon arrival at Bouganville to unload some Infantry troops; we arrived after sundown. When we had left the United States, both coasts were under blackout restrictions; but at Bouganville, even with the Japs shelling the harbor, the ship's crew turned on the floodlights to unload her. After unloading the troops, we sailed back the thirty-five miles to Stirling Island where we disembarked. This should have been sometime in January, 1944.

Among the original crew that had not rotated was:
John E. Bigelow (taps) from Waukegan, ILL
CPT Fritzreiter, Engineering Officer
LT Vassalo, Ordnance Officer (taps)

Some names that I can recall from the new crew along with their 1943 addresses:
CPL Gene T. Canova, Apt 12A, 214 W. 68th St, Manhattan, NY
SGT Harold M. Jordan, 610 Laurel St, Easthaven, CT
SGT Charles Forster, Boston, MA
SGT Peter Manning, 324 Smith St, Newark, NJ
SGT Thomas Manning, 324 Smith St, Newark, NJ
(Peter and Thomas were twins)
SGT Richard L. Walton (taps), 478 Vine N.E., Warren OH
(27 years old in 1943 - the "old man")
SGT "Boola" Green, Farmall salesman from Memphis
SGT Frederick C. Brown, farm section of Michigan
PFC Brown (cook) (Spam and dehydrated potatoes), Delta City, MS
PFC Wolper, bomb sight specialist (not needed so was
given job of slicing Spam), CA
SGT Fred Castronuova, North Bergen, NJ
PFC "Snuffy" Smith, Buffalo, NY
PFC Leo O. Britton, 114-1/2 W. 1st St, Tulsa, OK
Ayers, Truck driver, CA
MSGT Pat O'Toole, Old Army, Line Chief
2LT Harry Dole, Asst. Engineering Officer (taps) Sumrall, MS
CPT Carl R. Fitzreiter, Engineering Officer, 875 Gore Rd, Erie, PA 16509,
telephone: 814-864-2342


(L to R) Front Row: Peter Manning, Harold M. Jordan, William H. Hydrick
Back Row: Thomas J. Manning, Charles Forster, Gene T. Canova


After settling in with the 69th, John Bigelow, an aircraft electrician told us that he had known "Pappy" Boyington at Vellalavella. He was quite proud of this. He told us that Hirohito's son had been shot down over Guadalcanal on the 13th of the month (don't know the month but is not pertinent to this anecdote). The Japs were informed (who knows how?) that on the 13th of each month, the American troops would urinate on his grave. This caused the Japs to bomb us on the 13th even if they only had one airplane. We were told that we should dig a foxhole; we did not take that advice. On the 13th (probably February, 1944), "pisscall Pete" came from Rabaul and bombed us in the wee hours of the night (about the time we'd have to get up to answer the call of nature; hence the name "pisscall Pete"). The next day we dug a foxhole which was a practically impossible job in the coral of Stirling Island. Gene Canova, an innocent Manhatten boy who had never been away from home was scared terribly. He traded the Seabees (who had captured Stirling Island and constructed our air strip) something for some dynamite. We "dug" our foxhole!


Stirling Island was a coral island about one
mile long and narrow. As I stated, the
Seabees had captured it from the Japanese.
One interesting story from that capture was
that the Seabees had overrun an antiaircraft
gun emplacement by lowering the blade
on their bulldozer and actually burying
the gun.





A couple of months later, pisscall Pete blew some holes in our runway. Jimmy Doolittle, Jr. (taps) took off alone up the taxi strip with a loaded B-25 and outran "Pete" to his strip in Rabaul where he bombed it such that "Pete" couldn't land. The next day Jimmy got an official reprimand and several unofficial "attaboys".



In May or June the Seabees constructed a rest camp complete with mahogany latrines. One day some marines came swarming up the beach with newsreel cameras. An officer would point out one marine and he would fall "wounded" in front of the camera. We thought perhaps they were just protecting the cameraman from combat. In course of time, we got the newsreel at our "theater" - and here they came: "Marines capture Stirling Island"!!!!



Our radio repairman, Dick Walton, had the unenviable job of replacing an inverter on a B-25. Now normally this is not so difficult a job; however, given that the sun beating down on a metal airplane sitting on hot, white coral on the equator made the work

Although a little dark, this is
Dick Watson from Warren,
Ohio at the Theater on
Stirling Island, 1944


location (the rear compartment) a virtual oven. To make matters worse, the inverter was welded to the floor of the plane instead of being bolted. After prying, cursing, conjoling and mostly sweating, Dick had had enough. He took the axe that was in every B-25 to be used for emergency escapes and chopped the whole floor out around this stubborn inverter and threw the whole thing out onto the ground. He then called for a sheet metal technician to repair the hole.



There was a squadron of PT boats docked under the trees overhanging the ocean at Stirling. The skipper of one let me go on a mission one night to strafe Choiseul. This allowed my first exposure to radar which was top secret at the time. The night was totally dark. I was given a BAR (Browning automatic rifle) on a bipod to fire at the beach. The sound was deafening as there were twin air-cooled .50cal machine guns on turrets fore and aft. The sailor on the aft turret held his triggers down until the gun barrels glowed like white neon signs in the darkness. The 6" exhaust pipes on the three V12 engines had ports behind the boat that, when closed, turned the exhaust noise down and under the water which effectively muffled the sound. Upon seeing the gun barrels glowing (knowing they would give our position away), the helmsman opened the exhaust ports, firewalled the throttles and we zoomed away from the beach. The skipper chewed upon the gunner's anatomy all the way back to Stirling.


In July, 1944, most of the 69th left for Sansopor on the NW tip of New Guinea. CPT Fitzreiter, a few mechanics and myself stayed behind to ready the rest of the B-25's and to finish packing our equipment. One of the last B-25's refused to start due to a wet magneto. CPT Fitzreiter called me to see if I could start it after the others had made several attempts. Without letting him know, I switched the ground wires on the two magnetos (B-25's had two) and fired it up. After letting the engine run long enough to dry out the water, I shut it down and replaced the wires to their rightful terminals. We left on the next ship which also towed a sea-going barge loaded with 100-octane gasoline. We arrived at Sansopor, New Guinea late in the afternoon. The barge was tied to the ship which, when docked, put it between the ship and the shore. As a result of this docking arrangement, as we stood at the rail of the ship looking at the shore, the gasoline was directly below us. About 9:00pm pisscall Pete came over. We stood at this rail and watched as the searchlights found him and the anti-aircraft guns shot him down in flames.


Foxhole digging was easier in the soil of New Guinea. We were declared to be in a combat zone so we were issued ammunition. That night, anyone going to the latrine, or anywhere else for that matter, was shot at by overanxious airmen. The next day, the 1SGT took up the ammunition! In due course, we were declared out of combat. Orders were issued to fill the foxholes - no one did. The 1SGT had a detail fill them but one tent hid theirs. The next 13th pisscall Pete came over right on schedule. Nobody moved until we heard his train of bombs coming closer and closer. The whole squadron went into that one foxhole - I was not the last one in!


Speaking of foxholes: pisscall Pete made one of his scheduled bombing runs which caused me, along with the whole squadron, to dive into our foxholes. Like always, all I had on was my "sleeping attire". This night was different in that Pete made another run at us later that night. Again, I headed for the foxhole more out of instinct than conscious awareness of what I was doing. I do recall "waking up" in the foxhole, looking down and seeing that I had my boots on and they were fully laced and tied! I have no idea…..


Because of the soft soil, the airstrip was "paved" with portable steel material. The P38's with us had their strip on a small island offshore. Shot up B-24's would often land there if they had to belly in. They would skid up and over the island and out into the water at the end of the strip. Ones with landing gear intact would land on our strip with their wounded.


L to R:
Myself,
"Boola" Green
and Peter Manning
with "our" P-38s


The only bailout I saw was a P-38. The pilot flew down the runway at about 500 feet and bailed out. Another P-38 was dispatched to shoot the pilotless one down. He came back in about an hour reporting that he had followed it until it crashed into a mountain but that he could not shoot it down.


One morning a B-25 blew a main tire on takeoff. They flew around trying to shoot out the other tire with their .45's while dumping their fuel and bombs. Finally the pilot flew just above the runway, locked the brake on the good tire, eased down and dragged the wheel until the tire burst! He went around and landed on two flats. Rivets were raining off the wings when he passed us on the landing roll. The plane was towed to the salvage "boneyard". I would like to hear from any of that crew.


The 69th bombed Halmahera and then Borneo from Sansopor. Borneo was out of range for our P-38's until they found out that with two belly tanks and flying with one engine there and back, they could make the trip.


One B-25 pilot was so intent on his strafing run that he flew through a bamboo thicket on Borneo. After landing, both engines were found packed in front with shredded bamboo that looked like hay.


In early 1945 we moved to Puerto Princessa, Palawan by large LST. When Manila was being taken from the Japs, the Infantry called for help. General MacArthur owned property in Manila that was not to be destroyed, so the 5th Air Force would not bomb it. The 42nd Group was called and responded. As a result, the old song "There will be no promotions this side of the ocean.." was very true.


There were numerous other experiences such as one B-25 got back to within three miles of base from French Indochina (later Vietnam) and ran out of gas. We got the honor of bombing French Indochina because of our tail insignia which was the Cross of Lorrain. Our bombers would fly into the target area using the enemy radar signal as a beacon.


"Our" Dumbo, The PBY Catalina

Dumbo was used for many sea rescues. Once, while attempting a rescue in a particularly rough sea, the hull was warped so badly that the crew was afraid to take off. So, they taxied across the water like a boat for 19 hours to safety. The PBY was towed to the salvage "boneyard" after it taxied out of the water and onto the runway.


Not all experiences were good memories. One day, we were riding from the flight line back to the squadron area for lunch. A squadron of P-38's were landing on the runway we were driving parallel to. These were "hot" pilots who were landing one right after the other. One P-38 pilot, who was on the runway, noticed the one behind him was coming in too close, too fast and too high; so, he slammed on his brakes allowing the plane behind him to overfly and land in front of him. By locking the brakes up, this caused flames to shoot up from the instrument panel into his face. Also, because the left brake was locked tighter than the right, his plane gradually veered to the left and off the runway where some heavy equipment was parked. His left wing caught a bulldozer and sent him spinning like a frisbee and also caused the plane to explode with flames shooting upwards of 500 feet. The pilot never had a chance.


One morning we all heard a terrible noise from the runway. We ran down to find a fully loaded (bombs and fuel) B-25 from the 70th Squadron veered off to the left side of the runway lying flat on its belly. The nose of the left engine had been sheared off and the propeller had been thrown completely back over the plane and was lying on the opposite side of the runway. It seems that during takeoff, along with all the associated noise, the pilot had said something to the copilot. The copilot thought the pilot said, "Wheels UP!!"...




This picture shows Thomas J. Manning hard at work. We did get some time to relax. One grand day I was relaxing in the electricians' shack when the door burst open with an irate pilot proceeding to chew me out. It seems that he had just brought in his B-25 with absolutely no electrical power - even the IFF wasn't working which would have identified him as a "friendly" plane to our defenses. He had checked the Maintenance/Inspection Log Book, which was kept on every plane, and it showed that I had inspected the electrical system on that plane the day before. After I got him calmed down, he along with his crew chief and myself went out to look at the plane. We opened the rear cowling "accessories" section of the right
engine and saw the generator and battery burned up. Opening this section on the left engine revealed the generator, battery and starter burned up. I told the pilot I thought I knew the problem and to follow me to the cockpit. Sure enough the starter switch was still on which had caused all these failures. Then the relief and, at the same time, the frustration overwhelmed my good senses; and I chewed this LT out perhaps more than he deserved. As I calmed down and realized it wasn't the pilot's responsibility to make sure this switch was off, I apologized to him as he did to me. To this day, I'd still like to apologize as I realize what a dangerous position he was in that day. (NOTE: this switch was supposed to be spring loaded to return to the off position and was probably one of the cheapest components on the B-25. That's why I say it wasn't the pilot's responsibility to make sure it was in the OFF position. I don't know his name; but if I could meet him today, I'd like to apologize one more time).


Because of a shortage of PFCs to draw KP duty, us NCOs sometimes had to "volunteer". The day after I had had KP duty, I saw one of my B-25's had been scrubbed from a mission because one of the wing tip light didn't work. Of course, the crew chief hit me with "can't you even change a light bulb". After checking the breakers, I was tracing along the leading edge of the wing when I saw a new piece of sheet metal. The crew chief admitted it had been put on yesterday. I sent him after the sheet metal tech and found, upon removing it, that a piece of flak had severed the wire. After splicing the wire, I told the crew chief, a little smugly, to go get the sheet metal tech again. I don't recall having KP duty after that.


After the war was over in Europe, each squadron was given a C-47 for our own use. I made the mistake of volunteering to go as engineer to teach a B-25 pilot to fly a "Gooney Bird". After seemingly 50 touch-and-go's, he finally got the hang of it (with a sore tail from the instructor pilot's teeth).


After a "kick-the-tire" preflight one morning, the pilot took a C-47 off with the external elevator lock in place -- a perfect takeoff. Then he discovered the elevators would not work. After some "on-the-job" training, he found the up and down movement could be controlled by the air speed. He made a good landing at 80 mph.


Our bomb group carried out the bombing of Corregidor from Palawan. Our pilots would approach straight in on the island (actually more of a rock) and pull up as the bombs were salvo'd. The forward momentum would carry the bombs into the caves built into the sides of the cliffs which is where the heaviest Japanese fortifications were located.


Myself and Peter Manning in front of a P61 Night Fighter on Palawan, 1945.
Note the P38 in the background.




After the war ended and crews thinned out due to the "point system" working, the ground crew people who were left moved into the 75th Squadron in Sept/Oct of 1945. This must have been the end of the 69th.


In late October, 1945 a B-25 load of us were flown to Tacloban, Leyte to catch the boat home.


In correspondence concerning the 1995 reunion in Texas, Col. Marek sent me a lot of information not the least of which was the telephone number of CPT Fitzreiter. I called him and had a great conversation. One interesting tidbit that I did not know before was that when the last B-25 left Sansopor, he was on it. They met the rest of the 69th at Halmahera and continued bombing the enemy the entire two weeks that we (the support personnel) were on the LST going to Palowan, using ground support from the 75th Squadron. The entire 42nd Group met us at Palawan shortly after we got there.


My Discharge states that the following decorations and citations were awarded to the 42nd Bombardment Group: Decorations - ATO Medal, EAMETO, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Star, WWII Victory Medal: Battle Stars - Bismarck Archipelago, China Offensive, New Guinea, Northern Solomons, Southern Philippines, Luzon, and Western Pacific.


My home address is: 904 N. Bennett St., Crystal Springs, MS 39059, Tel: 601-892-2849.

*Photo of B-25 "Heavenly Body" on page 1 courtesy of Michael O'Leary, 1997 near Salinas, California.

All other photos are the property of William H. Hydrick, Jr

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