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New Guinea was my introduction to war

[This wonderful account of the war's early days was posted on the Usenet newsgroup rec.aviation.military, and is re-posted here with the author's kind permission. He preferred not to use his name. The essay was, he explained, the product of too much Jack Daniels and too little sleep. -- Dan Ford]

Well, I don't know if any body cares, but New Guinea for me was my introduction to war. We were desperately afraid of the Japanese, who it seemed nobody could stand up to, and they told us to do it. To stop them. Or at least give them notice that were were some tough sons of bitches who were going to give them the fight of their life.

We flew B-17s right into the belly of the beast, maybe four, maybe five, maybe six. We went to Rabaul. We went up to Mindanao. We went to Timor. We went to Sumatra. The Japs didn't want us there. We came anyway. Their fighters came after us. They were good pilots. Could make their planes do amazing things. Had no fear. Came after us with no doubt that they would kill us. Flight engineer climb into his top turret, nav and bombardier grab their guns. Ball turret kid hot and ready. Waist gunners, radio man, tail gunner. You want a piece of us? Get some.

I'll never forget men screaming in something beyond rage, beyond fear, as they fired at those fighters coming at us. Four or five planes crowding wingtip to wingtip, bunching in some primeval urge for group protection while the wolves howled after us. But they couldn't stop us. We came on and bombed the god damned sons of bitches no matter what they threw at us.

I had 320 hours in my logbook when they said I was too sick to fly anymore and sent me home. I would have sworn I had ten times that many hours. A hundred times. After a while, when my hands didn't shake so as you would notice even when I didn't have chills, they let me fly again and I instructed. I tried to tell the boys what was waiting for them out there. They couldn't understand till they got there.

A few years later when I flew B-29s it was all different. The 29 was something the Japs just couldn't match and besides the bastards were all done by then anyway, they were just too stupid and stubborn to accept it. But in the early New Guinea days, they held all the cards and we were just a few scared kids who had been given the job of stopping them. We did, too, though it cost us in ways that would shake us out of a sound sleep 10 years later. I remember being on alert when I flew B-47s for SAC years after the war, dozing off and waking up terrified that I had to fly a mission to Rabaul. What a relief when I came fully awake and realized I was only on runway alert for world War three with hydrogen bomb in the belly of my plane. The Russians were a piece of cake after facing the goddamned japs.