Chapter 14

By the end of June we had 30 combat missions in and we were planning a special long-range mission.  Intelligence reports had reached us, informing us that the Japanese had an advanced pilot training school teaching night flying techniques -- maybe even training night fighters.  The school as in Peping (now Beijing), 600 miles northeast of Hsian.  This was way past the operating limits of the P-61, but we would carry two fuel tanks externally and, if we used fuel economically coming and going, we could make it with some to spare.

We were working out a plan to possibly intercept and attack these Japanese night training flights when we received orders on June 22nd that read in part:

"You are relieved from further assignment and duty with your present organization and are attached unassigned to Replacement Depot No. 2, APT 496, and you will proceed from your present station by first available air, rail, and/or motor transportation to APO 496, reporting on arrival to the Commanding Officers, Replacement Depot, No. 2, thereat for processing and for first available water transportation to the United States."

These were the rotation orders we had been so anxious to receive.  Hershorn, Foster and some others and I went to town for a celebration that seemed called for.  During the course of events, I remember a rickshaw race with us pulling the rickshaws.  I remember riding a pony that kept bucking me off, rodeo style.  I have a photo of the celebrants all holding bottles of Shang-Fang, a Chinese beverage we were acquainted with.

The next few days were taking up with departure details.  Foster and Hershorn were designated as temporary "D" flight leaders and we were checking our equipment back into quartermaster, all the time thinking about our passing up the mission to Beijing, when we were summoned to report to Col. Coleman.  When we arrived, we found that the colonel had seven or eight other people in his office, all in uniform.  There were two pilots, a navigator, and some others who weren't wearing any rank or insignia.  After introductions, the colonel asked if Ab and I had "Top Secret" clearance, which I had, but Ab didn't.  There was some discussion about Ab's deficiency, but it was decided that he was not a security risk, and Col. Coleman proceeded to acquaint us with an OSS plan to take out the Yellow River Bridge.  The colonel first asked if we would consider volunteering to fly two additional missions -- one as pathfinder and one as diversionary.  The city of Xinxiang was to be involved.  The colonel had approached us because we had flown many times to Xinxiang, both night and day missions.  We knew the city well.  None of our squadron mates had even been there more than once. 

We didn't know exactly what we were getting into, but the Japanese had successfully defended the bridge against the 14th Air Force's best effort to destroy it, and if the OSS could indeed take it out, we wanted to help.  So we did what should never be done in the military -- we volunteered -- and with orders to go home folded up in my wallet in my hip pocket.  I thought, "What a fool I am!"

We then learned that the plan involved dropping a three-man OSS team together with their equipment and supplies into a walled compound about 100 yards square in the heart of the city.  A very nervy undertaking.  The drop would be carried out unobserved within this Japanese-held city by first having us fly a mission as pathfinders to pinpoint the target compound for the pilots of the two C-47 drop aircrafts.  Then, on a subsequent night, we were to fly a second mission to carry out a diversionary attack in the marshalling yards nearby, while the two C-47s glided in without power to silently drop the OSS team and their gear.  We couldn't discuss the missions with any of our squadron people, who thought we were absolutely nuts to fly any more combat missions.


Chapter 15