The Walla Walla Wendy drew the Nagoya urban area as its inaugural flight and formed up nicely in its high position in the middle of the formation. It almost missed it's rendevous point (played this rule wrong) but 'caught up' with the boys. After some missed light flak we encountered a George attack but the left gunner drove him off. Clear skies over the target and the dead-eye bombardier nailed the buildings below with a 40% on target estimation. Both wings suffered some superficial damage due to flak on the turnaround and the ammo feed trays were damaged as well. Just as that was being assessed, we got jumped by a Zeke who got nailed by the CFC gunner and destroyed. This guy is proving to be a valuable asset to the crew. As we left the area, the same gunner blew up a Nick coming at us from 9 o'clock level. No Japs spotted over Iwo either in bound or out bound. The rather uneventful return to base made the pilot relax and he put her down plenty of fuel to spare. Could it really be this easy? Beginner's luck?
Mission 2 finds us aiming for an aircraft factory in Tokyo. The brass must like us in that high/middle position as we are there again. Just after take-off #4 starts to act up and we realize that this mission is not going to include us. We circle, drop those precious bombs into the blue waves of the Pacific and land after the last of the formation takes off for Japan. So much for beginners luck.
Mission #3 and we are back to Nagoya again. The urban area proved to be a juicy target for us rookies last time but the aircraft factory will draw our attention today. Maybe we can repeat our success. The pilot had a little difficulty with attaining the middle/middle position and barely averted a mid-air collision. This unnverved the crew and brought the captian back to earth about how 'easy' this duty would be. What's that noise? #3 engine sputtering this time just after formation is fixed. Captian realized that these two mishaps are bad omens and turns back. More perfectly good bombs into the water. Strong words in the staff room with the head mechanic as the pilot wonders if we'll ever get to join this war again. The men are gettng itchy.
Same target as last time for the '3W' on our fourth mission. Moderate fighter resistance expected which doesn't bode well for out tail end/low position in the formation. Formation assembly is uneventful as the pilot eases everyones fears about his abilities which had started to crop up after the last mission. Beautiful weather for the flight and no fighters as we pass Iwo Jima. More missed light flak as we near the target but a TOJO finds us in the back end of the formation and all that feverish defensive fire from the jumpy tail gunner on his passing shot got him a jammed gun for his trouble. Speaking of jumpy, the bombardier let fly too early and our cargo was woefully off target. Not a bomb hits close to the factory. Just as we are congratulating ourselves on the lack of flak on the turnaround we get jumped by a George at 1:30 and a Frank on a vertical climb. Boy, this tail position is not good! Luckily, only superficial damage to the tail and nav/radio compartment is sustained as the Frank is driven off rather easily. Good job by the CFC gunner there!
No rest for the weary as an Oscar breaks through the upper level of the formation and swoops down on us from 12 o'clock high. The heads-up bombardier makes up for his poor bomb drop by exploding the Jap before he could do us any harm. No action over Iwo on the way back as night falls but our beautiful day starts to cloud up. Rain pummels us as we near the island, obsuring our visibility of the runway. Even the ever more frequent lightning isn't helping. The captain tries hard to line the 3W up but brings her in with the nose too far up! A sickening crack from the back end as the tail wheel blows and metal on runway screetches as the plane fishtails it's way to an eventual halt. Silence....tail gunner not responding to intercom...moans from throughout the wrecked plane. Fuselage sheared in two toward the back.
Racked with guilt about his lack of skills, the Captain has to write two letters to loved ones back in the States as the tail gunner died instantly on landing. Four days at the bedside of the CFC gunner ends when he dies from severe head injuries. The other nine of us suffer various cuts and bruises from seat belts and safety harnesses yanking us around on the long, rainy skid home but we are all patched and ready for our fifth try as soon as we are assigned another plane. One of the crew wryly comments that the 3W stood for 'Without glory, Wobegone, and Wet'.
Behold the 'Naughty Nora'! With two green replacements, we head off to the Tokyo aircraft factory again; a path that hopefully will bring us some notion that we are helping the war effort as opposed to fighting just our own plane and each other. Nerves are raw as other crews have successful exploits to discuss in the officer's club. We've taken to drinking alone. Middle/middle this time as the planing staff must want to protect us as much as possible. We miss the rally point again, just like the first flight of the 3W (missed the rule again) but form up as we approach Iwo after playing catch-up. Good thing as heavy fighter resistance is expected. As we approach Japanese land mass a Zeke streaks by as we depressurize but misses us. Maybe a good omen for the '2N'. No more pesky fighters nor any flak as we approach the target but heavy clouds make it problematic and for the second time we fail to be on target and estimate a lowly 1% hit.
A TOJO misses us with a 12 o'clock level shot on the inbound leg as we congratulate ourselves on our luck with no flak. The AA gunners must have been in the chow line. We start to wonder if maybe our luck is changing. We finally get some enemy activity over Iwo Jima as a FRANK jumps us from 10:30 high. Just like our recent ill-fated mission the bombardier acquits himself with a kill on the Jap fighter. We make a note that he concentrates better when he's feeling guilty which can't be a bad thing. Nary a scratch on the new plane as we land but we now realize our first mission was a fluke since in four tries since, we have a lousy 1% cumulative damage to ground targets, two dead comrades, one wrecked plane, and several crew members doubting thier skills and all around crappy morale.
Well, we'll have more chances to be heroes soon enough.