Archive for May, 2012

I first read the poem below many years ago after moving to Kentucky.  Although it was written by a Kentuckian to honor his comrades, it is timeless and honors all of those in all wars who have given their lives for the freedom that we as Americans enjoy.  We do not often enough stop to consider the price that has been paid.
The Bivouac of the Dead is a poem written by Theodore O’Hara to honor his fellow soldiers from Kentucky who died in the Mexican-American War. The poem increased its popularity after the Civil War, and its verses have been featured on many memorials to fallenConfederate soldiers in the Southern United States, and are even to be found on many memorials in Arlington National Cemetery, including Arlington’s gateway.[1]
The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame’s eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.No rumor of the foe’s advance
Now swells upon the wind;
Nor troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow’s strife
The warrior’s dream alarms;
No braying horn nor screaming fife
At dawn shall call to arms.Their shriveled swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed,
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And the proud forms, by battle gashed
Are free from anguish now.The neighing troop, the flashing blade,
The bugle’s stirring blast,
The charge, the dreadful cannonade,
The din and shout, are past;
Nor war’s wild note nor glory’s peal
Shall thrill with fierce delight
Those breasts that nevermore may feel
The rapture of the fight.

Like the fierce northern hurricane
That sweeps the great plateau,
Flushed with the triumph yet to gain,
Came down the serried foe,
Who heard the thunder of the fray
Break o’er the field beneath,
Knew well the watchword of that day
Was “Victory or death!”

Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O’er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;
And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the gory tide;
Not long, our stout old chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.

Twas in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr’s grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation’s flag to save.
By rivers of their father’s gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.

For many a mother’s breath has swept
O’er Angostura’s plain —
And long the pitying sky has wept
Above its moldered slain.
The raven’s scream, or eagle’s flight,
Or shepherd’s pensive lay,
Alone awakes each sullen height
That frowned o’er that dread fray.

Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground
Ye must not slumber there,
Where stranger steps and tongues resound
Along the heedless air.
Your own proud land’s heroic soil
Shall be your fitter grave;
She claims from war his richest spoil —
The ashes of her brave.

Thus ‘neath their parent turf they rest,
Far from the gory field,
Borne to a Spartan mother’s breast
On many a bloody shield;
The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
The heroes sepulcher.

Rest on embalmed and sainted dead!
Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep shall here tread
The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While fame her records keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
Where Valor proudly sleeps.

Yon marble minstrel’s voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanquished ago has flown,
The story how ye fell;
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter’s blight,
Nor Time’s remorseless doom,
Shall dim one ray of glory’s light
That gilds your deathless tomb.


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The Viking Chronicles is dedicated to providing  information of importance or interest to all Fort Gay High School alumni, however we welcome all who are not alumni and have  chosen to visit this site and read it.  The Chronicles does not take a political position but where national or international information dictates a need to be heard, we will place it here.  The below is just such information.  Please read and feel free to comment.  To me it is rather frightening.

In an unprecedented move, in June 2011 the U.S. Treasury Department granted the Chinese government direct-bidder status to purchase U.S. Treasuries direct from the U.S.government,reports Reuters. All other central banks must purchase U.S. Treasuries through primary dealers on Wall Street, which then place bids on their behalf at Treasury auctions.

The People’s Bank of China holds roughly $1.2 trillion inU.S.debt, more than any other entity, and it is now the first foreign government with direct computer access to theU.S.government Treasury auction process.China, however, must sell U.S. Treasuries on the open market.

“It’s a big deal because the Chinese are getting very special treatment,” says Gordon Chang, Forbes columnist and author of the Coming Collapse of China, in an email to The Daily Ticker.

This special treatment does have the potential to save the Chinese government money, but not in transaction and commission costs because primary dealers are prohibited from charging its bidding customers fees. However,Chinacould getting a better deal by keeping its purchases from Wall Street secret.

Not only isChinathe largestU.S.creditor, it is the largest exporter to this country. The U.S.-China trade deficit widened to $51.8 billion in March up from $45.8 billion in February, growing at the fastest pace in the last ten months, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

“Unfortunately, by failing to address Chinese mercantilism and resulting trade deficit with China, the United States is getting too deeply in debt to the Middle Kingdom,” says University of Maryland economics professor Peter Morici. “Granting it special status at Treasury is just another example of the policy of appeasement, pursued by both President’s Bush and Obama.”

The change in U.S.-China policy was not disclosed publicly and only discovered recently after Reuters sifted through Treasury documents. But this nondisclosure is not unusual, according to Treasury.

“Direct bidding is open to a wide range of investors, but as a matter of general policy we do not comment on individual bidders,” says Matt Anderson, Treasury spokesperson, in a statement on the matter.

In order to accommodate China, the U.S. Treasury Department had to upgrade its computer system to avoid hacking attempts.

“It’s also a big mistake to let the world’s arch cybercriminal direct access to Treasury’s computers,” says Gordon. “What is Geithner thinking? He should know better, but then again he always lets the Chinese walk all over him.”

In a phone conversation with Treasury’s Anderson, when asked to confirm whether any other government has similar access or about how this change in policy developed, he reverted to Treasury’s aforementioned statement.

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I was in Fort Gay for an Alumni Association board meeting a couple of weeks ago and it presented an opportunity to look at the progress of the new middle school building that is to replace the old high school building where many of us attended school many years ago.

The new building is being constructed on the old athletic field that is located a couple of blocks away behind the old high school building.  I believe the new building is slated for move in May or June of 2013.  What is going to happen to the old high school building at this is anyone’s guess.  Lots of rumors have circulated but no concrete decisions have been made that I am aware of.  The site is graded and it appears nearly ready for the next phase of construction.  It was raining the day I was there and there was no work going on due to the mud.

This all will present a dilemma for the annual alumni association banquet.  This year will probably be the last year that the old high school building will be available to us for use in housing our banquet.  Will there be facilities at the new school and will they be available for public use?  It is a question that can’t be answered at this time.  I would suggest that all might want to make reservations early and attend this years banquet.  It will undoubtedly be the final opportunity to say goodbye to a Fort Gay landmark that was so much a part of our growing up.  We will be planning some special things to bring those memories to a close at this years reunion.

There are concerns among many regarding what will be done with all of the class pictures that hang in the hallway of the old building.  I was told that they would not be moved to the new building and no one seemed to have any information as to what the disposition of them would be.  I, as well others, think that they should be preserved at some site that would be available for viewing by any FGHS alumni that would wish to do so.  They are a part of our history, the history of Fort Gay, and a reminder of a “kinder, gentler” time.  We will continue to attempt to obtain information as to what their final disposition will be.


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MILWAUKIE, Ore. – For decades, a B-17G sitting atop what was once a gas station has been one of Milwaukie’s most talked about, and perhaps most visited, icons.

But these days the famous airplane, dubbed the “Lacey Lady,” is deteriorating fast – and the owners realize that, if they want to preserve this unique piece of local history, something has to be done.

Over the years the elements have taken a heavy toll on the World War II airplane that has long drawn attention along Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard.  The B-17’s metal is now corroded, parts are either damaged or missing and the nose is visibly absent, having been removed so it could be restored.

“The only reason why we’ve left the plane up there at this point in time is because it’s so expensive for us to come up with suitable, secure storage,” said Jayson Scott, who is the grandson of the late Art Lacey, the businessman who brought the B-17 to Milwaukie back in 1947. “We haven’t wanted to bring it down and have it where people would be able to just go and pick over what remaining parts we still have.”

Then there are the birds – dozens of them have taken roost on the old relic and have made both the inside and outside of the airplane their home.

“All of our attempts to go out there and remove them from the plane have not been particularly successful,” said Jayson. “They’re very persistent.”

‘It can’t stay out there’

The Lacey Lady has definitely seen better days. However, the family that owns what has become their legacy hopes to someday bring it back to its original glory and maybe even send it up in the air once again.

It’s a daunting task, to say the least, especially for a family who also runs the popular Bomber Restaurant behind the B-17 and who curates the next-door museum dedicated to preserving war-time memorabilia.

But they believe in what they are doing and are committed to the project.

“It can’t stay out there,” said Terry Scott, Jayson’s wife and co-owner. “It’s not going to last much longer. It has got to be restored.”

And so the non-profit Wings of Freedom Project was born – an effort to return the Lacey Lady to her original condition and preserve both a part of World War II history and the community’s longstanding icon. It’s a project that will take time, though, and a lot of hard work and patience.

“We have been working very hard with all of our planning,” said Jayson. “We have a board of directors in place. We’re doing all of our strategic planning for how we want to conduct this.”

The nose section of the plane has already been removed and worked on. It now sits in the Bomber Museum where folks can see it up close.

“We focused on this portion of the plane initially because it was the most compound, complex part of the plane to start with,” said Jayson. “Everything either begins or ends there.”

The next big priority for the family is to find a suitable place to house the plane so they can bring it down, get it out of the elements and start the rest of the restoration process.

“We have a lot of people who have expressed an interest that they would like to volunteer their services towards the plane but nobody wants to work on it up in the air,” said Jayson. “It’s only 12 feet in the air but when you’re up there in the plane, it’s like you might as well be 1,200 feet in the air. It’s just not a safe work environment. It’s difficult to climb around.”

The entire restoration will likely take years to complete. Jayson and Terry said even if they had all the money in the world and everything they needed to get the project done, it would probably still take them at least a decade.

The difficulty lies in part with how the B-17s were made during the WWII era.

“Not everything was as precisely machined and engineered as how we do things today,” Jayson explained.

For example, one guy might have drilled holes for a door on a B-17 in one spot and another guy working on another B-17 might have drilled the same holes in different spots. That makes it tough when you’re trying to match up parts.

“And also in the field when they would assemble them, if they could find a quicker way – even if it was called out for in the plans to route this wire or this hydraulic tube one way – if it was faster or easier for them to do it another way then they just did it,” said Jayson.

Another problem is just being able to find the parts. It’s not like you can just go down to the neighborhood parts store and grab what you need off a shelf. Jayson said he spends a lot of time searching for parts, some of which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

This project is also a huge learning process for the family and they readily admit that it’s all very new to them.

“There are so many things you don’t think about,” said Jayson. “Just pulling a plane down and moving it – how you’re going to do that and the steps involved and the equipment you need and how much money it’s going to take and how much time and who’s going to be doing what.”

If You’d Like To Help

Money for the restoration project is being raised through a program called “Rosie’s Rivets” where you can sponsor Lacey Lady rivets for $1 each. A minimum donation of $25 gets you a personalized rivet certificate made on stationary designed from a photo of the B-17’s skin. Because Wings of Freedom is a non-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible.

‘I knew if I could come and be under the wings of the plane, I’d be safe’

“Growing up around the plane – it was just always here, you know,” said Jayson. “It was a unique novelty and I never was that particularly close to it, although I loved airplanes and wanted to be a pilot and became one. But as time went on, (I learned) there’s a lot more behind the plane than just the actual physical structure. It’s really more about the people and their experiences and trying to do something to help preserve those memories and those life experiences.”

He’s not talking just about those who fought in World War II and maybe even flew a B-17 or rode in one. He’s also talking about those in the local community who have their own memories of the Lacey Lady.


Young Patriots Day – June 19

Take the kids to the Bomber for a day full of live entertainment, living history, games and much more!

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Bomber Property at 13515 S.E. McLoughlin Blvd.

Event flyer (pdf)

“One situation I’ll never forget – and nobody else was there and nobody else can verify the story – but I was up in the plane and my brother-in-law needed to use the ladder that I had because he was working on something,” said Jayson. “So he said ‘Hey, do you mind if I grab the ladder?’ And I said ‘sure, go ahead. I’m going to be up here for quite a while so don’t worry about it. Just bring it back.’ And I’m up there and I’m cleaning away and whatnot on the inside of the plane and I hear this small child, a little boy, with his uncle under the plane. And he’s talking about ‘Oh yeah, there’s the propellers and there’s this, that and the other.’ ”


“And at that time we had fluorescent lights that were underneath the wings of the plane and it was just strictly for the gas station to light up the area – nothing to do with the plane,” he said. “It was installed later. So anyhow, the little boy says ‘Uncle so and so, what were those lights for?’ And he says ‘Oh, that was really, really important. That was a really top-secret thing that our government had back during World War II.’ ‘Oh really, well what did they use them for?’ (the kid asked).”

“And he said ‘well, what happened is the Americans did a lot of nighttime bombing,’ which was totally inaccurate because everything was all daylight, ‘and they would come in really, really low over the area that they were going to be bombing and they would flip the lights on at the very last minute and illuminate the target and drop all their bombs and then fly out of there,” Jayson said with a little chuckle.

“And the little kid was oohing and ahhing and everything (and thinking) how brilliant his uncle was and all of that,” he said. “And he didn’t know the whole time that I was up there in the plane and could hear the entire conversation. I just cracked up and thought that was kind of funny. And there are so many tales that we hear that are along those lines.”

There are sad stories too, including the one that nearly brought tears to Jayson’s eyes as he told it.

“We had one woman who had been terribly abused by her spouse and my grandparents went down there to (see if they could help her),” he said. “She was sitting down there and she had just kind of a duffel bag and was sitting down there crying under the islands of the plane. And my grandfather went down and said ‘Are you ok?’ And she said ‘No, I’m not.’ She was waiting to be picked up by somebody that was coming to save her, basically. And so they (my grandparents) kind of bundled her up and got her some coffee and whatnot. And she sat there and said ‘I knew if I could come and be under the wings of the plane, I’d be safe.’ ”

It’s stories like that, the family says, that keeps them devoted to the project. They want to keep those memories alive, honor those who have served our country and be reminded of that unique period in U.S. history.

“There’s a plaque in the restaurant that Art had made that says that this stands in honor of the men and women who valiantly served our country,” said Terry. “And that doesn’t just mean military people. When we were in that predicament, our whole United States came together as one. Even if we weren’t for one, we acted like we were. And we had victory gardens in our flower beds and we helped each other and we had that ‘all for one, one for all’ attitude. And that plane reminds us of that.”

‘Everything in here belonged to a person’

Terry serves as the curator of the Bomber Museum, which is much more than just a spot to store items from the World War II era. It’s a place where stories are told and memories are kept alive.

“Everything in here belonged to a person,” Jayson said. “And like over here (pointing to a case), there’s a map. In the bomber jackets, in the silk lining, they had a map that had one of Germany and one of Italy on the other side. So if they were shot down they could tear out the lining of the jacket and they could use it as a map. Well, the thing is, if you look at this one here, you’ll look and see that there is burn marks in it. Well, the guy was shot down but the plane was on fire. And he survived and was able to take what was remaining of this map out of the jacket and it helped him escape from Germany.”

Even something as innocuous as a white rock has special meaning.

“That white rock right there, that’s a part of the White Cliffs of Dover and the man standing right behind it, Ed Armstrong, his plane was shot up terribly,” said Jayson. “And they were going down and so they told everybody on board to throw – they were flying over the English Channel – to throw everything out, anything but yourself. And so they were throwing everything out of the plane because the plane was failing and they weren’t sure they were going to make it. And he said ‘I knew if I could see the White Cliffs of Dover, that we would be able to make it.’ ”

“And literally they broke – and it was terrible weather out, foggy and whatnot – and they broke out and they saw the White Cliffs of Dover, made it to the other side and crashed. I mean, it was basically a controlled crash landing,” he said. “And so the first thing that he did was he literally climbed over the White Cliffs of Dover and broke off that piece of rock. He carried it with him all the rest of his life and then gave it to us.”

“And it meant a lot to him,” said Terry. “His wife had Alzheimer’s so he was caring for her and he could see the end of his road coming. And so he wanted to have it in good hands. It meant a lot for him to give it to us.”

Terry said Ed has since passed away.

‘He was pretty crazy’

Art Lacey’s daughter, Punky Scott, knows the story of her father’s wild B-17 adventure well and recently sat down with KATU News to tell the famous tale. She said it all started at a party where her father, a local businessman, bragged that he was going to put a B-17 on top of his gas station.

“He was at his own birthday party in 1947 and he, I think, probably had a few adult beverages,” Punky said with a laugh.

A friend promptly told Art he was absolutely out of his mind and could never pull it off. Art bet the man $5 he could do it and immediately ran with the idea.

“And so he turns to his friend Bob and says ‘You got any money on you Bob?’ And Bob says ‘Yeah, how much do you need?’ (And my dad says) ‘I need $15,000.’ And the guy had it on him,” Punky said. “I don’t know how that translates into today’s money, but it’s got to be a lot.”

If it sounds surprising that someone back in 1947 would have that much cash on them, Punky said you have to realize what Portland was like back then.

“The whole area was wide open. There was gambling, there was prostitution, there was illegal booze – everything,” she said. So Art got the money from his friend Bob and wasted no time on getting the ball rolling on his big plan.

“So he got acquainted with this guy who was the head of the base (in Oklahoma) and my dad was a real outgoing, personable sort of guy, easy to talk with,” said Punky. “So he bought a B-17 and then the guy says ‘now you go into town and you come out tomorrow, you and your co-pilot, and I’ll have the plane ready for you.’

Art had two problems with his plan. For one, he didn’t have a co-pilot and more importantly, he didn’t even know how to fly a B-17.

But he was determined to pull the whole thing off. He borrowed a mannequin from a seamstress, dressed it up and and made it his ‘co-pilot.’ Then he hopped in the plane and made some practice runs on the runway with the manual in hand.

“He knew how to fly a single-engine aircraft and was a good pilot,” said Punky, “But he didn’t know how to do the big ones.”

Art might have been able to fake his way through it if the plane’s landing gear didn’t malfunction. He was trying to land back on the runway when he ran into trouble.

“So he flew it around and finally he just had to bring it in. So he crash landed it and skidded in,” said Punky. “He was flying it low and slow and skidded in and crashed it into another parked B-17.”

Art wasn’t hurt in the mishap but he did have to walk up to headquarters and admit that he really didn’t know how to fly a B-17. Punky said the guy he talked to took pity on him.

“He turned to his secretary and said ‘Have you written up the bill of sale yet on that B-17?’ And she said ‘No.’ and he said ‘Worst case of wind damage I’ve ever seen.’ And so he sold him a second B-17,” she said.

And that second B-17 actually turned out to be a better deal for Art.

“The first one that crashed had seen serious time during the war,” said Punky. “It wasn’t the best.”

The one that Art ended up buying was in much better shape with under 50 hours of fly time. But he had already spent over $13,000 on the B-17 that he had crashed and he didn’t have much money left. Fortunately for Art, the guy took pity on him once again and sold him a second B-17 for just $1,500.


Did you know Art Lacey? Do you have a story about him? If so, his family would love to hear from you.

They are creating an Art Lacey Memory Book that they hope to publish sometime in the future. Funds raised from the book will go towards the Lacey Lady’s restoration.

To share your story with the family, send an email to b17gfort@comcast.net along withthis form (pdf) to give permission for it to be used in the book.

This time, Art decided it probably wasn’t a good idea for him to try to fly it alone, so he got some buddies lined up to help him take it home.


“So he called my mom and had her send down two of his friends,” said Punky. “And one was the guy who had taught him to fly in the first place and the other one had been a crew chief on a B-17. And he told her to send them down with a case of whiskey.”

The whiskey, Punky explained, was to be used to bribe the local fire department. Art didn’t have any money left for gas and he wanted to use their fire truck pumps to siphon fuel out of the two crashed B-17s. Oklahoma was a dry state at the time and whiskey was a good enticement.

“And so that’s what they did and they fueled up and took off the next morning,” said Punky. “They flew to Palm Springs, California and then bought gas. But he didn’t have the money for gas there either so he wrote a bad check for it and covered it when he got home.”

By this point you might be wondering what Art’s wife thought of all this. But Punky said her mom was pretty cool with it all.

“I think she was used to it by that time,” she said. “He was pretty crazy. Their whole married life, he was just one of those people that would do anything.”

“Anyway, they got lost on the way home – lost in a snowstorm,” she went on, adding that her dad almost hit a mountain during the flight and even flew low to the ground so they could see street signs and get their bearings. Through it all, they did manage to finally land in Troutdale.

“So they got it to Troutdale, dismantled it, put it on trucks and then he went to get permits to bring it here. And they wouldn’t give him any permits because it was still too high, too long and everything was wrong,” said Punky.

But by that time, Art Lacey was so far in debt there was really no turning back.

“So he hired a motorcycle escort for funerals,” said Punky. “And the guys are in black leather and they put him out in front in the middle of the night and had two teenagers ride along with him. And he told them ‘now if the police show up you burn rubber in another direction and they’ll follow you.’ And he told the trucking drivers ‘you just keep going. I’ll pay any tickets, just keep on going and don’t let them stop you.’ ”

Punky said her dad didn’t run into any issues with the cops, but she does remember hearing about a tipsy driver who probably got the scare of his life.

“McLoughlin Boulevard was a two-lane highway at the time and there was some guy that had been drinking.  And he sees this airplane coming at him in the middle of the night and he thinks he’s on a runway. And so he cranks his wheel and goes off into the ditch and the plane goes on by,” Punky said, laughing.

The B-17 made it to Milwaukie but it’s hard to keep something that big a secret and it didn’t take long for local officials to come after Art for not having permits. Punky said a local newspaper article helped him out.

“The Oregon Journal wrote up an article saying something to the effect of ‘local government tries to keep bomber from final resting place.’ This was right after World War II, so patriotism was running pretty high. So they ended up fining him $10 for doing what he shouldn’t have done. And it’s been in the area ever since.”

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I received the following email and story about a B17, the famous warplane from World War 2,  which was sent by Bill Wellman.  I don’t know if Art Lacey was a pilot from the “great war” or not but I think the story could only happen in America.  I went to Google after posting this and found the so called “rest of the story”.  It will be posted above this post.  I hope you find both interesting and entertaining.  I did.  Thanks much to Bill for sending this.
Shortly after WWII a guy named Art Lacey went to Kansas to buy a surplus B-17. His idea was to fly it back to Oregon , jack it up in the air and make a gas station out of it. He paid $15,000 for it. He asked which one was his and they said take whichever you want because there were miles of them. He didn’t know how to fly a 4-engine airplane so he read the manual while he taxied around by himself. They said he couldn’t take off alone so he put a mannequin in the co-pilot’s seat and off he went.

He flew around a bit to get the feel of it and when he went to land he realized he needed a co-pilot to lower the landing gear. He crashed and totaled his plane and another on the ground. They wrote them both off as “wind damaged” and told him to pick out another. He talked a friend into being his co-pilot and off they went.

They flew to Palm Springs where Lacey wrote a hot check for gas. Then they headed for Oregon . They hit a snow storm and couldn’t find their way, so they went down below 1,000 feet and followed the railroad tracks. His partner sat in the nose section and would yell, “TUNNEL” when he saw one and Lacey would climb over the mountain.

They landed safely, he made good the hot check he wrote, and they started getting permits to move a B-17 on the state highway. The highway department repeatedly denied his permit and fought him tooth and nail for a long time, so late one Saturday night, he just moved it himself. He got a $10 ticket from the police for having too wide a load.





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Bill Wellman, USAF retired passed the below narrative  along to me.  For you who were alive and or were involved in the fighting of WW2 and recall the first bombing of Japan during a time when the United States was struggling to arm itself following the attack on Pearl Harbor, this will bring back memories.  At a time when heroism was the rule, not the exception, the following group of men exhibited it down to a man.  This is just one story of many.  For those born after WW2 in the following you will see the qualities that have always made this country great and perhaps open a page in history for you.  Is it any wonder that we came back from the tragedy of Pearl Harbor and went on to dominate and win WW2 in all theaters.

There are a number of great stories from WWII days. This is one. It is a great story, about a boy from Ennis, Texas, who went on to pilot Aircraft #13 off the deck of the Aircraft Carrier Hornet. In all the annals of wartime bravery, what those pilots did on April 18th, 1942 (five months after Pearl Harbor) may be one of the greatest feats ever. Picture yourself at the controls of a B-25 bomber, on the deck of an aircraft carrier, running up your engines prior to takeoff – a takeoff that had never before been accomplished before from the decks of a carrier with a bomber, knowing you were on a one way flight and would not be returning – If they were not shot down as they bombed Japan they would then be in God’s hands. They would have to find obscure airfields in China (assuming they were not under Japanese control), or Russia or crash land or they would have to jump.
> After this he didn’t come home. He stayed in India and China flying one of the worst jobs of the war flying C-47’s over the Burma Hump. Then, B-25s in Burma, and then to the sky’s over Japan to bomb them again as a pilot of a B-29.
—-My name is Edgar McElroy. My friends call me “Mac”. I was born and raised in Ennis, Texas, the youngest of five children, son of Harry and Jennie McElroy. Folks say that I was the quiet one. We lived at 609 North Dallas Street and attended the Presbyterian Church.
> My dad had an auto mechanic’s shop downtown close to the main fire station. My family was a hard working bunch, and I was expected to work at dad’s garage after school and on Saturdays, so I grew up in an atmosphere of machinery, oil and grease. Occasionally I would hear a lone plane fly over, and would run out in the street and strain my eyes against the sun to watch it. Someday, that would be me up there!
> I really like cars, and I was always busy on some project, and it wasn’t long before I decided to build my very own Model-T out of spare parts. I got an engine from over here, a frame from over there, and wheels from someplace else, using only the good parts from old cars that were otherwise shot. It wasn’t very pretty, but it was all mine. I enjoyed driving on the dirt roads around town and the feeling of freedom and speed. That car of mine could really go fast, 40 miles per hour!
> In high school I played football and tennis, and was good enough at
> football to receive an athletic scholarship from Trinity University in
> Waxahachie. I have to admit that sometimes I daydreamed in class, and
> often times I thought about flying my very own airplane and being up
> there in the clouds. That is when I even decided to take a
> correspondence course in aircraft engines.
> Whenever I got the chance, I would take my girl on a date up to Love Field in Dallas. We would watch the airplanes and listen to those mighty piston engines roar. I just loved it and if she didn’t, well that was just too bad.
> After my schooling, I operated a filling station with my brother,
> then drove a bus, and later had a job as a machinist in Longview, but
> I never lost my love of airplanes and my dream of flying. With what
> was going on in Europe and in Asia, I figured that our country
> would be drawn into war someday, so I decided to join the Army Air Corps in November of 1940. This way I could finally follow my dream.
> I reported for primary training in California. The training was rigorous and frustrating at times. We trained at air-fields all over California. It was tough going, and many of the guys washed out. When I finally saw that I was going to make it, I wrote to my girl back in Longview, Texas. Her name is Agnes Gill. I asked her to come out to California for my graduation, and oh yeah, also to marry me.
> I graduated on July 11, 1941. I was now a real, honest-to-goodness Army Air Corps pilot. Two days later, I married “Aggie” in Reno, Nevada. We were starting a new life together and were very happy. I received my orders to report to Pendleton, Oregon and join the 17th Bomb Group. Neither of us had traveled much before, so the drive north through the Cascade Range of the Sierra Nevadas was interesting and beautiful.
> It was an exciting time for us. My unit was the first to receive the new B-25 medium bomber. When I saw it for the first time I was in awe. It looked so huge. It was so sleek and powerful. The guys started calling it the “rocket plane”, and I could hardly wait to get my hands on it. I told Aggie that it was really something! Reminded me of a big old scorpion, just ready to sting! Man, I could barely wait!
> We were transferred to another airfield in Washington State, where we spent a lot a time flying practice missions and attacking imaginary targets. Then, there were other assignments in Mississippi and Georgia, for more maneuvers and more practice.
> We were on our way back to California on December 7th when we got word of a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. We listened with mixed emotions to the announcements on the radio, and the next day to the Declaration of War. What the President said, it just rang over and over in my head.” With confidence in our armed forces, with the un-bounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph; so help us God.” By gosh, I felt as though he was talking straight to me! I didn’t know what would happen to us, but we all knew that we would be going somewhere now.
> The first weeks of the war, we were back in Oregon flying patrols at sea looking for possible Japanese submarines. We had to be up at 0330 hours to warm up the engines of our planes. There was 18 inches of snow on the ground, and it was so cold that our engine oil congealed overnight. We placed big tarps over the engines that reached down to the ground. Inside this tent we used plumber’s blow torches to thaw out the engines. I figured that my dad would be proud of me, if he could see me inside this tent with all this machinery, oil and grease. After about an hour of this, the engines were warm enough to start.
> We flew patrols over the coasts of Oregon and Washington from dawn until dusk. Once I thought I spotted a sub, and started my bomb run, even had my bomb doors open, but I pulled out of it when I realized that it was just a big whale.
> Lucky for me, I would have never heard the end of that!
> Actually it was lucky for us that the Japanese didn’t attack the west coast, because we just didn’t have a strong enough force to beat them off. Our country was in a real fix now, and overall things looked pretty bleak to most folks. In early February, we were ordered to report to Columbia, South Carolina. Man, this Air Corps sure moves a fellow around a lot! Little did I know what was coming next!
> After we got settled in Columbia, my squadron commander called us all together. He told us that an awfully hazardous mission was being planned, and then he asked for volunteers. There were some of the guys that did not step forward, but I was one of the ones that did. My co-pilot was shocked. He said “You can’t volunteer, Mac! You’re married, and you and Aggie are expecting a baby soon. Don’t do it!” I told him that “I got into the Air Force to do what I can, and Aggie understands how I feel. The war won’t be easy for any of us.”
> *****
> We that volunteered were transferred to Eglin Field near Valparaiso, Florida in late February. When we all got together, there were about 140 of us volunteers, and we were told that we were now part of the “Special B-25 project.”
> We set about our training, but none of us knew what it was all about. We were ordered not to talk about it, not even to our wives.
> In early March, we were all called in for a briefing, and gathered together in a big building there on the base. Somebody said that the fellow who was head of this thing is coming to talk to us, and in walks Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle. He was already an aviation legend, and there he stood right in front of us. I was truly amazed just to meet him.
> Colonel Doolittle explained that this mission would be extremely dangerous, and that only volunteers could take part. He said that he could not tell us where we were going, but he could say that some of us would not be coming back.
> There was a silent pause; you could have heard a pin drop. Then Doolittle said that anyone of us could withdraw now, and that no one would criticize us for this decision. No one backed out! From the outset, all volunteers worked from the early morning hours until well after sunset. All excess weight was stripped from the planes and extra gas tanks were added. The lower gun turret was removed, the heavy liaison radio was removed, and then the tail guns were taken out and more gas tanks were put aboard. We extended the range of that plane from 1000 miles out to 2500 miles.
> Then I was assigned my crew. There was Richard Knobloch the co-pilot, Clayton Campbell the navigator, Robert Bourgeous the bombardier, Adam Williams the flight engineer and gunner, and me, Mac McElroy the pilot. Over the coming days, I came to respect them a lot. They were a swell bunch of guys, just regular All-American boys.
> We got a few ideas from the training as to what type of mission that we had signed on for. A Navy pilot had joined our group to coach us at short takeoffs and also in shipboard etiquette. We began our short takeoff practice. Taking off with first a light load, then a normal load, and finally overloaded up to 31,000 lbs. The shortest possible take-off was obtained with flaps full down, stabilizer set three-fourths, tail heavy, full power against the brakes and releasing the brakes simultaneously as the engine revved up to max power. We pulled back gradually on the stick and the airplane left the ground with the tail skid about one foot from the runway. It was a very unnatural and scary way to get airborne! I could hardly believe it myself, the first time as I took off with a full gas load and dummy bombs within just 700 feet of runway in a near stall condition. We were, for all practical purposes, a slow flying gasoline bomb!
> In addition to take-off practice, we refined our skills in day and night navigation, gunnery, bombing, and low level flying. We made cross country flights at tree-top level, night flights and navigational flights over the Gulf of Mexico without the use of a radio. After we started that short-field takeoff routine, we had some pretty fancy competition among the crews. I think that one crew got it down to about 300 feet on a hot day. We were told that only the best crews would actually go on the mission, and the rest would be held in reserve. One crew did stall on takeoff, slipped back to the ground, busting up their landing gear. They were eliminated from the mission. Doolittle emphasized again and again the extreme danger of this operation, and made it clear that anyone of us who so desired could drop out with no questions asked. No one did.
> On one of our cross country flights, we landed at Barksdale Field in Shreveport, and I was able to catch a bus over to Longview to see Aggie. We had a few hours together, and then we had to say our goodbyes. I told her I hoped to be back in time for the baby’s birth, but I couldn’t tell her where I was going. As I walked away, I turned and walked backwards for a ways, taking one last look at my beautiful pregnant Aggie.
> Within a few days of returning to our base in Florida we were
> abruptly told to pack our things. After just three weeks of practice,
> we were on our way. This was it. It was time to go. It was the middle
> of March 1942, and I was 30 years old. Our orders were to fly to
> McClelland Air Base in Sacramento, California on our own, at the
> lowest possible level. So here we went on our way west, scraping the
> tree tops at 160 miles per hour, and skimming along just 50 feet above
> plowed fields. We crossed North Texas and then the panhandle, scaring
> the dickens out of livestock, buzzing farm houses and a many a barn
> along the way. Over the Rocky Mountains and across the Mojave Desert
> dodging thunderstorms, we enjoyed the flight immensely and although
> tempted, I didn’t do too much dare-devil stuff. We didn’t know it at
> the time, but it was good practice for what lay ahead of us. It
> proved to be our last fling. Once we arrived in Sacramento ,
> the mechanics went over our plane with a fine-toothed comb. Of the twenty-two planes that made it, only those whose pilots reported no mechanical problems were allowed to go on. The others were shunted aside.
> <ATT00001.jpeg>
> After having our plane serviced, we flew on to Alameda Naval Air
> Station in Oakland. As I came in for final approach, we saw it! I
> excitedly called the rest of the crew to take a look. There below us
> was a huge aircraft carrier. It was the USS Hornet, and it looked so
> gigantic! Man, I had never even seen a carrier until this moment.
> There were already two B-25s parked on the flight deck. Now we knew!
> My heart was racing, and I thought about how puny my plane would look
> on board this mighty ship. As soon as we landed and taxied off the
> runway, a jeep pulled in front of me with a big “Follow Me” sign on
> the back. We followed it straight up to the wharf, alongside the
> towering Hornet. All five of us were looking up and just in awe,
> scarcely believing the size of this thing. As we left the plane,
> there was already a Navy work crew swarming around attaching cables to
> the lifting rings on top of the wings and the fuselage. As we walked
> towards our quarters, I looked back and saw them lifting my plane up into the air and swing it over the ship’s deck. It looked so small and lonely.
> Later that afternoon, all crews met with Colonel Doolittle and he
> gave last minute assignments. He told me to go to the Presidio and
> pick up two hundred extra “C” rations. I saluted, turned, and left,
> not having any idea where the Presidio was, and not exactly sure what
> a “C” ration was. I commandeered a Navy staff car and told the driver to take me to the Presidio, and he did On the way over, I realized that I had no written signed orders and that this might get a little sticky. So in I walked into the Army supply depot and made my request, trying to look poised and confident. The supply officer asked, “What is your authorization for this request, sir?” I told him that I could not give him one. “And what is the destination?” he asked. I answered, “The aircraft carrier, Hornet, docked at Alameda.” He said, “Can you tell me who ordered the rations, sir?” And I replied with a smile, “No, I cannot.” The supply officers huddled together, talking and glanced back over towards me. Then he walked back over and assured me that the rations would be delivered that afternoon. Guess they figured that something big was up. They were right. The next morning we all boarded the ship.
> Trying to remember my naval etiquette, I saluted the Officer of the Deck and said “Lt. McElroy, requesting permission to come aboard. “The officer returned the salute and said “Permission granted.” Then I turned aft and saluted the flag I made it, without messing up. It was April 2, and in full sunlight, we left San Francisco Bay. The whole task force of ships, two cruisers, four destroyers, and a fleet oiler, moved slowly with us under the Golden Gate Bridge. Thousands of people looked on. Many stopped their cars on the bridge, and waved to us as we passed underneath. I thought to myself, I hope there aren’t any spies up there waving.
> Once at sea, Doolittle called us together. “Only a few of you know our destination, and others have guessed about various targets. Gentlemen, your target is Japan!” A sudden cheer exploded among the men. “Specifically, Yokohama, Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe, Nagasaki, and Osaka. The Navy task force will get us as close as possible and we’ll launch our planes. We will hit our targets and proceed to airfields in China.” After the cheering stopped, he asked again if any of us desired to back out, no questions asked. Not one did, not one. The ship’s Captain then went over the intercom to the whole ship’s company. The loudspeaker blared, “The destination is Tokyo!” A tremendous cheer broke out from everyone on board. I could hear metal banging together and wild screams from down below decks. It was quite a rush! I felt relieved actually. We finally knew where we were going.
> I set up quarters with two Navy pilots, putting my cot between their two bunks. They couldn’t get out of bed without stepping on me. It was fairly cozy in there, yes it was. Those guys were part of the Torpedo Squadron Eight and were just swell fellows. The rest of the guys bedded down in similar fashion to me, some had to sleep on bedrolls in the Admiral’s chartroom. As big as this ship was, there wasn’t any extra room anywhere. Every square foot had a purpose… A few days later we discovered where they had an ice cream machine!
> There were sixteen B-25s tied down on the flight deck, and I was flying number 13. All the carrier’s fighter planes were stored away helplessly in the hangar deck. They couldn’t move until we were gone. Our Army mechanics were all on board, as well as our munitions loaders and several back up crews, in case any of us got sick or backed out. We settled into a daily routine of checking our planes. The aircraft were grouped so closely together on deck that it wouldn’t take much for them to get damaged. Knowing that my life depended on this plane, I kept a close eye on her.
> Day after day, we met with the intelligence officer and studied our mission plan. Our targets were assigned, and maps and objective folders were furnished for study. We went over approach routes and our escape route towards China … I never studied this hard back at Trinity. Every day at dawn and at dusk the ship was called to general quarters and we practiced finding the quickest way to our planes. If at any point along the way, we were discovered by the enemy fleet, we were to launch our bombers immediately so the Hornet could bring up its fighter planes. We would then be on our own, and try to make it to the nearest land, either Hawaii or Midway Island.
> Dr. Thomas White, a volunteer member of plane number 15, went over our medical records and gave us inoculations for a whole bunch of diseases that hopefully I wouldn’t catch. He gave us training sessions in emergency first aid, and lectured us at length about water purification and such. Tom, a medical doctor, had learned how to be a gunner just so he could go on this mission. We put some new tail guns in place of the ones that had been taken out to save weight. Not exactly functional, they were two broom handles, painted black. The thinking was they might help scare any Jap fighter planes. Maybe, maybe not.
> On Sunday, April 14, we met up with Admiral Bull Halsey’s task force just out of Hawaii and joined into one big force. The carrier Enterprise was now with us, another two heavy cruisers, four more destroyers, and another oiler. We were designated as Task Force 16. It was quite an impressive sight to see, and represented the bulk of what was left of the U.S. Navy after the devastation of Pearl Harbor. There were over 10,000 Navy personnel sailing into harm’s way, just to deliver us sixteen Army planes to the Japs, orders of the President.
> As we steamed further west, tension was rising as we drew nearer and nearer to Japan. Someone thought of arming us with some old…45 pistols that they had on board. I went through that box of 1911 pistols, they were in such bad condition that I took several of them apart, using the good parts from several useless guns until I built a serviceable weapon. Several of the other pilots did the same. Admiring my “new” pistol, I held it up, and thought about my old Model-T.
> Colonel Doolittle called us together on the flight deck. We all gathered round, as well as many Navy personnel. He pulled out some medals and told us how these friendship medals from the Japanese government had been given to some of our Navy officers several years back. And now the Secretary of the Navy had requested us to return them. Doolittle wired them to a bomb while we all posed for pictures. Something to cheer up the folks back home!
> I began to pack my things for the flight, scheduled for the 19th. I packed some extra clothes and a little brown bag that Aggie had given me, inside were some toilet items and a few candy bars. No letters or identity cards were allowed, only our dog-tags. I went down to the wardroom to have some ice cream and settle up my mess bill. It only amounted to $5 a day and with my per-diem of $6 per day, I came out a little ahead.
> By now, my Navy pilot roommates were about ready to get rid of me, but I enjoyed my time with them. They were all right. Later on, I learned that both of them were killed at the Battle of Midway. They were good men. Yes, very good men.
> Colonel Doolittle let each crew pick our own target. We chose the Yokosuka Naval Base about twenty miles from Tokyo. We loaded 1450 rounds of ammo and four 500-pound bombs… A little payback, direct from Ellis County, Texas! We checked and re-checked our plane several times. Everything was now ready. I felt relaxed, yet tensed up at the same time. Day after tomorrow, we will launch when we are 400 miles out. I lay in my cot that night, and rehearsed the mission over and over in my head. It was hard to sleep as I listened to sounds of the ship.
> Early the next morning, I was enjoying a leisurely breakfast, expecting another full day on board. I noticed that the ship was pitching and rolling quite a bit this morning, more than normal. I was reading through the April 18th day plan of the Hornet; there was a message in it which read, “From the Hornet to the Army Good luck, good hunting, and God bless you.” I still had a large lump in my throat from reading this, when all of a sudden, the intercom blared, “General Quarters, General Quarters, All hands man your battle stations! Army pilots, man your planes!” There was instant reaction from everyone in the room and food trays went crashing to the deck. I ran down to my room jumping through the hatches along the way, grabbed my bag, and ran as fast as I could go to the flight deck. I met with my crew at the plane, my heart was pounding. Someone said, “What’s going on?” The word was that the Enterprise had spotted an enemy trawler. It had been sunk, but it had transmitted radio messages. We had been found out!
> The weather was crummy, the seas were running heavy, and the ship was pitching up and down like I had never seen before. Great waves were crashing against the bow and washing over the front of the deck. This wasn’t going to be easy! Last minute instructions were given. We were reminded to avoid non-military targets, especially the Emperor’s Palace. Do not fly to Russia, but fly as far west as possible, land on the water and launch our rubber raft. This was going to be a one-way trip! We were still much too far out and we all knew that our chances of making land were somewhere between slim and none. Then at the last minute, each plane loaded an extra ten 5-gallon gas cans to give us a fighting chance of reaching China.
> We all climbed aboard, started our engines and warmed them up, just feet away from the plane in front of us and the plane behind us. Knobby, Campbell, Bourgeois, and me in the front, Williams, the gunner was in the back, separated from us by a big rubber gas tank. I called back to Williams on the intercom and told him to look sharp and don’t take a nap! He answered dryly, “Don’t worry about me, Lieutenant. If they jump us, I’ll just use my little black broomsticks to keep the Japs off our tail.”
> The ship headed into the wind and picked up speed. There was now a near gale force wind and water spray coming straight over the deck. I looked down at my instruments as my engines revved up. My mind was racing. I went over my mental checklist, and said a prayer: God please, help us! Past the twelve planes in front of us, I strained to see the flight deck officer as he leaned into the wind and signaled with his arms for Colonel Doolittle to come to full power. I looked over at Knobby and we looked each other in the eye. He just nodded to me and we both understood.
> With the deck heaving up and down, the deck officer had to time this just right. Then I saw him wave Doolittle to go, and we watched breathlessly to see what happened. When his plane pulled up above the deck, Knobby just let out with, “Yes! Yes!” The second plane, piloted by Lt. Hoover, appeared to stall with its nose up and began falling toward the waves. We groaned and called out, “Up! Up! Pull it up!” Finally, he pulled out of it, staggering back up into the air, much to our relief! One by one, the planes in front of us took off. The deck pitched wildly, 60 feet or more, it looked like. One plane seemed to drop down into the drink and disappeared for a moment, then pulled back up into sight. There was sense of relief with each one that made it. We gunned our engines and started to roll forward. Off to the right, I saw the men on deck cheering and waving their covers! We continued inching forward, careful to keep my left main wheel and my nose wheel on the white guidelines that had been painted on the deck for us. Get off a little bit too far left and we go off the edge of the deck. A little too far to the right and our wing-tip will smack the island of the ship. With the best seat on the ship, we watched Lt. Bower take off in plane number 12. I taxied up to the starting line, put on my brakes and looked down to my left. My main wheel was right on the line. Applied more power to the engines, and I turned my complete attention to the deck officer on my left, who was circling his paddles. Now my adrenaline was really pumping! We went to full power, and the noise and vibration inside the plane went way up. He circled the paddles furiously while watching forward for the pitch of the deck. Then he dropped them, and I said, “Here We Go!” I released the brakes and we started rolling forward, and as I looked down the flight-deck you could see straight down into the angry churning water. As we slowly gained speed, the deck gradually began to pitch back up. I pulled up and our plane slowly strained up and away from the ship. There was a big cheer and whoops from my crew, but I just felt relieved and muttered to myself, “Boy, that was short!”
> We made a wide circle above our fleet to check our compass headings and get our bearings. I looked down as we passed low over one of our cruisers and could see the men on deck waving to us. I dropped down to low level, so low we could see the whitecap waves breaking. It was just after 0900, there were broken clouds at 5,000 feet and visibility of about thirty miles due to haze or something. Up ahead and barely in sight, I could see Captain Greening, our flight leader, and Bower on his right wing. Flying at 170 mph, I was able to catch up to them in about 30 minutes. We were to stay in this formation until reaching landfall, and then break on our separate ways. Now we settled in for the five hour flight. Tokyo, here we come!
> Williams was in the back emptying the extra gas cans into the gas tank as fast as we had burned off enough fuel. He then punched holes in the tins and pushed them out the hatch against the wind. Some of the crew ate sandwiches and other goodies that the Navy had put aboard for us…I wasn’t hungry. I held onto the controls with a firm grip as we raced along westward just fifty feet above the cold rolling ocean, as low as I dared to fly. Being so close to the choppy waves gave you a true sense of speed. Occasionally our windshield was even sprayed with a little saltwater. It was an exhilarating feeling, and I felt as though the will and spirit of our whole country was pushing us along. I didn’t feel too scared, just anxious. There was a lot riding on this thing, and on me.
> As we began to near land, we saw an occasional ship here and there. None of them close enough to be threatening, but just the same, we were feeling more edgy. Then at 1330 we sighted land, the Eastern shore of Honshu. With Williams now on his guns in the top turret and Campbell on the nose gun, we came ashore still flying low as possible. We were surprised to see people on the ground waving to us as we flew in over the farmland. It was beautiful countryside.
> Campbell, our navigator, said, “Mac, I think we’re going to be about sixty miles too far north. I’m not positive, but pretty sure” I decided that he was absolutely right and turned left ninety degrees, went back just offshore and followed the coast line south. When I thought we had gone far enough, I climbed up to two thousand feet to find out where we were. We started getting fire from anti-aircraft guns. Then we spotted Tokyo Bay, turned west and put our nose down diving toward the water. Once over the bay, I could see our target, Yokosuka Naval Base. Off to the right there was already smoke visible over Tokyo. Coming in low over the water, I increased speed to 200 mph and told everyone, “Get Ready!”
> When we were close enough, I pulled up to 1300 feet and opened the bomb doors. There were furious black bursts of anti-aircraft fire all around us, but I flew straight on through them, spotting our target, the torpedo works and the dry-docks. I saw a big ship in the dry-dock just as we flew over it. Those flak bursts were really getting close and bouncing us around, when I heard Bourgeois shouting, “Bombs Away!” I couldn’t see it, but Williams had a bird’s eye view from the back and he shouted jubilantly, “We got an aircraft carrier! The whole dock is burning!” I started turning to the south and strained my neck to look back and at that moment saw a large crane blow up and start falling over!…Take that! There was loud yelling and clapping each other on the back. We were all just ecstatic, and still alive! But there wasn’t much time to celebrate. We had to get out of here and fast! When we were some thirty miles out to sea, we took one last look back at our target, and could still see huge billows of black smoke. Up until now, we had been flying for Uncle Sam, but now we were flying for ourselves.
> We flew south over open ocean, parallel to the Japanese coast all afternoon We saw a large submarine apparently at rest, and then in another fifteen miles, we spotted three large enemy cruisers headed for Japan. There were no more bombs, so we just let them be and kept on going. By late afternoon, Campbell calculated that it was time to turn and make for China. Across the East China Sea, the weather out ahead of us looked bad and overcast. Up until now we had not had time to think much about our gasoline supply, but the math did not look good. We just didn’t have enough fuel to make it!
> Each man took turns cranking the little hand radio to see if we could pick up the promised radio beacon. There was no signal. This is not good. The weather turned bad and it was getting dark, so we climbed up. I was now flying on instruments, through a dark misty rain. Just when it really looked hopeless of reaching land, we suddenly picked up a strong tailwind It was an answer to a prayer. Maybe just maybe, we can make it!
> In total darkness at 2100 hours, we figured that we must be crossing the coastline, so I began a slow, slow climb to be sure of not hitting any high ground or anything. I conserved as much fuel as I could, getting real low on gas now. The guys were still cranking on the radio, but after five hours of hand cranking with aching hands and backs, there was utter silence. No radio beacon! Then the red light started blinking, indicating twenty minutes of fuel left. We started getting ready to bail out. I turned the controls over to Knobby and crawled to the back of the plane, past the now collapsed rubber gas tank. I dumped everything out of my bag and repacked just what I really needed, my .45 pistol, ammunition, flashlight, compass, medical kit, fishing tackle, chocolate bars, peanut butter and crackers. I told Williams to come forward with me so we could all be
> together for this. There was no other choice. I had to get us as far west as possible, and then we had to jump.
> At 2230 we were up to sixty-five hundred feet. We were over land but still above the Japanese Army in China. We couldn’t see the stars, so Campbell couldn’t get a good fix on our position. We were flying on fumes now and I didn’t want to run out of gas before we were ready to go. Each man filled his canteen, put on his Mae West life jacket, parachute, and filled his bag with rations, those “C” rations from the Presidio. I put her on auto-pilot and we all gathered in the navigator’s compartment around the hatch in the floor. We checked each other’s parachute harness. Everyone was scared, without a doubt. None of us had ever done this before! I said, “Williams first, Bourgeois second, Campbell third, Knobloch fourth, and I’ll follow you guys! Go fast, two seconds apart! Then count three seconds off and pull your ripcord!”
> We kicked open the hatch and gathered around the hole looking down into the blackness. It did not look very inviting! Then I looked up at Williams and gave the order, “JUMP!” Within seconds they were all gone. I turned and reached back for the auto-pilot, but could not reach it, so I pulled the throttles back, then turned and jumped. Counting quickly, thousand one, thousand two, thousand three, I pulled my rip-cord and jerked back up with a terrific shock. At first I thought that I was hung on the plane, but after a few agonizing seconds that seemed like hours, realized that I was free and drifting down. Being in the total dark, I was disoriented at first but figured my feet must be pointed toward the ground. I looked down through the black mist to see what was coming up. I was in a thick mist or fog, and the silence was so eerie after nearly thirteen hours inside that noisy plane. I could only hear the whoosh, whoosh sound of the wind blowing through my shroud lines, and then I heard a loud crash and explosion. My plane!
> Looking for my flashlight, I groped through my bag with my right hand, finally pulled it out and shined it down toward the ground, which I still could not see. Finally I picked up a glimmer of water and thought I was landing in a lake. We’re too far inland for this to be ocean. I hope! I relaxed my legs a little, thinking I was about to splash into water and would have to swim out, and then bang. I jolted suddenly and crashed over onto my side. Lying there in just a few inches of water, I raised my head and put my hands down into thick mud. It was rice paddy! There was a burning pain, as if someone had stuck a knife in my stomach. I must have torn a muscle or broke something.
> I laid there dazed for a few minutes, and after a while struggled up to my feet. I dug a hole and buried my parachute in the mud. Then started trying to walk, holding my stomach, but every direction I moved the water got deeper. Then I saw some lights off in the distance. I fished around for my flashlight and signaled one time. Sensing something wrong, I got out my compass and to my horror saw that those lights were off to my west. That must be a Jap patrol! How dumb could I be! Knobby had to be back to my east, so I sat still and quiet and did not move.
> It was a cold dark lonely night. At 0100 hours I saw a single light off to the east. I flashed my light in that direction, one time. It had to be Knobby! I waited a while, and then called out softly, “Knobby?” And a voice replied “Mac, is that you?” Thank goodness, what a relief! Separated by a wide stream, we sat on opposite banks of the water communicating in low voices. After daybreak Knobby found a small rowboat and came across to get me. We started walking east toward the rest of the crew and away from that Japanese patrol. Knobby had cut his hip when he went through the hatch, but it wasn’t too awful bad.
> We walked together toward a small village and several Chinese came out to meet us, they seemed friendly enough. I said, “Luchu hoo megwa fugi! Luchu hoo megwa fugi!” meaning, “I am an American! I am an American!” Later that morning we found the others. Williams had wrenched his knee when he landed in a tree, but he was limping along just fine. There were hugs all around. I have never been so happy to see four guys in all my life!
> Well, the five of us eventually made it out of China with the help of the local Chinese people and the Catholic missions along the way. They were all very good to us. Later they were made to pay terribly for it, so we found out afterwards. For a couple of weeks we traveled across country. Strafed a couple of times by enemy planes, we kept on moving, by foot, by pony, by car, by train, and by airplane. But we finally made it to India.
> I did not make it home for the baby’s birth. I stayed on there flying a DC-3 “Gooney Bird” in the China-Burma-India Theatre for the next several months. I flew supplies over the Himalaya Mountains, or as we called it, over “The Hump” into China. When B-25s finally arrived in India, I flew combat missions over Burma, and then later in the war, flew a B-29 out of the Marianna Islands to bomb Japan again and again.
> After the war, I remained in the Air Force until 1962, when I retired from the service as a Lt. Colonel. We then came back to Texas, my beautiful Texas. First moving to Abilene and then we settled in Lubbock, where Aggie taught school at MacKenzie Junior High. I worked at the S & R Auto Supply, once again in an atmosphere of machinery, oil, and grease.
> I lived a good life and raised two wonderful sons that I am very proud of. I feel blessed in many ways. We have a great country, better than most folks know. It is worth fighting for. Some people call me a hero, but I have never thought of myself that way, no. But I did serve in the company of heroes. What we did, will never leave me. It will always be there in my fondest memories. I will always think of the fine and brave men that I was privileged to serve with. Remember us, for we were soldiers once and young.
> With the loss of all aircraft, Doolittle believed that the raid
> had been a failure, and that he would be court-martialed upon
> returning to the states. Quite the contrary, the raid proved to be a
> tremendous boost to American morale, which had plunged following the
> Pearl Harbor attack. It also caused serious doubts in the minds of
> Japanese war planners. They in turn recalled many seasoned fighter
> plane units back to defend the home
> islands, which resulted in Japan’s weakened air capabilities at the upcoming Battle of Midway and other South Pacific campaigns.
> Edgar “Mac” McElroy, Lt. Col., U.S.A.F. (Ret.) passed away at his residence in Lubbock, Texas early on the morning of Friday, April 4, 2003.

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