air force

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[Tuttle got to meet his roommates for his Okinawa stay, Major Lawless making an immediate impression.]

Actually camp life truly isn’t hard here. The tent cities are well graded and drained. We have elevated wood floors. The climate is mild. And we can get to a hot shower without too much effort. I’ve been in worse shape at a cheap hotel in South Dakota.

I’m getting the feel of the place, and it has a real living pulse. A routine flow has taken hold, now that the fighting is over and facilities are up enough to support operations. Not that we’re by any means done building up Okinawan bases.

Every expansion is met with a ready need for more. A tank farm is barely filled for the first time before a line of trucks or ships or planes has formed ready to take on fuel. Each new mess hall only slightly shortens the lines at three others. Freshly paved road lanes are set upon promptly by hordes of loaded trucks, requiring constant maintenance.

This morning I walked with Major Lawless over the island to watch planes take off for a big raid that we were tipped off to. From the right vantage point one can see the airfields at Kadena and Yontan, which we took from the Japanese and promptly expanded, plus a new extra-long airstrip at Bolo point.

We were sending everything including the kitchen sink for a remodel of southern Japan that day. Long range fighters were going up almost side by side with Liberator bombers. Bunches of our new twin engine attack planes formed up over the East China Sea before droning off into the high overcast sky.

We watched for over an hour as the formations came together for their deadly migration. Thousands of men on the ground wrangled equipment, shifting from the hustle of fueling and arming planes to preparations for receiving them back, making repairs, and starting all over again.

F4U Corsair being loaded at Kadena


[For the first time Tuttle got to watch a large bomber attack form up and head off into the sunset toward Japan.]

The large Army air bases are fifteen miles from where I am near the giant naval station, but the bombers can be heard before they even get airborne. The insistent hum from thousands of cylinders in hundreds of radial engines shoves through the few gaps in the range of hills that cover Guam. The hum becomes an angry buzz as the engines rev and the 200 inch diameter propellers rip into the warm evening air, pulling the planes in close groups down parallel runways. The sound sharpens and takes focus as pairs of bombers come into view past the hills that had hidden them, slowly climbing over the water.

The evening sun warms each shiny silver bird with a fiery orange hue. I think it must look much the same when they circle back over a freshly fire-bombed city, widespread fires lighting up the sky as the injured city calls out her attackers in the sky.

The planes turn and continue climbing, moving to where they will meet bomber groups from the other islands. On each mission dozens or hundreds of planes from Guam meet a similar number from Tinian and/or Saipan. Together they pick up dozens or hundreds of fighter escorts near Iwo Jima.

The whole force moves toward Japan, where it will either split up or focus on just one large or important target. At night aiming points are found by radar. Coast line features, river junctions, and large landmarks show up well on even the most basic set. Thankfully Japanese defense radar and night fighters haven’t been very effective so far. That was a big unknown when the Army Air Force first started night bombing runs last spring, and at that time they had no option of fighter cover.