871st BS, 497th BG, 20th AF Bombardier- Goldfish club member
Posted 18 October 2019 - 06:19 PM
So I am pretty excited to show off the final piece of my project to get a uniform representing each of the four major bombers used by the US military during the war. This came from a gentleman who got it from the family, it belonged to Lieutenant John W. Bishop of Nashville, Arizona.
The grouping itself includes his Officer dress tunic, his air medal (awarded right at the end so he didn’t bother getting a ribbon, some patches, butter bars, and his training ID badge.
Enlisting in early 1944, Bishop was sent to flight school where he trained as Bombardier, eventually moving to the B29 center at Alamagordo, New Mexico as part of the crew of James D. Voight. He and his crew were eventually assigned as a replacement in the 871st Bomb Squadron, 497th Bomb Group, 20th Air Force and made their way to Isley Field on Saipan by March of 1945 to begin their 24 missions over the Japanese mainland.
Of his 24 missions, I was able to find the specific details on at least 22 of them including dates, targets, planes, and some miscellaneous details of the raid and its results. His first mission that I was able to find seems to have been an attack on the Tachiarai IJN Flight School and Kamikaze training center on April 17th. Over the course of the next five months the crew would partake in some of the most brutal firebombing raids in the war, targeting both Japanese civilian and military targets alike. One of the most horrifying notations I found while researching these missions was the fact that the percentage of the entire city destroyed was often listed as a parameter. While I always knew the campaigns were pretty rough (had a veteran friend from the 498th who told some terrifying stories and had terrible PTSD from it), simply seeing this single statistic being factored into the reports was kind of shocking and humbling.
A few particular missions to highlight are, first and foremost, how he earned his goldfish club membership. On July 2nd he and the crew were flying one of their main B29s, 42-63414 or Square A 49 AKA "Jumpin Stud." On the way back from a night mission which dropped 1107.4 tons of napalm on Kumamoto, the crew found themselves 200 miles from Saipan when two engines suddenly cut out and the others became unresponsive. In his postwar account of the event, Bishop described how calm, collected, and orderly the evacuation of the plane was in the midst of the chaos. Each crewman knew exactly what his job was and performed it with exceptional speed and precision. Bishop was responsible for preparing the bomb bay for bailout after which he and the crew jumped at around 10,000 feet. Landing with plenty of saltwater in his mouth, Bishop and Voight managed to get aboard a life raft together where they waited until a PBY managed to come and pick them up. They waited for a week to hear about the rest of their crewman as one by one they returned. A week after bailout, however, they were all reunited, becoming the very first B29 crew to be rescued entirely intact.
Another mission of note is his second-to-last mission over Yahata on August 8th. Targeting the industrial centers of the city, 221 B29s roared overhead firebombing the city and leaving 21% of its area completely destroyed. The mission itself was already fairly impactful, however, its effects would impact the citizens in more ways than the initial bombings. The next day B29 "Bockscar" would embark upon Special Mission 16 with its primary target being Kokura--the town over from Yahata. Both cities would have been inside of the blast radius of the bomb, however, as the crew approached the towns the smoke from the massive fires of the previous days' raid covered the target in thick, black clouds. Unable to positively ID their target, the men of SM16 decided to proceed to their second target--Nagasaki. I do not believe that save is the right word, however, the bombing raids carried out by Bishop and the 73rd Wing the day prior just happen to line up with favorable winds, concealing the twin towns from overhead view and preventing the utter destruction of their inhabitants from the most powerful weapon the world had ever known.
I am extremely happy with this group and will hold in it high regard. The B29 missions over Japan were some of our most controversial and devastating, and I truly believe that had we lost the war, the men of these bombers would have been tried for war crimes by the Japanese Government. It is one of those questions I constantly struggle with, especially personally knowing men who flew and lost friends over the mainland. Thankfully, evil was defeated and this never occurred, however, we must never forget the great cost both in civilian lives and the lives of our servicemen who flew these mighty machines.
Posted 18 October 2019 - 06:23 PM
Here is a great photo of his crew in front of one of their planes “Sweat’er Out." Bishop is front left kneeling.
Another of “Jumpin Stud”
Other planes they flew
Edited by 36thIDAlex, 18 October 2019 - 06:27 PM.
Posted 18 October 2019 - 06:24 PM
Posted 22 October 2019 - 09:02 AM
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