the experiences recalled by Russ Forbes was a daylight
mission (their 3rd mission) against Tokyo in late April
of 1945. He recalls the instructions repeated so many
times in gunnery school - fire only in short burst to
avoid burning out the 50 caliber gun barrels. In theory,
it was good advice, but it wasn't always heeded. This
day as the flew over the target in formation, they were
jumped by "the most enemy fighters that P-3 had ever
seen on any of their missions." It was a constant engagement
with plenty of accompanying flak. Luckily they were
not hit and returned safely to Guam. Soon after landing,
it was found that the gunners had burned out 11 of the
12 gun barrels! Furthermore, they had, in the fury of
the attacks, exhausted all their ammunition ! The news
was not surprising though it indicated a close call.
other incident that comes to Forbes mind: P-3's first
bombardier was Lt. Bob Battlin. He was a competent bombardier,
but after the first few missions, developed a respiratory
ailment - possibly asthma. For this he was hospitalized
and later sent home. There were replacements thereafter
none permanent. During this time another B-29 limped
home from a particularly rough mission and crashed on
the runway. Only a few crewmembers escaped this holocaust
- one of them was the bombardier. After months of rehabilitation,
he was assigned to Crew 3 for his first post-accident
mission. Though thorough in his pre-flight checks, he
was understandably nervous as we took off on night mission
to Tokyo. The target area was lit up with fires and
searchlights, and flak and fighters filled the skies.
The bomb bay doors were opened and "bombs away" sounded
over the intercom. However, no bombs were released,
leaving the crew dumbfounded. A discussion took place
in the front of the plane. It was decided a toggle switch
in the bomb bay was not in the "on" position and a volunteer
from the center section was needed. "For some unknown
reason, I volunteered." This required taking off all
protective equipment: parachute, life vest, flak vest,
helmet, etc. He then entered the bomb bay, which was
ladened with napalm cluster bombs. He squeezed himself
between the bombs and the skin of the aircraft to reach
the toggle switch. All the while was a panorama of Tokyo
- indescribable fires and thick retching smoke; flak
bursting under the plane and enemy fighters whizzing
by. Petrified, Russ quickly activated the switch and
hurried back to relative safety. But another thrill
awaited, it was decided to make a 180-degree turn and
approach the target from the opposite direction to make
the bomb drop. By doing this, there was not only the
repeat danger of flying over the heavily defended target
a second time, but there was the added peril of B-29's
coming head-on toward them. An angel must have been
the twelfth man on the crew that night as "Weddin Belle"
dropped its bombs and escaped unscathed from this arena
of Hell on earth.
and Russell Forbes
Russel Forbes was born in Philadelphia, PA. He was resident of Florida for 24 years having lived in Port St. Luicie and Fort Pierce.
He was married first to Jane Forbes. He was married a second time (to) Dolores (Dee) (pictured right); they were married for 37 years until Russ' passing.
Russ had two children, Glenn (deceased) and Deborah; and 2 grandchildren.