39th Bomb Group (VH)



dfc.gif [The Distingushed Flying Cross]

Air Medal

Unit Citation
and Awards

arpuc.jpg [The Presidental Unit Citation]

Oak Leaf Cluster

Service Awards

amcamp.gif [The American Campaign Medal]

apcm.jpg [The Asiatic-Pacfic Campaign Medal]


star1.gif [Bronze Star]

wwiivic.gif [The Victory Medal, World War II]

Click on the name of the Decoration, Service Award, or Ribbon Device on the to learn the criteria

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S/Sgt David Smith
Tail Gunner

dsnithbk.jpg As I rode south from Lincoln, Nebraska, I thought back events before. College cadet training in Cleveland, Ohio had been super. I had been sixty miles from home for those six months. But my dream of becoming a pilot had been dashed when the Air Force suddenly decided it had all the cadets it needed and closed the program down. It was off to Tyndall Field, Florida for aerial gunnery training. Though somewhat disappointed, at least I was still flying. Now I was on my way to an unknown B-29 base for crew training. I wondered about the guys I would be crewed with. I would have to wait and see what my lot would hold.

Pyote, Texas, population insignificant; was home for the "Rattlesnake Bomber Base." At last we got to see the new big revolutionary bomber we had heard so much about. Though it was limited in numbers, we were impressed at its sleekness, size and overall beauty.

It wasn't long before our crew was formed. Henry Snow, Jr., Baltimore, Maryland, would be our airplane commander. Sam LaNever co-pilot was from Los Angeles, California. They were a "Mutt and Jeff" combination - Hank being 5' 6" and Sam a towering 6'6". Our bombardier was a Brooklyn Boy - Bernie Greene and Jim Webb from Elwood, Kansas would be our navigator. Lt John Hill would replace our initial radar man Freeman Teague in a couple weeks. P-31's flight engineer, Clarence "Bully" Beevers came from Cleveland, Mississippi. "Bully" was the oldest man on the crew both in age and in service time. A professional gambler, he would soon become the catalyst that would bind us all together as a combat crew. Radio man, Dick Wachs was from Misawauka, Indiana and was married. His wife, Dottie in our hearts became the twelfth member of the crew. Rounding out P-31's crew were the gunners - Edgar Tuttle from Boise, Idaho, CFC; Jack Tate, Birmingham, Alabama, Robert Stott, Dupo Illinois blister gunners and me, tail gunner, from Jefferson, Ohio.

Six months later we picked up our B-29 at Herington following a furlough home. The A/C had a problem at home. Beevers and LaNeve got married and was the butt of jokes and many ribbings. The name of our plane "Little Bully" would grow out of shotgun marriage jokes with Beevers.

It was on to Mather Field, Sacramento, California, and our embarkation point for overseas. It was there that we learned of the death of President Roosevelt. After stops at Hickam in Hawaii and Kwajelein Atoll in the Marshalls, we arrived at Saipan in the Marianas. There at Isley-Field the 73rd Bomb wing confiscated our airplane and whisked us off at Military Air Transport (MAT) to Guam, our final destination and our overseas home, the 39th Bomb Group. The date was April 20.

Temporarily, we were without an assigned plane and would have to share aircraft with other crews in the same situation. Snow, Webb and Beevers would fly their orientation missions with three other crews - Hank with Lt. Pullev's P-4; Webb with Lt. Styron on P-22, and Beevers went alone with Capt. Orionchek's P-26. Over the target Orionchek's aircraft was rammed by a Jap fighter and was forced to ditch off the coast of Japan, Hank Snow witnessed their ditching and saw them all getting Into life rafts, then reported their position to air-sea rescue. Three days later the entire crew had disappeared! Tragedy struck our crew before we had flown our first mission ! We prayed for "Bully" and the others each night in our quonset.

Wachs flew his first mission with Lt. Heimlich's crew, P-37. We were alerted for our first mission, as a crew, on 10 May. In a borrowed aircraft, "Four Aces," and with a loaned flight engineer, Chic Scheider, we took off for our first bombing raid against Japan. Chic would fly with us on a number of future flights. The take-off that night was made more frightening after viewing a huge sea of flames at the base of the cliff directly, at the end of the runway. Taking off ahead of us, another B-29 had crashed. Ironically, like us, this was their first mission.

Just north of Iwo Jima, we pulled the pins on our bomb load then pointed our nose toward the assembly area. We used the intervening time to check our gun turrets, intercom, etc, and to insure that all of our equipment was in position. After making formation, we started inland toward the black puffs of flak bursts ahead. Suddenly, the rain of exploding anti-aircraft shells could be heard rattling against the skin of "Four Aces." Little holes were appearing here and there along the wings and fuselage. One shell struck number two engine requiring A/C Snow to cut power and feather it. Losing air speed, we limped on toward our bomb-run through the increasing flak and over forty-five fighter attacks.

Dave Smith Receiving Air Medal
Source: "History of the 39th Bomb Group"