39th Bomb Group (VH)

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"The Slic Chic"
B-29 # 44-69889

Airplane Commander Grear and his crew of P-46 joined up with the other units of the XXI Bomber Command to burn out the great industrial area of Tokyo. It was May 29 and Yokohama was the target. Only twenty-five of the thirty-one planes sent out hit the primary target, but they aided in creating plenty of destruction.

On this single mission, about 7 square miles of the city was burned out, some 35 percent of Yokohama. It was a great hit for the 39th but tough on the crew of P-46.

Immediately after bombs away over the target, the plane received direct flak hits in No. 3 and No. 4 engines, bomb bay, radio room, and vertical stabilizer. The fuel transfer system was shot out and the co-pilot's throttle cables were severed. No. 3 engine was feathered due to loss of oil while No. 4 was losing oil rapidly. The Radio Operator, Elias Schutzman, was wounded in the right foot by flak.

Shortly after leaving the coast, the Flight Engineer called for No. 4 to be feathered, as it was about to seize up from loss of oil. The bomb bay doors jammed open creating excessive drag caused the aircraft to lose altitude rapidly. It was time to make plans to ditch.

Ditching took place at 1230 on the 29th about 120 miles northeast of Tori-Shima. Details of the ditching are sketchy but four men of the crew were missing by the time of rescue. At approximately 1705, May 30, the submarine U.S.S. Tigrone, SS419, picked up the remaining men. They returned to North Field June 2, 1945.

Missing were M/Sgt. Clare Lovelace, Sgt. Lawrence Toeppe, Sgt. William Davenport and Sgt. Charles Markowitz. The wounded Radio Operator, Schutzman, was saved. According to Christ-Janer, most of the survivors went on to other crews and continued to fly missions. Christ-Janer became a member of P-36. He was also a member of P-1's 3rd replacement.source: "History of the 39th BG"

The following is from an email from Sheldon Elliott, Nav, Crew 51 regarding the Ditching of Crew 46 - dated Jan 18, 2003

“It happened that the officers’ complement of Crew P-46 shared Quonset hut quarters on Guam with the officers of Crew P-51 and one other crew. It also happened that 2nd Lt Arland F. Christ-Janer and I had cots next to each other. F/O Richard F. Wilcox, Pilot, had the cot opposite Christ-Janer and on the other side of the Quonset hut. Presumably because Christ-Janer and I were “preacher’s kids” we hit it off very well. We had a number of discussions of world affairs, etc that I remember very well to this day.

One of these discussions concerned how the survivors dealt with the circumstances surrounding the escape from the plane after the ditching. This aspect was, of course, of great interest to all B-29 crew members and me, in particular. I had asked him whether any of the rest of the crew (aside from the survivors) actually made it out of the plane. He replied that he knew that the Flight Engineer, M/Sgt Clare Lovelace, Jr. had made it out because after Christ-Janer was in the rubber life raft he looked around to help any others and he saw Lovelace swimming in the water some distance away and shouted to direct him in the right direction. Lovelace apparently heard him because he looked around at him. Chirst-Janer saw that he had a bad wound that was bleeding on his forehead and shouted again. However, Lovelace turned around and started swimming in the direction opposite of the raft. Chirst-Janer supposed that he was completely disoriented by the blow he must have taken when the plane broke up. Lovelace was never seen again.

It was of particular interest to me as a navigator to know that the bombardier, the two pilots and the radio operator escaped from the front of the plane without serious injury but that the flight engineer did not. Apparently the fuselage broke apart right at the nose wheel well, just behind the pilots and just ahead of the navigator’s and radio operator’s compartment, exactly where the Flight Engineer was stationed and he was struck with debris about the head and disabled while the others escaped.”

The MACR for this crew's ditching is: 14539. Currently the document is in PDF format. To view/print a pdf file you need a program such as Adobe's Acrobat Reader, you may download it for free from their web site by clicking here:
If you already have a pdf reader program then click [here] to view/print MACR # 14539 (4.2 mb)
S/Sgt Lawrence J. Toeppe's brother, Kenneth, has provided information about Lawrence which included a letter to his parents from 2nd Lt Howard L. Howes explaining the loss of their son and what the surviving members went through after the ditching. To view this page click here.
Robert Davenport, son of William T. Davenport, RG, has provided this letter sent to his mother from F/O Richard F. Wilcox explaining the loss of her husband. To view this page click here.
Sources: "History of the 39th Bomb Group"; Ken Toeppe (brother of LG)l Robert Davenport, son of RG; Sheldon Elliott, P-51, Nav.