Memoirs of John N. Fox
Tech Sgt. John N. Fox, ASN 17123192
Engineer / Gunner - Shultz Crew
10th Air Force / 7th Bombardment Group / 436th Bombardment Squadron
Enlisted: 18 Sep 42 Separated: 28 June 45
51 Combat Missions
Distinguished Flying Cross Air Meal w/2 Oak Leaf Clusters
(Images/Info Courtesy of John N. Fox)
SSgt. John N. Fox
1Lt. Quentin W. Shultz & Crew
Back, L-R: ? Cordell, 1Lt. Quentin W. Shultz (P) - IA, 1Lt. Joseph M. McCabe (N) - MA
1Lt. Hiram L. Thomaston (B) - AL, SSgt. John N. Fox (E) - MT
Front, L-R: TSgt. Robert R. Smith (RO) - GA, TSgt. Alfred M. Clark (BT) - TN
SSgt. Donald T. Sullivan (TG) - VA, SSgt. James S. Tunnell (NG) - TX
"Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. Land of the Free, because of the Brave"
Late summer of 1941, Kavalec, Carlin and myself bought a 1929 Chevy and after a year at Nebraska U. we heard about the high paying jobs in aviation in California at Douglas, Lockheed, Grumman North American aircraft plants. So we went west to make money. Went to riveting school for two weeks. Chuck and Dick were drafted to Lockheed in Burbank, I to North American at Inglewood to be riveter on the side panel of a P-51 fighter plane in early September. We separated five days but I left my apartment in Inglewood for Burbank to spend weekends all over Los Angeles. Fall passed very fast until the Spalding, NE trio went to Mass, Sunday morning in Burbank, to the drug store for a paper and breakfast when over the radio came..."All military personnel passes are cancelled...This is all soldiers, sailors and Marines...report to your stations." This was around Noon on December 7th, 1941. Later in the day we hear, "Pearl Harbor". We were so dumb, we thought that was the stripper we had seen Friday night!
Monday, Noon, waiting for a street car at Pershing Square, I heard F.D.R.'s speech. Went on to work the swing shift, 4 P.M. to 1 A.M., shooting and bucking rivets on many side panels of the P-51. North American Aircraft Co. was located where Los Angeles International airport is today, 2007. In February of 1942, one night at work, a call came for a total blackout over the public address system. We had anti-aircraft guns on our roofs and they were firing. The next day we heard a Jap seaplane was the target. It was never in the papers.
North American had contracts for two planes - the P-51 and the B-24. Little did I dream I would be a crew member on the latter. We made very good money but in the spring we were feeling guilty, so Chuck and I drove to San Berdoo [ed. San Bernardino] Army Air Corps recruiting office. We told the sergeant (when he asked), "Cadet and ground crew". He looked at his report pad and said, "Boys, are you lucky! We have openings in both of those jobs and you can leave tonight from San Pedro Island." I looked at Chuck. "Let's go outside for a minute." (I don't know who said it.) We left back to our jobs. Late summer of '42, we both knew our number was coming up, so I enlisted.
Fort Crook, Leavenworth, Louisville KY for basic training. The train from St. Louis to Louisville was a local and we stopped at every town and were showered with assorted fruit, cookies and food of all types. Remember, rationing had started and the locals gave and gave. I never passed through North Platte, NE but I don't know if this could be topped. We had been in the Army Air Corps for two days. Graduation parade was at Churchill Downs, the reviewing stand held one lonely Major only.
November, 1942 - Mechanics school in Kansas City, MO. The location was where Hallmark City is today, very close to the Union Station. School lasted four months, then to ATC at Del Valle [now Bergstrom] Field in Austin, TX. Watched a German pilot loop a glider. In May, volunteered for the glamor of a crew member. To Kingman, AZ for gunnery school. Airsick (Yes, I cleaned it up.). I always thought the pilot wanted to be elsewhere and took it out on us rookie gunners. June '43, took a train to Davis Monthan at Tucson, AZ. Joy, joy, a crew of rookies except the pilot. He had a PT-13 type plane at home in Griswold, Iowa. A polygot crew...then Delaware, New York, Virginia, Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Alabama were there hometowns. Did not know we were to spend 16 months together. David Monthan, Biggs at El Paso, Forbes at Topeka, KS. We read the water tower at Griswold, IA.
September '43, left Topeka to Rochester NY. Took off the next day. Radio says "You blew a nose tire." Our pilot's wisdom, "We have to land somewhere." On to Bangor, ME. A perfect 2-1/2 point landing (Hey, I like this guy!), on to Goose Bay, Labrador, Iceland, Belfast. When we left Bangor, orders were "After you're in the air, you may open the 'Orders Envelope'." KARACHI, INDIA...Ten people at the same time..."Where in the world is that?"..The Navigator had piles of maps of England, Ireland, Europe, Italy but not the Far East. Weather closed for three days at Goose Bay. The library was ransacked and maps "borrowed". Through Iceland, Ireland, Plymouth England and my "short snorter" is growing. Morocco, Algeria, where the Navigator's brother ran an Army Hospital and wanted to fly in a B-24. Saw our first German plane. Q.W., our pilot went to the tower and asked, "Where are our quarters?" The answer was, "How did you get here?" "That B-24 out there." "Well, that's your quarters." We did eat at the M.A.S.H.-style tent.
On to the War, wherever it is. Army radio stated "Sicily has been invaded." En route to Tripoli, the instrument panel went out. All engines sounded in tune. I checked everything. The other engineer, the "New Yorker" rushed to help. He slugged the panel. BINGO! Everything came on. Q.W. to Larry: "Who in the world taught you that?" Larry said, "The instructor at Mechanics School said, 'If all else fails, wind up, hit the S.O.B. panel.'"...When we left Keflavik Iceland we had been warned of powerful German radio beams to misdirect aircraft into Axis-controlled sky. I remember the pilot, Shultz having strong words with our Navigator, Joe McCabe. Shultz wanted to follow a beam, Joe held out for dead reckoning. Weather was heavy clouds and through a break in the clouds we briefly saw land - Scotland. Joe was the winner. The bases in England were full. We landed in Belfast, Ireland. At the base in Iceland they had a sing in register with space for remarks. Two weeks before Shultz' crew arrived, Bob Hope wrote in the register, "Nice place to throw rocks." The country is above timberline, no trees.
September '42 - Flying into Abadan, Iran. Robert Roscoe Smith our radio operator kept trying to raise the tower for 15 minutes. Finally said, "Get off your dead ass and answer the phone!" Finally, a Colonel answered and said, "Who is this?". All we heard on our headsets was, "Not me. Not me. Out."...On the way we had landed in Cairo...Our first walking in a blackout...It's black...We left Egypt after seeing Tel Aviv. More up to date than Los Angeles, 1943-style. Flew over Baghdad. Did not meet Aladdin on his carpet. To Abadan, Iran, 130 degrees and no air conditioning. On to Karachi, India. Later Pakistan...Our tourist trip is over. Joined the 10th AF, 7th Bomb Group, 436th Squadron, called "Outlaws"...Arriving at Pandaveswar, near Asansol...After visiting the Taj Mahal, time for Noon mess. I'm now in G.I. talk, having been in a year. We are the newest crew, thinking all eyes are on us (they aren't). I'm cleaning my mess plate, going through three oil drums: hot water; soap; rinse. The guy on the other side of the barrel says loudly to the crowd, "There's only one S.O.B. that has ears like that. You're a Fox from Spalding, Nebraska". Sheepishly, I return my quip, "Hello, Jim Carraher". I was a classmate for twelve years with his brother "Moose", as where his and my siblings...This was October '43...Jumping fast-forward to March '44, I was a Sergeant of the Guard. Picking up a new crew in an open weapons carrier. To make them feel a little at ease I asked, "Where are you all from?"..."New York"..."Wisconsin"..."Texas"..."Mississippi". "How about Spalding, Nebraska, Fox?" Brakes applied! "Well, I'll be Damned. Cliff Andrewjeski!" Three guys from Spalding. Twelve time zones away. Together.
Ten days after the Q.W. crew arrived in October, we were on our first mission. Three hours boring, ten minutes heartbeat racing, three hours boring. Dropped some bombs. All I saw was dirt flying, so I know they hit the ground. The Japs took over Burma and our targets were the supplies hidden in the jungle of the northern end.. India's resources - oil, gas, wood, iron and other materials - were needed for Japan's War plans. They had taken over Southeast Asia so quickly, the supply lines were thin. One railroad, the length of Burma, had lots of bridges (our target)...November  '43, our mission was to slow the Japanese invasion of India. Our total of B-24s had twelve flyable, ten more being repaired. Not like in Europe. Our boss, General Davidson and his boss, Lord Louis Mountbatten had intelligence off the network that a fleet of ships were due in Rangoon around the 17th. Chennault in China sent his force, the 14th Air Force to add more B-24s on a raid to destroy same. It was our mission numbers 6 & 7. Forty B-24s plus P-38s and P-51s for cover was the most we ever had. As we were lining up for takeoff, one of the first planes crashed. So we had to reverse our takeoff pattern. From this lineup another leader crashed. No choice, we flew through the smoke as the mission continued, having only one runway. We lost six ships, two on takeoff, four to flak and Zeros. Bombs hit docks, ships, rail yards. Two days later, twenty planes flew the same route, lost two. One carried our co-pilot who was on loan to a brand new crew. He was Eldon Watts from Yukon, OK. Thankgiving dinner was slowly eaten. More trips to supply dumps and bridges until around December 20th. When the 10th Air Force attacked Bangkok, it was a night raid of 14 hours flying. The lead plane was to drop flares to light up the city but at the same time, we later learned, a Jap general was flying in. The flare plane already had a lit up city and runway. A couple of days later, same target, but not with Christmas lighting.
January '44, the Japs were building a railroad, Bangkok to Rangoon (The Bridge On the River Kwai). We mined the rivers and railroad on low level flights...January - March...Mergui had running clash with a [Japanese] Navy Zero. Shultz never rose above 100 feet. All our guns were in used at some time during this Mergui flight. To save fuel we flew between 10 & 1100 feet altitude. I wore my blue heated suit. When the Jap gave up, I was pouring sweat. I still had the suit on. We arrived home about midnight, but pulled off the runway because of a shot out tire. The first person I talked to was Jim Carraher. "Man, John, I'm really glad to see you. We heard at least one plane was lost and I would have had to write a letter to Nick (my father). During my life in India, my father, Nicholas Fox, sent me Omaha World Herald comics. Every Sunday, I received the two week old funnies, "Terry and the Pirates", Frank Buck "Bring Them Back Alive", along with "Lil Abner" were the tops...Terry and Frank had stories on where we were. These comics were read by the whole base, and returned in almost new shape. One January copy of "Terry" told about a new type of Zero, "Tony", was flying in Burma. Two weeks later we went to an intel meeting and were briefed by the top intel on a new Japanese plane - the "Tony"!. I still had the copy and showed same.
Summer '44...Monsoons. We had never heard of Radar, so we hauled gas to China. This was known as the Lower Hump, 20 to 22,000 feet. As a sideline, to make our ground crews happy, we bought Mulberry wine in China. At 22,000 feet it became well cooled and, boy, did those crews love it, even though for two days the "Runs" took over. Merrill's Marauders were trying to capture the airfield at Myitkyina, Burma. For our part, in single-file during three nights before the raid we dropped 100 lb. bombs, delayed action fuse, to keep the enemy awake. We also dropped empty beer bottles by the case. They scream the same as bombs going down. One flight over the Hump from China, with our bomb bays full of empty gas tanks, it had to be at night of course, I was riding in the top turret looking for enemy night fighters when the whole sky lit up. We were on fire, the right wing in flames. "Where's my chute?" I was looking at a phenomenon called "St. Elmo's Fire". Once seen, never forgotten.
India's winter climate was non-existent. Lowest temperature where we were was in the middle-50s F. November to March-April was great, 70 to 80 degrees. May to mid-June, Hot. I don't remember if we hit 100. Middle of June, Hot, rain all the time. Average 200 inches a season. Clothes hung together, full of rot. Needless to say we looked like natives. Food, lots of fruit, staples normal. Source was both local and from the Brits. Missing was milk. All those cattle around and no udders. Everyone has war stories on tobacco supplies. I differed. I don't smoke, so I used my rations to barter for gum and candy. We also were supplied from the States, with the above. In my twisted world, part of the time was spent playing bridge and chess. My lesson in poker was from an old AF sergeant. During the first couple of weeks, after pay day, I was broke. Next payday, "I'll get even."...Results, broke...Before the next payday I went to our Headquarters and signed up to put 80% of my pay in war bonds. Carol and I cashed the last of the bonds my Dad cared for in 1950.
Sports, volleyball, touch football, basketball and hunting the buzzards around the base. Included were movies you now see on TV. We were so far away the U.S.O. shows missed us. All but one, Paulette Goddard and a four musician backup. We all fell in love. The show played a game, "Talk about something for two minutes". The winner was a G.I. who only uttered two words for the necessary two minutes, "Paulette Goddard". She had picked up the bug that causes the "Runs" and had to leave the stage several times, but for two or three hours we were back in the U.S.
November '44 - We had enough points to go home. I got called to fly a search mission with a new crew. A B-29 with top brass went down after a raid to Singapore and I was to go with the new crew. Bad. To fly with enough points to go home, how low can one get? The plane had gone down in the Bay of Bengal. There we were, flying ten minutes north, ten minutes south. Back and forth, when all our engines quit! I was looking out a side window. Zoom! My hand hit the fuel mixture controls before the pilots. The fuel was much too lean. Engines coughed, started, and we stayed in the air. During that year, I had contracted amoebic dysentery, which had been treated successfully with a series of arsenic shots.
Going home - December '44. Left to Dacca. To Calcutta, Karachi, Cairo. Across the top of Africa to Casablanca. All the brass were flying home for Christmas when we were sent east to Oran. 9.000 troops had been left in Italy and we (450 G.I.s had all that room on the U.S. America (later the West Point). To avoid the subs we went south. December 18, 1944 left Gibraltar to Newport News, Virginia. Landed December 26th.
Memoirs of John N. Fox