One hour shows of this series is run on PBS now and then. The one I just recorded is, "Airmen and Head Hunters."
Borneo was important in the war because its coastal areas had oil wells. After the Japs invaded and took it over from the Brits and Dutch in early 1942, it supplied half the fuel for their entire fleet. Christian missionaries had been living with the natives and converting them long before the war. They had convinced the natives to no longer take heads, which was central to their old beliefs.
The Japs rounded up all the missionaries, tortured and killed them. They also took all the native girls they wanted, and the natives were disorganized and powerless against them. Seven crewmen of a shot up B-24 bailed out in central Borneo in Nov, 1944, and were rescued by natives, who took care of them and hid them from the Japs who came looking for them.
The Brits found a 32 year old anthropologist in England who had lived with the natives, made him a Major and gave him a group of Aussie Commandos to attempt to rescue the airmen. Nine of them parachuted into central Borneo, some 50 miles from the airmen. They treated the natives' illnesses and diseases, endearing themselves.
The Major convinced the natives it was now okay to behead Japs, so they went to work ambushing patrols with their blowguns and poison darts.
There was not enough lake to land a seaplane, and not enough dry, level land, so the Commandos supervised building a short runway out of split bamboo logs. It was just enough for the Aussie Stork, similar to a Piper J-3 Cub. They flew the airmen and Commandos one at a time out to the east coast which was by now under Allied control.
The natives took about 1000 Jap heads by the time the war ended.
I have a copy for Tom S., local Old Bold Pilot who was rescued by natives after bailing out of his P-38 over New Guinea.
Sometimes there are things I just have to share.
Thank you for sharing. This is an especially important time of the year to honor the heroism of those who served and sacrificed.
Those natives really knew how to get a head.
Saw that episode. Secrets of the Dead have some very interesting episodes.
very cool, thanks for sharing.
Oh, I forgot to make this OT to do with the era. Here's the fix for that:
Nose art on a B-24 like the one shot down over Borneo.
Ralph, it sounds like this is a TV show? Where can we see it?
Being the son of a WWII US Marine the Pacific war has always figured very high in my mind. I'm currently reading Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun by John Prados which covers the battles and the intelligence efforts on both sides behind them. Highly recommended!
You can see it by clicking on the link I added below
Paul, I have "Secrets of the Dead" programmed to record on my DVR. This hour was on KOCE last week. It's a re-run, so you may not find it again soon. It might be online on PBS, though.
It was on another show that I learned the egomanic McArthur convinced Roosevelt to return to the Philipines. Adm. Nimitz and the good leaders wanted to land in China near Formosa, freeing China and driving the Japs out of there and crossing over into Japan, in place of hitting all those fortified islands.
China would be a better place today if we had freed it, rather than let Mao take over. And we wouldn't have had to fight the ChiComs five years later in Korea, changing the look of that whole peninsula today.
That was another McArthur blunder. He didn't believe the ChiComs were sneaking into Korea at night, and his underlings didn't dare tell him.
An episode that is just as interesting is "The man who saved the world". Link below
I worked as a pick up and delivery driver for an auto parts warehouse in the mid 70's when I was in school. My boss had been a Marine in WWII.
Having been interested in history most of my life, several months after I started working there I asked him if he had been overseas during the war.
"Yes, Billy, I was." At that time, since I was not yet old enough nor attuned enough to realize that a combat vet may not necessarily want to talk about his experiences, I asked, "Were you in combat?"
"Yes. I was on a small island (he mentioned the name, but I don't remember it) that was not a famous battle. The enemy had been cleared from the surface of the island and had retreated into the caves that were all over it. We had used hand grenades, then flame-throwers to get them out, but knew that there were still enemy soldiers inside."
"At this time, Billy, I'd been in the Pacific Theater for eighteen months and had not heard the dreaded order "Fix Bayonets" until then. I entered a cave; after about a minute, without warning a Japanese soldier appeared in front of me. Too close to fire my rifle, I remember thinking that he was young. My training and adrenalin took over; I stabbed him just below the breastplate."
"The soldier fell onto the floor as I tried to dislodge my bayonet which was stuck. I kept trying to pull the blade out, but it was just not coming out. It seemed that several minutes had passed as I kept trying to pull my bayonet out of his chest; frothy blood was coming out of his mouth. Even with my foot on his chest, next to the blade, I couldn't get my bayonet out."
"In reality, it wasn't several minutes, but just a few seconds when my platoon sergeant shouted in my ear, "Smith, FIRE YOUR WEAPON!", which I did."
"My bayonet came loose immediately, but I was covered in blood and gore from this soldier who was a kid, really. I remember very little, almost nothing, of the rest of the action inside this cave."
My face must've revealed the beginning of understanding that Mr. Smith had been involved in something life-changing that I had no way of understanding. He continued, "I was raised a devout Catholic and made time to see our Chaplain. I explained to him that the Commandment 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' is pretty specific, and that I was having a problem with what I'd done, and concerned that I was not going to be able to continue doing this."
"The Chaplain answered me, "Sergeant Smith, we didn't start this war, nor did we particularly want it in the first place. Since our job is to defeat this enemy and reduce the evil in the world, the sin of killing in order to accomplish this is not on your soul.""
"That settled my mind enough to where I could continue being an effective combat Marine."
Mr. Smith continued, "I would not take $100,000 for having been through this experience, but I wouldn't take $10,000,000 to do it again."
I didn't laugh at this statement, but it eased the moment at least. Mr. Smith, looking at me in a fairly kind yet stern way said, "That's war, Billy."
After I got out of school, my Dad and I bought a small business; the idea of working together was appealing to us both. The seller stayed with us three months then retired to Lake Bruin near St. Joseph, LA.
During those three months, he and I traveled to meet his good customers, among whom were fertilizer dealers and aerial applicators (crop dusters) in the Mid-South area. Pulling in to one aerial applicator's office, he said, "This guy was a bona fide Navy Ace in WWII." How my predecessor knew this, I don't know, but he did.
Unfortunately, the customer wasn't in, but I remembered what I'd been told. The next time I went by, the customer was there.
Eager to make a good first impression and establish some common ground, I said, "Mr. Jones, I understand you had quite a career as a Navy pilot in WWII; did you fly F6F's?"
I clearly remember Mr. Jones looking at me for a few seconds and then saying, "Excuse me a minute" as he went out to the shop.
I talked with his son (who is a good customer to this day) for a while and thinking Mr. Jones must've gotten tied up, figured I should say my goodbye's and move on to my next sales call.
As I walked out to the car (a '74 four-door Impala sedan), Mr. Jones came over from the hangar door. Looking at my card in his hand, he said, "Bill, I don't want you to think me rude; yes, I was in the Navy years ago, but it's a part of my life I'd rather not think about. I like your predecessor; you guys have good equipment and good service; we'll be ordering more."
Beginning to apologize as profusely as I could, Mr. Jones smiled slightly and said, "It's o.k."
I did learn some years later that yes, Mr. Jones was indeed a bona fide Navy Ace, having shot down six Japanese planes. I never did learn if it was in F6F's or not.
Sometime around 1990, it became apparent that Honda had become accepted and recognized as a dependable small engine; it was becoming the preferred product in power equipment.
Having started out my working life selling pumps with Clinton engines then Briggs when Clinton closed (a few Kohler's, but they never really caught on in agriculture), I had never thought that a high-priced foreign made engine would ever become accepted, much less preferred, especially in the ag market. I was wrong.
Before Bill Clinton was elected President the first time, a farmer from El Campo, TX, called to ask for a price on a 3" pump with an 11HP Briggs engine. I gave it to him and went on to say, "Hold a second, sir, and I'll get you a price on that same pump with a Honda engine."
"NO!" was his response. "Absolutely Not", he continued. I said, "O.k., sir."
Before I could say anything else, he said, "Sorry for saying that so strongly. You and I don't know each other, but I don't want ANYTHING Japanese; my uncle was murdered on The Bataan Death March."
How do you, how can you, respond to that? All I remember saying was, "Sir, I really am so very sorry; it seems the people in our country tend to forget too much, too soon."
"Yes, they do", the farmer said. "Send me the pump with the Briggs engine. They both ARE made in the USA, aren't they?"
"Yes, sir, they are. The engine is made in the Briggs plant in (or very close to) Milwaukee or in Auburn, AL, and the pump is made in Fraser, MI. The stainless fasteners are made in St. Louis, and the base plate is stamped here in Memphis, TN, from domestic sheet."
It felt good being able to say those things.
I was raised Episcopal and had a godfather. A lifelong friend of my Dad's (RIP), Hugh was an intense man. My Dad once described Hugh as insane with momentary lapses of genius.
Hugh went through Marine Corps OCS (I think it was called OCS; I'm open to being corrected) while in college during WWII. Near to graduation, he led his platoon on a war game. In order to give his platoon an advantage, Hugh disobeyed an order, a direct order. He was relieved of his command and faced an OCS' version of a Court Martial.
In front of the officers (all with WWII combat experience) presiding over his trial, one man asked him, "Son, why did you disobey this order?"
"Sir, I disobeyed the order because it was stupid. Obeying it in real combat would've exposed my men to being killed without enhancing their chances of success and prevailing against the enemy."
All the officers laughed, perhaps not gut-wrenchingly, but laughed. "Son, Marines don't disobey orders, even if they're 'stupid'. We LIKE obeying orders, regardless."
Hugh was found guilty, stripped of his chance to graduate and assume command of a platoon; he went into the Marine Corps with no rank.
He went ashore on Iwo on, I believe, the second day; within a week, he was a lieutenant having been awarded a battlefield commission. The shrapnel wound(s) to his stomach plagued him until his death in '95.
There's an old building on Grider Field (the Pine Bluff, AR, airport) that was built in 1941 or 1942. After the war, the building, used as a barracks, was maintained by volunteers as a "Thank You" to the men, some of whom undoubtedly never returned home, who had trained there during WWII. The buildings at the Stuttgart, AR, airbase never received such care. Used as a glider (like those used at Normandy) training base, it was decommissioned very soon after WWII (gliders were being replaced by helicopters) and sold to the city of Stuttgart who didn't have the money to preserve it. The first time I saw the base just north of Stuttgart was in August of '77; a couple of customers (aerial applicators) still operate there. However, all the WWII era buildings had decayed and been torn down by the late 80's.
On this Memorial Day weekend, let's remember how much the WWII generation did for us. While we're at it, let's remember the Korean vets as well as the Vietnam vets like Jeff Norvel, the guy (a little older than I was) from my neighborhood who, in September of '68 earned his name on the wall in DC. Let's remember the Gulf War vets like my friend Pete who was a refueling boomer operator on a flying gas station and now lives near Hanover Park, IL. Let's remember the Iraqi Freedom vets, and the Afghanistan vets like my friend Dave Parten's son who's funeral was in September of '09.
Let's remember my children's great great grandfather, W.A. McGee, Cobbs Legion, Army of Northern Virginia, who I believe was with the Irish Brigade defending the stone wall at Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg. (Talk about stubborn! He supposedly got angry at someone at home, saddled up his horse and all 93 years old of him, went riding in the February, 1920, rain, caught pneumonia, and died!).
Let's remember another distant relative, General George Thomas, as Lookout Mountain fell.
Let's remember what they all have done, and continue to do, for us.
Bill, you brought tears to my eyes. I have known many Vets, both family and just acquaintences, that I didn't know were Vets until they passed. They just didn't talk about their experiences. So much history has been lost and forgotten. I have a good friend that I met about four years ago at our local V.A. clinic. He landed on Omaha Beach on D Day, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, helped liberate Metz France, and was awarded a Purple Heart and a Silver Star, among other awards. These Heroes are leaving us very quickly. I hope that anyone that knows one of these Vets will take some time to hear their stories. Thank you for that. Dave
271st ASHC "Innkeepers" (CH47 Chinooks)
Can Tho RVN
RD, do you suppose that B-24 came out of Willow Run?
I'm sure. Pilots said they handled like a tin lizzy, too, but with very heavy controls that often took both pilots. The pilots were injured in the one over Borneo, and couldn't control the plane.