Nudge In Rear Came Too Soon, So Mitchell Gunner Bombed Wrong Target In China

b25-12a

B-25, “Ormoc Bay”, by: Jack Fellows from the IHRA

By Sgt. Marion Hargrove

SOMEWHERE IN CHINA–This story has been held back for a while because the fellow was mighty sensitive about it, and he happens to be a tech sergeant, 6 feet 2 and weighing 200 pounds. He’s cooled off a little, so now it can be told.

The tech sergeant is Karl May of Yakima, Wash., an aerial engineer and gunner in one of the local Mitchell B-25 bombers. The tale goes back to the time when he was still a buck private, working as an armorer in his squadron and bucking like hell for a job on a combat crew.

They finally let him go on a few missions to try him out. He got along fine until his third trip. That was the raid on the big Jap base at Hankow, former Chinese capital, on the Yangtze.

There were two minor defects that day in the bomber to  which May was assigned: there were no racks in the ship for fragmentation bombs and the interphones were temporarily out of commission.

Well, they were working the thing out all right without fragracks or interphones. They had Pvt. May squatting by the photo hole with a stack of frag bombs and the understanding that when the turret gunner nudged him in the behind he was to cut loose with all he had.

Fragmentation bomb

It happened that the bomber had a passenger that day–maybe an observer from Washington, maybe a newspaperman, maybe just a sightseer.

This worth person grew unaccustomedly chilly, saw that the draft came from the open photo hole and decided to ask the private beside it to close it. The private – yep, it was May – had his back turned, so the passenger sought to attract his attention with a gentle nudge in the rear.

Pvt. May reacted like the eager beaver he was. He held one frag bomb over the hole and let it drop. Then he turned another loose into thin air. He was preparing to drop every bomb in the ship – until he was rudely and violently stopped. To May’s dismay he learned: 1) that the ship was nowhere near Hankow, 2) that he had been given no signal and, 3) that he had just wasted a couple hundred dollars’ worth of U.S. high explosives.

B-25 dropping frag bombs

The mission proceeded to Hankow, where May dropped the rest of  his bombs through the photo hole, an armful at a time. But his heart was heavy at the thought of having goofed previously.

When the plane returned to its base, there was an intelligence report from the Chinese Army waiting for it.  According to this report, two bombs dropped on a Japanese barge on the Yangtze had scored direct hits, sinking the barge and drowning 160 Japanese soldiers.

T/Sgt. May never tells the story himself and he gets mad when he hears anyone else tell it.  Only those who’ve seen the records will believe it.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Wayne Bauer – Las Cruces, NM; US Army, WWII, ATO

Harry Carlsen – Chicago, IL; USMC, WWII, PTO, 2nd Marine Division, KIA (Tarawa)

Images is courtesy of:
https://mywarjournals.com/

James Fleischer – Detroit, MI; US Army

John Guice – Greenville, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO

Robert Hegel – IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 15th Air Force, navigator

Claude A. Rowe – Chuka Vista, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Tuskegee

Elizabeth Schwantes – Kaukauna, WI; US Coast Guard, WWII

Leslie Thickpenny – Pukekohe, NZ; NZ Air Force, WWII, flight engineer

Henry Wheeler (100) – Buffalo, NY; US Army, WWII, 12th Army, Intelligence, Bronze Star

Robert Zeigler Jr. – Ft Lauderdale, FL; US Army, Korea

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on October 11, 2018, in First-hand Accounts, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 76 Comments.

  1. Glad for these excellent posts

    Like

  2. Truth is stranger than fiction indeed GP, I don’t know why he goofed he was told to drop the bombs when nudged and that’s exactly what he did, scored a bulls eye, Methinks they should have given him a couple of special medals.He obeyed orders and sunk a Jap ship doing so

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent telling of the event. We never know how things turn out sometimes but must trust in our making the best decision we can at the time, with available information and capability.
    That’s what May did, although the decision was triggered in error. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A great story Thanks for sharing it

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Een heel goed verhaal dat dn toch nog goed afliep maar dat je niet wil horen vertellen als je er zelf mee gecvonfronteerd wordt maar er stond blijkbaar een engel aan zijn zijde.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This tale is especially well written

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think that was a lucky accident!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Anyone who discounts the human factor — whether in successes, failures, or flat unbelievable events — just doesn’t know much about people. This is a wonderful story. It reminds me of the day a friend’s old cat (whose first name began with “S” and rhymed with kitty) jumped into his truck, bumped the gear lever into neutral, and drove the truck into the creek. Granted, it was a cat that did it rather than a person, but it still proves the point: You just never know.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. That was quite a story. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Every cloud has a silver lining as they say!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Dear GP Cox
    yesterday we tried out our new car going to the Norfolk Broads, an area like the Everglades without alligators. We visited a late medieval church with paintings of the saints. There we read that Saint Michael, the most senior of the three Archangels, is the patron saint of the paratroopers. We didn’t know that the paratroopers had a patron saint. Do you know why Saint Michael is your patron saint?
    I like your May-story 🙂 Maybe Saint Michael helped against the Japanese 😉
    We wish you a great weekend, wonderful, happy and creative.
    With love from the North Norfolk coast
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • He is often called Saint Michael, but to be technical, he is an Angel. Michael the Archangel to Catholics. He is often shown with armor, or a weapon of some kind as he drove the devil out of Heaven. Who started the tradition of Michael as the Airborne patron saint, I do not know.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. HA! Thanks for this another great story.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Good story, and can I add that the War In Afghanistan image is poignant, sad, and just beautiful..if that makes sense.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Enjoyed the story. Surprising how a little nudge will sometimes get us into territory we hadn’t intended to enter.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Sounds like it all worked out in the end.

    Quick note about that top image in your post– it’s depicting a moment over Ormoc Bay on November 10, 1944. Jack Fellows is the artist. You can find out more about this painting on our website: http://irandpcorp.com/products/ormoc-bay-a-dangerous-place/

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Must have been a difficult job conscience wise, something I can only speculate on.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Good story. I understand his trepidations about releasing it but really, he wasn’t the first nor last!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. A super story….and so good to see it available for people of later generations.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. An unbelievable story! But it can happen to the best of us.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. So, they were basically just tossing bombs out the window. .

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Another story that can’t help but bring a laugh. Thanks, GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. A wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Great story. At least those bombs did not go to waste. They killed some Japs even if it was the wrong location.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. I can see the movie title now… A Nudge Too Soon! Great story with a positive result.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Interesting, and indeed a fortunate mishap! I wonder how many such fortunate mistakes have occurred throughout our history? I would bet a great many. However, there were some not so fortunate ones too.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. This is great story. I can only imagine how he felt. You didn’t mention what he did to the passenger – I hope it was someone that had some rank to protect him.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. These stories are just great….the more that are written down the more they can be remembered from a disappearing generation….well done….chuq

    Liked by 3 people

  28. So his flub turned out for the better anyway.

    Liked by 3 people

  29. A nice quirky story, and a happy ending too. No doubt there are thousands of similar wartime tales to be told. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

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