DIARY OF A B-24 GUNNER IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC
The following is a transcript by John Dickey of his father�s World War II combat diary. An
armorer/gunner, S/Sgt Harold Dickey of Griswold, Iowa was a member of Lt. Conley�s crew. After training
at Tonopah Air Base, Nevada, the crew reported to the 22nd BG, 33rd Squadron at Owi, in the SouthWest
Got up early this morning and ate breakfast, then went to briefing. After
briefing we got on trucks and went to our plane. Believe me, I said a
prayer before we went over the target. The flak wasn't too thick and
wasn't so accurate so that made me feel a whole lot better. Our target was
a group of warehouses and we were using 1000 lb bombs. No more Jap
warehouses left in that area.
We were to bomb an area occupied by Jap officers and geisha girls, but the
raid was called off. Instead we went to Ambon Island which hadn't
been bombed for over a year because it was too far away. Upon arrival we
observed a lot of Jap shipping in the harbor. The ack-ack shot at us came
from Jap naval ships and shore installations. All of us had to suppress
a desire to piss our pants. That ack-ack was really close. One could hear
the shrapnel bouncing off the side of the ship. Luck was with us. We
threw out thousands of propaganda leaflets telling the Japs to give up.
Got back about 6:45 in the evening and gosh were we tired. I now have
17 hours of combat. Only 283 more hours to go and then I can go home to my
This mission is to be over the Celebes and we are to bomb Menado.
Little did we know what excitement was in store for us. We
arrived over the target about 12:30 and then things began to happen. The
ack-ack was plenty thick and then we were hopped by 8 zeroes. All of us got
in our turrets and waited for them to make a pass at us. In all they made
5 passes. When they couldn't get us with their machine guns they
went above us and tried to drop phosphorus bombs on us. Some of the bombs
were pretty close. Our top turret gunner was credited with a probable.
When we landed back at Owi we found a big hole in the tail and several
in the wing. There was also a chunk out of the nose turret. We don't know
whether these holes were from bullets or flak.
This mission was what we had been waiting for. We were to bomb the
Philippines. The day before we lost two planes over that target and some
of my boy friends were in them. Oh well, I guess some of us have to go. We
started out early in the morning and headed for the Philippines. About
half way there the lead ship made a 180 turn and started coming back. It
turned out that his radio went out on him. Anyway, we all followed him.
Finally he blinked a signal at us and by that time it was too late to turn
around and go on to the Philippines. We cut over to Talaud, a
small island below the Philippines and dropped our bombs. The officers
really caught hell when we got back because they didn't go over their
primary target. We were to bomb Davao.
This mission was really a flop. We took off about 7 o'clock and hadn't
been in the air for more than 20 minutes when I noticed a gas leak. We
circled for about 15 minutes but couldn't stop it so we had to salvo the
bombs and come back to the field. We got credit for a mission and only
had 1 hr and 5 minutes flying time. Usually our missions last 8-10 hours.
Again we were to go over the Celebes. When we came over the target the
ack-ack started coming. It was pretty darn close and we could hear the
shrapnel bouncing off the side of the ship. We dropped our bombs on a
dispersal area and took off. It was a milk run. Nothing happened.
This mission was really a milk run too. We were to bomb an air strip.
Steve did one of the best bombings I have ever seen. In fact, he was about
the only one to hit the runway. As usual, Vargo spoiled everything. He
was going to be big and take pictures. He didn't know how to run the
camera and consequently we had no pictures. Boy was Steve mad. Had no
ack-ack and saw no fighters.
This was one of the longest missions we have had. We were in the air for
twelve hours. Our target was an airfield in the eastern Celebes. Coming
on to the target we could see lots of ack-ack ahead but it was pretty low.
Something happened to the bombing equipment and the bombs accidentally
salvoed. We missed the target about two miles. A few of our planes were
intercepted but none of the fighters came at us. We could see them making
passes at the ships in back of us.
20 Sep � 5 Nov
These missions were all milk runs and we really piled up the hours. On
some of the targets there was light ack-ack but nothing too serious. Most of
these missions were to Cebu in the Philippines.
Landed in the Philippines on Leyte Island. A person could get bomb happy
in two hours. We came up from Owi on an L.S.T. About a day out from
Leyte, Jap airplanes tried to sink us but the ship's gunners shot them
down. We landed on a beach and had just begun to unload when Jap planes
came in and strafed us. P-38s came in and shot the Jap planes down. Only
stayed on Leyte for two days and were bombed every minute we were there. It
rained so much the runways wouldn't stay in good condition so we moved the
whole squadron by C-47s to Palau.
It is really nice here on Palau. It is a coral island so we don't
have the mud that we had in the Philippines. There are still some Japs in
the caves but the marines are cleaning them out. We will probably start
pulling missions in a few days.
This was an eleven-hour mission but it turned out to be a milk run. We
were to bomb a Jap headquarters and we really blew that place apart. No
ack-ack and no fighters.
Flew over Cebu again and as usual it was a milk run.
I hope I am never on a mission like this one again. This date is Dec
24th and we flew over Clark Field near Manila. The ack-ack was so thick that
one could get out and walk on it. That is the most close time I have had
yet. Fifty fighters came up to intercept us and believe me the air was
sure filled with lead. ack-ack hit one of our rudders and practically blew
it off. We landed at Tacloban and had to come home in another ship.
A nice Christmas day surprise. We leave today for Sidney on a rest leave.
Believe me we need it.
Back from Sidney only to find that our outfit moved to Samar in
the Philippines. Samar is just north east of Leyte. This is really a mud
hole and I sure hope we don't stay there long. We have an alert every night
but the fighters keep the Jap bombers from coming over. Our next move is
to Clark Field in Luzon.
26 Jan � 10 Feb
These missions were over Corregidor. That little island is really taking a
pounding. No ack-ack and no fighters so they are all milk runs.
They sent us out to get a couple of battleships. The ships were supposed
to be along the coast of China but we couldn't find them anyplace. We
really flew up and down the coast of China. Finally we had to salvo our
bombs as our gas was low. It was a 12:30 hr mission. Two points - oh me.
This was over Formosa, Okayama. We were to bomb an airfield. It was
so cloudy we flew over the island for more than a half hour looking for the
target. Finally we bombed it by radar. All of the time we were getting
ack-ack and believe me it was pretty close. It was a twelve hour mission.
Three points - we had a hole in our wing.
We supported the ground troops in Manila. It was really quite a
mission as we dropped our bombs at 3000 feet. No ack-ack or fighters. When the bombs
exploded they about rocked us out of the sky. Manila is a wreck.
Everywhere one looks he sees burned buildings. This was only a six-hour
Today we bombed a beach head on Palawan. As we were leaving the target we
could see the task force streaming in to make the landing. No ack-ack so we
bombed from 5000 feet with 1000 lb bombs. Just another milk run. Only a
seven hour mission.
Bombed Formosa again. This time we leveled a city to get even for the Japs
burning Manila. Our Group dropped demos and the 43rd followed us with
incendiaries. Much damage. Saw no fighters and very little ack-ack.
We supported the ground troops on this mission. We bombed an area on Luzon
where the Japs had entrenched. Flew at 5000 ft and saw no fighters or
ack-ack. Milk run.
This was my first mission over Formosa. We were to hit an airfield at
Takao . The weather was so bad we dropped our bombs by radar. When
we left the target we ran into some heavy ack-ack but managed to get through.
This was an eight-hour mission and not very eventful.
These were ground support missions and not very eventful.
Not even worth mentioning.
This mission was up on the northern tip of Formosa. We were to hit the
harbors at Tainan. The ack-ack was really thick and our squadron picked
up a few holes. We were credited with small shipping, but one of our bombs
hit a hospital ship. I don't think it did much damage to it.
We lost several men today. One of our ships was hit on a Formosa raid and
it went down. There were a lot of swell fellows on that crew. Most of
them were about finished with flying. Max Stevens was also on that ship.
I sure hated to see him go. ack-ack hit between the fuselage and #3 and blew
the wing off. When the plane hit the ground it exploded so I guess none of
them got out alive.
This was my first trip over China. We were to hit shipping in Hong Kong
harbor. Gosh there were a lot of Jap ships there. The ack-ack was pretty
heavy and accurate and we picked up some shrapnel in #1. We were also
intercepted but it really didn't amount to much. This was really a pretty
I flew with Capt Mullins on a night reco mission. I sure don't like these
Missions. We go out all alone and believe me one really gets jumpy. You
can't see anything and you never know when a night fighter is going to jump
you. The weather was so bad we could hardly see our wing tips;
consequently no ack-ack and no fighters. I hope I don't draw any more reco missions.
We were to go to Formosa but developed hydraulic trouble so had to return.
Only got two hours flying time but got credit for a mission.
Bombed northern Formosa, Taihoku. We hit the town with frags and
started small fires. The ack-ack was pretty close and believe me we were
praying. 366 was hit in the wing. Got three points out of the
This was the last mission for Conley. It gave him 100 points but he may
keep on flying. This was the first time we had to lead the formation.
There was a heavy overcast so we bombed by radar. No ack-ack or fighters.
An easy 11/2 points.
We started out to bomb northern Formosa on a night raid. We were the only
ship. About an hour out our engines began to torch and we had a bad oil
leak so we returned to the base. I'm glad. I don't like these night
missions. When we landed #4 caught on fire and for a minute I thought we
would explode. Danny jumped out of the camera hatch and started running.
In a few minutes everything was under control. Only got 4:25 flying time
but that is better than nothing.
Just another run over Formosa. We got plenty of ack-ack and a few holes. No
We almost didn't make the mission. The pilot got a bum start on take off
and we almost crashed. This was an H2X run. We had no ack-ack. 10 hrs.
Toshein , Formosa. This was only a 7 hour run and turned out to be a
H2X run. No ack-ack or fighters. This
mission gave me 91 points and 376 combat hours.
Hosan , Formosa. This was also an H2X run. No ack-ack or fighters. A
Brig. Gen. led our squadron.
We were to bomb Kiirun harbor. It was a pin point target and we were
carrying 2000 lb bombs. We made the run and the ack-ack was really thick.
We were hit so got an extra point. This was a hot target.
We were to bomb Kiirun again but the weather bad so we went to Toshein.
Toshein was closed in so we started an H2X run. I don't know whether or not
we hit anything.
This mission was over Kiirun . We made our run and dropped our bombs
and got out of there in a hurry. We got holed so that gave me an extra
point and enough to finish. Gosh did Kear and I feel good on the way home.