"THE TRAGEDY OF MISSION 19 TO HAIPHONG", page 3
Excerpted from the "308th BOMB GROUP" chapter of Martin L. Mickelsen's forthcoming book about the History of French Indochina.
As soon as "Daisy Mae" went down, the other planes abandoned their mission. "Doodlebug," "Flub Dub", and "Temptation" salvoed their bombs into the gulf as soon as the formation was attacked and scattered.
"Pistol-Packin' Mama," bringing up the rear was hit next and did not have time to release her bombs. The first Japanese pass killed the pilot, Lieutenant Earl Johnson, and set her No. 3 engine on fire. "Mama" quickly lost speed and altitude. A second pass killed some of her gunners, and knocked navigator Lieutenant Jack Quarant unconscious, while severely damaging the plane by knocking out another engine and reducing a third to half power. With smoke filling up inside the fuselage, bombardier Lieutenant Joe Manella was also hit, paralyzing his left arm. But he managed to put a chute on the unconscious navigator with his good arm, and pushed him out of the plane in the hope that the wind would revive him. It did. Manella jumped as well. As the two floated to the ground, they were machine gunned by the circling Zeros. Quarant was hit in the lungs and went down hard in the vicinity of Thanh Ha. Manella's jump was freakier. Using his good arm to tug on his chute's harness, the bombardier bobbed-and-weaved, jerking up and down, whenever a Zero started shooting so that the bullets missed him. He landed safely.
Despite the fire on board, "Mama" did not go down immediately. Her copilot, Lieutenant Thomas Chambers, took over the controls and tried to escape the "Zekes" by gaining altitude. In order to do so, he jettisoned his 1,000-pound bombs over the villages of Cam Lai and Lam Cao. Most of the bombs fell in the Van Uc River, but those that did not killed two small Indochinese children and wounded two village men.
Getting rid of the bombs did not work. Chambers ordered the surviving crewmen, Tech Sergeants Abe Trachenberg and Earl S. Vann to jump. They did so from an amazing 700 feet height, but landed safely because they had the fortune to land in the waist-deep waters of the Van Uc River which cushioned their fall. Chambers meanwhile had decided "Mama" was too low to jump and rode the plane down into a rice paddy near the village of Dog Thong, three to four miles from the town of Hi Dung on the Sept Pagodas road. "Mama" broke into two sections during the crash, coming to rest about 100-yards apart. The rear section of the fuselage turned over as the plane hit the paddy, and crushed a small bamboo boat, killing two Annamite girls in it. A third was miraculously unhurt.
Four bodies were found in the wreckage by a combined Indochinese Guard search party. The Indochinese Guard was composed of armed natives recruited by French authorities as frontier guards and used to looking for downed fliers. A fifth body was found later in a part of the fuselage that had been buried in the mud.
Spotting two Indochinese fishermen on a nearby island, Sergeants Trachenberg and Vann waded to them in the waist-deep water and persuaded the fishermen to take them across the river in the fishermen's boat. But as the sergeants neared the bank, six armed Japanese soldiers stepped out of the brush and took the two prisoners. A combined search party at the crash site likewise captured co-pilot Lieutenant Chambers. The three airmen were taken to a Kempeitai (military police or Gestapo) prison in Hanoi and interrogated one at a time. The surviving members of "Mama's " crew soon joined them.
Lieutenants Manella and Quarant were picked up by a French search party near Thanh Ha (Manella during the night of l5th~l6th and Quarant at 3 a.m. on the 16th) and taken to Lanessan Hospital in Hanoi for treatment of their wounds. At 4 p.m. that afternoon, a Japanese detachment burst into the hospital, demanding the men be turned over to them. A French nurse, Suzanne Burgard, a member of General Charles de Gaulle's Free French underground tried unsuccessfully to stop the Japanese by wheeling Manella from ward to ward. A French doctor told her to stop and ordered her to turn the men over to the Japanese detachment. The doctor had recently written an article for a newspaper in Hanoi calling upon France to join the Axis in the war against the Allies. Nurse Burgard pressed charges against him after the war, but he claimed in his defense that he was merely carrying out the expressed orders of Admiral Decoux. He was acquitted. In 1948 Nurse Burgard was awarded a Legion of Honor for her service to the Allied cause. She did, however, manage to send out a letter via the underground that Manella had written to his sister. Since the sister had been informed by the War Department that Manella had been killed, she was puzzled by the letter and turned it over to the FBI!
The ordeal of the two "Mama" airmen was not over. They were treated for their wounds at a Japanese hospital in Hanoi. Then Manella was transferred to the Kempeitai prison where he was singled out for special treatment because he was a bombardier. His stitches were torn out and he was tortured, then placed before a mock firing squad. Only his strong religious faith saved him and the Japanese learned nothing. Manella was next transferred to a Kempeitai prison at Cho Lon, a suburb of Saigon, where he was reunited with the crew from "Temptation" and Quarant.
308th Bombardment Group Tribute
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