"THE TRAGEDY OF MISSION 19 TO HAIPHONG", page 4

Excerpted from the "308th BOMB GROUP" chapter of Martin L. Mickelsen's forthcoming book about the History of French Indochina.

Mission 19 map
      The fate of the "Temptation" was as bad as "Mama's."   Lieutenant William Rutledge's crew had fought off nine Zeros over Haiphong before her No.3 engine was hit.   Rutledge successfully feathered the engine so the plane was able to fly northwest with the remaining two Liberators, "Doodlebug" and "Flub Dub."   The crippled Liberator was unable to keep up so Rutledge turned his ship north and struck out on his own.   She was jumped again by "Zekes," whose bullets shut down No.4 engine and jammed her stabilizer, causing the plane to start a slow spiral down to her left.   The crew members were ordered to jump by the pilot and were immediately machine gunned as they floated helplessly to the ground.   Lieutenant Rutledge was killed by a shot to the head, S/Sergeant Wilber Willis was riddled with bullets.   Bombardier Lieutenant Richard Warren had been wounded in the leg during the attack.   Navigator Robert Powers, a new replacement on the crew, had helped Warren into his chute and assisted him out the open bomb bay.   Machine gunner S/Sergeant Robert L. Corbin had also been wounded and was nearly unconscious.   Copilot Don Smith struggled to get him into a chute and pushed him out of the plane.   Corbin revived long enough to open his chute.   But neither Lieutenant Warren nor Sergeant Corbin was ever found.

      A Graves Registration search team concluded that the wild inaccessible terrain made it "possible for the body of an airman, who had been machine gunned and gunned while descending in a parachute to land in a spot where he would never be found."   The same fate awaited a Chinese air force observer on the plane, a Lieutenant Wang.

      S/Sergeants Jay Hawe, Arvid Stomberg, and navigator Lieutenant Robert Powers survived the strafing but were separated during the jump.   "Temptation" meanwhile crashed in a hillside rice paddy near the village of Ta Coun, 600 yards west of the Yvonne Mine complex.   She exploded and caught fire.   In 1947, all that remained of her were motors and a few pieces of metal.   On landing north of the crash, Lieutenant Powers found a badly wounded S/Sergeant Donald Slemmons nearby.   Slemmons had ruptured himself with his parachute straps during his descent.   The lieutenant stayed with the sergeant until he died and was captured the next day by a combined Japanese-Indochnese search party.   The bodies of Rutledge, Willis, and Slemmons were found by French searchers and buried with full military honors near the village of Bao Nanh.

      Staff Sergeant Hawe had written home a month before Mission 19 about the "Catch 22" situation in the 14tb that made his prospects for survival dim: "Doesn't look like we are getting out of here right away no telling when.   If we do a good job, they're liable to keep us here for more.   If we do a lousy job, they're liable to keep us till we do a good one.   See what I mean?"   Hawe landed in the jungle a few miles from the mine.   He started moving north toward China, but shortly thereafter he heard a search party looking for the crew of the downed plane.   He jumped into a rice paddy to hide, but, when he glanced up to see where the searchers were, he stared into the face of a python about six feet from him.   Hawe joked after the war that he was uncertain whether he was more frightened by the snake or by the search party.   As soon as the search party left the area, Hawe slowly edged away from the snake.   "When I was far enough away I got up and ran like hell," he informed his hometown newspaper.   The next morning he stumbled upon a group of Indochinese, possible "partisans" used by the French for irregular operations, who told him that they would help him escape, or so he thought.   One of the partisans slipped away and returned leading a Japanese patrol.   The Indochinese probably shared the 200-piastre reward that the Japanese offered for downed officers.   The Vichy resident of Thai Nguyen province arrived soon afterwards but merely watched as the patrol turned Hawe over to two Japanese officers, one a graduate of Harvard, the other from Columbia University.   The officers took Hawe to the Kempetai prison in Hanoi, where he was treated like royalty, much to his surprise.   The Japanese, he learned, were making a propaganda film, and he was filmed being introduced to the pilots who claimed to have shot "Temptation" down.   After a few days of regal treatment, Hawe was tossed into a dungeon in the prison where he found his fellow crewmen waiting.   The men were not fed for fourteen days.

      The last to bail out of "Temptation" was her copilot, 2nd Lieutenant Don B. Smith, the oldest member of the crew.   He was a military school graduate and had been a former ski instructor and an infantryman.   Smith had arrived in China six months earlier and was scheduled to rotate back to the States in December.   His rotation was delayed two years.   Strafing had grazed Smith's right arm during his jump, but he was otherwise unhurt.   As soon as he landed, he had taken refuge in a straw hut but was spotted and captured by a Vichy army patrol that had joined the search on the morning of the 16th.   Instead of turning the flier over to the Japanese searchers immediately, Smith was instead hidden in the jungle all day by the French so that French intelligence would interrogate him first.   That night he was moved to the provincial capital of Thai Nguyen for preliminary questioning,then escorted to Hanoi where he was interrogated in more detail by Vichy army intelligence.   Only after his questioning was completed was he taken to Lanessan Hospital for treatment of his wounds.   On the 17th, he was delivered to the Japanese and was thrown into the dungeon in the Hanoi Kempetai prison.

      Radio operator Staff Sergeant Stomberg's boot had come off during his jump.   He fractured his right foot on landing and was unable to walk.   He dragged himself to cover on a nearby knoll, where he lay hidden for three days.   An Indochinese native discovered the sergeant on the 18th.   The native, with the help of other natives, carried him on a makeshift stretcher to a Vichy army patrol post at Thung Sun Thoa (village of Boa Nang).   After a local Indochinese doctor administered first aid, he was taken to an army base at Thai Nguyen that night, arriving at 2 a.m. on the 19th, and subjected to interrogation.   Stomberg managed to write secretly a letter to his parents, telling them that he had been captured and was a prisoner of the Vichy authorities at an unknown camp.   Later the same day, he was transported to Hanoi where he was interrogated first by Vichy French intelligence, then taken to Lanessan Hospital where he joined crewmen Manella and Quarant from "Mama."   The sergeant's ankle was set and his leg encased in a cast from toe to hip.   Nurse Burgard also smuggled out Stomberg's letter after she convinced the Japanese that he was too badly wounded to be moved with Manella and Quarant.

      Vichy gendarmes turned over the sergeant to the Japanese on September 29th, and he was taken to a Japanese hospital where he rejoined Quarant who was also there.   At the hospital, Lieutenant Quarant demanded that he and Stomberg join the other members of their crew.   With the upper part of his cast removed, the sergeant had nearly recovered and was able to walk without difficulty.   The lieutenant was granted his wish, but the Japanese refused to let Stomberg go.   Hawe informed his hometown paper in 1945 that Stomberg "knew the call letters of our home base and the Japs wanted them badly.   They took him away for questioning one day and we never saw him again."

      The manner of Stomberg's death is still unknown.   A Graves Registration team was informed that Stomberg had been "turned loose" during a transfer to Saigon, a story that the team labeled "fantastic."   A 1949 board of review by 8tb Army officers concluded that Stomberg had been "killed and his body disposed of in an unknown manner and place."   The bodies of Sergeant Stomberg, Lieutenant Warren, Sergeant Corbin and the crew of "Daisy Mae" remain in Vietnam to this day, the first and oldest MlAs in that country.




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