Why are you doing this site?
Back in October 1997, during a sail across the South Pacific with two friends on a 46 foot sailboat, we stopped in the Solomon Islands for just about one month. During this time, my friend and I, Alex, spent all the time we could exploring all of the WW II battlegrounds and monuments around Honiara. One of the sites that we were lucky enough to explore was the wreck site of a large bomber.
Our guide, Selwyn Betofia from the Vilu War Museum, told us that it was the wreck of a B-17 that had just been discovered only a few months prior to our arrival. Having grown up building WW II models and reading all the books that I could on WW II aircraft, I jumped at the chance to see the wreck.
Setting out early one day, we drove up past Tassforanga Point and parked our rental car. From there, it was a 3-4 hour hike through the Kuni grass plains and then up an incredibly steep ridgeline. Finally, we were staring down at the huge center fuselage section of the aircraft (see http://www.outofbounds.com/html/b-24.html for pictures). Close by, we found propellers, .50 caliber rounds, rusted machine guns, and other pieces. The real find was the vertical stabilizer with the serial number 240646 visible in yellow. I wrote down the number, thinking that one day, when I got home, I would try and find out what happened to the plane that brought it to this place high in the hills of Guadalcanal.
To make a long story short, I ran out of cash in Australia at the beginning of 1998 and flew back to the United States to reenter the rat race and fill my drained bank account. In January 2000, while looking over some photos that I had taken, I remembered that I still had the serial number of the aircraft from Guadalcanal. So started my research on the Internet for any information that I could find.
After subscribing to the HeavyBombers.com (http://www.heavybombers.com) e-mail list and posting the information to the members of the list, I was amazed to find the aircraft was not a B-17 as I had been told, but a B-24. The full serial number was 42-40646 and the probable name was "Alley Cat". Further, the Aircraft ID Card said that the aircraft was assigned to the 72nd Bomb Squadron of the 5th Bombardment Group (H), 13th Army Air Force. The official disposition was that 42-40646 was "condemned on or about 1 December 1943". I am still not sure what that means, but "Alley Cat" certainly was not rolled off the end of the runway...
So, now I had a direction and started narrowing the search. I found a list of B-24 Vets on the Colodrado Pueblo Weisbrod web site and searched for 13th AAF Vets. This turned up about 20 names, about half from the 307th BG and the other half from the 5th BG. I started to call the numbers listed, not really knowing what to expect or if any of the 5th BG Vets would even want to speak of their war experiences. My Uncle is a Vietnam Veteran and he always avoids all talk of his experiences during that time.
The first call I made was to Bill Blair from the 72nd BS. Instead of being short with me and ushering me off the phone, I spent an incredible hour on the phone listening to his experiences. As I continued to make phone calls to the 5th BG Vets, most lasting close to an hour or so, I was so incredibly moved that these people were sharing their stories of their time in the South Pacific. I was thanked several times by Vets for listening to their stories, some that they had not told to anyone in many years (it was I that was thankful for being given the opportunity to listen!).
After looking about the web and searching for 13th AAF web sites (http://www.enter.net/~rocketeer/13thmain.html, Larry Long's "Jungle Air Force" site was incredibly helpful) , I found that there was plenty of European (8th AAF) and Med. (15th AAF) web sites, but hardly any South Pacific AAF Vet sites.
So, this is my small way of repaying all of the 5th BG Vets for the sacrifices that you made back in WW II for those of us around today and those that will come in the future. It's also a way to pass on the experiences that those 5th BG Vets choose to share with the world. It would be a shame to see all these stories just vanish in time.
Is this site for profit?
No. This site is strictly for presenting the stories and pictures of the 5th BG. I pay for the site out of my own pocket and you will never see any advertisments or other commercial use of this site.
How can I submit my pictures or stories about the 5th BG?
You can e-mail me scanned photos, send e-mail stories, or attached documents (Word or WordPerfect). By regular post, use my address above. Any material sent to me will be returned, I promise.
Can I get a 5thbomberbarons.com e-mail address?
Yes. I have 20 e-mail accounts available and about 10 are left. First come, first served so to speak. If there is enough interest, I will look into upgrading my web hosting plan to include additional accounts.
To all of you that went when asked to serve, and in memory of those that did not return, my sincere thanks...