B-25D Tondelayo

Discussion in 'Stories' started by bowfin, Feb 16, 2012.

  1. bowfin

    bowfin Member

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    My great uncle was a top turret gunner in the B-25D Tondelayo, 500th Bomb Squadron, 345th Bomb Group, 5th Air Force. I am in the process of sorting out some pictures of him, and his aircraft which I hope to post here.

    One afternoon, about 25 years ago, I was travelling through a small town in Nebraska not to far from my small town, and I spied a B-17 near a hangar. I pullled in to show my sons the bomber and do a walk around. Several people were clustered underneath one of the engines, worried about a spot of oil on the concrete caused by an irregular drip of oil from the Wright Cyclone. I walked over to eavesdrop.

    "Do you suppose we should find the pilot and warn him his plane is leaking oil?", one lady volunteered.

    "They always do that." came a voice from behind us. It was my great uncle Jack, smiling at our concern.

    "One cylinder is upside down on a radial engine, and they drip oil. It's normal. It's when they stop dripping oil that you should start to worry."

    http://500thbsq-b25s.com/index.html

    Surprised to see my uncle, I asked him, "So did you ever fly with a radial engine that wasn't dripping oil?"

    "Yep. I looked out my turret and saw a piston chugging up and down, with no cylinder wall around it...I called up to the pilot and told him you better feather the starboard engine before it shakes the plane apart."
     
  2. bowfin

    bowfin Member

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    [​IMG]

    SSgt. Jack Murphy, top turret gunner B-25D Tondelayo, Late 1943

    By the way, don't try to wear a belt of .50 caliber cartridges with the bullets facing inwards. It is very painful.

    This picture was taken after he shot down five Zeros in a single mission.
     
  3. bowfin

    bowfin Member

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    #3 bowfin, Feb 17, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2012
    [​IMG]

    The crew was disappointed that extra sheet metal was added directly in front of the .50 caliber machine guns for blast protection, which also had the unfortunate result of covering up Tondelayo's...uhmm...assets. When the Tondelayo was laid up for repairs, the native girl was repainted and the Japanese meatballs added.

    [​IMG]

    This is Lt. Lynn Daker standing in front of the Tondelayo, which was arguably the most photographed plane of the 500th Bomb Squadron. I met Mr. Daker when I organized for the Collings Foundation B-25J to fly out to Columbus, Nebraska, which was SSgt. Jack Murphy's hometown. I invited two pilots, a crew chief, and another Army Air Corps veteran to come see the plane and have a free ride in it. Lynn Daker was one who took me up on the offer. Since only the assigned pilots can fly the Collings plane, any rumors that Mr. Daker took the controls for a brief flyover at a 70 degree angle is hearsay and innuendo. Mr. Daker did come bouncing out of the plane and didn't touch ground for the next hour.

    Mr. Daker told me that if the original B-25D Tondelayo had been a B-25J, it would have never made it back to base on one engine, like it did on October 18, 1943, since the B-25J was too heavy to fly one one engine for any length of time.

    Unfortunately, Jack Murphy had passed away when the Tondelayo came to his hometown. However, for reasons we will get to in this thread, Jack wouldn't have wanted the attention, as he felt terrible about what transpired on that day he shot down five Japanese Zeros.

    Mr. Daker was pilot of the B-25J "Seabiscuit", which lost one engine on takeoff and crashed into the sea.
     
  4. bowfin

    bowfin Member

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    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Two piece of artwork portraying the Tondelayo fighting for its life against Japanese Zeros, 10/18/43.

    Lynn Daker gave me a copy of the second print, which I used in my traveling road show to raise funds to have the Tondelayo fly out to Columbus.
     
  5. bowfin

    bowfin Member

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    Ssgt. Jack Murphy was directly responsible for six of the ten Japanese flags painted on the Tondelayo. Jack grew up shooting with his father and grandfather. When they weren't hunting pheasants or other small game, Jack would go down to the town dump and shoot rats with a .22 rifle. Ammunition was never plentiful for the boys, and Jack was pleased to be able to shoot so much during gunnery school. He was able to break two crossing clay targets with one shot at the skeet range used to train gunners.

    Although Jack was proud of his shooting, he thought that it didn't deserve a Silver Star. He told me even the biggest coward would have kept shooting to save his own life. The real heros were in the two B-25s that had outrun the Japanese fighters, but then throttled back to help cover the Tondelayo. That would be "Sorry Satchul" and SNAFU/MFUTU. If one did the math, (and Jack Murphy did do the math) ten men died trying to save the crew of five in the Tondelayo. Jack Murphy remembers seeing the flare of the engine fire reflecting off of sweating face of the pilot's face before it broke formation to ditch into the Pacific.

    Jack Murphy forever held a grudge against the leader of the raid, who was the only one in the squadron who claimed he didn't hear the order to scrub the mission and turn back because the P-38 escort was socked in on their airfield. I will not share the name, out of respect for his service, but General Kenney, head of the 5th Air Force was ready to court martial him. Instead, MacArthur gave him the Distinguished Flying Cross for the good publicity (typical MacArthur).

    The anonymous colonel would later be shot down by Marine anti-aircraft gunners manning the guns on troop transports. It seems the colonel, in his eagerness to shoot down a Val dive bomber, shot towards the friendly ships who quickly misidentified his B-25 as an enemy torpedo bomber and splashed him. Fortunately, all the crew survived.
     
  6. bowfin

    bowfin Member

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    I need to retrieve my copy of Warpath Across the Pacific, which I loaned to a friend last month. It has all of my notes from talking to the pilots of the 500th Bomb Squadron, and I don't want to try to put the story down from memory.

    I believe those of you who have stuck with this thread this far will find it interesting.
     
  7. jimh

    jimh Active Member

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    Very cool thread. I fly Tondelayo for Collings and I am trying to remember if we met. She spent all of last year sitting at St Pete airport waiting on a new engine. Hopefully we will get her back out on tour next year. I met several 345th vets over the years and a few that flew on the original Tondelayo. Thanks for posting the photos.

    Jim Harley
    Collings Foundation

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  8. bowfin

    bowfin Member

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    #8 bowfin, Feb 17, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2012
    I believe the two pilots were the part owner of the B-25H ShhBoom and a Vietnam veteran, a Lt. Colonel who flew one tour in helicopters and his second tour in the A-4 Skyhawk. I know the Tondelayo was laid up here a couple of extra weeks when they had problems with the propeller governor, I believe.

    The local airplane mechanic, a younger guy, was thrilled to get to work on that big radial engine. I remember he was trying to figure out how to get at something, and an old WWII vet told him, "Straddle the damn thing!" That engine ain't going to break off the damn plane!" (said with a twinkle in his eye). I also remember they ran the engine for just a few minutes, and the mechanic burned himself on an oil line. "How the heck did it heat up so much oil so fast?" I believe the two pilots told me that the B-25 held 31 gallons of oil, and burned about a gallon an hour during normal flight.

    By the way, you guys didn't come up with an extra Wright Cyclone engine manual around that time? The crew chief we had out here to help us celebrate left it with me in case the mechanic needed it for reference. He got it when they sent him to the plant for training. After all the dust cleared, I don't know who ended up with it.

    As an aside, the crew chief told me before his flight that of all the times he went up in a B-25, he never got back to the tail to look out the tail gunner's position. He always meant to do so, but it seemed he never got back there when they were doing test flights. After all, he figured, he could do so on the next flight when he went up again. When he got a chance sixty years later on the Tondelayo, he bolted out of his seat and spent ten minutes back there. The crew chief was stationed at Shepherd Airfield in Texas, I believe. Again, flying blind without my notes.

    DISCLAIMER: Jack Murphy was my great uncle. He would never talk to me directly about a lot of things, but he was always willing to talk about the planes, and bit by bit, he became comfortable enough to answer most of my questions. One he never did answer was "What did MFUTU stand for in SNAFU/MFUTU? I had to wait until I met Lynn Daker, and he told me "More...uhmm, kind of like More Fouled Up Than Usual, but they replaced "Fouled" with something else.
     
  9. bowfin

    bowfin Member

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    I ran upstairs and found the calling card given to me by one of the pilots who flew the Tondelayo out here to Columbus, Nebraska. The plane's name wasn't ShhBoom, it was BarbieIII, and the pilot's name was Jim O'Donnell of Naperville, Illinois.

    A funny story:

    The Tondelayo came out during our town celebration, called "Columbus Days" the airport's main duty during Columbus Days had always been to host "Rocking on the Runway" which consisted of several concerts by rock and roll bands past their prime or never had a prime, which the airport guys hated. The musicians and roadies acted like the airport guys were at their beck and call, and ignored anything that they were told.

    One thing they were told was to set up the stage outside of the yellow taxiing lines leading up to the big hangar. "We have a big plane coming in, and it might be dangerous to be that close." Well, the guys setting up the stage didn't wan't to string any more lines or cables than necessary, or carry anything 50 feet farther than they thought necessary, so they naturally ignored the warning.

    That afternoon, in comes the Tondelayo. Jim O'Donnell does a good job of getting past the rock and roll stage, and as soon as he is does his turn, he revs up the engines to get the oil pumped up to all the cylinders. This has a catastrophic effect on the too close stage. Two Port-a-Potties were knocked over by the blast of the propellers. One was occupied at the time. A roadie was screaming from halfway up a light fixture as it teetered back and forth. The band up on the stage was screaming, I think. Couldn't really hear them, just saw their mouths open and adam's apples bobbing up and down. One groupie went arse over teacup.Everything not bolted down and either fell over or was blown down the runway, causing fear and consternation among the rockers and their stage hands.

    The airport guys, who never suffered the rock and rollers gladly, laughed so hard that I thought they would faint. The airport manager went out and told them that the plane would be taking off and landing numerous times, "...so if you don't want to be chasing your "stuff" down the runway, move your stage back where you were told to move it in the first place!"

    They did move their "stuff".

    Later, one of the rock and rollers came over with his entourage to Jim and said "I want to rent your plane to fly us around tonight." Jim gave him a blank stare and said "Son, you don't have enough money."
     
  10. jimh

    jimh Active Member

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    Haha! wow, Jim Odonnel...there is a name I haven't heard in a long time. He is a great guy...and boy can he eat! Don't go to a buffet with him...or atleast be first in line. He was an Air Force pilot and flew F-86's, among other jets of that era. Cool guy. Barbie has since been sold "History Flights" here in Florida and still flies rides. We are working toward getting Tondelayo to Dayton for the Dootlittle reunion. I've got alittle over 350 hours in her to date. She is due for a paint job though, she is looking kind of rough after sitting in the FL sun. Great story about the stage, We've never blown anything over that was put where it was supposed to be!!!

    jim
     
  11. bowfin

    bowfin Member

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    #11 bowfin, Feb 19, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2012
    The Tondelayo ended up being credited with nine Japanese fighter aircraft that day. I don't know what the Japanese records show as far as losses. The crew chief and radio man had to run additional ammunition to Jack Murphy in time for him to reload and pick up the next attacking fighter. They also kept an eye on which way the turret gunner's legs were facing and then watched out the opposite window so Jack wouldn't be blindsided by a fighter coming in on his back. If that wasn't enough for these two to do, they soon had gas fumes filling up the plane. They located the leak, took a fire ax to the bulkhead to expose it, and then tied a shop rag around the fuel line and pulled it tight. As one would become lightheaded by the fumes, the other guy would spell him.

    An incendiary shell glanced off of one of Jack Murphy's .50 caliber machine guns (disabling it) passed between his legs, and hit just above they guy holding the shop rag. Luckily, the incendiary mix didn't ignite on the poor guy standing in a puddle of av gas, but he did get a few splotches of chemical burns from the incendiary mixture.

    Meanwhile, the copilot, having nothing better to do, took his .45 pistol out of his shoulder holster, stuck it out his window and pulled the trigger every time a Zero flashed past. (I know, but it was better than doing nothing!) While reloading, the copilot was shot in the stomach by a 7.7mmm bullet. A little later, the pilot felt a sharp blow to his leg. He refused to even look at it, because he didn't want to know how bad it was and he knew his copilot was in no condition to help. Once they landed, he found out he only had a hole in his trousers and the impact he felt was the blow of the bullet hitting his seat.

    Four of the fighters claimed that day were due to the Japanese fighters hitting a wingtip on the water and crashing. Jack Murphy remembers several of them cartwheeling in when they were caught between the ocean and his fire, so they tried to come in lower on the Tondelayo, which the pilot, Lt. Ralph Wallace, was keeping as low as he could. He tried to help out his gunner by turning into any attacking fighter so Murphy didn't have to contend with the vertcial stablizer being in the way. (One of the reasons the top turret was moved forward in the B-25J).
     
  12. Mulsanne917

    Mulsanne917 New Member

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    #12 Mulsanne917, Jun 21, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2012
    Lynn Daker. I consider it a real privilege to have attended Lynn's funeral a while back...and that of his beloved wife "Bing" a short time before. It was also the first time I, myself, had ever been present for twenty-one gun salute,

    ...and I literally balled my eyes out. I'll never forget it.

    ====

    Someone earlier (or maybe elsewhere) spoke of Lynn "springing" out from inside the aircraft *a B-25*, I think...and I can only concur that this is a very accurate description of the man...of his enthusiasm for the plane he flew. It's "spot on." I can't say I've ever met another veteran who showed such enthusiasm for his plane, his theater of war, and for his crewmates (although I'm also equally sure others I've met have felt for their own much the same--Lynn was one of the smaller group I've met who was eager to show it). He was a guy who wore his enthusiasm for it all right out on his sleeve. Almost as another fellow might proudly wear a shoulder patch.

    I remember at Bing's funeral looking at the pictures of the young newlyweds--Lynn in uniform--and thinking what a grand adventure they were embarking upon together. That's just the way he described it to me too...as the "adventure of a lifetime."

    And at no small risk, certainly...but he came through it alive and they enjoyed sharing their (well earned) years in retirement together for quite a long time after.

    I'm a better man myself (though not necessarily a good one) for having known him.


    CS
     
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