I was a P-38 fighter pilot in the 36th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group. Our Commanding Officer was Emmett “Cyclone” Davis, of “Cyclone’s Flying Circus” Comprised of the 35th, , 36tth and 80th Fighter Squadrons of the 5th Air Force in the Pacific Theater of Operations. We were on the Island of Mindoro in the Philippines when Cyclone received orders and we flew all of our 75 P-38’s up to the Island of Ie Shima off the northwest coast of Okinawa.
On August 6, 1945, a U.S. B-29, atom bombed Hiroshima on the Island of Honshu, Japan. On August 9, 1945, another B-29, atom bombed Nagasaki on the Island of Kyushu. Since there was no indication of a surrender by Japan, the pilots of the 8th Fighter Group were assigned to fly, what turned out to be, “My Last Mission”.
On the evening of August 9th, we were informed that on the morning of August 10th we would be attacking the Japanese City of Kumamoto on the Island of Kyushu. There were two things which none of us knew about before the attack on the City of Kumamoto. I was one of the flight leaders on this mission. I was leading a flight of four P-38’s. After most of the guys had taken off, I then took off with my flight. I soon realized that my wingman was missing from the formation. I didn’t know what happened to him until I later returned to Ie Shima after our mission was completed. We all took off and headed north over the water on the west coast of Kyushu. I did not know the attack plan except to follow the leader.
The plan of attack, that was given to our C.O., Emmett “Cyclone” Davis, was to napalm bomb and strafe of the City of Kumamoto from the NORTH. The plan was based upon the best intelligence that our Group had. But notwithstanding our radio silence, apparently the Japanese may have broken our code and not only knew where we were going to attack from, but exactly where and when we would attack and at what altitude. Cyclone, however, had a strong feeling that we should turn sooner and attack from the SOUTH. So great was that feeling in his gut, that he yielded to that prompting, wiggled his wings and turned his plane and the Group, inland, South of Kumamoto. All the other planes, including mine, turned with him. Just as we were completing our final turn to the North, the sky went BLACK with anti-aircraft fire in front of us. Because Cyclone had turned early and attacked from the SOUTH, the Group was able to successfully complete the mission and all 62 planes which had been on the mission returned safely back to our base.
As to the two things we didn’t know about; Cyclone had no knowledge that our code might have been broken but he changed our attack plans at the last moment and saved all of our lives. Strange, isn’t it? God was with us all the way!
Notwithstanding the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, what was the effect of our last mission of WWII? Japan had still not surrendered prior to this mission. But immediately after our mission, Japan sent its Envoys in a White Betty Bomber with a Large Green Cross on its belly and its tail, to Ie Shima and then, the Envoys were transferred to a C-54 which flew them to Manila to meet with General MacArthur, WWII was then over. We will never know the full effect of our last mission but it was a very historic event.
P.S. Now, what about my element leader’s wingman, Kennedy? When I returned to Ie Shima I was told the following story.
Kennedy had started his take off with both throttles full forward. As his plane left the ground and became airborne, his left engine conked out and stopped. He had a real problem with his load of bombs, ammunition and gas. He hit his bomb release button but it didn’t work, so he quickly manually pulled his hand release lever and the bombs dropped and exploded at water’s edge. Kennedy’s plane was pulling to the left and he hit the water and bounced slightly nose up, then came down and with all the weight in the nose, sank nose down with the cockpit and canopy under water. The canopy would not open as he pulled the canopy release lever because of the water pressure. He then quickly got out of his shoulder straps, seat belt and parachute harness and started to pull the left window down. The water then came pouring into the cockpit and he kept his mouth up high near the canopy so he could breathe until he was able to either pop the canopy or get out through the left window. He then came up above water level and pulled the strings on his Mae West but it didn’t inflate. Some of the guys got a small boat out to him and picked him up out of the water. He only said, “This was my last flight. I will never fly again!”
He believed that if word got out that he refused to fly, that he might be court-martialed. To the best of my knowledge, no one ever said a word about his refusal to fly again, especially, notwithstanding the fact that the war was about to be over.
Later, Kennedy and I ended up on the same ship going back to the States from Yokohama to San Francisco. With his “luck” he even had surgery aboard the ship taking us home, But, he made it. We both did. After the ship reached port we said “so long” and wished each other well.
This Article could not have been written without the help and assistance of both Emmett “Cyclone” Davis and his son, J Tucker Davis. My sincere thanks, appreciation and love to both of them. Cyclone saved my life that day back in WWII.”
– Hon. Arthur E. Lasker