Howard H. Allen, Lt CEC US Navy VR. Executive Officer

26th Construction Battalion.

I, Howard H. Allen, LT CEG, USN VR, Executive Officer 26th Construction Battalion, landed on Guadalcanal on the 24th of December 1942. We relieved the 6th Cbs and occupied their camp.

One night I asked if they ever took passengers on their missions. He said, “Sure, We have a mission out tonight at 1900. Be at my tent at 1830 and you can go with us.”

I arrived at his tent at 1815. He equipped me with a sheep skin coat, introduced me to his commanding officer, loaded me in a jeep and we were off to the field. When we arrived at the plane he turned me over to one of his crew men, there were four, who ushered me aboard the plane and aware that I was belted into my takeoff seat.

Shortly we were airborne, a single plane against the entire Japanese empire. Then I thought, “What will happen to my wife and kids if we are shot down.” But this was before the days of “Night Fighters” and too late. The crewmen showed me about the interior of the plane. There was the pilots compartment with the pilot and copilot. There was a third seat but I don’t know if it was for an engineer or not. In front of the pilots compartment was the bombardier’s compartment. Behind the pilot was the forward cabin with a couple of bunk beds, a food and drink cabinet, a snack table and benches and the radio and radar operator position. Behind the forward cabin was a rear cabin with two machine gun blisters, and back of that a tail tunnel which held a tail machine gun and tail hatch.

We had not been airborne long when the crewman brought me word that the pilot wanted me forward. He invited me to take the pilots seat. I did. He asked me if I would like to fly the plane. I nodded yes, but with no idea of what to do. I was told to fly to the horizon. The sun was split on the horizon. It took very little movement of the stick or peddles to cause the plane to climb, dip, swerve or tilt. The ocean ahead was studded with the islands that lie halfway between Guadalcanal and New Georgia.

After testing out the flying controls for fifteen minutes or so, the pilot again took over and I was left to find my own way through first the minutes then the hours ahead. I visited with the radar man, drank coffee, had a sandwich, looked out of the bubbles to see what could be seen, tried to read the instruments in the pilots compartment, explored the bombardier’s compartments, visited with the crew, and slept. Sometime after midnight there was quite a commotion. I figured we were there. Our mission was to bomb Munda. While there I did not want to miss a thing. A crewman opened the hatch into the rear tunnel and the bottom hatch as though to mount the machine gun. We waited a long time, maybe 10 minutes – maybe an hour. Then on our earphones, orders from the pilot to the crewman dropped a flare. The whole world lit up in ghostly relief. If no one had noticed us before they could not help but know we were there now. Nothing else happened. We waited. Earphone orders came in to close the hatch.

Then a new commotion started. The crew men opened the machine gun blisters. One of them passed me a bomb painted yellow, weighing about twenty pounds. He explained we were just coming over Munda and I could throw the bomb out the open blister window. There was a twisted wire in the nose of the bomb which I was to pull out in order to arm the bomb before I threw it over the side.

I struggled to pull the arming wire out. Whatever I did was not right. I did not want to toss over an unarmed bomb. I did not want to hit the nose of the bomb against the plane metal so maybe blow us up. It was dark. There were some flashes, maybe antiaircraft fire. If any shells burst near us it was possibly mostly in my imagination. As I looked down I noted that land was just a different texture of black than the ocean. This is a map I must have secured from this mission. I have marked on it our run as I remember it. Our plane heaved upward. We had dropped our two 500 pound bombs that we had been carrying under our wings. I had to hurry to get my bomb away before we got out over the water. The crewmen had been pitching bombs rapidly out the blister, maybe 20 of them. I finally got mine armed and away at what I judged would be coordinates South 89-19’35’ – East 157-15-35. I understood that we bombed from 5,000 feet so maybe you can figure out where it hit. It was called an antipersonnel bomb. May it just cut up a few jungle plants? Maybe it killed someone’s son, husband or father? Maybe someone has been carrying a hurt from that bomb all these years?

We kept climbing out over the ocean in a wide turn and then droned on through the dark, on and on. I slept. We landed back at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal in time for breakfast and without anyone knowing that I had gone on a bombing.