JACK HEYN IN THE SOUTH WEST PACIFIC
(MEMBER OF THE 3RD BOMB GROUP)
After 15 wonderful days in Melbourne and almost a month away from the outfit, I arrived at the new camp in Feb. 1944. Was so nice to see the section all set up and in business, and even a tent for me to move into. The photo section had been made out of a prefab bldg, actually just a frame work that was set on a concrete slab, had a corrugated metal roof and screened in. The two trailer labs parked along side, as usual. There were three things that stuck in my mind about our Nadzab stay. No. 1 was the encampment. Up to this point the Sqs. had all been located at different locations, and individual tents and offices were dispersed and not close together. After two years we pretty much owned the skies and the only raids we got now was a night-time nuisance raid occasionally. So the 5 Sqs. of the 3rd Bomb Gp. were all together, and the tents all in nice neat rows, close together with what could be considered streets between the rows. Looked more like a states side encampment getting ready for a general inspection -- and we hadn't had a general inspection since leaving Savannah, Ga.
The 2nd thing that stays with me is a decoration formation we had during the time we were there, which was only 4 months. General Kenney and his entourage came a-calling with a load of medals for our combat crews for above-and-beyond. Among others, Col. Ellis, Gp. Commander; Maj. Henebry, 90th Sq. Commander and Maj. Walker (my first photo officer) 13th Sq. Commander received decorations. I expect Ellis and Henebry got their Silver Stars, and I would guess maybe the Distinguished Flying Cross for Walker. It would be my guess that they were from the Rabaul missions. They were some of the roughest mission we flew, and brought out the best in most, and not the best in a few. I recently reconnected with Dick Walker and he told me about one pilot who broke formation and flew around Simpson Harbour, rather than run the gauntlet of fire power over the harbour. He was sent home after that mission. I won't mention names, and I won't criticize. Never having had to face that situation, I don't know how I would have reacted myself.
Maj. Richard Ellis receiving a medal, possibly his Distinguished Flying Cross from the Rabaul Missions. Ellis later became the Group Commander, and survived the war. He stayed in the Air Force and would become a Four Star Commanding General of S.A.C. Hq. at Offut Air Base, Nebr.
|A Ford Trimotor on the airstrip at Lae.|
|The remnants of a Jap Bomber on the airstrip at Lae|
The 3rd thing that sticks in my mind was the 90th Bomb Gp.(H) was stationed there too. They flew B-24's and one week you could almost set your watch at 7 A M, by one of them exploding on take-off with a full load of bombs and fuel. They did make one hell of a noise and left quite a crater in the runway. Never did hear what the problem was, but it happened 5 or 6 days in a row.
Our main target from here was Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, which proved to be our next stop. Wewak had been a principal target for quite a spell, but it was pretty well neutralized. Once again MacArthur would use his leap frog approach and by pass Wewak and let it die on the vine. While at this base the "Grim Reapers" our nick-name (which actually the Gp. usurped from the 13th Sq. and adopted it for the Gp.) had two articles in Yank-Down Under. One was quite a spread with artists conception of one of our previous Wewak raids. The other was a big spread on the 89th Sqs. nose art on its planes. They were a take-off from Damon Runyon Characters. Slugsy Sachs - Jo Jo - Harry the Horse -Spanish John ect. And they had characture painting of the pilots by the name. They had a real good painter-artist in the 89th.
We had four main courses of time-killers while over there: letter writing, card playing, volley ball and Chess tournaments. I was a prodigious letter writer. I spent a lot of time in Tack's operations office at the typewriter. Beside the folks and Shirley, I wrote regularly to Pete, Annie, Sheila and Mary Anita Fredricks. Pete was my old school buddy. Annie was my first love and Sheila my second. Mary was just a real good friend, and thereby hangs a tale. She moved to town in our senior year and my old buddy Jean Kroeger took a shine to her, but the feeling was never mutual. So the summer we graduated I dated her a time or two - and that irritated Jean something fierce. We were not on speaking terms when I enlisted, but we did pick up a correspondence later. At one time I was kinda smitten by Sheila, but she was Stretchy Crieghtons girl friend, so I didn't stay smitten long. In my Junior year I took a shine to Annie, but Sonny Greg was stiff competition. But I did carry a torch for her the three years I was overseas. I had also picked up a couple pen pals along the way: Jean Richards, she had worked in the office with Bob Von Wald in D.C. and got my address from her. She didn't like D.C. and moved back to her home in Thief River Falls, Minn. (just this side of the arctic circle). The other pen pal was Elizabeth - Beth - Stoye of St. Louis, Mo. Don't remember how we got together. But with this line-up I did manage to kill a good many hours at the typewriter.
Jack Heyn (on right) kabitzing his buddy,
Tack, while he plays solitaire
Card playing - every bodies favorite, especially around payday. Poker and black jack were the games of choice. For about a week after payday the games were hot and heavy. We broke up many a game to go to breakfast. It took just about a week and all the money would wind up in a few hands, get sent home, and we would wait for the next payday. I did manage to send about $1200.00 home during the time that I was over there. After the money was gone Bridge and Pinochle were the big games, no money involved.
Volley ball and softball were the ones that helped to keep one in shape. I never did care much for the softball, but just about everynite after supper, if we didn't have mission film to process we would play for a couple hours. Being in close proximity to the equator, one could work up quite a sweat, and work off some of the calories we had partaken of at supper time. Then a good refreshing shower and off to a card game, a typewriter -- or a chess game. Chess was big with a lot of the guys. The Photo Section, Operations Office and Intelligence Sections all had chess teams and we would have tournaments. What volley ball did for the body, chess did for the grey-cells -- kept one from getting rusty.
Then, of course, we had to do a little sight seeing and exploring. We were about 20 -30 miles up the Markham river valley from the peace-time port of Lae and its airstrip. We did manage to get down there. The town was pretty well shot up, even the church was full of shrapnel holes. The airstrip was probably 100 feet or so above sea level and the end of it ended on a cliff above the water. This was the airstrip that Amelia Earhart took off from in 1937 and flew off into oblivion. There were bombed out Jap planes all over the place, and one oddity. There was an old Ford tri-motor plane with the corrugated metal fuselage. The reason that struck me was that the first airplane I ever remember seeing when I was kid in Rapid City was a Ford tri-motor. It belonged to Clyde Ice, quite a well known pilot in the '20's, and he flew it into Rapid City one week end and my Dad took me out to see it. Those two tri motors were a far piece apart in time and distance. As I mentioned we only at Nadzab 4 months and we were off to Hollandia.
Photo Section guys preparing for another
move, this time to Hollandia.
Jack Heyn in the South West Pacific during WW2 - The Full story
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© Peter Dunn OAM 2020
This page first produced 1 January 2001
This page last updated 22 February 2020