Becoming an Airman and the Boeing B-29 Superfortress
Combat Missions and Going Home
First Mission and Final Missions
Memorable Combat Missions
George Hood discusses his entry in the United States Army Air Forces. He recounts his training experiences in multiple locations. He was qualified as a navigator after advanced training. He became part of a crew in Alamogordo, New Mexico. After several missions over the Gulf of Mexico, he was assigned to a new B-29 [Annotator's Note: Boeing B-29 Superfortress very heavy bomber] in Lincoln, Nebraska. While flying to California, the pilot, Bill Brooks, called for an engine change. The crew thought it unnecessary but did not countermand the officer in charge of the plane. The rumor was that Brooks had a girl that he wanted to see while the overhaul happened. While flying on toward Guam, the crew noticed that flying at high altitude caused visual abnormalities. They were also able to see their objectives when they were many miles away. The crew felt confident that they were properly trained to do their job. They quickly reacted to stimuli as defined in their training. They were not necessarily excited by their new roles. They simply were doing what they had to do. Hood's first flying experience had been harrowing. Flying in the B-29, Hood's navigator position was directly behind the pilot and copilot. The bombardier sat in the most forward position in the plane. The radioman sat near the navigator. A tube connected the gunnery personnel in the aft portion of the B-29 with their crew mates forward. It did not seem like a cramped situation to those aboard.
George Hood's B-29 [Annotator's Note: Boeing B-29 Superfortress very heavy bomber] had its nose wheel strut struck by a 20mm shell. The round exploded without anyone on the plane being wounded. The number four engine was lost four times during the multiple missions, but the plane always reached safety. The plane flew out of Guam. They found out about their base while en route to Guam. They were part of the 39th Bombardment Group, 20th Air Force. Eventually, Curtis LeMay [Annotator's Note: USAAF then USAF General Curtis E. LeMay] would become their commanding officer. He lowered the bombing altitude in order to increase accuracy of the bombs on target. That decision resulted in additional casualties from enemy fire. Because the crew was not permitted to paint a nude female on their plane's nose, they called their plane "Censured." Hood names his fellow crew members on the aircraft and refers to a scrapbook for a picture of his B-29 with nose art and crew. The crew lost its tail gunner when he was on loan to another airplane. The first mission flown was over Japanese oil fields. The fields had been hit by previous bombers. When the Censured flew over the inferno, the ship rose dramatically. After passing through, the aircraft dropped so drastically that the crew thought the wings were going to come off. The crew went through a lot together. Because of points earned while in service, Hood was quickly routed back to the states at the end of the war. He did not have a chance to tell his crew mates "goodbye." Since the war, he has only seen one of his crew mates. Some bad feelings may have existed in the crew because Hood was rushed home preventing him from saying goodbye to his friends.
George Hood flew bombing missions against Japanese residential sections of Tokyo. That was because the enemy had dispersed its manufacturing capability throughout populated areas. The collateral losses in property and life were high. Whole areas were burned out. To Hood, it was his job to hit the target. His 30th mission was over Tokyo. The plane had been shot up and one of its engines had been lost. They returned to Guam. There were three missions afterward. The planes were loaded with supplies and food for prisoner of war camps in Japan. A malfunction during one drop resulted in the bomb bay doors being jammed. Hood and a fellow crewmate worked on the issue and resolved it. He was scared but busy working on the problem. He did not panic. His instincts simply caused him to react. The missions flown were a day or two apart unless the aircraft was seriously damaged previously. In between, the crew would play ball or hunt Japs [Annotator's Note: period derogatory reference to Japanese] still hunkered down on the island. The men always went to the submarine base because they had better food with a greater selection. Hood never wanted to go below in the submarines because of the cramped nature of the vessel. He was billeted in a Quonset hut close to the jungle. They slept on bunks or cots near the jungle. The flyers kept their side arms handy in case the Japanese sprang on them. They would shoot rats running across the top of the ceiling, and the crew chief would repair the damage. The motivation for hunting Japanese could not be explained. Hood flew 30 combat missions followed by two missions to aid the POWs [Annotator's Note: prisoners of war]. His plane flew a final mission over the Emperor's Palace at low altitude as a power display. During the combat missions, the enemy threw quite a bit of flak [Annotator's Note: antiaircraft artillery fire] at the bombers. The plane was hit many times, but the personnel aboard were never wounded. Returning home on one mission, the bomber flew low to strafe an enemy vessel that was firing on them. The ship stopped firing.
George Hood flew a memorable bomber mission over Odaka, Japan [Annotator’s Note: in a Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bomber]. The target had obviously been hit hard. Smoke and boiling winds were at 30,000 feet. Brooks [Annotator's Note: Hood's pilot Bill Brooks] elected to fly through the inferno on the planned bomb run. The crew felt it was unnecessary to press on through the damage already inflicted. The other memorable occasion was a malfunction in the bomb bay door which forced Hood and a fellow crewmate to hazard an in-flight repair. The bombing missions were flown at lower levels when LeMay [Annotator's Note: USAAF then USAF General E. Curtis LeMay] took over the force. The crew remained vigilant for incoming enemy airplanes. Four were destroyed and icons painted on the plane to show the victories. The P-51s [Annotator's Note: North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft] flew out of Okinawa after its capture. The P-51s escorted the bombers and held the enemy defensive airplanes in check. The last combat mission over Tokyo resulted in the loss of an engine. The plane was heavily shot up. There was both antiaircraft fire and enemy fighters opposing the bombers. It was Hood's 30th mission. The crew was confident of their safe return, but they were nevertheless concerned about the law of averages. The crew heard about the surrender on the return from the 30th mission. They just wanted to get back on the ground safely. They heard scuttlebutt about the dropping of the atomic bombs but did not know what was going on. Although Hood remembers his Quonset hut, the ball diamond, and other details including receiving his unit citation, he cannot remember anything about the mess hall. That is surprising because he loved to eat.
George Hood returned home after the war. He flew in from the Pacific and then cross country. He had a little money and found a poker game. He ate some fried chicken and then joined the game. He won 13 straight hands. The players were superior officers and that worried Hood. He returned home with 5,000 dollars. After the end of the war, Hood flew a power display flight [Annotator's Note: over the Emperor's Palace in Tokyo] and then two missions to supply PWs [Annotator's Note: prisoners of war]. He had no idea that he would receive word to quickly fly home. [Annotator's Note: He had sufficient points to return to the United States.] He was discharged in the United States. He enlisted in 1942 then was married in early 1943. It was a beautiful wedding. The couple had two children. He never saw any of his B-29 crewmates except for one man, Jimmy Little. Hood rode motorcycles in Alamogordo with his pilot Bill Brooks but lost touch with him after the service. Hood was very fortunate with his experiences. He was a lucky man to come through what he did during the war.
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