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Setting down a B-25 in pitch black

Evading capture from the Japanese


Sherman was born and raised near Toledo, Ohio. He attended school in Toledo. He was fortunate enough to take classes at the art museum in Toledo. Sherman's father got a job in Kentucky, so that is where their family moved. He joined the service because he thought he had to and enlisted on January 17th, 1942. In March of 1942 he was sent to Montgomery, Alabama for pre-flight training. Sherman learned some more pre-flight in Nashville, Tennessee. After being stationed in Nashville, Sherman ended up in Santa Ana, California for bombardier school. From California, Sherman ended up in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he graduated from bombardier school. After graduating he was sent to Columbia, South Carolina where he met up with his crew that he would go overseas with. Sherman trained in South Carolina with his crew for about 5 months. He and his crew were offered their choice of theatre [Annotator's Note: theatre of war] if they stayed on to help train people for a few extra months. They were given the choice of going to Europe or going to China. After seeing what was occuring to the bombers in Europe, he and his crew settled on China. They flew to South America, then over to Africa, and then finally up through to China. When they first arrived they were split up in order to get flight time with experienced crews. After that period the crew from South Carolina was reunited. Sherman flew combat missions before he was old enough to vote. Sherman flew 52 missions over 13 months. Sherman had a few narrow escapes on crash landings. 1 time the nose was shot out from his plane; he was awarded the Purple Heart. Sherman used the Norden bombsight 1 time during his 13 months in China. The majority of the missions were tree top strafing runs. A lot of the strafing occured in the South China Sea. The runs had the intention of disrupting Japanese shipping into Shanghai. On 1 of the runs Sherman and his crew strafed a boat. On the 2nd pass the Japanese boat had readied its anti-aircraft guns and shot out Sherman's left engine. They came back to land and they had a tough time gaining altitude. They decided to crash land on a sandbar. No one in the crew was hurt. He walked out across the sandbar with his Thompson submachine gun. He walked over to a Chinese man started to use his "Pointee Talkee," a language guide in which you could point to a word. The Chinese man looked up and in perfect English said, "Don't worry about it; I'll take care of ya." They were about 30 miles from Canton, which was a Japanese-held city.


Instead of heading into the mountains, the Chinese man took them to Canton. They spent several days in Canton. After that they were put into a boat, taken out into the ocean, and then redirected back up a river which led to their base. The man who found them after they crashed helped the crew the entire journey. He served as guide and interpreter for the downed crew throughout their journey. When the American government realized what he had done for Sherman and his men, they got the man's family out of Canton for him. Sherman notes that the Chinese were very hospitable and grateful. They were also very constructive. At the base he flew out of, the rocks and runway were all laid by hand. When the Japanese would bomb the field, there would be potholes, however they could still land because of how well the field was constructed. Sherman really enjoyed the Chinese people. The Chinese made sure the Americans had food and their only request from the Americans was to bring gasoline and bombs. The American base had good intelligence and whenever the Japanese attacked they knew where it was coming from and when it would get there. They would put up a big flag up on the base to signal an air raid: 1 red ball meant the Japanese were taking off to attack, 2 balls meant that they're headed for the base and 3 red balls meant find a place to hide because they were close. Sherman recalls being bombed a lot but they had revetments for their planes. In the 13 months that he was overseas they only lost 1 crew. Other crews were shot down, but the Chinese guerillas helped them out.Sherman found out about Pearl Harbor after he walked out of a movie theatre with his mom and dad and saw the headlines. Sherman did not know what to think other than "Why?" Sherman was delayed from entering the Aviation Cadets because he couldn't pass the physical until he got a number of teeth filled.


Going overseas was quite the adventure for Sherman. Sherman stopped at numerous points throughout the war. He was a member of the 11th Bomb Squadron in the 14th Air Force. Sherman's 1st mission was a formation flight. Everything was new and exciting, Sherman was 19 at the time. He didn't have time to be scared because he had a job to do. There were points of time when he was scared, but the overall feeling of being scared did not persist in his day to day. Sherman's 1st pilot flew the 1st 2 or 3 missions with Sherman and then got reassigned. Sherman came back from a night mission 1 time and their base was being bombed; they could not land. They sent the group to the south of the field. Chennault [Annotator"s Note: Lieutenant General Clair Lee Chennault, commander of the Flying Tigers] had a warning net set up that helped the pilots with whatever situation they were in. Once Sherman let the tower know that they were running low on fuel. They asked the plane if they wanted to bail out. They looked around and in the moonlight saw nothing but mountaintops and decided not to bail out. They gave Sherman's plane a heading. They came through and said, We're gonna set you down. We're gonna land you." They followed the heading as instructed and were told to put down the flaps and wheels and go down to landing speed. All the pilot and crew could see was blackness; the control tower told him to keep going and keep losing altitude. There were torches lit to light the runway. They set the plane down perfectly.


When they finally stopped they were a couple feet away from a hut. The next morning there were people working on the plane. They got the plane fueled up the next morning so that they could take off. They came back to the base the next day. Sherman was scared that night. Sherman and his crew had to crash land 6 different times. A couple of the crash landings were because of the hydraulic systems being shot out. Another time it was an engine problem. Another time they had been shot up so bad that a bunch of different things were wrong. 1 of the crash landings produced major injuries. The reason being is because the man who was hurt was already shot in the leg. When Sherman came back to the States he went into Washington, D.C. He went to the Custom's desk and the man who greeted him was the man who had lost his leg. Sherman notes that the B-25 could take a beating. A lot of the landings were belly landings. On 1 of their missions they completed the bombing and were on their way back when 3 flights of Japanese dive bombers came through their formation. 1 of the Japanese planes shot out the nose of Sherman's plane and caused a piece of Plexiglass to go through his arm. Sherman was awarded the Purple Heart for that. That was the only injury that Sherman sustained throughout the war. Sherman saw Japanese fighters on about half of his missions. The other half of the missions were low altitude fire missions directed by observers on the ground. Sherman saw very little anti-aircraft fire. 1 of the bases that Sherman was at was a landing point for the Doolittle Raid.


Sherman was going to hit a target on Formosa. They took off and flew practically at sea level. When they got back to the base they had to run repair work on the props because the sea water was deteriorating certain parts. They went into Formosa at ground level. They hit the island completely by themselves, they had a field day. Their bomb load depended on their mission. One time they went on a 2 plane raid. They received notice that the Japanese were depositing a lot of money into a bank. Each bomber had 1 bomb. Both planes were told to drop their bomb on the bank. The navigator on the other plane saw a man close a window in the bank, obviously that did not help much. They found out 2 or 3 months later that the Japanese had to let the bank blow up; they could not diffuse the bomb themselves. A lot of times on their bombing runs they could not see the Japanese soldiers they were attacking, but sometimes they could. Sherman was not afraid of ground fire but he was afraid of the possibility of anti-aircraft fire. They mounted a 75-millimeter cannon in what was the crawlway leading out to the nose of the aircraft. The recoil system on the cannon was so good that it did not affect the aircraft. The 75- millimeter was useful because it allowed Sherman and his crew to strafe targets from a safe distance.


There were 2 machine guns to the left of the pilot. There were 3 guns on the right side plus a swivel gun in the nose and a turret on top. There were 12 50-caliber machine guns. The .75 [Annotator's Note: 75-millimeter cannon] was added after it was developed in the South Pacific. The .75 was highly effective on sea sweep missions that targeted gunboats. Only 2 of the planes in Sherman's squadron were outfitted with the .75. They were highly effective. Sherman flew maybe 3 or 4 .75 missions. On the .75 you didn't fly co-pilot; they pulled the co-pilot. After they got the radar in, the co-pilot operated the radar system. Otherwise Sherman was in the Plexiglas nose of the airplane. That is where he navigated from. Sherman was in the nose except during landing and takeoff. Sherman says that the B-25 sounded like a "bucket of bolts." The wings and everything else would shake. Very few people bailed out because they were aware of how sturdy the plane was. 1 of his buddies was a navigator on a plane that was hit. The pilot was killed and the co-pilot badly injured. The navigator, Sherman's buddy, took over control of the plane and radioed the tower for help. A pilot came up to the tower and radioed instructions to the navigator who had never landed a plane before. The landing went flawlessly. Later on it was required that all bombardiers and navigators have a certain amount of flying time in the event of an emergency. They were eventually sent back for rotations to India to practice landing the planes. Sherman flew on about half a dozen missions before he was given the opportunity to get some stick time. Sherman got to meet General Chennault at 1 point.


Sherman had helped to set up many of the dirt revetments. The Chinese had helped as well. Each revetment was high enough to cover the entire plane. A lot of them were located at the base of a mountain or hill, which would make it extremely difficult to bomb or strafe the planes. The base that Sherman was at was in the midst of the mountains. In the mountains were a bunch of caves. The Headquarters was located in 1of the caves near the airfield. In some of the caves there were Chinese guerillas who were heavily armed. When the US personnel at the base requested their help in defending the airfield from the Japanese they replied that they were not interested in the war. General Chennault was well respected and liked by the men. On a number of occasions he would go around and talk with the men. He was not well liked however by his colleagues. Sherman notes that he was always fighting with General Stillwell [Annotator's Note: General Joseph Warren Stilwell, Commander of the CBI Theater] and Bissel [Annotator's Note: Major General Clayton Lawrence Bissell,commander of 10th Air Force] trying to get gasoline and things of that nature. Sherman was a First Lieutenant during the war. On the 1st mission that Sherman went on with fighter escorts, he notes the bravery and the helpfulness of the P-38 [Annotator's Note: Lockhead P-38 Lightning]. On a typical bombing run Sherman would be in formation with roughly 12 airplanes. Sherman notes that in the CBI [Annotator's Note: China, Burma, India Theater] there were not many men lost, and that is why it is considered the "Forgotten Theater". CBI was a supply and bombing war. Sherman is still frustrated with the way they treated General Chennault. The Chinese to this day still have a lot of respect and admiration for General Chennault. Sherman believes that Chennault should be studied in the war colleges because of his tactics.


Sherman believes that everyone should know a little bit about every theater. Sherman believes that the generosity and the kindness of the Chinese people is something that people should remember about the CBI. The Chinese people had nothing; they suffered through a lot of poverty, yet when the Americans got there they welcomed them with open arms. A lot of Americans had lost their .45 [Annotator's Note: M1911 Colt 45-caliber pistol] because of the clip system that kept it attached to their leg. When they got to India they had someone fashion a cowboy-type holster that ran all the way around the waist. The airmen were warned on numerous occasions to be careful around big crowds of Chinese because it would be difficult to tell if there were any Japanese among them. One time Sherman and his buddy had gotten lost in a crowd of Chinese. His buddy was upset and realized it was not very safe. Sherman fired his .45 a couple times in the air and they did not have any trouble. Sherman's closest call with the Japanese came after they had crash landed and the Chinese man had helped them. They were hiding in a bakery and could see the Japanese looking for them outside. They eventually left the bakery in a rickshaw that was covered. Sherman still does not know if he was scared or not at the time. He was more focused on what he had to do.When Sherman got back to the States he landed in Washington, D.C. His aunt had been working in D.C., so when he landed he gave her a call and they went out on the town.


Sherman went home after Washington D.C. After he was home, he went to Midland, Texas to be redeployed. However he was never redeployed and was shipped home to be discharged. Sherman left China because he had been shot down. Sherman also ran submarine patrols out of China with the purpose of sweeping the South China Sea. Before they left to go to China they ran submarine sweeping operations off the coast of South Carolina. Sherman believes that it is very important to study WWII in the future. People need to learn from the mistakes that we made so that maybe we can avoid war. The kids also need to know for purposes of heritage. Sherman never was discharged because he stayed in the Reserve. Sherman believes that it is very important that we have museums celebrating the accomplishments of our country.

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