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Let Me Tell You About Snugglebunny (44-69967)

by Edward N. York, Deltona, Florida,
with help from Gunner Bill Hughes
& Pilot Eliot Potter

 
[KWE Note: The following article was reprinted with permission from The Pyramidiers.  It appeared in the association's newsletter in May 2015.  Sent to the KWE by Dick Iler.]

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Memories of Ed York

Snugglebunny was probably the oldest B-29 amongst both the 92nd and 98th Bomb Groups.  She completed 65 missions in the Pacific Theater during WWII, then was declared "war weary" and returned to the States.  I was told that she originally had electrically-operated bomb bay doors, but had been modified to have the standard pneumatically-operated doors.  This may account for some of the problems we encountered during our missions with her.  I also have been told she had a sag in one wing.

The first time I saw this plane was the day we left Fairchild AFB--we were the last plane to leave for Yokota.  What impressed me most when I looked Snugglebunny over was the big red bomb with the number '65' painted on the nose.  Bill Clausen, with whom I'd served before, informed me about the plane's WWII missions, thus explaining the number.

Few of us who were to crew Snugglebunny at Yokota knew each other.  The only crew member I knew was Bill (Clausen), the Flight Engineer.  We had served together in another outfit called Squadron T in Salina, Kansas (Smokey Hill AFB) in 1947.

My path to Snugglebunny was quite 'round about.'  I had been working as a gunnery instructor at Fairchild's Base Gunnery School since arriving at Spokane in 1947.  In 1948 I was assigned to the 343rd Bomb Squadron of the 98th Bomb Group for a 90-day training exercise at Kadina AFB on Okinawa.  Upon returning to Fairchild, I was transferred back to the Gunnery School until the 98th was slated to move to Puerto Rico as a permanent change of station (PCS).  I was reassigned to the 345th Bomb Squadron for the Puerto Rico move.  But when Korea happened, I ended up in the 343rd Bomb Squadron.  Bill Hughes and Marvin Root (gunners) were students at the Base Gunnery School and were "graduated" and immediately assigned to duty as crew members when the school was closed down.

So not only were we the 'tail-end Charlies,' we were also mostly unknown to each other.  That being so, the Scanners, Tail Gunner and I got acquainted real fast.  Many of the officers were recalled reservists, but our A/C (Airplane Commander) Potter was regular AF.  Marvin Root and Bill Hughes were scanners and George Skarpac flew in the tail position.  I was the CFC (Central Fire Control) Gunner.  I am not sure, but I think we almost missed the Hawaiian Islands on our way over to Japan.  However, we did arrive at Yokota in late June, to be greeted by signs 'Rum and Coke 5 Cents' or 'Welcome Ramey'--all put there by our friends in the 92nd Bomb Group.

The first thing we learned at Yokota was that the bomb loading crews had yet to arrive, and the flight crews would have to load their own bombs.  I didn't know how much anyone else knew about loading bombs.  I had loaded one bomb while on TDY with the 98th to Okinawa.  I did know that there were two ways to load--one was using a hand crank and cranking up each bomb into position (we normally carried 38 to 40 500-pound bombs), the easier way was to use an electric hoist which could be moved from rack to rack.  Needless to say, there was considerable confusion at first.  Bill Hughes scrounged an electric hoist, and we eventually managed to get all 40 bombs hooked up.  As time went on we got a little better at this, but frankly it didn't give the gunners much of an opportunity to check their equipment.  So for the first few missions, we hoped for the best.  Eventually the bomb loaders arrived, and things got back to normal.

At first flights went pretty well, but after one of our missions the bomb bay doors refused to close.  We had to return to base with them wide open which slowed us down considerably.  It also got us a lot of attention from the 7th Fleet when we crossed the Sea of Japan.  The Navy didn't take kindly to us flying over them with the doors open, and invariably sent up a few carrier planes to give us a closer look.  Fortunately we passed inspection, but this was just one of the many times this happened.  We usually were the last ones to land at Yokota after a mission.

We also had some occasions when all of our bombs did not release and they had to be released manually.  On most of those occasions, Bill Hughes was the one who volunteered to go into the open bomb bay to release them.  So we had to have someone watch when "Bombs Away" was called to let the Bombardier know when all bombs dropped.  On one occasion it was my turn to watch the bombs release and call in the 'all clear.'  When the 'bombs away' call was made, the bottom bomb on the right forward rack did not release.  I had to sit there and watch the three bombs above bounce off the hung-up bomb as they released.  Finally, the last bomb broke the hung-up bomb's shackle and it dropped.

During the period when things had quieted down, we were sent out alone on a mission to bomb a road in the northern part of Korea.  When we got to our target area, the bombardier wanted to make a "dry run" first, which we did.  When we came back for our final run, we began to pick up flak from some small ground units, which I reported to the A/C.  The Squadron Operations Officer was with us on that day getting in some flight time.  I knew something was wrong after we left the target area because there was a lot of talking going on in the cockpit.  We learned upon landing that we had overflown (and maybe bombed) a part of China.  There was quite a reception of Brass waiting for us when we landed.  The only reason I can offer for this error is that the terrain in Korea made it difficult to differentiate where Korea ended and China began.

On one of our missions we took off in bad weather.  We couldn't see the ground from the time we left until our return. We were to 'radar bomb' the target.  Because we could not see the other planes, we had an assigned slot in the line.  When it was our turn to drop and we were on our bomb run, the bay doors were opened.  I was up in my CFC seat, and, as I watched, the tail section started to shake and vibrate considerably.  We dropped out of formation and had to go around to the tail end of the line.  I was told that we had started to stall out when the bomb bay doors were opened.  Of course, this meant that we were 'tail-end-Charlies' again.

We continued to fly this ship on our assigned missions until she was scheduled for a 2000 inspection that would take some time.  During this time we filled in on other crews.  All in all, Snugglebunny added 45 missions to her credit.  Most of us did about 54 while at Yokota.

The crew members (R-33) were:

  • A/C - Capt. Eliot "Painless Peter" Potter
  • Pilot - Capt. Grady B. Williams
  • Flight Engineer - Bill Clausen, replaced by Lee "Shorty" Gordon
  • Bombardier - 1st Lt. Albert Barnett
  • Navigator - Capt. Karmen Heider
  • Radar - Capt. James Masuraca
  • Radio - Sgt. Lyle J. Layer
  • Scanners - Sgt. Bill Hughes and Sgt. Marvin Root
  • CFC Gunner - Ed N. York
  • Tail Gunner - Sgt. George Skarpac

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Memories of A/C  Capt. Eliot H. Potter

As I remember, Snugglebunny was removed from the nose but you could still see where it had been.  By vote of the crew, we elected to keep the name and had a local artist repaint it because it apparently had completed 65 successful missions in the South Pacific.

The bomb bay doors never did work.  After coming back from one mission with them open, Frank Manley, the civilian Boeing tech rep, said that it wasn't possible and proceeded to jump on the doors, promptly falling through to the ground.

We did have to load our own bombs.  I remember doing some loading myself.  On that weather mission we returned with the doors open and didn't have enough gas to go to an alternate field.  It was snowing on landing, just like flying inside of a ping pong ball.  GCA (Ground Control Approach) did an excellent job of guiding us and at 50 feet when he said, 'Round out and take over for landing,' I watched Al Burnett (Bombardier) in the nose.  As he reared back, I followed.  With the new snow on the runway, it resulted in a smooth landing, but when we came to a stop on the runway we had to have a 'Follow Me' truck take us in to park. On roll out I couldn't see the edge of the runway, so it was following the directional gyro all the way.  I think we all had over 50 missions.  I had 55.


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Memories of Gunner, Bill Hughes

Ed, your story looks good, however, you failed to tell of my most shining moment in the bomb bay of Snugglebunny.  It was one of those missions during which several groups were to bomb what was believed to be a large concentration of enemy troops.  We dropped 100-pound fragmentation bombs.  As usual, one of the bottom racks failed to release.  When I went into the bomb bay to release it, I found that a bomb had fallen from a shackle higher up and was lying on a bomb that had not released.  It had dropped far enough so that the arming wires had been pulled and the little feller was armed.  I wondered what was going to happen when it got tossed out into the slipstream.

As luck would have it, nothing happened.  I tossed it out, released the bomb shackle, and went back in the compartment--still scared to death.  You know, you could not wear a parachute into the bomb bay because there was not enough room to move around.  Another worry was catching the ripcord on something and opening the chute.  It would tear you to bits dragging you out of the bay.  She was quite a ship--quite a pile of parts.


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Postscript

Snugglebunny (44-69967) was badly damaged on a mission to bomb a bridge over the Yalu River and had to make an emergency landing in South Korea.  She survived and was "reclaimed" at Tinker AFB on 3-10-1954.  Snugglebunny served with the 6th Bomb Group during World War II.  The ship we used a lot while Snugglebunny was out for inspection was called "Squeeze Play" 44-86415.  It was lost on 9 October 1951 in the Sea of Japan.  There were no survivors.

During my tour of duty I bought a second-hand Kodak movie camera from a local Japanese shop in Fussa. I took movies of my crew and plane on the ground and in the air.  Several years ago I donated them to the 8th Air Force Historical Museum at Savannah, Georgia.

 

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