Oral Histories

Mitch Williams

b. 1916

Mitch Williams

The dust was so thick I couldn’t see anything. I was trying to get the canopy off so I could get out of the airplane, but it was wedged in. Some way it finally came loose, but when I tried to get out I found everything was covered with blood and so slick I had trouble climbing out of the cockpit. When I was out I stood by the plane and saw a band of Guerrilla fighters all running toward me. I thought, “Good God, what next?” I didn’t know whether they were Japs or what. They each had some sort of weapon, such as rifles, pistols, swords, bayonets and some carried the big long sword called a Kris. The blade is very crooked and sharp on both sides. I had a 45 cal automatic pistol in a shoulder holster and thought how useless it would be to try to stop such a well armed band of men.

When they got a bit closer I saw that they were all wearing G.I. under shorts and nothing else. I breathed a sigh of relief as I knew I was among friends. They said, “Come on, sir, we take care of you.” My head was bleeding quite a bit and I was holding my right hand on it. We were walking along and they were trying to be helpful, so one on each side held an arm. The trouble was, the one on the right was sort of pulling on the arm that I was using to hold by head. Oh well, I couldn’t complain, so I endured it.

We went into a grove of trees and they had a car in there. Was I surprised – civilian cars were something we just didn’t see over there. Anyway, they drove me to an artillery observation post, which was the 2nd story of a Flip house. A Filipino doctor was there and the first thing he did was hand me a water glass of rum, which I proceeded to drink right down. He then went to work sewing me up and, needless to say, I didn’t feel a thing!

They drove me in a jeep to a cleared field where an L-5 airplane and pilot were waiting for me. He flew me to an Infantry Division headquarters where I stayed a couple of days. While I was there, their commanding General was killed by enemy artillery while he was in the field with his troops. Another L-5 flew me up to Lingayen Gulf area to the 5th Fighter Command. I made a short verbal report on what happened and was driven back to my squadron where they had a brand new P-51D aircraft waiting for me. I was soon flying again. Such is the life of a fighter pilot on a bad day.

If we weren’t going too far, sometimes we carried a 1,000 pound bomb under one wing and a heavy fuel tank under the other. We were very heavy at takeoff, but became very light after we dropped our bombs.

Once when we went up the Philippines to Formosa, the cloud ceiling was getting lower and lower. We were afraid we would lose visibility, but we didn’t, we still had about 50 feet of ceiling. Here was a Jap submarine in Takao harbor on the surface and were we surprised- WOW! We caught him right in the mouth of the harbor. We were low, but we attacked him. We had armor piercing shells, which were very good. Apparently the armor piercing shells went through because they beached the sub and rolled over. We also attacked Jap ships whenever we found them.

We were returning from Formosa after another fighter sweep. I was leading the squadron that day and one of the flight leaders named Curdes gave me a call. He wanted to strafe Batan Island. I wasn’t too enthused about the idea because we had already been in the air for a long time and I, for one, was a little pooped. Also, Batan Island was off our direct course which we were flying so, I said “no, not today.”

He came back with another proposal. He asked, “How about me and my flight breaking off and going over to Batan?” I said, “Ok, go ahead, but nothing ever happens over there.” How wrong I was! On this day, everything happened! While they were strafing, one of our group. La Croix, got hit! He got his plane over the ocean and bailed out. Curdes sent one plane to altitude at once to call in for rescue of a downed pilot, he sent another plane to cover La Croix so we wouldn’t lose track of him. One person in a dinghy in a choppy ocean is almost impossible to see so we kept an eye on them whenever possible.

While Curdes and his one remaining plane were staying out of reach of the Jap guns, Curdes saw an almost unbelievable sight- an American cargo plane, a C47 appeared out of nowhere and was making an approach to land on the Jap runway! Curdes wondered what the heck was going on. Is this a plane that the Japs stole from us? Was it American? If American, they had no business landing here! He dove on the plane and shot out one engine. This threw the C47 pilot off to where he also landed the plane in the ocean. Everybody got out ok wearing life jackets. It turned out to be a plane load of American nurses, believe it or not.

It was late afternoon and rescue planes couldn’t get there before dark. La Croix spent the night paddling away from the C47 people because he knew they could be Japs. He was far enough away to be unable to tell before it got dark. Curdes and his 3 remaining planes had to head for home before dark due to low fuel. In the morning daylight, Navy PBY5s picked everyone out of the water and no one had been killed or hurt. Weird things do happen!

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