Oral Histories

Mitch Williams

b. 1916

Mitch Williams

We got 16 planes off Honey Strip and went to Villa Verde pass. We had one of our pilots up there operating the radio and communicating with us. Pilots and ground troops speak different languages, so we needed one of our guys on the ground working the radio. Different artillery shells had different colors -red, orange, green, etc. The ground troops would fire a shell onto the target they wanted the pilots to hit and tell the pilots what color it would be. Then the pilots bombed on that position. We made 2 or 3 passes and only fired going away from our troops. Each mission might only last 30 minutes. We used 50 caliber Browning machine guns -they were the best! Some German said that the outcome of the war might have been a lot different if the Germans had had the Browning guns -that’s how good the enemy thought they were!

We flew to Clark Field, which was the #1American Field before the Japs took it over. The old adjoining fort was Fort Stotsenberg. We helped re-take the field. While the Japs held Clark Field, we made many fighter sweeps across the field right on the deck and fired our six .50 caliber machine guns at targets of opportunity. We had to put the nose down, fire fast and pull up or we would run into the ground. If we didn’t get the nose down, we wouldn’t hit anything.

We dropped napalm in the hills. The hills were like California, covered with grass with trees in the gulleys. I guess we really did some good judging from the pictures the ground officers showed us. The pictures were gruesome to us because we didn’t see much ground activity, but it really helped the ground troops!

The Army Engineers went to work on Clark Field and re-built it into a really good Army field. It later became an Air Force base. It was abandoned when Mt. Pinatubo erupted and covered it with ash. Everything was moved to Guam. The Philippines kept demanding higher and higher rent from the U.S. to use the field, so when Mt. Pinatubo erupted, it gave us a good reason to move to Guam. The U.S. took the Philippines away from the Spanish during the Spanish- American War .It was the last war where we took real estate and kept it.

Ferdinand Marcos was a guerrilla fighter against the Japs. During WWII, we liberated the Philippines and many Americans, too. These people lived in the jungles and knew how to survive. Marcos was a real tough nut. I talked to an American, who had been a pilot, to get the intelligence. He said, “Don’t discount that little Marcos, I fought shoulder to shoulder with that little guy for nearly 4 years and he’s a really tough nut!” Once in power, Marcos turned really bad!

There were a lot of small islands (all Jap occupied) between Luzon, P .I. and Formosa, most of them near to the P .I. After a fighter sweep on Formosa, we always had some of our ammo left, just in case we needed it. We usually strafed one of the Jap air strips on the way home. Fuga Island was the closest one to Luzon.

My good friend Casey Bowers and his flight were working over Fuga. Casey made a strafing run on the airstrip. Well, he didn’t pull up quite soon enough and his good old P51D smacked the airstrip pretty hard. His radiator was torn off the belly of the plane and all four prop blades were bent back, but he had lots of speed. He pulled up and firewalled everything ( meaning he pushed throttle, mixture control and prop pitch control full forward). He pointed the nose toward Loaog, used his best rate of climb and climbed until his engine froze (no coolant, you know). He then maintained his best rate of descent and made it to Luzon where he bellied it in and climbed out unhurt!

He was surrounded very quickly by Filipinos who were really glad to see him. They took him under their wing, protected and took really good care of him. He as the first American they had seen so far in this war and they treated him like a king. This was all Jap held at this time. Our base was 200 miles or so to the south in the Lingayen Gulf area.

When we were at Lingayen, we got a call that there were some Jap destroyers off the northern coast of Luzon. We jumped in our planes and went! We carried one 1000 pound bomb and one external gas tank. We had to search around and found the destroyers running 1 behind the other. We had sixteen planes, so we put eight on one ship and eight on the other. We were flying at 7,000 feet, so we put the nose down, picked up lots of speed and headed for the lead destroyer. Our C.O. was leading the flight and I was his wing man.

The ships turned and headed into our fire, so we had a narrow target. I could see the top mast and the bottom of the bow cutting the water. They fired at us and it was just a ball of fire! We dropped bombs on the water and they skipped toward the ships while we pulled up. Our bombs ended up right on the deck and since there was no armor on destroyers, they probably went clear through to the keel when they exploded. We lost 2 pilots during the mission and we searched, but never found anything. They were probably killed. We were short on fuel and had to go back, but the Navy had sent some PBY5 amphibious aircraft and ships to the area soon after we left and they informed us that we sunk both destroyers. They only saw 1 ship go down, but the other must have gone down before they got there because it wouldn’t have had enough time to get out of the area before the Navy got there, especially considering how badly it was hit.

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