Oral Histories

Mitch Williams

b. 1916

Mitch Williams

There was very little enemy aircraft after we got to the Philippines and we didn’t know why. Then we got word that Japanese aircraft was being withheld to guard the homeland because they thought we would be coming there. ..and we sure did!!

Our B-29s destroyed most of their aircraft on the ground. I never got close enough to a Jap aircraft to shoot at it and vice versa. I saw most of them as they were flying away from me. The Japs attacked our pilots and aircraft at night and we got bombed every night.

At every new camp, each man was supposed to dig his own fox hole, but here at Honey Strip, near Dagupan on Lingayan Gulf, I managed to get my fox hole down about a foot because there was hard coral rocks in there. I said the heck with it! We weren’t getting in our fox holes, anyway, we were all looking to see what was going on.

It was a moonlit night and the Japs were bombing us again (they never came in the day time). They lucked out and got a bomb into our ammo dump. Wow- talk about fireworks -we really had them! I saw, heard and felt some of the heaviest explosions ever come from that ammo dump! It kept popping off for about a week!

I wanted a better view, so in a day or two I found a great spot to watch. It was a dirt pile that looked like a bulldozer had pushed it up. It was perfect to watch the action. In a few nights, here they came trying to destroy our planes and the pilots who flew them. They never had much luck with either .

I was on my hill and I saw a Jap plane heading right toward me. He flew right over me not more than 20 or 30 feet above my head! What a great chance to shoot him down- trouble was, I had no weapon, nothing, not even my 30 calibur carbine or my 45 automatic pistol. I watched him go so low that he had to pull up to go over some palm trees. Dam! Just my luck! That chance will never come again!

A few nights later, here they came again, bombing everything in sight! Who said that chance would never come again -Me! I couldn’t believe it -here comes a Jap plane following exactly the route used before. I was on my hill, he went over my head, raised up enough to clear the palm trees, and I’m standing there kicking myself because, well, no weapons! They both got away. ..or was it the same plane? I am positive it was the same plane. It had a big round radial engine, single engine plane. All the features of an Oscar, a Jap Navy plane. Every time I think of missing 2 chances at the same plane I just feel disgusted. Oh well, no point in that, but it was a great chance that I missed.

Our P51D Mustangs were day fighters, we never flew at night overseas. The Northrop P61 Black Widow was the night fighter and here they came at full speed flying low on the tail of the Japs. The P61 had the best radar available at the time and I’m sure they got plenty of enemy planes.

We were at Loaog when the battle of Okinawa started. We were too far away to engage in that battle because we couldn’t carry enough fuel to fly that far and back. That battle was mostly fought with carriers and heavy Army bombers from land bases in the Philippines.

We went up to Okinawa as soon as they got their airstrips done at Ie Shima, which is a 1 by 5 mile island in the Okinawa group. The Army engineers built air strips crossways on Ie Shima. We occupied one strip along with other squadrons. They started bringing in many aircraft and pilots. Our little island was really packed with aircraft ready for the invasion of Japan. Other airstrips were built on the big island of Okinawa and other islands. We got the word that they had dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. ..we were tickled to death! It is estimated that over one million American lives were anticipated to have been lost if we hadn’t used the atomic bombs to end the war. This saved Japanese lives, too. When the Japs decided to surrender, the Emperor of Japan sent one Jap aircraft from Japan to Ie Shima and on to the Philippines to see General McArthur at his penthouse in the hotel. They had defeated looks on their faces and looked like whipped boys before they even got to see The Great McArthur. That was the beginning of the end. From then on, it was just patrol runs for us. We still patrolled because no one trusted the Japs.

My last flight was to Korea, but I had engine trouble when I got to the islands at the southern end of Korea. I was leading the squadron and had to turn back, so I turned the squadron over to another person, took my wing man and headed back. The engine kept missing and I kept losing altitude at a slow rate of approximately 200 feet per minute. Then I saw the tops of the big mountains on Okinawa and knew I was getting closer. I had just enough altitude to get into the first airfield and just barely made it! I decided to rest for a few days after that. In fact, that was my last mission, the 89th.

Finally my orders came that I was going home and I was ready! ! A lot of us had been through most of the war in the South and Western Pacific. We went home and turned it over to the new guys who were “rearing to go”! As I left le Shima in a Navy PBY5, my thoughts were, “Well, I was overseas when this shindig started and I was overseas when it ended.”

Read the other Oral Histories