B-24 navigator's account of the 30-Seconds Mission in CBI

Rolling Hills Estates, CA

My brother Joseth Leland Kingsbury was in the European theater under Gen. Patton at the Battle of the Bulge. My brother Thomas Lloyd Kingsbury was in the Pacific from Australia to Manila, Philippines.

I was in the China-Burma-India theater and Okinawa as a navigator on B-24 aircraft.

My wife, Yvonne, was working in a Federal Reserve bank in 1941. We were visiting some friends one night when she received a phone call from the bank and was told to come in immediately. She worked all night with the FBI, teletyping Japanese names, not knowing what was going on until a few days later. The FBI was planning for setting up the camps for the Japanese.

I was working in Civil Service at North American Aviation in Quality Control, doing aircraft acceptance inspection.

I volunteered in October 1942. I was called in January 1944 and sent to Fresno for the basics, marching and tests, then flight training and navigation.

I ended up as a B-24 navigator and joined a crew at Langley Air Force Base. We went through high altitude, low altitude and then medium-high altitude for three months, then the crew received orders to go overseas. My wife was with me most of the time.

The crew: Pilot John Gibbs, co-pilot Robert Hodge, Joe Piala on radar, bomber Paul Mallue and engineer Jim Young. We left Langley with a new B-24. We flew through about 10 cities before landing in India.

The CBI commander took the new B-24. We were taken to the 373rd Squadron in Luliang, China in a stripped B-24.

Gibbs, Piala and I went on an indoctrination flight with Spain's crew to the China Sea. I did the navigation to the sea and they took over to drop the bombs. They went south of the sea and came up north above about 1000 feet to bomb the ships. We were hit in the radio section with a couple of shells. After the attack I did the navigation back to Luliang. Every mission the Spain crew went on was a mission they came back with damage to the plane.

Gibbs, Hodge, Young and I were sent over "the Hump" to India to fill the planes' bomb bay fuel tanks. On our third and last mission over the Hump for fuel, we were in clouds on our return. The airspeed indicated 324 mph ground speed. An area ahead of us where three rivers meet, always had a hole in the clouds. So I estimated when we would be there. I could see it at the ETA. A few minutes later, Gibbs said, "We've lost an engine. Where is the closest airport?" I gave him a heading to an airport in Burma. There were two airports in the area, one for fighters and one for ATC. We landed at the fighters' airport and got an engine from ATC.

I had told Yvonne that [Claire] Chennault sent missing in action notices very fast. She received a telegram within a few days. As soon as we got back to Luliang, I wrote a letter to her, which she received in a week.

Our next mission: drop mines in the Yangtze River. Our radar went out. Gibbs said we would still go. I gave the crew the time we would reach the target. I told them if they couldn't tell the difference between land and water to continue on for 30 seconds and drop the mine because we would be over a large bay of water where the Yangtze River makes a 45-degree turn. After we dropped the mine the co-pilot called out fighters.

Gibbs asked me for a heading. I gave him 270 degrees west. He took the heading, then he took evasive action, taking directions between 100 degrees and 360 degrees for about 20 minutes. He asked, "Where are we?" I said, "How the hell do I know? I'll tell you in a couple of minutes." I did my computation and gave him a heading to Luliang. Then I got in the Astrodome and took shots on three stars, determining our position. We continued on the heading I gave him. We arrive 30 seconds after the ETA I gave, so the mission was called the 30-Seconds Mission.

Our next orders were to go to Morati Island. We left China and landed on Clark Field in the Philippines, fueled our bomb bay tanks and continued to the island. We were on the island a few days, then our 11 aircraft flew north to Okinawa.

On our arrival, the engineer for the 494th grounded our aircraft. We went on three night missions from Okinawa: to Hiroshima to bomb a battle ship in Kure, to bomb an airport near Nagasaki, the third dropping pamphlets telling the Japanese to surrender before the nuclear bombs were dropped.

Derrell Kingsbury passed away Aug. 12, 2014. The 30-Second Mission took place July 1945. He served active duty again from 1951-1953, and was honorably discharged as a Captain from the Air Force Reserves in 1962.

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