Charlie Bond's Book

The following excerpts are from Charlie Bond's Book

"A Flying Tiger's Diary"

June 12, 1942, Kweilin, China

Our early morning game of cribbage was interrupted by an alarm of a Jap observation plane coming over. We took off and circled west of the field, Bob Neale with a flight of four at eighteen thousand feet, George Burgard with a flight of three at twenty thousand feet, and me with a flight of four at fifteen thousand feet. They came, and we started after them. On my wing, Joe Rosbert moved in close and fired his guns to get my attention. He pointed to a flight of five Japanese bombers to my lower right. I had almost committed my formation to Japs at my left front, but with the altitude advantage I agreed with Joe. We attacked the lower formation.

After two passes we still saw no enemy fighter escort. On the third attack I closed up fast on the tail of the bomber on the outside of the vee formation, firing short bursts. Suddenly five of my guns quit working, so I had only one left. *!#%! I concentrated on the recharge hydraulic buttons in the lower cockpit, and when I looked up I caught a glimpse of six I-97 fighters high and to my right and one twin engine bomber by itself which I figured was a cripple.

I pulled away to get my guns working again, but none would work. Then I noticed the glaring yellow coolant overheat light - the indicator went clear over to the peg! Smoke was curling out from behind my instrument panel. Obviously my cooling system had taken some return fire from the bomber. That eventually damaged the hydraulic system that worked the guns.

I cut down and away and then noticed what was on my tail; two Jap I-97s. One pulled off, but the other stuck with me to within a thousand feet of the ground. I was in a maximum dive because I was trying to save the engine long enough to make a try for the field. Pulling back on the throttle, I was staying ahead of the Jap fighter just enough to stay out of range of his guns.

I was beginning to feel that my number was up this time. My oil pressure dropped to zero. Speed was about 315 MPH. I hunched behind the armor plate, listening for the pings of the Jap's guns while trying to make a decision about bailing out or belly landing. Luckily, the Jap must have thought I was a goner, for he turned his fighter away and climbed back to the battle area. A second later my propeller stopped. I stared at one of the three blades straight up in front of the nose of my ship. I was dropping fast toward an area of rice paddies located at the base of a mountain. I was too low to bail out, so I decided to risk a wheels up landing. I picked out a field and glided in, rolling my canopy back. I tried the flap levers. Hell, they wouldn't work! I was going to overshoot the field. I wasn't over a hundred feet above it, and my speed was giving out fast. I risked a drastic bank and turn, trying to hit the slope of the rice paddy.

It worked. Just as I flattened out my wing, I hit the ground. I bounced out of one rice paddy, sailed over a small dike, and smashed down into another water-filled paddy. What a jolt! I was thrown against my safety belt. My head flew forward, and the right side of my forehead caught the gunsight. I was momentarily dazed but brought back to my senses by the sound of the canopy slamming back shut.

I rolled the canopy open again, unsnapped my safety belt, hit my parachute release button, and jumped out of the cockpit onto the wing. The fuselage was smoking, but no fire had started. The propeller and gear housing had torn loose from the nose and had become a curled mass of junk about fifteen feet in front of the plane. The oil and coolant radiators had been torn off and were strung out behind the ship. What a mess.

God, I was glad to be alive! I looked up for signs of aircraft, particularly Japanese. There weren't even any sounds of aircraft. I retrieved my helmet, oxygen mask, goggles, and earphones and moved out toward the left wing tip. My head ached. I reached up and felt a couple of deep gashes in my forehead from the gunsight. Fortunately they weren't bleeding heavily.