Baker Flight Leader, Lt. Bill Reeter
Interview Notes with William (Bill) E. Reeter, Lt/Col. Retired, 9/96, (courtesy of Alan Reeter)
The flight consisted of nine B-29’s. Bill led (the) element (and) the squadron commander was on board to observe.
“As we were approaching the target, CAP radioed that MiGs were inbound.”
They (B-29s) were in tight formation at 22,000’. After bomb drop they made a left turn to egress.
“The MiGs attacked just as they rolled out of the turn. I was too busy maintaining formation to look around much. I only saw two MiGs. One was making a head-on pass. I could see a little bit of smoke from the guns. Then one came in from behind. I could hear fire control talking about it. Then there was an explosion and the cabin depressurized. I saw the MiG as it passed in front and turned away.”
One of the shells from the MiG creased the fuselage and hit (above) the navigator’s window and exploded.
“My tail gunner was wounded. He had a slug (29mm?) sticking out of the bottom of his foot. The radio operator and another gunner were hurt pretty bad. Most of the injuries (up front) were from the exploding shell. Pieces of plastic (from the navigators window) were embedded in the squadron commander’s legs. I didn’t know I was hurt until I felt something wet on my neck. When I reached up I felt something sticking out of my jaw. I pulled it out. It was a blue piece of tubing, probably part of the oxygen system. We didn’t have pressurization or oxygen.
“Edwards (the navigator) was the worst off. My copilot went to check on him. He was slumped forward, face down on the navigation table. He (was) alive but his left eye was lying on his cheek. A piece of his skull was flipped back and you could see his brain.
“I told (mission) lead that we needed to descend, but he … wanted us to stay in formation. I don’t remember too much (about what happened) for a while, because of the hypoxia. Large pieces of the rudder, flaps, and ailerons were missing. The gunners reported that fuel was leaking. I asked (?) to check the bomb bay for fumes. The original flap motor (located in the bomb bay) wasn’t explosion proof … When they opened the hatch the fumes were so strong that they immediately closed it.”
It would be a no flap landing.
“(As we approached) Kimpo and slowed down it got a lot harder to control the airplane. A cable to the left aileron was severed. I told the crew that they could bail out, but they didn’t want to. I had two guys who couldn’t bail out, so I had to land the airplane.
“The airplane was pretty hard to control on final. I had in full aileron. Just before touchdown it began to get away (from me), but then it touched down. I was able to taxi off the runway. Fuel was running all over the place.
“People began gathering around the airplane. They couldn’t believe we landed it. When I got outside, I asked where Edwards was. No one knew, so I went back in and pulled him out. He was still alive, but died the next day.”