Happy 4th of July to all my American friends, old and new!
My Forgotten Hobby III will be pausing for this summer unless I decide otherwise.
I have started reading Feux du ciel a second time around. The last time I had read it was in 1965. The Bataan chapter was the chapter that had always captivated me especially with the image of two P-40s etched in my mind.
This is an excerpt from the book (page 52)…
C’est la fin du 24th Interceptor Command. Les quatre derniers Curtiss P-40 de Bataan sont restés dans cette mission.
Le 9 avril, les rares survivants des forces armées américaines de la péninsule capitulaient. Auparavant, Mac Arthur (sic) avait fait évacuer à Mindoro, dans le vieux Bellanca, le capitaine Dyess qui devait survivre aux blessures des cinq balles de 7 mm qui I’avaient atteint, pour recevoir des mains mêmes du Président Roosevelt, la Médaille d’honneur du Congrès.
This is the end of the 24th Interceptor Command. The last four Curtiss P-40s from Bataan were lost on this mission.
On April 9th, the few survivors of the peninsula’s U.S. Armed Forces surrendered. Earlier, MacArthur had evacuated Captain Dyess to Mindoro, in an old Bellanca. He had survived wounds from the five 7 mm bullets that had strucked him. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor from the very hands of President Roosevelt.
In 1965 that’s what I had read and there was no Internet to know more. Now I was more curious than ever to learn more about what had happened to Captain Dyess after he was evacuated in an old Bellanca.
When the Bataan Peninsula fell to the Japanese, Dyess, as commanding officer, refused to abandon those of his squadron who could not be evacuated. He gave his airplane (“Kibosh”) to another fighter pilot, Lieutenant I.B. “Jack” Donaldson, for last bombing run on April 9, after which Jack was ordered to fly it to Cebu, where he crash landed. Dyess also supervised the evacuation of Philippine Army Colonel Carlos Romulo, a close friend of General Douglas MacArthur, who would survive the war and would later serve as President of the United Nations General Assembly.
Captain Dyess refused to abandon those of his squadron who could not be evacuated. I guess this makes him more than just a hero.
On the 4th of July, 2020 My Forgotten Hobby III wishes to remember Captain William E. Dyess.
The Dyess Story, first published in 1944, is the moving World War II account of William Dyess (1916-1943), a US Army Air Force pilot who was captured by the Japanese in the fall of the Philippines. Dyess then took part in the infamous Bataan Death March, and was a POW at Camps Cabanatuan and O’Donnell before his transfer and eventual escape from the Davao Penal Colony on Mindanao. His horrific story, one of the first to be published in the U.S. during the war, shocked and angered the nation. Illustrated with maps and photographs. Sadly, on December 22, 1943, Dyess was killed in a training accident in California while testing a P-38 fighter; he was only 27 at the time.
More reading about him here:
Eventually, Dyess was transferred to a prison in Davao, 650 miles south on Mindanao. From there, he led the escape of nine other American and Filipino POWs, the largest such escape in the Pacific Theater during World War II. For months he evaded captured, finally returned to safety in July 1943.
When Dyess returned to the United States, his story was kept secret. No one wanted to risk offending the Japanese, the calculation being they would treat American prisoners even worse.
It was only after Dyess was killed that his story was released. On Dec. 22, 1943, the P-38 he was flying over Burbank, Calif. lost power to an engine. While he could have abandoned his aircraft and parachuted to safety, it would have meant the airplane crashing into a home, possibly killing those on the ground.
Instead, he flew the plane into a vacant lot where he died on impact.