Clapper: A hard war
By Raymond Clapper
Raymond Clapper knew that when he set out with our naval striking force, he might be unable to send any dispatches for many days. So he wirelessed a few columns in advance – from New Guinea, from Munda, from Guadalcanal, and from aboard an aircraft carrier. Other manuscripts may have been found among his effects aboard the ship from which he flew to his death.
Before leaving the country, Mr. Clapper wrote that “some people in Washington feel there is no sufficient awareness at home of how much our men are doing and in what a living hell they must sometimes do it.” His mission was to help increase that awareness. Hence, we feel sure that he would want us to print, posthumously, the columns that will appear during the next few days.
Munda, Solomon Islands – (by wireless)
It is already a long, hard war for most of the men out here.
Some of the outfits that were among the first to hit the beach at Guadalcanal are now over here. They have been through two hard campaigns. And the Marine airmen are still at it in the rain, mud, jungle. It is rugged living. There are no women, and men go around naked.
I have just spent an evening in barracks with the pilots of one of the most famous Marine torpedo-plane squadrons in the South Pacific. It is the second oldest in the Marine Corps, and was the first squadron on Henderson Field at Guadalcanal, where it brought down 15 Jap planes in the first 10 days.
Listen to some of their stories and you know it not only will be a long, hard war, but has already been one, so far as they are concerned.
It was land or else–
One skinny little guy over in the corner had not said anything, but after an hour somebody asked:
Did you hear what happened to him?
The finger was pointed at Lt. Garth B. Thomas of Dallas, Texas, who brought in his torpedo bomber a few days ago with a live bomb stuck in the bomb bay and ready to go off at the slightest jolt.
Lt. Thomas, who is 24, ordered his two gunners to jump, and they parachuted into coconut trees without a scratch. Thomas then tried to figure and swing out onto the wings, which are midway of the fuselage. Each time he gave it up, as he couldn’t figure out how to jump and clear the elevators.
His hydraulic system had been knocked out, so he could not use his flaps, or brakes. Also, one wheel was stuck.
I asked him what he thought as he went through 15 minutes of landing preparation, suspended between the ground and eternity. He replied:
I kept thinking I would land easy or else.
He shook for a day
At that point, Lt. G. C. Stamets, also of Dallas, interrupted to say:
You should have seen GB next day. His hand was still shaking so hard he rattled a sack of lemons he was carrying.
Anyway, he finally got his wheels down and came in to a landing. Then to his horror a slight ground loop began, but fortunately the plane went into a taxiway and stopped without smashing.
Lt. Thomas jumped out and started to run, warning others away. A bomb disposal man came and found that the bomb fuse was only four inches from striking the bomb-bay doors, which would have meant the end.
I asked the lieutenant what he did after that. He said he went to Rabaul on a bombing mission the next day. That is the kind of life led by this young fellow, who was an adding machine salesman until he enlisted in the Navy in January 1941. He began flight training in April 1942, after having been up in a plane just once in his life. He has six weeks more out here, after which he gets to return home.