B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group

 

The Story of My Military Service with the 320th B.G.
by Benton B. Banchor, 442nd Bomb Squadron

 

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Oversease Moves

 

Morrison Field, Borinquen Field, & Waller Field

 

On 20 November 1942, we flew to Morrison Field, West Palm Beach, FL. We were given shots for overseas duty and had complete physicals. The planes were thoroughly tested and any needed repairs were made (I wish I had picked up extra brake valves). We flew to Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico (it took 5 hours), then on to Waller Field, Trinidad. We stayed just long enough to see the city and go to the USO where we danced with the local girls, one of whom proposed to me. Fortunately, the Air Corps required that we stay single (as well as be in perfect health). I also was introduced to rum & cokes in Trinidad.


Atkinson Field

 

After a few days, we flew to Atkinson Field, Georgetown, British Guiana. At this time my pilot contracted pneumonia and was sent back to Florida for treatment. Because the air was so sultry and humid, it took a lot of work to keep the planes in good flying condition. Propellers were cleaned with oil, but the next morning they would have rust all over and had to be cleaned again. Brake valves had to be continually removed for cleaning or they would not work. In some cases, we had to part out old planes just to keep our planes in shape. One day while learning to shoot out on the firing range, the tail gunner accused me of never having shot a gun. When I pulled out a photo of me holding a shotgun in one hand and a dead prairie dog in the other, he thought that was so funny, he threw himself on the ground laughing! Finally, after three weeks, our pilot returned, and we took a test flight over the river to Georgetown and back. On the return trip, he flew so low that the deck of a river boat was above us, and we had to look up to see the people on the boat. The whole area was infested with snakes and crocodiles, as well as parrots and monkeys. Some native people had a disease called Elephantitis that swelled a leg 4 times larger than normal!


Val-de-Caes Field & Parnamirim Field

 

Our next trip was to Val-de-Caes Field in Belém, Brazil. There was heavy fog rising up from the forest below when we arrived. While there, I bought a pocketbook made of crocodile skin for my Mother and bought myself a ruby ring that I still wear.

Our next flight was to Parnamirim Field in Natal, Brazil. The brakes failed when we came in for landing and we had to use the emergency air bottle to stop. Evidence indicated that the hydraulic system had been sabotaged. The pilot dared the engineering officer to fly on the plane. When he refused, the Commanding Officer declared the plane unsafe. Since we had to wait five days for other transportation, one day we hired a taxi to tour Natal. We went to a dance hall. We were warned that the local men were very jealous of the local girls. We decided to leave before any trouble started. So we went to the seashore and swam in the ocean. After drinking green coconut juice, my stomach was upset and has been sensitive ever since. At this time, I also found out I had athletes foot. Meanwhile, Capt. Himmereich, the co-pilot, went to a dance with other officers and their wives. He had too much to drink and when one of the ladies refused his offer to dance, he thumbed his nose at her whole group. Unfortunately, he had insulted the Governor's wife! The MP's were called and the judge wanted to send him to jail, but Lt. Col. Simms, our pilot, said he would confine him to quarters so he couldn't bother anybody else. No more promotions for Capt. Himmereich! Then, in the middle of the night, they came & got us up, saying we have to leave immediately. The affair had caused an international incident.


Ascension Island & Accra, Gold Coast Africa

 

We flew to Ascension Island on an Army transport plane. When we landed, three jeeps came rumbling up hoping we had brought the mail. The soldiers told us there was only one girl on the island, the mayor's daughter. I felt sorry for those troops! We then flew to Africa's Gold Coast to a village named Accra. Those who needed medical attention received it at the time, including me for athlete's foot. The young natives who served us meals were very glad to see us and served us well. We next flew north over the desert. Looking down I saw camels and a sandstorm. We landed at Roberts Field, Liberia where tangerine trees grew. Women had to cover their faces with veils and they rode on donkey carts. If a father noticed us looking at a girl, he beat the donkey and sped away. A soldier from another group made the mistake of taking the veil off a girl; he was later found dead with his head on his chest! (Continued)


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