700 AIR-MILE ROUND TRIP FROM THE FLYING TIGER'S MAIN BASE IN KUNMING, CHINA
"While the generals were about their business the Flying Tigers spent their time trying to arrange for the loan of the bomber. They pleaded for permission to make just one raid with it. They promised to send all their P-40's as escorts and bring it back without a scratch if only they could get in one good bombing mission. The answer was always 'No'"
WITH GENERAL CHENNAULT: The Story of the Flying Tigers (1943)
CHRISTMAS DAY 1941
On that exact same Christmas day in 1941 that the Flying Tigers were being attacked as found in the very last panel of the above page, back in the United States just a few miles off the coast from where I, as a young boy lived in Redondo Beach, California, a giant Imperial Japanese Navy long range aircraft equipped submarine, the I-19, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Narahara Shogo, off Point Fermin California, between Catalina Island and the mainland near San Pedro, torpedoed the McCormick Steamship Company's 5,695-ton American lumber carrier SS Absaroka. The subchaser USS Amethyst (PYC-3), on patrol off the Los Angeles Harbor entrance, depth charged the I-19, but without success, the I-19 escaping unharmed.
The I-19 went on to kill again before its ultimate demise on November 25, 1943. It is officially recorded as racking up considerable damage and sinking a number of other vessels prior to that demise --- and not just unarmed freighters. For example, on September 15, 1942, the I-19 fired a half dozen torpedoes at the aircraft carrier USS Wasp, two of which hit and sank her. The remainder of the four torpedoes hit and damaged the battleship USS North Carolina as well as the destroyer USS O'Brien which sank later.
JUNIOR AIR RAID WARDENS
ATTACK ON THE SS ABSAROKA
WORLD WAR II COMES TO REDONDO
I-9 SINKING OF THE SS LEWIS CASS
WW II PLOT TO UNLEASH BUBONIC PLAGUE AGAINST LOS ANGELES
(FROM REAL LIFE COMICS #8 NOVEMBER 1942)
WATCH VIDEO OF THE FLYING TIGERS INTERCEPT JAPANESE BOMBERS ON CHRISTMAS DAY 1941
(please click image)
RUSSIAN BUILT TUPOLEV TB-3 HEAVY BOMBER AS DEPICTED IN THE TOP TWO PANELS ABOVE
As for any bombing attack involving the Flying Tigers and the use of Russian bombers, or any kind of bombers, against Hanoi goes otherwise unheralded and/or is ambiguous at best. So too, nowhere in the records does it indicate that Chennault, as the head of the Flying Tigers, was the recipient of Tupolev TB-3s in any amount, count, or number as so possibly suggested in the above illustrated story. After the American Volunteer Group, i.e., the A.V.G. or Flying Tigers, was disbanded July 4, 1942 and Chennault once again became a U.S. Army Air Force officer and put in command of the Chinese Air Task Force under the auspices of the USAAF, he did in fact receive a handful of bombers. With those bombers he proceeded to implement a bunch of bombing raids escorted mostly by his previous A.V.G. P-40s.
However, six months prior to all that disbanding and everything, on January 22, 1942 several A.V.G. P-40 pilots including Greg Boyington and Jim Cross did however, escort a group of Russian made SB-2s flown by Chinese pilots on a bombing raid against Hanoi, any results thereof being unclear. About the bombing, which is typical as to any results, Charles Bond and Terry Anderson on page 77 write the following in their book Flying Tiger's Diary (1984):
"Jim (Cross) came in and told me about escorting seventeen Chinese bombers over Hanoi from Mengtzu. It was a completely screwed up mission. They were way off course as they approached the general area of Hanoi and encountered anti-aircraft fire. They jettisoned their bombs and turned back."
THE FUJIYAMA FOO-FOO
The other Flying Tiger bombing raid against Hanoi, a raid using a C-47 Skytrain and for sure no Chinese pilots, emanated from Kunming, China sometime shortly after 1:00 AM either Saturday morning May 16, 1942 or Thursday morning June 11, 1942. Reliable sources for both dates have come forward with equally compelling "proof" substantiating their choice of a date being accurate, although no one from opposing sides are disputing the authenticity of the raid as actually having happened. In either case the bombing run would have been a 700 air-mile round trip, and even more if any strike against Haiphong was included. The attack involved a couple of on-their-own U.S. Army officers and an unknown number just as much on-their-own A.V.G.'s. It didn't involve however, any real bombers, but a C-47 transport that somehow ended up adorned with nose art similar to that of a Flying Tiger. The bombing run itself is usually found under what has come to be known as Fujiyama Foo-Foo, the name somehow given the plane.
The following, as has been cited below, regarding the Fujiyama Foo-Foo, is from Robert M. Smith's Book With Chennault In China: A Flying Tiger's Diary (1984):
"Some of the A.V.G. ground men were drinking in Kunming with two Army Air Force pilots, both second lieutenants. The pilots had just flown in with a load of gas on a C-47. Our men were bemoaning the fact that we did not have any bombers, arguing that it would be much more efficient to bomb Hanoi, destroying the Japanese planes on the ground, than to shoot them down one by one in the air. Nearly everyone in the A.V.G. is always crying for bombers, from Chennault on down.
"About midnight, when everyone was feeling pretty good, one of the American pilots said, 'I could bomb Hanoi with my C-47.' One of the A.V.G. ground men had the keys to the bomb storage bunkers near the field and replied, 'I've got the bombs.' Someone said, 'Let's go,' and they did. They took off about one in the morning and got over Hanoi about three o'clock. The city was brightly lit, since it had never been hit with an air raid at night by the Chinese. They pushed the bombs out through the side cargo door of the plane. One of the A.V.G. almost went with the bombs. They turned around and headed back to Kunming. They were lost for a while but finally landed at the airport about eight in the morning. By that time they were cold sober and tired. They said nothing to anyone but went to the hostel and to bed."
WITH CHENNAULT IN CHINA: A Flying Tiger's Diary
The above two paragraphs from Smith's book, With Chennault In China: A Flying Tiger's Diary (1984), pretty much cut to the quick when it comes to laying out the scene regarding the Fujiyama Foo Foo's Flying Tiger bombing run against Hanoi. Whatever positive qualities the paragraphs may present in quickness, they do however, fall short on details --- details such as names, dates, places and times that would substantiate more clearly the potential possibility of the truthfulness behind the story --- something I don't have a problem with, but unnerves fence sitters and others when it comes to full accountability.
Fortunately, in 1943, while the war was still raging and within a few months if not just weeks of the alleged May or June 1942 Hanoi bombing, Robert B. Hotz --- along with several others who were actually on the scene --- interviewed and then published a book titled With General Chennault: The Story of the Flying Tigers that has in its contents a relatively long segment of the Hanoi, Fujiyama Foo Foo raid, with names, dates, places and times. For more please see:
THE FUJIYAMA FOO-FOO
Two nights later the Fujiyama Foo-Foo team was back in the night sky on a second mission, only this time, if it wasn't before, the C-47 was painted like a Flying Tiger. Coming in on their bombing run they discovered Hanoi, most likely thanks to their previous raid, was completely blacked out, requiring a quick switch in plans to Haiphong, about 60 miles southeast of Hanoi.
The day following the Haiphong raid General Chennault received a report from Chinese Intelligence saying that "American night bombers" had destroyed an ammunition dump, wrecked a portion of the docks, as well as causing numerous fires even in Hanoi. A hotel where high-ranking Japanese officers were attending a party took a direct hit, killing most of the officers. Intelligence also reported that in Haiphong numerous fires were started with some still burning.
It should be brought to the attention of the reader that the above so presented regarding A.V.G. "bombing runs" against Hanoi is referring to the use of actual bomber type aircraft, not fighter or pursuit planes equipped with auxiliary bomb carrying capacity.
In so saying, on May 12, 1942, a few days BEFORE the May 16th nighttime C-47 bombing raid against Hanoi --- that is, if you pick May 16th as the bombing date, and I do --- the Flying Tigers, in lieu of bombers in that none were in their inventory nor were any ever available anyway, sent a group of six A.V.G. P-40s consisting of three late-model P-40Es equipped with bomb racks along with three early model P-40Bs, from Kunming on an attack run against the Gia Lam airfield in Hanoi. Five of the P-40s reached Hanoi, with one turning back to base because of engine trouble.
Immediately following the bombing runs by the P-40Es the older P-40Bs swept in right on their tails strafing everything of any substance relative to the airfield they could find. Said to have been flying one of the P-40Es that day was John Donavan. After his strafing mission shooting up the control tower, grounded planes, and anything else he could hit of value relative to the airfield Donavan began to pull up. As he did Japanese anti-aircraft rounds began ripping through his P-40 tearing it to shreds causing it to crash through the end of the runway ending Donavan's life in a ball of flames.(see)
COL. ROBERT L. SCOTT, JR.
For the record, or off the record as the case may be, there was a full-bird U.S. Army Air Force Colonel, Robert L. Scott, Jr. that flew C-47 transports over the hump that had befriended Chennault by flying him in cartons of Camel cigarettes on his flights. Scott had convinced Chennault to loan him a P-40 so he could, after arrival in his C-47, turn around and use the P-40 to provide cover escort for other incoming C-47s. According to the legend surrounding Scott the following transpired:
"When he wasn't escorting the transports, the P-40 was his to do with as he pleased. On his own, Scott began a one-man war against the Japanese on the Burma Road. He even had the propeller spinner on his Tomahawk, which he named 'Old Exterminator,' painted a different color each day so the Japanese would think that a whole squadron of planes was strafing them. On some days he flew as many as five missions. When he could, Bob Scott also flew combat missions as a wingman with the Flying Tigers."
CLAIRE CHENNAULT AND HIS FLYING TIGERS
Scott also claims that in May of 1942 he used his P-40 to escort a bombing run into Hanoi. Now, if it was the official one using the bomb laden A.V.G. P-40s or the Fujiyama Foo Foo run with the C-47 isn't clear because nowhere is Scott's participation in a bombing run with the Flying Tigers clear except for the citing of the May 1942 time frame. Since information is fuzzy it could be if it was the official A.V.G. run and he was a wing man and he himself would have been unofficial, so no record of it would show up. If on the other hand, it was the Fujiyama Foo Foo run, and I think what is written about Scott seems to put the Fujiyama Foo Foo right into his camp, then for sure it wouldn't be recorded. However, not one person who has acknowledged any sort of participation in, or whose name has surfaced in some fashion in connection with the Fujiyama Foo Foo raid, has ever come forward stating or hinting that their illicit bombing run into Hanoi was escorted by a fighter or fighters.
On May 17, 1942, five days after the May 12th bombing run, a pilot that participated in the same mission as Donavan, Lewis Bishop, because of either enemy ground fire or a bomb exploding, was forced to bail out of his P-40 over Lao Kai, French Indochina. He was captured by the Vichy French after which he was turned over to the Japanese and held as a prisoner for two years until his escape on May 10, 1945. Bishop and four Marines got out of under the clutches of the Japanese by jumping from a moving train while being moved for transport to Japan. Forty-seven days after jumping from the train he was back in American hands.
During World War II Balchowsky was a belly gunner in the turret of a B-24 Liberator. On a mission over Europe his bomber was hit so hard by fighters and flack the crew had to abandon her. Making it as far back as France Balchowsky, wounded, was forced with the rest of the crew to bail out, France being friendly territory, thus avoiding possible capture by the enemy. Following a short recuperation period and regardless of his number of missions in Europe he was sent to the China-Burma-India theater, more specifically Burma. It was in the CBI where he finally finished out the war mainly participating in low-level bombing runs just like the Flying Tigers and the Fujiyama Foo-Foo only from an Army Air Force B-24 on Japanese ships not far from Haiphong Harbor and Hanoi in the Gulf of Tonkin right off the coast of Vietnam. Places like Hanoi and the Gulf of Tonkin and even Vietnam didn't mean much to most of the G.I.s in those days, but they took on a whole new meaning to a whole new generation of American soldiers twenty years later. In a chapter dedicated to Max Balchowsky, author Art Evans in the book so cited, offers the following:
"Logistics and transport in the mountains and jungled area were a nightmare. The B-24 was not only a bomber but also an occasional transport. The B-24 supported theVinegar Joe Stillwell campaign in Burma. They dropped supplies to Merrill's Marauders and Orde Wingae's Chindits who were fighting in the jungle behind Japanese lines. They also flew dangerous radar-directed low-level night missions attacking shipping in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam."
World War II Veterans in Motorsports
The B-24 bomber in the above quote, especially as to how it applies to Max Balchowsky, was a B-24 given the designation "SB-24D," the S standing for Snooper. SB-24D's were highly modified for their particular mission and only three squadrons existed. For more regarding Balchowsky and SB-24D's use the link below:
MAX BALCHOWSKY: B-24 BELLY TURRET GUNNER
For all that it was worth, a quarter of a century later the Japanese were long gone and the only American presence in Hanoi lived an incarcerated life of pain an misery in the Hanoi Hilton. A now new war was put into the hands of new warriors and new machines, the warriors from the days of the 1940s Flying Tigers and such, were now gone, they no longer in a position to help or to relieve, re the quote below the graphic:
"Looking at me over the security guy's shoulder by leaning slightly to the side, Rowan asked, the riff-raff looking guy that I was, 'You aren't one of those crazy P-40 nut-jobs are you?' I told him I liked P-40s, but loved Flying Tigers. He responded by saying, 'Me too!' With that, in the short time we had, stepping around the security guard, Rowan shared a great deal of his P-40 adventures."
DAN ROWAN: P-40 Fighter Pilot
Ten years later, sometime in the early 1980s, in an effort to gain a brief respite inside a gas station quickie-mart from a raging sand storm while crossing the Coachella Valley in California's lower desert, in what ended up being quite a little goldmine for me personally, I met quite by accident, like I did Dan Rowan in the above quote, a former pilot for the Flying Tigers. His name was William McGarry and he too, like me, just waiting out the storm. After talking for a short time and with the sandstorm waning, figuring I wasn't one of those "crazy P-40 nut-jobs," the two of us arranged to meet the next day.
We started early in the afternoon, talking way into the evening and night at the La Quinta Resort located sort of half way between the Anza-Borrego Desert and where he lived. For whatever reason, and I still have no clue as to why even to this day other than perhaps an ingrained love of the Flying Tigers I carried with me from childhood, and that McGarry must have sensed in some fashion, he told me that earlier that day he had contacted a fellow A.V.G. pilot named Jim Cross (AKA James D. Cross or J.D. Cross) who lived only a few minutes away in Palm Desert asking him to join us, and of which he did, adding a third Flying Tiger pilot to my "have met" roster.
It just so happens that Jim Cross was one of the pilots flying escort for the seventeen Russian made SB-2s flown by Chinese pilots during the bombing run against Hanoi that he is quoted as saying, and that I presented above, "was a completely screwed up mission," and of which, instead of hitting their targets, the Chinese simply jettisoned their bombs and turned back.
Touch the Wall is an internet site dedicated to maintaining the accuracy and information regarding military veterans who served in Vietnam and/or the Southeast Asia conflict in some fashion related to the war or the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial. Be it a name on the wall or records of service time, they do what they can to ensure all information is accurate and concisely presented. Interestingly enough John T. Donovan, who was mentioned a few paragraphs back as being killed by anti aircraft fire in his P-40E during his run against the Gia Lam airfield in Hanoi in 1942, in their section First veteran classified as killed in country lists Donovan as the first saying:
"Flying Tiger John T. Donovan was killed on May 12, 1942, but our involvement in Vietnam was not considered official and his name is not on the Memorial."(see)
So, there it is, the warriors from the days of the 1940s Flying Tigers and such running right up into a new war, new warriors, and new machines.
As for William McGarry as soon as I found out he was a pilot for the Flying Tigers I remembered him right away. When I was a kid one of my favorite books on the American Volunteer Group, or the A.V.G. as the Tigers were known, was written by a woman by the name of Olga Greenlaw, the wife of the second in command of the A.V.G. Col. Harvey Greenlaw. The title of the book, published in 1943, was The Lady and the Tigers. It wasn't long after the war when I read the book for the first time. McGarry was known as Black Mac during the days he flew with the Flying Tigers. Greenlaw wrote in her book something I, as a not yet 10 year old never forgot, and as it turned out it was directly related to McGarry, or Black Mac as she calls him. The following, speaking of Black Mac, is found in The Lady and the Tigers, pages 308-309:
"I wonder what happened to him --- probably a prisoner. But the Chinese scouts found a body in the same location or thereabouts where Black Mac bailed out when Jack Newkirk got killed --- in March.
"The body was unrecognizable, as there was nothing left, the ants had eaten all the flesh, but the uniform the bones were covered with was an A.V.G. flying suit with the insignia still on it."
Prior to Greenlaw's book being published, although it was quite clear Jack Newkirk, also mentioned, was killed, word came through as to McGarry's fate. At the bottom of page 308 the following was inserted: "Since this was written, it has been officially announced that W.D. McGarry is a prisoner of the Japanese." However, you might imagine what I, as a young boy thought of when I first read about the jungle ants gnawing the flesh completely clean right off the pilot's skeleton leaving nothing but bare bones laying inside the flight suit, all the internal organs gone. Some image.
While Claire Chennault and his men were waging real life battles against the Japanese in the air over China and Burma with their P-40 Flying Tigers, "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell was doing the best he could in the malaria ridden jungles of Southeast Asia with his outnumbered and ill-equipped ground troops against the more powerfully equipped Japanese forces. Back at home, in the United States, a groundswell of patriotism was urging them ever onward with what little they had while America's war machine was ever increasingly expanding with promises of being delivered eventually in full strength. Part of that groundswell of patriotism was being driven at the bottom by movie, radio, and comic book heroes trying to shine a light of hope during an otherwise dismal time. I've cited many examples in my works of the era, and although totally minor in the overall scheme of things, added together they breathed hope with small drip-by-drips into the hearts and minds and souls of many of those at home and abroad. The illustrated contents of this page done in comic book style you are reading right now is just one example of those attempts by people on the home front trying to buoy the spirits of an America caught in tough times. There were of course, many hundreds that could be cited, but two of which I've chosen to exemplify find the heroes, both females, switched from their usual habitat in Europe fighting Germans to fighting Japanese in Asia, more specifically connecting up with the Flying Tigers in the air over and in Burma and China. They would be the red haired firebrand Jane Martin, War Nurse and the more demure, albeit girl commando, Pat Parker, War Nurse.
McGARRY'S SMASHED P-40 FLYING TIGER AFTER 50 YEARS IN A THAILAND JUNGLE
(for more click image)
THE TANGO SQUADRON AIR MUSEUM, CHIANG MAI
CLAIRE CHENNAULT AND HIS FLYING TIGERS
COLONEL ROBERT L. SCOTT, JR.
GHOST AND HAUNTED B-29
P-40 GOOSE SHOOT
PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR
ON THE RAZOR'S
SO, DID THE WANDERLING FLY?
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
MY MEETING WITH COLONEL GREENLAW:
A few years after graduating from high school but before being drafted, a buddy and I went on road trip throughout Mexico. We bought a 1951 Chevy panel truck we fixed up like a camper and drove down the Baja peninsula crossing by ferry to the mainland from Santa Rosalia, eventually going as far as the Yucatan before turning back toward the states. During the trip, which is fully outlined at the link cited after the quote below, I sought out Colonel Greenlaw who was living in Baja Mexico at the time. Even though where he lived was a rather remote area, it was fairly convenient because our route took us almost right past his place. A little detour and we were there. To wit:
"After leaving Ensenada we continued south on some pretty crummy roads eventually turning eastward across the peninsula to the little town of Santa Rosalia, taking a ferry across the Sea of Cortez to Guaymas. On the road south just before it turns more eastward across the peninsula to Santa Rosalia we turned on Highway 18 not far from Guerrero Negro as I wanted to catch up with a man I hoped to meet who was said to live at a place called El Arco. The man was Colonel Harvey Greenlaw, the onetime second in command of the infamous Flying Tigers of World War II fame. I had read his wife's book Lady and the Tigers (1943) and heard somewhere along the way that Greenlaw lived there. Since I was close by and most likely would never be back I made it a point to look him up, spending a couple of days."
THE MAYAN SHAMAN AND CHICXULUB
When I was eight or nine years old I went on an almost all summer long excursion throughout the desert southwest visiting a variety of major and minor historical sites as well as fossil and archaeological sites all across Arizona and New Mexico with my uncle. One of the places we visited when we got to New Mexico was Fort Sumner, stopping there specifically for me to see the gravesite of the infamous western outlaw and bad guy Billy the Kid.
Because of a few highly memorable adventures and people I met during that excursion I created a couple of web pages devoted to it. One of the pages revolves around a post high school teenager I met named Tommy Tyree. Tyree worked on a ranch for a man whose dad's brother, in 1908, shot and killed Sheriff Pat Garrett, the man who had in turn shot Billy Kid in 1881. Because of such Tyree was a minor historian of Billy the Kid. However, his major claim to fame was his stature as a witness to the events surrounding the alleged crash of an object of an unknown nature that came out of the night sky during the summer of 1947 related to what has come to be known as the Roswell UFO. The other page, because of my visit to Billy the Kid's gravesite, I have dedicated it to Billy the Kid. On that page I use a graphic of a fairly famous oil painting done in 1937 of the Kid by a fellow desert southwest artist and friend of my uncle named John W. Hilton, of whom, through my uncle, as a kid I both met and as well, saw the original painting.
BILLY THE KID BY JOHN W. HILTON, 1937
In an article on the net about Col. Harvey Greenwall said to have appeared in Cabo Life Magazine, reportedly states that the same artist, John W. Hilton, painted a mural on Greenlaw's wall a year or two before I visited him --- during the same period Hilton was gathering material for a book he was writing titled "Hardly Any Fences," a book that dealt with his various travels in Baja California from 1933 to 1959. In a chapter or section of that book, published in 1977, titled "South to El Arco," in his own hand, Hilton presents a slightly different version of any attempt at what could possibly be misconstrued as him having painted a full wall mural:
"I took a liking to Harvey Greenlaw at once. His house had a dirt floor but there were murals on all of the walls painted and drawn by artists and would-be artists who had stopped by to visit him. I added some cereus and cactus plants on each side of a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This gave her a local touch, we thought."
Two years later I was working as crew on the marlin boat come yacht of the multi-millionaire heir to the Halliburton oil fortune, David J. Halliburton Sr. On the way back from Cabo San Lucas I talked the skipper into pulling into Scammon's Lagoon not far from Guerrero Negro for a quick dirt bike trip over to Greenlaw's place in El Arco. However, except for a housekeeper who didn't know where he was and didn't know when he would be back, the place was empty, my trip to see him too no avail.
Greenlaw, who was born November 14, 1897 in Wisconsin, died January 10, 1982 in Baja California, Mexico after residing in Baja for almost all of his post Flying Tigers life. See:
COL. HARVEY GREENLAW
NOTE: The opening quote at the top of this footnote shows up as a footnote in Of Cobras, Scarabs, Maseratis, and Zen except I make reference to some of the conversation between Greenlaw and myself.(see)
THE WANDERLING: OF OLGA GREENLAW, FIREHAIR, AND
A BUNCH OF OTHER EARLY INFATUATION EXPERIENCES!
ALL BLACK 868th SQ, 13th AF, SB-24 SNOOPER WITH CONVENTIONAL B-24 SISTER SHIPS
(please click image)
SB-24D was a modified B-24D World War II Consolidated built Liberator bomber reconfigured to be used for low level, anti-shipping strikes under the cover of darkness along with cutting enemy supply lines, destroying ground installations and infrastructure such as bridges, wharfs, docks, piers, roads, as well as participating in pathfinder missions. Labelled a "Snooper," the modifications included the underside or total aircraft painted flat black to inhibit nighttime visibility, an extra crew member to serve as radar operator, radar that could identify targets 50 miles out with a certain level of reliability and nearly 100% at 30 miles out. Special radar-sighting devices allowed operation of the bomb-release mechanism irrespective of visual sighting of the target.
During the years 1943 to 1945. there were three Snooper Squadrons:
- 63rd, one of four squadrons of the 43rd Bomber Group, 5th Air Force. Primary operational area: Philippines, Papua; New Guinea;; Western Pacific; Australia
- 868th, not attached to any Bomb Group, 13th Air Force, Primary operational area: South and Southwest Pacific.
- 373th, one of four squadrons of the 308th Bomber Group, 14th Force, Primary operational area: China, Burma, India (CBI).
The "B-24 bombing runs flying dangerous radar-directed low-level night missions attacking shipping in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam" that Balchowsky found himself in was most likely in a SB-24D "Snooper" as part of the 373th Bomber Squadron, 308th Bomber Group, 14th Force. The SB-24D Snooper was a specially reconfigured or at least highly modified B-24 bristling with state-of-the-art electronic gear, radar, and painted a dull flat black all designed for low-level night time attack bombing.
373th BS, 308th BG, 14th AF
In a sense SB-24D's were the U.S. Army Air Force answer to the Navy's Black Cats used in the South Pacific with startling results. The Black Cats used PBY-5A Catalina floatplanes equipped with early Air to Surface Vessel (ASV) radar, all with muffled engines and painted totally flat black. Some were heavily armed in the nose with quad-fifties.
The Army did almost the same thing only used B-24 heavy bombers for the delivery platform. Where the Black Cats would come in attacking ships in the dark of the night at mast high just skimming the water the SB-24D's would bomb at medium altitude and usually against installations. They did have a routine where they searched the Gulf and if they found no vessels they turned toward Haiphong and Hanoi, sometimes bombing ships and harbors along the coast as far south as Saigon and as far north as Hong Kong. The following sortie statistics are found in Air Interdictions In China In World War II linked below and listed therein as happening between January 1943 until the end of the war:
"The total number of sorties flown against harbor shipping and installations was in the neighborhood of 1,400, of which more than 550 were by B-24's, slightly more than 300 flown by B-25's, and more than 750 by P-40's, P-38's, or P-51's."
THE LADY ON THE DOCK, THE PBY, BLACK CATS, AND HIGH BARBAREE
OF COBRAS, SCARABS, MASERATIS, AND ZEN
AIR INTERDICTION IN CHINA IN WORLD WAR II