VETERANS’ DAY MEMORIES
by George Rand
With the approach of Veterans’ Day, the thoughts of many veterans will turn to their wartime experiences. I served in the Southwest Pacific during World War II and vividly remember the B-29 Superfortress, an aircraft with higher speed and greater endurance than any comparable aircraft at the time. The B-29 was a key factor in ending the war in the Pacific.
On the lighter side, I recall the many rumors that were circulated in the service. By far, the favorite subject of the rumors was General Douglas MacArthur, Army commander in the Pacific. A persistent rumor involved the home being built for the general on a mountaintop in Hollandia, New Guinea. It supposedly resembled a king’s palace. Soldiers referred to it as the ‘Mansion on the Hill.”
I made several flights into Hollandia’s airstrip, passing over the area where the rumored mansion was being built but saw only temporary housing used by headquarters personnel.
As the combat line moved north from New Guinea, I received orders to proceed to the Philippines and then to the Guam in the Mariana Islands to prepare the communications network for the planned invasion of Japan. Shortly after landing on Guam, the airstrip operations officer told me a rumor that mystifies me to this day. The rumor was that pilots on Guam were taking bets that the war would be over in 60 days.
At the time, that was an incredible rumor since I had just flown from the Philippines where the Japanese were still in fierce combat with our troops. However, the operations officer’s 60-day rumor did become fact: Within those 60 days, two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan by B-29s based in the Mariana Islands and the war in the Pacific did indeed end.
Soon, I was flying back to the States, returning to the college classrooms I had left nearly three year earlier.