Ability and Accountability By Richard Haddad, Prescott Valley, AZ firstname.lastname@example.org "[Children] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are."
"Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it." -- Two of my favorite quotes by Jim Henson
Friday, April 26, 2013
Chivalry over Tokyo: The WWII story of Hap Halloran and Hideichi Kaiho
Army Air Force Navigator, 2nd Lt. Raymond F. "Hap" Halloran and Japanese pilot Cpl. Hideichi Kaiho.
On January 27, 1945 seventy-six Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers took off from a short runway at Isely Airfield, Saipan.
Twenty-two-year-old Raymond 'Hap' Halloran was the navigator in the crew of eleven young men onboard the B-29 called the Rover Boys Express.
The B-29 was a four-engine propeller-driven long range heavy bomber. It was one of the largest aircraft to see service in World War II and a very advanced bomber, with features such as a pressurized cabin, an electronic fire-control system, and remote-controlled machine-gun turrets.
It had been a little more than three years since the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into World War II. These massive bombers represented the determination and ingenuity of the U.S. and its allies.
The Japanese feared the B-29 because it had the power and reach to bring the war right to their homeland. This mission would take a Superfortress fleet 1,500 miles to the north, directly over Tokyo, the capital of the Empire.
When the planes flew over Mt. Fuji bursting anti-aircraft shells known as flak exploded around the B-29s. As they flew inbound toward their target the flak ceased and there was a lull. Suddenly, 300 Japanese fighter planes swarmed around the bombers. According to historical data this was a record number of fighters ever used in an aerial defense.
King of B-29 Killers
Among the Japanese pilots was fighter ace Isamu Kashiide. He was flying a Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu (Dragon Slayer), a powerful twin-engine fighter heavily armed with one 37 mm and two 20 mm autocannons.
Most Japanese Army Air Force pilots agreed it was almost an impossible task for a single pilot to bring down a B-29. By January 1945 Kashiide had already shot down five confirmed B-29s. He would later be known as the "King of B-29 Killers" for achieving the highest number of victories over the Superfortresses, above any other pilot during the war. Kashiide had developed a frontal assault, aiming at the nose of the aircraft. This bold technique involved closing his eyes during the head-on approach and counting to time his attack and then make a rapid diving escape. This allowed Kashiide to stay on target without the mental distraction and fear caused by the shower of criss-crossing tracers and bullets coming from the Superfortress gunners.
In this aerial battle 32,000 feet over Tokyo Kashiide attacked the Rover Boys Express. His 37 mm round hit the plane squarely in the nose. The front of the B-29 suddenly exploded in noise and shrapnel, blowing out vital controls. Inside the pressurized B-29 the temperature instantly dropped from 50 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 58 degrees. The sudden decompression added to the terror of the moment. Rounds from the enemy guns created shrapnel, which joined the rounds ricocheting throughout the interior of the front of the aircraft.
The B-29 started banking and losing altitude, it was going down. One gunner had been killed and the ten Rover Boys that remained alive hurriedly prepared to bail out. The rest of the B-29s continued on course for their target, leaving Rover Boys Express alone over Tokyo in a cold, hostile sky.
Hap bailed out at 27,000 feet and let himself free fall as long as he could. He had been trained not to open his chute early because the minus 58 degree temperatures could freeze a man to death during the long descent, and enemy fighters were known to shoot aviators as they descended.
A Floating Target and an Unexpected Gift
In his own words, Hap Halloran explained what happened next: "I fell free until I opened my chute east of Tokyo at about 3,000 feet. The extreme cold at high altitude; the long free fall and shock and fear affected me physically and mentally as I hung in my chute. My landing on enemy soil was imminent. I was frightened. Then I saw three Japanese fighters several miles away at my altitude. They were heading directly at me. I feared the worst. They throttled back and circled very close to me. Two of the planes left. The third plane circled back and came in very close. I could clearly see the pilot as he was abreast of me. Then a wonderful thing happened. He saluted me and flew away. That event was beyond my comprehension at that time."
The third plane in that formation was flown by Corporal Hideichi Kaiho. His momentary gesture would later have profound impact on Halloran's life.
Hap Halloran would face a different kind of war when he hit the ground. He was mobbed and brutally beaten unconscious by civilians before being taken by soldiers to a torture prison in Tokyo. He would be confined in dark solitary for months and fed only a small ball of rice several times a day. he would be given no medical treatment. He was later moved to Ueno Zoo in Tokyo where he was a prisoner in an animal cage and tied to the front bars so civilians could march by and view the hated B-29 flyer, beating him with sticks and striking him with rocks. By that time Halloran had lost nearly 90 pounds and was naked and black from non-washing with hair all over his face, and covered with open running sores from flea and bed bug bites.
"Conditions were extreme," he recalled. "I cried (a form of relief) and prayed constantly."
The war ended August 15, 1945. Hap Halloran survived and was liberated from a prisoner of war camp by U.S. Marines on Aug. 29, 1945.
He experienced nearly 40 years of nightmares and struggled to cope. But one moment of light kept shining in the darkness, a moment when a young Japanese pilot saluted him as he fell from the air.
"I have never forgotten that day," Halloran said. "I have always recalled and spoken of this incident in subsequent interviews, speeches, and books. I wanted people to know of this chivalrous act by an enemy pilot. A pilot who saluted me at that critical time in my life, on that cold winter day of January 27, 1945, over enemy soil."
Enemies No More
Almost 40 years later that gesture helped him make the decision to return to Japan in an attempt to begin healing. Through multiple visits Halloran met with, and became friends with both Isamu Kashiide, the pilot who shot down the Rover Boys Express, and Hideichi Kaiho. After the war Kaiho became a well known aviation artist and gave gifts of his paintings to Halloran. During visits the two elderly men would embrace and speak of how fortunate they both felt to have survived those long ago days of World War II. Hideichi died two days before a planned visit from Halloran.
Halloran recalled, "I was invited by his son, Itsuo, to attend and participate at his father's funeral on June 23, 2004. I did attend and was led to the casket of his father. I knelt and prayed; then arose and standing at the head of his casket I saluted him. This took place fifty nine years after he had saluted me as I hung in my parachute on January 27, 1945 after our B-29 had been shot down over Tokyo."
HAP Halloran passed away on June 7, 2011 at the age of 89. The story of his life has uplifted mine.
I hope we will all remember that there are good men and women in this world, even amongst those we might think to be our enemies. Love, honor and chivalry are powerful weapons against hate, violence and anger.
Christians are taught: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5: 44-45).
Mahatma Gandhi taught: "It is easy enough to be friendly to one's friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business."
Posted: Thursday, May 02, 2013
Article comment by:
I'm in Japan right now. Been here visiting many times. Japanese are a very kind, graceful, fun-loving people. Hard to imagine there was such a war but times have changed and there is much to learn.
Posted: Monday, April 29, 2013
Article comment by:
What a beautiful story.
And yet, for some reason, both the author and one of the early respondents had to invoke Christianity as if it were the significant factor in this adventure, and as if it has a monopoly on people doing the right thing.
Yes, Christian teachings are inspiring, but so are those of other faiths. And it is exceedingly unlikely that that honorable Japanese pilot, who saluted his enemy rather than finishing him off, was a Christian. Yet that drew no mention.
Posted: Sunday, April 28, 2013
Article comment by:
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4: 32
Posted: Sunday, April 28, 2013
Article comment by:
This was a very well written and enjoyable article. Thanks for contributing!