After briefing we are taken to a supply building where we draw parachutes and escape kits. In the escape kit is a gold coin to use if captured, several large silk color maps showing how to get to the coast to be picked up by sub, also shows the tides, etc. There are other items like blood chits, and a poison pill to take if you don't feel like being tortured. I checked the pins in my parachute to make sure they are not bent. It's time to go to the plane. As we arrive at the plane there is a lot of activity, with the ground crew still trying to fix the oil leaks. We again go over everything, checking the bombs, ammo, guns, cameras, etc. We pull the props through, after final outside check climb into the plane.

enlarge photo

I have already started the APU [aircraft power unit]. Everyone checks in on the intercom, we check the movement of all control surfaces, and we're ready to roll. At the end of the runway it's time to run up the engines and check the mags. We have a mag drop more than allowed but Capt. Torrey is heard to say "Yokota tower RB-29 4000 ready for take off". The tower comes back with the magic words, "4000 you are cleared for take off". It's been a lot of work but we're finally on our way, I just hope old "Tiger Lil" will get off O.K. with these very dangerous magnesium bombs on board.

As soon as we get over water we test fire the guns. They all fire O.K. I plug in my heated flying suit, check my oxygen supply, and test all the cameras, everything looking good. I put my flak vest on the seat where I am sitting. The other crewmembers wear theirs but I choose to sit on mine, for a reason. We are pressurized, climbing out to 20,000 ft. The first sighting has been made of Korea. We still have a long ride to Pyongyang. The time goes by fast, all too soon we are approaching Pyongyang. We depressurize and go on oxygen. The Navigator, Lt. Long, is now in complete charge of where this plane goes. He and I will be in constant communication for the rest of the flight. He advises we are coming up on the first airfield. About that time I can hear the burst of flak exploding around us, not real heavy, that will happen when we turn around. After checking the interval and setting all the intervalometers I see the airfield in the viewfinder. I start the trimetrogon cameras and the two 40 inch split verticals. The second airfield passes, I shut the cameras off and wait for us to turn around and get the rail junction. Now the flak is considerably heavier and more accurate. They have calculated our altitude and speed, which once we are on the flight line cannot be changed. In a matter of seconds Lt. Long says the run is complete, we're heading for Sinanju.Our work is just beginning. Lt. Long must calculate the geographical coordinates of the beginning and end of every flight line. A photo is no good if you don't know where it is. Don't forget, we did not have GPS then. He reads the coordinates to me over the intercom and I enter them on the all important flight log. There is much more information to add, exposure, altitude, shutter speed, exposure numbers, etc. The first danger area is behind us.

Mig-15 enlarge photo ctsy USAF Museum


ONE OF OUR F-80 ESCORT PLANES enlarge photo

We're on our way to Sinanju, to make one fast run over the airfield at 25,000 ft. We are scheduled to shortly pick up fighter escorts as we are heading into "Mig Alley". The escorts are right on time, two F-80s. I wondered what they would do if jumped by 50 Mig-15s barreling out of the Sinuiju area. We got past Sinanju without much resistance, and turned for the Sinuiju, Antung area. The Migs had only recently been spotted on airfields in Manchuria and Antung, and were not yet attacking in large packs as they did later in the war. The problem with escort planes is they cannot stay with you for long periods of time. Apparently one of our escorts was hit by flak while over Sinanju, and radioed he was going down. We followed him down and watched him crash, not a violent one, he got out O.K.



Yalu River from 25,000 ft.

I always took a Leica IIIC camera with me on missions. Most of the aerial shots on this website were shot with that camera. I was able to get a shot of the downed plane. The U.S. was very concerned over the increasing appearance of Migs on the Antung airfield, and wanted continual surveillance of that area. We crossed the Yalu, and through the haze there was Antung. I will never understand why they did not send Migs after us, guess we were just lucky. Many other RB crews were not that fortunate. Thank goodness we were only to make visual sightings and did not have to fly directly over the airfield. We turned sharply, took a deep breath, and headed down the Yalu, with China on the left side and North Korea on the right. We photographed several bridges that were worked over by bombers the day before.

Soon darkness was approaching and we were headed for Rashin. As we approached Rashin Capt. Ridge on Radar worked with Lt. Long to determine the flight line. We started on the line, the magnesium bombs going off with a huge flash, the photoelectric cell was tripping the camera O.K. Then over the intercom came the words "40 away". I replied I definitely counted only 39. Lt. Long said take a look in the bomb bay. Sure enough one of the bombs had hung up with only the front being released. Only the rear catch of the shackle was holding it. Problem was that when the front dropped down the arming wire pulled out and the propeller was turning. I had to go into the bomb bay with a screwdriver, make my way along the narrow catwalk, and was able to release the bomb by turning the trip on the shackle. Only a matter of seconds after release the bomb exploded under our plane. A close call. The bomb bay doors were of course open and I sure didn't want to slip, I was holding on for dear life as I made my way back in the gunners compartment.

We made a sharp turn and headed home at full speed. Were we out of danger now? Well not exactly. Capt Ridge had picked up movement coming out of Vladivostok headed our way. We sweated bullets waiting for the Russian planes, probably night fighters, to catch up with us. Apparently we were far enough out they had a fuel problem and had to turn back. The flight back was routine except for number four engine, the one that had the big mag drop, was overheating. The power was pulled back and soon we were over Japan. I was happy to hear Yokota tower say the magic words," RB-29 4000 you are cleared to land". After landing there is still a lot of work to be done. The film magazines have to be unloaded and ready for pick up by the photo lab truck. It was good to be back, it was only one mission. I wondered how we could possibly do that 50 times without a major catastrophe. We still had to go to debriefing, and on the way I heard Capt. Torrey say we were scheduled for a mission tomorrow.


This story is as remembered by Aerial Photo Gunner Wayland Mayo who was a crewmember on "Tiger Lil".

Story Part 1 | Part 2

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