The Wayland Mayo Story
Biographical Notes


Shortly after graduating from Riverside I signed up for the Air Force. I spent the next year attending photography school at Lowry AFB in Denver. After graduating from photo school in 1948 and then Gunnery School in Arizona, I was assigned to Forbes AFB in Topeka, Kansas as a camera repair technician. I played Semi-pro baseball there, made the state all-star team as pitcher. I wasn’t entirely happy at Forbes, so to get out of there I volunteered for Okinawa, a questionable move at the time. I barely survived the trip to Okinawa on the Gen. D.E. ALTMAN after contemplating jumping overboard.

Left: Bill Welch, Right: Wayland Mayo, standing at entrance of camera repair shop, Kadena AB, Okinawa.
Arriving at Okinawa I was assigned to Kadena AFB, the 31st STRAT, living at TY base. My job was camera repairman in a dilapidated quonset hut. I was desperate to get on flying status. On Apr. 19, 1950, my best friend Bill Welch and I were finally assigned to flight crews as aerial photo gunners. I had the misfortune of being assigned to RB-29 # 903, affectionately known as “THE HEAP”. On my second flight, on 16 June 1950, a malfunctioned gear and heavy gas fumes inside led to a bail out. I was first to go, with Curtis Franks right behind me. One of the crewmembers lost a leg in that jump.
After 903 went down I was without an airplane. A stroke of luck finally came my way. I had always been fond of RB-29 4000, “TIGER LIL”, and was overjoyed when, I was assigned to that crew.
Tiger Lil Crew

Standing, L to R: Hubler, RO; King, FE; Long, Nav; Ridge, Radar; (Unident.), Pilot; Campbell, A/C. — Kneeling, L to R: Clark, TG; DeHaven, APG; Mayo, APG; Rij, LG; Thorpe, RG; Browning, CFC. Photo taken immediately after 25th mission. Capt. Torrey assumed A/C’s position right after.
Photo, recorded at Yokota, ctsy. Wayland Mayo

During some of our off-duty hours we spent time checking out the local area. There was ample evidence left over from WW II. There were sunken ships in harbors and damaged facilities and landscape at every turn. The photos below provide two samples of this.

Above: Japanese underground hangar.
Right: Collection of human remains at base of Suicide Cliff where it is believed 10,000 Japanese committed suicide.
June 25, 1950 was fast approaching. One afternoon while taking a break with the crew we noticed a steady stream of B-29’s landing. I approached one of the crews and asked where they were from. “We’re the 19th Bomb Group from Guam” was the reply. Kadena became a very busy place after that with trucks delivering 500 pound bombs. The 19th was sent into combat immediately. Many crews were short gunners for various reasons, so I volunteered and flew several missions with them. The 19th was a well organized professional group.

The 31st had become the 91st, and Tiger Lil was busy flying missions deep into enemy territory. We received orders to move to Japan, and after being temporarily assigned to Yokota AFB and then to Johnson AFB, nearby, we eventually ended up back at Yokota AFB. Yokota had longer runways that were better suited for heavy takeoffs and landings for wounded B and RB-29s. Combat activity increased considerably with the entry of the Mig-15, and antiaircraft fire became very deadly over Pyongyang and the Yalu.

One afternoon in early November of 1950 I was on the flight line at Johnson and heard that 813 was returning with two engines out on one side. We all rushed down to the end of the runway and soon saw 813 on final approach. The approach looked good, however when the flaps came down the plane nosed straight into the ground with a horrible crash. Just a few feet more with more airspeed and they would have made it. I believe the tail gunner shot down the Mig. This was only one of many tragic incidents which were happening more frequently as time went on.
Above and Above Right:

Wreckage of RB-#461813,
Johnson AFB, Japan,

A photo of #813,
shot shortly before its
final and fatal flight.

Note the double barreled
P-51’s (Known as the F-82)
in the background.

Mt. Fuji, viewed from ground level.
It was a most beautiful sight.
After our 25th mission we were sent to the Yamanaka Hotel at the base of Mt. Fuji for a week of R & R . This was a most enjoyable time off to spend with the crew and relax. It did not seem possible that we could fly another 25 missions without something happening. The Migs were very aggressive, we heard they had orders to ram the 29’s if they were unable to shoot them down.

End of Chapter 2, Go to Chapter 3

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