The Big Bang Mission

As told by George Edwards to Scott Moody

Forward: My father-in-law was a radio operator/navigator on a PV-1 Ventura during W.W.II. He told me the following story about one of their missions. I thought this story was worth saving. I love talking to George, my father-in-law about his experiences in W.W.II. He has some very good stories.

-Scott Moody

They were the youngest aircraft crew in the squadron. The pilot, Richard Larson, and the co-pilot, Bill Little were Ensigns, George was a Seaman 3rd Class, and the others were Seamen 1st Class. George had spoken often of his pilot's outstanding skills at the controls of the Ventura. He was one of these rare pilots who became one with the aircraft and could make it do anything he wished. These skills saved them all on one particular mission over the island of Palau.

Ensign Larson liked to approach the target at about 5-6000 feet, make one quick recon pass over the area, and then start the bomb run at tree top level. He wanted to hit the target hard and solid on the first pass and get the hell out. Occasionally, if he were not satisfied with the first recon pass over the target, he would drop down to a lower altitude for a better look. But he always made the bomb run just above the trees, and he always hit the target. George said it was not unusual to find debris from trees in the engine cowlings after a mission.

This particular mission was to be a straightforward bomb and strafe run. Ensign Larson made his initial pass, sized up the target, and picked out his approach. The target was a half-mile square clearing in the jungle that was scattered with storage barns and huts. On his first pass, Larson put two rockets into the largest storage barn, which was located on the far side of the clearing. He would finish the target with a second run using bombs and machine gun fire, or so he thought. What happened next abruptly ended the mission, the need for a second bomb run, and nearly their lives.

That barn erupted into a fireball that rose hundreds of feet into the sky. The resulting explosion was so large and powerful that it completely flattened a large portion of jungle and totally obliterated the target. Larson executed a steep climbing turn, nearly rolling the aircraft over, to escape the blast. The shock wave from the blast buffeted the Ventura so violently that for several seconds George was convinced that the aircraft would be thrown to the ground. Luckily the Ventura was a fast aircraft for it's time, and Ensign Larson used those powerful engines to get them out of harm's way. He made another pass over the target to check for damage, but there was nothing left.

The trip back to base was quiet. No one said much. They all realized how close they came to death.

George said they never found out what kind of munitions were in that storage barn, not that they really cared. They were just grateful to have survived the mission. They were also grateful for a good aircraft, strong and fast, and for the incredible instinctive piloting skills of Ensign Larson. Larson and Little both made Lt. Junior Grade before the war ended, by the way. Well deserved, I'd say.

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Copyright 2006, 2012 by George Edwards and Scott Moody. All rights reserved.