The Chambermaid was assigned to the VIIth USAAF, 30 BG, 38 BS.
They were stationed on Saipan. This was the Chambermaid's 36th mission -
30 by the Chamber's crew and five by the Core crew. The Core crew members were:
Lt. Bill Core (Pilot)
Lt. Glen Beatty (Co-Pilot)
Lt. Mel Harms (Bombardier) (my uncle)
Lt. Clarence Wasser (Navigator)
Sgt. Ted Richards (Radio Operator & Top Turret Gunner)
Sgt. Milton Howard (Nose Turret Gunner)
S/Sgt George Shahhein (Ball Turret Gunner)
S/Sgt Michael Verscak (Flight Engineer & Right Waist Gunner)
S/Sgt Robert Martin (Left Waist Gunner)
Cpl. Robert Hariff (Tail Turret Gunner)
Click the image to the right for a captioned photo legend of the crew members.
Lt. Doscher, the intelligence officer, was also on the mission as an observer.
A side note: Core was from Knoxville Iowa - about 50 miles from my uncle's home
town, Sumner, Iowa. Core contracted pneumonia right after they completed
training. The crew was going to be broken up. But the CO was also from Iowa.
My uncle persuaded him to hold the crew back until Core recovered. They were
able to keep all by three of the original crew until Core was able to fly again.
Those Hawkeyes stick together......GO HAWKS!
Anyway, back to the Chambermaid. She was a B-24J-80-CO, serial number 42-100227.
Core was quoted as saying she had already picked up a couple of purple hearts
for the boys by the time they were assigned to her. My uncle also talked about
how war weary she was.
Their last mission was to Iwo Jima. To quote my uncle: “A damned dangerous
place”. Their troubles started about 30 seconds after bombs away. The nose
gunner called saying his turret wasn't working. A few seconds later the ball
turret gunner called saying something was leaking into his turret and he
couldn't see. My uncle found they had taken a flak hit in the nose that had
shot out the hydraulic lines. Hydraulic fluid was running throughout the
They were jumped by fighters about this time. They were being attacked from two
groups when they were hit again. A 20 mm shell exploded behind the cockpit
wounding Beatty, the co-pilot, and Wasser and Doscher who were standing behind
the pilot and co-pilot. Another 20 mm shell hit the top turret blowing it into
the slipstream where it hit the right stabilizer. Amazingly Richards was alive
although badly wounded. My uncle dragged/carried the wounded through the bomb bay
to the waist where he gave first aid. I assume you have been in the bomb bay of a
B-24. (Yes, Jim, I have!) The catwalk is only 8-10 inches wide. Plus it was covered with hydraulic
fluid. I can barely squeeze through the bomb bay. I have no idea how you carry a
wounded crew member through there? My uncle has talked about being afraid of
slipping or dropping someone. He didn’t think the bomb bay doors would hold them.
Core called the flight leader to report their condition. The flight leader, LT.
Valentine and three other B-24s dropped back and boxed in the Chambermaid.
Core got a chance to take stock of the situation after the fighters finally
left. It was worse than he thought. He had almost no instruments. He had no
navigator or co-pilot. He only had control of one engine. The other three were
running at full throttle. #4 was also throwing oil. Martin, the waist gunner,
had washed out of flight school after 150 hours of stick time. Core had allowed
him to fly the right seat occasionally during the crew training as a hedge that
his skills might come in handy. So, Martin took over the right seat. Core was
able to gain control of the three run away engines by using the supercharger
and feathering controls. But, now they were losing altitude. They threw
everything they could overboard. They even tried to jettison the ball turret.
But, the special wrench became so slippery from the hydraulic fluid that they
dropped it overboard.
They were airworthy, but just barely. #4 was still throwing oil and caught
fire for a couple of minutes every hour on the hour. They had no idea how the
engine kept running.
They finally spotted Saipan after five hours. Now they had to land! They tried
to patch the holes in the lines. But the hydraulic pressure was too much for
the patches. Core knew they wouldn’t have any brakes. Valentine came up with
the idea of attaching parachutes to the waist and tail gun mounts. They could
only crank down the starboard landing gear. The cable to crank the port gear
down was shot away. They kicked the nose gear down.
So now they were faced with landing on two wheels with no brakes. Hariff, the
tail gunner, volunteered to pull the tail chutes. The rest of the crew arranged
themselves around the wounded men in the waist ready to pull the waist chutes.
The Chambermaid stayed level until the chutes opened and her air speed bled off.
Her left wing dug in and she veered off the runway. She finally stopped when
she hit a revetment. The fuselage broke open at the waist. The nose collapsed
almost crushing Core and Martin. Core and Martin crawled out one of the cockpit
windows. The able bodied crew walked out through the break in the fuselage.
My uncle started counting noses as the ambulances and fire trucks arrived.
He kept coming up short one. He finally realized it was Hariff, the tail gunner.
My uncle ran to the back of the plane and thought he saw a body hanging from
the tail turret. It was just the parachutes. My uncle finally found Hariff
dazedly walking among the onlookers. He had jumped out before the Chambermaid
had come to a stop.
All eleven crewmen survived the last mission of the Chambermaid. All were
awarded the Purple Heart. The crew also received an official commendation for
their courage and resourcefulness from the commanding general of the 7th USAAF.
My uncle got two weeks R&R in Hawaii and was reassigned. He completed 35 missions.
Another side note: My uncle has talked more about his service in the past 3-4
months than he has in the last 60 years. One thing he related was how dangerous
it was flying in the Pacific. The islands were so small and the anti-aircraft
fire was so concentrated. They couldn’t fly around some of the flak like they
did in the ETO. There was no doubt what the target was.