Biography of  Joseph T. Callahan

Captain, 390th Bomb Squadron, 42nd Bomb Group, 13th Air Force, USAAF, WWII

   I joined the New Hampshire National Guard in 1939. The country was in the middle of the Great Depression and millions of men and women were without jobs. The National guard paid about a dollar a week per drill. We were called into Federal Service in september 1940 and the regiment shipped to Palacios, Texas. After six months living with the rattlesnakes and centipedes, I transferred to the Regular Army Air Corps at Chanute Field, 111 in March 1941, heard about the Flying Sergeant training program, applied for it, and two weeks after Pearl Harbor I was sent to the Southeast Training Command at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Ala. This was followed by a civilian flying school at Bennettsville, SC, then to Bush Field, Augusta. Ga. and Moody Field, Valdosta, Ga. I was graduated a Staff Sergeant Pilot in September, 1942, shipped to Columbia AirBase, SC, and spent the next two years, first as a student, then as an enlisted Instructor pilot in the B-25, an aircraft I was destined to fly until the war ended.

   We enlisted pilots, about 2,000 of us, graduated in one year, and were a bit of a problem to the Air Corps hierarchy, and to some of the rank and file. For example, one night I was on a night cross-country with a young student, a Lieutenant. We landed at Charlotte, went in to Base Operations to file a clearance to return to Columbia. I turned it in to an enlisted man on duty, who asked why the officer did not submit the clearance. I explained that I was the instructor. He muttered something to himself, called the operations Officer, who also wanted to know why the officer shown on the clearance didn't file it. I explained again. He was not going to clear me. So I suggested that he call my Group Operations Officer in Columbia, which he did. Very soon he was talking to a Lt. Col. , and I could tell that he was getting blessed out. His ears turned red. He kept repeating. Yes, Sir, Yes, Sir. Then he hung up the phone, turned, signed my clearance, glared at me as he said, "Sorry, Sergeant", and went back to his office. By December of 1942 all of us sergeant pilots were promoted to Flight Officer, then in May 1943 to Second Lieutenant.

   After being frozen in the job of Instructor Pilot for two years, I was unfrozen, picked up and trained a crew, and started for overseas. We flew our B-25s from Savannah, GA to Mather Field, California, then got hung up there by winter weather and unfavorable winds across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. The maximum flight time for us was 12 hours, because of fuel limitations. On the night we left, in a plane whose weight exceeded the limits by more than 3,000 pounds, the calculated flight time was 12 hours. Our actual time to Oahu was exactly 12 hours from lift off to touch down. Then we island hopped across the rest of the Pacific-Christmas Island, Canton Island, Tarawa, where we observed the remnants of the U. S. Marine invasion, and I developed a life-long admiration for what the U. S. Marines are capable of and did. Then it was on to Guadalcanal, Finchhaven, Lae, and the Markham Valley of New Guinea where we ate in a mess tent that contained so many flies it beggared the mind. They were a huge cloud that hovered over us and our food. After jungle survival training there we began chasing the 42nd Bomb Group to which we had been assigned, finally catching them as they arrived in Palawan, Philippines. From March 1945 until the war ended we lived on a tropical island until we left in December on a ship, for home in the United States.

Our main activities flying from Palawan were to attack the enemy in the Philippines, Borneo and what was then French Indo China. All our work was done at deck level. During my two years as an instructor pilot the mission of the B-25 changed from medium-level bombing to deck-level strafing and bombing. One model of the plane was equipped with a 75 mm canon, and I fired several hundreds of rounds as an instructor. In the final weeks of the war our main duty was to chase and destroy the Japanese Army through the mountains of Luzon as they retreated northward with the prodding of the U. S. Infantry, assisted by us destroying the traps the enemy laid for our guys. I flew my last mission the day before the enemy called off the war. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki helped end the war. Then we waited for the boat to go home

Frankly, as a kid out of the depression and no job, the war was a great thing for me. I rose from private to captain. In the year 1945 my pay was just in excess of $5, 000, because of flying pay and combat pay. That was more money than my Dad had ever made to that time. The $2, 000 that I carried home in my pocket was saved during the GI bill days at the University of New Hampshire to buy a new 49 Ford sedan at graduation. Then I went on to the University of Arizona and received an MS in Geology, and a job with the Ground Water Branch of the U. S. Geological Survey in 1950. After 27 years as a geologist I retired and became an international consultant in ground water exploration and development, and taught foreign geologists and engineers in my field until 1993.

A B-25 crash in 1943 on a training flight twisted my body badly and caused back pain for years. Years of driving the deserts of the world irritated the back injury and it came back to bite me in 1997, resulting in back surgery that left me with pain in my lower back. But I have no complaints. I have a wife, children and grand children, and still enjoy a shot of scotch. Thank you.

----- Joe Callahan


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