• Emery W. Tuttle Nov. 22, 2004

It won't add anything to your website and I don't know if this is the proper forum, but since you have this website you may be interested. I landed on Tarawa on Dec 29th 1943. A few months later Majuro was taken at no cost in lives to us. Our Squadron intelligence made it known there were only six Japs on the atoll. If Tarawa had been bypassed the terrible loss would have been avoided.

Our Squadron's and my job was bombing all the Jap held islands within 600 miles of Tarawa, till they were neutralized. Because Majuro was 600 miles to the north and more centralized, we could have done our job better from there.

The Majuro lagoon was the finest deep water port in the Central Pacific and had a natural entrance that accomodated all of our ships. Soon after it was occupied , the Central Pacific Fleet was anchored there.

I have never heard this aspect of the war in the central Pacific discussed. Would you care to comment?

Emery W. Tuttle 1st Lt. Pilot B-25G #042 64899
820th Bomb Squardron 41st Bomb Group(M)
7th Air Force


Hi Emery,

Yes, bypassing Tarawa is a valid argument. It falls in the same category as Peleliu. MacArthur used the leapfrog method in the western Pacific, letting bypassed strongholds starve, and it could have worked for Tarawa and definitely for Peleliu. Nevertheless, at the time it seemed like the thing to do, and the brass must not have thought bypassing was a viable option.

However, much was learned on Tarawa that paid off in later invasions. Aside from the fact that the islands were never adequately "reduced" by Navy shelling and air bombardment throughout the war, they learned from mistakes and successes on the Tarawa assault that helped in subsequent island campaigns. Many American lives could have been spared by simply pounding the hell out of them for a month or more on a daily basis.

Don Allen, DVM
Major, USAFR (IMA)


Emery Tuttle - 820th Bomb Squadron Dec. 12, 2004

I have a manuscript that has been finished, except for editing, for a couple years now. It is my memoirs, and ten chapters of twenty-three are devoted to the war years October 1940 - November 1945. It is titled, "And the Angels Sing," subtitled, "Never before heard stories of a WWII pilot."

I'm 84 and still flying, so I'm in good health and I'm looking for a publisher who will make my manuscript a best seller. I'm very retired these past 15 years, but I would get off my ass and hit the book trail for a publisher who would get off his. (Emery flew his speedster Saturday, Dec. 11, 2004. He said, "GPS was registering 182 kts, that's 208 MPH.")

Anyone who is interested in the book from which this story came, please contact Emery Tuttle at skypilotem@earthlink.net.

Chapter XI

Low-Level Strikes

The Eight Hundred and Twentieth Bomb Squadron was the first to arrive on Tarawa and was the lone squadron there the first month. It was a part of the Forty-First Bomb Group of the Seventh Air Force and we were under Adm. Nimitz. So right off we were not on a level playing field. What chances did we have, as the Army Air Corps being in the Navy? I'll answer that later. Our overall mission was to neutralize the islands that the Japs held from Tarawa to Eniwetok. Later we bombed the island of Ponape, which was on the way to Saipan-Tinian. We neutralized these islands with nine-plane strikes in a line abreast at low level. We started at an altitude of 500 feet and when we were close to radar range we dropped down to twenty feet and on our bomb run would be as low as ten feet. To keep from bombing ourselves on those low-level missions, we had ten-second delay fuses on our bombs. Our tactic was surprise and we accomplished that, but our losses ran as high as thirty percent on some missions. After I had eighteen missions behind me, low-level bombing was discontinued.

The Medals

I mentioned that right off we were not on a level playing field. If we had been in the Eighth Air Force as second lieutenants we would have come home as captains and majors. Instead, being under the Navy and in the smallest Air Force, we were given lots of medals and very few promotions. After fifty-one missions I came home a first lieutenant. Does that sound a little envious? Yes it does. Along with a Mandated Island ribbon with battle star, I was awarded the Air Medal five times and the Distinguished Flying Cross three times. Is that bragging? No it's not. I didn't save a fellow pilot with some daring feat that was written up in the Guinness Book of Records. I just flew fifty-one missions and after every five or so I received another medal, but only one promotion.

On My Fifth Mission, the Flag

In this part of my story I'll tell you some of the strange and rare things that happened during those thirteen months in combat. I suppose we had twenty-four planes in our squadron. Nine of these planes went on a mission to the island of Wotje and when they came home they reported that after they dropped their bombs they saw a ship across the lagoon. Some of the crewmen thought it might be as large as a light destroyer. Our commander Major Esau sent three planes, George Leggett, James Scott Brown, and John G. Hogan and their crews to sink it. We left in the middle of the night to get there by daybreak. We came in on that ship below deck level first firing our cannons, then machine guns. Then at the last possible moment we dropped our bombs, pulled up abruptly and were gone. The pilot did it all. Well not quite, I should mention the navigator loaded the cannon. We had an optical sight for the cannon and machine guns. We dropped our bombs by timing. Everything went well. We got there in dim light and took the Japs by surprise. However the ship was not a destroyer, it was a three hundred-foot wooden sailing vessel, and had two huge wooden masts. The Japs had equipped it with engines and they were using it as an inter-island supply ship. We blew it apart. Here's the story.

Brown In Trouble

James Scott Brown immediately reported he was in trouble, his left engine oil pressure gauge registered zero so James shut down the engine and feathered the prop. He was losing altitude and his bomb bay doors wouldn't close. We could see why - there was a ten-foot length of pipe driven through one of the doors and it was dangling there. We knew then he had hit the mast of the ship. The crew began throwing out everything that was loose, machine guns, ammunition and cannon shells. When the plane continued to lose altitude George called over to them, "Throw out the navigator." He was William Shagner and the butt of a lot of jokes. Eventually the plane was able to climb back up to five hundred feet and maintain it and we headed for the nearest landing strip. James started up the feathered engine and went in for a normal landing. George and Hogan followed Brown in, parked next to his plane and we all got out to look at the damage. James had hit the big wooden mast of the ship all right. It had caved in the leading edge of his wing, between the left engine and the pilot's cockpit, up to the main spar. It had crushed the oil line going to the oil gauge, so the engine had normal oil pressure. It just wasn't registering.


About twenty feet of one-inch steel cable was wrapped around the propeller. We could see a deep imprint where it had slapped the underside of the wing as it wound up on the propeller. The elevator was moderately shredded. We removed the pipe from the bomb bay door. One of James' crew said, "Boost me up and I'll get the cable off the propeller for a souvenir." A couple of his crewmembers boosted him up. It wasn't the cable that was the souvenir, but a much bigger prize. He reached in the engine nacelle and pulled out a Japanese flag. He also retrieved an eight-inch mushroom-shaped wooden piece that had been the finished topknot of the mast. It reminded me of a game we played as kids called capture the flag. The flag was a twenty four-inch square piece of canvas, on which was painted a red rising sun with red and white radiating rays. I have a picture of James and his crew holding the flag. Jim was from Pennsylvania and was married to a girl from San Antonio. She sent him the San Antonio paper with the headline "San Antonio Boy Captures Jap Flag." Oh well who's counting?

Self-Taught Musician

Our home for eleven months was a pyramidal tent and in it were James Scott Brown, William Shagner, Brown's navigator, Doc Ovsey, our Flight Surgeon, George Leggett and I. My cot was next to George's. I took advantage of his offer to use his chromatic harmonica anytime I wanted, and during that eleven months I taught myself to play it. But when George left after fifty missions, three or four missions ahead of me, I lost my harmonica and didn't play again for thirty years. That's another story.


Another entertainment we had was goggling (goggling - to stare at with bulging eyes). It didn't last long but when we first arrived on Tarawa all the women were naked from the waist up. We made it a point to get plenty of pictures before the chaplains handed out Army issue white tee shirts. The natives' church was an open-air thatch roof on poles. It was a new experience for us to go to church on Sunday and in the middle of the service, see a naked three-year-old come running in, dive under his mother's tee shirt, take a slurp to satisfy his hunger and thirst and then run back out to play. It seemed the mothers never weaned their young and by the time the women were thirty their beautiful breasts were flat and hanging mighty low. I have pictures of both kinds. The morals of the natives were quite high and I never heard of one having sex with an airman.

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