Valor Friday

| August 5, 2022 | 19 Comments

George Glober, unassuming, mild-mannered war hero pilot with balls of steel

In the War in the Pacific, there were several American positions that the Japanese overran early in the war. Many of these, such as the Philippines, would take years and significant blood to retake. One early battle in the war, and one which was never recaptured, was Wake Island.

Wake Island

Wake Island is a tiny Pacific island out by the International Date Line. Then and now, the island, only little more than five square miles of territory and with no indigenous population, the island served as a strategically important waypoint. An airfield is about all of the island’s permanent installation, where it serves as a stopping point to refuel on long voyages. It’s about halfway between Honolulu and Manilla.

Throughout the 1930s, Wake Island would be a refueling point for Pan American Airlines’ famous “Flying Clipper” flying boats.

The island fell under American control in 1898. Commander Edward Taussig (who would retire a rear admiral), commanding officer of USS Bennington, took possession of the island after the US laid claim to it. This was shortly after the Americans gaining control over Hawaii, the Philippines, and Guam. Wake would be the gateway to the new Far East American protectorates.

If the name Taussig sounds familiar, I previously talked about his grandson, then-Ensign (later captain) Joseph Taussig Jr would earn the Navy Cross at Pearl Harbor. Interestingly, while Taussig Jr was fighting for his life and those of his men, his grandfather’s island came into the enemy’s crosshairs.

Being on the west side of the Date Line, it was 8 December, 1941 when the small permanent garrison on Wake was attacked, mere hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Similar attacks were being unleashed on the Philippines at the same time. For the Americans, the war had begun.

Japanese bombers caught the defenders with their planes on the ground. Eight of the 12 F4F Wildcat fighters of the US Marine Corps’ VMF-111 were destroyed. For days the defenders held out. On 11 December, the island was invaded by Japanese ground forces, which the beleaguered troops fought back, but with heavy losses.

A famous line reported in the media at the time credits the Marine commander, when asked by his superiors how they were holding out, replied with “Send us more Japs!” After the war, the officer said he never said such a thing. Major James Devereux said, “As far as I know, it wasn’t sent at all. None of us was that much of a damn fool. We already had more Japs than we could handle.” Turns out that the island’s commander, a navy officer, had insisted on coded messages being sent during the battle. The cryptologist added “Send us” to the beginning and “more Japs” at the end to confuse the enemy. Apparently it just confused the American media.

The island’s defenders clung to their post with dogged determination. Despite losing 52 men and 70 civilians, they made the Japanese pay for their gains (to the tune of 700-1000 dead) before they captured the island on 23 December 1941. The Americans had succeeded in sinking two destroyers and downing 10 aircraft in the process.

Four hundred thirty three American servicemen were captured and sent to the notoriously brutal Japanese POW camps. More than 1,100 civilians were also captured. Most of them were sent to the camps as well, though nearly 100 were retained at the island to construct fortifications. They were executed in May 1943 as the Japanese feared an American invasion.

The Japanese put 4,000 men on the island and beefed up the defenses. After the successful defense of Midway, the Japanese rightly feared an assault on this equally important half-way point in the Pacific.

In mid-1942, after the Battle of Midway, American war planners turned their sights onto the next easternmost Japanese outpost, Wake Island. It was 1,300 miles away from Midway, the nearest American base, so the only way to attack and recapture the island would be by carrier assault. The Navy did not want to commit one of its two remaining fleet carriers to the battle unless it was to be a decisive victory.

B-17E, of the type flown by Glober. Note the lack of a front chin gun turret found on the more commonly seen G model.

The US Army Air Forces sent a reconnaissance flight consisting of a specially outfitted B-17 heavy bomber. Twice in June 1942 bombers were sent from Midway to pass over Wake. Neither returned or was ever heard from again.

July 1942, the USAAF again sought volunteers. Eight officers volunteered themselves and their crews for the suicide mission. Major George Glober was selected among the volunteers.

Commanding the 31st Bomb Squadron (Heavy) on Oahu, Glober’s plane and crew were first flown to Midway. The Major’s aircraft was modified for the mission. His B-17E was fitted with cameras and additional fuel tanks in the bomb bay.

On the morning of 31 July, Glober’s Flying Fortress was wheels up and headed out for Wake Island. They settled in for a long flight. With a cruise speed of around 180 miles per hour, the trip to the island alone would take more than seven hours.

They immediately encountered bad weather that dogged them for the duration of their flight. About 150 miles out from Wake, Glober descended to just feet off the water to avoid enemy radar. When the island came into view, he pulled up to 2,000 feet for the first photo run of the enemy stronghold.

As the bomber flew over the island, Corporal Robert Holliday (who had just celebrated his 28th birthday earlier in the month) was in his ball turret. The gunner reported to Glober that anti-aircraft batteries were opening fire and he saw six enemy fighters taking off. Four were the the quick and nimble “Zero” fighter while two were thought to be Messerschimidt Bf-109-types (they were likely Kawasaki Ki-61’s, a new fighter design that bore a resemblance to the German front-line fighter).

Glober completed the run, then ascended to 4,000 feet for a second pass and to 6,000 feet for a third pass, right into the enemy aircraft and forewarned anti-aircraft guns. The flight’s photographer, Staff Sergeant Edward Caton, got all the photos he needed, then took his post at one of the waist guns.

Once airborne, the enemy fighters could climb about 3,000 feet per minute. The bomber wouldn’t have a chance of completely avoiding being engaged. Glober’s only salvation would be to gain altitude and a lot of it. At high altitudes his turbosupercharged Wright “Cyclone” engines could drive his aircraft harder and faster than the light single-engined fighters could. If he got enough height, he’d just walk away from the enemy planes.

The next 40 minutes would see the Fortress’ crew fight for their survival, alone and outnumbered. As Glober and his co-pilot climbed, they jinked and maneuvered to keep the enemy from getting an easy target.

In the ball turret, Holliday opened fire on the first enemy fighter, itself having just fired the first shots at the bomber. The “Me-109-type” aircraft exploded. Five more remained.

In the tail, 23-year-old Sergeant James Sanford let loose with his two .50-caliber machine guns. He claimed the second of the new-type enemy fighters. Four Zeroes remain.

In the nose, manning a newly installed machine gun just for this mission, bombardier Technical Sergeant Claude Phillips, took down another. Three more remain.

At the waist gunner position, behind the wing, on the left Corporal Robert Fries got another of the Zeros. Two zeroes remain.

On the right side, Caton, the photographer, scored a probable kill as his well-aimed shots sent one fighter spiraling towards the ocean below. One more remains.

The final enemy Zero, damaged in the combat, tailed the bomber until it was so far away from Wake that return seems unlikely.

During the course of their battle, the crew of Glober’s aircraft shot down five out of six fighters the enemy threw at them. The evasive maneuvers and volume of fire meant that everything aboard the B-17 wasn’t perfect.

Among the battle damage was the aircraft’s navigation equipment. Second Lieutenant Harry W Smith had to guide them home by dead-reckoning from an unknown point to a two square mile postage stamp of an island in the middle of the world’s largest ocean. Since they were back into the bad weather, celestial navigation was impossible.

When they got over where Smith said Midway should be, the blacked out island was nowhere in sight. Running on fumes, Glober broke radio silence. Midway was able to locate them on radar and guide them in. They were so short on gas, that as they touched down the number two engine died of fuel starvation. They had been in the air for 17.5 hours.

After a few hours rest, the crew refueled and immediately flew to Hawaii with the vitally important photographs. Chief of the  Army Air Forces, General “Hap” Arnold sent a commendation for the whole crew. Post-war, Caton said he flew 30 photographic missions with different crews and none were up to the standard set by Major Glober and his men.

A week or so after the mission, Glober was informed that he was to receive the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest award for bravery in action. He declined the medal unless his entire crew, who equally shared in the risk, also received the honor. And so they did.

In a ceremony at Hickam Field, Hawaii on 17 September 1942, all ten men of Glober’s flight had the DSC pinned to their chests. Making them one of the most highly decorated aircrews of the war. I talked previously about the most decorated aircrew, who flew “Old 666.”

Over the next couple years, Wake was bombed several times by American aircraft (including once by future President George H.W. Bush), but an invasion was never attempted. Instead, the Americans blockaded the island, cutting off the defenders from food and supplies. Bombing continued to harass the enemy.

Wake Island was finally surrendered at the end of the war, on 4 September 1945.

Stationed at Hickam Field, all of Glober’s crew were veterans of the Pearl Harbor attack. Glober survived the war, retiring from the Air Force as a colonel. He saw service in Korea and Vietnam. He died in 1997 at age 82.

Claude Bernard Phillips, the bombardier, would be made a warrant officer and then would be commissioned. He retired from the Air Force as a major in 1964. He had previously earned a Silver Star for heroism at Pearl Harbor. On 7 Dec 1941 he was credited with grabbing a machine gun from a damaged B-17 bomber and using it to shoot down one enemy plane while damaging a second. His kill on the Wake Island mission would be his second. In total, he flew 84 combat missions during World War II. Phillips died in 2001 at age 85, near his home in Hawaii (where he’d first come as a USAAC private in 1937).

Waist gunner Corporal Robert Fries also earned a Silver Star for heroism in the performance of his duties in the Pacific Theater. He died in 1994 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, his home of record when he was in the service.

Photographer (and waist gunner) Edward Caton served through the war and was also commissioned. He retired as a colonel from the Air Force after 34 years of service. He had also seen service during Korea and Vietnam. He died in 2012 at age 92.

Ball turrent gunner Robert Holliday retired from the Air Force as a chief master sergeant.

Tail gunner James Sanford would see more than three and a half years in the Pacific Theater, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star, and Air Medal before returning to the states in late 1943 as an aerial gunnery instructor. Now a master sergeant, he volunteered for service in the European Theater, where he was assigned to a B-24 Liberator crew in April 1944. Sanford had logged 70 combat missions in the Pacific Theater and was on his 33rd mission over Europe on 2 July 1944. His plane was on a bombing mission over Budapest, Hungary when the aircraft was hit by enemy fire and went down. He was listed as missing in action and a year later was declared dead.

The navigator, Harry Smith would leave the Army as a colonel. He would die at age 81 in 1995 in Portland, Maine. About 120 miles from his birthplace of Bucksport, Maine.

Another waist gunner was Sergeant Joseph Lillis. From Williamsburg, Iowa, he too died after the war. He was 58 when he passed away in 1975.

Staff Sergeant Harold R. “Pete” Inman was another of the Flying Fortress’ gunners. He would die in 2009 at age 88.

The co-pilot was Second Lieutenant Clyde B Walker. I can’t turn up anything on the man after the Wake mission.

 

 

Category: Air Force, Distinguished Service Cross, Historical, Valor, We Remember

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5JC

I am showing a Captain Clyde B Walker in Britain in December 1942 piloting a B17. Might be the same guy. While unusual to be sent to Europe after being in the Pacific it wouldn’t be unheard of.

Who brought his battered aircraft in by “bouncing the ball turret off the waves”. Nuts of fucking Titanium these guys had.

https://www.americanairmuseum.com/aircraft/438

5JC

Also showing a Clyde B Walker living outside of Tulsa at 103 years young. Which is kind of an odd coincidence.

ninja

5JC:

I think you may be referencing Clyde Buchanan Walker from Tulsa, OK. He was recognized for the European Theater during WWII. His Serial Number was 1803155. His SSN starts with a 448.

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/124044769/clyde-buchanan-walker

We found a Clyde Buchan Walker. Jr from Portland, Oregon who was recognized for the Pacific Theater during WWII. We could not find a Serial Number for him..only a SSN.

His SSN starts with a 542.

So far, all research from the 1940s reference Wake/Solomon Islands points to a Clyde B. Walker. Jr from Portland, Oregon whose parents were identified as Clyde B. and Maude Walker of Beverly Hills, CA.

Research from the 1940s reference to BoomTown points to a Clyde B. Walker of Tulsa, OK whose father was identified as Ike Walker.

It IS a bit confusing!

Hope this helps!

Graybeard

“No DSC for me if everyone doesn’t get it.”
Besides courage, he had integrity.

Owen

I’ve actually been there. Twice. It’s a small place in an effing big ass ocean. Couldn’t imagine fighting there. Without support, you’re toast. As the Japs, Marines and Navy found out.

MustangCryppie

Me too. My P-3 made an emergency landing there in the mid 80s. Pretty desolate.

AW1Ed

BYTM!
*grin*

ninja

Mason:

Clyde Buchan Walker, Jr was born 30 November 1915 in Juneau, Alaska to Clyde Buchan Walker, SR and Maude Mae Thornton Walker.

Clyde had two Siblings: Robert Thornton Buchan Walker and Mary Walker.

His brother, Robert, was born in 1911 in Idaho and served in the US Army as a Commissioned Officer from 1942 to 1966. He attended the Signal Corps School Basic and Advanced Course at Fort Monmouth, NJ as well as CGSC and the Army War College. Most likely, he retired as an O6/Colonel. He married Jeanette Lindmann in California in 1942. Robert passed away in 1993 in California:

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/6393483/robert-walker

His Sister, Mary, had some bit roles in Hollywood, CA in the 1940s.

* Continued*

ninja

Clyde, Jr and his family moved to Portland/Medford Oregon where Clyde, Jr attended the University of Oregon. He joined the Army Air Corps in Oregon. He may have been Commissioned via ROTC.

Clyde’s Parents moved to the LA/Hollywood area in the 1940s. His Mother, Maude Mae Thornton Walker, passed away in 1948 in California. His Father never remarried:

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/112010908/maude-thornton-walker

In November 1943, Clyde, Jr was an O3/CPT and married Maurey Green of Studio City, CA. His parents were living in Beverly Hill, CA during that timeframe.

By 1950, Clyde Jr and Maurey were divorced…and both Clyde and his Father were living together in LA and were Self-Employed.

It looks as if his Father returned to Portland, Oregon around 1954 and stayed there until his death in 1966. Clyde, Jr may have lived with him in that timeframe.

* Continued*

ninja

Clyde, Jr. returned to California. He passed away in San Diego, California on 11 May 1979.

His Sister, Mary Eliza Walker, born 1920, passed away in 1988 in Portland, Oregon.

Clyde, Jr was recognized in 1943 as receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

Further research indicates Clyde, Jr left the University of Oregon in his Senior Year to enlist in the Army Air Corps.

Further research inducates his Brother, Robert, may have been a Field Artillery Officer during WWII before he became a Signal Corps Officer.

KoB

“That such men lived…” Indeed, all in a day’s work…literally.

Great story, Mason…again! Thanks!

ninja

Speaking of Valor:

“Robert E. Simanek, Korean War Medal of Honor Recipient, Dies at 92”

“He saved fellow Marines by falling on a live grenade. His death leaves only two surviving veterans of that war to have been honored with the medal.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/04/us/robert-e-simanek-dead.html

“Robert E. Simanek, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for saving his fellow Marines from grievous injuries or death by falling on a live grenade hurled by Chinese Communist troops during a battle in the Korean War, died on Monday, 1 August 2022, in West Bloomfield, Mich. He was 92 and had been among the last three Korean War veterans still alive to have received the medal, the military’s highest award for valor.

Rest In Peace To A TRUE Hero.

Salute.

Never Forget.

4885.jpeg
ninja

Thank You, Mason!

“awarded the Medal of Honor for saving
his fellow Marines from grievous injuries or death by falling on a live grenade hurled by Chinese Communist troops…”

That is TRULY Valor.

Phonies or Embellishers should be ashamed of themselves.

BTW, thank you for another great story of Valor.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

It’s a wonder that the bomber ever got off the ground with all those Big Brass Balls clanking around inside.

Prior Service

Looks like the key to long life is volunteering for a suicide mission, killing 5/6ths of the enemy aircraft coming at you, getting back home and pinning a DSC on. I’m zero for four of these so I’ll be getting my personal affairs in order.

AW1Ed

Great write-up, Mason. Thanks.

Puma

The USAAF tried to bomb Wake Island on 6 June 1942. Four B-24 Liberators under the command of Maj. Gen Clarence L. Tinker took off from Midway in the evening after having just arrived from Hawaii. None of the B-24s found Wake and Tinker’s plane never returned.

pg 248-249. Incredible Victory. Walter Lord. Pocket Books. 1968.

Name edited to protect PII.
Nice Kitty.*grin*
AW1

poetrooper

As an Oklahoman, Poe remembers that MG Tinker was a Native American, the first to attain the rank of major general. The Oklahoma City Air Depot was renamed Tinker Field in 1942 in his honor.

Incidentally, at the time young Poe enlisted in the Army in 1959, his high school sweetie’s daddy was the commander of Tinker Field, now designated Tinker AFB, home of the Air Force Materiel Command.

Just for the music trivialists: On September 29, 1957 Buddy Holly and The Crickets recorded “An Empty Cup”, “Rock Me My Baby”, “You’ve Got Love”, and “Maybe Baby” in the Tinker Air Force Base Officer’s Club, which was just about the time young Poe fell head over heels for the gorgeous daughter of the base commander. Coincidentally, SSGT Poe crossed paths with her in 1966 at Kishine Barracks, Japan.

She outranked me: O-3 to E-6 and wasn’t in a forgiving mood for my dropping her for the Army back in 1959. 😜