Last Updated: 06/05/04
                        H.G. Turner
                        Hogan's Goat Ditched At Sea

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  Shortly after our arrival to Okinawa we were alerted to evacuate Okinawa because of a developing typhoon and proceed to the Guam AFB. As we prepared for take-off from Okinawa, our B-29 aircraft (Hogan's Goat) developed engine trouble forcing us to return to base. Repairs were quickly made, and we finally got airborne very late that evening leaving Okinawa for Guam. Once we arrived at Guam, a sea search operation was being formed for a B-29 that had gone down at sea. Our crew was scheduled for the night sea search mission.

While searching for the downed B-29 crew, our B-29 aircraft "Hogan's Goat" started to develop electrical problems. First we had problems with the radar and then the navigation equipment went haywire. Our radioman couldn't contact anyone. We soon realized we were lost somewhere over the Pacific Ocean and almost out of fuel because we had been flying for well over 20 hours. We needed to prepare for ditching at sea. While we were preparing for ditching, the navigator called on the intercom and reported he saw a small atoll (Fais Island) up ahead. This was a miracle since we hadn't seen any land since leaving Guam. That day in November 1948, God was definitely our co-pilot.

Natives We approached and flew over the island at treetop level, looking for a spot to bailout, but there was nothing but jungle. On the beach we saw a small group of natives jumping and pointing at our plane. My thoughts were, "are they friendly or cannibals?" We ditched the plane parallel with the beach and the plane came to a sudden stop. We all survived with a few scratches, bumps and bruises.

B-29 ditched Our co-pilot was the first to make it to shore. Two warriors with large bolo knives captured him and took him down the beach. I was the last ashore as I brought a dinghy with me with some supplies. As we each made it to shore we were escorted and lined up in front of the big chief (King) of the island. He looked like a Japanese Sumo wrestler. The warriors were pointing and speaking in an unfamiliar language. Our anxiety mounted because of the uncertainty as to whether these natives were hostile or friendly.

Finally we figured out the King wanted to be given gifts. This created a problem since we had just pulled ourselves out of the sea and didn't have much to offer as gifts. However, we all had a few small possessions and presented them to the chief. We gave him a knife, belt, sunglasses, and coins, but none of these items seemed to satisfy him. One of the officers from our plane had some Christmas candy in his pocket that had run together from being soaked, and he motioned the Chief to taste it. Hurray! Hurray! The chief loved it! The tribe now accepted us. We made a motion that we were hungry and thirsty. The King clapped his hands and gave his warriors orders to get us something to drink and eat. The natives went up the coconut trees with great ease and agility. They dropped coconuts with one whip with their knives, just missing their fingers. They split the coconuts in half and handed them to us. They gave us yams and other jungle food all soaked in coconut milk. It tasted horrible! If the natives weren't going to kill us, the food surely would. Later that day some of us become ill and had diarrhea.

The tribe consisted of approximately 250 natives including woman and children. The natives were of average size and brown. Many natives had tatoo designs all over themselves which may have been a status of rank. I never saw any fire, drinking water, dogs or cats. I remember seeing only some large lizard-like animals that could climb trees. Some of the adult natives wore clothing over their lower bodies and none of the children wore clothing. The natives lived in huts made of grass, leaves and whatever else the jungle provided. They kept time by counting moon phases.

We were marched a short distance into the jungle to a small shack and motioned by the natives to open the shack door. We got the door open and found cots and first aid supplies in the shack. Everything in the shack was rusty and of little use. We discovered later that Japanese were on the island during the war and white soldiers such as us had invaded the island and either killed the Japanese or ran them into the sea where they may have drown. During that period U.S. forces had set up and left this first aid station. The natives must have been told not to go near it because it appeared to have never been opened. This was our living quarters while we were on the island. We learned much of this information from one tribe member who knew some English.

Approximately 12:00 p.m. the next day, while cranking out S.O.S, on our survival equipment (Gibson Girl), the natives went wild -- jumping, pointing and hollering. Off in a distance we could see a speck in the sky. Soon we identified the speck as one of our B-29s. We later learned they had picked up our SOS. The plane dropped food and water, which we needed badly, and a message stating that a rescue would be on its way soon.

Tribe Returning Crew Just before sundown a Naval Martin PBM seaplane appeared. It is impossible to express the feelings I had knowing I was about to be rescued. The ocean was getting very rough and the PBM had to land on the other side of the breakers. The natives loaded a couple of us in each of their outriggers and took off for the PBM. I didn't think it was possible to get over the breakers, but the natives knew exactly what they were doing and got through them with great ease. Every adult male, including the King came out to the PBM. The natives were afraid to get to close to the plane. We finally got close enough to catch a line that a Navy airman threw to us and were then pulled to safety.

Once rescued, we were flown to Saipan. On our arrival we were given a hero's welcome, including interviews and pictures. We were then taken to the hospital for a complete check up. After a few days on Saipan we were then flown back to Guam Air Base and shortly thereafter back to Okinawa.

After a couple of weeks in Okinawa, I was flown back to the good old USA, Spokane Air Base, where I was reunited with my family. My wife and family had been notified that we were missing somewhere in the Pacific ocean and due to the typhoons in the area it was doubtful we would be found. I had bought my wife a portable sewing machine from Guam, which I had taken on the B-29 plane with me. It accompanied me through the complete ordeal. I had taken it out of the downed aircraft with the survival equipment, and never let it out of my sight until I was safely in the USA. It has been one hell of a conversation piece for many years. At this writing my wife still has it.

For additional reading about this exciting adventure click on the following links:
Plane spared WWII gunner
Ditched Plane Crew Safe and Sound
Air Force Accident Report
WWII Vet plans return to Fais Island


Hogan Goat Crew

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