75 YEARS LATER, HE REMEMBERS
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
OTEGO – Last Friday, Aug. 28, Bill Davis wasn’t thinking about the thunderstorm warnings for Otsego County.
He was contemplating Aug. 28, but the one 75 years earlier, when he was aboard a B-29 bomber high over the Pacific Ocean with a special sightseer, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander of the Southwest Pacific Theater, as World War II was nearing an end.
Below — Radioman Bill Davis, 19, couldn’t see it; he was crouched over his radio transmitter – was the USS Missouri, steaming toward Tokyo Bay.
The next day, the Missouri would arrive in Tokyo Bay. Five days later – 75 years ago today – MacArthur would be there on the deck of the Missouri, accepting Japan’s “unconditional surrender” on V-J Day. (The Germans had surrendered on May 8, V-E Day.)
MacArthur wasn’t just sightseeing. Eighth Air Force Gen. Jimmy Doolittle planned a show of strength, sending as many U.S. aircraft as available flying with the Missouri as it neared its destination, to emphasize to the Japanese the power of its Yankee enemy, Davis remembered.
MacArthur, who was on Tinian where the Eighth Airforce was stationed, wanted to be part of that display.
Davis, who returned home and for decades was proprietor of Oneonta’s Country Club Automotive, was with Gen. Jimmy Doolittle’s Eighth Air Force that had pulled off the successful “30 Seconds Over Toyko” bombing four months after Pearl Harbor, thrilling Americans and causing consternation among the Japanese.
Two years before, when he turned 17 – the Army’s enlistment age – he took the trained from his native Sidney to Albany to enlist. Knowing he was too skinny, he ate a dozen bananas and drank a gallon of water before showing up at the recruitment station.
“I made the weight” — 125 pounds, he remembers.
He went through Basic at Keesler Field, Mississippi, then was assigned to radio school at Scott Field, Illinois, and spent the next couple of year with the Eighth Airforce.
“We flew a lot of missions,” remembers Davis, now 94.
On that Aug. 28, General Doolittle “ordered all the aircraft that he could” into the air, including the B-29 that carried MacArthur and Davis. It wasn’t an easy day: 1,500 miles out; 1,500 miles back. In all, 3,000. But it was a memorable one.
The war over, Davis’ crew was assigned to Lt. Gen. Patrick Timberlake, and carried him to Singapore and points in between and U.S. force in the Pacific prepared to return home.
But it was the day over the Missouri that Davis remembers all these years later.