by Garrett Middlebrook
Air Combat at 20 Feet: Selected Missions from a Strafer Pilot’s Diary
Enter the cockpit and become a co-pilot with a WWII strafer bomber-pilot attacking at 20 feet. In route to the target share his fear and agony. When attack time comes observe that his mental concentration consumes his fear as he fights with 8 machine guns while bombing and maneuvering. Intelligence is his ultimate weapon. An inferno of the target is the result. Departing the target, he fights 10 Jap fighter planes in an hour-long battle. When you reach home base you will say: “I never want to relive that horrendous ordeal.” But wait! Your pilot must attack again the next day. So order the book and translate the words into real life drama!
Garrett Middlebrook served as a B-25 pilot during the last five months of 1942 and first ten months of 1943, so he barely overlapped with my uncle, Dale R. Wilson, in the 38th Bomb Group at Port Moresby, New Guinea. Even though Dale Wilson was in another Bomb Squadron in the same Group, I reached out to Mr. Middlebrook for help in learning details of what combat was like in that theater.
Between his exceptional personal history and his gracious letters, I learned as much as I could about what it was like to pilot a medium twin-engine bomber over the treacherous Owen Stanley Mountains to attack and strafe enemy targets in and around Papua New Guinea.
An outstanding close-up narration by a hero who survived extraordinary months of warfare during WWII. He was awarded:
Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross
2 Air Medals
My uncle lost his life there when the B-25G he copiloted was shot down off Wewak/Boram, New Guinea November 27, 1943.
This book was also useful, but looks like it’s hard to find now: A History of the 38th Bombardment Group (M) November 20, 1940-April 21, 1946 by John “Hank” Henry.
It is wonderful you were able to connect with a fellow pilot of your uncle. You must have so much closer to him.
Middlebrook came stateside just about the time Dale Wilson got there, but he certainly told me more than I learned anywhere else.
His strength is to be admired.
Yes, an amazing story.
Absolutely in awe over what this man–and your uncle–needed to accomplish, and how they managed to overcome fear. Beyond words. Thanks for making this information available. Blessings, Joy.
No wonder they call them the Greatest Generation!
Sounds like you found an excellent resource for your family history!
Some of those old reunion groups are still going, but the one from New Guinea isn’t anymore. I found it in time to write to several men who were over there about the time Dale Wilson was.
Interesting as always.
Thank you, Anne!
Flight Briefing Officer: “I suspect that only one of you will come back today.”
Thought going through every pilot’s head as he looks at his comrades, “Those unlucky SOB’s”
You are so lucky to have made such good connections.My father flew in the same area during the war.It took years to piece together the history of his unit.I continue to this day researching the units of the 5th Air Force.Coming on 60 years now.
When I got started there were reunion groups. I never made it to a reunion but used their mailing lists to find men willing to help. There’s a 5th AF Facebook page, but not historic. I’ve had more luck with B-25 FB pages, and with finding sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews on Facebook. I still correspond with three relatives from the crew of Dale Wilson’s plane. What did you father fly and what unit was he in?
I’m so sorry about your uncle. What a generation!!!
Luanne, Dale Wilson’s twin sister (Darlene) died Tuesday, just short of their May 13 birthday. She would have been 98. This family lost all three youngest brothers.
I’m sorry to hear about Darlene’s death. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her through your blog. Please accept my condolences.
Thank you, Liz. End of an era.
Wow, that is an amazing long life. But so sad about the youngest brothers. What a sacrifice!
I enjoyed learning more about how you’ve pieced together the story of Dale’s war service.
Thank you. I remember asking, “What did New Guinea have to do with WWII?” Huge learning curve.
I’ve got to find that book. It looks incredible. Thanks.
I just ordered a copy of yours. Will review!
Appreciate it. Tell you what, when I get Dead Friends out, I’ll send you a copy to review.
I’d be happy to. Hope to get my own book finished this year, about the mother of these five brothers who served but only two came home. She was a delight. She wasn’t overt about her faith, but it was there.
Looking forward to it.
Joy, I’m so glad to hear you’re working on a book! I look forward to reading it.
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How fine to have this story in order to piece the story of your uncle. I have tried to piece together my father’s WWII Pacific theater leap-frogging with our Navy from 1943-45. I have found some clues but not a personal story. That is great. Thank you for coming by Being Woven, Joy.
I joined WWII reunion groups. The one for the 38th Bomb Group has since disbanded, but I was able to write several veterans who were glad to share with me. There are several groups on FB–unit related, or type of plane, etc. They may be able to help, and they’re eager to!