Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vets reminisce at the Owl Bar Cafe

By John Larson
SAN ANTONIO - A busload of World War II veterans made a hamburger stop at the Owl Bar Café and Steakhouse Friday afternoon after getting a tour of the Trinity Site, south of Bingham.
The former GI’s were all members of the 6th Bomb Group stationed on Tinian Island, whose mission was to conduct B-29 bombing raids over Tokyo and other Japanese cities.
The Socorro DAV commander Peter Romero welcomed each person as they got off the bus, and once inside, the group was welcomed by Rep. Don Tripp.
The group, led by John Creek, whose father was a Tinian Island veteran, were treated to the world-famous Owl hamburgers.
“My purpose in this is to get – their children and now grandchildren involved. And the next generation,” Creek said.
He said it was important for people to be reminded of the reason for developing atomic bomb.
“Remember what was transpiring in the early 1940’s. Everyone thought [the bomb] was a good thing,” Creek said. “The Trinity bomb site is one of all the things that brought the war to an end. And never let it happen again.”
While feasting on Rowena Baca’s burgers in a back dining area in the Owl, several of the former airmen spoke about their time on Tinian Island and their B-29 missions.
First Lieutenant Edgar Vincent was one of the B-29 airplane commanders. He said Tinian was home to three squadrons, with 15 crews per squadron.
“Most of my missions were mining ports where material was coming into Japan,” Vincent said.
Vincent has the honor of having flown the longest B-29 mission during the war. “We flew roundtrip from North Field on Tinian to Rashin (Korea), north of Japan,” Vincent said. “It was a 19½ hour mission.”
Vincent said low level bombing ordered by General Curtis LeMay was hazardous and many B-29’s were downed by either flak, or enemy fighter planes. “After one mission the ground crew counted 141 holes in our aircraft,” he said.
First Lieutenant Warren Higgins of Chicago said the low level bombing missions over Tokyo and other cities on the Japanese mainland cost many American crewmen’s lives. “We were going in real low, about 4,000 to 5,000 feet. About one third of the bombers were lost,” Higgins said. “If the searchlights got on your plane there was not much you could do. They were bright enough to read a newspaper by in the cockpit.”
Tech Sergeant David Farquhar was a turret gunner when his B-29 was shot down over Tokyo by flak and fighter planes on May 23, 1945. He and his 10 crewmates bailed out safely and were captured.
He was a POW for about three and a half months in a prison camp. Located near the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
“We lost 17 bombers during that mission,” Farquhar said. “We caught flak and had to jump out. Everybody on the crew made it OK, but were picked by Japanese kempeitai, or what we call MPs.”
He said the prisoners were fed only a ball of rice each day.
“My weight went from 165 to 110 while I was a POW,” Farquhar said.
Farquhar and the other POW’s were liberated in August, 1945, after nuclear weapons were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“We actually liberated before the peace treaty was signed,” he said. “We were not supposed to be released until the peace treaty was signed, but a General there said, ‘go get ‘em,’ so we knew something had happened.”

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