Cindy K. Stewart and I have been tag-teaming our posts on the exciting adventures of the Doolittle Raiders. And it’s been my favorite kind of tag team—the kind where she does the bulk of the work! 😊 As Cindy wraps up her series, she’s letting me cover the final plane: Plane #6, the Green Hornet. It’s one I have a special claim on, since three of its crew members appear in my upcoming debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter.
|The crew of Doolittle Raid Plane #6, the Green Hornet.|
L to R: Chase Nielsen, Dean Hallmark, Donald Fitzmaurice, Robert Meder, William Dieter
By US Air Force [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By now you probably have the background. Just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, sixteen of the Army's medium-weight B-25 bombers left the deck of the carrier U.S.S. Hornet—a feat never attempted before or since. They deployed their payloads on Tokyo and other key targets on the Japanese main island. While the mission achieved its military objective, due to a communication breakdown the sortie left seventy-two of the eighty airmen stranded in enemy-occupied China.
Cindy has been filling you in on how the Chinese resistance smuggled most of the downed airmen out—at great risk and, ultimately, tremendous cost. One of the most dramatic stories belongs to the crew of the Green Hornet.
I have a vintage copy of the book Four Came Home by Carroll V. Glines, in which Chase Nielsen, the Green Hornet’s navigator, tells their story in detail. With their fuel exhausted, the Green Hornet attempted a crash landing into the sea off China’s coast. They came down fast and hit the water hard. The enlisted men—Donald Fitzmaurice (gunner) and William Dieter (bombardier)—were both severely injured.
All five of the airmen managed to get free of the bomber and climb on top of the wreckage, but what was left of the B-25 was sinking rapidly. Tragically, the life raft proved inoperable. While the three least injured men tried to get it inflated, poor Dieter slipped into the waves. Co-pilot Robert Meder managed to grab Fitzmaurice just as a huge wave smashed the rest of them into the water.
The waves soon separated the men. They braved more than three hours in the water before reaching shore. Sadly, when Lieutenant Meder finally managed to drag himself and Fitzmaurice onto the beach, he discovered that Donald Fitzmaurice had succumbed to his wounds.
Nielsen stumbled into a trench in the dark and lost consciousness. He came to the next morning and crawled to a vantage point. He found himself overlooking a cove and a Chinese fishing village. He soon also found himself at the business end of what he described as “a real antiquated buffalo gun.” The young Chinese soldier aiming it at him ordered him to “Stand up or me shoot.”
The soldier directed Nielsen at gunpoint to walk up a path away from the beach. But he seemed wary, often glancing over his shoulder. After a few minutes, Nielsen heard a boat motor in the distance. “Run fast!” his captor commanded. “Japs come. Kill me, you!”
Once they reached thick cover, the soldier stopped and slung his rifle over his shoulder. “We fight Japanese. You no worry now. Go fast. follow me.” He brought Lieutenant Nielsen to a Chinese Nationalist army garrison. The Green Hornet’s other two survivors, Lieutenant Meder and the plane’s pilot Dean Hallmark, soon turned up there too.
The garrison commander, Captain Ling, promised to do his best to get them to Free China. But he emphasized the risks. If the Japanese caught them at it, Americans and Chinese would all be summarily shot.
Several Near Misses
When dawn broke, the Chinese smuggled the three airmen back to the cove and put them aboard "a sampan." They experienced their first near miss when the vessel was searched by a Japanese patrol. They sailed for two days upriver until they reached the sizable walled city of Wenzhou. Captain Ling announced he could take them no further, but would set them up with others they could trust.
At dark, they passed through a gate in the city’s ancient wall and were handed off to an older gentleman named Mr. Wong. They enjoyed a pleasant dinner with Sage Wong, an articulate former Buddhist monk who had studied in England.
A boy rushed in to alert Mr. Wong that Japanese soldiers were searching the city. Mr. Wong hurried the three airmen down an alley in an effort to escape through the city gate, but Japanese were setting up a machine-gun station there. He tried leading them toward another gate, but peering around a corner they saw machine guns there too.
|Ancient gate of Linhai, a city in China's Zhejiang Province near Wenzhou.|
By Marcus Hsu talk [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
What happened next was like a scene from a movie. Mr. Wong called a group of Chinese in flowing robes over and they surrounded the three big Americans. The airmen crouched and hid in the middle of the group and they all shuffled along together across the twelve-foot main road and into another building, right in front of a Japanese detachment.
Mr. Wong determined the Japanese were conducting a methodical search and the Americans had no choice but to hide where they were. There was very little to work with. Hallmark dove into a corner and Nielsen and Meder covered him with everything they could grab—grass mats, sacks, old blankets. They shoved a rickety bench in front of the pile, then climbed up into the open rafters and pushed into the darkest spots in the corners.
After some time, a Japanese soldier entered. His eyes rested for a moment on the pile where Dean was hiding, but he turned and left.
The men breathed a deep sigh of relief but remained hidden. A few more minutes passed. Another group of soldiers entered. The airmen were astonished to see the Chinese National garrison commander, Captain Ling, followed by a Japanese officer with a couple of his men. One of the soldiers lowered his rifle. The other strode up to the corner where Dean was hiding. He kicked the bench out of the way.
The officer addressed Dean in clear English. “Where are the other two Americans?” When Dean wouldn’t answer, he pistol-whipped Mr. Wong until he fell to the floor moaning--directly beneath Nielsen’s hiding place in the rafters. As the officer stepped back, he lifted his head. He looked straight into Nielsen’s eyes.
The three survivors from the Green Hornet joined the five men who bailed from Plane #16, the Bat Out of Hell, ultimately enduring forty long months of Japanese prison "hospitality." Sadly, of those eight men, only four came home. I’ve summarized the rest of their story, and how God used that tragedy for His glory, here and here. And I hope you’ll consider reading my novel when it launches in December!
I'm hosting a drawing for a copy of Kristy Cambron's split-time historical novel, The Lost Castle, for new subscribers to my newsletter. You'll also receive updates on my novel, including an opportunity to gain complementary pre-launch access. To enter, please REGISTER HERE by Saturday, June 30. (I'm also giving away a second copy to a current subscriber, so those of you who registered in previous months will have another chance to win. :) )
I stepped away from a marketing career that spanned continents to write what I love: stories of reckless faith that showcase God's hand in history. I'm so excited to work with the all-star team at Mountain Brook Ink to launch my debut novel, The Plum Blooms in Winter, this December! Inspired by a remarkable true story from World War II's pivotal Doolittle Raid, The Plum Blooms in Winter is an American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis Contest winner. The novel follows a captured American pilot and a bereaved Japanese prostitute who targets him for ritual revenge. Please also feel free to check out my blog, Five Stones and a Sling, which hovers in the region where history meets Bible prophecy meets current events. It's rich ground--we live in a day when prophecies are leaping from the Bible's pages into the headlines!
I live outside Phoenix with my husband, a third-generation airline pilot who doubles as my Chief Military Research Officer. We share our home with two mostly-grown-up kids and a small platoon of housecats.