19th Bombardment Group Stories - Lt John O. Fleming

19th Bombardment Group Stories - Lt John O. Fleming

This account of the experiences of 1st Lt. John 0. Fleming originally accompanied a series of paintings by Pfc Ernest Berkowitz, who painted a series of pictures of the aircraft and men of the 19th Bombardment Group while they were all based at Dyersburg Air Force Base, Tennessee, after their exploits in the Far East. Although we don't have the paintings, the stories themselves are still of great interest. Berkowitz later went on to become succesful artist under the name Ernest Berke, mainly producing paintings of Native Americans and their horses.

Many thanks to Dennis Gagomiros for sending us these documents.

To talk to 1st Lt. John 0. Fleming no one would suspect the tales of bravery woven by this man, or the realness of a losing battle forever engraved in his memory. He is now busy with the task of training ground technicians, for the winning of the battle of today. No one would suspect that in his fine features once lay the grim look of determination to "give 'em hell" though confronted with overwhelming odds.

He participated in a bombing raid over Legaspe bay. It was to be just another raid to slow down the Jap forces already spreading over the Phillipines. It proved to be much more than that to Lt. Fleming and his crew, for although six planes started, when the Fortresses cane in on the bombing run, south, toward Lasbate, only two remained. Bombs were dropped with expert fingers through the scattered clouds, and ships were sunk, but overhead a flock of Zeroes peeled off to attack. A furious battle ensued as the pilots dove for the clouds but the first bursts from a Zero did their damage. With two engines completely out, the plane in which Lt. Fleming rode as bombardier maneuvered for a small island. With power all but gone as they approached the white sand beach for a belly lending, the left wing of the plane tipped and the plane skidded into a rice paddy and tipped over on its back.

With few injuries except for bottle wounds, the crew stepped out and counted noses. One gunner had been badly shot in the leg. They immediately found themselves surrounded by Phillipinos armed with everything from shotguns to machetes made. from ear springs. After a two hour debate as to whether these men were friend or foe, they were taken to the village, given e feast and put up for the night. That evening Lt. Fleming and one of the gunners went back to the plane and destroyed it completely. The next morning they were taken to a neighboring town where the man with the bad leg wound was treated. They stayed there a week, hardly knowing where they were. By outrigger to Panay, from there to Negros, where they radioed telling the world they were alive, and then on to Cebu. Tired, battered, but far from beaten, they boarded a boat that took them to Australia to rejoin their comrades of the 19th to fight with new zeal and new courage against the enemy.

Yea, those fine features, those mild manners are deceiving--for behind them lies a warriors heart, an Americans heart.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 February 2021), 19th Bombardment Group Stories - Lt John O. Fleming , http://www.historyofwar.org/Pictures/pictures_19th_BG_story_10.html

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