(Editor's Note: The log of the above flight was recorded by Donald M. Jones, 95th Squadron. Son, Paul D. Jones, born one day less than fifteen years after the squadron departure from Orleans, has copied this record from the original log. In the age of jet travel it is difficult to imagine the long arduous flights that were the norm in traveling across continents and oceans in World War II. This log records one man's journey on the long way home from war. It is contributed by the family of MSgt. Donald M. Jones)
August 24, 1945
From: Orleans, France
To: Marseilles and Marrakech
All of us got up at 0330 this morning, had breakfast at 0345, finished packing, and left the barracks in Orleans at 0430.
The clouds were heavy in places, however, the moon shone through so we were sure that we could get through to Marseilles. The engines were started, we taxied for take-off, and were airborne at 0545. It was still about one hour before daylight so each of us found a place to sleep.
About 0645 the sunshine started to stream in the window. I looked out and we were approaching the French Alps at 8000 feet. If weather conditions had been proper it would have been possible to have seen Geneva, Switzerland.
At 0740 we came into sight of Marseilles and by 0750 our element had circled and landed. From Orleans to Marseilles it is approximately 300 miles.
At Marseilles, crews were briefed and passengers were briefed on Dingy and ditching procedure. At 1120 our three plane element took off to fly over the Mediterranean Sea from Marseilles to Marrakech, a distance of 1156 miles. This trip took us all along the coast of Spain to Gibraltar, then we cut south over Africa to Marrakech. At 1400 we were flying opposite San Palo, Spain.
Checking frequently, I found that we could see Spain rather clearly, however, in places the form of land is all that could be seen. The sea is a most beautiful light blue. I see splotches of white clouds beneath us with the blue of the seas as a background and it seems that I am looking into the sky instead of down to the sea.
At 1458 we passed over Gibraltar, then turned south on a direct course to Marrakech. What hot dusty, and desolate country there is between Gibraltar and Marrakech. It would be terrible to be stranded out there. Landed at 1805 and turned our watches back one hour.
August 25, 1945
This morning we were awakened at 0530 (0430 Z), ate breakfast, and went to the ship. There was a slight misunderstanding in the time so we were to the plane long before take off.
The base at Marrakech is surrounded on all sides by the Atlas Mountains. As the sun came up on the opposite side of the mountains from us, the mountains were silhouetted and were fairly visible through the low hanging clouds.
Usually, for a flight from Marrakech to Dakar, the pass in the Atlas Mountains but the weather over the pass made it necessary to fly to the coast of French Morocco, then along the coast to Dakar, a distance of 1375 miles with a flying time of 8½ hours. We took off at 0810 Z.
Just a short way from the airfield we raised up to more than 8000 feet in order to miss the highest peak of the mountains over which we had to pass to get to the coast. What a terrible desolate looking country is found over these mountains. Nothing is visible for miles except the brown sand of the Sahara. Occasionally, an oasis could be spotted where there were a few shrubs and judging from the air, mud huts. I am thankful that little time has to be spent in this area, even Marrakech is comparatively nice - its just a big oasis.
We must be over the shore by now because we have been airborne long enough. We are flying high above a white cloud which seems to cover the whole area and looks like snow. Up here the sun is shining and I can see several other planes to the left of us.
At 1525 (1425 Z) we are flying along the coast near Port Etienne and opposite the Sahara which is a very hot and dry looking place. The color of the sand here is a very light tan. In about three more hours we should be at Dakar.
I went to sleep about 1000 Z and just awoke a short time ago, about 1300 Z, ate some lunch and now I will read again.
We flow along over water and over the Sahara coast for hours. Sometimes we couldn't see land. About 1740 (Z we sighted Mallard Field, turned, circled the field, and landed at 1753 Z.
Total mileage to this point is 2831 miles with a total flight time of 18 hours 15 minutes.
August 26, 1945
From: Mallard Field Dakar, West Africa
To: Roberts Field, Liberia
Grounded because of bad weather. Wrote to mom and dad. About 9:00 A.M. the word reached me at the ship that our planes were being cleared for a 10:30 A.M. take off. I caught a ride back to the transient area to turn in my bedding and pick up my bag. I met some of the boys on the way; they had my bags and had turned in my bedding. However, since I was responsible for all checking in bedding I proceeded to Transient Headquarters and found that all was okay. Since there was still plenty of time I went down the mess hall and had another breakfast which was just what I needed.
Two passengers were missing from one of the three ships in our element so we couldn't get off at 1030. After finding these two passengers we got off at 1118 for a 4½ hour flight.
Now we are flying over the water headed n the general direction of South East with our two wing ships within visible distance. To the left of our element, I can see a haze which leads me to believe that land is close by.
I barely slept at all last night because of the terrific heat and I am very uncomfortable now. We can only fly 800-1000 feet because there is a storm above us. The higher we get the more we escape the heat. I have little more than my underwear covering me now.
My watch says 1313 and I compute that we have traveled approximately 280 miles. We should be directly opposite Portuguese Guinea. When we land at Roberts Field we are sure to roast because it is just 8 degrees north of the equator.
During the flight from 1430 there were spells of extremely bad weather which made it necessary to fly 200-250 feet above the water. It just seemed to me that one could reach out and scoop up the sea.
About 1545 we skirted land then started flying over tropical jungle. It was 1630 when we sighted the landing field, which is a huge space cut and cleared from the center of the jungle. The Firestone rubber plantation is another cleared jungle spot which is quite visible from the air. We landed at 1640. 728 miles in 5 hours and 40 minutes.
When we were here in February 1944, we got a pass and visited the rubber plantation where we saw a native market in progress.
There are many negro boys working on the field and are really at one's service. Each barracks has either one or two negro orderlies who absolutely wait upon us making the beds, fixing the mosquito netting after we go to bed etc.. Those who work in the mess hall are very energetic and make excellent waiters. A stick of gum or a cigarette make them step so much faster.
Since Liberia is a free country and since many missionaries have visited this jungle land many of the natives are fairly well educated and speak English very well.
This is a very rainy, moist climate and everything seems to be damp. The malaria has been fairly well stamped out since the AAF has arrived. However, precautions are taken.
Total mileage is 3559 miles with a total flight time of 23 hours and 55 minutes.
August 27, 1945
From: Roberts Field, Liberia
This morning at 0530 the negro boy, Joe awakened us. We went down to the mess hall, had our breakfast, then washed and went to the ship.
Pilots and navigators were to be briefed at 0700 so we figured that take off would be around 0830.
The pilots came to the plane soon after 0800, the engines were started and we started to taxi. At 0841 we took off on a 1050 mile trip to Ascension Island. If all goes well we can expect to land around 1715 this evening. We are going further from home yet we are getting nearer.
After we took off we headed directly toward the sea which was about ten minutes time over swampy jungle. We are over the sea at about 8000 feet and flying above the clouds. The sun is shining and I believe that we will have a good trip. We are traveling in a south westerly direction, I guess more nearly south as the sun is almost directly to our left.
This will be an uneventful trip because of the lack of scenery, so I plan to read and sleep and await for Ascension to show itself.
Our indicated air speed is 140 miles per hour but with a tail wind our ground speed is 165. At this rate our time in flight should be reduced from eight hours to about six and one half. At 1200 we had traveled just about one half of the way.
This trip is very tiresome and monotonous, however, I don't mind the flight nearly as much as I did when we were flying the other way about 18 months ago. I don't forget to ask God to guide us and to give us a safe trip all of the way, not only for us but for all ships in flight.
About 1510 we should be insight of Ascension Island. It is rather hard for me to compute since our tail wind varies. The co-pilot just told me that we should be there shortly after 1400.
About 1345 I went up to the cockpit to have a smoke. Due to the extra gasoline that we carry in the cabin it is dangerous to smoke back there; in the cockpit it is safe. The navigator told me that we should be at Ascension at 1415 and he was searching for the outline of the land through the cumulus clouds. At 1415 no island was in sight.
At 1430 the form of the volcanic mountain formation was in sight. Since the island is only 35 square miles of area it is an easy task to fly from one side to the other. We approach the eastern end of the island and flew along the north coast to the west end of the island where we landed at 1438.
I am going to stay at the ship until one of the other boys has his supper then he is going to relieve me and remain on the ship overnight.
This place looks the same as it did eighteen months ago when we landed here. It is possible that the parking space and taxi strips have been improved.
There isn't a bit of soil on this island and as a result nothing grows here. The island is a volcanic ash formation (red porus rock).
There is a very small British town on the north side and I guess it is possibly a coaling station for ships. Other than that the island isn't inhabited.
U.S. Engineers really must be congratulated upon their wonderful piece of work in building this base. British Engineers said it impossible; U.S. Engineers did it.
The waters around this island are supposed to be the wildest in the world because of the currents. When I was here before I went swimming but I don't believe I will go this time. I heard that one fellow lost a leg to a shark just a few feet from the shore. Tomorrow to Fortaleza, Brazil.
Today about 1200 we crossed over the equator and passed into the southern hemisphere. For the next few days we stay in this hemisphere, however, we pass from the eastern hemisphere to the western. Tomorrow we have an extremely long trip ahead of us. I don't mind because it will bring us nearer to home.
Total mileage is 4609 miles with a total flight time of 29 hours and 55 minutes.
Tuesday, August 28, 1945
From: Ascension Island
To: Fortaleza, Brazil
At 0805 our plane took down the runway and was airborne. Our trip today is to be to Fortaleza, Brazil which is about 1750 miles. I am just wondering how we are going to make such a long hop when our gasoline is limited to little more than ten hours. I am just hoping that someone is sure of what they are doing and computed correctly when they figured that we could make such a long trip. If we have a good tail wind that will aid us greatly.
We have been flying for about twenty minutes and are high above the clouds covering the ocean. Up here the sun is really glaring, however, it is extremely cold. I am going to dig up more clothing (I have my fingers crossed).
Captain Hobson just told me that the distance we are flying today is 1720 miles and our ETA at Fortaleza is 1725. The time in flight is 9 hours and 20 minutes. According to this data we must have a speed of 184 miles per hour.
What a long ride!
About 1550 the coast of Brazil was sighted. By 1605 we should be over Natal. Rather than stop here we will have about one and one-half more hours of flying to reach Fortaleza, a distance of 280 miles more. Oh, how monotonous this flying becomes after eight hours over water. I am glad now that we will be flying over land for a change, at least, the monotony of seeing nothing but water will be broken.
From Natal to Fortaleza we skirted the coast, flying some of the time over land and some of the time over water. We were flying just off the coast when we sighted the field at 1725. We broke our formation, flew into the field and landed at 1733.
Upon landing we turned our watches back three hours. Now we have passed the half way mark and are headed directly home. Tomorrow we will hit Georgetown, British Guiana, the next day Borenquen Field, Puerto Rico, then the next day should see us landing at Hunter Field, Savannah, Georgia.
This field seems like a pretty nice base and the climate seems to be rather good. However, it is in the tropics and I imagine that it is plenty hot. I saw bananas growing and many other types of tropical vegetation growing around this base. From the air, I can't see much jungle land, however, as we approach the Amazon River we will see the thickest of jungle. Fortaleza is a beautiful town, all seen from the air.
Total mileage is 6329 miles with a total flight time of 39 hours and 23 minutes.
Wednesday, August 29, 1945
From: Fortaleza, Brazil
To: Atkinson Field, British Guiana
This morning we got up at 0300 (my dad is not a morning person so I know how much he enjoyed this! PDJ) and were ready for a take-off at daybreak. The moon and stars were shining and the breeze warm and balmy was quite energizing. As the sun broke over the horizon a complete picture of the tropics was visible. I have never seen such beautiful colors in the sky as I have seen.
We taxied down the ramp with our two followers trailing us. At 0535 we took down the runway and were airborne for another long trip up to Georgetown, British Guiana. The navigator said that according to plan, we were to be flying more than eight hours. We are flying high above the clouds now - up here where the sun is shining brightly. I can faintly see land beneath us, however, a cumulus cloud seems to float beneath us and cuts off our vision. We must be about 8000 feet.
I really am glad that we have bridged the ocean because there are so many things that can mean disaster when flying over water. It is just as dangerous flying over land, however, I have a feeling of safety when I can see land beneath us. I believe that there is more of a chance for survival if a ship goes down over water rather than over the jungle. The jungle around the Amazon River is really dense.
We have had such good luck thus far on our trip and for that I am thankful to God and hope he continues to favor us (it is cold up here, even though we are in the tropics).
At 1007 we crossed the Amazon just after passing over Belem, Brazil. The river at this point is 80 miles across. It is very muddy and looks as if there has been a huge rain. As we passed over the Amazon River we also crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere.
We had just landed here when one of the tropical storms arose. We really had a downpour for a time, then it stopped, and the blazing sun shone again. When standing in the shade one can keep cool because there is a good breeze coming in from the ocean.
We sighted this field about 1400 or 1405 and came in for a landing at 1418. Total flight time is 8 hours and 43 minutes. We sleep under mosquito nets again for the last time. Tomorrow we hit Puerto Rico, then the states.
It was one week ago tonight that we had a big dinner out at Jane's.
Total mileage is 7919 miles with a total flight time of 48 hours and 6 minutes.
Thursday, August 30, 1945
From: Atkinson Field, British Guiana
To: Borenquen Field, Puerto Rico
At Atkinson field we turned our watches back one hour. Now, this time is the same as Eastern Standard and we should not have to change our watches again.
This morning we got up at 0400 and after having breakfast we came out to the ship to take off at 0600. About 0545 a ground fog started closing in on the field. After the sun peered over the horizon the fog began to lift. About 0700 the field was clear and we started to taxi. There are so many ships ahead of us that we will never get to the runway.
Finally we did get to the runway and took off at 0835. Now we fly over extremely dense jungle until we leave British Guiana. It would be nearly fatal for anyone to have a forced landing here in the tropics because there are so many insects, etc. in the jungle.
We should land in Puerto Rico this afternoon about two o'clock, a distance of 1117 miles which is about 6 hours flying.
After today's flight there is just one more of seven or eight hours then we will be in the U.S.A..
We passed over Trinidad at 0935 and now we have passed some of the smaller islands between Trinidad and St. Lucia. At present we are flying almost due north. When we reach St. Lucia we change course. St Lucia and other smaller islands over which we are passing are of the Windward Island group. The Windward and the Leeward Groups form the lesser Antilles. Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, etc. make up the Greater Antilles.
St. Vincent Island is beneath us now at 1035. We are really cutting down those few thousand miles between us and the states and they can't pass beneath us too fast to suit me. I wish we could be to our homes for the Labor Day week but that is wishful thinking.
About 1245 we sighted the island of Puerto Rico, the eastern most point of the island. Then we flew along the northern side of the island. I watched for the city of San Juan but didn't see any town which was large enough for the capital of the island. Cumulus cloud covered sections of the coast and we were flying above it so it may be that we passed over San Juan, under a cloud.
We came into sight of the field at 1325 and I recognized it immediately. We made a large semi-circle over the water and came in for a landing. The field is located on a cliff at the sea's edge. At 1335 we landed.
Borinquen Field is a very beautiful spot and really it would be paradise to be stationed here. The buildings are laid out just exactly like a city and the traffic, automobiles, trucks, buses, jeeps, etc. is just as much as would be found in a city.
Tomorrow is our last day of flying and I surely will be happy when we set this plane down wherever it is to be in the states. We may land at Morrison Field, West Palm Beach, Florida then go on to Hunter Field, Georgia or we may fly directly to Hunter Field, Georgia where our planes are to be left.
It is one week ago tomorrow since we left Orleans, France.
Total mileage is 9036 miles with a total flight time of 55 hours and 20 minutes.
Friday, August 31, 1945
From: Borenquen Field, Puerto Rico
To: Hunter Field, Savannah, GA
This, Boriquen Field, is one of the most beautiful fields that I have seen. I surely wouldn't mind being stationed here if I had to remain in the Army.
At 0400 this morning, we were awakened, got up, ate breakfast, and went to the ship. It was still dark so we couldn't take off. About 0545 the sun started peeping over the horizon and the darkness lifted. We started our engines and started to taxi the ship at 0612. At 0623 we were airborne.
Almost as soon as we left the runway we were out over the ocean. Now we are quite a number of miles away from the island.
I just happened to remember that today marks my third year completed in the Service. I feel that I won't have too much more of this life.
Today we are supposed to be processed at Hunter Field then we are to be flown to Charleston, S.C. and from there we will go home. This is just a rumor - we will see.
Last night I could barely get to sleep because I was so excited about the events that are to occur in the next few days.
At 1048 we passed over Nassau in the Bahamas Island Group. I could see very plainly the air base which we have leased from the British.
At 1135 we sighted the coast of Florida. We flew over Morrison Field at West Palm Beach about 1140 then turned north along the coast, headed for Savannah Georgia.
We flew along the coast all along Florida. We passed over Daytona Beach, St. Augustine, and Jacksonville. We passed over Jacksonville about 1350 then I knew that soon we would be to our destination.
We sighted Hunter Field at Savannah and peeled off at 1450 and landed at 1453. How happy we were to know that our long trip was over and that we would soon be home.
Our flight plan said that we would be enroute for 7 hours and 57 minutes, however, it took 8 hours and 30 minutes to make the 1380 miles.
TOTAL MILEAGE: 10,416 miles
TOTAL TIME: 63 hours 50 minutes
Dick Hobson has given permission to add the following:
"My flight consists of the following:"
Plane #717 - Hobson, Judge Buell, Chris Straesser, Dick Matthews, Babola
#900 - Germano, Catron
#388 - Rideout, Heisman, Shelton, McCarty, Martin
After reviewing the diary, Don Orcutt contributes the following:
"Just for the pleasure of doing it, I figured your average airspeed for the total trip to be 163.18 MPH. Your equivalent days aloft to be 2.66 days and total fuel consumed (estimated 90 gallons/hour) to have been 5,774.7 gallons."