My dad, just out of high school, on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for flight training. This led to his service as navigator of a B-29 flying from Tinian and Iwo Jima to bomb Japan.
Here’s what I write about that in Immortal for Quite Some Time:
During the Second World War, enlisted days after he graduated from high school, Dad was trained and double-rated as a navigator and pilot of a B-29. It’s impossible for me to visualize what that meant for him. I can read about the 325 B-29s that first firebombed Tokyo, igniting conflagrations so fierce that the big bombers were tossed like toys on the updraft, fires that killed close to one hundred thousand civilians. Was he there that day? What were his thoughts while droning home after bombing raids?
Among Dad’s things, companion to circular slide rules and colorful silk maps, is a large paper map titled “U.S. Army Air Forces Special Air Navigation Chart: Caroline Islands to Japan (S-115) Restricted.” A single straight pencil line slices across the blue of the North Pacific Ocean, connecting the islands of Tinian and IŌ-JIMA. Ruled pencil lines radiate from IŌ-JIMA to southern islands of Japan, punctuated by compass holes and cut through by penciled arcs labeled 1300, 1400, 1500. Miles, kilometers, times? A square of the map stands in relief above the rest of the map–raised, I suppose, by a small table mounted in front of the navigator with a band of some sort to hold the square fast.
This map on whose accuracy the soldiers bet their lives is remarkably clear about its contingencies:
First Edition, subject to correction. August 1944.
Warning: Due to war conditions, lights, radio facilities and other aids to navigation may be changed or discontinued without notice.
Caution: Streams or coastlines shown on this chart by broken lines indicate that the exact position or shape of the charted feature is doubtful.
Note: Officers using this chart will mark hereon corrections and additions which come to their attention and mail direct to the Aeronautical Chart Service, Headquarters, Army Air Forces, Washington, D.C.
The map, like all maps, tells an incomplete story. Because of the consequences of obfuscation, it does so as honestly as possible. Despite its deficiencies, the military map is encyclopedic compared with Dad’s account of the war.