Grove City, PA
Army Air Force
World War II
Early in 1943, Dick Bailey enlisted in the Army Air Force.
“A whole carload of us went up to Erie to join,” he said, “but I was the only one that went in. The rest of them all backed out.”
He never got home again until he was released from the service slightly more than four years later.
Dick was assigned to the 344th Service Squadron, 13th Air Force. They had a rough trip to the South Pacific.
“After going through Panama Canal, we dropped off supplies at Bora Bora. Going out the next morning we hit a reef, knocked a hole in the bottom of the ship, and bent the screw and the shaft. We vibrated the whole way to Noumea, New Caledonia.”
The 344th Service Squadron followed the U.S. military advances to maintain and repair combat aircraft.
“Every time they drove the Japs off an island, we’d move up. We had a prop shop, metal shop, welding shop, and paint shop. One time they brought a B-24 in on its belly because the wheels wouldn’t go down. We put a new walkway in it and bomb bay doors and had it flying again in two weeks.”
Less than ideal conditions sometimes seriously increased their workload.
“On Leyte, there were two airstrips. One was right along the ocean. They had to close it down because of the crosswinds. Guys were crashing all the time. So they built another strip up on top of a mountain. If they came in too short, they ran into the side of the mountain. If they went too long, they’d land down over the other side of the mountain.”
Although they were hit with Japanese attacks from time to time, Dick’s worst injury was the result of a motorcycle accident.
“A big truck and trailer had just refueled a B-24. It pulled right out in front of me and I hit him broadside. I got a fractured pelvis and a concussion.”
Before the war was over, all four of his brothers also served in the military. Dick’s brother John had entered the army about a year before him; he served in North Africa and Europe. His brothers Fonnie and Frederick also served in Europe. Fonnie was wounded and became a prisoner of war. James joined the Navy in 1945. He later served as a paratrooper in the Korean War and as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, where he died in action.
Link to brother James Bailey