Doolittle Raid Part 1 – by “Mac” McElroy

Darrell Bryant, a friend and fellow writer, sent this to me. I cannot read it and shove it in an electronic folder to be forgotten, so I’m going to share it as a Visitor’s Story to honor the aviator who wrote it.

It’s over 7000 words. I’ve separated it into parts for publication in this blog, and I hope that those of you who care to join me in offering a belated “Godspeed” to men like Mac McElroy will check back often to read the entire account of a moment in time when a small group of valiant young men stood up to be counted in the battle against worldwide tyranny and oppression.

Doolittle Raid Part 1 begins:

My name is Edgar McElroy. My friends call me “Mac.” I was born and raised 
in Ennis, Texas, the youngest of five children, son of Harry and Jennie 
McElroy. Folks say that I was the quiet one. We lived at 609 North 
Dallas Street and attended the Presbyterian Church.

My dad had an auto mechanic’s shop downtown close to the main fire station.
 My family was a hard working bunch, and I was expected to work at Dad’s 
garage after school and on Saturdays, so I grew up in an atmosphere of 
machinery, oil and grease. Occasionally I would hear a lone plane fly over,
 and would run out in the street and strain my eyes against the sun to
 watch it. Someday, that would be me up there!

I really liked cars, and I was always busy on some project. It wasn’t 
long before I decided to build my very own Model-T out of spare parts. I
 got an engine from over here, a frame from over there, and wheels from 
someplace else, using only the good parts from old cars that were otherwise 
shot. It wasn’t very pretty, but it was all mine. I enjoyed driving on the 
dirt roads around town and the feeling of freedom and speed. That car of 
mine could really go fast: 40 miles per hour!

In high school I played football and tennis, and was good enough at 
football to receive an athletic scholarship at Trinity University in
 Waxahachie. I have to admit that sometimes I daydreamed in class, and often
times I thought about flying my very own airplane and being up there in the 
clouds. That is when I decided to take a correspondence course in 
aircraft engines.

Whenever I got the chance, I would take my girl on a date up to Love Field 
in Dallas. We would watch the airplanes and listen to those mighty piston 
engines roar. I just loved it and if she didn’t, well that was just too 
bad.

After my  schooling, I operated a filling station with my brother, then
 drove a bus, and later had a job as a machinist in Longview. But I never 
lost my love of airplanes and my dream of flying. With what was going on in 
Europe and in Asia, I figured that our country would be drawn into war
 someday, so I decided to join the Army Air Corps in November of 1940. This
 way I could finally follow my dream.

I reported for primary training in California. The training was rigorous 
and frustrating at times. We trained at airfields all over California. It
 was tough going, and many of the guys washed out. When I finally saw that I
 was going to make it, I wrote  to my girl back in Longview, Texas. Her
 name was Agnes Gill. I asked her to come out to California for my 
graduation. And oh, yeah, also to marry me.

I graduated on July 11, 1941. I was now a real, honest-to-goodness Army
 Air Corps pilot. Two days later, I married “Aggie” in Reno, Nevada. We
 were starting a new life together and were very happy. I received my 
orders to report to Pendleton, Oregon and join the 17th Bomb Group.
 Neither of us had traveled much before, and the drive north through the 
Cascade Range of the Sierra Nevadas was interesting and beautiful.

It was an exciting time for us. My unit was the first to receive the new
 B-25 medium bomber. When I saw it for the first time I was in awe. It 
looked so huge. It was so sleek and powerful. The guys started calling it
 the “rocket plane,” and I could hardly wait to get my hands on it. I told
 Aggie that it was really something! Reminded me of a big old scorpion, just 
ready to sting!  Man, I could barely wait!

We were transferred to another airfield in Washington State, where we
 spent a lot of time flying practice missions and attacking imaginary 
targets. Then, there were other assignments in Mississippi and Georgia, 
for more  maneuvers and more practice.

We  were on our way back to California on December 7th when we got word of
 a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. We  listened with mixed emotions to the 
announcements on the radio, and the next day to the declaration of war.

What the President said, it just rang over and over in my  head. “With 
confidence in our armed forces, with the un-bounding determination of our 
people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.” By gosh, I 
felt as though he was talking straight to me! I didn’t know what would
 happen to us, but we all knew that we would be going somewhere now.

The first weeks of the war, we were back in Oregon flying patrols at sea 
looking for possible Japanese submarines. We had to be up at 0330 hours to 
warm up the engines of our planes. There was 18 inches of snow on the 
ground, and it was so cold that our engine oil congealed overnight. We 
placed big tarps over the engines that reached down to the ground. Inside 
this tent we used plumber’s blow torches to thaw out the engines. I figured
 that my dad would be proud of me if he could see me inside this tent with 
all this machinery, oil and grease. After about an hour of this, the engines were warm enough to  start.

We flew patrols over the coasts of Oregon and Washington from dawn until
 dusk. Once I thought I spotted a sub and started my bomb run, even had my 
bomb doors open, but I pulled out of it when I realized that it was just a
 big whale. Lucky for me, I would have never heard the end of that!

Actually, it was lucky for us the Japanese didn’t attack the West
 Coast, because we just didn’t have a strong enough force to beat them off.
 Our country was in a real fix now, and overall things looked pretty bleak 
to most folks. In early February, we were ordered to report  to Columbus,
 South Carolina. Man, this Air Corps sure moves a fellow around a lot! 
Little did I know what was coming next!

Please visit again soon for Doolittle Raid Part 2.

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2 Responses to Doolittle Raid Part 1 – by “Mac” McElroy

  1. B25 Driver says:

    Hey Tosh:

    If you have not had the experience, I might be able to get you a hop on a B25. Bring extra earplugs — the Db level cannot be believed until experienced.

    My airshow experiences with the plane far exceed my expectations. http://www.devildogsquadron.com for some examples. The Doolittle Reunion this year was indescribable for me — others might be able to put words around it.

    Starting an engine installation this weekend on the Ole Bird — c’mon up and get greasy!

    Carry on!
    Mark

  2. Tosh McIntosh says:

    Thanks for the invitation, Mark. Assuming the engine you install works, =:-) maybe we could “scare the dickens out of livestock, buzz farm houses and many a barn” like Mac talks about later in the series on his way out to California to join up the the USS Hornet. Carrying on here, sir! Tosh

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