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December 9, 1941

Dorothy got home early the next morning. After an early breakfast she drove me out to Nichols so that she would have the car instead of it being left on Nichols. When we got to the field, we saw the result of the night’s air-raid. It was our first surprise of many. One hanger had been hit, and there were a few bomb craters on the flying field, but practically no damage had been done. Just after we had gotten on the field, the air-raid siren began to moan, and we were both pretty scared. We started to run out across the rice paddies to get away from Nichols. We ran until we were exhausted and then dropped down in a hole to wait for the bombers. They didn’t come that time. After a while we went back to the car, and I sent Dody home in a hurry before she did get caught in a bombing raid. Then I went on back to the operations hanger, and there I was told that a flight had just taken off to patrol over Nichols, and that there was another plane if I wanted to join them. Some of the pilots from th 3rd Pursuit that had been flying when Iba was bombed had come to Nichols during the night and two of them had cracked up on landing. Their planes were laying just off the runways. I got in the P-40 that was left on the field and took off hoping to find the flight that was already over Nichols. I climbed to about 17,000 feet, and, not seeing the flight, circled there until my gasoline was nearly out. I don’t know what I would have done if I had seen enemy ships coming, probably gotten show down not knowing any more than I did. A little before noon I went down and landed on Nichols. All personnel seemed to have vanished except for one enlisted man that came running up and said that bombers were on the way and that some major said for me to get the plane off the field before it was bombed. I told him to get the gas truck so that I could refuel, but he said the driver was gone and that he couldn’t drive it, so I jumped out, ran across the field, and got in the truck. I started toward my plane expecting to be bombed any minute and cussing the inefficiency of the entire army all the way.

By the time I got back to the plane, a few mechanics had come out of the bushes and holes and they they helped me service the plane. I took off as soon as I could and spent the next 3 1/2 hours circling the field at 15,000 feet. At one time during the flight I got so tired sitting there doing nothing and seeing no planes, I decided to do some acrobatics. I did a series of loops, slow rolls, Immelmans, and so forth. I was going around on a big barrel roll when I happened to glance back and see four planes bearing down on me. I practically passed out with fright. They looked like P-40’s but from the way there were coming after me, I didn’t know what to think. I shouted over the radio, Don’t shoot! It’s Obert!” At that they pulled off and I fell in with them, swearing right then and there that this was serious business and although it was impossible to see everywhere at the same time I was going to try to do just that. I stayed with the other shops and landed when they did. When we landed, my electric gun sight was out so I rounded up some mechanics to work on it. By this time pilots had come in from some of the other squadrons. By talking with them I got a good idea of what had happened. Iba, Baguio, Tarlac, Clark and Nichols had been bombed and strafed the first days and nights of the war. No damage was done at Baguio and Tarlac except for a few civilian casualties. Iba had been completely wiped out. Most of our planes stationed there had been destroyed on the ground, and a large number of the men had been killed or wounded. George Elstrom, one of my classmates, had attacked the dive bombers over Iba. After shooting down two, his plane was shot up so bad that he had to jump. The Japanese planes shot at him all the way down, and he died soon after landing. Two other U.S. pilots were shot down at Iba. At Clark the story was worse. The Japs had hit just as the 20th Pursuit was taking off and had shot down four pilots on the take-off and destroyed most of the other P-40s on the ground. Several B-17shad also been caught and destroyed on the ground. My Squadron, the 17th, after leaving Nichols the evening before had landed at Del Carmen and stayed most of the night. Early in the morning before daylight they were ordered to take off and intercept the bombers that were heading for Nichols. Lt. Lodin was the third plane to take off. When it came his turn, the air was so dusty that he couldn’t see the lights ahead of him, but he tried it anyway. He started in the wrong direction, hit two planes that were awaiting for take-off, and nosed over. The plane exploded, and he was burned alive. He was one of my best friends in the squadron. Having flown with him a lot, I considered him one of the best fliers in the squadron.

So far the Japs hadn’t been seen anywhere on the island on the second day of the war. That was Tuesday, and we learned later that they never were active on Tuesdays. It must have been their day of rest. About dark we were told to get off Nichols in case the Japs made another raid so I caught a ride and went home. There I found Dorothy had already moved most of our things to her uncle’s house so we slept there that night. We both knew that I would be called away from Manila any minute and were both dreading the time when we would have to part. Dorothy took me out to the field the next morning and then went to Fort Santiago, where she worked. She was only working during the day now.