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ERB in WWII
On a clear, cool Saturday night in California, about 8:00 pm Pacific time, twelve B-17 "Flying Fortress" bombers took off under the command of U.S. Army Major Truman H. Landon. The date was December 6, 1941. Major Landon, a West Point graduate, was taking these twelve bombers to Hickam Field on Oahu Island, Hawaii. Many rumors and intelligence information in Washington and Hawaii had been indicating that the Empire of Japan was planning an armed action in the South Pacific. A "war warning" had been sent to the Navy command in Hawaii that Japan was expected to hit the Philippines, Thai, or possibly Borneo. These airplanes were going to gather more intelligence.
To save gasoline for this long 14-hour flight, the planes were flying separately instead of in formation. They also were stripped down.
The first wave of Japanese dive bombers and torpedo planes attacked the Navy ships and airfields at Pearl Harbor at 7:55 am, Hawaii time, on Sunday, December 7, 1941.
At this time Major Landon was flying his plane south toward Oahu Island, 150 miles away. A flight of nine planes came straight at him flying north, back to their aircraft carriers. For an instant he thought it was a reception committee. Then a burst of gunfire and a quick glimpse of the red circle told him the truth. He pulled up into the clouds and escaped pursuit.
Now the Flying Fortresses were asking for landing instructions from the tower at Oahu. A calm, flat voice gave wind direction, velocity, and the runway on which to land, as though it were any other day. Occasionally the voice observed without emotion that the field was under attack by "unidentified planes."
|The first plane to land was hit by gunfire and burst into flames, but landed with the blazing tail broken off. All the crew, except one, survived. Major Landon's was the second plane to land. The same voice from the tower told him to land west to east, and added that there were three Japanese planes on his tail. With this encouraging news he came on in.|
|As the planes rolled to a stop the men jumped out and raced for the boondocks on the Honolulu side of the field. All the other ten crews made it to safety and lived to fight another day.|
|Edgar Rice Burroughs and his son, Hulbert, heard the distant sounds of guns firing, but like almost everyone thought it was a practice exercise. They continued their tennis game, but when a bomb fell on a ship near the hotel, they finally believed war had arrived. When this was followed by antiaircraft shells bursting overhead, they lost all interest in tennis.|
|As the war progressed ERB wanted to see more action than just being put in charge of the civilian defense corps for the island -- The Businessmen's Military Training Corps or BMTC. By early November 1942, less than a year from December 7, he received the credentials as a war correspondent for United Press, at the age of 67.|
His first assignment took him by plane to Canton Island, New Caledonia, Fiji, and Australia, then back to Honolulu. Because the Navy would not recognize his credentials, he had no further assignments.
|By this time Truman Landon had advanced to Brigadier General, commanding the 7th Bomber Command, and had become friends with ERB. ERB flew to Tarawa, Eniwetok, and Kwajalein, and shared living quarters on Tarawa with General Landon. He flew with Landon on a B-24 Liberator bomber on two bombing raids over the occupied island of Jaliut.|
|He later flew with General Landon to Eniwetok. According to John Taliaferro, "As the general eased the plane forward to touch the nose wheel to the ground, it folded up, and the bomber slid to an inglorious stop with the nose wheel scooping up coral gravel." (Tarzan Forever, 1999, p.351)|
When ERB returned to Honolulu he wrote Tarzan and "The Foreign Legion," from June to September, 1944.
Reprinted below is what is written on the dedication page of my copy of Tarzan and "The Foreign Legion," which ERB had dedicated to "Brigadier General Truman H. Landon." Notice that by the time he autographed it to me he had advanced to a Four-star General (Retired).
18 June 64
BRIGADIER GENERAL TRUMAN H. LANDON
For Bob Hyde - From one thus
Truman H. Landon
General USAF, Ret.
"Landon" Quotation from the Movie Tora!
Maj. Truman Landon was played by actor Norman Alden
Major Truman Landon returning from training mission to find Pearl Harbor under attack:
"Damn it! What a way to fly into a war—unarmed and out of gas!"
ERBzine Issues Featuring ERB and the Military
ERB: The War Years
ERB and the Military I
ERB and the Military II
ERB and The Shaw WWII
MMA Scrapbook I
MMA Scrapbook II
Lost Words of ERB: Letters, Articles, Notes
ERB: War Correspondent
Truman H. Landon Biography: USAF Bio Site
Aircraft at Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor: The 2001 Movie: Nitpicker's Guide
Disney's Tarzan: Nitpicker's Guide
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