Tommy Doyle wasn’t yet two years old when his father Jimmie was shot down while serving in the Pacific theater near Palau during World War II. Tommy had heard stories all of his life about his father, and not that he was shot down, missing and presumed dead. Rather he heard about how his father had somehow survived, and instead of coming back to Texas to his wife and son had gone to California to start a new life. His father didn’t care about him anymore. Although Tommy never really believed the stories, the pain of growing up without his father profoundly affected his life.
As he grew older, Tommy didn’t want to talk about his father, even after he and his wife received a trunk belonging to his mother following her death. His wife Nancy, more curious than Tommy, wanted to know more and begin to search for answers. Six years after she opened the trunk she noticed a story in Parade magazine about a California doctor, Pat Scannon, who has searching for missing World War II planes.
Author Wil S. Hylton tells a compelling story about not only the search for those planes, but a history of the war fought in the Pacific as the United States struggled to bring down the Japanese empire, and specifically those who flew the hefty B-24 heavy bombers, or Liberators. With the vastness of the Pacific theater, the B-24’s possessed greater long-range capabilities than those planes which flew in the European theater. The B-24 Liberators became so vital to winning the war with Japan that over eighteen thousand of them were mass-produced in record time, half by the Ford Motor Company.
The story goes back and forth between Scannon’s search and the team he eventually helped to assembled to accomplish the impossible, and the story of the men who went down in a plane known only to Scannon by its tail number, 453, on September 1, 1944. Scannon more or less stumbled onto the scene of what would become a history-making effort to recover those left behind on that fateful day. The odyssey began in 1993 when he joined some friends for an expedition to recover sunken Japanese ships and whatever booty they might find.
Scannon found himself working with scuba divers, underwater archaeologists and other professionals, as well as the military. He would eventually assign a name to his search, calling it the “BentProp Project.” His efforts to honor those who were missing but never found were time-consuming, and at times daunting and discouraging, but in the end rewarding. The BentProp Project continues today.
If you are interested in tales of World War II and the stories and heroics of those who served in the far-flung Pacific theater, I highly recommend the book. You can support the BentProp Project by donating here.
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.