Brookline War Memorial
Walter L. Wentz

2nd Lt. Walter L. Wentz
United States Army Air Corps (1943-1945)

United States Army Air Services (1917-1947)

Walter Ludwig Wentz Jr. was born on January 7, 1921, to parents Flora and Walter L. Wentz of 1036 Woodbourne Avenue. He had two brothers, Elmer and Donald. Walter graduated from South Hills High School and was a Mechanical Engineering student at Carnegie Tech when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in January 1943. After basic training he joined the Aviation Air Corps and, on May 10, 1944, was assigned to pre-flight school at Maxwell Field in Alabama.

Walter L. Wentz

After training and evaluation, Walter received his commission at 2nd Lieutenant and was assigned as a radarman in the 39th Bombardment Squadron, 6th Bombardment Group of the newly formed 313th Bomb Wing. This air command would form a part of the Super Heavy XXI Bomber Command in the far eastern U.S. 20th Air Force.

Only the best and brightest recruits, and a strong cadre of seasoned veterans, had the honor of joining this command, which was to be equipped with the Air Corps' new global bomber, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress.

                 

The 39th Bombardment Squadron was stationed at Grand Island Army Air Base in Nebraska when Lt. Walter Wentz arrived, fresh out of flight school. Intensive training began immediately, covering maintenance, navigation, flying, radar, bombing and gunnery. Ground crew members were sent to schools across the country to learn the technical aspects of the bomber, which had been rushed into production.

The airmen gawked in awe when they got their first glimpse of the Superfortress. It had a wingspan of 141 feet, pressurized compartments for the crew of eleven, remotely controlled gun turrets, for 18-cylinder engines and the largest propellers of any aircraft. This goliath could carry up to 20,000 pounds of bombs and hit targets from 31,000 feet.

B29 Recruiting Poster.

Because of mechanical problems and numerous engine modifications with the new planes, crews were forced to train mostly with B-17s and B-26s. They were lucky to get in at least one B-29 flight a month while the ground crews, with the help of civilian technicians, labored for the next several months to correct these issues.

The Radarman was responsible for operating the radar, used to identify target areas. Originally, the Radarman was an enlisted man. Later, the Radarman was an officer who was also cross-trained as a Navigator and Bombardier. The Radarman was also responsible for shoving chaff (a radar countermeasure) out a tube in the back of the plane.

The B-29 Superfortress radar man

THE GROUP GOES TO WAR

The 6th Bomb Group was no stranger to war. From the beginning of America's involvement in World War II, the group, then part of the 6th Air Force, was responsible for anti-submarine missions in both the Caribbean and Pacific approaches to the Panama Canal. When this mission was taken over by the Navy in November 1943, the group was disbanded.

In April of 1944, the group was reactivated at Dalhart Army Air Field in Texas and formed as a Super Heavy B29 Superfortress unit. The group was assigned three newly constituted bomb squadrons, the 24th, 39th, 40th as its operational components.

Now, on January 18, 1945, after months of training, the B29s the 6th Bombardment Group, including Lt. Walter L. Wentz and the crew of the "Tokyo Trolley" were landing on their new island base of Tinian in the South Pacific. The 6th was one of nine heavy bomber groups on Tinian and one of twenty-one total including those based on the islands of Guam and Saipan.

Tinian Island
...

After a month of preparation and organization, the group was ready to go back to war. The 6th Bomb Group's overall mission in the Pacific Theatre would include the following types of missions: Precision Bombing (including Tactical Support raids on Japanese kamikaze air bases), Area Bombing (primarily Night Incendiary Raids), Aerial Mining, Fighter Escort, Dumbo (Air/Sea Rescue of downed airmen), Show of Force and POW Supply.

AERIAL MINING

The Radarman would play a crucial role in the aerial mining missions. During these flights the B29s dropped mines in specific locations along the Japanese shipping lanes. Part of "Operation Starvation," this campaign was designed to shut down the flow of goods to and from Japan.

The B-29 Superfortress radar man
The instruments used by the radarman during a B-29 shipping interdiction mining mission.

Since these missions had to be flown at very low altitude, they were done at night. Using his skills with the radar, as well as his training as navigator and bombardier, Lt. Wentz was required to position the aircraft in the correct locations by reference to the land masses that showed on his radar. He also did his best to avoid heavily-defended areas.

The radarman was also a vital part of the radar shipping search missions. The information gathered on the coordinates of enemy ships was passed on to patrolling submarines and surface vessels. The enemy ships would then be hunted down and sunk.

FIRST MISSIONS

B29 Superfortresses of the 6th Bomb Group
B-29s on the air strip being readied for a mission. The 6th Bomb Group had the "Circle R" as its tail marking.

The first mission took place on February 3, 1945. It was a small four bomber raid on Iwo Jima. The second was on February 8, a thirty bomber strike on Moen Island Airfield, Truk. Three radar search and shipping interdiction missions followed. On February 12 the group lost its first bomber. The next day their radar search efforts contributed to the sinking of two enemy ships.

One more island mission against Truk on February 18 was followed on the 19th with the group's first mission against the Japanese home island as part of a 131 bomber precision strike on Tokyo. This was Lt. Walter Wentz and the 39th Squadron's first trip to the capital city. It would not be their last.

B29s of the 6th Bomb Group en route to
their target destination
B-29s of the 6th Bomb Group flying at high altitude on a mission long mission to Japan.

TESTS OF ENDURANCE

The long flights from the Mariana Islands to Japan were serious tests of endurance for the crews. The round trip of 3,000 miles over the Pacific took about fifteen hours. The airmen often found it difficult to stay awake and alert. If it had not been for coffee and Benzedrine they might not have accomplished their task.

Staying alert on long flights and the nagging problems with the B-29 engines were not the only thing that was hard on Lt. Walter Wentz and the other flyers. The Japanese defenders put up an enormous amount of flak, and their fighters proved to be formidable opponents. Bombing at lower levels made it easier to target the planes with illumination for the flak gunners. It was dangerous business, and several B-29s were lost to enemy fire.

Kawasaki KI-61 'Tony' Fighter    Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate 'Frank' Fighter
The Kawasaki KI-61 "Tony" and the Nakajima KI-84 "Frank" fighters were responsible for downing many B-29s.

FIRE BOMBING OF JAPAN

General Curtis LeMay, commander of the XXI Bombing Command, in February 1945, decided on a new strategy for his strategic bombing campaign against Japan. The present high altitude bombing runs were not having the desired results. Target accuracy was suffering considerably from a number of factors, mostly the jet stream air currents swirling around the island of Japan. Once dropped, bombs were blown off target by the strong winds.

To counter this, General Lemay switched to a new tactic, first tested in a raid against Tokyo on February 24, 1945. On this day, 172 B-29s, including those of the 6th Bomb Group, dropped 450 tons of incendiaries from high altitude. The raid gutted 28,000 buildings in the Japanese capital. A week later another raid resulted in similar destruction.

B-29 Superfortresses dropping their load of bombs
B-29 Superfortresses of the 6th Bomb Group dropping their load of high explosive ordinance.

Pleased with the outcome, Lemay further refined his strategy by ordering that the bombing raids be conducted at low altitudes of only 5,000-10,000 feet, below the jet stream. This had a marked effect on increasing target accuracy, and the fire raids caused severe collateral damage due to the infernos spreading further than the designated target area.

Throughout the month of March, the 6th Bomb Group participated in several long range fire-bombing missions over Japan. The cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe were set ablaze and burned to the ground. The devastation was enormous. As the firestorms raged, the B-29 Superfortress was finally showing it's true capabilities. Had the 20th Air Force not run out of incendiaries, the whole island of Japan would have been set aflame.

Death and Destruction during the Tokyo fire raids    The residential district of Tokyo after the fire raids
Death and destruction (left) and the burned out residential district of Tokyo after the B-29 fire raids.

During the end of March and the first half of April, missions focused on precision bombing of aircraft manufacturers and mining missions. On April 13 and 15, replenished with incendiary bombs, the city of Tokyo was once again put ablaze. Then, from April 17 through May 11, at the urgent request of the Navy, the majority of raids were against the Japanese airfields responsible for launching the kamikaze blitz against American ships off the coast of Okinawa.

THE FATEFUL MISSION

Fire bombing on a grand scale began again on May 14. These 500-bomber raids were collosal in nature, and utterly devastating to the Japanese homeland. It was during one of these missions that Lt. Walter Wentz and his crew met with disaster.

On the night of May 25/26, 464 B-29s, including those of the 6th Bomb Squadron, attacked urban areas just south of the Imperial Palace with 3262 tons of matchsticks. The raid destroyed financial, commercial and governmental districts as well as factories and homes.

Altogether, twenty-six Superfortresses were downed by enemy fire, including three from the 6th Bomb Group. It was the largest loss of B-29s and crews on a single mission during the course of the war. Fourteen more of the 6th Group's planes were damaged.

Lt. Walter Wentz and his crew - May 1945.
Standing: S/Sgt Charles W. Snell (TG), S/Sgt. Harry D. Magnuson (LG), S/Sgt Robert E. Warren (RG),
S/Sgt Donald R. Arntsen (CFC), S/Sgt Charles E. Barron (E), T/Sgt Joe A. Atchley (Radio).
Kneeling: 2/Lt Walter L. Wentz, Jr. (Radar), 2/Lt John W. France (N), 1/Lt Donald M.
Fox (A/C), 2/Lt Leland L. Sanderson (Pilot), 1/Lt Herman W. Thomas (B).
This photo was taken before the Tokyo raid on May 25, 1945.

One of the three planes lost from the 6th Bomb Group belonged to the 39th Bomb Squadron. It was the B-29 #42-63558 "Tokyo Trolley," piloted by 1st Lt. Donald M. Fox. The eleven crew members, including Brookline's 2nd Lt. Walter L. Wentz, were officially listed as missing in action.

Unbeknownst at the time, left gunner Sgt. Harry D. Magnuson escaped the doomed aircraft. He was captured by the Japanese and held as a Prisoner of War for three months. The other ten crew members were killed when the plane spiraled out of control and crashed.

Walter L. Wentz

ANOTHER GOLD STAR FAMILY

Back home in Brookline, news of Lt. Walter Wentz's downing reached his family at 1036 Woodbourne Avenue in early-July. The Pittsburgh Press listed him as Missing in Action on July 5, 1945. The Wentz family held out hope that their son had survived and was being held as a prisoner.

These hopes were dashed after the war when Walter's body was recovered and his official status was changed to Killed in Action. While the rest of the country celebrated the end of World War II, the Wentz's mourned the loss of their son and honored his sacrifice by placing a Gold Star in the window of their Woodbourne Avenue home.

THE BATTLE RAGES ON

After the death of Lt. Walter Wentz, the B-29s of the 6th Bomb Group continued to rain fire, death and destruction upon the Japanese homeland. Their mining operations during the month of July, around Japan and Korea, were also quite effective, accounting for 63% of merchant shipping losses during the final six months of the war.

For their efforts during the May 25 raid on Tokyo, the group earned its first Distinguished Unit Citation. A second D.U.C. was awarded to the 6th after the July mining missions.

Then came August 1945. A force based on Tinian’s North Field, called the 509th Composite Group, dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The crews of the 6th Group heard the news of the first blast after returning from a raid on Maebashi. Their last bombing mission was on August 14 against the Marifu marshalling yards.

The 39th Bomb Squadron's final seven missions were non-combat flights over Japan. Three of these were part of massive "Show of Force" flights and the other four were Prisoner of War supply missions, ones which the crews considered the most rewarding of the war.

During the course of the war in the Pacific, the 6th Bombardment Group flew seventy-five combat missions and a total of 1356 individual sorties, losing only fifteen B-29s to enemy action. Losses among crew members included twenty-two KIA, thirty-three Prisoners of War and forty-nine missing, including Lt. Walter L. Wentz.

The B-29 Superfortress
The B-29 Superfortress proved to be one of the decisive weapons in the war with Japan.

After the war, the bodies of the missing crew members of "Tokyo Trolley" were recovered. Lt. Fox, Lt. Thomas, Lt. Sanderson, Sgt. Atchley, Sgt. Barron and Sgt. Arntsen are buried together in a common grave in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri. The body of Sgt. Snell was returned home for burial.

Honolulu Memorial

Lt. Walter L. Wentz Jr. and Sgt. Robert E. Warren are buried at the Honolulu Memorial. Three other Brookliners are also honored at the same cemetery in the Courts of the Missing. One is a fellow B-29 airmen from another bomb squadron, who lost his life in the same Tokyo bombing mission on May 25, 1945, Harry Spack, and the others are seamen, Paul C. Kestler and John R. O'Day who were both lost at sea off the coast of Okinawa in May 1945.

Honolulu Memorial

* Written by Clint Burton: April 19, 2018 *




The Brookline War Memorial

The Brookline Veteran's Memorial.

Listed below are many of the sons of Brookline who gave their
lives to preserve freedom and contain aggression during
World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
General George S. Patton
 

United States Army (1775-present)  United States Army Air Services (1917-1947)  United States Navy (1775-present)  United States Marine Corps (1775-present)
United States Coast Guards (1790-present)  United States Air Force (1947-present)  United States Merchant Marine (1775-present)

World War I (1917-1919)

Percy Digby

Digby, David P.
Mayville Avenue
Army

Details

Raymond P. Cronin

Cronin, Raymond P.
Berkshire Avenue
USMC

Details

Charles Luppe

Luppe, Charles
Ferncliffe Avenue
Army

Details

WW1 Memorial - Washington D.C.
The World War I Memorial - Washington D.C.

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World War II (1941-1945)


Alm William H.
Pioneer Avenue
Army

Details


Arensberg, Roy T.
Fernhill Avenue
Army

Details


Brickley, Edward G.
Woodward Avenue
Army

Details


Bruni, Lawrence A.
Berkshire Avenue
Army

Details


Capogreca, James J.
Merrick Avenue
Navy

Details


Copeland, Clarence R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy

Details


Cullison, Thomas J.
Birtley Avenue
Army

Details


Dempsey, Howard F.
Berkshire Avenue
Army

Details


Dempsey, Walter F.
Milan Avenue
Navy

Details


Diegelman, Edward R. Jr
Norwich Avenue
Army

Details


Dornetto, Frank P.
Jacob Street
Navy

Details


Fagan, Gerald B.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


Falk, Harold E.
Pioneer Avenue
Army

Details


Fehring, Robert M.
Fernhill Avenue
Army

Details


Hynes, Richard E.
Waddington Avenue
Army

Details


Jackson, Robert E.
Brookline
Army

 


Kestler, Paul C.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy

Details


Ketters, Robert C.
Berkshire Avenue
Army

Details


Mahoney, Michael J.
Oakridge Street
Army

Details


Majestic, Arthur B.
Starkamp Avenue
Army

Details


Mayberry, Alexander G.
Breining Street
Army

Details


Mazza, John
Alwyn Street
Army

Details


McCann, Robert F.
Edgebrook Avenue
Navy

Details


McFarland, Hugh R.
McNeilly Road
Army

Details


Miller, William J.
Norwich Avenue
Army

Details


Napier, Edward J.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details


Nicholson, John D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


O'Day, John R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy

Details


Orient, Andrew D.
Fordham Avenue
Army

Details


Pisiecki, Raymond A.
Wolford Avenue
Army

Details


Reeves, Alfred M.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details


Reitmeyer, John P.
Bellaire Avenue
Navy

Details


Rhing, Vern M.
Norwich Avenue
Army

Details


Shannon, Harry C.
Midland Street
Army

Details


Shannon, Jack E.
Midland Street
USMC

Details


Simpson, James D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


Spack, Harry
Linial Avenue
Army

Details


Vierling, Howard F.
Fordham Avenue
Army

Details


Wagner, Ralph G.
Shawhan Avenue
Army

Details


Wentz, Walter L. Jr
Woodbourne Avenue
Army

Details


Zeiler, Harold V.
West Liberty Avenue
Army

Details

WW2 Memorial - Washington D.C.
The World War II Memorial - Washington D.C.

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Korean War (1950-1953)

Patrick Gallagher

Gallagher, Patrick J.
Bodkin Street
Army

Details

James Gormley

Gormley, James W.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details

Gerald Hilliard

Hilliard, Gerald G.
Edgebrook Avenue
Army

Details

James McKenna

McKenna, James E.
Bellaire Place
Army

Details

Korean War Memorial - Washington D.C.
Korean War Memorial - Washington D.C.

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Vietnam War (1965-1973)

James Robert Bodish

Bodish, James R.
Plainview Avenue
Army

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

James Gilbert Collins

Collins, James G.
Dunster Street
Army

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

James Charles Wonn

Wonn, James C.
Mayville Avenue
Navy

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

Vietnam War Memorial - Washington D.C.
Vietnam War Memorial - Washington D.C.




The Brookline Monument - The Cannon

Brookline Veteran's Park - April 26, 2014.

<Brookline War Memorial> <> <Brookline History>