WWII Story
John E. Szitar Jr. ‘25
I guess, by this time, no breach of National Security is jeopardized, so will explain the statements stated in the preceding article.

On page 1, under Business “A”, The Weatherhead Company, item 5a, the sentence states what seems like an ordinary project. However, it entailed (at the time), utmost secresy for security reasons, entailed much travel and time as the projects unfolded.

5a1- With U.S. Rubber Company and The Weatherhead Company, an engineering liaison was established, whereby I was involved in designing couplings to join together fuel cells, made by U.S. Rubber Company, in a B-17 bomber’s wings, and extra fuel cells were installed in the bomb area. All this to increase the flight range of this bomber. This modification was conducted secretly at Wright Field Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. Eventually, this bomber was used in a mission to fly General Douglas MacArthur, from Pacific Island, to Australia, and finally to the United States. Time was a factor in this program.

5a2- Continuing with U.S. Rubber Co., we (Weather and myself) were also involved with supplying couplings for fuel cells, installed in B-25 bomber wings, in a South Bend Airport hanger. A B-25 bomber was always setting outside a hanger there, and was flown occasionally and returned to the same spot. But, actually a B-25 bomber was in this hanger being modified. When completed it exchanged places with the B-25 outside, under cover of night. During the day a crew flew it away, but it seemed in no time it returned to be parked outside the hanger.

Actually, another B-25 bomber (with same paint job and markings) was flown in, until all of 16 were modified. These planes were flown to a secret staging area, and eventually were placed on board a carrier, the U.S.S. Hornet. These sixteen B-25 bombers, commanded and led by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle, were launched from the deck of a carrier, April 18, 1942, and flew over 600 miles to Japan and bombed the Toyko area. Then they flew toward the China mainland. Many crew members latter died in crash landings in China, some were captured by the Japanese. Only one plane landed safely in Russia, and were imprisoned, but within a year, they escaped into Iran.

The immediate effects of the bombing were for the most part symbolic, doing little damage to military installations, but did shake the morale and cause concern to the Japanese people. Additionally, the unexpected result was that Japan was provoked into extending its defensive lines in the Pacific arena, a decision which led to all ill-fated Battle at Midway Islands only a few weeks later, a crucial Japanese defeat which turned the tide of War with loss of several Japanese fleet carriers and their irreplaceable pilots and planes.

5b1- During the early part of the War (1942-1943) our bombers were suffering heavy losses due to Japanese Anti-aircraft gun-fire. When our bombers approached to bomb an enemy position, it became a vulnerable target. It had to decrease its speed down to approximately 250 MPH. It took about 2 to 3 minutes time to open the bomb bay doors, release its bombs, close the bomb doors, before it could increase its speed again. This gave the anti-aircraft gunners time to zero in its sights on the bomber with accuracy and with deadly results. A new system using high air pressure to operate the bomb bay doors was tried out. It allowed a bomber to approach its targets, drop the bombs, and speed away in 20 to 30 seconds. With this success, a concerted effort began to equip our bombers with the air systems. Within days, The Weatherhead Company had access to one of these high pressure pumps used in the system. Within three months, my engineering group had produced production drawings, a unit was built, tested and approved for service use. Within the next three months (6 months total), Weatherhead Company began shipping these pumps to the Air Force and bombers were modified, and all bombers produced after that were equipped with high pressure air systems. This project saved a large number of bombers for the United States.