Arthur Veik

Staff Sergeant
770th Squadron
462nd Group
58th Bomb Wing
20th Air Force



Awards

Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 7 Battle Stars, Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, China War Memorial Medal.

MOS

MOS 611-Aerial Gunner, MOS 684-Airplane Power Plant Mechanic.

Introduction

Art Veik served as a B-29 gunner in the Army Air Corps during WW2.  In addition to his primary duty as a gunner, he, like others on the crew, had a secondary job.  His secondary job was engine and airframe mechanic.  He entered the service on December 28, 1941 at Fort Crook Nebraska, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Training and Crew Formation

Prior to crew formation, Art attended Aircraft Mechanics school at Chanute Field Illinois December 1941, Aircraft Engine Mechanics school at Chanute Field Illinois September 1942, and Remote Fire Control school at Lowry Field Colorado September 1943.  The latter being training in the operation of the advanced remote-controlled guns used in the B-29.  More on the advanced guns later.

Crew formation occurred at Walker AFB in Hayes Kansas in January 1944.  It was at Walker that he was assigned to the 771st Squadron, which would later be reorganized into the 770th.  The 58th bomb wing had four groups.  Each group had three squadrons, each squadron had 16 B-29s.  For a total of 192 B-29s in the 58th bomb wing.  The other members of the crew were:

John Simpson:
Pilot
James Lane:
Co Pilot
Ira Lenard:
Flight Engineer
Roger Henderson:
Bombardier
John Keltz:
Navigator
Norman Olson:
Radio Operator
Wade Scantlin:
Radar Operator
Art Veik:
Right Gunner, scanner
John Erm:
Left Gunner, scanner
Jack Landon:
Top Gunner
Cleland Hughes:
Tail Gunner
"Speedy" Knowlton:
Ground crew, crew chief
Greer:
Ground crew, mechanic
Fong:
Ground crew, mechanic

The B-29


The B-29 was a brand-new advanced bomber.  It was the only bomber at the time with a pressurized cabin.  The guns were not located right in front of each gunner as was the case with other bombers.  There were five remote control gun turrets firing twelve 50 caliber machine guns and one 20 millimeter cannon in the tail.  Two turrets above the fuselage, one forward just behind the cockpit and one aft just before the tail.  Two turrets below the fuselage, one forward between the bomb bay and the cockpit, and one aft below the tail.  One turret in the tail, which included the 20 millimeter cannon.  The guns were fired remotely by the gunsights at each gunner position.

The guns were state of the art.  Ballistics in the guns was "computer" controlled.  At the time, computers were not digital as they are today, they were analog.  The "computers" in the B-29 automatically corrected for ballistics and all the factors that affected ballistics such as gravity, angle of fire, airspeed, altitude, temperature, range and parallax. There was no need to lead the target.  All the gunner needed to do was identify the target aircraft, smoothly track the sighting dot on the center of the target aircraft, adjust the sighting circle diameter to match the wing span of the target aircraft, and squeeze off short bursts of fire.  Identifying the target aircraft and adjusting the diameter of the sighting circle to the target aircraft wingspan is what determined the target range. Control of each individual gun turret could also be passed to whichever gunner needed them most.  One gunner could control one or more gun turrets with one gunsight.  Art's gunsight was mounted inside a Plexiglas blister about three feet in diameter on the right side of the fuselage.

The B-29 weighed 76,000 pounds empty and as much as 141,000 pounds when fully loaded with bombs and fuel.  99 feet long, 28 feet high with a wing span of 141 feet.  At altitude, it could cruise at 325 miles an hour.  On short missions it could carry forty 500 pound bombs in its two bomb bays.  Four 2200 HP Wright Whirlwind R-3350 radial engines, each having 18 cylinders in two banks of nine cylinders.

Click thumbnail for large cutaway view.

Between February and March of 1944, the new crews received the first B-29s.  Being a brand-new airplane, they had their problems.  Engine problems were common.

The Flight Overseas

Each plane was fitted for cargo duty for the flight overseas.  The front bomb bay was fitted with auxiliary gas tanks.  The rear bomb bay was loaded with a spare engine and all their spare gear and personal baggage.

On April 13, 1944, they left Walker AFB in #256 for the flight to India.  Making stops along the way at Presque Isle Maine, Gander Lake Newfoundland, Marrakesh Morocco, Cairo Egypt and Karachi Pakistan. 

During the week of 15–22 April, no fewer than five B-29s crashed near Karachi all from overheated engines.  The entire wing had to be grounded en route until the cause was found.  The cause was traced to inadequate cooling of the B-29's R-3350 engines which had not been designed to operate at ground temperatures higher than 115 degrees, which was often exceeded in India.  Modifications that allowed better engine cooling were necessary before they could continue to Pairdoba.  They finally arrived at Piardoba Airfield in India on May 13, 1944.

Piardoba Airfield

Piardoba Airfield is about 74 miles northwest of Calcutta India.  B-29 #256 was assigned temporarily to the crew for the flight to India.  The crew wouldn't get their own plane until later.  Piardoba Airfield would be their base of operation until late February 1945.

The food in India was awful.  Bread was made by local bakers and the GIs soon learned to hold each slice up to the light before eating it, because each slice usually had at least one fly that had been folded into the dough prior to baking.  And Spam, lots of Spam, in every form you can imagine trying to give the illusion of variety.

The summers in India were brutal.  Extreme heat and humidity were constant with no way to escape it.  Between the food the heat and the high humidity, health problems were common.  Dysentery, heat rash, and ear fungus infections affected virtually everyone to one degree or another.

The Forward Base at Chiunglai China

While their primary base of operations was at Piardoba India, they also flew out of a forward base at Chiunglai China to help them reach northern targets.  It took about six supply missions carrying bombs and gas from Piardoba to China before they could launch a mission from there to northern targets.  The Chinese people built the runway at Chiunglai with their greatest resource, manpower and determination.  There was no heavy machinery, they compacted the runway surface by pulling a large heavy roller by hand.


Preparations

In the beginning they flew training missions until the Wing reached combat readiness.  Sharing #256 with other crews.  They also flew supply missions to the forward base at Chiunglai China.  The supply missions to the forward base in China overflew "the hump" of the Himalayan Mountains.  The brand new engines of the B-29 had their problems and the first casualties were caused by them.  The most life they could get out of an engine early on was about 100 hours.  Long range missions took as long as 18 hours.  It didn't help that on many missions they loaded the planes with more gas and bombs than the designed maximum load.  Just a small power loss in one engine on takeoff meant disaster.  In time, those problems would be worked out and they became reliable.

Around mid July, 1944 the crew finally received a B-29 they could call their own, #484.  They named her "Our Gal".  There were a couple guys in the unit that were particularly good at painting nose-art.  Nose-art was a great moral booster and gave the crews a better sense of ownership in their planes.  They had one of them paint a seated nude brunette next to the name Our Gal, with the O in the shape of a heart.


Typical Mission

Their first combat mission occurred July 29, 1944.  A typical mission, when things went well, started with a briefing where they were given maps and information about their target as well as information on areas thought to be safe for bailing out if needed.

They also received weather reports on what to expect during both the flight to and from the target.  One of the more baffling problems they encountered on early flights was extreme winds at cruising altitudes, sometimes in excess of 200 miles per hour.  Those winds could slow progress to a target and increase fuel consumption significantly.  Today, those winds are known as the Jet Stream.

They spent fifteen plus hours in the air on missions.  After takeoff, each plane flew individually to a rendezvous location, much closer to the target, where they would gather into an attack formation.  Flying individually for most of the flight was much more fuel efficient than flying in formation, and often resulted in them drifting apart enough that they lost visual sight of each other until later when they approached the rendezvous location.

The two side gunners, Art included, were also "scanners".  Scanners had to keep a constant watch on engines and airframe during the flight looking for any signs of trouble.  They also had to constantly scan the skies for enemy fighters, and the ground, when over enemy territory, for flashes from flak guns that may be shooting at them.

At the rendezvous location, the planes would form up into twelve-plane formations composed of three elements of four planes each.  They were able to identify each other visually by the markings on the B-29 tail.  Tail markings on the left below were used at Piardoba Airfield in India.  Our Gal was Red Rudder J3.  Tail markings on the right below were used at West Field on Tinian.  Case Ace had the Triangle U marking, also with a red rudder.


They would then approach the target where each bombardier would salvo their bomb load when they saw the lead plane drop theirs.  That gave the most effective blast pattern.

After leaving the target, they would again split up and fly individually back to base.  Once back at the base, then debriefing followed.  They wanted to know how many fighters they encountered, what they flew, how aggressive they were, how effective they were, did you shoot any down.  They wanted to know how much flack there was, how accurate it was.  Each plane also carried cameras for taking strike photos which were then analyzed to determine the effectiveness of the mission.

Threats During a Mission

The most common threat while over a target was flak.  A couple of minutes before "Bombs Away" the sky would suddenly fill with black puffs of smoke made by bursting 88 millimeter anti-aircraft shells filled with shrapnel.  When bombing at night, the enemy would use search lights to spot the bombers and follow them while the guns below fired.  While most often encountered near targets, the threat of flak was present any time while flying over enemy territory.  With flak, there was no defense, they just had to fly through it when committed to a bomb run.  Most of the armor plating that was designed into the B-29 was removed to save weight that was considered better used by gas or ordinance.

Enemy fighters were a different story, they could see them coming and they could fight back.  A full 12 B-29 formation had an enormous amount of fire power with four turrets on each plane, five including the tail gunner.  Each turret having two to four guns.  Pursuit curves from either side were flown against them on many missions, but the favorite was a head on attack with a half roll at the last moment allowing the fighter to dive out of range.  This gave the opposing gunners only a couple of seconds or so to fire at each other.  The rate of closure exceeded 600 miles per hour.

Less common but also a threat was air-to-air bombing by the enemy fighters.

Then there was the weather.  Sometimes flying through weather that was just as threatening as any enemy opposition.  Again, they removed all deicing equipment from the planes to save weight that was considered better used by gas or ordinance.  Flying in icing conditions sometimes brought down planes.  Storms were also common.  The flights were usually so long that they often had to fly through stormy weather fronts, although their meteorologists were pretty good a predicting when and where they would encounter them.

As stated earlier, engines were a problem.  At least on earlier missions before they had them working well.

Wounded

It was on their third mission, September 16, 1944, that Art was wounded.  A Japanese Tony, a Kawasaki Ki-61 fighter, attacked from the front right of their formation.  A single 50 caliber machine gun bullet from the enemy fighter struck through his Plexiglass blister and impacted his gunsight.  Pieces of the gunsight then exploded outward and injured Art in his face and neck.  Later after landing, they found the tip of the bullet still lodged in the gunsight.  They also found three other bullet holes in the aircraft.  One severing communication lines to the tail gunner, one striking the receiver of an upper turret gun and another through the exhaust stack of the #4 engine.  Thankfully Art's injuries were not serious, and he was only hospitalized a short time.  Also, thankfully, none of the other bullets struck anything critical on the B-29 that might have caused it to crash.
An excerpt from a letter he later wrote home.

"My reason for not writing during the past month was due to the fact that we were quite busy, also spent a lot of time in China.  I was hoping that you folks would never find out about my getting wounded.  You remember where I had that sarcoma, well that is where I was hit the hardest.  With that my eye was lacerated and my face and neck were filled with metal and glass.  After thinking it over, I feel quite sure the good Lord had me by the hand.

The bullet came directly at me and was stopped by my gunsight.  As added precaution the flak suit and helmet prevented further injury.  Every man on the crew who possibly could came over to doctor me up.  Yes, even the pilot took time out to see how I was doing.  It's things like that which brings crews closer together - just like a big family.

Our plane was hit a good number of other places, but she still breezed on home.  When I get back, I'll give you more about the whole excitement.  As a remembrance, I have the slug and also still have a lump on my jaw.  I'm alright again and since that have been over Formosa twice and yesterday the crew went over Japan.  I stayed behind because I had three boils under my arm lanced and Doc thought it better for me to go to bed than to fight Japs.  These boils by the way aren't good.  I've had more before and Doc says that I am due for more of the same.

About the Japs, I've changed my policy.  I leave them have it before they get too close.
"

Continuing Combat Missions

The crew's seventh mission turned tragic because of a faulty engine.  Art missed this mission because of medical reasons.  He was in the hospital fighting some sort of blood infection that was causing boils.  They were giving him penicillin shots in the butt every four hours, day and night for several days.  The crew was also flying a substitute plane, "Lady Luck".  Shortly after take-off, one of the engines began to falter.  Like usual, they were overloaded with gas and bombs, and the plane was not able to gain altitude with one weak engine.  When the plane started losing altitude, they knew they all had to bail out with precious little height above the ground.  The plane crashed shortly thereafter in a huge ball of fire about 25 miles from base.  The good news was they were over friendly territory.  A couple of the crew had minor leg injuries from hard landings.  But worst of all, one crew member's parachute didn't have enough time to open completely and was killed.  Norman Olson died that day.

Back on flight duty, Art then flew several additional combat missions and re-supply missions to the forward base in China.

Notches in a Gun

This is "Speedy" Knowlton the crew chief, posing in front of Our Gal. He and his crew worked hard to keep the plane flying.

Notice the images of camels and bombs and Japanese flags on the nose of the B-29. They're like notches in a gun. The camels represent completed "hump" missions. Re-supply missions over the hump of the Himalayan Mountains to the forward base in China. The bombs represent completed bombing missions, and the Japanese flags represent confirmed kills on Japanese fighters by the B-29 gunners.

When this picture was taken, they had completed eight bombing missions, six "hump" missions, and had two confirmed kills of Japanese fighters.

A Change in Strategy


In January 1945 a major change in strategy was occurring.  U.S. forces had captured the Mariana Islands and B-29 bases could be established on Tinian, Saipan and Guam, bringing more of the Japanese homeland within range.  The forward base in China would no longer be needed, and the base at Piardoba would only be used for targets south of the Japanese homeland.

Another major change was in store for the crew.  Early on, the crew was designated a "Lead Crew".  By now, they had enough missions under their belt that the decision was made to send some of the crew, and "Our Gal", back to the states to train new crews.  Because Art had missed a couple missions due to medical reasons, he had to stay.  Ira Lenard, John Erm, and Wade Scantlin had to stay also because they had less mission time.  The crew was breaking up, and none of them were happy about it.

After flying 13 combat missions and 22 Hump missions with "Our Gal" and her crew, Art was then assigned to a new crew that would be based on Tinian Island in the Mariana Islands chain.  In early April of 1945, the 462nd Group redeployed from India to Tinian.  The new plane was "Case Ace" and his new crew members were:

Jimmy Walker:
Pilot
Mike Sofiak:
Co Pilot
George Wolf:
Flight Engineer
Hugh Daley:
Bombardier
Wally Reid:
Navigator
James Densman:
Radio Operator
Garland Dietzman:
Radar Operator
Art Veik:
Right Gunner, scanner
Ed Wheeler:
Left Gunner, scanner
name:
Top Gunner
Rob Duffy:
Tail Gunner


Tinian, West Field

Tinian is a small 12 mile long by 6 mile wide island in the Mariana Islands chain.  The 462nd Group and "Case Ace" were assigned to West Field, one of two airfields on the island.  The other being North Field, the largest air base in the world at the time.  Between the four parallel 8,500 foot runways at North Field and the two parallel 8,500 foot runways at West Field, they were able to launch a lot of planes from Tinian quickly.

This picture is of West Field.  These planes were all part of the 462nd Group, marked by a Triangle U and red rudder on the tail.

The weather on Tinian was much improved, and the accommodations and supply lines were superior to that of Piardoba Airfield in India.  But more importantly to the war effort, much more of the Japanese homeland was now within range.

With the addition of the new B-29 bases in the Marianas, the Japanese quickly become overwhelmed and opposition by Japanese fighters diminished.

As missions continued, they began to drop leaflets listing bombing targets and warning the population of forthcoming attacks.  This was followed three days later by a raid in which the specified area was devastated by mass carpet bombing.


While stationed at West Field on Tinian, Art flew 22 additional combat missions with Case Ace and her crew.

The End of the War

August 6, 1945 the U.S. B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima Japan.

August 9, 1945 the U.S. B-29 bomber Bockscar dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki Japan.

Japan announced surrender on August 15, 1945. Formal signing of surrender occurred on September 2, 1945.

Art returned home after receiving an honorable discharge on September 27, 1945.  He then worked in Aircraft Engine Overhaul at Kelly Field, Texas and Tinker Field, Oklahoma; Statistical Quality Control (armaments & electronics); and as a Field Service Representative for J33 Jet Engines.

While working in Oklahoma, he married Thelma Pfeifer on September 27, 1952.  Together they started a new family there, prior to returning to their roots in Humphrey Nebraska in 1959.

Credits

Many thanks to the tail gunner of "Our Gal", Cleland Hughes, who kept a journal of his experiences during the war.  An invaluable resource in preparation of this tribute.

You Tube Video

In 1993 Art did this video in his "War Room".



Additional Photographs

Art's brother Emil also fought in the Pacific-Asian Theatre during WW2, Battery C. 983 Field Artillery Battalion.  He lost his life in Leyte, Philippines Jan 8, 1945.  Please visit his page prepared by his daughter Sheila at the American WWII Orphans Network website.  Click Here


Art.


Art with "Humpy". Named after the Himalayan Hump they flew over many times.


Fong. Our Gal maintenance crew.


Our Gal.


Art.  Caption on the back says "Looks mad, doesn't he."


Art at the forward base in China.


Art, standing left side, at the forward base in China.


Leanard, AE Moore and Jack Landon getting the guns ready for the next mission.




5-23-2020