Major Les Lanier
Members of the 28th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomb Group, 314 Wing of the 20th Air Force who flew. their first and last combat mission at the end of World War II are, front frow, from left, Flt. Officer Richard G. Sullivan, bombardier; Lt. Donald A Ringquist, radar navigator; Major Les Lanier (of Germantown), pilot; Lt. Walter J. Obuchowski, co-pilot; and Lt. Charles J. Barnett, navigator. Back row, from left, Cpl. Rex A. McNeill, gunner; Sgt. Lane K. Allen, chief gunner; Sgt. William H. Huff, flight engineer; Cpl. William H. Moore, gunner; Sgt. Muri J. Cook, gunner, and Tech Sgt. Joseph A. Migliarini, radio operator.
Our 11-man B-29 Superfortress Combat Crew arrived on Guam in the Mariannas Island during late July 1945. Our crew was assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomb Group, 314th Wing of the 20th Air Force. We spent the first days assembling a crew quonset, and another week flying practice missions bombing nearby islands still held by the Japanese. General Curtis LeMay, commanding general of the 20th Air Force, ordered this additional training to be sure that his crews were completely trained before committing them to combat.
In mid-August, we sat through half a dozen mission briefings only to have our crew replaced after the briefing by crews who were nearing the magic 25th mission. Twenty-five missions meant that the crew rotated to the U.S. However, on the briefing for the September 2nd mission to Tokyo, for a maximum, effort show of force, all crews attending the briefing remained on the schedule. This was to be our first combat mission and the last combat mission of WWII.
After a night take-off and about six hours of flying, we entered solid overcast at our assigned altitude. The “coast in” point on the Japanese coast was less than two hours away. We were concerned about the wing assembly over a lake east of the bay, in the event that the overcast persisted. Much to our relief at “coast in” we flew into a clear sky and our assembly point, the lake, was dead ahead.
The assembly was routine, and the wing flew west to the north side of Tokyo Bay, made a 180-degree turn, and headed back over the bay. The USS Missouri was anchored broadside in our flight path. On the deck, we saw General Douglas McArthur seated at a long table with other officials. Apparently, they were accepting the Japanese surrender which ended the war. This was a proud moment for me to witness this ceremony, especially from behind the controls of a full- loaded combat B-29 bomber.