Dewayne E. Black

Submitted by Grant E. Sorenson, Chippewa Falls

Dewayne E. Black, son of Albert and Minnie Black enlisted in the US Army at Fort Snelling on September 24, 1939. He was assigned to the US Army Air Corps, 88th Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the 7th Bombardment Group at Hamilton Field, California.

In February 1940, Dewayne E. Black was selected to attend the Air Corps Technical School at Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois. He took the course in Aircraft and Aircraft Engine Mechanics. He graduated from the school on August 17, 1940. He returned to the 88th Reconnaissance Squadron that was now based at Salt Lake City, Utah.

In the fall of 1940 and the spring of 1941, he flew on various training missions from the Salt Lake Municipal Airport as Flight Engineer on B-17 aircraft. Aerial gunnery training was practiced over the Great Salt Lake. Bombing missions were conducted at the bombing range near Wendover, Utah. In January 1941, the squadron went to Tucson, Arizona for 45 days of practice bombing.

Dewayne E. Black married Mae Nelson in a civil ceremony on April 4, 1941. Mae Nelson was a resident of Salt Lake City. They lived with her parents until they found a place of their own.

In January 1941, two new bombardment groups were activated by the 7th Bombardment Group. The new groups were the 39th Bombardment Group to be stationed at Geiger Field, Spokane, Washington and the 42nd Bombardment Group to be stationed at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho.

On June 1, 1941, Dewayne E. Black was assigned to the newly formed 12th Reconnaissance Squadron to be located at Felts Field, Parkwater, Washington. Dewayne E. Black drove to his new assignment in a Dodge ambulance vehicle as part of a sixty-vehicle convoy, arriving on June 5, 1941. Felts Field was on the eastside of Spokane and Geiger Field was still under construction and on the westside of Spokane. Since the squadron had no airplanes yet, there was no flying pay.

About July 10, the move to Geiger Field was made. Only the east-west runway had been completed. The north-south runway would be ready in another month. The barracks were two-story high, wooden buildings. Dewayne's wife arrived about July 15 and they were able to rent a five-room, furnished house for $25 per month.

Starting about November 1, the squadron started flying "Neutrality Patrols" off the coast of Oregon and Washington. The situation between the US and Japan was not good, and war was a possibility. The US had stopped scrap iron shipments to Japan and reduced oil shipments.

The war with Japan started on the morning of December 7, 1941 with the attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It rapidly became apparent that air crews of the three bombardment groups would soon be departing to an overseas assignment.

On December 31, 1941, Lieutenant William J. Prichard was sent to the Boeing Aircraft Factory to take delivery of a B-17-E Serial #412492. Early in January, Dewayne E. Black was assigned to Lieutenant Prichard's crew as Flight Engineer. Soon, they received orders to proceed to an assignment in Java, Dutch East Indies.

They departed the US from West Palm Beach, Florida on January 10, 1942. The route went south to Trinidad, then to Belem, Brazil; to Natal, Brazil; then across the South Atlantic to Accra, Ghana; to Kano, Nigeria; to Khartoum, Sudan; to Aden to Karachi, India; to Bangalore, India. From Bangalore, they flew across the Indian Ocean to Bandoeng (Bandung), Java, a distance of 2400 miles, arriving on February 1, 1942.

The 10th Bomber Command scheduled a mission to bomb Japanese installations at Kendari in the Celebes on February 8, 1942. Nine B-17 aircraft departed Singosari at 07:35 AM and headed for Kendari. One plane returned to base because of mechanical problems. At 9:05 AM at an altitude of 14,000 feet over the Java Sea, 10 Japanese-type "0" fighters attacked the flight. The plane, piloted by Captain J. L. Dufrane, was attacked from a head-on direction. Flames burst from the bomb bay, the plane exploded, and six men were seen to bail out over the Java Sea. The next attack by Japanese fighters hit the B-17, piloted by Lieutenant William J. Prichard. The plane caught on fire and exploded. One man bailed out over the Java Sea.

The men on Lieutenant Prichard's crew are listed below.

Pilot, Lieutenant William J. Prichard
Co-Pilot, Lieutenant W. T. Morgan
Navigator, Lieutenant Isadore Alfred
Bombardier, Lieutenant F.O. Luscombe
Flight Engineer, Staff Sergeant Dewayne E. Black
Radio Operator, Private First Class Lloyd J. Schroeder
Gunner, Private Henry A. Charnesky
Gunner, Private First Class John R. Leverly
Gunner, Private Henry J. Klein

This was a black day with the death of 22 men out of 72 that flew the mission, plus the loss of two aircrafts and another severely damaged.

DeWayne E. Black was my best buddy. If I had not been sent to the Ferrying Command, I would most likely have been the Radio Operator on his plane when it went down.