:: Interview with Murray A. Bywater
Murray A. Bywater
Brigadier General, USAF (Ret.)
World War II Asiatic Pacific Theater, Cold War,
Nuclear Test Program (Deputy Commander for Air), Titan II Missile Program,
Strategic Air Command, Pentagon
Interviewed on 21 January 2003 at the March Field Air Museum
Appleton: This interview is with Brig. Gen. Murray Bywater, USAF (Ret.) and my name is Rick Appleton, the interviewer. Today is Tuesday, January 21, 2003. This interview is taking place at the March Field Air Museum as part of the Riverside Veterans History Project, a Riverside Public Library partnership with the Library of Congress.
Welcome Murray. I’m glad you're here. Please start out by telling your name and where you were born . . . where you were raised.
Bywater: I'm Murray Bywater. I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. I come from families that came across the Plains, the Bywaters from England and Wales and the Alstons mainly from England. Alston is my middle name, Murray Alston Bywater. They came across the Plains by handcart and covered wagon and arrived there in the early days of the church when Brigham Young took the Mormons across the Plains to settle in Utah.
Appleton: With the handcarts.
Bywater: Yes. And especially my grandfather Alston who came mainly by handcart. The others by covered wagon. My paternal great-great grandfather died on the Plains.
Appleton: On the Plains. That's an amazing story.
Bywater: My great grandfather Bywater was sent by Brigham Young to Provo, Utah to establish the Mormon Church there along with two or three other officials of the church.
Appleton: And other than the family background you've already mentioned, maybe your immediate parents and your educational background in Utah?
Bywater My father was an optometrist and also a watchmaker before becoming an optometrist. His name was Murry, the same as mine, except he spelled it differently. Mother came from a family of thirteen children. We lived in Salt Lake most of our lives except for two years. We lived in Pocatello, Idaho one year and Ogden, Utah one year. I went to the University of Utah and received a BS degree in Business Administration. I then went to the Army Air Corps Flying School at Randolph Field, Texas.
Appleton: And when was it that you graduated from the University of Utah?
Bywater: In 1936.
Appleton: '36. And that was just before you . . . ?
Bywater: As a matter of fact I graduated from college and went to the flying school in the same month. In June of 1936. In order to help pay my way through college, my father taught me to be a clock maker. So, I worked fixing clocks for some time and also worked in a men's clothing store to help finance my college education. I then went to Randolph Field in Texas. While I was at the university I went through the ROTC program and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Field Artillery. When I went to the flying school at Randolph . . . it was called the U.S. Army Air Corps at that time . . . I went as a flying cadet. I couldn't go as an officer in those days but as soon as I graduated from the flying school, I was made a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Appleton: Well, we'll get to that in a minute. Now, you were married after you joined the service? Can you tell us about that and how you met Frankie?
Bywater: Oh, yes. When I finished the flying school, in 1937 I was assigned to March Field, (Appleton: Right here.) here in California. I had a 1936 Buick and took it to Riverside for some repairs. The little girl that worked in the office there was the secretary Frankie Galloway. I began to court her and after four years we were married in the St. Francis Chapel at the Mission Inn.
Appleton: And she was the secretary at the Buick Agency, is that right?
Bywater: Right -- the Buick Agency.
Appleton: Oh, O.K. Wonderful. And you may want to talk about it a little bit later. What effect did . . . or how did the military service affect your marriage in kind of keeping in touch with each other?
Bywater: Well, it was our life. The Air Force was our life. The reason I went to the flying school was I wanted to fly. That was my life's ambition. But let's go back a little bit, will you and . . . (Appleton: Sure, sure) and talk about the things that were impressive to me . . . important in my life. There were three of them.
Number One: When I was three years old I was standing on the front porch of my home in Salt Lake City and I saw the airplanes fly over Salt Lake City signaling the end of World War I. My father went to the top of the Newhouse Hotel in Salt Lake to watch the airplanes and called home to tell us where he was and why he was there.
The next impressive event in my life that was important to me is almost unheard of these days. It was what they called the Dawn-to-Dusk Flight made by Russell L. Maughan in 1922. It was the news item of the day that came over the radio waves to tell us all about it. The next thing was Charles Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. It was a thrill for me as a young fellow to see him when he came to Salt Lake City on his tour. I went to a place called Liberty Park and that's where I was able to see him personally. I stood right by the stand when he was giving his talk.
So these were some of the events in my life that led up to my wanting to become a flier and going to the Air Corps Flying School.
Appleton: Well, that's outstanding. Did you actually . . . You heard Lindbergh speak? Did you have a chance to talk to him.
Bywater: Well, as a young fellow, standing there by the stage, you don't just go up to Lindbergh and say "Hi, Mr. Lindbergh." But we watched him make his flight across the water and admired him. He was an ethereal person to me as I stood there and watched him speak on the stand. In that day and age, young men or young boys in my era, could only look at someone like that with awe. And that's the way I did. I wouldn't have thought to even go up and say "Hi, Mr. Lindberg." But it was a thrill for me to just stand there and watch him.
Appleton: Yes. Yes, I can imagine. You mentioned your civilian jobs . . . or the jobs you had to put yourself through school. Were those the only jobs you had before you went into the service?
Bywater: Well, basically yes. But then, like all kids, I sold magazines, etc. but then my father, being a watchmaker taught me how to fix clocks so every Saturday I'd go to the office and fix the clocks and make a little money to put myself through school. Then I became clothes conscious, like a lot of young fellows do, and started to work for a clothing store in Salt Lake. By the time I went to the university, I dressed up pretty good. As time went on, I advanced to a better clothing store in Salt Lake City and worked for my friend there on weekends. Those were essentially my only jobs I had at the time . . . a young fellow . . . before going to flying school. I was just twenty-one.
Appleton: Well, that's probably the way most college students did in those days and perhaps even now. You told about why you wanted to be a pilot and all, and I'm sure that that must be the reason that you joined the Air Force.
Appleton: You had a lot of inspiration. You just, a few moments ago, were talking about your training. Could you tell more about the training at Randolph Field, and later, I guess, at Kelly Field?
Bywater: In 1936, in July of 1936 I reported to Randolph Field in Texas. It was called the “West Point of the Air”. It was a thrill for me to enter the Field which I'd seen the pictures of so much in my life. As I started to fly, I flew what was called the Consolidated PT-3. I have a picture of it right here if you'd like to take a look at it. Then, while I was in the primary stage the training planes advanced from the PT-3 to the Stearman PT 11 and PT-13. . .this airplane right back here . . . I took my final primary stage check flight in the PT-13.
Appleton: Is this the one? Right?
Bywater: PT-13. Though I've flown fifty-eight different types of airplanes and have flown twice the speed of sound, if I ever have the chance to fly again, I'd fly this little Stearman.
Appleton: (Laughing) If Frankie would let you fly again.
Bywater: On basic stage we had the old Douglas BT-2 and then my class got the low wing monoplanes called the BT-9 and the BT-8. The BT-9 was my primary trainer on basic stage. The BT-8 was a plane built by Alexander P. deSeversky. It was kind of a hot airplane compared to the BT-9. The wing had little or no dihedral. We had two of my classmates killed in it so they took the BT-8's away and left the BT-9's for the classes that followed.
From Randolph I transferred to the advance training school at Kelly Field. At that time they had four types of aviation. They were called pursuit, attack, observation and bombardment. The pursuit types . . . the Boeing P-12 . . . biplane . . . fighter . . . good looking airplane. The A-12 was the attack airplane. The observation airplanes were the 0-19 and the
O-25's. The bombardment . . . the big B-4's, 5's and 6's. . .had two engines. During the War that was all changed. The pursuit type became fighters, the attack type became light or medium bombardment, and the observation planes became reconnaissance. The bombardment type remained heavy bombardment . . . the B-17's.
Appleton: You trained in any particular one of those three areas?
Bywater: Well, I had a chance to fly all the airplanes in the advanced flying school but I trained primarily in attack flying the A-12. When we graduated from the flying school we were assigned to our tactical stations. My first station was March Field and initially I flew an A-17A there.
Appleton: Right. I know you've had a long career . . . a full time military career . . . , but will you describe some of the units that you were attached to, the ones that stick out in your mind?
Bywater: Well . . .
Appleton: For the purposes of this interview we might want to just stay with mostly during WW II and just talk a little bit briefly at the end about . . . ?
Bywater: Well, at March Field again, I flew the A-17As, B-18s, the B-23 and the YB-17. Then, I took a B-25 Group overseas to the Asiatic Pacific theater of war and was its commander for two-and-a-half years. It was formed at March Field. During that time we were engaged in combat in the Gilbert Islands , the Marshalls , the Carolines, Marianas, Ryukus, Japan and China. I made the first United States aircraft landing on the island of Tinian . After it was taken, and the air strips prepared, Tinian was the island from which the B-29s were launched for the atomic bomb strikes.
Following the Marshall Island Campaign, my group was moved to Okinawa and from that base it made the first land-based median bombardment strike on the Japanese mainland.
Appleton: Jimmy Doolittle's raid was what?
Bywater: Jimmy Doolittle made the strike on Japan with the B-25s from the carrier Hornet.
Appleton: From a carrier, yes, right. Well we can probably talk more about that a little bit later. But, what were your principle duties in your military career in World War II?
Bywater: I was the group commander of the 41 st Bombardment Group (M) for two-and-a-half years. However, before going overseas I had a squadron that did anti-submarine patrol on the West Coast. After the War, I went to the Pentagon and was assigned to Research and Development. After a time there, I went to the Air War College and then back up to the Pentagon to the Office of Atomic Energy. While there I was briefed on the Task Force that was doing atomic testing in the Pacific Proving Grounds. The Task Force Commander, at that time, was a Major General in the Army--Major General Clarkson. I was the Deputy Commander for Air, Captain Paul was the Navy Deputy Commander and Al Graves was head of the Scientific Group.
From there I went to the Strategic Air Command and back into flying. I was assigned as Deputy Commander of the B-47 Wing at Smoky Hill Air Force Base, Kansas. Following that I was given command of the 407th Strategic Fighter Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Great Falls, Montana flying the F-84F aircraft. We have one here in the museum. It was an atomic bomb carrying aircraft and the wing rotated to Alaska with assigned targets. From there I was sent to the Canadian National Defence College in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Then, when I returned to the States I was given command of the 22nd Air Division--a tanker division in Strategic Air Command. From there I was assigned as the Titan II Site Activation Task Force Commander at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. When I completed that assignment, I was given a command of the B-47 Training Division at McConnell as well as the activated Titan II Missile Wing. Following that assignment I was given command of the 825th Strategic Aerospace Division at Little Rock Air Force Base to which the entire super-sonic aircraft were assigned.
Appleton: Was that when you flew . . . ?
Bywater: The B-58 . . . and I flew it at twice the speed of sound.
Appleton: Twice the speed of sound. How old were you when you did that?
Bywater: I was fifty-one.
Appleton: Well, that's . . . just really a young guy then.
Bywater: My last assignment was Chief of Staff of the Second Air Force.
Appleton: Right. And did you spend some of this time on assignment with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at that point?
Bywater: I did. When I was there. I was assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff to do a specialized study and if I could tell all the stories of what these things are, it would be interesting. What we did in my study is taking place today and it's interesting to see what's happening and what became of our study for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Appleton: Can you talk about it? (Laughing) Or is it still classified?
Bywater: It would take too long I think to get into . . .
Appleton: O.K. (Laughing) All right. I was wondering if maybe we might talk more about your experiences in the Asiatic Pacific Theater and I know in your book you've got a lot of pictures and have described what it was like, the accommodations and all. If you might describe what your quarters were like in those first few Island groups that you landed in. What was your set-up?
Bywater: Well they of course were quite primitive. We lived in tents, of course, on the islands. We occupied the Island of Tarawa initially. People who know the history of the Pacific know the terrific battle that took place on Tarawa. When it was taken, my group occupied Tarawa and also the island of Apamama. From there it was our mission to neutralize the Marshall Islands . . .the four main islands of the Marshalls . . . Milli, Jaluit, Taroa, Wotje and Maloclap. And also Nauru and Ponape in the Caroline Islands. We lost many of our crews in the first thirty days. We would attack at low level, twenty-five feet off the water, and a squadron of our group had the 75mm cannon in the nose. We were able to fire the cannon from a fair distance, then we opened up with the 50 caliber machine guns and then dropped our bombs.
Appleton: And this was what airplane? This was the . . . ?
Bywater: The B-25.
Appleton: This was the B-25. Isn't that one that's out in front?
Bywater: Yes. We have one right here. Right. And it was during one of those missions that I was shot down over the Island of Jaluit.
Appleton: Now your plane was actually shot down? Could you talk also about bringing a plane in?
Bywater: I say, “shot down” though we didn't crash at the time. We received two direct hits on the airplane and the left engine was knocked out. All but two of the six man crew were hit and two seriously. Though badly hit by shrapnel, the Navigator was able to plot a course to the nearest friendly atoll of Majuro forty-five minutes away. Flying with one engine out at 8,000 feet, I was able to sustain that altitude and landed safely at Majuro. After landing we put the severely hurt crewmen on the hospital ship Relief which was stationed in the Majuro Lagoon. We were always told that if we were ever shot down, and lived to tell about it, we should get back in the air as soon as possible. Otherwise, you might lose your desire to fly again. So, after taking care of the wounded, and having a bite to eat, we loaded up the airplane that accompanied us to Majuro with bombs, took off and bombed Milli on the way back to our base at Makin.
When we got back, it's surprising how the flight crews will bounce back and carry on and they did.
Appleton: You gave me a rather impressive list of medals and ribbons and citations that you have received. Which three or four of these are the most important to you?
Bywater: Well, I have a whole list of them but the main one is the Legion of Merit with three Oak Leaf Clusters.
Appleton: And what was that for?
Bywater: Well, my first one was given to me for being commander of the group during World War II. The second one was given to me when I relinquished command of the fighter wing; and the third one was presented to me when I completed my assignment as Chief of Staff of 2nd Air Force. I also have the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying missions in World War II. And, I have the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters also for flying combat missions as well as the Purple Heart. Other than that there are other things.
Appleton: But they're all important. And the Purple Heart was for the injury you sustained when . . . ?
Bywater: During the mission over Jaluit when our plane received two direct anti-aircraft hits, I was hit by shrapnel. Fortunately, it was a superficial-type hit and not serious. It was doctored appropriately and we went about our business. The two that were hurt badly, recovered and returned to service after several months on the hospital ship Relief.
Appleton: But then right afterwards you went into another airplane . . . ?
Bywater: No problem.
Appleton: (Laughing) . . . and went right back. . .bandaged up your injuries and bombs away. (Bywater: Laughing) Oh, that's wonderful. Well, going to the next question. How did you feel about the war experience and your military service? Do you find that these were worthwhile and satisfying experiences or did you have mixed feelings about it?
Bywater: Well, about the war . . .
Appleton: . . . at the time?
Bywater: Well, we did what you have to do. We not only loved the Air Force, it was a great life for us. We lived it and loved it and I look back on it with deep devotion and I'm just sorry it's over. I'd like to go back, but it was our life and a life that I would love to live over again. And the war experience . . . while there was the anxiety of the families . . . about the war and about flying . . . again, you do what you have to do and you finally accept the anxiety and you accept the discomforts that you have to go through. But it was a good experience and I still try to help people go to the Air Force.
Appleton: You're a great spokesman for the Air Force. Who were some of the most memorable persons with whom you served?
Bywater: Well, we talked about that and you want a couple but you know . . .
Appleton: Make it three or four if you . . . ?
Bywater: I'm really going to give you a few more than a couple.
Appleton: (Laughing) O.K. That's fine.
Bywater: Because . . . but I'll . . . it won't take long but I'll give you a list of people (Appleton: Sure) that to me were impressive in my life.
Appleton: That's fine.
Bywater: First of all, is General Truman Landon. He was a Captain at March Field here. We were in the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron. He went on to become a Four Star General and during WW II he was the Commander of the Seventh Bomber Command. He was my commander all through the Pacific during the war. He has now passed away.
And then one of the more impressive people to me was General Kepner who was Commander of the 4th Air Force. We were in the 4th Air Force at the time we were sent overseas. And as a Group Commander . . . a young Group Commander at twenty-eight, he called me up to talk to me before going overseas. It was during that time he told me all about where we were going, what we were going to do and so on.
I also want to mention another general who worked with him . . . General Sam Connell. He was called "Sudden Sam" and the reason he was called "Sudden Sam" would call on the phone from San Francisco . . . we were at Fresno Airport at the time. Hammer Field. He'd have each of our crews fly five hours a day for their training and he would insist they fly.
Well, after that came General Thomas White. He was the Seventh Air Force Commander in the Pacific and he was the commander over the Seventh Bomber Command over General Landon.
And then, of course, came General McConnell who I met in Shanghai. Our group, while in Okinawa, bombed the oil yards in Shanghai and, after the war, we went over to Shanghai. I flew Jacqueline Cochran from Tokyo, Japan to Chunking [Chongqing], China and on the way we stopped in Shanghai. I got to know General McConnell there. So he's another one I have to list. And also General Vandenberg who became Chief of the Air Force. I met him in New York when my friend Jacqueline Cochran invited me to her place in New York when she was having a function for General McConnell. I got to know him well, played tennis with him at the Country Club.
And, of course, General LeMay who's history is known far and wide. I worked with him in Strategic Air Command. And of course I mentioned Jackie Cochran who was another ethereal person to me because of her exploits. She . . . even though Amelia Earhart is well known. . .better known than Jackie Cochran, Jackie has more exploits and records than any other woman flyer. She ran the WAFs during the war.
Appleton: She did? Jackie Cochran?
Bywater: Yes. And of course General Olds was the Commander of the 15th Air Force here at March Field. There are two or three people that are my own personal friends that I have kept in touch with through the years. Nate Forrest was a Captain at March at that time in 1937-8-and 9. He was the grandson of the famous Nathan Bedford Forrest of the Civil War era. He went on to become a General and was killed over Europe in World War II.
But two or three others--"Pop" Arnold, Ben Funk were people I knew here at March. We kept in touch with them all through the years. "Pop" Arnold died last year. And that's about it.
Appleton: O.K. We'll go on to the next question here. What are the two, three or four or more events that remain most vivid in your memory . . . from your experiences, particularly in the World War II part of it and some, perhaps, after, as well.
Bywater: Well, I think that we've already touched on that but the events that stand out in my memory most of all, as I mentioned before, were the time when I was three years old, then the Dawn-to-Dusk Flight with Russell L. Maughan and then Lindbergh's flight. (Appleton: Yes) And then flying Jacqueline Cochran to Chunking [Congqing], China from Tokyo.
Appleton: Yes. Did you actually accompany your group . . . were you with the group when you went to Kyushu and bombed the Chiran Airfield were you in the planes . . . ?
Bywater: No, I wasn't. What we do with our group . . . as the Group Commander I led the maximum effort missions. When we fly one or two squadrons on a mission, the senior Squadron Commander leads the flight. When my group made the first land-based medium bombardment strike on the Japanese mainland, we had two squadrons on Okinawa--the 47th and the 48th. The 396th and 820th hadn't arrived. Major Novel Wood was the senior in the 47th so he led the flight. The 24 B-25s hit the Chiran Airfield on southern Kyushu.
Appleton: Did all the planes come back?
Bywater: They all came back. We had expected intense ack-ack and fighter planes intercepting us--perhaps even more severe than we had experienced in the Marshalls. However, at the debriefing we were told it was amazing. Whereas there was intense anti-aircraft fire, it was not as severe as the Marshalls and they were not intercepted by the Zeros. In the Marshall Islands some of our missions were really rough with Zeros on our tails and intense anti-aircraft fire. We lost many of our crews in the first thirty days of combat. When we altered our attacks our losses were less frequent. We still lost a lot of airplanes and 134 airmen.
Appleton: You mentioned in your book about taking food to Tinian Island.
Bywater: Saipan. Well, what happened was we took the 48th Squadron out to Saipan to take part in the Tinian battle. While on Saipan I flew missions over Tinian with the squadron and after a mission I got a call from the Commandant of the island. He said the Navy Commander wanted to talk to me. So I talked to him and he said, "The seas are too rough. We can't get food on the island with the barges. Can you fly food in your bomb bays?"
So I said, "Well, I'll see." So I cranked up a B-25, took off and was able to land on the air strip. There was just one strip on Tinian at the time - on the north end. It was bomb pocked with one large hole in the middle. But after I dragged the strip two or three times, I could see I could probably get down, so I did. I landed the airplane and missed the large hole. I turned around, came back, took off and called the Navy in the air and suggested that if they got the SeeBees in there with active coral and filled up the bomb pocks then we could fly food in there. We were all set. With the food all set in the bomb bay, they called and said, "Hold everything. The seas have settled down. We can take our own food ashore." Appleton: (Laughing) Anyway, that was an interesting mission.
Appleton: That was. That was. You mentioned also in your book and when you talked to me earlier, about one of your pilots who painted shark's teeth and mouth on the front of the plane. When the Japanese heard about it and . . . ?
Bywater: Most everyone who read anything about the war has seen the airplanes with the shark's nose painted on the airplane. In our case, one of our squadron commanders painted the shark's nose on his airplane. During those days on Taroa, Makin and Apamama, Tokyo Rose went on the air at night. We tuned in to her station and, of course, to us it was a side show. She'd say . . . she'd call us the “Maniacs of Destruction” and one night she said, "Those maniacs of destruction hit Tarawa today, and the leader had a shark's nose painted on his airplane. The next time he comes over this base we're gonna get him if nobody else . . . ." And so, at that moment, the commander was in his tent, he jumped up, went down to his supply tent, got a bucket of camouflage paint and painted that sucker off the nose of his airplane.
Appleton: (Laughing) That's a great story! (Bywater: A true story.) But I assumed he lived because of that.
Bywater: Yeah. He sure did and went on . . . he was a fine commander.
Appleton: Right. O. K. Were there any other memorable experiences after the war, you know, when you talk about being with the Atomic Testing . . . and the SAC Commander . . . there are some other significant . . . ?
Bywater: Well, some of those . . . mainly it was a privilege and an honor to be made Deputy Commander for Air of the Joint Task Force doing the atomic testing in the Pacific Proving Ground. I had all the dignitaries with me the day they planned to detonate the hydrogen device. It was called a device at the time. We were in the air at 15,000 feet about fifty miles away when the device was detonated. The entire horizon lit up like high noon. And, as that mushroom cloud started to rise, it seemed like it just went above us like we were just standing still. An awesome sight! And even at that distance, we felt the shock wave.
Appleton: You could feel it. That was fifteen miles? (Bywater: Fifty miles) Oh, fifty miles.
Bywater: Fifteen thousand feet in the air. At that point it was mild but at least we felt the shock.
Appleton: You have at your home, I think, a photo of you and I'm not sure which President, isn't that . . . (Bywater: President Kennedy) President Kennedy. How did you happen to . . . ?
Bywater: Well, I was commander of the Strategic Aerospace Division at Little Rock Air Force Base and President Kennedy was invited by the congressional delegation to dedicate the Greer's Ferry Dam which is some miles north of Little Rock. It was the plan to have him land at our base, get in a helicopter and be taken to Greer's Ferry Dam. We accepted him and of course made the plans way ahead of time with the Secret Service to take care of the base and secure it. When I met him at the airplane, he wanted to know who the officers were off to the side. We went to meet them and he then went to his helicopter and took off for Greer's Ferry Dam. When he came back we welcomed him back and he took off for Washington. It was only a month after that that he was killed in Dallas.
Appleton: It was in 1963. That would have been what? October, then, 1963. You mentioned the fact that you had been wounded but this wasn't a particularly serious injury . . . (Bywater: No) It didn't affect your service later? (Bywater: No, not one bit) How did people at home in your home community or your family, wife and others respond to your military service? What kind of support did they give?
Bywater: Naturally, the folks were concerned and worried about my going off to war, and my father cried when I left. I didn't know men could cry but they can. But they were supportive and prayed a lot, as we all did. But we got a lot of support from the hometown. I'll show you here, for example, here's an article which came out in the paper when our planes hit Kyushu. Fifteen hundred airplanes . . . on that mission.
Appleton: “Fifteen hundred U.S. planes rock Japan.” Was it that many . . . that many airplanes?
Bywater: Yes and I led that raid.
Appleton: And they were from several groups?
Bywater: Well, there were . . . my group had sixty-four airplanes and then there were the heavies and the fighters, the Navy, etc. It was a big strike. (Appleton: Yes) And so that was the type of hometown support I received. And then my group . . . here's the support we received from the Los Angeles Times. That's the front page of the Los Angeles Times. And that's my group and my airplane hitting the islands in the Marshalls.
Appleton: And the headline reads: "Yanks slay 8,122 Marshalls. Japs lose."
Bywater: I show you these only to point out the type of support that we received in the War, both at home and abroad. Then, of course, my wife was at home for two-and-a-half years and so what does a wife do when they're at home and their husband is overseas?
Appleton: Worry a lot probably.
Bywater: Well, yes they do and you've heard of Rosie the Riveter (Appleton: Yes, yes) and so on. Well Frankie worked with the Probation Office in Riverside. Lived with her folks here for a time, then by herself while she worked with the Probation Office for some time. Her sister worked with the aircraft industry. They had a group of girls that met every weekend to get together and have dinner and make themselves as happy as they could. Fortunately, all of the eight men came back after the war and we had quite a reunion.
Appleton: (Laughing) A great celebration I'm sure. And were you restricted in your communication with family?
Bywater: Well, all of our mail was, of course, censored. At that time they had the little miniature letters they photographed and sent to us and, I presume, the same type of a letter went home. All those that we got from home were photographed.
Appleton: Yes. Did you get mail fairly regularly or was it sporadic?
Bywater: It came . . . it came fairly regularly. Yes.
Appleton: In thinking over your military career, what impact did the military service . . . your military service . . . have on your life?
Bywater: Only to form as a background for us. When it's over, it's over and people . . . most of us, tried to carry on and do something. Some go with the airlines and some start their own businesses. In my case I went into commercial aviation.
Appleton: Before we talk about that, is there anything that you could think of about your World War II experience that we haven't mentioned . . . that you haven't talked about yet?
Bywater: I think you've covered it pretty well.
Appleton: What about entertainment? What was the entertainment?
Bywater: O.K. That's something I didn't mention. (Appleton: That's O.K.) During the time we were in the Gilbert Islands, Bob Hope came down with his group. He had Tony Romano the accordionist; Patti Thomas, the dancer and singer; Jerry Colona and Frances Langford. We got to know them pretty well. And we have gotten to know Bob Hope quite well since that time. Also Jack Benny came down with Martha Tilton and of course Jack is gone. We saw Martha Tilton here a few years ago. She came to the Inland area. They put on a show over in Rialto. So I called her up and she invited us over to see her after the show, which we did.
Appleton: That's good. The occupations in civilian aviation you mentioned--what did you do then after you retired from the military?
Bywater: Well, the year I retired I wanted to stay in aviation in some way so I scouted the area and wrote my senator in Washington to see if there was anything in Salt Lake that I could do and, in the meantime, I applied for the Palm Springs manager's job and also the Riverside County job which was vacated. I was being interviewed for the Palm Springs Airport job when I got a call from my senator telling me that the job was going to be available at the Salt Lake City Municipal Airport. He suggested I go see the governor who, at the time, was an older classmate of mine at the University of Utah.
I went to see him and he sent me to the commissioner in charge of the airport. To make a long story short, I was hired as the Airport Manager in Salt Lake. I ran the airport for seven-and-a-half years and developed its master plan to which it has been built these past twenty-four years. You'll probably see it some day and will know it was built to my master plan. I happened to write a book about it. I happen to have one right there.
Appleton: It probably needs another master plan by now, I suppose.
Bywater: Well. Yes. Mine was a twenty year master plan and it served its purpose and it fulfilled its measure of creation. The year I left Salt Lake . . . the airport . . . we put three million people through the airport in the year 1976. Twenty years later, after being built to my master plan, they put twenty-two million people through the airport and it's still growing. So, now they are having a consultant develop a new twenty-year master plan and it's being thought of and discussed right now.
Appleton: Wonderful. And then you came from Salt Lake to Riverside?
Bywater: From there I had a turn for the worse with my health. I had a leg go bad. Had to have a hip put in and I left the airport--was off for three years and then the position at Riverside came open . . . the director of the airport . . . so feeling so well, I decided to apply for it and I was accepted and made director of the airport. And I ran the airport there for ten years.
Appleton: And that was in what . . . the '80's?
Bywater: I came in 1979 and then retired from that position in 1989.
Appleton: So you were seven-and-a-half years in Salt Lake and ten in Riverside. (Bywater: Right) Since your military retirement and . . . well, perhaps at the time you were the director at these two airports, how have you maintained contact with other veterans with whom . . . .
Bywater: Through our reunions. Some through correspondence. I mentioned two or three of the people, "Pop" Arnold and Ben Funk. We've kept in touch with them every year with Christmas cards and so on. But my group has reunions. One of our squadrons every year and the others off and on and then we've had group reunions of the entire group. We made contact with them and they all put out newsletters which we all receive from each other. We sort of keep in touch with individuals as well as the entire group. And so many of them I hear from today.
As a matter of fact the other day, if I may just put this thought in, I was told by one of our group members that one of our other group members' daughter was killed in the airplane crash just the other day. And when we heard it was his daughter, I wrote him a letter of sympathy and the other one who told me about it said that when he got the letter, he called his friend and he actually cried. I mention this only to say that this is how we keep in touch with the people. (Appleton: Yes) You never forget them. They never forget you.
Appleton: Why do you think that's so?
Bywater: Well, I'm satisfied it's just the camaraderie that you built up through the years. You're there for two-and-a-half years. They're your friends. People back home are ethereal people. You don't know who they are or where they are hardly. And so they're friends you never forget.
Appleton: You probably ended up saving each other’s lives many times.
Bywater: Many times.
Appleton: Many times over. Overall, would you consider your military experience a positive experience?
Bywater: Very positive. Very positive. It was a great life.
Appleton: Elaborate on that. How was it a great . . . was it a great life and . . . ?
Bywater: Well, it's . . . many faceted things about the Air Force life. Flying is paramount. The association you have with people . . . every New Year's Day we have a New Year's Day reception where all people dress up in their formal gowns and come through a line. I had tournaments with our people in athletics. You try to keep the spirit up of all of the people. Meeting new friends and new people . . . you're transferred every three or four years. You hate to let one go. Then when you got transferred to another base, you meet them and you hate to let them go when you go. The education you receive. I went to the Canadian National Defence College and the Air War College. It's an education I think that is hard to get anywhere. And, with that I flew 10,000 hours in the air, fifty-eight different types of airplanes. You won't find too many people today who have flown that many airplanes or have that much time in the air except the airline pilots. (Appleton: Sure) Because they just don't stay in one place long enough and there are not that many airplanes around to fly these days.
Appleton: We might end back at the Stearman back here. Can you describe what it's like when you were training to fly this type of an airplane?
Bywater: Well, put it this way. My main training plane on primary stage was the Consolidated PT-3. During that training we are taught to do spins, rolls, lazy 8’s, pilon 8s, loops, etc. all those maneuvers. The list goes on to spins. When doing a spin we would climb to 3,000 feet, then put the plane in a stall and then kick it into a spin. The idea is to recover the airplane and we were taught how to recover by crossing the controls or rudder or whatever.
Well, this little ‘job’ here is the PT-13. My class was the first to receive the
PT-13. In our flying training we have our instructor, and we are given check rides periodically. They are given by the flight commander. The final primary stage check ride is given by the stage commander. He is the guy you have to be kind of leery of . . . and fly your best. But, one should know how to fly by then.
Well, it just so happened that this airplane, the
PT-13 came to our squadron at the time of my stage commander's check ride. Well, I was leery about it but I was told . . . he said . . . my instructor said: Just fly it like you flew the PT-3. So I got up there and I went through all of the things that he wanted me to do. I rolled it and I did a snap roll, lazy 8's . . .all those things and a spin. But that day there were lots of clouds. . . cumulous clouds around so I knew I'd have to climb above it, above 3,000 feet to spin. Actually I didn't know how high. I learned how high later. (Appleton: Laughs) So, anyway, I tried to climb above those clouds and they were just too high to climb above them. So I was between two big cumulous clouds and I had full throttle all the way up. And finally at 6,000 feet I said: “Well, I shouldn't go any higher than that.” From that point I pulled back the throttle. I leveled out, pulled back the throttle and stalled the airplane and kicked it into a spin. You had to kind of kick it into a spin.
Well, that sucker spun three times to the right and three times to the left before I got it out! (Appleton: Laughs) And I tell you I didn't know if I could get it out. Well, it’s time to go.
Appleton: Yeah. We're about at the end here. We may have more to talk about but at least for the recorded part, I want to thank you Murray for participating in the project. You'll receive a copy of the interview, your own personal copy, and then copies will be placed in the Riverside Public Library and the Library of Congress.
Bywater: Thank you very much.
Appleton: We're glad that you could participate in this Veterans' History Project as Number One! Thank you. And that concludes the interview.