Tommy Hayes in Java, 1942

Long ago and far away, in the days of first class privates with fourth class specialties, Tommy (Our Leader) Hayes was a 2nd Lieutenant. As a matter of fact, the time was 20 February 1942 and the place was Blimbing, Java.

Tommy was a pilot in the 17th Pursuit Squadron (Provisional) part of the 24th Pursuit Group which was strung out from the Philippines through Australia. With very little to work with, they were rapidly loosing what they had. The successful Japanese were striking east of Java at Bali and Timor to cut the supply line from Australia.

On February 20, Tommy was part of a sixteen plane escort of P-40s herding three B-24s and some B-17s of the 19th Bomb Group going to stop the invasion of Bali. The result - exactly as you guessed - they got the hell kicked out of them.

Limping into Blimping Field with the canopy cranked back as the plane was shot to pieces, Tommy made a fantastic wheels up landing, no elevators landing right in the palm trees at the end of the strip. He came to rest on the duty runway. When the dust cleared and the shaking stopped, Tommy saw the "rescue" team drive up. Think of the joy and relief that flowed through his being. "I'm alive - I made it - help is here."

As he looked up he watched a long arm with screwdriver in hand begin dog robbing the instrument panel. Nobody said a word. 

OBee O'Brien 

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