The highly personal story of one mans war in a 'forgotten theater' of WW II jungle warfare. Rough War weaves a chronology of the war around Eastman's diary and letters that describe his hopes, fears, and combat experiences. Today, doctors would diagnose Eastman with PTSD, but in the 1940s he had to deal with it on his own.
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Rough War by Walt Shiel
"One of the most unusual and insightful stories of a young American at war, and it has a particular significance for today." --from the Foreword by Walter J. Boyne
"In the annals of WWII aerial warfare Rough War is a jewel that has been missing for far too long."
--Jim Hooper, Author of A Hundred Feet over Hell
Paul Eastman was one of thousands of fighter pilots who served honorably, bravely, and with little fanfare during World War II. He did not end the war as a celebrated national hero. No air base was ever named for him. He never became an ace. He never became famous. Paul spent 20 months flying daily combat sorties in one of the most difficult environments of the war -- the China-Burma-India Theater.
Paul Eastman maintained a daily diary throughout the war, covering his life in the air and on the ground. Rough War is based on those diaries and the many letters he wrote to his wife. His letters professed his love, expressed his post-war hopes, documented his ongoing fears, and voiced his concerns for his wife and family stateside: Would he survive the war? What would he do afterward?
Although the CBI has been labeled the "forgotten theater" of WW II, Paul Eastman's story helps ensure that the men who fought the air war over its unforgiving jungles and mountains will never be forgotten.
"Rough War is an important story that makes an equally important connection to the effects of war on the members of the US military today. "A rare achievement that offers a rewarding, creative approach to history that should be a model for more writers."
--Ed Rasimus, Author of Palace Cobra and When Thunder Rolled
"A story of the war generation, of the forgotten theater, and of the terrible things just being in a war does to people."
--Eric Hammel, Author of The Road to Big Week
"Rough War presents a unique history of the making of a combat fighter pilot...While aviation technology changed for America's next war in SE Asia, the threats of the jungle, monsoon, and a determined enemy created similar issues during my own fighter-pilot experiences in Vietnam."
--William H. Lawson, Brig. Gen, US Air Force, Retired
"Rough War presents a highly personal view of air combat and daily life in the WW II jungles of Burma. Walt Shiel skillfully blends a history of that war with young fighter pilot Paul Eastman's personal diary, letters, and photographs. An engaging history of a small part of a global war."
--Robert F. Dorr, Author of Mission to Berlin
The 7th of December 1943 found Paul again on alert
two years after the Pearl Harbor attack. In his diary, Paul reminisced about his whereabouts on "the day that will live in infamy" a civilian at Claire and Ethel's Tavern playing cards. "Now I am in Upper Assam the wettest spot on Earth waiting for an alert to fight in the sky. I certainly hope and pray we shall not have to witness another infamous anniversary while engaged in war."
Paul did get airborne that day for a three-hour local patrol mission. Then, on 11 December, he recorded this account of his first real combat sortie (which lasted three hours, twenty minutes):
"11 December: Today I had my baptism in combat, but as it turned out it didn't amount to much. Yesterday, Ft Hertz over the "Hump" was attacked by Zeros. Our other squadron intercepted them, and knocked down seven confirmed and two probables without loss to our ships. So, today, we went out on a fighter reconnaissance to try to locate the field in Burma where these ships were based, and if possible to catch them on the ground and strafe them. We passed over the 'Hump' a long stretch of desolate mountains and valleys of dense Burma jungle. The first field was Bhamo in lower Burma. The field was pockmarked by bomb craters, and no planes were there. We did strafe and destroy a steam engine though. Then we went over Katha and Indhal both close by, but discovered no planes whatsoever. These fields were in good shape, too, but we could find nothing at all to destroy. We expected fighter opposition, as we went deep into their territory, but the whole trip over three hours was entirely uneventful. I'd sure hate to have to bail out in that country which we flew over. Nothing but jungle and mountains. Sure would be a tough proposition to walk out, for not only does it offer topographical obstacles, but Jap bases are everywhere."
The official report of the Japanese raid on Ft Hertz noted that the airfield was attacked by three bombers and four fighters, with all of the bombers and two of the fighters shot down by the Allied defenders.
On 13 December, the P-40 pilots at Teok spent most of the day on alert until finally receiving Paul's first "Red Alert Scramble" by radio from 80th FG headquarters. As the pilots raced to their planes, the alert duty sergeant fired three shots into the air from his rifle to alert all base personnel. Paul described Indian soldiers "jumping into foxholes and appearing, as if by magic, with full battle dress and all kinds of guns." He said it seemed funny
later, anyway. He recorded the details of the two hour, forty minute mission in his logbook ("Scramble Japs in area 36 bombers 20 Zeros No Contact") and also in his diary:
"13 December: We took off immediately but were held in this area for reserves, so to speak, and were not allowed to join in the scrap going on just a short distance away from here. We circled aimlessly at 20,000 feet listening on the radio to the conversations which always take place during dogfights. There were 36 Sallys (Jap bombers) and 20 Zekes (Jap Zeros). The bombs they dropped were 100 lbs and did slight damage to a C-47 and destroyed a P-40 on the ground. However, two A-36As crashed on takeoff at a nearby field, killing one pilot and injuring another. During the fight, eight Japs were shot down and nine damaged. We lost one P-40, but the pilot got out safely by parachute. He also, by the way, destroyed the bomber that shot him down."
The next day, the squadron bombed and strafed the Japanese forces at Myitkyina. Each P-40 carried three 100-pound bombs (one on each wing and one on the belly). On their first pass, each pilot dropped his bombs along the runway or on the basshas alongside it. Paul described the action:
"14 December: One bassha after a direct hit exploded violently, emitting fire and smoke about 2,000 feet into the air. While we were thus engaged, over us passed a B-24 and four P-40s evidently on their way to bomb another place. After bombing, we proceeded strafing. About all we could find however besides a few basshas were a herd of elephants and water buffalo in the water. We gave 'em hell all right. Coming back we were all short of gas, and Weston got lost from us arriving back ahead of us, and landing the wrong way directly in our path. Johnson was almost out of gas but to avoid a wreck he had to go around again. When he finally did get in he just landed when he ran out of gas and his engine quit! Close!"
The following Monday, Paul flew two missions to Thaipa Ga in Northern Burma. Intelligence briefed them to expect lots of enemy equipment. Sixteen P-40s flew in a relay all day to bomb and strafe. Paul took off at 1215 and again at 1500, for a total of four hours, with three 325-pound depth charges on each sortie ("all TNT and have a terrific blast power"). He dropped his bombs and expended 1,000 rounds of .50 caliber ammo on his first sortie but "didn't see a damn thing." However, while strafing on his second mission:
"20 December: I noticed a cloud of dust and an object moving below me. I immediately kicked over but when in range discovered it was a big black water buffalo. I was so mad (I had expected a truck of Japs) that I let loose. All six .50s caught him dead and he rolled ass over tea kettle. Dull day!"