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MORNING STAR • SEPTEMBER 4 - 10, 2008 Stationed first in India and later at Tinian, in the Northern Mariana Islands, Tyndall flew 25 missions over Japanese-held territories in the Pacific. Each mission held its own dangers and had its own unique characteristics, but the young Sussex County native will never forget the very first one. “It was down over the Malay Peninsula, which is now Malaysia. We were going in and bombing the railroads of Kuala Lumpur,” remembers Tyndall, whose base was 60 miles west of Calcutta, India. “That was a 16hour mission and all except the first hour and the last hour were over enemy territory. And the whole mission was either over water or over jungle.” Packing 20 500-pound bombs, the men of the Robert J. Wilson – Tyndall’s aircraft – encountered much resistance along the way. Tyndall estimates around 40 Japanese fighter planes attempted to prevent them from completing that first mission. “We had intense fighter opposition, but very little ground fire,” he recalls. “We hit a lot of the fighters and a lot of them were going down. But their airfield was right there in Kuala Lumpur, so they didn’t have very far to go to make it back.” The Robert J. Wilson was equipped with 12 50-caliber guns, strategically located around the plane. It took many a hit during its 25 missions, but its crew was never shot down. Tyndall still thanks his lucky stars today that he never had to endure the horrors of a Japanese prison camp. “That was the thing I dreaded most – I did not want to have to bail out over Japan because of all the stories we heard about the treatment B-29 crews received from the Japanese,” he says. In May of 1945, as Japanese forces were on their heels and the war in the Pacific was beginning to wind down, Tyndall and the other 10 men of the Robert J. Wilson embarked on two missions that, to this day, are the most memorable of his days in

Asia. Both involved the bombing of Tokyo – one they very nearly didn’t return from. “They were both 15-hour missions and we had aiming points over Tokyo,” he remembers. “On the second mission, our aiming point was near the emperor’s palace. But, we were instructed not to bomb the palace because the emperor was a religious figure in Japan.” They flew over Tokyo, dropped their bombs and set out on the return trip to Tinian. It was anything but easy – it was a return flight that had the men of the Robert J. Wilson prepared to bail out at any time, hopefully not over Japan. “We took a bad hit from antiaircraft fire. It tore holes in the airplane and severed some of the contact cables,” Tyndall remembers. “We went back seven-anda-half hours, all the way to our base, wearing our parachutes and ready to bail out.” But they made it to Tinian and continued to fly missions against Emperor Hirohito until Aug. 14, 1945, the date of the final mission Tyndall would fly during World War II. “On August 14, we led the entire 58th Bomb Group on a mission over the naval arsenal at Hikari,” he says. “On the way back to Tinian, we heard on the short wave radio that the Japanese had surrendered. That was August 14 – August 15 in the United States.” As for U.S. President Harry S. Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which effectively ended the war in the Pacific, Tyndall has a short and to-the-point response. “We were all in favor of them,” he says matter-of-factly. After making his victory run over Tokyo Bay on September 2, Tyndall volunteered to remain in the service. He was assigned to one of five special B-29 crews that participated in the Bikini Atomic Bomb Tests held the summer of 1946 in the Pacific. His crew dropped 27 inert “Fat Man” bombs, the type

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used in Japan the year prior. During the mission, he had a chance to work with nine crew members of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. “Believe it or not, we never really talked about anything we had done. They were just a normal crew,” he says. Tyndall turned his nearly four years of experience during World War II into a full-fledged career, retiring from the United States Air Force as a colonel in 1972 af-


ter 30 years of military service. As for World War II, he recognizes it was something that had to be done. “I have absolutely no animosity toward the Japanese now. But, on the other hand, neither do I offer any apologies for the missions I flew during the war. That was the situation then, this is the situation now,” he says. A father of five girls and one boy, he and his wife Thelma lived in Clemson, S.C. for 40 years before returning to Georgetown in 2007. While in Clemson,

Tyndall served as head of the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC), and later as assistant to the president of Clemson University for eight years. For his service during World War II, Tyndall was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal, among other citations.

Attention Readers

We welcome suggestions for interviews of veterans who served during World War II. Contact Bryant Richardson at 629-9788.

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