Once the war ended, military commanders had two priorities: Bring the men home, and bring all the weapons, ammunition, cooking equipment, building materials, vehicles and office supplies home. To accomplish the former, they established a priority for men with high point tallies. Rather than stick them on slow boats, they were given seats (wherever possible) on returning aircraft.
The Black Magic was given orders to fly to California, carrying the one thing it was not designed to carry: passengers. A dozen soldiers with high point counts were stuffed into every possible nook and cranny. However, to provide those few extra square feet, all nonessential crew members were removed from the aircraft. The bombardier and the tail gunner were considered nonessential, because there were no bombs to drop, and no Japanese aircraft chasing them home. Other crew members had in-flight duties that enabled them to remain aboard.
So my father and Tail Gunner Bob M* had to watch, disconsolate, as the Black Magic took off with their crew members for home, where there was song and celebration, and most important after all that time on a military base – women. They had to remain on the now useless military base. They wouldn’t go home for six more months.
Tail Gunner Bob M* and my father were split up, and given grunt work. My father spent several months moving vehicles down to the docks to be loaded on transport ships. He drove things he had never driven before: Earth moving vehicles, cranes, mobile weapons, trucks, ambulances and God knows what else. After all of the equipment had been removed from Saipan, he was taken to Tinian to move even more of it. At one point, he was assigned to guard Japanese prisoners of war, whom he describes as “well-behaved.”
Eventually, he amassed enough points to displace another nonessential crew member and fly home, where he married my mother and produced me.
Now I was driving my father home from the Black Magic reunion in Tennessee to his home in St. Louis. We rode in comfort - not packed in like sardines - and chatted about his experiences during that time so many years ago. Meanwhile, in the back seat, my brother-in-law managed to get us lost for a second time on this trip. Next time there’s a reunion, if you’re interested in a ride, I’ve decided that the Navigator is now nonessential personnel. You can have this guy’s seat: