Veteran Stories:
Donald Crumb

Air Force

  • A page of Donald Crumb's log book. The entries with asteriks say (top to bottom): Ramree combined "op" effort; beachhead established, town and landing group captured - Kyawkypu; Two direct hits out of two - and I have witnesses!!!; Squadron's first "Napalm" five bombin - very successful; 24 x 500 lbs target area - petrol dump fired!!; Libs really ? target, bags of flack but not a Jap!; Smoke up to 15,000'

    Donald Crumb
  • P-47 Thunderbolt, the type of plane Donald Crumb flew in south-east Asia.

    Donald Crumb
  • Donald Crumb and his wife Georgina.

    Donald Crumb
  • Donald Crumb after completing his tour.

    Donald Crumb
  • Donald Crumb's record of service, showing the majority of his time in south-east Asia.

    Donald Crumb
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"And we became very, very accurate as a squadron in dive bombing. So we were a tremendous help to the British and Indian armies. If they ever got caught up the Japs and could define the target area, we could certainly help them by dive bombing."

Transcript

I was in the Royal Regiment [of Canada], the same as Toronto Army Regiment, I was in the reserve or militia they called it then. My older brother and myself went twice a week to the Fort York Armouries and trained. And we went to summer camp I think in the summer of 1940 and further training. But while I was there, I saw this low flying fighter plane, it was actually, I think they called them, I’m not sure now, it was built in Buffalo anyways, it was quite an attractive fighter plan. And it flew by very low and I thought, boy, that’s what I’d like to be doing, so I severed my relations with the Royal Regiment and enlisted in the RCAF. That’s the basic reason because of that one plane that I saw flying low overhead near Niagara Falls [Ontario].

I joined my squadron in Madras, India, a big seaport on the coast, I joined 135 Squadron [Royal Air Force; Donald Crumb was transferred to the RAF]. At that time, we were doing mostly convoy duty because it was a main port and a lot of shipping and supplies were being shipped into Madras from all around the world. Then we were shipped from Madras, India down to Ceylon [Sri Lanka]. Of course, it’s not called Ceylon now, as you know. But anyways, we’ll use the word Ceylon for, that was it at the time, and we were located not far from the big British naval base. It was called China Bay. And we were on airport, an airfield not far from that, sort of protecting the British navy.

We were the first RAF squadron to get the brand new American P-47D Thunderbolt. This was a magnificent fighter plane and it was air cooled engine, which was very important because the [Hawker] Hurricane and [Supermarine] Spitfire and the [Hawker] Typhoon [the primary fighter bombers used by the RAF] that I can remember were all liquid cooled and that was the tank of glycol I think was the name of the coolant that cooled the motor, was located under the belly of the aircraft and very vulnerable to any ground fire, like one bullet, if it hit the glycol tank, there goes your coolant and your motor seizes up and that’s it. That as an advantage of our Thunderbolt was air cooled, we could take tremendous damage compared to those other aircraft. And it served it is purpose and saved us many, many times. The punishment that the Thunderbolt could take, it was quite famous for it.

We were using it in Burma and it was perfect. We were asked to support the British army in their battle to push the Japs [an abbreviation for Japanese, commonly used by soldiers, sailors and airmen during the war] out of Burma, the Japs that pushed the British out of Burma in 1942, around Christmastime, right from the bottom of Burma, Rangoon area, right out, up to India, right out of Burma. So this push with the new Thunderbolts, we were to assist the British army and the Indian army in making the reverse with pushing the Japs back out of Burma and this was what, 400, 500 mile fight. So that was our main job. We were dive bombing. The Thunderbolt could carry one 2,000 pound bomb under the belly, if you’ll pardon the term, or two 1,000 pound bombs, one under each wing. So with the 12 of us, that was a full squadron in flight. It was quite a bomb load and we did an awful lot of dive bombing. And we became very, very accurate as a squadron in dive bombing. So we were a tremendous help to the British and Indian armies. If they ever got caught up the Japs and could define the target area, we could certainly help them by dive bombing.

Or sometimes, we used, if they couldn’t get the Japs out, the Japs would bury themselves in these bunkers underground and they were almost impossible to get out and then they started letting us use napalm bombs. If you’re not familiar with napalm, it’s when you drop, it’s a sort of jelly like material and it goes on immediate flames and it’s really a sticky material that the flame just sticks to any target. So it was a different method, you didn’t dive with napalm, you had to fly in and drop it when you’re going more or less straight and level and let the bomb carry a lot on the ground on it, so leaving this wall of flame wherever it landed and went. So if we had hit that bunker, it would set the bunker, the flames would wipe the bunker out, which helped the British army.

We supported many, many, many trips, we covered the [Douglas] DC3s, that was the famous transport aircraft and there was two Canadian squadrons out there, 435 and 436. And many other RAF squadrons dropping supplies from these DC3s to the troops and at that time, we would escort through their target and protect them from the Jap fighters. They would love to catch the DC3s unprotected but fortunately, we never lost one DC3 when it was our job to cover them. That was a pretty important job, dropping the supplies to the forward troops.

And one other thing we did regularly was escort the four-engine bombers who were bombing the Rangoon area of southern Burma. The heavy bombers were based in India and had to fly across the Bay of Bengal and we would meet them at an arranged area and escort them. They were called liberator, with the name of the British bomber that they were using to their targets in England. And that would be at maybe 20, 25,000 feet.

There were no suitable based in Burma for the bombers so they were based in India and as I say, flew across the Bay of Bengal and we met them and escorted them to southern Burma. And incidentally, we didn’t lose one bomber, the many times we escorted them to southern Burma.

And we [Donald Crumb’s wife Georgina] were courting before I went in the air force, and then all the time, I’d get home on leave, when I was based in Ontario training, and she was with me all the time. I got more letters than the rest of the squadron put together. She was the most wonderful girl. That was the highlight of my life.

I got back in September [1945], got engaged on her birthday, September the 18th, so I was with really 70 years we figured and she arranged, talking about a date for our wedding and she said, "We’ll get married December the 1st." And I said, "Oh no, we can’t get married December the 1st, that’s Grey Cup day."

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