Ordeal of Tondelayo
Painting by Steve W. Ferguson by way of Lawrence J. Hickey
This most famous B-25 of the 500th Bomb Squadron was named after Hedy Lamar's sultry character in the movie "White Cargo." The above picture shows TONDELAYO is fighting for her life with 1/Lt. Ralph G. Wallace at the controls, its right engine shot out, skimming over the water of St. George's Channel after bombing a Japanese ship at Vunapope near Rabaul on October 18, 1943. On the left wing is the flight leader, Capt. Lyle E. Anacker, in SNAFU, while 1/Lt. Harlan H. Peterson, flying SORRY SATCHUL, is just about to set down in the water after losing an engine during a Japanese fighter attack. Tondelayo was under constant attack for 75 minutes in a running gun battle with approximately fifty Japanese fighter planes of the 204th Japanese Kokutai Zeros. She did get in a few good licks, though, with the turret gunner, Sgt. John A Murphy, given credit for shooting down five aircraft, making him an ace. Four other fighter planes crashed into the water after misjudging distances on their passes. The 345th Group earned the coveted Distinguished Unit Citation and Tondelayo's crew members earned a Silver Star for their bravery. This flight by Tondelayo was considered one of the finest examples of bravery, tenacity and endurance by any crew of the 345th.
This story has a personal attachment, because 1st Lt. Harlan Peterson, the pilot of SORRY SATCHUL, is my grandson's namesake and great-great uncle. They made a good water landing but were immediate strafed by Japanese fighter aircraft, killing the entire crew. On this mission the 500th shot down 17 enemy fighters. They were heroes, all.
You and your brothers-in-arms are not forgotten, Lt Peterson.