April – May 1944
My crew and I were still “planeless” at this point. We were
part of the 470th Bomb group and would have remained with this bomb group if they hadn’t pulled us for AZON training. Ten crews were selected for the “AZ(imuth) ON(ly) Project” which meant Radio Controlled Transmitters and Receivers being installed on the tails of 1,000 lb. bombs so that they could be altered while in flight, after being dropped from the bomber. The Azon bombs were only able to move left and right.
Six of my crew (4 officers, flight engineer and radioman) were assigned and assembled after Christmas 1943 at Hamilton Field in Fresno, California. From there we flew by commercial transport to Pinecastle Field outside Orlando, Florida where we picked up our specially equipped B-24J – Aircraft # 44-40273. She was mine and Don Shannon recommended the name “Howling Banshee” from the Irish folklore of the ghost that appears just before death. Of course, we all approved the name before it was painted on her side.
Our gunners (and footlockers) were sent ahead to the 10th Air Force in Karachi, India to await us. I found my footlocker shortly after the war ended. Joe Zanella received his only 4-5 years ago. What memories!
|AZON Aircraft Commanders
|John Y. Lansing
|Kiss Me Kate
|Arnold A. Piskin
|John J. Jones, Jr.
|Gerald W. Matze
|John T. B. Larned
|A Dog’s Life
|John T. Tracy
|Lassie Come Home
|Maurice E. Speer
|Frank C. Fuson
|Robert W. Morford
The original orders included the entire crew for each aircraft.
Maj. Holbrook was in charge of the project, his assistant was Lt. David M Baltimore, the device was invented by Maj. Henry J Rand and Mr. Thomas J O’Donnell.
In Orlando, we practiced bombing only with the AZON equipment. As Don describes it in his personal journal ” The plane was equipped to drop radio-controlled 1000 lb. bombs whose horizontal tail fins were controlled by the bombardier to divert the bomb to the left or right of the normal flight path.”. This was revolutionary and was one part of the early stages of guided missiles.