• Leigh Gerstenberger

Lest We Never Forget

As I’ve shared previously, one of the interesting phenomena of the pandemic for me (and I suspect others) has been how the “nesting effect” has created a longing to be closer to family. In my case this has resulted in a weekly, “cousins” Happy Hour Zoom Reunion on Monday evenings.


While initially these get-togethers were just to see how everyone was doing, over the past several months as distant relatives have learned about the weekly gathering (thanks in large part to social media) our meetings now include individuals with ties to my family whom I never knew existed. As a result, I now receive regular emails from relatives who frequently share insights and information about family members who are long gone. Some of these ancestors I knew nothing about, others I had a vague knowledge of, which brings me to my thought for this week.


Growing up, my mother would occasionally share her memories of her cousin, David Himadi. If I heard the story once I heard it a dozen times about the handsome, gifted young man who was shot down over Japan during World War II. Over the years as my mother would share this story, I could always detect a certain wistfulness in her voice as she would imagine what, “might have been”, had her cousin’s life not been cut short. Listening to my mother tell the story of her cousin David over the years I had an intellectual appreciation to how his life ended, but not an emotional one. However, that changed the other day when a distant cousin forwarded me a copy of Second Lieutenant David E. Himadi’s obituary which included the names of the eleven other crew members of B-29 Superfortress #42-6334 who also lost their lives on August 20,1944 when, “a Japanese fighter intercepted the group and maneuvered his plane to a vertical position and sliced through the bomber’s left wing…”


2 LT David E. Himadi



He was born in Hackensack and lived at 666 East Ridgewood Ave. with his brother and his mother. His father lived in Los Angeles. He graduated from Ridgewood High School with the class of 1936 where he ran track and played intramural football. He then went to Duke University, was a Kappa Sigma and graduated in 1940. He was a slight 5' 5" and 150 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.


After working for at Wright Aeronautical Corp. in Patterson, NJ he enlisted and was sent to communications school at Yale where he was commissioned in 1942. He entered active service on March 4, 1943, received his wings that same month in Boca Raton, Florida, trained on the B-29 in Salina, Kansas and was assigned overseas in spring 1944.


The B-29 "Superfortress" had an 11-man crew, was 99' long, 29½' tall, had a wingspan of 141.2', and a maximum take-off weight of 124,031 lbs. It cruised at 290 mph at a maximum ceiling of 31,857'. Powered by four 2,170 hp Wright engines, it had a range of 2,824 nautical miles. With a bomb load of up to 20,000 lbs. it was armed with 10 machine guns and a rapid-firing 20 mm cannon although many B-29s had their machine gun turrets removed in 1945 to increase speed and bomb load.

As a communications Officer in a B-29 crew with the 20th Bomber Command Himadi flew the "Hump" in the China-Burma-India command.


On June 15, 1944 he was in the first plane of the first super fortress squadron of 60 China-based planes to bomb Japan after Jimmy Doolittle's famous raid in early 1942. Hurried into combat from airfields at Chengtu in Western China, USAAF B-29s bombed the Yawata Steel Mills in northern Kyushu, Japan marking the first time that B-29s were used in distant support of an ongoing amphibious operation.


Modeled on the American air campaign in Europe, these daylight raids were high altitude precision bombing missions. But they involved many fewer bombers - less than 100 - and suffered from the treacherous wind currents above 30,000 feet over Japan.


The Bomber Command in China had other special problems. It was totally dependent on supplies flown in over the Hump from India. And it had no defense against the offensive launched in April 1944 by the Japanese in Southern China that eventually overran its bases.

Sometime later Himadi's B-29, the "Gertrude C" was damaged and grounded for repairs. One subsequent mission had to be aborted.


On his second bombing mission, Himadi was killed during a raid over the Imperial Iron and Steel Works, again at Yawata, Japan August 20, 1944 when his plane was rammed and destroyed by a small enemy pursuit plane. He was initially buried in a mass grave with the rest of his crew in Japan.


Central Fire Control operator (CFC) aboard B-29 Superfortress #42-6334 "Gertrude C." While on a mission raid over Yawata, a Japanese fighter intercepted the group and maneuvered his plane to a vertical position and sliced through the bomber's left wing. The bomber exploded in a fireball and crashed in Yawata City, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. All twelve crew aboard were killed in action: Lt. Col. Robert C Clinkscales, A/C Pilot 1st Lt. David S Castleberry, Co-Pilot Capt. Gilbert S Kadinger, Navigator Capt. Stanley S Smyth, Bombardier 2nd Lt. David E Himadi, Central Fire Control MSgt. Loy F Baker, Flight Engineer TSgt. George W Bell, Gunner SSgt. Paul S Brouillard, Gunner TSgt. James M Coutts, Radar Operator TSgt. John T Fitzpatrick, Gunner MSgt. Clarence L McHenry, Gunner MSgt. Wallace H Richardson, Jr, Radio Operator


On New Year’s evening shortly after hosting my family for dinner, I was reflecting on my distant cousin’s service to our country. That evening we played cards with our grandchildren, listened to music and enjoyed a wonderful meal in our lovely home. The fire was blazing and there was a great deal of reminiscing, laughter and a time of sharing our hopes and dreams for the coming year.


Then it occurred to me that in all likelihood the lifestyle my family and I enjoy today would not be possible if not for the sacrifices of hundreds of thousand men and women in the life our nation’s history. All of which led me to a deeper understanding of the often-uttered phrase, “Lest we never forget”.


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