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Posted on Jan 17, 2006 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

The Flying Circus: Pacific War -1943- As Seen Through A Bombsight – Book Review

By Richard N Story

flyingcircus.jpgBook Review: The Flying Circus: Pacific War 1943 As Seen Through A Bombsight
2005, Hardcover

Jim Wright, Congressman from Texas, has always been a natural raconteur, but perhaps his greatest story is about his service as a bombardier in the United States Army Air Force during World War II. Flying in B-24s from Australia, Jim Wright experienced both the good and bad of life in a war zone. He recounts his combat tour in the Pacific in the book: The Flying Circus: Pacific War 1943 As Seen Through A Bombsight.

The attack on Pearl Harbor found Jim as a college student at the University of Texas, but prior to that he was a student at Weatherford College and the editor of the student newspaper for the two year school. In the two issues before the legislation imposing the draft; Jim had denounced the draft as militaristic, dictatorial and un-American. He felt that the American youth would beat a path to the recruiting offices if war came, but later on reflection noted that it was wise that the draft was instigated as it proved a trained pool of soldiers and sailors to act as cadre when the armed forces were expanded. But true to his word; he did beat a path to the enlisted in the Army Air Force for bombardier training. And then like in every military the world wide; after boot camp he did everything but train to be a bombardier. Assigned to March Field, he worked in the intelligence shop so he could learn more about the war going on while waiting for a slot in bombardier school. While at March Field he got to see his first B-24 that visited the field. After leaving the field; the B-24 crashed into the side of the mountain and Jim was detailed to help recover the bodies. Asked if he was still determined to go to war fighting from a plane; Jim could only answer that he was.

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After arriving for cadet training; Jim was subject to more physicals including a color-blindness test. The test was very ingenious and used not only different colors to test the eyesight of the candidates, but also lightness and darkness. Upon remarking about the ingenuity of the test; he was told the United States could get no more. They were made in Japan. At the school he learned the intricacies of the Norden Bombsight and the Three Ds of bombing: drift, drag and deflection. Drift was the effect of the crosswinds on the bomb. Drag was how much air resistance was placed on the bomb as it accelerated toward terminal velocity or the fastest speed the bomb can achieve. Deflection is the arc at which the bomb sails toward the target. Along with learning to control the knobby bits of the bombsight; Jim also discovered the thrill of getting a “shack” or a direct hit on a target shack. With practice Jim routinely was able to acquire three shacks per nine runs.

Upon graduating as a second lieutenant; Jim was assigned to the 380th Bomb Group at Davis-Monthan Air Base near Tucson, Arizona. Jim also decided to marry his long term girl friend. At the princely sum of $225 a month, he could now afford a wife. It was at Davis-Monthan that Jim joined the crew he would fight the war with. The crew of ‘Gus’s Bus’, named after the pilot Augustus ‘Gus’ Connery, trained together for their wartime service. And after a long flight from California to Hawaii the Flying Circus departed for Christmas Island and then onto Australia. It was from Australia that Jim flew his combat missions.

War has been described as 90 percent boredom and 10 percent terror and the war for Jim was no different. What did stand out for Jim were not the rigors of combat, but the deliberate brutality of the Japanese. He knew of fellow aircrew who were beheaded by the Japanese and in another instance there was a wounded crewman who was left in his bomber to drown rather then be extracted and treated as a POW. Still there were happy times such as when a missing B-24 was discovered stranded, but intact in the great outback. A major recovery effort was made to retrieve the wayward plane. Jim Wright flew over 30 hours of combat with 300 hours of combat flying when he and the rest of the crew were relieved from duty to return stateside. Returning home; Jim got six weeks of leave and then went on to be an instructor preparing crews for their own missions over enemy territory.

The Flying Circus is a well written and easy to read military history. Jim Wright writes as if he was talking to the reader and his writing is both technically and artistically well written with no grammatical or typographical errors. The photos are complimentary to the text, but the inclusion of the photo of Gary Cooper and his USO troop visiting Fenton is a mystery as the author was not there at the time. The only other real fault that can be found with the book is the lack of an index. When referencing various technical details and locations around the world that are mentioned in the book, the lack of an index can be considered a serious flaw and it does unfortunately lessen the appeal of the book.

Published by The Lyons Press with a list price of $22.95 the book is recommended for any student of World War II, Army Aviation, B-24s or of Jim Wright himself

5 Comments

  1. I was wondering how I can contact Jim Wright. I recently obatined a $1 bill that my father had sent to my uncle which had Gus’s Bus crew’s signatures as well as dates leaving the states for Austrailia. My father was the engineer of Gus Connery’s crew. Jim Wright might enjoy seeing this $1 bill as it is a momento of the crew’s from 1943. I would like to send him a picture that I had scanned so he could see it.

    • Marguerite,
      My father was Patrick Mullins the navigator on Gus’ Bus. I
      I would certainly love to see a copy of the bill!

      • I do have a copy of it. I would be happy to e-mail it to you.

      • Would love a copy. Much thanks. Maur Flynn

    • If it is not too much trouble, I’d love a copy of your scan. Thanks so much if you are able to send. I’m proud that Gus was a distant relative, regards, Mary

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