The Last Bombing Run
They survived the mission; would they survive the landing?
- By Tom Murphy
- Air & Space magazine, March 2012
Tom Murphy of Las Vegas writes: As a pilot of Britain’s Independent Force 100 Squadron, my grandfather, Daryl E. White, flew a Handley-Page night bomber in World War I and kept a diary of his adventures.
April 1917: I was with the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company in their Seattle office, working as an electric engineer salesman covering railway, generating, and transmitting equipment in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Age 28, single, and healthy, I had decided that if the United States got into the world war, I would enlist in the Army’s Aviation Section. Nobody in the Pacific Northwest seems to know anything about such a section, though the Army enlistment office in the Pioneer Building in Seattle had heard something about flying: They said I should write to the Aviation Section, Signal Reserve Corps of the U.S. Army at North Island, San Diego. I did so immediately.
May 15: Received orders to appear at North Island for a physical examination—at my own expense.
June 13: Left Seattle on the steamship Admiral Dewey. Passed the physical and returned to Seattle to await further orders.
August 1: Enlisted as a cadet in the Aviation Section Signal Reserve Corps of the U.S. Army, starting at $33 per month, with clothing and food furnished. School was a three-story apartment house just outside the North Island campus, where we studied aerodynamics, engines, and navigation—everything except actual flying. Then we were off to new barracks at Mitchel Field, Mineola, New York, and thence to Liverpool on the S.S. Kroonland, arriving in mid-November along with nine other ships in convoy. Very little time to see the sights before we entrained for the rest camp at Southampton, England.
November 24: Left for Le Havre, France. On our way to fight “The War That Will End War,” we were God’s gift to humanity and the world, and we just ate it up. Nothing was too good for the flyboys. Little did we know that it would be late March 1918 before any of us would get into the air. Winter was coming on and the weather was too rough for the French instructors to fly.
We were quartered in immense French stone barracks, known as Quartier de Beaumont. The buildings were cold as hell, with big rooms, small stoves, canvas cots, little heat. The only running water was outside.
December: Snow on the ground. We were all broke, there were no pay prospects, and no flying. Nothing but guard, KP, and latrine duties. We didn’t exactly mutiny but we came close. As a pretty militant gang, we earned the name “Beaumont Bastards.”