Bob Orleck, left, holds a microphone for Azel Hall while Hall recalls, often humorously, his days as a top gunner aboard a B-29 bomber. (Herald/Tim Calabro)

Randolph Resident Remembers WWII Crash


Submitted a year ago
Created by
Kate Soules

The B-29 never made it to Japan. Loaded with 40 500-lb. bombs and 6,000 gallons of gasoline, the plane developed engine trouble. Unable to complete the mission, the plane turned around. But when they reached the landing strip, they were only traveling at 85 mph—125-135 mph is typical landing speed. The landing failed, as the plane crashed at a 45-degree angle into the side of the island. Only five of the eleven on the crew survived. 

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Azel Hall of Randolph was one of them.

Azel Hall entered the service on December 29, 1942. After acing a test that he claimed tested knowledge “daylight from dark,” he became eligible to fly B-29s. Due to the scarcity of B-29s, Hall had to train to use and maintain the guns on a wooden mockup.

Fateful Mission

Later stationed on the Mariana Islands in the Pacific, Hall was instructed by his commanding officer to fly on a fateful mission. Taking off from the same place as the plane that dropped a bomb on Hiroshima, a crew unfamiliar with one another, in a brand new B-29 that had never flown a mission, piloted by a co-pilot who had never flown a mission, left for Japan.

The B-29 never made it to Japan. Loaded with 40 500-lb. bombs and 6000 gallons of gasoline, the plane developed engine trouble. Unable to complete the mission, the plane turned around. But when they reached the landing strip, they were only traveling at 85 mph—125-135 mph is typical landing speed. The landing failed, as the plane crashed at a 45-degree angle into the side of the island. Only five of the eleven on the crew survived.

Hall reflected on how this experience changed his outlook. As far as his business was concerned, he was determined to “always do something for someone for nothing.” The more he spoke, the more it became apparent that he believes something watches over us—his escape from the B-29 was nothing short of miraculous.

*****

This first appeared in the Herald of Randolph May 30, 2013 with the headline "Azel Hall Shares Memories of His Own WWII Crash."

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