Samuel H. Rainey
Branch: AIR FORCE
|5318 Malcolm St.|
The family moved to 519 Black Horse Pike in Mount Ephraim, New Jersey some time between 1940-1945 where they operated a small grocery store, known as the Quaker Store. This location was on the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and North Black Horse Pike, presently where the Mr. Tire business is. The adolescent Rainey boys attended Audubon High School, but for Sam this wouldn’t last. He transferred to the Camden County Vocational School in Pennsauken where Sam took classes specializing in automotive repair. On Sundays, the family regularly attended services at the Mount Ephraim Methodist Church.
Childhood friend, James “Bernie” Lorenz later described his buddy, "Sam was an ordinary teenager. Growing up in Mount Ephraim, Sam did the things all young men did in small town America 1950; go to school, tinker with cars, summer days at the pool, hang out at Dick’s soda shop and wonder about the future.” Bernie and Sam would attend dances held at the United Fire Company at the corner of Kings Highway and Center Avenue. Sam was a handsome young guy and always had a girl to dance with. His life was about to take a more serious path.
War broke out on June 25, 1950 in the Korean Peninsula as North Korea invaded the South. The United States was now involved in a new conflict. World War II had ended barely five years prior and was still fresh in everyone’s mind. Sam and Bernie talked about joining fight. Bernie had already been involved in the Naval Reserves as a airplane mechanic at Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. He had attended vocational school in Pennsauken with Sam, but instead took courses in aircraft mechanics. After asking the recruiter about going into active duty with the Navy, he was told that there was a 6-month waiting list. Sam wanted to enlist too, but there was a catch; he was only seventeen and needed parental permission. Not to be left behind, Sam pressured his parents until his mother grudgingly agreed to sign his enlistment release.
Sam and Bernie went to the post office in Camden, New Jersey on July 6, 1950 to take the enlistment test and were persuaded to join the Air Force by a recruiter. That weekend, the two met with their recruiter. He gave them all of their necessary paperwork and transported them to Penn Station in Philadelphia, where they boarded a train and headed west. Bernie said the ride was "first class.” Once the train arrived at St. Louis, the pair had to switch trains. While waiting for the next leg of their journey, they met a few airmen from Denmark and struck up a conversation with them. After sharing some stories and taking a few pictures, Sam and Bernie boarded a train and headed to Texas.
|Recruits arrive at Lackland AFB|
Bernie described his experience: "Basic Training was a blur: Up at 4:30am, train all day, write a letter home, lights out at 10:00pm.” The recruits marched and marched some more, cleaned the barracks, learned military courtesy, trained in the use of gas masks, were read the Articles of War, and trained at the firing range where the men qualified on M-1 carbine rifle.
The many weeks of training would pass quickly for the men and the completion of classes would come in late August. At graduation, Sam and Bernie received their promotion to Private First Class. The list of the airmen’s next assignment was posted on the board. Sam and Bernie’s paths would now separate. Bernie would go on to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi for Radar Operator training. Sam would leave a week prior to Bernie and head to Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado for aerial gunnery schooling.
|Sam at Lowry AFB|
The next phase of training involved firing live ammunition at drone aircraft from the ground. The gunner would be responsible for pre-flight inspection of the turrets, target tracking practice and firing the guns. Once this was over, the gunner cleared the gun and made it safe to handle. Up next was the flying phase.
Sam would install the machine guns into the turret, load the ammunition, receive a briefing of the “mission” and having a pre-flight crew and parachute inspection. He and the other gunners would board their positions on the aircraft and took to the skies to rehearse everything they learned from the past several weeks on the ground. Upon completion of training here, Sam received his silver wings (aerial gunner badge).
|Sam and Gunners|
Sam would join a combat crew with fellow gunners Bob Knott, Rudy McIntosh, and Elliot “Pappy” Zellars. They called him Pappy because he was the elder statesman of the gunners at the ripe old age of 26; the other 3 ranged in age from 20-21. The rest of the enlisted men in this crew included Phillip “Shaky” McManus (radio operator) and Phillip Miner (flight engineer). The man in charge of this group was veteran aircraft commander, First Lieutenant Grant Jensen. Jensen flew bombing missions in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Their co-pilot was Lt. John Bradford. The other officers were Lt. William Colvin (bombardier), Lt. Howard "Silent" Smith (navigator), and Capt. Fred Jenkins (radar operator).
The crew was soon transferred to the 15th Air Force, 98th Bombardment Wing (Medium), who were stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington. By October 25, 1951, they had orders to join the 345th Bombardment Squadron, still attached to the 98th Wing. This group was being readied to be sent over to the Japan for deployment. Along the way, the crew stopped in Hawaii for a few hours and then continued on their way to Yokota Air Force Base located just outside of Tokyo, Japan. Sam and the crew were assigned to a B-29A, serial number 44-62042. The crew nicknamed the ship “Vicious Roomer.” An artist painted a scantily-clad woman on the nose of the aircraft. The woman was said to be the wife of co-pilot John Bradford.
Being in close quarters with one another also didn’t help the situation. One night after a mission, the crew returned to Yokota and stowed their equipment. They went to the chow hall to have breakfast and then off to get washed up. Sam had been mischievous and started throwing water around on some of his crew mates in the showers. Rudy was most likely tired and not in the mood for this action. He warned Sam not to throw water on him. Sam did it anyway and Rudy lost his temper. He punched Sam in the mouth, knocking in his two front teeth. Needless to say, Sam never threw water on Rudy again. The two would become more friendly after this incident.
As China and Russia started supplying more sophisticated weaponry and MiG aircraft, things started becoming tougher for the bombers of the 345th. During one of the missions, flak struck the “Roomer” and knocked out one of the engines. The radio operator, Captain Jenkins was also hit by a piece of this shrapnel. Thankfully, he was wearing a flak suit and did not injure him severely. Sam and the crew were becoming combat veterans. He would get promoted to the rank of Corporal.
|Rainey and McManus @ Yokota|
Mission 33 was set for March 28, 1952. Lieutenant Jensen and crew reported to the aircraft and completed pre-flight inspections at 7:45pm. This included checking all personal equipment, and safety devices. Added to the crew was electronic countermeasures (ECM) operator, Staff Sergeant Mort Jensen.
At 9:43pm, the aircraft departed from Yokota Air Force Base with no troubles noticed. The “Roomer” was coasting out of Japan with twenty-one other B-29s from the squadron, bound for North Korea for a tactical bombing mission. Their target was a railroad bridge in Sinanju. The temperature was 38 degrees Fahrenheit, winds were 2 knots from the southeast, and visibility was 15 miles with partly cloudy skies.
|B-29s from 98th Bomb Wing|
At 11:27pm, while over the Sea of Japan, a vibration was felt in the nose section and Lt. Jensen had bombardier Colvin, left scanner (gunner) Rainey and right scanner Knott check to determine the cause. The instruments and propellers were checked in an effort to ascertain the cause of the vibration. Bob Knott then called saying “smoke and sparks are coming from the outboard side of number 3 engine.”
Lt. Jensen asked Knott to check for a possible "torching turbo" on that engine. Knott reported that it didn’t appear to be torching but sparks were coming out. Seconds later, fire was reported in the engine and was reaching back of the trailing edge of the wing. The crew stated that the glow from the fire lit up the cockpit. Lt. Bradford could see the flames and sparks coming from the number 3 engine.
Commander Jensen feathered the props on the affected engine and ordered the fire extinguishing procedure to be accomplished. He then ordered an “S.O.S.” be sent by radio operator McManus at 11:28pm. Jensen also ordered Lt. Bradford to send out “Mayday” calls and for the bombardier to salvo the bombs and leave the bomb bay doors open. The prepare to bail out order was given over inter-phone. All members acknowledged the order.
Jensen began turning left, back towards shore, and asked for a heading and distance to nearest land. Lt. Smith gave Jensen a heading of 180 degrees and an estimated shore was about 5 miles. Lt. Jensen took up this heading, lowered the landing gear and went into a dive in an attempt to put out the fire. The air speed was indicated to be 260-280 MPH.
As the plane started to roll out, an explosion occurred on the outboard side of the burning engine. This explosion could be seen in the cockpit and caused a bright glow around the aircraft. Lt. Bradford said that #3 had exploded and exclaimed, “Let’s get out of here.” Just before the explosion, Jensen asked the navigator for an updated distance to landfall. Lt. Smith estimated this to be “about two miles.” Jensen could see lights onshore ahead that he estimated to be 2 to 3 miles distant. Also just prior to explosion, Lt. Bradford called “Mayday” on the radio. He gave the position of the plane and stated that the crew “was bailing out” on a heading of 180 degrees.
Lt. Childs, whose aircraft was 2 minutes ahead of Lt. Jensen, revealed that both scanners on Lt. Child’s aircraft saw the fire in Lt. Jensen’s aircraft. The scanners stated that the fire caused a large glow in the sky, and that they saw Lt. Jensen’s aircraft turn back toward shore.
After the explosion, Lt. Jensen turned on the alarm bell and gave the order for bail out over the inter-phone; only two men acknowledging the call. The radar operator, Fred Jenkins did not hear the bail-out order or confirmation of the same because he was en route from his radar station to his bail out position at the rear hatch. Once he reached his station, he was so nervous that he could not keep from shaking long enough to plug into the inter-phone.
Upon hearing the bell, radio operator McManus strapped on his parachute, went to the forward bomb bay and jumped from the plane. The time was about 11:32pm. In the rear compartment, the gunners heard the bail-out call. Sam, Pappy, and Bob grabbed their parachutes and bailed out of the plane one by one from the rear bomb bay.
Rudy was in the radar operator compartment. He typically did not go to his position at the tail gun until the aircraft was at cruising altitude. Rudy walked forward into the compartment where the other gunners were and noticed it was empty. He donned his parachute and continued to the rear bomb bay. As he looked down through the open doors, he said to himself, “Help me, Jesus” and jumped head first out of the bomber.
At about the time that Lt. Jensen started to turn on the alarm bell, the engineer called and said that the fire in number 3 engine appeared to be going out. Lt. Bradford confirmed the same. Jensen then used the call position on the inter-phone and told the crew to “hold it.” He then talked to the radar operator (Jenkins) and again told him to “hold it” as the fire appeared to be gong out. Jensen asked Jenkins if anyone had bailed. He replied “No.” Lt. Smith called and said that McManus had bailed out the front bomb bay. Captain Jenkins heard this and checked with the ECM operator, Mort Jensen to ascertain if anyone in the rear had bailed out.
Mort said that all four gunners had bailed out. He was actually first in the bail-out order, but something told him not to jump. He stepped back and said “I can’t.” Mort was all alone in the rear of the Roomer. He began having second thoughts about what he doing. He went to the rear door to jump and noticed he still had his earphones on. Mort plugged into the inter-phone box and called to Lt. Jensen who told him not to jump. He instructed Mort to watch the engines and report any problems. Mort was said to be hungry and started eating his in-flight lunch. Apparently this did not sate his hunger, so he ate two more lunches (most likely food that the gunners had stowed away).
Captain Jenkins informed Lt. Jensen that the four gunners had bailed-out. Their position at the time of bail out was approximately 2 to 3 miles offshore at 5000 feet altitude. Jensen kept the remaining crew at their bailout positions for another 15 to 20 minutes after the fire appeared to be extinguished just to be certain. Lt. Bradford called “Hopscotch #54” and told them that 4 men had bailed out (he forgot to include McManus). He gave all the details to Hopscotch #54 and asked them to relay the information to Hopscotch Leader and to Yokota Base as he no longer had a radio operator.
Lt. Bradford also told Hopscotch #54 that he would proceed to Nagoya Air Base and land in order to aid the search for the crew members who had bailed out. Bradford then called Miho Tower to report his position and situation. Miho confirmed the message and said that they would notify Air Rescue Service. After talking to Miho, the Jensen decided to return to Yokota instead of landing at Nagoya. Sixty miles from Nagoya, clearance was received from Tokyo Control to return to Yokota. In the mean time, it had been discovered that five instead of four had bailed out and received confirmation of this message. This was at approximately 12:46am on March 29, 1952. The fire ceased and the aircraft returned to Yokota Air Base with no damage to the aircraft.
As the Vicious Roomer flew off into the distance, Rudy McIntosh could see that the fire appeared to be going out. He had just exited the aircraft, and was descending into darkness. Rudy pulled his ripcord and looked up to see if his parachute had opened. It was so dark, he couldn’t determine if it had. He then looked down and saw land. “it was like sitting back in an easy chair.”
Rudy softly landed on a hillside and started yelling out to find the other men. He quickly realized that they had bailed before he did and that they were probably miles away and possibly in the water. He hiked down to a Japanese village near Maizuru. Rudy wasn’t sure how the locals would take to an American airman being among them so soon after WWII.
None of the villagers could speak English but they were all friendly. He was taken to a building where he rested before a policeman who spoke a little english came in and asked Rudy "where do you want to go?” Rudy explained that he wanted to go back to Yokota AFB. The police officer took Rudy to a telephone booth at a rail station and he contacted the commander. The commander arranged for him to take a train to a local airbase and then had to take a plane back to Yokota. When he returned to Yokota, he discovered that the other men who exited the bomber had been lost.
Air Rescue Service was dispatched to the area where the flyers jumped from the aircraft. Pappy Zeller's body was found and recovered on the 29th, approximately one mile offshore. There was no parachute in sight, but his "Mae West” life vest was inflated. Bob Knott was also found on the 29th, floating on top of water near the shore line. Both men had died of exposure and drowning.
Rescue crews continued the search for Phillip McManus and Sam Rainey for a few days, but were called off due to foul weather and rough seas. The waters of Maizuru Bay were a frigid 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Without wearing an immersion suit or having an inflatable dinghy, it was determined that the chances of survival were not likely. The two airmen were never found.
Sam was survived by his parents and brother, Jack. He would be awarded the Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, U.N. Korean Service Medal, and the Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal posthumously.
After an inspection of life safety devices, six of the seven dinghies in the rear of the aircraft were still in place. Sam had been the only man who had bailed-out with one. It is unknown why it was never deployed.
Bernie Lorenz was sent to Korea as well. He was assigned to the 608th Air Control and Warning Squadron, serving as a radar operator on the small island of Baengnyeongdo, South Korea. He would not learn of the loss of his friend until after he returned home on leave after returning to the United States from the war.
No one knew the details of Sam's incident at the time. It was’t until March 2000 that Bernie set out to research what happened to his friend. He reached out to some 28 Senators, Congressmen, newspapers, veterans magazines, and the Air Force. His tireless efforts led to getting Sam’s name etched onto the Korean War Memorial in Atlantic City. This monument is dedicated to the servicemen from New Jersey who were Killed In Action during the Korean War.
|Bernie pointing to Sam's name on the Korean War Memorial, A.C.|
Bernie was also instrumental in getting the local posts of the VFW #6262 and American Legion #150 together to purchase a small stone to be placed in front of the WWII monument at Veterans Triangle on Davis and Garfield Avenues to represent his sacrifice. It was dedicated on July 27, 2003. Inscribed on this stone is the following: