:: Ivan I. Baldwin
Ivan I. Baldwin
Major, USAF (Ret.)
Interviewed on December 29, 2006
At the home of Mr. Baldwin, in Riverside, California
This is an interview with Ivan Baldwin, a Riverside Veterans History Project Interview #097. My name is Bob Fitch and today is December 29, 2006 and this interview is taking place at Mr. Baldwin's residence in Riverside, California, as part of the Riverside Veterans History Project, in partnership with the Library of Congress.
Fitch: Good morning Mr. Baldwin. What is your full name?
Baldwin: Ivan Ivison Baldwin.
Fitch: Good. And where were you born and raised?
Baldwin: I was born in Media, Pennsylvania and raised all over the United States. (Laughing)
Fitch: Where did you grow up?
Baldwin: Well, the first through the second grade I grew up in and around Bradford, Pennsylvania. Then the Depression came and from then on it was wherever Pops could get some work.
Fitch: What was his occupation?
Baldwin: At the time that the Depression hit he and his dad and his older brother had an oil drilling business. That was his occupation. During the Depression he worked as a hardrock miner, as a bridge builder, as a gardener, as a fruit picker, anything to get a few bucks together.
Fitch: So, since you were born in 1922 then that brought you into that 1930's Depression period.
Baldwin: That's correct. Yes.
Fitch: Okay. Where did you go to high school?
Baldwin: In Elsinore, California.
Fitch: Okay. What happened after graduation?
Baldwin: Well, prior to graduating, when I was in my junior year, I got a part-time job as a service station attendant with Union Oil Company and during the summer I worked full-time. During the school year I worked only on weekends and holidays. Upon graduation I went full-time with Union Oil Company and was sent to Compton, California to open up a new service station. Then I transferred to different service stations throughout southern California. Riverside, San Bernardino, then back to Elsinore. Then I terminated employment with them and went to work at Consolidated Air Craft as a machinist.
Fitch: That was in the Los Angeles area?
Baldwin: No, San Diego.
Fitch: And you went into the military service after you were employed by Consolidated?
Baldwin: Yes. I was working at Consolidated when Pearl Harbor happened on December the 7th and in February of '42 I tried to enlist in the Army. I passed all my requirements except I couldn't get a release from the Draft Board because of my employment. They determined that my employment was critical to the war effort and I continued working at Consolidated and harassing my Draft Board. Then I finally decided, "Well, I'll quit," so I quit working at Consolidated and did odd jobs and finally got a release from the Draft Board and then I got into the Cadet Program.
Fitch: That's the Aviation Cadet Program?
Fitch: Where were you first stationed?
Baldwin: Well, my first station was Buckleyfield in Denver, Colorado. That was just where you got all your shots, uniforms and all that stuff. Then from there we went to Moorhead, Minnesota for college training detachment. Then from there to Santa Ana for pre-flight instructions.
Fitch: And the next step was primary training?
Fitch: Flight training.
Fitch: Where was that?
Baldwin: That was at Cal Aero.
Fitch: Oh, yes.
Baldwin: Which is over in Ontario, California.
Fitch: Right. I'm familiar with it. I was at Cal Aero up in Oxnard.
Baldwin: Oh, yeah. Yeah, that was second choice.
Baldwin: As I understand it, I don't know this to be a fact, but whoever won the march-off, the parades down in Santa Ana, that particular flight got first choice, which was Ontario. The ones that came in second got Oxnard. That was my understanding anyway.
Fitch: What aircraft did you fly at Ontario?
Baldwin: I started out in the old Stearman and after a few hours and soloing in the Stearman. A small experimental group was transferred into the BT-13, the Voltee Vibrator.
Fitch: From there you went to the basic training level?
Baldwin: Yes. At Lemoore. We went to Lemoore. We had B-13s up there. And, my name, starting with a "B", I always had the head of the instructors or one of the flight commanders as my instructor. This particular flight commander I had was kind of a, well, he wasn't the most stable guy in the world (laughing) so we went out, he was gonna take me for my first ride, and so we're riding around in a BT-13 and finally he says, "Okay. You take it and do whatever you want with it."
So I did a few maneuvers and, oh, he got upset! (Laughing) And he says, "Take me back!" And he says, you know, over the interphone, he says, "You know so damn much, you land this airplane."
Fitch: He said "Take me back."
Baldwin: Yeah, to the field. So I landed the airplane and we taxied in and I got out of the airplane and he said, "Hit a brace" so I did, you know, and he chewed for about ... oh, it must have been ten minutes anyway.
Fitch: I'm sorry, what did he say?
Baldwin: He said, "Come to attention. Hit a brace." And so I'm standing there in the brace and he's chewing on me and every once in a while when he takes a deep breath, I say, "But ...." and he says, "Don't but me!" (laughing) And finally he gets all ... he says, "Now, what have you got to say for yourself?"
I said, "Sir, I've got, I think it was 70 hours in this aircraft. I flew it in primary."
He says, "Why in the heck didn't somebody tell me? Get in that airplane! (Laughing) Go fly!" (Laughing) And then shortly thereafter they flew in a bunch of AT-17s, the old bamboo bombers.
Fitch: Yes. Beechcraft, as I recall.
Baldwin: I don't remember but the first flight instructor I had in that airplane was with a little short, stubby Texan. (Laughing) I remember him. We're tooling around and we're going in and he says, "Okay, let's go back and land," so I get in the pattern and I'm tooling down there thinking this guy's gonna take over pretty quick. And he didn't. And I stalled that thing out, you know. (Laughing)
Fitch: Oh, yeah.
Baldwin: They shake like a ... you wouldn't believe. So I said, "Boy, that wasn't very good!" He says, "Well, that was better than my first landing." He says, "My first landing was when I flew this airplane in here." (Laughing) So then I flew the AT-17s through Basic and then went to Douglas, Arizona and flew the AT-9 in Advance.
Fitch: That's the Curtis twin-engine.
Baldwin: Yeah. Yeah. Supposedly they were grooming us to fly P-38s but (laughing) I'd rather fly the B-24s.
Fitch: All right. Where did you take your Transition training in B-24s?
Baldwin: At Kirtland Field, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Fitch: That's a big four-engine bomber.
Fitch: I've been told it was a little difficult to handle from time to time.
Baldwin: Ahhh, I didn't have much problem with it. It was a good airplane. I guess I related to it because I worked down at Consolidated and watched them go through the assembly line and everything. So I must have related to it but I enjoyed flying the airplane.
Fitch: Fine. Then where was your first overseas assignment?
Baldwin: I went to Anguar Island.
Fitch: Which island?
Baldwin: In the Palau Islands. A-n-g-u-a-r, I think.
Fitch: Okay. And you flew missions from that base?
Baldwin: We flew missions from Anguar against the Philippines and Yap and Palilu.
Fitch: Did you encounter Japanese enemy aircraft on those missions?
Baldwin: Every mission. They weren't very good. (Laughing) Really, I've got an interesting story about it. We used to fly practice missions against ... I can't think of the name of the island, but it was in the Apalau Island and they had a particular house that people had noticed that there was a lot of activity there by the Japanese military. So somebody decided it would be a good idea to bomb that thing, so on one of our practice missions we bombed it, thinking, you know, it might have been a high-ranking military outpost. It turned out it was a whore house. (Laughing)
Fitch: Okay. (Laughing) So there went some of the entertainment for the Japanese troops.
Baldwin: Right. A morale buster, if you will. (Laughing)
Fitch: How many missions did you fly out of Anguar?
Baldwin: I don't really remember. Somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty, I guess.
Fitch: And what year was that?
Baldwin: That was in '45. Then we went from Anguar up to Okinawa. We flew out of Okinawa. As a matter of fact, our first mission out of Okinawa was on July the 4th, 1945. We were the first B-24 outfit to hit the Japanese mainland. I flew several missions against Japan and against China from there. As a matter of fact, we lost several airplanes over China.
Fitch: Were you often hit by flak from anti-aircraft guns?
Baldwin: I never incurred any damage at all but airplanes in my formation did. As a matter of fact, some of them got shot down. But I never incurred any damage whatsoever. None.
Fitch: And you were first pilot on these missions?
Fitch: What was your rank at that time?
Baldwin: At first it was Second Lieutenant and then on Okinawa I was promoted to First Lieutenant.
Fitch: All right. And when the war ended you obviously came home.
Baldwin: Well, after the war ended ... after Japan capitulated ... we put plywood seats in the bomb bays in our B-24s ... I had one on the bomb shackles and flew liberated prisoners of war out of Japan down to Okinawa where they were processed. Then from Okinawa down to the Philippines, where again they were processed for return home. We flew not only Americans ... I had British. I had Dutch. And I don't know what-all denominations, but ...
Fitch: Do you recall the total number of missions you flew in the B-24?
Baldwin: Combat missions?
Baldwin: I know I didn't reach the magic number of 40 to come home, so it was less than that. I don't remember.
Fitch: What kind of medals were you awarded as a result of your combat experience?
Baldwin: The only medal was the Air Medal. Of course I had all those Theater Medals, you know and Good Conduct. I got the Good Conduct too. (Laughing)
Fitch: Oh, good. And the Air Medals ... sometimes you get some Oak Leaf Clusters?
Baldwin: Yes. I had four Oak Leaf Clusters.
Fitch: Well, that's tremendous.
Baldwin: We were kind of a strange outfit, our outfit was. We were the last B-24 group that went through training. Of course I was a replacement crew, and they didn't know what to do with the group so they sent them down to the Pacific. I never flew a mission over 10,000 feet. Most of the stuff was low level and we were in the 7th Air Force, but we flew most of our missions with the 5th and the 13th and many of our missions were as a result of supporting the Marines rather than the Army. So we were kind of a jolly-come-lately outfit, you know.
We left the 7th just before the end of the war ... we became a part of FEAF, the Far Eastern Air Force, rather than the 7th.
Fitch: Did any of your gunners shoot down any Japanese aircraft attacking you?
Baldwin: No. No. But one of my gunners up over the Inland Sea, he started one hellacious fire and I don't know how he did it (laughing) but on shore, you know. Once we left the target, like I say, we were a different outfit. We didn't take off in form formation and fly to the target. We flew individually out to a point and then formed up and went into the target because of the long distances we were flying. Then once we left the target we didn't come home in formation. We just broke off and came home by ourself. So, on the way home one time, my tail-gunner, he says, "I don't know what it is, but I started a fire down there," and we took a look and (laughing) he had a fire going all right. But our airplanes were modified. We took the ball turrets out because we didn't fly at high altitude. We took the tail turret out to get rid of it and just put a twin 50s back there ... stinger ... and so those were the modifications. And we always carried two bomb bay tanks because of the distance that we flew.
Fitch: What would be the average length of your mission?
Baldwin: Thirteen hours.
Fitch: That's a lot of time in the air.
Baldwin: (Laughing) It is.
Fitch: Good. Well, ...
Baldwin: Until we got up to Okinawa and then when we were flying against Japan it was very short, you know, but out of Anguar ... and then when we flew against China, so I would say the average was a thirteen hours.
Fitch: What was the date of your last flight? Approximately.
Baldwin: Well, I flew an airplane home and it was the first part of October of '45.
Fitch: And you were released from active duty shortly after you returned?
Baldwin: Yes. Just before Christmas of '45 I was relieved from active duty.
Fitch: Great. And did you stay in the Reserve?
Fitch: Where did you do your Reserve duty?
Baldwin: Most of it was at March but some over at Norton. Then I was recalled for the Korean War and flew B-29s ... the KB-29P which was the first boom tanker.
Fitch: Yes. That would have been around 1950?
Baldwin: Yeah. I stayed in for three years flying those and then I was relieved from active duty and went back to the Highway Patrol.
Fitch: Did you fly those KB-29s out of Japan?
Baldwin: No, no. I was in the 2nd Bomb Wing and we deployed to England. We had a six month deployment over there and we were the first bomb group ... or bomb wing ... I think it was a wing then. It was composed of B-50s. We brought our entire bomb wing home and that was the first time without stopping to refuel. That's the first time that happened. We flew our tankers home first and then two days later we loaded up and went out and met the bomb group coming home and refueled them in mid-air, so we got them all home.
Fitch: Good. Then what year were you again released from active duty?
Baldwin: '53. October of '53, I believe.
Fitch: Would you consider your military experience a favorable lifetime experience?
Baldwin: Oh, yeah. I had two brothers in the service. They were both drafted (laughing) and my younger brother ... he retired from the Air Force ... active ... he was active up until he retired. He retired as a Chief Master Sergeant and my older brother, who also was employed at Consolidated, was drafted and he went in, I think, the 101st Airborne and he got out as quick as he could and went back to the aircraft industry.
Fitch: I have your service record before me here and I note that it says you flew 30 combat missions with the 494th Bomb Group.
Fitch: Anything else you want to say about your military experience?
Baldwin: I can't think of anything. I'm still pretty closely associated with the military in that I volunteer at the Retired Activity Office out at March.
Fitch: Very good.
Baldwin: And have for 25 years.
Fitch: All right. With Col. Eperson?
Baldwin: Yes. He's senior in service to me by about two months, I think. (Laughing)
Fitch: That's a very worthwhile duty indeed. Well, what kind of civilian occupation were you involved in upon your release the last time?
Baldwin: I was with the California Highway Patrol when I was recalled for the Korean thing. I had already been employed by the Highway Patrol. I just went back to my job and eventually promoted to the rank of Captain and retired as a Captain out of Banning.
Fitch: What year was that?
Baldwin: (Laughing) I don't remember. It was in the late '70s.
Fitch: That's close enough. Do you ever get together with some of your buddies in the Air Force?
Baldwin: No. Occasionally one of them will come through the office out here that I know but my crew that I flew with ... several of them are now dead, gone, and I've lost track of the rest of them.
Fitch: When were you married?
Fitch: And you have children from that marriage?
Baldwin: Yes. I have a son and a daughter.
Fitch: They're locally ...
Baldwin: They're both local here in Riverside.
Fitch: I don't think I have any more questions but I do want to give you an opportunity to add to this interview anything that you would like to.
Baldwin: During the TET offensive of 1945 several crews were deployed TDY (Temporary Duty) to Guam to fly missions against Truk and Marcus Island, a Japanese supply outpost, my crew was one of those crews. During this deployment we flew out of Harmon Field an AAF Base. We were housed and messed with the Navy at the Navy Base on Guam. What an unexpected pleasant experience that was, good chow and excellent quarters, not tents.
Fitch: Well, thank you very much for participating in this important project and sharing your military experiences. Your interview will be reviewed and you will receive your own personal copy after it's edited, and copies of today's interview will be placed in the Riverside Central Library as well as perhaps the Library of Congress in the Archives of the National Veterans History Project. This concludes the interview. Thank you very much.
Baldwin: You're welcome.