Former Oklahoma Soldier Remembers Pearl Harbor Attack

Wednesday, December 7th 2011, 7:14 pm
By: News 9

Seventy years should be plenty of time to forget painful memories, but for those who lived through the vicious attack on Pearl Harbor, the days and weeks that followed are still quite vivid.

Colonel John Wallach remembers those days.  He finished out his long military career at Tinker Air Force Base over thirty years ago.

Wallach had been stationed at Pearl Harbor for some time, but had been moved to the Philippines shortly before the attack.  The troops there were attacked the next day.  Wallach and others regrouped on the island of Mindanao, where they flew bombing missions against Japanese supply ships coming from the south. 

Wallach was a bombardier who helped crew a B-17D bomber nicknamed the "Swoose."  The bomber was originally called "Ole Betsy" and flew the first US combat mission in the Philippines within hours of the Pearl Harbor attack.  It sustained major damage in January 1942, and was fitted with the tail from another bomber.  The pilot renamed it after a then-popular song about a half-swan, half-goose called the "Swoose."

"We weren't afraid of goin' anywhere," said Wallach.  "And the Swoose protected us." 

The troops stayed on Mindanao until they were forced out.

"We stayed there so long until they chased us away," Wallach said.  "Then we started bombing out of Australia." 

Wallach retired in 1972 after 33 years in the armed services.  He has an extensive collection of military medals and ribbons including two Silver Stars and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.  However, he doesn't think about those medals nearly as much as he does his long-lost military buddies.

"We were brave but, when we thought of our friends bein' killed we weren't very brave," said Wallach.  "We cried, and I cried many times."