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July 15, 2005

Oroville Mercury February 10, 1944

8530 Pounds Of Tin Gathered By Elementary School Pupils
Oroville Mercury September 22, 1945

Wounded Flier Escapes Death
Out of a long dark night filled with luminous forms of sharks in the water around him. Lt. Walter Bean of Clipper Mills, saw the sun rise over the Philippines. He had never expected to see the sun again. But he came back to relate another of those spine-chilling experiences of men shot down into the sea. Son of Mr. an Mrs. Walter P. Bean Sr. of Clipper Mills, the 22 year old Marine Corps pilot was wounded and shot down over Visayan Sea. He later was reported missing in action. His Corsair was one of a formation sent to strike a Japanese convoy bringing reinforcements to Ormoc Bay, Bean had taken off from Tacloban airstrip on Leyte.

Awarded the Purple Heart at a public ceremony, Bean was written up in the Leatherneck, marine magazine. The story in part follows: “The flight to the target area was uneventful. Then Bean saw the enemy looking like chips on the slate-grey waters. Then it happened. A sharp stab of pain hit his right leg and he felt the sticky ooze of blood inside his flying suit. A 40mm from the Japanese destroyer had got him. His fuel pump had been hit and his plane was losing speed. Easing back on the stick he made a no-flap landing. The ship stayed afloat at least 50 seconds. He had time to get out of the cockpit before she went under. The fight with the water was worse than anything else. He swallowed a lot of salt water before getting his life raft out. But when he pulled the rip-cord to inflate it, the air bubbled up through the water and left the raft limp. It had been pierced by shrapnel. Floundering around Bean got rid of his chute, his raft and his shoes and blew into the hose of his ‘Mae West’ until it inflated a little. Then he rested. He was exhausted. After nearly an hour he got rid of his belt and gun, his first aid packet, his jungle kit and knife. He hung there for a long time, “completely miserable.”

While Bean clung to his log he had to repeatedly thrash his legs to keep the sharks away. Small fish darted near him and nibbled at his wounded leg. Finally the sun rose. Bean had never really felt he would make it through the night. Later Bean saw a small fleet of fishing boats nearing him. He knew they had spotted him. Finally after the outrigger had circled him several times, one of its occupants called out and asked Bean if he were an American or a German. That was almost the last Bean remembered before they recognized him as an American and pulled him into the boat. When he came to he found that artificial respiration had been given him and he was vomiting salt water.

His rescuers were Filipinos. They carried him from the boat to a fisherman’s shack on the seashore. They sent for a doctor who gave Bean several shots of adrenalin and the pilot slept through the night. The Japanese still held the island and the Filipinos were eager to know when the Americans were going to liberate it. Four days passed before Bean heard that the crew of an army Liberator was being cared for in a nearby town and asked to be taken there. His wound was healing rapidly. Failing in efforts to contact a motor torpedo boat by means of a guerilla radio, Bean decided to chance it in a small sailboat and he set off with a Filipino guide. He landed at Leyte and was taken by an army colonel back to Tacloban airfield in the colonel’s launch. He had been gone nine days.”
Bean was in Oroville recently on a delay en-route stopover. He is expected to return soon for an extended leave. He has been in the service for three years.

Stu’ Notes; What a story, that of Lt. Walter Bean’s escape from water, sharks and the Japanese. During WWII so many Filipinos risked their lives to help Americans. If they were caught they and their families were tortured and shot, as 10’s of thousand were. But this did not deter them. I had to look on a map to find Clipper Mills, which is on the other side of Forbestown. Hope someone know more of this young WWII Hero. Oroville Veterans Memorial Park Committee members Ron Sharbor and Skip Robertson, Navy men, have both married Filipino women, Carol and Tessie. Skip and Tessie will soon move there. Hopefully they will meet some of these Filipino Heroes.