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May 12, 2006
Oroville Mercury Register 1942

Jimmy Koch, pilot officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, had to make a crash landing on a bay off the east coast of Canada recently according to a letter received by his mother, Mrs. James H. Koch of Foothill Boulevard. Koch, captain of the plane’s crew, thus described his experience: “I really had a thrilling experience the other day. We had an air (exercise) out over the gulf the other day and were on our way back when an engine quit on me and we flew for about five miles losing height all the time so I sat her down in the gulf about twenty five miles from shore. We had time for the wireless operator to send a message back to base. We floated, around out there in the gulf for five hours before a crash boat found us. “It really got cold after awhile and I’m not kidding. That was one time our rubber dinghy and “Mae West’s” seemed really a Godsend. The other three fellows took it good naturedly and kept real cheerful which helped to beat the band. I have an Australian and a New Zealander and an Englishman in my crew. They are all pretty good Joes. The New Zealander comes from the north island in New Zealand. The Australian comes from Sydney and the Englishman comes from Surrey, England. Some conglomeration, aye?”

“It’s a lucky ship,” was the way Paul Wood Jr, put it in describing his exciting experiences aboard the United States heavy cruiser Boise which clashed with six Japanese ships off the Solomon Islands and came out the victor. The Boise was damaged in the 27-minute gun battle but it was able to reach the east coast of the United States a few days ago where it is being repaired. Soon it will go out to battle again. Wood came out of the battle without a scratch. Upon his arrival in Philadelphia he was given a 20-day leave and came home to visit his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Wood of Oroville. Young Wood spent a week here and left over the weekend for his post again. Because of censorship, he was unable to give any of the details of the battle but he said it was plenty hot. He was below decks and could hear Japanese shells hit the Boise and his own guns belching fire and steel at the Japanese ships which were attempting to land reinforcements and shell Guadalcanal. The Boise cut them off. There were three cruisers and three destroyers. All of the ships were sunk. The sea battle was at close range. Wood considers himself lucky to escape without some kind of injury because he was stationed on the starboard side of the ship which was closest to the enemy.

Panama City, Fla,—Charles D. Countryman today wears the silver wings of an aerial gunner and the chevrons of a sergeant in the Army Air Forces. He was promoted after successfully completing training at the Army Air Forces Flexible Gunnery School at Tyndall Field near here. His home is on D Street, Oroville, Calif. He is the son of Charles E. Countryman. Sergeant Countryman was thoroughly trained in operation of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, first on ground ranges and later in the air. He will leave shortly to join a combat unit where he will receive additional training.

Stu’s Notes: Plane Crashes, this week I was going to write about the Plane Crash information that we bought off the internet. It gives the details of our young men that crashed and died flying from our Oroville Airdrome. I truly think their stories need to be told but these old reports titled “War Department U. S. Army Air Forces, Report of Aircraft Accident. Army Airdrome, Oroville, Calif.” Say restricted at the bottom and dated 1943. I think this information has been declassified but I must find out. Most of the reports blame the Pilot. Well from what I read this might no be so. And in some cases I think what happened is known only to the pilot and God. The Jimmy Koch story doesn’t say if he is an American, but early in the war our young men flew for the British, Canadians, Chinese and maybe other countries. In WWI our Boys flew for the French and did very well. Paul Wood lived a long time in Oroville, he had an upholstery business here. He passed on, but left a lasting legacy as the Projection Room at the Butte County Historical Museum is named for him. You can view many historical films there. My Dam Club has a short film of building Oroville Dam. Paul’s Wife Ruth is a big supporter of the Society and is there quite often as a Docent and researcher. Howard Fairbanks, my long time friend and The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) are having an open house, May 20th and have invited me to come with my stories of the veterans of Oroville.. They will have Model A’s there, Food, fun and airplane stuff. All are invited out to their place by our Oroville, formally Airdrome, Airport. I will be in Lot A by the Eagles hall this Saturday, May 13 after the parade with all my Veterans and Dam stuff. Stop by and say hi.