WWII B-29 bomber pilot Stanley Black earned Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal

By CURT SYNNESS | Independent Record, Helena, Mont. | Published: June 15, 2020

HELENA, Mont. (Tribune News Service) -- On May 27, 1945, Helena Air Corps pilot 1st Lt. Stanley Black's B-29 bomber "Tinny Anne" was shot down over the mountains of Japan during a combat mission in the final months of World War II. All 10 crewmembers perished in the crash.

Seventy-five years later last month, those airmen/soldiers were honored in a ceremony at a Buddhist temple in Moji, Japan. Black, who was 24 when he died, left behind his widow, Aileen, and their young daughter Laurie at home in Helena.

"I was 3 when my father was listed as missing in action," Laurie (Black) Bride wrote in an email from her home in Renton, Washington. "My mother never talked about him. After she died in 1987 I received a box of photos, letters and war notices, and it's only now that I have gone through the stuff more thoroughly."

Stanley Black was born in 1921 and graduated from Helena High in 1939, where he was a two-year letterman on the Bengal football team. As a senior, the Vigilante yearbook stated "'Pinky' proved himself one of the outstanding guards in the state," and he was selected honorable mention all-state. At the year-end banquet he was chosen honorary team captain.

Black enrolled at Carroll College in the fall of 1939, and married Aileen Moody in March 1941. Three months later, he was accepted for primary training classes under the Civil Aeronautics Authority program.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Black enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in April 1942.

He received his commission and wings at Luke Field Air Base near Phoenix in February 1943, and was appointed an advanced flying instructor. He shipped out overseas in January 1945. He was assigned to 1st Bomb Squad, 9th Bomb Group on Tinian.

As commander of a Superfortress B-29, he flew 18 successful missions, highlighted by an incident that gained him national recognition.

"Lieutenant Stanley C. Black of 61 S. Benton proved his skill as a pilot during a recent raid over Japan when he righted his ship after it was tossed around by explosions from devastated Osaka," a March 15, 1945, Independent Record article recounted. "Lt. Black, commander of a Tinian-based B-29, said that 'large explosions shot my plane upward 2,000 feet and turned it on its side. I righted the ship, then another explosion shot it upward again and turned it on its back.'"

His copilot related that Black was "cool as a cucumber" through it all. "He just went ahead, rolled it over and started his dive."

Black was also interviewed by CBS' "Report to the Nation" regarding his actions during the mission.

"The lord and a good B-29 brought us home," he told reporter Chet Huntley. "The second blast knocked the flight instruments out of commission, (we were) flying 500 miles per hour when (the pilots) finally leveled it off at 4,000 feet."

Black described another experience in a letter to his folks, when the bombs wouldn't drop because the racks had frozen up. He then "pulled the emergency salvo to salvo them," but the bomb tank stuck part way out, and it took another crewmember with an ax to cut the doors loose.

By the time Black headed out on his 19th combat mission on May 27, he had already been awarded one Air Medal, for "meritorious incendiary raids" over Japan.

A month later, the Independent Record headlines of June 25, 1945, read: "Lt. Stanley Black, Superfortress Pilot, Is Missing."

The article reported that Aileen Black had received a telegram saying her husband had been missing in action since May 28.

It took almost a year before the family learned of Black's fate. On March 1, 1946, the paper's headline read, "Capt. Stanley Black Died In Action, Wife Here Informed."

"The war department informed Mrs. Black that her husband went missing when on a dangerous mine-laying mission over Honshu when his B-29 bomber was attacked," the article stated.

Black was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with an oak leaf cluster representing a second award of the Air Medal, and the Purple Heart.

His Flying Cross for the ship-righting barrel rolls read "Through superior airmanship, resourcefulness and extraordinary professional ability, Lt. Black saved his crew and aircraft from certain destruction, thereby reflecting great credit on himself and the Army air forces."

The Air Medal awards stated that his meritorious achievements were flown "without fighter escort under rapidly changing and oftentimes adverse weather conditions." The flights were also subjected to enemy anti-aircraft fire and fighter opposition.

Black's daughter wrote that about 10 years ago, she was contacted by Ben Nicks, who flew with her father.

"We have kept in touch since then. Ben is now 100 years old now but still sharp enough to email jokes. He first introduced me to my father."

Laurie explained that the monks near the crash site in 1945 originally retrieved the crewmembers remains and gave them a proper burial. And that last month's ceremony in Japan consisted of a shrine, complete with plaques of each crewmember, to recognize and honor the memory of the Tinny Anne and those who perished with her.


(c)2020 the Independent Record (Helena, Mont.)

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