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Tail G Sgt Leonard J. McNeill Leonard left his home in Summerville Mass. in 1937 and traveled south to Orlando Florida where he met Melba fell in love and married. They had two children together Melvin & Dorothy Ann. Leonard worked in the restaurant and bar business from 1937 till 1943 when he was drafted into the Army inducted through camp Blanding Florida November 17,1943. He was trained as a tailgunner on a B-29, after training Leonard and the 11 man crew departed the USA mainland and headed to Saipan in the Mariana Islands pacific ocean. They arrived Saipan as the Fire Blitz On Japan was beginning directed by general Curtis Lemay. The law crew flew combat missions through the month of March 1945 Osaka, Tokyo, Kobe, Ryukyu islands, Nagoya are a few of the cities the B-29s bombed. On Easter Morning April 2, 1945 the Bomber group set out too Tokyo for a mission the following is the account we have from the last mission Leonard flew. Tail G Sgt Leonard J. McNeill Some crews reported seeing an explosion over the target area. Another observer reported a B-29 turning away from the target with one or more engines on fire and under attack by a fighter. Whether either or both of these sightings were of Z-11 is unknown. What is known, from the account of the Law crew's lone survivor, right gunner Sgt Ray Hopper, is that Z-11 was hit in the right wing by anti-aircraft fire while on the bomb run. As burning fuel poured from the ruptured wing tanks, Law ordered the crew to prepare to bail out and jettisoned the bombs. Then the B-29 was hit again by flak in the rear fuselage. After a futile effort to put out the fire by climbing and then diving, Law gave the order he never wanted to give and told the crew to bail out. All five men in the rear of the plane got out, but there was a complication up front. The nose wheel had to lowered so the men could exit thru the nose wheel hatch, but the electrical switch malfunctioned and the wheel had to be cranked down by hand. (It is unknown why the men did not go out the forward bomb bay door instead.) Five of the six men in the front compartment made it out, the last being the copilot, 2/Lt Gerould Giddings. Giddings looked back up to see if Law got out, but the plane exploded before he did so. Hopper also saw the plane explode as he was descending in his parachute. Law's badly burned body was later found in the wreckage of the plane, which crashed near Haramachida. His remains were placed in Younji temple by locals and recovered by US forces after the war. The ten crew members who managed to bail out all reached the ground safely and were taken prisoner, but since they came down in different locations and were kept apart by the Japanese, none of them knew for a while how many had survived. Hopper initially tried to evade capture but there were too many soldiers and civilians in the area. He was seen by four soldiers as he was crossing a rice paddy. Caught out in the open with no place to hide, Hopper wisely put up his hands and surrendered. The soldiers took his jacket, watch, wallet and .45 pistol, then blindfolded him and tied his hands behind his back. One of the soldiers fired Hopper's pistol four times into the air. Hopper thought the next bullet would be for him, but the soldiers just led him away. They did not abuse him but many civilians along the way did. Hopper was hit by sticks and rocks and was painfully pinched. Someone kicked him so hard in the left leg that the resulting sore took six weeks to heal. It took most of the day for Hopper and his captors to reach their destination, which turned out to be Kempei Tai Headquarters. Here the young airman was thrown into a cell and beaten with bamboo sticks. Late that afternoon he was subjected to his first interrogation. According to Hopper, the men had been told in mission briefings that if captured they were permitted to tell the Japanese whatever they wanted, because at this time in the war it wouldn't make any difference. That evening Hopper was put into another cell with a Japanese civilian and given his first meal, which featured fish heads. He didn't eat much of it. During the week they were together, the civilian never said a word to Hopper. A few days later, Hopper heard a familiar voice respond to a guard's question. It was the first he knew that other members of his crew had survived and were in the building. Some days after that, Hopper was moved to a wooden building they called the “Pig Pen”. There were six cells in this building and Hopper was put into one with four of his crewmates. The five other survivors of the crew were in the next cell. It was a happy reunion. The men weren't supposed to talk but they found ways to do so. It was here that Hopper learned of Law's presumed death and other details. Unaccountably, only a few days after being reunited with his crew, Hopper was transferred to Omori prison camp south of Tokyo. He never knew why, but it saved his life, because the rest of the crew were transferred to Tokyo Military Prison, where on the night of 25-26 May, during a fire raid, the Japanese guards left the prisoners locked in their cells to burn to death. death. (FROM THE 883rd Bomb Squadron Diary)
This video of Leonards personal effects was sent back to the USA following his missing in action. The song in the video is my tribute to the men of the Z-11 who gave their lives for the American dream. "Seagull you Fly" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZQpXCBdRdY
Amazingly after much searching I have found a photo of the Law crew. This is the B-29 Bomber crew that Leonard flew with. These are the men of the Z square 11 that was shot down from the sky over Tokyo on the night of April 1-2, 1945. Leonard and ten of the men got out of the burning plane and landed on the ground taken as POW's. Lt. Law was killed while getting out of the B-29.