October 27, 2010 – Arvin Rivers
WESTLAKE, LA (KPLC) - Looking over his collection of World War Two memorabilia, 92 year old Arvin Rivers remembers his days as a flight engineer on board a B-29 bomber. He flew 28 missions over Japan, many of them while bombing Tokyo. Rivers said they would drop leaflets over the city, warning the residents.
"We warned them before we ever bombed a city to leave because your city is going to be bombed," said Rivers. "At first they paid very little attention because they didn't believe it was going to happen. Sure enough, about a week or so later, we'd come and we'd drop fire bombs and burn the city out."
The B-29 even had a deflection system that would fool Japan's anti-aircraft guns. It involved dropping strips of aluminum foil out of the plane.
"You could pull the first roll out and drop it out of the airplane and foil would just fill the air. If their automatic search system hit that foil, they thought they had found a B-29. So it would stop right there and you'd keep flying."
One time, Rivers says they ran out of foil and the plane was flooded with Japanese searchlights.
"We could hear the shrapnel hitting us outside. But it was very dangerous. We remember intelligence saying, if you got in the lights, you're very apt not to make it out. So I think most of us held our breath most of the time."
One of Rivers' proudest achievements is receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross for one of his missions over Japan.